Last Tuesday as a university we recognised World Mental Health Day, which takes place worldwide on 10th October each year. Mental Health has been a major topic in the news this year, with substantial cuts to the NHS budget; royals such as Prince Harry have opened up about his support for mental health issues. It is currently estimated that one in four people experience mental health problems in the UK.
However, this year we have also made a massive leap in breaking the taboo that surrounds mental health. This includes the British public being more open when talking about the issue, multiple mental health campaigns gaining mass support and celebrities supporting these campaigns as well as sharing their own personal stories. Despite the rising numbers stating that in 2016 64.7 million prescriptions for antidepressants were dispensed, in comparison to 31 million in 2006, this ultimately shows that many more have been seeking help, and the stigma is consistently being crushed.
One of the celebrities to share their story was internet star Daniel Howell, otherwise known as ‘danisnotonfire’. He posted about his experience with mental health issues to 6.5 million of his YouTube subscribers. He explained that “depression is like I’ve fallen into a hole.” Howell also shared that he has been seeing a therapist for nearly three years saying “being able to be completely honest about anything with someone I can trust has completely transformed my life…. It stops me feeling alone in my darkest thoughts.” Having youtubers that play a rather idol-like role in our society and generation nowadays can be extremely positive, especially when they share their stories of how they are dealing with or have dealt with mental health issues. Their positive experiences of when they have sought help, evidently encourages viewers who are also suffering to take a step towards seeking their own support. Social media constantly portrays these celebrities as having perfect lives, yet when internet starts like ‘danisnotonfire’ share that everything is not, indeed, perfect it helps us relate and feel like we are not alone, anyone can be a victim of mental health issues, it doesn’t discriminate. The clear breaking of this taboo that we have seen this year, has created vast improvements in way we stereotype and approach the issue of mental health, despite this substantial improvements that still have to be made!
With a five-fold increase in the amount of students who disclose a mental health issue to their university and demand for counselling services going up by 25%, more students than ever are reporting mental health issues. This proves it is imperative to recognise World Mental Health Day within our institutions as an important step in reducing the stigma associated with mental health issues. Unfortunately, we are living in a world where mental health issues have become the norm, however help and support has not. The taboo that is mental health has shown signs of breaking down, but not at the rate we need it to be.
I’d like to remind readers that the University of Birmingham offers a Counselling and Wellbeing service that is located in the Aston Webb Student Hub R7 on the campus map, open in term time Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. Additionally, the Samaritans offer a 24hour phone line if you are in need of help or just someone to talk to, their number is 116 123.