covid19 - the unlikely ally of mental health

COVID19 – The Unlikely Ally of Mental Health Awareness

Mental health has been for far too long a subject too taboo to discuss.

Ruby Wax quoted this perfectly when she said “How come every organ in your body can get sick and you get sympathy, except the brain?”

This truly is the case and that’s not just an opinion, let’s take a look at the construction industry which has the highest rate of suicide of any profession in the UK, a male dominated industry. This disturbingly coincides with the fact that the highest rate of suicides in the UK are men between 40-50yrs old.

Can we safely place that under the umbrella of “toxic masculinity” and blame men for being men and their problem to sort out, perhaps then we can all feel better about it?

What then would you say if the second highest suicide rates in the UK are amongst teenagers? Teenage suicide has been rising year on year, female teenage suicide is at the highest ever on record! Yes, all scary facts and stats that are readily available online with websites such as the Samaritans and the Office for National Statistics.

Now suicide and mental illnesses such as schizophrenia are at the extreme end of mental health issues. Let’s now take into consideration the fact that 1 in 4 people in the UK are suffering from a mental health issues from mild to severe, and most of them are not getting the help and information they need, even though it is readily and freely available. 

Let’s move on to the workplace, Deloitte did a study on the impact of mental health in the workplace. They concluded that Mental health issues costs UK employers £45 Billion every year! This is linked to reduced presenteeism, absenteeism and staff turnover.

They also concluded for every £1 spent by an employer on mental health in the workplace, the ROI is £5, a no brainer then!

So the big question for the UK in 2020 is, Why are we not taking mental health seriously?

Are we embarrassed, in denial, are we afraid to speak about it, is it one of those things that should be left to professionals to deal with?

The fact is mental health starts with you, and it is affected by everything you do from your lifestyle to your eating habits and everyone else around you. It truly has a the domino effect.

We greet each other with how are you, and the answer is “I’m fine!”

There is the problem right there, the words “how are you” have become the same as “hello”. The time has come to ask the question “how are you’ and really mean it, in fact rephrase it “tell me how you really are”

There is however an unlikely ally that has come to the surface where mental health is concerned or should I say an unlikely culprit, COVID19!

The Coronavirus and the lockdown has done more for mental health than any other factor in raising awareness of it. It has bought mental health as a topic into every household in the UK and this has been a huge blessing, we simply cannot keep ignoring it. Mental health is the biggest health issue we have right now and unlike COVID19 it cannot be cured via a lockdown and vaccine.

As a member of the mental health first aid community, none of this is revolutionary information! I can see a lot of shouting on what needs to be done within the community, but I cannot see the acknowledgement of it at the level it should be outside of the community. Yet it is the biggest crisis of our time, a slow, silent and non-discriminatory illness very similar to cancer, yet cancer is very well known to us all and taken seriously.

It is now clear we all have a responsibility to ourselves and each other when it comes to mental health, there is no doubt we are all keen and willing to play our part which is good news, what we lack is the “how do I do it” part

This is where mental health first aid comes into its own!

Mental health first aid courses provides you with all the information you need to look after your wellbeing and those around you. How to spot signs of mental health issues and, how to talk, listen to and get people to open up. Most importantly it gives you the knowledge to signpost them to the professional help, preventing mild symptoms turning moderate to severe. The great thing is you do not need to be a therapist, mental health professional or have any sort of healthcare background to do these courses. Anyone can learn and apply knowledge from these courses and ultimately save lives, that’s a very simple solution to a very complex and difficult problem! 

Right now there are several mental health first aid courses available ranging from half a day to the full 2 day course that qualifies you to be mental health first aider. Once again due to COVID19 these courses are now readily available online too, via distance learning. There will never be a better time to take on these courses than in the current lockdown! 

What’s stopping you or your organisation right now?

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