Today, 10th October, is World Mental Health Day and this year the theme is young people and mental health in a changing world. Therefore I thought I would write about mental health education and why I believe it is so important in today’s world.
Currently in the UK there is no legal requirement to teach about mental health in schools. This seems ridiculous when we are encountering a record number of children experiencing difficulties with their mental health. Mental health is such an important topic and something people tend to any away from. We seem to forget that we all have mental health, be it good or ill, much like we all have physical health. There are of course ways we can help our mental health, such as self care, but how are we meant to know this if noone teaches us. This is why mental health education in schools is vital. Prevention is key.
Of course prevention is not always possible. Sometimes we will get mentally ill despite our best efforts but mental health education is key here too. If as a young person we know the signs that something is wrong we may feel able to access help sooner. It is known that early intervention can be key in treating mental illness and can lead to a higher recovery rate so it seems only logical to educate young people on the signs. I know that as a young person I was confused by what was happening to me and felt alone so didn’t confide my problems for a long time. This made everything much harder.
Another reason education surrounding mental health and mental illness is key to help reduce stigma. A lot of stigma comes from lack of understanding and fear. By educating young people we create a generation that is not afraid to talk about mental illness nor scared to seek help in the face of it. We empower our young people to fight stigma and stand up for those facing problems with their mental health.
Of course there are barriers in the way to mental health education. As a former teacher I know how rammed the school curriculum already is but I believe mental health education can be worked in. We make time for physical health so why can we not make time for mental health. Obviously mental health education alone will not solve the entire problem of the rise in young people with mental health problems but it is a start. We of course need more funding for children and adolescent mental health services too, to keep up with the young people that are asking for help. Hopefully we can make a difference if we keep calling for change.
Today, October 10th, marks World Mental Health Day and the theme for this year is work and mental health. As I am currently unable to work due to my mental health, I decided I would think about what things I would like from an employer to help me manage work and my mental health.
1. Time for appointments – I have been lucky in the past that my employers have made time available for me to attend appointments, be it a doctor’s appointment or weekly therapy. I know some people aren’t so lucky. Being allowed the the time to attend these appointments is vital to improving well being and keeping yourself well so that you are able to function and continue to work. Hopefully an employer will understand this and therefore be flexible with working hours to accommodate appointments.
2. Be approachable – If an employer is not approachable it is going to make the whole job of looking after your mental health more difficult. However if they are good at listening and therefore you feel you can talk to them when things are difficult it will make the task of managing your mental health easier. It also means it will be easier to ask for things, like time off for appointments, without the worry of how they are going to react.
3. Confidentiality – This is a big one and links to being approachable. It is important to know that what you discuss is not going to be shared with anyone who does not need to know about it. It is your choice, to an extent, which colleagues you wish to know about your mental health problems. Trust is important to making you feel secure. Obviously there will be some people they will need to tell in order to allow you time off. But it is important to know it won’t become part of gossip.
4. Understanding – I would love for my employer to have understanding of mental health and mental illness, and how it doesn’t mean I am incapable but that sometimes I might need extra support. I have faced stigma when attending a job interview, where I was told I was unsuitable as I wouldn’t cope due to having depression. This is wrong. I was not even given a chance to show my capabilities in the interview but was instead judged on my mental illness. This is unfair and shows a lack of understanding about mental health and mental illness.
So those are a few of thee things I would like an employer to be when dealing with me and my mental illnesses. What other things would you like from an employer? Please feel free to share in the comments.