What Does ‘Mental Health’ Mean to You?

Does it make you think of the peak of mental performance, or a healthy well-balanced mind?

Its more likely you might think of ‘mental illness’, or people who are strange, not normal. You might think of mental health services which are quite scary. To be hospitalized for mental ill-health is not a thought which brings comfort or hope of cure.

“…. for most people, especially those with common mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, the social reaction to the illness is far harder to recover from than the symptoms themselves.”

Slade B, Mental health and well-being at the Workplace, WHO report 2010, p33

The fact is that although about a third of GP time is spent dealing with mental ill-health, even though one in four of us will experience it in some form or another, we just don’t like to talk about it. Its the ‘elephant in the room’!

There is still a shocking amount of discrimination and prejudice about people experiencing common mental health problems, let alone more serious disorders. Research suggests that employers are less likely to employ someone who admits to mental ill-health than they are someone with a physical disability, so it’s hardly surprising that people are less than open if they’re experiencing stress, anxiety or depression.

When it comes to physical health we all know how we’re meant to look after ourselves, even if we don’t do it very well, but when it comes to our mental wellbeing we really don’t know what to do. In fact research has shown that the most common responses to stress are to ‘do nothing, just live with it’, ‘eat comfort or junk food’ or ‘spend time alone’, the very opposite of recommended stress management techniques.

As a society we invest hugely in physical health – in research, in preventive services, in public health initiatives, in technological advances and in treatments. Yet what is often the most critical factor in maintaining our physical health or recovering from physical ill-health – yes, its our mental attitude, our ability to remain positive and enjoy life, our psychological resilience.

How is it that we can take all kinds of measures to avoid infections, reduce risk of accidents, or eliminate diseases, yet there is no such momentum to improve our understanding and knowledge of emotional and mental wellbeing?

So lets reclaim mental health and pay attention to our mental wellbeing whether individually, as parents, as communities, as a society.

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