We have a crisis in the way that we deal with mental health. This seems to be a pretty universally accepted truth, and while writing this article has some selfish aims, the value of raising awareness for mental health is evident in the number of people effected by the lack of funding and availability of mental health services in this country. I think most people have heard the statistic that suicide is the biggest killer of men under 35, but it’s one worth repeating.
I’m personally not destitute or prosperous, I’m not desperate or content. I’ve grown up in a middle class world; I was privately educated and am now a university student. While to others these factors smack of privilege, to me they seem quite separate to my essence as a person. Far closer to my heart is the alcoholic mother I came home to every day, the divorce that made me doubt every relationship I have ever had and the various occasions that I have quietly considered life to be a pretty painful experience. I’m sure countless people reading this can relate; how many of us come from childhoods that are far from idyllic? Does anyone get through life unscathed?
I know that I need help to sift through these emotions, to try and make sense of them and rationalise them. However, I will probably sit on these issues in silence and not ask for help until I have no other choice, or until I decide that I’m in a bad enough state to really deserve it.
As a nation, this is our approach to mental health. In my experience, unless you are insatiably wealthy then doing anything to battle mental health is basically impossible. It’s not enough to only treat mental health when people hit rock bottom, people should be encouraged to work on their mental health even when they are feeling great, as this is when long-term issues are most likely to be sorted out. To only treat mental illness when it’s at its worst is like only organising your finances on the brink of bankruptcy. I once walked into a doctor’s office, on one of my better days, and asked for help with my anxiety. I was made to feel like a fraud, when all I was trying to do was get ahead of the problem before it beat me down again.
Mental health services are either incredibly elusive, or incredibly expensive. Just like many other young people, my financial situation is less than ideal, and while online resources are available through the NHS, nothing can replace the cathartic power of counselling. Is affordable counselling really so much to ask given the scope of the problem? I’ve been quoted one year waiting lists, or limited session numbers, when really shouldn’t the sessions be dictated by how long it takes people to feel better?
What needs to be done to change the way that we approach mental health? Saving the hundreds of thousands of men who don’t understand how to be sad or angry or grief stricken shouldn’t even be a subject of debate, it should be a priority. It’s not enough to just stop people from killing themselves for now, we need to equip people with the tools to live as happy, full lives as possible.