Mental Health is actually something of a misnomer, the fact is that ALL health is mental health. Our brains govern all that we do, think and feel; there is nothing we do think or feel without involving our minds and all the more so when we are ill. We need to reach the point where it is as natural to go to a doctor about anxiety or depression as it is to go for infections or worrying symptoms in our bodies. This requires a significant shift, not only in the way that conditions like anxiety and depression are thought of by the public at large but also by our doctors, nurses and other health care professionals.
One way to get there is to make sure we have a better knowledge of the signs, symptoms and causes of mental illnesses, and a clearer understanding of the truth that we are all likely to suffer one or more during our lifetime in exactly the same way as we will all catch colds or flu or suffer broken limbs etc.
With the outbreak of Covid19 and the measures taken by the UK government in the early months of 2020 we are all dealing with much higher stress levels and are all much closer to the point of overwhelm than we were before, and we were already more susceptible to anxious thoughts and a sense of inertia brought about by the uncertainty bred by our political leaders over the last decade!
The lack of certainty about the future has been a feature of life in the UK since the Austerity policy put in place after the economic crash in 2008 saw a rise in families and individuals living in poverty, which has been shown to have a direct correlation to higher levels of anxiety and depression; the referendum in 2013 followed by what can only be described as the debacle of Brexit and the coronavirus has left us bereft of any certainty, or dare I say it trust, in our politicians or even our neighbours with opinions on both sides of the EU spectrum running high.
Put this together with the 24 hour availability of news, the rise of the ‘keyboard warriors’ online and the pressure to compare your own life with the snapshots we see of others on social media and it’s no wonder our 15 year olds are among the saddest and least satisfied with their lives in Europe (see this report released by the Children’s Society in Sept 2020).
There has been a huge upswing in awareness of the importance of looking after our mental health, with many celebrities and people in the public gaze, including the young royals, being much more open and encouraging others to do the same. However, there is still a long way to go.
We need to normalise flexible working, to decrease working expectations and to be more open to discussing difficult topics without fear of scorn and ridicule. We need to accept that we will go through hard times ourselves and be able to ask for help.
If you are struggling with overwhelm or exhaustion and would like some help to make changes to your working practices so that you can continue in the job you love, get in touch!