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Mental Health Awareness Week - 13-19 May 2019

May 12, 2019 12:01 AM
By Rachel Dineley

This year, perhaps more than any before it, is one in which we should all be aware of and consider issues around mental health and how we respond to illness - whether our own or others'.

We have learned that there is a marked drop in the number of GPs per capita (down from 65 to 60 for every 100,000 of the population) and the pressures on medical and support services are as great as ever. We should not look to the medical profession alone to address these problems. The causes pervade our society and we all have a role to play.

The Liberal Democrats are committed to achieving equality for mental health - something that will not come about in an underfunded NHS. That is why the party wishes to add a penny to income tax to give our health services the funding it needs.

Individual issues also need to be addressed. So, for example, on 8th March 2019 Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat MP, introduced a new bill to ensure better care for mothers with post-natal depression.

A mental health problem should be no different to a physical one - anyone with a serious illness deserves to be treated with compassion and understanding. But mental ill-health is too often a taboo subject, whether in the workplace, in the home or elsewhere. There is a stigma associated with it and those failing to understand the nature of the illness may see it as a weakness and a failing. Yet, every one of us is vulnerable and one in four of us in the UK has a mental health problem each year.

The causes can vary enormously. Contributory factors can include loneliness, bereavement, stress, living with a long-term physical condition, being a long-term carer, homelessness or poor housing, unemployment…. The list goes on and on. These are issues that concern us all. So perhaps it is incumbent on us all to give some thought, in the course of Mental Health Awareness Week, to how we may help on an on-going basis.

In addition to looking after our own mental wellbeing, we can take the opportunity to talk with those around us - family, friends and colleagues - who may need our support but are hesitant to ask for it. Being well informed is important - there are many misconceptions about different types of mental ill-health and how problems can be managed. Information is available from a variety of good sources, including relevant websites, such as that of the NHS and the charity, Mind.

The UK charity, the Mental Health Foundation, has chosen to make body image its theme for the week and has a special section of its website dedicated to it here. Its CEO, Mark Rowland, points out that as we all live with our bodies as they evolve and change, we all have a role in shaping an inclusive culture where we help others feel comfortable in their own skin.

There is clear evidence that there is an increased risk of mental ill health problems which accompany poor body image. It is vital to take a holistic approach, since there is a clear inter-relation between our bodies and our minds. Yet we generally do not see the connection. Mr Rowland observes "It is perhaps why it is still surprises us that cultures that are focused on materialism, consumption and celebrity fare worse in terms of people's body image and mental health." During Mental Health Awareness Week the foundation is focussing on the changes needed in our cultural values, advertising standards and reducing discrimination that will make a real difference.

So, there's lots to think about….. and then act upon.