Mental illness can affect anyone and at any time. Up to date, there is no immunity to avoid this. Reports read that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 8 men will experience depression at least once in their lifetime. Anxiety and Depression are the most common of mental illnesses that sometimes, occur at the same time. In a total of 40 million people in the US, 18% of the population struggle with mental illnesses. In particular, 6.7% of individuals over the age of 18 are affected by depression and anxiety.
Understanding the Problem
Today, symptoms and methods of dealing with depression and anxiety are available on the internet. Further, mental health as an important issue is felt among society to an extent as well. This could be seen through the initiatives taken by establishments to curb it. Particularly noticeable by schools, universities and workplaces providing counselling services with certified counsellors. Available to students and employees in need. However, despite there being easy signs to identify these illnesses and services, the prospect of taking early action to cure the illness remains low among society. This could be due to the stigma over seeking for help and this then, is the problem.
In particular, speaking to an anonymous source from Nottingham’s Wellbeing Centre –
One of the main issues with mental illnesses among students is figuring out when to find help and seeking company and support to initiate the first step.
“Students often find themselves in a vicious cycle where depression creeps up and affects their lifestyle, which would then proceed to frustration on their part for not being on a par with their peers and would then lead to more health issues.”
How Mental Health is Perceived
To get an idea of how this illness affects society, three students were picked at random and interviewed. Out of the three, Erica* suggests that mental health is purely based on environmental factors and that not dwelling too much thought on the issue will be sufficient. She states that she has not dealt with the illness as much, but feels that she has comes close to is as loneliness often, has led her to overthinking and feeling down. She overcomes these times by thinking of happy thoughts to avoid falling into anxiety and it works for her as she views herself as an optimistic, cheerful person.
Similarly, Mariam* described her past experience of the illness, as a fear which comes over her unexpectedly and dominates her thoughts. Her condition of anxiety has led her to physical illnesses too. However, her reasoning as to why she has not sought for help is because, she too, feels it’s all in the mind. Therefore, she fights her thoughts by occupying herself with physical activities, such as yoga.
These self-medicated solutions however do not always work, as mental illness is not exactly an imaginary or thought of circumstance. The next interviewee’s response seems to break the myth of it being a trivial issue, as according to Amanda*:
Nothing is going to get better and nobody will understand that!
She describes her anxiety and depression as dark and scary. Further questioning its causes, she feels uncertain as to how and why it occurred and feels it is ‘just there’. After she had attempted at taking her life, she took on the decision of seeking for help. She recalls her reason for wanting to commit suicide, due to not knowing how to solve her issue of depression. This however would not have happened, if her friend had not wanted to speak to her at that moment. Nevertheless, her life took a turn. She is now on medication and feels it is efficient for her to go on about her every day.
Diminishing the Problem
These opinions and how society views mental health in general is important as the stigma over it being unimportant is clear and needs to be diminished. This could be first done by breaking the myths that surround mental health among our peers. Further, by taking the initiative to seek for help, or like in Amanda’s case, encouraging another to seek for help; we could normalize mental health to requiring the same attention as our physical health.
Above all, immediate help is vital in heading upon the road for recovery. This is because anxiety seems to develop within the mind, with the possibilities of spreading to physical illness or self harm as well. Help can be found in various forms, such as Befrienders.org, counselling centres located in university, or a friendly listening ear. It is crucial to understand that these mental illnesses have no borders and can affect anyone. Thus, we should take care of our mind as much as we take care of our physical being. We should also comprehend that it takes strength to admit to having a mental illness and that mental strength unlike physical strength is something to be achieved together, as a society. When in doubt of how difficult mental health can be, the following quote exemplifies the issue best:
Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.
–C.S Lewis: The Problem of Pain.
*Some names in the text have been changed/ not mentioned to for privacy reasons.
Feature Image Source: PsychologyToday
Written by Tennielle Callista Chua & Suchitra Sugumaran.