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Here’s a question: What is mental health?

To understand something fully, one must understand its opposite. Let’s not ask what mental illness is, but what mental health is instead. You might simply say it’s the lack of mental illness, but what does that look like?

Mental health is when you have a clear head and when you can realize your own abilities without a negative shine to them, when you can cope with the stress that comes from your everyday life without spiraling, and when you can not only work productively but also start your work without too much procrastinating or grumbling. Some even say that mental health is when you’re able to make a contribution to your community.

So, we can fairly say that mental illness can be anywhere from the lack of one of those to the lack of all of them in combination. It’s a spectrum because we’re not all the same.

I imagine every single one of us knows at least one person that fits somewhere in one of those. We may not equate it to mental illness, of course, but doesn’t it ring a bell?

 

mental health, need help

Let’s switch gears a bit.

Low self-esteem is a symptom of the ages, it seems. Maybe a symptom of the younger generations in this day and age. With the rise of social media has come this drive to be the perfect person with the perfect body and a funny or at least interesting personality. What’s trending on sites like Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and TikTok is of course all a little different, but it all kind of boils down to:

We want that positive feedback.

We want to boost our self-esteem and feel like we belong somewhere. We’re all kind of adrift in this online world and we want to show a part of ourselves that is beautiful and funny and wow, while a good part of us withdraw from the real world.

In a way, we’re searching for validation and a way to replace the meaningful connections that, pre-internet, were a lot easier to make. Now, I’m not trying to be negative here. We can still make those meaningful connections in real life, and a lot of people really do. It’s just a lot easier to get lost in that online persona.

There’s more pressure than ever before on the young to be just like their parents, but in an evolving world where life’s actually a bit more difficult, it comes across merely as pressure. And there’s so much pressure from above that a lot of people just need an outlet. Enter left, social media.

Add to that the fear of missing out (FOMO, as its called). Bam. Social media kind of has us wrapped around its little finger. Have you all heard of FOMO? It’s that weird restless feeling of wanting to be a part of everything. It’s the fear that if you miss this now, you’ll never get the chance again. Overwhelmingly, it’s the feeling that you’re being robbed of an experience.

mental health, phone use, social media, fomo

The internet shows us, everyday, what we’re missing out on. FOMO is at an all-time high. And it makes us feel a little bit smaller and a little bit less.

In 2017, they diagnosed 10.7% of the world’s population in 2017 with mental illness. In 2021, that’s up by an additional 13%. On top of that, mental illness affects women much more than it does men. And they say that it causes roughly 8 millions deaths a year – a whopping 14.3% of all deaths.

And that’s the number of people that were actually diagnosed. Data for mental illness relies on self-reporting and there are probably hundreds of thousands of people worldwide that don’t believe that they could have a mental illness. There are probably just as many people who are reluctant to step forward and say they do have one.

Some call mental illness a global epidemic (like COVID-19 wasn’t enough). But rather than a global pandemic, I’d call it a sign that we as a society need to do better and be better.

So why is it that talking about mental health has everyone going all hush-hush?

 

mental health, help me, need help, behind closed doors

 

 

Stigmas often come from a lack of understanding or even fear.

I always think that people have a hard time understanding things that are outside of their experiences. We’re almost unable to fully picture what that would look like.

If we can’t really understand it, there are a couple of approaches that we generally take:

  1. Learn about it! Even if it takes you out of your comfort zone. The internet is full to the brim with information about mental illness. You just need to take that first step and find out.
  2. Drop it like it’s a hot potato and back up a few steps.

Obviously #2 is a lot easier than #1. It’s kind of our fallback because life is already so complicated. And it’s the one thing we shouldn’t be doing.

 

 

 

 

 

So how are we approaching mental health?

Personal & public stigmas aren’t the only kind, of course There’s also institutional stigma which involves the government and large companies.

Mental illness can really take its toll on an individual, but it can also really harm society. It can even contribute to unemployment and poverty.

The World Health Organization (WHO) made a mental health action plan spanning from 2013 to 2020. The plan focused on promotion, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, care and recovery. It also set some guidelines for its member countries.

It’s a great goal, and something that we all can look forward to in the future. However, it’s not as well-known as it could be.

On a smaller scale, most countries have a mental health hotline available.

Some countries, like the United Arab Emirates, also have a little bit more going on:

  • In 2019, they started using VR as a way to treat and understand schizophrenia.
  • There are regular awareness lectures in English and Urdu in Sharjah for taxi drivers who might struggle with symptoms of mental illness. After the lectures, there’s a health exam to make sure everyone is fit to do their work.
  • Additionally, the ‘Mental Health Journalism Fellowship’ by the Al Jalila Foundation tries to encourage awareness in journalism to decrease stigmas.

The initiatives are still growing and they’re making an impact.

As they say: modern problems require modern solutions.
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