This week in the UK mental health is a big topic and so it should be. For generations now we have done all we can to hide this aspect of our existence where the
light doesn’t shine and now finally its importance is becoming recognised. I think that is because so many of us see our children and/or close friends of our children being affected by many mental health issues, from self harming to chronic depression and manic behaviour.
In its March 2015 report, ‘Promoting children and young people’s emotional health and wellbeing’, Public Health England says that, in an average class of 30 15-year-old pupils:
- three have a mental disorder
- ten have witnessed their parents separate
- one has experienced the death of a parent
- seven have been bullied
- six are self-harming.
And children in England are regularly found to be among the unhappiest internationally, with levels of life satisfaction diminishing through secondary school, and widespread bullying damaging our young people’s wellbeing.
It has become so obvious we can no longer ignore it.
Many of us take a fairly positive attitude to our physical health. Right from an early age at school we learn the importance of PE and fresh air and a healthy body. In my school days sports was highlighted and nothing was more wholesome than a good long distance run. All this was helpful in our physical development and yet how much time and resources were spent on our mental health? Visit any park in the sunshine and you witness all the joggers, dog walkers and mums watching their children run and climb. Our gyms are overflowing and yet we still struggle to even speak of mental heath.
This is a massive imbalance and one that needs some drastic attention. Not only do we need to look towards our resources but also to our models. Many people still play the blame game of seeing abusers and victims, and yet blame is not helpful as most abusers behave the way they do because of what was done to them. It is the cycle that needs to be broken so that people on all sides begin to communicate. As we know and as the Duchess of Cambridge has echoed this week, all healing starts with communication. One of the many pros of communication is awareness and without awareness we are blind. How often have we heard or read of parents of children after a crisis say they had no idea what was going on with the people close to them?
This is an area we are all called to open, to contribute to and recognise. While we may deny the workings of our minds we will not escape them and certainly our children will not. Our minds need regular maintenance too.
What could be a mental equivalent of a good physical workout in the gym? Would it be spending a day volunteering to help others, talking honestly with people we feel distant from, or people who have different life styles? Because when we do reach out we are also helped, we become more aware, more understanding and also stronger in our own mind so we can withstand what life can throw at us.
What is your mental health equivalent to 10 push-ups?