Mental health – we need to talk

Mental health, we need to talk. In 2020, a study suggested that mental distress had risen almost ten points, in less than one year, to 27.3% of the population and others, more recently, suggest the number may be even higher today. It frustrates me that it is only in recent years that the conversation around it has become mainstream. People have been having to deal with it for centuries, way too often alone, yet today some people ostracise the younger generation for now actually wanting to talk about it, even with the discussion around it being mainstream. I find that to be massively counterproductive.

At the same time, it should not have to be brave or courageous to talk about it. It should be normal. People should be able to go on the internet or talk to their close ones about their issues without a subtle fear that they will be laughed at or ignored. But, alas, the world we live in today I do not think is ready to talk about it so openly. I want to see us talk about our problems, asking our mates “how are you feeling today?” as if we just asked them what they did at the weekend. Normal. No stigma. Just normal.

In the same way we look at sex, schools should teach our children about mental health and the issues it can bring. It is a subject that requires delicacy in places and people should be aware of it so they can handle it as best as possible if and when they encounter it. Trying to remove the stigma around it later in life may be too hard as people would have formed solid attitudes and opinions so I think trying to raise awareness from a younger age would help in bringing up generations to come without the stigma surrounding their mental health.

I also believe it would be beneficial if workplaces had the necessary support to help those workers who are in need. As it stands today, it is too long a process to see a mental health specialist with almost a quarter of people living with mental health problems having to wait more than 12 weeks. But if we could change that we should. I suggest that we change the health and safety law in a way that makes it mandatory to have someone who is qualified in mental health first aid, much like we have first aid trained people in the workplace currently. I think having this quick, easy, and almost comfortable access to someone who can help would massively improve the general mental wellbeing of a workplace and, in the long run, could boost productivity especially as a new generation start to work.

It is important. Really important. The state of our mental wellbeing effects everything from our motivation to get out of bed to our behaviour towards other people. If we take care of our own, and each other’s, then the world may just be a better place for it. I am a passionate believer in the idea that everyone suffers at some point and everyone should be allowed help as and when they want or need it. I hope you feel the same way.

* Jack Lee-Brown is a student and a member of the Liberal Democrats

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  • Steve Trevethan 30th Jan '24 - 7:46pm

    Thank you for an important article!

    When one realises that more than one driver in four on our roads needs mental health support, it makes this largely reduceable problem more real.

    Might part of the problem lie in the adoption of, or acquiescence in, neoliberal socio-economics / aka austerity which creates/exacerbates the following contributory problems:

    *Lack of needed services
    * Increased disparity of income and wealth (Please see the book « Spirit Level »)
    * Increased and increasing poverty and deprivation
    * The assiduous financial and life- essential deprivation resources for the young
    * The deception of the general public about the National Debt, some/much of which is a savings scheme.
    * The (deliberately) depressing style of the mainstream media
    * The essentially parasitic nature of unending austerity/neoliberalism
    * And so on and on

  • Jack Lee-Brown 31st Jan '24 - 1:59pm

    @Steve Trevethan

    Thanks for your comment!

    I firmly believe that, as a psychologist myself, the problems and underlying causes lie in things such as personal relationships, working/home environment and personality. Some of the items you list though could certainly act as lighter fluid to the already massive bonfire that is the mental health crisis.

    I don’t, however, believe that social media is purposefully depressing or that austerity led to a lack of services in this country. In my opinion, the government and the NHS have been asleep at the wheel when it comes to mental health care and are only making strides now because my generation is, rightly, bringing attention to it.

    I passionately believe that only by the right funding in the right places, rather than just throwing money blindly at the NHS, can we actually make a sustainable difference for all.

  • Peter Hirst 5th Feb '24 - 4:01pm

    If young people understood simple facts about mental health such as we are all inherently healthy and it is only our thinking that prevents us accessing that, this alone would produce a huge improvement in their well being.

  • Jack Lee-Brown 6th Feb '24 - 3:10pm

    Mr Hirst,

    With all due respect, the idea that we are all “inherently” healthy is not a universal psychological opinion let alone a fact. It is a common opinion that our childhood, especially the first two years, is key to the future of our mental health. To expect everyone to simply accept that deep down they are healthy is an extremely dismissive approach to the real problems that people are having and does not solve the issue at all.

    Thank you

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