Once upon a time I was ashamed of my mental health issues; I would try and hide them and in doing so only made them all the more obvious. In many ways back then they had taken over my life, I was just a bundle of mental health issues, unable to really control them. These days while I'm not going to pretend I'm 100%, completely cured and better, that day will likely never come as the issues I suffer with are life long and stem right back to my early childhood. However, compared to the place I once was I am a lot better.
Sadly the stigma of mental health issues still runs deep, so many people talk about those with mental issues, as if that is all there is about that person. They seem to forget behind those issues is a human, a human that is suffering and needs kindness and understanding, not the cutting mickey taking comments that can make things worse. Mental Health illnesses can sadly be fatal, they are illnesses that affects everyone close to the person and can be utterly devastating on so many levels.
Not long ago I was given the opportunity to ask Mark Winwood, the Director of Psychological Services at AXA PPP Healthcare a few questions about his take on mental health and the services out there, these are his responses:
1. What are the more prevalent mental health conditions?
Thanks to medical and technological developments over the last few years, we’re far better equipped to spot and treat the signs of mental ill health. Depression and anxiety are the most common mental ill health conditions and awareness of these is increasing. For example, there is far more awareness now of the importance of peri-natal screening depression, which is certainly a move in the right direction.
2. How could people deal with negativity in regards to their mental health? Some professionals dismiss the ideas of mental health; is there any reasoning behind doing so?
We very much encourage an open dialogue around the topic of mental ill health and we want to break down the stigma that still exists around talking about mental health. Ultimately, our aim is for people to talk about their mental health as easily as they talk about their physical health. We appreciate that it can be challenging for individuals who face negativity about mental ill health to be forthcoming about their condition in isolation. There are no easy answers to overcoming the ignorance and fear that underpin people’s prejudices toward mental illness. It is our hope the continuing efforts of government, health and business leaders to increase people’s awareness and understanding of the importance of mental health will help to overcome this. In the meantime, individuals affected by mental ill health can be reassured they are not alone. Help is available – for example, from specialist charities such as Anxiety UK, Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, and from healthcare professionals such as their GP.
3. What reasoning do you think there is behind a rise in mental ill health diagnoses? Is this due to increase in every day stress, financial worries, employment no longer being secure?
There could be a number of reasons. Increasingly we spend our lives switched-on to the news, our email and work. This can lead to feelings of stress and anxiety as we find ourselves unable to escape the daily grind. We may also be seeing a rise in mental ill health diagnoses in the UK simply because people are talking about it more – in this way, the rise can be seen as a positive thing; but only if we are prepared to effectively help the people coming forward. AXA PPP healthcare’s mental health centre offers resources and information to support people in managing their mental health.
4. What do you think is effective in keeping a healthy mind?
There are a number of things you can do to keep your mind healthy. AXA PPP healthcare has been tackling the stigma around talking about mental health by likening it to physical health. We listen to advice on how to eat well and exercise to prevent us from getting cancer, so why not the same for mental health?
Adopting a healthy lifestyle will help with both your physical and mental wellbeing so make sure you get plenty of exercise, eat wholesome nutritious food, and get enough sleep.
5. Where do you see mental health (attitudes and stigma, research and development) in the future?
I think we are already taking a step in the right direction. Our research found that over half (57 per cent) of managers we surveyed said they thought they would be just as comfortable having a conversation with an employee in their company about their mental health as they would be having a conversation about their physical health.*
There is a growing awareness of the subject thanks to charities such as Mind, celebrities and other public figures talking openly about their own mental health issues. I believe this awareness will continue to grow, and hope that one day it will be no more unusual for someone to talk about their depression as it would be to talk about their broken leg.
6. Where can one find more advice if they are concerned about mental ill health?
With mental ill health becoming a more accepted subject, there are many places where you can find resources if you are concerned about your own or someone else’s mental health, or want to build your mental resilience.
There are a number of charities which specialise in helping those with mental ill health, for example, Anxiety UK, Mind and Rethink Mental Illness offer information on their websites and helplines if you need to talk to someone.
AXA PPP healthcare’s website also has a mental health centre which includes support for a variety of issues from anxiety to depression.
*OnePoll survey of 1000 employed adults who manage staff, conducted December 2015.
With that I shall leave you to it, I hope you have all found this as interesting, as I did to read and it has perhaps given you a bit of insight into mental health and those who work with people suffering.