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Mental Health Awareness Week 2018

Well as you’ve hopefully seen in the media: it’s Mental Health Awareness Week this week. You may remember last year Princes William and Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge doing loads of work in terms of profile-raising. I think they’re otherwise occupied on this particular week this year!

Sorry this is going to be a longer blog than usual and a bit of a rant, but please stay with me: it’s really important.

Every year the Mental Health Foundation do a report on the status of the nation’s mental health. Whilst there has undoubtedly been a huge shift in being able to talk about mental health problems since last year, not only is there a long, long way to go, but the statistics on the prevalence of mental health issues are unfortunately continuing to sky rocket upwards.

The latest figures are:

  • 74% of people (of 4169 adults polled) on the Foundation’s survey, said that over the past year at some point they were so stressed that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.
  • In the AXA Stress Index in 2017, 82% of people reported feeling stressed at least some time in a typical week and 8% said they were stressed all of the time.

What the hell’s going on? We’re richer and safer than we’ve ever been! These stats are really serious and they’re getting worse. And for the youngsters things are getting worse at an even faster rate and now at an even earlier stage: there was a report at the end of last year stating that anxiety levels in under 9’s is sky-rocketing. What the hell? These guys should be kicking a football around in the playground!

We can’t expect the NHS to cope in any way shape or form; the funding simply isn’t there for mental health. And some of the most stressed people in the UK are those in the caring professions: nurses (especially mental health nurses), GP’s and teachers. Moreover, the pitiful therapeutic provision that currently exists is fundamentally failing to make a difference:

  • In a We Need To Talk Coalition survey, 1 in 5 people had been waiting over a year for mental health treatment; 1 in 10 had been waiting 2 years
  • And of those only 41.8% of people finished their course of treatment; presumably because they weren’t making progress

I hate to sound like a grumpy old man. But we are in crisis.

Over the past 18 years of practice I have come to believe that there are two fundamental initiatives that could turn this round. They are very simple, but they require a massive societal shift, which the government is totally incapable of doing anything about.

Firstly, it is absolutely essential that as many people as possible, but especially youngsters in schools, receive mental health training. If anybody wants to deal, not manage or medicate, stress, anxiety and depression, then they need to understand how their mind works. How do we create the stress, anxiety and depression in our heads? Until we understand that, how can we expect to be able to deal with it? We are taught nothing about how our mind works.

I’m delighted to say that 1 of the 7 core recommendations of the Mental Health Foundation’s report is to have mental health literacy as a core part of the education curriculum. I would go a step further: I believe that there should be a compulsory GCSE in Life Skills, which would include mental health, relationships, social media, money management and so on.

The second platform for turning round what I don’t think anybody can deny is a crisis is what Mental Health Awareness Week is all about: a serious change in the stigma attached to mental health issues. The ability to talk about one’s problems early on to a mate or a family member might mean that the problems never spiral. It’s the bottling up that does the damage.

Most mental health problems have been established by the age of 14. So imagine a 13 year old being able to tell his teacher that he’s developing serious anxiety issues about exams, or sharing with a mate that he feels completely useless and weird when he compares himself to everyone else. The teacher or mate could remind them of their mental health literacy training and that the thoughts they’ve been developing aren’t real and that they are just the mind going into a loop and that they can move beyond this.

Unfortunately we, that’s you and I, are going to have to do our part in creating these societal changes. The government don’t seem to understand or know what to do about it. And GP’s and teachers are so overworked and stressed, they haven’t got the time or energy to make the changes. It’s up to us to demand mental health education for all, but particularly at school and to open up and share with people our own mental health problems.

If we can do this at a societal level, then I believe very strongly that we can beat stress, anxiety and depression in a generation.

This is exactly what the Mark Newey Method is about.

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