According to the Mental Health Foundation, mental health problems are ‘one of the main causes of the overall disease burden worldwide’.1 We also find that ‘mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain, with 7.8% of people meeting criteria for diagnosis’ and ‘4 – 10% of people in England will experience depression in their lifetime’.2,3
Mental health is being included in political rhetoric and the media spotlight more than ever before, as it is recognised as an ever-increasing and worldwide issue. It is a growing concern among Universities, employers and the health services. Chances are that you, or someone you love is experiencing mental health difficulties with statistics showing that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their life. But how to we tackle such a complex and elusive issue such as mental health?
I believe social acceptance and understanding can go a long way to help alleviate the issues associated with mental health. Many individuals worry about the stigma attached to mental ill health, and are concerned it may affect their job prospects, or the way that their family or friends view them. This is only reinforced through media representations of mentally ill individuals as violent and dangerous. If you know someone struggling with mental health, reach out to them, you may not understand what they are dealing with. But knowing that they have your support and understanding can go a long way!
A common topic surrounding mental health is mindfulness. But what exactly is mindfulness and how can it help alleviate the ever growing issues surrounding mental health?
The definition of mindfulness is ‘the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something’, or ‘a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique’. Simply, it is a form of meditation, which many people find as an effective way to manage their mental health.
In a world where we are overwhelmed with information, telling us how to think and feel, dictating our thoughts and emotions it can be difficult to calm our minds. This is where mindfulness can help. By concentrating on our body, allowing thoughts to enter and leave our minds without criticism and understanding that thoughts and feelings do not define us, and they are in fact transient.
Mindfulness (Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)) has been proven to significantly reduce anxiety within just 8 weeks.4 In addition to this Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which is a combination of MBSR and CBT, has been shown to help individuals manage their depression, avoid relapses and treat their depression as effectively as antidepressant medication.5
Side note: If you are taking medication for mental illness, please do not stop talking it without first consulting your medical professional. While mindfulness is proven to help alleviate mental illness, you should not stop taking medication without consulting your doctor as it can set back your treatment and be harmful to your overall mental health in the long-term.
There are many apps, websites and books which talk individuals through mindfulness and you may wish to speak with your health professional to see if there are services available to you in regards to CBT/Mindfulness.
Mindfulness does not take much time out of your day, and it is not complicated, it’s something everyone can do!
You may want to look at the following sites for more information;
- Vos, T., et al. (2013) Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 301 acute and chronic diseases and injuries in 188 countries, 1990–2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study. The Lancet. 386 (9995). pp. 743-800.
- NICE (2011). Common mental health disorders | Guidance and guidelines | NICE. [online] Available at: http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg123 [Accessed 25 Aug 2015].
- McManus S, Meltzer H, Brugha T, Bebbington P, Jenkins R (eds), 2009. Adult Psychiatric Morbidity in England 2007: results of a household survey. NHS Information Centre for Health and Social Care. [online] Available at: http://www.hscic.gov.uk/pubs/psychiatricmorbidity07[Accessed 25 Aug 2015].