How can we communicate better and promote healthy discussions around the issues of re-thinking mental health?
I recently went to an event in the Arnolfini, Bristol, titled ‘re-thinking mental health’. The discussion was centred around a few panellists including Dan Edmund, Co-founder of Milk for Tea; TEDx speaker and Entrepreneur, Elias Williams Founder of MANDEM, Vanessa Wilson, Elected Student Living Officer at the Bristol Students Union, Aaliyah Hussein, Founding Director of WeRise and the audience.
The auditorium was packed, which was great to see, with many younger people in the audience. Things heated up quickly, but we all voiced similar concerns. How can we foster an environment that encourages healthy, honest discussions about our mental health and the issues that surround it?
In the UK rates of depression, anxiety and suicide are on the rise. One in four adults are diagnosed with a mental health issue each year and a record number of children are calling Childline with suicidal thoughts. With the use of technology being so prevalent in our lives, with the ability to connect with anyone from anywhere in the world, why has our general mental health worsened?
There is no simple answer to this question. What we can do is facilitate discussions and share our knowledge in hope that we can find solutions. Below are some of the key points that I’ve taken from the talks I’ve been involved with.
Cultural and demographic issues are a big factor. It’s becoming more and more apparent that ethnic minorities are at a higher risk. This can be down to poverty, racism and because mainstream mental health services often fail to provide services that are accessible to non-white British communities.
How do we learn the appropriate language to deal with our thoughts/feelings? Finding the right language is problematic as certain language can cause offence and be a trigger. A recurring theme seems to be that the stigma of mental health transcended diction. The underlying attitudes behind certain phrases are the problem, not the words themselves.
Even solutions still come with a risk. One associated risk with providing the now increasingly popular mental health first aid training is that publicly funded services are already struggling to meet demands. If we are increasing demand by referring more people to these services, we risk damaging them even more due to long waits or being denied access at all.