What is Mental Health?...and how can we end the stigma associated with it?

We all have mental health, and it is just as important as physical health.

It is not only about mental illness or mental disorders but is just one part of a bigger picture. It is best to think about mental health as being on a continuum rather than thinking of people being mentally ill or mentally unwell. We are all on the continuum and we move up and down according to factors such as our genetic make-up and upbringing, life circumstances, and stresses we are under.

At one end of the continuum, we have mental disorders like depression or anxiety, at the other end, we have states of positive mental health where we are thriving, content, and fulfilled.

Mental health interventions aim to move people up the continuum so they can reach their full potential and live satisfying lives. Being mentally healthy means, being resilient, able to cope with difficult times, feeling confident and good about our self, managing and expressing our emotions, and building and maintaining good relationships.

We all experience periods of feeling stressed, worried, anxious, sad, afraid, or angry. These are all normal emotions however when these emotions become severe enough that it interferes with a person's ability to function daily and these feelings become persistent over time, then it can develop into a mental health problem.

There are many different types of mental health disorders and when left untreated mental health disorders can become chronic and long-lasting and are associated with increased disability. They have significant impact on daily functioning and frequently interfere with family, social, and work responsibilities.

Fortunately, there are effective treatments and evidence-based interventions available that aim to help individuals understand and cope with symptoms of mental illness. However very few people with mental health disorders access existing treatment services, this may be due to barriers such as the stigma attached to seeking help, lack of understanding, the uncertainty of how to get help, and fear of disclosing.

Research shows that stigma is one of the biggest factors preventing people from seeking help early for mental health problems and getting the appropriate support they need. It is important to acknowledge that we all have mental health and have a personal responsibility to learn how to improve and maintain our wellbeing to lead meaningful and satisfying lives.

So how do we decrease stigma surrounding mental health?

• Talk about mental health. To friends, family, and work colleagues.

• Get creative – if you are unsure of how to talk to friends and family about seeking support such as counselling or mental health interventions then there are videos online about mental health which you could share on social media then tag a friend. Social media can be a creative way to encourage discussion and share information and discuss concerns and worries informally.

• Document your mental health transformation. Those who enjoy blogging or vlogging can create inspirational content to share with others on their progression and transformation. If you prefer to keep things more personal writing a diary or journal to record your journey can be empowering and fulfilling.

• View people with mental illness as that person has a mental illness not - that person is mentally ill or phrases similar. Mental illness is something that every individual has but this in turn does not define who they are.

• Show empathy and awareness. Share the right information, post the right things that empower and support people experiencing mental illness.

• Education – incorporating regular lessons or sessions within schools to ensure mental health information is available and encouraging open discussion on the topic.

• Language – being mindful of how we talk about Mental Health can have an impact on how people feel about the topic. Negative words or phrases relating to Mental Health can deter people from speaking about it and therefore affect their ability to seek help.

If you feel your mental illness is declining or is affecting your day-to-day life then please seek help. You can contact your GP, contact charities such as Mind, their website is www.mind.org.uk for information and support. Ask your GP for a referral to a counselling provision, or enquire about private counselling sessions. There are also counseling services solely online such as Betterhelp at www.betterhelp.com. If you feel a holistic mental health support service would be more suited to you then please check out our website on www.hertsschoolsoutreach.org.uk we provide bespoke services with a free consultation. We also provide regular information on our website and our other social media outlets to help educate and inform people on all thing’s mental health, positivity, and support.

The earlier you talk about your mental health; the better things will be.

Jade Edwards

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