Mental health or wellbeing, which would you choose?
As daring and ignorant as that question may at first appear, it’s actually one of the many challenges people who are suffering from poor mental health face. There is no need to point the finger, these issues will not resolve or relate to any preconceived experiences. It’s an issue that is a lot more complex and nuanced to appreciate than using a single and negative label. Although, I welcome wellbeing as a more positive outlook on health rather than labelling outcasts to the corners of society and beyond. The realities of mental health are quite staggering with its increasing impact on society and the lives of our loved ones. A quarter of British adults have been affected with poor mental health, making it likely you will either experience it soon or know friends and family going through a crisis of their own. The causes of mental health are often widely-disputed; stress, your environment, income or DNA could all factor into your mental health as well as housing, healthcare services, community networks or age.
If we can recognise that because poor mental health is now happening all around us and on a daily basis, with no-one immune: why aren’t we talking more about it?
We need to educate ourselves about how our health relates across the body, from how we feel to what we do. We need to acknowledge how we can sustain our health in order to better inform difficulties such as mental health. If we understand our personal strengths and weaknesses we will also be able to help maintain personal health and care, better. Our minds do not operate exclusively of bad habits either; the espresso you had this morning is no better for your heart than your mind. Another example, a run you didn’t bother with, will lower the quality of your sleep as well as a missed cardio workout. As a result, through increased awareness, encouraging personal care and recognising self-improvement, we can create a more balanced lifestyle that reduces suffering from mental health.
But are there any short-term fixes that can transform a day submerged in anxiety or depression?
We should start by looking at the tools we use and decide how they affect your mind, body and soul. How we use digital tools such as those in social media, isn’t ever a justification for addiction or misuse, but they certainly do not help and this can be seen by the chart below. According to a survey in 2017 by the Royal Society for Public Health, Britons aged 14-24 believe that Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter have detrimental effects on their wellbeing. Academic studies have also found that these problems tend to be particularly severe among frequent users. An experiment by five neuroscientists in 2014 concluded that Facebook triggers the same impulsive part of the brain as gambling and substance abuse.
The Guardian also reported on how teenage girl’s self esteem experienced a sudden and dramatic change after 2007 with Angela Balding, who managed the survey, stating: “The 2008 date coincides with the economic recession, so that’s a plausible explanation of what we see – but we are also aware of new pressures about being online and of online bullying.” Highlighting how digital is already influencing our lives despite social media, as an industry, being a nascent evolution of it. Looking to the US, twelve percent of US children and teens had a diagnosis of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in 2011, a number that has jumped by 43 percent since 2003. Psychology Today suggested that one of the key reasons for the alarming increase in ADHD could be the use of modern media, including iPads and mobile phones shortly before bedtime, resulting in delayed sleep and shorter sleep duration that increases the likelihood of mental health issues occurring.
While the label of mental health is a tragic misrepresentation of people who are suffering from an ‘on-demand’ lifestyle, stress or personal challenges; it can be remedied through a more balanced approach that priorities accountability and responsibility for your wellness. Further, I suggest looking at your device use and how reliant you are currently on it, remember all you need to do is #turnitoff.
If you are suffering from mental health related issues please get in touch and let us know about some of the challenges you are currently facing and how you are coping with them. Please use our campaign hashtag #turnitoff on Twitter when you are about to give yourself some time-out, #turnitoff.
About the author
Alistair Read has written across a range of issues for publishers and has been nominated for awards, including the launch of BBC WorldWide’s ‘BBC Earth Magazine’ that supported the Planet Earth TV series.
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