Tuesday, 10 October 2017

World Mental Health Day 2017 - Mental health in the workplace.

Mental health awareness has been gaining a lot of traction over the past few years. More and more celebrities are coming forward to talk about their own battles helping to fight the stigma. Yet somehow, we still seem a long way off. 

In a survey, conducted by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, 86% of people believe they should see a consultant if they have cancer, the numbers of those who believe specialist treatment is needed for mental illnesses are significantly lower. Just 59% of people think that those with an eating disorder should be referred to a specialist, while only 44% of people thought alcoholism might require psychiatric attention. Additionally, 42% of people did not know that a psychiatrist is responsible for diagnoses of bipolar disorder. This proves that we need better education in regards to mental health.

According to statistics; 1 in 6 people in the last week experienced a common mental health problem. 7.8% of people in Britain meet the criteria for the diagnosis of anxiety and depression. Between 4 and 10% of people will experience depression in their lifetime. Mixed anxiety and depression have been estimated to cause one-fifth of days lost from work in the country. One person in fifteen has made a suicide attempt at some point in their life. Suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20 to 49 in England and Wales. 75% of the suicides in Great Britain in 2016 were male. Those are terrifying figures. 

This year’s theme, if you will, for World Mental Health Day is Mental health in the workplace. Each year, 70 million working days are lost due to poor mental health. Mental Health First Aid provides training for the workplace. There are also plenty of other resources available. 

According to the Mental Health Foundation, – More than 65 per cent of employees feel scared, embarrassed or unable to speak to their employer about mental health concerns. More than a third of men reported feeling worried or low, but said their close friends and relatives were unaware of their struggle. Half of all people with perinatal mental health problems are not identified or treated, which costs the UK more than £8billion per year. More than half of all UK adults said they would not employ someone with depression even if they were the best candidate for the job. The UK has the forth highest rate of antidepressant prescriptions in Europe, with 50million written every year. Nearly 15% of people experience mental health problems in the workplace. Women in full-time employment are nearly twice as likely to have a common mental health problem as full-time employed men. Almost 13% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions. Better mental health support in workplaces could save £8 billion a year for UK businesses.

I am 32 years of age. Soon to be 33. I have the mindset of a child insofar as I love to explore the world and discover new things. I also have a habit of picking things apart and questioning things. The child within me is absolutely insatiable and perpetually curious. I have a habit of needing to go places I have been expressly forbidden from going and I like to dig through the dirt for treasure. These child-like traits I have described apply both literally and metaphorically. As an adult, I acknowledge that society has certain expectations of me and follow some of them accordingly.

As a human being, I have absolutely no desire to stand out from the crowd yet I am incapable of blending in. I am an artist at my very core and elicit great joy from creating things. I have no preferred medium as such but writing has been a recurring outlet throughout my existence. 

I have an atypical brain as was determined by a number of medical professionals based on some arbitrary definitions that fluctuate in a manner that appears random and inconsistent. Each medical professional has imposed upon me a series of diagnoses based on a superficial assessment controlled entirely by me. Each professional came into contact with me at different parts of my life so therefore observed variations of my outer self according to my situation in the moment. Make of that what you will.

Interestingly, despite the fact that each medical professional had access to slight variations of only a sliver of my being, there were repetitions that eventually became imprinted on my psyche. Based on my own independent research and my unrestricted knowledge of my self, I am inclined to accept these diagnoses as they align with the most problematic areas of my whole self with very few, if any, discrepancies. 

What is it like to live with a mental health issue? This is such a complicated question and the answer will vary from one person to the next. For me it is everything and nothing all at once. It is pure unfettered joy. It is deep, dark emptiness. It is a love so vast it threatens to consume me daily. It is a loneliness so pervasive that even when I'm surrounded by those who love me, I feel alone. 

My mental health issues give me so much drive and desire and passion. It also causes me to shut down mentally, emotionally and even physically. I love deeply, unquestionably, painfully. I also hurt. More than you could ever imagine from a physical perspective. 

I am a contradiction. Incongruous. A tangled web of uncertainty. I don’t know who I’m going to be from one day to the next. I am also predictable. Obvious. I have a well worn routine for the most part.

Every day is a battle against myself. Some days, that battle is for my survival. Other days for my demise.

I have no idea what life without a mental health issue is like. I’ve struggled for as long as I can remember. Some days are better than others and I can go weeks or even months without so much as a blip. However, most recently I have found myself in crisis after crisis. This year alone I have felt suicidal and been close to suicide more times than in my entire life and my addiction issues have skyrocketed. I work in a high-stress job. Unfortunately, owing to outdated rules, I have to keep quiet about my mental health. However, working is what keeps me the most sane, much the same as 86% of people who responded to research carried out by the Mental Health Foundation.

Recently an anonymous individual said that I talk too much about my mental health. That hurt. You wouldn’t tell a cancer survivor to stop talking about cancer. You wouldn’t tell a diabetic to stop talking about diabetes. So why is it ok to tell someone who suffers mental health issues to stop talking about mental health?

In talking about mental health, I have literally saved lives. Including my own. I have had strangers thank me for the things that I write. I have had friends than me for talking so openly. People are able to read my posts and start talking about their own struggles. Shutting me down is only adding to the stigma and shame I face every day. Most people I know have never seen me have a full breakdown. They have only ever seen the tip of the iceberg. Even my partner of 2 and a half years, who has lived with me for a year, has not seen the dark ugly demons that come out. Again, recently I have lost friends because of my mental health issues. Very few people message me to “check in”and even fewer ask me to hang out outside of my social scene which has contributed to and exacerbated my mental health issues. 

Until people stop flinching, rolling their eyes and looking uncomfortable when I talk about mental health, I will keep talking.

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