How do you improve mental health awareness?
Talking about mental health has a stigma that surrounds it. While society as a whole is more open then we were 30 years ago, there is still a lot of progress to be made. Raising mental health awareness means that the stigma surrounding it is broken and people can openly share what they are dealing with. Even further down the line it would mean that resources are readily available to those who need it, individuals would be able to recognise the signs and information would be incorporated into society like what to do in a fire, how to give CPR, or teaching kids about stranger dangers. To be able to achieve this, we have to educate people on mental illness and what it means as a whole. We will also have to help those who live with mental illnesses know that they do not have to go through it alone and help can be available for those who ask for it.
DEFINING MENTAL ILLNESS
Essentially mental illness is: a disruption or chemical imbalance in an individuals brain that alters their behaviour, their thought process and how they cope with day-to-day life. Mental illness knows no bounds and does not have a clear cause behind it. As society researches and learns more about mental illnesses, it has been established that some causes can include trauma experience, chemistry and structure in the brain and the individual’s genetics.
There are two mental health conditions that are more common than most:
Mood disorders — Depression affects nearly 10% of the adult population every year. Depression is categorised as the inability to control and regulate one’s moods. Mood disorders can make it difficult for individuals to maintain relationships, a stable life and manage their day-to-day.
Anxiety Disorders — To experience anxiety and stress in your life is normal but anxiety can become so severe it affects your ability to function. Anxiety disorders affect over 18% of adults every year. Extreme phobias, panic disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder are a few common ones.
Other mental health conditions that are less frequent and more rare include schizophrenia and split personality disorder. An unfortunate circumstance of not receiving proper help for a mental health disorder can lead up to suicide. Suicide has found its way into the top ten most common causes of death. In young adults from age ten to fourteen it is the third leading cause of death and the second among those age fifteen to thirty-four.
HOW TO HELP
When we look at the last few decades, we can see a significant improvement on the overall perception of mental health and illnesses but there is still a lot of progress to be made. We still need to address the stereotypes that the media portrays, the lack of education and the negativity that comes when people think of mental disorders.
The stigma alone limits the amount of individuals seeking professional treatment. On top of that, the number of resources remains limited to those who seek proper treatment. Dealing with a mental disorder is overwhelming by itself and adding in misinformation and judgement can make it seem hopeless for those who are coping. Some powerful ways you can help are:
Being respectful: You never know what the person in front of you or around you is going through. When you are respectful and accepting it removes a large weight that they feel and can make a significant difference. Doing this helps remind them they are a person and they deserve treatment.
Be an advocate: You can be a huge help when you start educating those around you. There is a chance that someone close to you may be affected but you are probably not aware. Despite this, you can make sure that you are still educating yourself and being a supportive voice in conversations. Some ways you can start the conversation include being vocal on social media or attending a health screening.
Educating ourselves and others on mental health: Being able to find resources and make those resources available to those in need provides support. You can pass along the information you find and encourage others to educate themselves on the subject as well.
THE BENEFITS OF INCREASING AWARENESS
Not only being aware but actually recognising and educating others on mental health conditions will help remove the stigma that is often tied to it. Raising the awareness helps individuals learn and understand how they too are affected by mental illnesses. Learning about available resources, discovering how to advocate for those in need and communicating the correct information are ways to start.
Even though the understanding of mental health conditions is on the rise, a lack of proper professional resources are still a challenge.
Along with increasing the awareness of mental illnesses, organisations or individuals can choose to become directly involved in the overall cause. While not everyone is trained to be a professional, they can offer to help fundraise for it, raise awareness where they live, and help conduct events. While most don’t, a lot of individuals decide to pursue careers in the mental health field to help support on a much larger scale. Obtaining the proper education will help you hold more informed conversations about mental health illnesses in your community.
When those affected by mental illnesses feel they are not alone and can talk comfortably, they are more likely to reach out and ask for help. Increasing the awareness that they are not alone can make a huge difference and encourage them. The first step in improving mental health awareness comes from being the first to talk about it to break down the walls of the stigma surrounding it.