For one week each May Mental Health Awareness Week is launched in an attempt to educate and inform people about mental health issues and wellbeing.
One in four people will, at some point in their life, experience some kind of mental health problem and this campaign aims to show people the wealth of help and support available to them.
What are mental health problems?
Mental health problems can affect people in a number of different ways; the way you think, feel and behave.
Illnesses affecting someone’s mental health can be just as bad, and in some cases worse, than any other illness but it can’t be seen.
There is still some stigma and discrimination towards people with mental health problems, as well as many myths about what different diagnoses mean.
There are also a lot of different ideas about the way mental health problems are diagnosed, what causes them and which treatments are most effective.
It is possible to recover from a mental health problem and live a productive and fulfilling life. It is important to remember that, if you have a mental health problem, it is not a sign of weakness.
Who can have a mental health issue?
Anyone can have problems with their mental health, regardless of their sex, age or family background.
- 1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year
- Women are more likely to have been treated for a mental health problem than men
- About 10% of children have a mental health problem at any one time
- Depression affects 1 in 5 older people
- Suicides rates show that British men are three times as likely to die by suicide than British women
- Self-harm statistics for the UK show one of the highest rates in Europe: 400 per 100,000 population
- Only 1 in 10 prisoners has no mental disorder
What causes mental health problems?
Mental health problems can have a wide range of causes but in most cases, there is no definitive way to know what causes a particular problem. There are often things that trigger a period of poor mental health but some people tend to be more deeply affected by these things than others.
Some factors which could trigger a period of poor mental health include:
- childhood abuse, trauma, violence or neglect
- social isolation, loneliness or discrimination
- the death of someone close to you
- social disadvantage, poverty or debt
- caring for a family member or friend
- a long-term physical health condition
- significant trauma as an adult, such as military combat, beinginvolved in a serious accident or being the victim of a violent crime
- physical causes – for example, a head injury or a condition suchas epilepsy can have an impact on behaviour and mood
- genetic factors – there are genes that cause physical illnesses,so there may be genes that play a role in the development of mental healthproblems.
How are mental health problems diagnosed?
Doctors look for groupings of certain symptoms when trying to diagnose possible mental health issues. For example, if you have had symptoms such as low mood and a lack of interest and pleasure in usual activities for more than two weeks, you are likely to be diagnosed with depression.
Short questionnaires are usually given out by doctors and GPs when trying to diagnose more common mental health problems like depression and anxiety. Less common mental health problems may mean you need to be referred to a specialist before you can be given a diagnosis.
Many diagnoses have some of the same symptoms. For example, a change in sleeping pattern is a feature of both depression and anxiety.
Your doctor will base your diagnosis on more than one symptom. If your symptoms change, you may receive more than one diagnosis over a period of time.
Are people with mental health issues dangerous?
There is still some stigma surrounding people with mental heath problems, with many people thinking those with such illnesses are dangerous.This is not true.
The most common mental health problems have no significant link to violent behaviour.
People with serious mental health problems, including those most often linked to violence in the media, are more likely to be the victim of a violent crime than to commit one.For example, those diagnosed with psychosis are 14 times more likely to be a victim of a crime rather than to perpetrate one.
Serious acts of violence committed by people with mental health problems are rare. Someone with a mental health problem is actually more likely to harm themselves than someone else; although, the majority of people with mental health problems do not harm themselves at all.
What treatments are their available?
There are different kinds of treatments for different mental health problems. The two most common available on the NHS are ‘talking treatments’ and medication.
Talking treatments can also be referred to as ‘talking therapy’ or ‘psychological therapy and aim to provide a regular space and time for people to talk about their problems and worries.
The most common type of treatment given by doctors and psychiatrists is prescription medication. These drugs don’t cure mental health problems, but aim to ease the most distressing symptoms.
Many people find these drugs helpful but,they can have side effects that may make people feel worse rather than better.
Where can you turn for help and support?
There are numerous charitable organisations across the UK that aim to offer help and support to anyone who has a mental health problem:
- Mind - provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem.
- Young Minds - a leading UK leading charity committed to improving the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people.
- SANE - a charity aiming to raise public awareness, excite research, and bring more effective professional treatment and compassionate care to everyone affected by mental illness.
- Rethink - a charity supporting almost 60,000 people each year across England to get through crises, to live independently and to realise they are not alone.
- Mental Health Foundation - a charity aiming to reduce the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health problems in the UK