Making frequent appearances in media headlines and political party agenda’s, the lead up to this year’s general elections gave mental health some necessary attention. Most people will have something to say on the topic of mental illness however perhaps, on this occasion, we could look at it an alternative way – one that makes us think differently?
In the UK House Of Commons, MP Charles Walker pointed out that the number of prescriptions for anti-depressants had doubled from 1998 to 2009. He further went on to ask, ‘Were all of those 40 million prescriptions necessary? Of course they were not.’
The statistics surrounding child and adolescent mental illness is staggering. Our own experiences from infancy through to adulthood generally contribute towards what we understand and make of the world. This can shape good mental health and positive well-being. Therefore is it fair to suggest that perhaps we take a step back and question the role society itself has to play – after all as human beings, we are bound to be affected by what takes place in our external environments.
As people, our behavior and reasoning are heavily influenced by emotions and mental health. Whether great or small, biological, social, cultural and circumstantial factors will influence the way we behave and feel. Perhaps if we regarded mental illness as a societal problem there could perhaps be a greater appreciation of non-medical forms of treatment and rather a greater onus on the main indicators that can contribute towards mental health issues; social and economic deprivation, inequality, poverty.
Of course, it would be wholly unrealistic to assume we could live in a society free of these ‘causes’ nor that mental illness no longer causes human suffering or mortality.
So the question arises, what can we – as members of our society – do when asked to think differently about mental health?
As Albert Einstein said, “A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Time and time again, research continues to pave the way towards creating and implementing early intervention strategies in services which aim to promote better well-being – this of course would have to start as soon as issues arise rather than delaying the course of intervention.
Crucially, perhaps developing a more compassionate attitude towards mental health could be a start. Every day we are exposed to events and situations requiring us to display a degree of tolerance and understanding yet, the attitude surrounding mental illness, a condition incredibly common in our society affecting at least one person we know, carries the burden of stigma. In order to create a healthy, functioning society where individuals are able to lead their lives in a state of positive well-being, we carry a duty in fostering an approach that treats those with mental illness humanely. An approach that supports recovery and social inclusion as opposed to discrimination and shame. An approach that is concerned with offering what individuals with mental health require the most – a listening ear, kindness, validation and respect.
Samia Quddus, Founder of Artspeaks. This blog was written from a personal perspective and does not necessarily reflect the view of the organisation.