Mental health has been receiving a lot of press recently, and perhaps rightly so. With members of the British Royal Family spearheading a charity campaign in the UK, and recent data from Australia revealing suicides at an all-time high, there has never been a better time to talk about mental health and what can be done to protect it.
It is a sad fact that in 2015 over 3000 people took their own lives in Australia – where suicide is three times more common in men than women, and most likely in the young. Similar tragic statistics are found in New Zealand where around ten kiwis take their own life every week. It is startling to realise that more than twice as many people in Australia and New Zealand take their own lives than die from road traffic accidents. Unfortunately suicide usually represents the final stage in an often long and agonising journey, which affects both the individual and their loved ones.
The good news is that some very simple things can make a huge difference. The most crucial of these seems to be talking about mental health, particularly for men. Many of us find this extremely challenging and prefer to present a facade of wellbeing. However, hiding emotions only perpetuates problems. As highlighted recently by the UK royals, ‘it’s OK to say’. Recognising signs of depression, offering a friendly ear or pointing someone in the direction of professional help may also be all that is needed to prompt a loved-one to seek the help they need.
As individuals, sleeping enough, eating healthily and getting regular exercise are key to maintaining mental health. Alongside this, trying to regulate stress and, of course, taking the time to talk to someone about how we are feeling are all known to help. Depression and mental health may continue to have a stigma associated with them, but we are a long way from hard-hitting anti-depressants being the only possible treatment. Psychological interventions such as cognitive behavioural therapy, and even exercise therapy may be just as effective – especially in the early stages.
With mental issues becoming increasingly common, and suicides at alarmingly high levels, perhaps we should all think about our own state of mind, and that of our friends and family. Talking about how we feel is key to dealing with problems, and simple interventions can help prevent issues escalating.