Mental Health Facts
Mental Health Illness in the UK is a massive problem.
Who is affected?
Pretty much everyone! If you are not a sufferer yourself, then you will almost certainly know someone who is a sufferer at some point in time.
At least one million adults are out of work with mental health problems and countless children miss out on schooling and fail to achieve their full potential because their mental distress is not treated properly.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Most people have a brush with mental illness at some point in their lives. Overall, mental illness remains stigmatised even though it is so prevalent which is a ridiculous position for us to take culturally. As a culture we need to address this. This problem is woven into the fabric of our society, and is affecting every aspect of it. 10-20% of young people involved in criminal activity are thought to have a psychiatric disorder. It is interesting to note that in traditional so-called primitive, non-Westernised communities such as the Amish (who still live a 17th Century lifestyle), we find clinical depression is almost unknown. Similarly we find this is also the case in many indigenous tribal communities (The Amazon, Papua New Guinea). Reasons for this are many and varied, but central to the wellness of such groups is a strong sense of "community". What this means in practice is that if an individual is emitting a "Help....I'm lost!" signal, then the community sees this and addresses it. The community rallies to that individual and supports them back into good health, addressing the root of the problem (I'm overworked...I feel unloved etc). Here in the UK, if you send out a signal that says "Help...I'm lost!" What do you get? Mostly ignored. If you do get noticed you get at best pity...at worst scorn, but rarely any practical solutions. Just getting noticed often means you have to be at the point of complete crisis, total shutdown, unable to function. Only then does someone say "This person needs help." This can be easily avoided by simply recognising the signs earlier and taking steps to correct the situation. We however by and large find ourselves simply unequipped to deal with it. We have literally lost our understanding of these problems. Our sense of community is vague at best, and even when we do want to help our neighbour (or family member) we often don't know how to. From the Victorians we inherit a picture of mental illness as some kind of dirty affliction....something Freudian and dark...something depraved even. Certainly collectively, it remains mysterious and we are confused about it. Some still have a sense that it is something shameful, sinful, a personal weakness. So our usual response as Pink Floyd rightly points out in the Dark Side of the Moon is "Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way". In other words we bury our discomfort and try to plow on regardless...because culturally...that's the deal; that's what's expected of you. It's becoming clearer and clearer that not addressing an emotional disturbance is what often causes a mental illness, and culturally we are often encouraged to not address it. It's not that we're a hard hearted lot. We're not. We just literally don't know what to do with it! Clearly, this is not working!
So what is the answer?
Well, it's complicated because there are so many factors which contribute to these problems, but let's at least begin with the recognition that we need to take seriously the fact that there is a problem. Let's collectively de-stigmatise the problem, and then let's set to work to recognise that many of these problems are avoidable. Prevention is better than cure! Central to avoiding these difficulties is the recognition that we need to cultivate good mental hygiene. This means learning what factors create anxiety and what factors decrease anxiety. Collectively, we need to start valuing mental health as much as we value our physical health, because quite simply failing to do so has consequences, the evidence of which is plain for all to see. Together we need to start admitting what makes us ill. Often the answer is really simple. We could start by asking "What's wrong?" ......."What are you struggling with....what needs are not being met?" This is a cultural process, and it will take time, but for now you can make sure that YOU build awareness in this regard. If you're well, then you'll serve as a beacon for others. This website is designed to give a starting point for this process. I hope in some small way it will make a difference to peoples lives. Understanding is everything!
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Copyright John Crawford 2003-2012