Do you know that as of today, 75% of young people with mental health problems aren’t receiving treatment and their average waiting time for effective treatment is staggering 10 years?
Do you also know suicide is the biggest killers amongst men and women between the ages of 20-34, specifically men? That’s according to MQ Mental Health and the statistics aren’t getting any better.
Of course, we are all aware suicide rates are beyond shocking. We as a society are also fully aware that people are being diagnosed with mental health problems more than ever before, yet the stigma surrounding mental health remains, making our society look completely ignorant.
Our knowledge when it comes to mental health is extremely poor. Negative views are held by people of all ages and those with mental health problems can experience this stigma and discrimination from family members, friends, teachers, work colleagues and health professionals including our own GPs.
Young people are often stereotyped as ‘too young to be stressed’ and students are seen as individuals who are lazy, drunk, high and party every weekend. You can’t be blamed for thinking this of course, it’s how they’re perceived in todays’ world. What you probably don’t think about is the fact that they could be struggling for a number of reasons.
Mental health problems affect around 1 in 10 children and young people – they include depression, anxiety and conduct disorder and are often a direct response to what’s happening in their lives. In my recent survey, 54% said they had depression whilst 88% said they had anxiety – more than half had been diagnosed. These ages ranged from 16-58 years of age.
Within the last year, rates of student suicide in the UK have risen by 50% and with the stress of deadlines and exams, many students find it hard to cope. They lock themselves in their room, isolating themselves from friends and family in fear of being a burden. Years go by where they seek no help before it becomes the ‘norm’ – nobody thinks much of it as it’s the ‘usual behaviour’ of that individual. This turns into a deadly cycle, creating a negative environment, thus, creating more problems. But exams aren’t the only factors of stress.
One respondent said: “I get cold sweats waiting to be seated in a restaurant. Dry mouth and nervous shakes having to talk to a room of people. Depression stemming from not feeling good enough and as though I’m disappointing everyone. Not living up to the ridiculous standards that I’ve set for myself and then plummeting into an extreme low when I don’t achieve them. Constantly worrying about what others think and over analysing every word, look and action to be 100% against you in every way.”
Another added: “I often worry about exams, friends and relationships. Expectations – ‘Am I going to get married or have kids? Will I graduate and move out?’ You’re asked that from a young age – I don’t mind it but when you’re asked again and again, it gets to you. I worry about this on a daily basis.”
Loneliness seems to be another major factor with one saying: “Even though I have many friends I’m on my own at weekends and at night. I can’t do things I used to be able to do. I’m always comparing myself to others, it’s tiring but you can’t help it.”
Symptoms to look out for include lack of interest and socialising, low self-esteem, mood swings, fatigue and weight-loss. Many people find it embarrassing to be diagnosed as they think they’ll be treated differently or lose friends. But we need to make clear that there’s nothing to be embarrassed about and no, it’s not just in our heads.
In the survey, respondents noted what contributes to their mental health problems and those included:
- Social events
- Expectations (e.g. relationships and life goals)
- College, work, university, school
- Loneliness and not feeling good enough
Despite the front many celebrities put across social media, they too also suffer – Chris Evans, Demi Lovato, Zayn Malik, Ellen DeGeneres, Dwayne Johnson and Adele being just a few.
The latest figures from a Medical News Today survey found that more than half of respondents said the use of social media changed their behaviour in a negative way. Those who said that stated it made them feel less confident after comparing themselves online to others.
Kristin Bell also suffers from anxiety and depression and in an interview with ‘theoffcamerashow’, she said:
“You would never deny a diabetic their insulin, but for some reason when someone needs medication, they’re crazy – it’s a very interesting double standard.”
For some people using medication works, but for others, they don’t. We must remember it’s not a one size fits all. Many feel better by meditating, exercising, listening to music or talking to a therapist but staying offline is number one when it comes to our mental health.
The controversy around social media always leaves people debating. Is it good or bad? The internet in general is making us more anxious, costing us sleep, ruining our moods, causing eating disorders amongst other issues and yet for many of us, checking social media is of the first things we do after we hit the snooze button – that is of course if you haven’t fallen back asleep!
According to a study by CBBC Newsround, almost 96% of 13 to 18-year olds are using some form of social media with more than 78% of under 13-year-olds using the same sites – despite being below the minimum age requirement.
Because of social media, children are exposed to toxic environments, far more than any previous generation and bullying doesn’t just end at the school gates as we all know. Social media has changed how we interact with each other and in turn, the way we behave. With more than 2 billion users online, it’s not hard to see why we’ve developed a range of problems.
Dr Trevor Lakey, Health Improvement and Inequalities Manager at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: “Virtually every day there’s news on the risks and dangers of the worlds of the web and social media for our young people’s wellbeing. And of course, there’s no smoke without fire – there’s a growing body of evidence of the negative impacts that the digital world can have.”
These facts and statistics alone show that if we don’t act now and make changes surrounding social media, mental health and break the stigma we have worked so hard to fight against; we’ll face an endless cycle of negativity far worse than we’re currently experiencing.
By keeping these conversations going and by continuing to share stories, we will soon make this the new ‘norm’ – not the sitting in our rooms, crying, afraid to talk ‘norm’.
Eventually, we will break the stigma surrounding mental health, because if not now, when?