ONE IN FOUR | fivethreeninety

Today is World Mental Health Day so I’m going to move away from film talk & discuss something really important. One in four people in the United Kingdom will experience a mental health problem each year. That’s a HUGE statistic, & yet still it’s seen as a taboo.

Mental health problems can come in a huge, huge variety of illnesses. Anxiety, depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder & suicidal thoughts are just some you can count on one hand but there are hundreds & hundreds more. The chances of it affecting us at some point in our lives is almost guaranteed.

It’s 2016, & still mental health isn’t taken seriously by many people. Like I said, it’s a total taboo topic despite it affecting practically everyone, but people are conditioned to see it as a negative thing, or even something to make fun of. Halloween is coming up, & huge distributers are still selling serious mental health conditions as joke costumes & props.

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It desperately needs to be taken more seriously.
The way mental health is experienced & perceived does differ in gender. In September of this year for example, NHS Digital published study findings that saw more than a quarter (26%) of young women aged sixteen to twenty four are experiencing mental health concerns, which is more than three times the rate for men the same age at 9%. In 1993 young women were twice as likely as young men to exhibit common mental health disorder symptoms & now just over twenty years later, they are three times more likely to experience them.

A new study published by Danish researches at the end of last month also showed that women on the combined contraceptive pill are 23% more likely to be prescribed antidepressants. It’s also adolescent girls that appear to be at highest risk. Those taking the combined pill were 80% more likely, & those on progestin-only pills more than twice as likely to be prescribed an antidepressant than their peers who were not on the pill. For many, including myself, the pill is a necessity in their lives & really it’s not just for contraception.
Despite all this evidence, mental health in women can still not be taken seriously. So many women have to fight even harder to get mental health concerns taken seriously, since many still stereotype females to be hysterical & hormonal. Look at Hillary Clinton right now – as far as I know, perfectly healthy, & being told every day by ignorant people that as a woman she’ll be far too unpredictable & irrational in her feminine emotions to be able to run a country. And don’t even get me started on how much more difficult it is if you’re not caucasian. With racist stereotypes like the “angry black woman” unfortunately more than prevalent in most societies it’s just another load of steps a woman may have to climb if she is experiencing problems with their mental health.

Many women took to Twitter to share their struggles with attempting to get their mental health concerns taken seriously; with a HUGE amount of people saying that the official medical advice they’d been given was to “stop being sensitive” or that they just needed a man. An alarming amount of doctors also seemed to think that telling a patient that if they married & had children they would be fine too.

These tweets made me so angry I can’t begin to explain so I’ve included a few of them here for you to read. They’re all real things that really happened to real people.

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Of course there’s the flip side too, with the way society treats men with mental health concerns. Many men are pressured into fitting into the toxic frame of masculinity, taught to be strong physically & emotionally. Emotions are seen as feminine, & God forbid being feminine. Some amount of it is drilled into every child from birth, & leaves men with mental health concerns feeling totally isolated & not normal. I’ve seen the word ‘manxiety’ used for crying out loud. It’s complete appalling & unacceptable – men being told they’re weak & unmanly, women being told they’re hysterical or just need a man.

And of course there’s an even further step of difficulty for people who are neither male nor female. Transgender, genderfluid, agender, non binary people & more can all face serious mental health issues with some experiencing more mental distress due to external factors such as discrimination & lack of support; or internal factors such as gender dysphoria, the tension resulting from having a gender identity that differs from the one assigned at birth. It’s also worth noting here that being transgender, or associating yourself with a gender other than what you were assigned at birth as is not a mental illness in any shape or form.

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I don’t mean to scare anyone who may be concerned about mental health concerns or their own or of loved ones, but I’m giving you this information because we need to fight to change it. We are getting somewhere, the very fact that everyone all over every form of social media has been talking about World Mental Health Day all day is proof of that. But there is more to go, & we can be the ones to do that.

So reach out, talk to people. Go to a doctor & talk to them about it, & just as you would for a physical injury keep pushing until you have solutions. Discuss with your friends, family, loved ones, anyone you feel comfortable with. If you had a broken arm you wouldn’t hide it from others out of shame, & mental health should be no different.

Mental health is as important as physical health absolutely, yet the stigma is still to stay quiet about anything happening in your head. If you have a mental health concern about yourself then you can visit any of the dedicated sites I’ve listed below, & even though it’s scary talk to other people about it, please do it. Mental illness is just that; an illness that can be cured.

I think the biggest thing to remember if you do have mental health concerns is this: you’re not out of the ordinary. Many will try to say that it’s not normal, but it is. It’s one in four people – that’s not an abnormality, it’s 25% of people. It’s can be a shitty, horrible thing to go through but you can get past it without letting it define you.

Break the stigma, & remember you are never alone.

Find more information on mental health here:

mentalhealth.org

samaritans.org

mind.org.uk

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