Mental health is finally getting the headspace it deserves, right? After decades of hushed conversation and perceived inconvenience - for friends, family and work colleagues alike – around challenges as commonplace as depression and anxiety, the societal penny has seemingly dropped.
No wonder. According to Mind, the UK’s foremost charity in the sector, one in four people will experience a mental health problem in any given year.
With depression one of the most common ailments – 300 million people experiencing the issueworldwide (accounting for 4% of the global population) - acceptance and understanding that a healthy mind is as important as a healthy body is making headway.
Though mental well-being is still posited as a personal issue, the public and economic cost mean collective ignorance is no longer an option. The systemic consequences add up to a £10 billion bill in the NHS – with spending up 3.9% in 2016-17 – for an already challenged UK health service.
With businesses losing £2.4 billion annually – stress and mental health accounting for 70 million lost work days each year – the social impact is both considerable and consequential.
No more so than to the individual, though. It’s easy to forget human beings sit at the centre of the issue when bottom-lines are being impacted, so whilst conversation around mental health is increasing, that doesn’t always translate to more help for the people suffering personally.
So, why do issues still remain, despite being recognised as a disabling experience by the World Health Organisation (WHO) – and being one of the largest contributors to disease globally? Mainly because of our collective misunderstanding of the nature of mental health concerns.
With poor mental health often still posited as a weakness and medication being seen as a personal failing, we may not be committing people to asylums anymore, but the shame cast and expectation that those suffering just “buck up” adds further injury to well, injury. Far worse, it means people remain silent too.
No wonder people are finding it hard to cope with their diagnoses, should they seek one. Self-harm and suicidal thoughts have increased of late, with notable consequences.
Whilst women always have and still are most likely to suffer mental health challenges, the press coverage around male suicide and the rise in issues amongst children means keeping the subject a taboo is costing lives.
So, support is needed. With suicide the biggest killer of males under the age of 45 – 84 men on average taking their lives each week – and one in ten children having been diagnosed with mental health disorder (though one in four show some evidence of personal challenge) according to charity Young Minds, taking action is no longer an option.
Whether its consideration in the workplace, healthcare provision or understanding from family, friends and co-workers, culturally we need an attitude shift towards mental health.
Fortunately, there are a few organisations leading the way, prescribing a more mindful approach for us all to follow suit.
Raising awareness about the many types of mental health issue can be challenging – our limited understanding doesn’t look much further than depression and anxiety – and societally, we adopt a one size fits all approach.
Yet, the many illnesses under the mental health banner - bipolar disorders, depression, psychosis and eating disorders to name a few - effect different, ages, genders, races and sexualities in many different ways.
That’s what makes one children’s magazine’s approach so refreshing. Through its appeal to children and their parents, the Beano recognised the responsibility it had to use its platform to address a growing youth problem.
Working with Young Minds and YouGov, the brand commissioned research into the safety of children online, and use their website and app as a way to tell stories normalising mental health issues for little ones.
For women, Dove’s (sometimes polarising) efforts to promote real beauty have manifested in the self-esteem project. With 61% of 11 to 17-year-old girls lacking confidence and positive body image - both related to poor mental health - the brand have pushed to have “normal” people spearhead campaigns, and provided online tools, intervention activities and workshops to help shift the dial on a deeply gendered issue.
The topic of men’s mental health has seen increasing coverage of late, and not before time. Top and tailing with the broader conversation around the negative impact of toxic masculinity on all genders, one organisation doing stellar work to promote better understanding is CALM.
The Campaign Against Living Miserably, despite being a small suicide prevention organisation, are working strategically to encourage men to talk about their mental health.
Partnering with the LadBible on the ground-breaking UOKM8 campaign – gathering much-needed data on the state of play for young men today – and advertising with Topshop to encourage men to express their emotions, they punch well above their weight in contributing to the conversation.
Whilst driving for acceptance is essential, so too is funding those organisations which provide the much-needed support on the ground. Lloyd's Bank in the UK has raised £4.8m for Mental Health UK since 2016.
Putting their money where their mouth is also, in 2017 they won the Channel 4 “Diversity in Advertising” award for their mass-media campaign engaging employees and celebrities in discussing different conditions to help #gettheinside out.
Speaking of employees, nothing speaks more loudly than living and breathing the issues you support externally, and for Lloyds Bank, that has materialised in direct action.
As well as funding a pioneering money advice service through Mental Health UK, the bank has also invested in training for 30,000 of its staff, all to help them better understand mental health issues.
That, and sharing personal stories to remove the stigma, openly sharing tips for improving wellbeing across the organisation and equipping leaders to respond as compassionately and supportively as when someone might have broken their leg.
It all adds up to culturally normalising, effectively treating and radically reducing the impact on performance from poor mental health. Sexy it is not, but an honest, direct and practical approach is what's needed, and see Lloyd’s trailblazing where many others are lagging behind.