The issue of mental health has gone from somewhat of a taboo subject to a daily topic of conversation in the space of a few years. No longer is it something that gets swept under the carpet and pushed aside through fear of saying the wrong thing, but an issue that is now given as many column inches and as much airtime as those more visible health conditions.
As somebody who has personally battled with depression and anxiety for much of my adult life it’s good to see these conditions taken, (sort of) seriously at last. But in truth there is still a great deal of misunderstanding surrounding mental illness and how it can affect those that suffer.
There is a common misconception that people who are suffering with depression are just feeling a little sad or fed up. This isn’t always the case, although feelings of sadness can sometimes find their way into the potent cocktail of negative thoughts and feelings such as worthlessness, self-doubt, fear and loathing that spend their time fighting it out for attention within each troubled mind.
Living with a mental illness is a 24 hour daily battle with an internal force of negativity so powerful that it has the ability to strip you of everything that once made you the individual that you were. For me it’s a full time job just trying to get through each day and stay alive.But yet I’ve only just scratched the surface of what impact poor mental health can have on your life.
For many people, their mental health can deteriorate so much that they are forced to give up work, leading to a multitude of financial problems. Mental illnesses couldn’t care less whether you can afford to give up work or not. They don’t discriminate.
Many will find themselves caught up in the benefits system in order to survive. I had to start claiming Universal Credit and PIP myself after I gave up working in 2017 and neither are an easy process. Application forms that lean heavily toward physical health conditions or disabilities and assessments from people who don’t know you are stressful and not the sort of thing that you want to be dealing with when you’re struggling to keep yourself alive. And if you’re lucky enough to be awarded UC, the amount that you receive varies so wildly on a month by month basis that budgeting is nigh-on impossible, leading to further financial worries as time goes on.
Even if you manage to somehow keep yourself afloat financially, then getting the help you need with treating your mental illness is another challenge entirely. Most GPs will happily dish out a range of anti-depressant drugs and send you on your way. But as good as these medications can be in treating mental health problems, they’re only going to be effective if combined with talking therapies.The problem is that the waiting lists for such therapies is often very long and not all therapies are offered. I was offered low level CBT through the NHS but had to wait a good few months just to be assessed. When what I really needed was one-on-one counselling to allow me to talk through my issues with a dedicated counsellor. But the NHS in my part of the country couldn’t offer that, so I had to contact my local branch of Mind instead in order to receive the help that I required.
Why isn’t one on one counselling available on the NHS? Why is CBT seen as a ‘one size fits all’ approach to treating all mental health conditions?As much as we’re all being encouraged to talk more about our mental health, there’s little point doing so if there’s no real provision for those that need help. The current government might claim that they are taking mental health problems more seriously. But try telling that to those that are stuck on a 12 month waiting list for basic therapy, and those that are desperately trying to keep their head above water financially.