Every year, on 10th October, people around the globe highlight one of the most ignored and stigmatised problems facing us today: mental illness. Everybody has a level of mental health, just like we have a level of physical health, and as such everybody is susceptible to mental illness. Globally, more than 300 million people suffer from depression, and over 260 million are living with anxiety disorders. That’s roughly equivalent to the entire population of North America. And those are just the ones that are recorded. Due to the reluctance many people have about talking about their mental health, the true number is impossible to know.
Despite this, people can often be dismissive of these issues, perceiving mental illness to be a weakness, something that you just “get over”. However, serious mental health issues cannot be simply shrugged off any more than you can walk off a broken leg. The World Health Organisation estimates that each year approximately one million people die from suicide, which translates to one death every 40 seconds. It is predicted that by 2020 this will increase to one every 20 seconds. According to statistics collected by the Samaritans, there are over 6,000 suicides in the UK each year alone. Suicide remains the most common cause of death for people under 45 in the developed world.
Men are significantly more likely to die this way than women. This is most likely because of cultural expectations and differences between the genders. Men are more likely to keep their emotions bottled up to avoid being perceived as, for lack of a better word, unmanly. It is more socially acceptable for women to admit to struggling, to being depressed and anxious, and as such they are more likely to seek professional help, or even just informal support from friends and family. This is a clear indication that many deaths could be prevented if we simply reframe our approach to mental health, and stop thinking of depression and anxiety as things to be ashamed of.
World Mental Health Day aims to achieve this by starting a conversation about our approach to mental health. Each year has a particular theme, and this year’s is “mental health in the workplace”. Most of us have to work for a living, and the odds are high that at some point your job is probably going to stress you out (unless your job is getting paid to play with puppies or test out bouncy castles). Daily stresses exist, and you can mostly deal with them by making an extra strong cup of coffee and fuming to a co-worker about just how much work you have to do – doesn’t the boss get that you’re really busy? But there can come a point when, for whatever reason, those stresses start to get on top of you. It’s important to recognise when things are getting too much for you, and it’s equally important to recognise it in your colleagues. If somebody seems to be getting really stressed, is maybe suddenly behaving in an uncharacteristically withdrawn and unengaging manner, that could be a warning sign for you to ask if everything is okay. Workplace stress and depression and anxiety can form a vicious cycle, so it’s important to intervene before it gets worse.
Our Mindfulness course is designed to help you deal with stress as well as mental health concerns like depression and anxiety. These techniques can help ameliorate and ideally prevent the effects of mental illness. Mindfulness is increasingly being used by trained psychotherapists, and recognised for its effectiveness in helping to maintain a high level of mental health. Think of it as going to the gym, but for your mind. Click here to find out more.
Don’t make the mistake of believing mental illness couldn’t affect you. Take steps to guard yourself, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need to. Get involved with World Mental Health Day, and together we can help end the stigmatisation around the topic, and improve the lives of millions of people.