Having a healthy mind is just as important as having a healthy body. We all have good and bad days, but in the last decade the number of people affected by mental health issues has steadily risen and experts are now calling it a ‘slow-growing epidemic’. Mental health embodies so many things and cannot be pinpointed, but to put it simply it’s the level of psychological well-being of an individual. Being mentally healthy affects how we feel about ourselves, our ability to develop psychologically and emotionally, and our capacity to make and maintain relationships. When your mentally healthy you have the strength to overcome challenges and the everyday difficulties, whilst having the confidence and self-esteem to do so. Mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression (to name a few) are becoming more and more common, people are going through their own private hell and are in need of help.
We’ve reached a bit of a brick wall with mental health, the sheer amount of content we see daily can lead to words like “anxiety” and phrases such as “raising awareness” losing all meaning. This abundance of media coverage has meant that mental health has become a commodity for brands and marketing agencies looking for the next big issue to get behind, and this is where the throwaway content has emerged. The same stories have materialized across multiple platforms, with clickbait sites rolling out information that isn’t helping anyone. Mental health has become a buzzword. It’s now become routine for celebrities to be questioned about their mental health in interviews, and whilst it’s comforting to know that the people we look up to face every day struggles such as our own – is all of this really helping? If hearing about a celebrity’s anxiety or depression encourages someone to open up about their own similar feelings, then great. However, we’re now at a point of complete saturation. As consumers and creators of this content, we should be critical of how we’re talking about mental health and why we’re talking about mental health. Some good has come out of all of this publicity however, with the profile of mental health being raised social media and the internet is now overflowing with content aimed at helping those in need. This has been decades in the making, but it’s all of our responsibility to ensure that mental health doesn’t become just another media fad.
Whilst there’s been meaningful growth in raising the profile of mental health over the past few years, as it’s something you can’t physically see people tend think of it as not being as real as an observable condition. There’s still a huge stigma surrounding topics such as anxiety and depression, and because of this many suffer in secret. What does it feel like to be invisible and ill? The answer is completely alone. The lack of public discussion means that being open about mental health is crucial to breaking the stigma surrounding it, and can be vital in preventing it. In the past if mental health was spoken about, it was done so in hushed tones and blanketed in feelings of embarrassment and shame. Many people coping with a mental illness can be prevented from reaching out and getting the help they need because of the stigma, which is why it’s so important we have open stigma-free conversations which will benefit individuals and society as a whole. By talking about it we can give people hope, and let them know they are not alone.
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If you personally suffer from any mental health issue whatever it may be, there are some basic self-care steps that can be taken. Don’t let the stigma prevent you from caring for yourself, and don’t ever second guess yourself when it comes to your mental and emotional wellbeing. Consider doing less and not overwhelming your day-to-day life, make a conscious effort to schedule in relaxation time so your body and mind has time to recharge and replenish. Take breaks and try not to work ridiculously long hours, working through tasks one at a time instead of trying to do it all at once. Get organized, and remember you don’t have to do everything. Keep a diary that focuses on gratitude and positivity to remind you of all the good in your life, or download one of the many mindful apps available on the App store. There’s no better time to take a vacation, or failing that get outside and soak up the sun. Being in nature can help calm feelings of anxiety, whether its spending time sitting on a park bench or taking a leisurely walk along the beach outdoor activities can help calm the body and mind. If you’re up for something more active, committing to regular exercise can help reduce the impact of mental health issues. More and more each day people are turning to social media to share their experiences and connect with others, Instagram in particular has become a community for many. Above all else, practicing self-care is most important when looking after yourself and trying to improve your well-being. And if you’re really not coping, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your GP. You are not alone, and there are those who go through the same struggles as you more often than you think.
Ultimately, we’re doing plenty of talking about mental health but seeing little action. The growing demand for mental health care reflects the stress on our society, with waiting lists in the UK and across the globe
Words by J’Nae Phillips
Illustration by Ellie Stanton