In Britain alone one in four people will experience a mental health problem in any given year. Half of these mental disorders can begin before the age of 14 and around 20 percent of children have a mental disorder. But this is not widely known among the population.
There are more than 200 classified forms of mental illnesses and most people do not even know half of them. People with a mental illness are more dangerous to themselves than they are to others and this is why a lot of people think the world needs to be more educated about them. Hayleigh Perry, aged 19 and a sufferer of depression, said: “Most people don’t even believe I have a mental illness.”
The Mental Health Foundation believes raising awareness about mental illnesses is key because they are not visible. Each year all the mental health organisations, including The Mental Health Foundation, raise awareness of mental health through a World Mental Health Day. Each year they “join together in shining the spotlight on a particular aspect of mental ill health”. This year, on October 10, the theme was Dignity.
As Professor George Christodoulou, President of the World Federation for Mental Health stated: “Dignity is a word that has a number of meanings, none of them precise — but we all recognise dignity when we see it, and more importantly, we recognise the lack of it when it’s absent.”
This year’s theme aims to express the ways in which all aspects of mental health are linked to dignity and highlight the importance of mental health. Prof Christodoulou explains that for the dignity theme, their material “looks at dignity in mental health from several directions”. This ranges from mental disorders to treatment and care.
Jacqui Walls, a ward manager at Springwood, North Yorkshire, works with the elderly who suffer from dementia. She believes it is not only the younger population that should aware of mental illnesses. A lot more elderly people are diagnosed with dementia than the young. In fact, one in six people over 80 have dementia, with 850,000 people having dementia in the UK and only 40,000 being under 65. This was not recognised enough in the past but now Ms Walls says: “A lot more people are aware of the illness so primary care is paid to give assessments and diagnose the elderly with dementia. A lot of health professions and public services are being made aware of mental illnesses.”
The Alzheimer’s Society believes that if we could delay by five years the onset of dementia it would save 30,000 lives every year. The care and treatment for people who are over 65 are improving rapidly now, though, because individuals are becoming aware of the signs and are recognising the illness. This means the elderly are living longer and happier because people now know how to treat and look after people with the illness too.
This is only one mental illness but anyone can experience a type of mental illness. It does not matter whether you are in a high well-paid job or if you are on benefits, mental illnesses are everywhere. Every year the Mental Health Foundation helps to inform people of mental illnesses by confronting ill-informed people to help them understand mental health problems. Through research, they have realised that mental illnesses cause such an impact on people’s day-to-day lives that they believe informing every person in the world means that mentally ill individuals will have more support from their family, friends, or even colleagues. By providing the world with facts and figures about mental illnesses they believe they can prevent people with mental illnesses to not feel as isolated as they may do.
Rethink Mental Illness is a charity which supports almost 60,000 people every year to get through a mental health crisis and realise they are not alone. They have over 200 mental health services and 150 support groups across England. Their whole aim is to help, give advice and information and raise awareness of mental illnesses. Nia, The Media Officer at Rethink Mental Illness says friends and family should let them know that they are not alone: “Quite often it’s the small things like asking them if they are okay, sending a text, inviting them over for a cup of tea. That’s what our Time to Change campaign is all about. You often do not have to be an expert or be worried about saying “the right thing” — it’s about being there and listening.”
Mental Health First Aid International, MHFA, is another organisation that provides help and advice towards friend and family. They offer courses to teach the public first aid in mental health so they can assist people who are having mental health problems or having a crisis. Betty Kitchener, CEO of MHFA, said: “People need to know that mental illnesses are illnesses just like other illnesses. They need to know how to recognise mental health problems in a person and how to give them help. They do not need to be mental health practitioners to have these first aid skills.”
MHFA has an action plan called ALGEE that they teach the public to follow in mental health situations. The plan has five actions:
Mental Health First Aid International, Rethink Mental Illness, The Mental Health Foundation and the World Federation for Mental Health are only a few of the organisations which support, give advice and information and raise awareness about mental health. This awareness and support needs to continue so people who do have a mental illness feel dignified and not isolated in this world. So, please, raise awareness for mental health and make the invisible illnesses more visible so people can be helped.
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