Sunday, 14 July 2013

A Serious Note on Mental Health

I just want to take a moment today to talk about mental health. A friend of mine posted a link on Facebook to a news story about the death of Glee actor, Cory Monteith, and it got me thinking about how fragile we can all be, and how often that vulnerability is overlooked. While I don't know the circumstances surrounding this young man's death, it does bring to mind the tragedy of suicide, and how many deaths could potentially be avoided.

According to Lifeline's website, suicide is the leading cause of death in Australia for men under 44 and women under 34 years of age, and that the rate of suicide equates to one every four hours. I find that equal measures of horrifying, astonishing, and tragic. The fact that so many people feel that suicide is their only way out is a terrible thing. I think there needs to be more acceptance in our society of the fragile nature of humans. We're being propelled forward into an increasingly fast-paced and high-pressure world and a faster rate every day, its very easy to see why not everyone can quite keep up. And when we're constantly having perfection rammed down our throats, its also easy to see why many people are too ashamed to ask for help when they feel themselves falling behind. There's this ideal we see all the time in the media of super men and women. They're attentive parents, keeping their kids constantly stimulated at home and with sporting an extracurricular activities, they're active members of the PTA and have oodles of friends and a busy social life, they cook gourmet-looking food for their families for dinner, keep an exceptionally tidy house, look fabulous, all while holding down jobs lucrative enough to fund this glamorous version of suburban life. In our heads, we all know this is fiction, but at the same time, we tend to hold ourselves to these exceptionally high standards, and feel disappointed when we don't live up to them.

In addition to all of the normal pressures everyone faces, there's also the added factor of mental illness. It has only been relatively recently that medical science has begun to understand various mental illnesses, and as a result there has been an increased focus on public awareness of them. There is still a great deal of work to do, though, to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness, and accept it as a medical condition like any other, that requires understanding, support, and treatment. According to website mindhealthconnect, approximately 20% of people will be affected by depression, with 6% of people experiencing a major depressive illness. Another website, states "It is thought that depression will become the second most important disease in terms of disability and premature death, second only to cardiovascular disease"And yet so often these people are overlooked and not given affordable access to adequate treatment.

I don't want to harp on about this issue until no one is left listening, but I do want to urge everyone to talk openly about their issues, and listen compassionately should anyone open up to you with theirs. Let us individually do everything within our power to remove the connotations of weakness and failure that surround falling short of perfection, and to destigmatize and legitimize mental health issues. Let's try and make sure that everyone knows its okay to ask for help.


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