Valuing Our Mental Health

Photo by Total Shape on Unsplash

The conversations surrounding mental health are getting louder, yet it still seems to be quite a taboo subject with so much stigma attached. But why?

People who suffer with mental health issues often feel that the stigma associated with mental health problems leads to discrimination and further negative impacts on their lives. The stigma and discrimination that is experienced doesn’t just come from society as a whole, often it is much closer to home, such as friends, families,

and employers. This extra negativity then perpetuates the problem, potentially worsening the person’s state of mental health; especially if they delay the process of getting help and starting their journey to recovery due to the perceived stigma, shame, and guilt surrounding mental health issues. Media has exacerbated the problem, often linking mental health issues with violence, and portraying those with mental health illnesses as dangerous, evil, disabled, or crazy. And it’s just not true.

According to the World Health Organisation, depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. Globally, more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression; and more than 275 million suffering with anxiety disorders. That is almost 8% of the global population, and those are pre-covid numbers. We can be certain that the number of people suffering with mental health disorders in 2021 has sky-rocketed.

According to the mental health charity Mind, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England, and 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (like anxiety and depression) in any given week in England. These numbers are from a 2014 survey, so imagine how much higher those numbers potentially are now. We all know at least one person who suffers with some sort of anxiety disorder or depression.

So, what can we do to help stop the stigma? Well, we can start by understanding that those with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety disorders are not broken. Their mind and brain are trying to protect them from something, from a perceived threat. Now that perceived threat may seem irrational to you or I, but to their mind, it is very real. Our minds cannot tell the difference between what’s real and imagined. So, if something is perceived by our brain as a threat, our sympathetic nervous system, which controls fight, flight, and depression, will generally step in to help. Since our brain loves patterns, if what we did yesterday ensured our survival, then we are encouraged to do it again, and repeat that pattern of behaviour.

So why should we value our mental health, and the mental health of those around us?

Well, our mind is responsible for everything we do, and everything we do relies on us being able to cope with our day-to-day activities. Going to work, taking care of family & children, dealing with problems should they arise without flying off the handle or breaking down into floods of tears, etc. Mental health issues such as chronic stress, anxiety disorders, anger, depression, etc., these all have a ripple effect on our lives. If you suffer with any mental health issue, it affects your quality of life, your home life, your relationships (friends, family, spouse, children, co-workers), your work life, your sleep patterns, your physical health, and so on. There is no corner of your life that is not affected.

So, let’s turn that around. If we work to understand and improve our mental health, then that improves every aspect of our lives too! It improves your relationships with everyone you come into contact with, improves your home life, your work life, you sleep better, feel more energised, your overall health improves and you reduce your risk of chronic disease, so you can live that happy, content, and fulfilled life that you long for.

As a global population, the vast majority of us have a tendency to put value in and invest in ‘things’.  Those things are nice, but they don’t bring value or true happiness to our lives.

We invest in our vehicles and our homes, we value them. New cars, Mot’s & services, furnishings, redecorating, extensions, new kitchens, etc., and when they break or go wrong, we invest in repairs and maintenance as soon as possible because we need these things in order to go about our day to day lives.

We carve out the time and make the investment to go on holiday so that we can have a break from our day-to-day lives, chores, responsibilities, to recuperate and gain perspective, because we value that time and space away from it all. But how many of us dread coming home, back to reality, back to the stresses and strains of our hectic modern lives.

We are all very quick to invest in our health care, our physical health. We diet and exercise, we invest in gym memberships, exercise equipment, diet plans, expensive supplements, etc. We do this because our physical health is important to us, we value it. We all want to stay fit and healthy for as long as possible.

But what about our minds? What value are you putting on your mind and your mental health? Our mind controls everything we do. We can’t expect to live the happy fulfilled life we long for if we don’t hold value in, prioritise, and invest in our mental health. Everything we do, all day, every day, has an effect on and is affected by our mental health. It’s time to make our mental health our priority and live a happier and more fulfilled life.

So, what will you be doing today that will benefit your mental health? I will be making sure I take a break and go for a 20-minute walk with no distractions, to unwind my mind, just me and nature.

Have a great day everyone! And, if you don’t want to miss any future blog posts, subscribe by popping your email address in the box and you will receive notifications via email.