Talking is good...
It is very brave and commendable to see Prince Harry and Prince William talking about the loss of their mother, Princess Diana. It has taken 20 years for the prince's to come out and openly talk about how they were affected. I can only imagine what they went through with such a tragic loss of their mother. The anxiety, the heartache, the depression and their overall mental health would have been affected enormously. The strength and courage the Princes are showing by coming out and talking about it has left me speechless considering the closed stiff upper lip nature of the Establishment of the Royal Family
I read the interview Prince Harry gave to the Telegraph newspaper.
It was his brother Prince William who urged Harry to seek to counselling, just to go and talk about it.
Mental health can be affected by many things in life, the soldiers who come back from combat duty, the loss of a parent, loss of a job, body shaming and in this day and age of social media an ever increasing 'social anxiety'.
I am finding and seeing that the victims of such 'social anxiety' are getting younger and younger. Kids try to live up to inappropriate role models and aspire to lifestyles of people they see on TV and in music videos. This, in turn, puts stresses and strains on their parents, which then leads to anxiety, depression and mental health issues for the parents.
On planet Earth today we have such a gap in how mental health is dealt with between the less developed countries and countries such as the UK and US. First, and foremost regardless of where in the world the sufferer is, nobody wants to talk about it. It is seen as a disease and the sufferer is treated as a pariah. This causes friends and family members to avoid contact which puts the sufferer in a more downward spiral when what they need is someone to talk to.
Let me take Bangladesh for example. In some poorer communities in the country, the answer to mental health issues is that the person is possessed by an evil spirit and therefore they must be cleansed of this. The methods employed by healers and shamans is scary, to say the least. One option is to simply abandon the person and fend for themselves. In extreme cases, they are chained at the ankle and locked indoors. In the well to do communities where people are able to afford doctors, the solution is no easier or helpful to the sufferer. I have come across cases of people being put into mental institutions that are horrifying, and brutal. With people locked up and god knows what else deemed necessary done to them by the institution owners. I came across a recent case where the family of an elderly person who had a nervous breakdown, having shown no previous signs of any issues, was first put in a mental institution. When the family realised the horrific conditions brought him home and kept him in a drugged up comatose state 24/7. A country like Bangladesh does not have any systems, institutions or trained professionals of any sort to cater to people suffering from any kind of mental illness. Plus, the culture of the society is such that "you do not talk about stuff". Therefore, statistics are not available to know the extent of mental health issues in a country the size of Alabama with 161 million people.
What about the UK? A first world country that does have the means, the professionals and institutions to support such a big and unseen health problem. Again the lack of places to go and talk about issues is scarce. I recall a story many years ago when a teenager of a family that I used to know lost their sole surviving parent. The onset of depression consumed the young person's life. They were unable to cope and their fellow elder siblings took them to the doctor who prescribed anti-depressants. The siblings didn't know how to deal with as they were dealing with their own grief. The general practitioner was not trained to ask the correct questions to get to the root cause of this young person's depression, anxiety and eventual mental breakdown. Even, I did not know anything about what was going on and could be of no help. Luckily this person somehow got through and over time they recovered and today they are happily married with children.
Above all what I have seen in the UK especially in the Bangladeshi immigrant community, the social and cultural hang-ups brought over still reside and have a deep hold on people. This means not talking about issues of anxiety, depression and mental health overall. I believe that the "not talking about it' resides in all communities in the UK regardless of race, religion, colour and income levels.
In the UK 1 in 4 adults have been diagnosed with a mental illness. Almost a fifth more have experienced mental illness without being diagnosed with it. Depression was the most commonly diagnosed form of mental illness. Women (33%) were more likely to report being diagnosed with a mental illness than men (19%). Men's unwillingness to talk about such issues hides a problem that can manifest in family life, work relationships and lead to violent behaviour. In 2016 before his departure the then Prime Minister David Cameron pledged £1 Billion to support mental health services in the UK, This was prompted by a letter from 442 psychotherapists, counsellors and academics to The Guardian in 2015 after an austerity measure in the budget to make cuts in mental health services.
Let's look at some numbers in the US. 1 in 5 adults or 43.8 million people experience a mental health issue in any given year. Anxiety disorders (42 million people) leads as the most common diagnosis, followed by depression (16 million), bipolar disorder (6.1 million) and schizophrenia (2.4 million). Mental health issues have no borders nor boundaries, however, African-American and Hispanic people used mental health services at half the rate of Caucasian Americans and Asian-Americans used such services at only a third the rate.
The cost to the US economy is $193.2 billion per year in lost earnings. Apart from the economic costs, the lives that are lost is staggering. People with mental health issues die 25 years earlier, more than 90% of children who died by suicide have mental health conditions and every day 18-22 war veterans die by committing suicide.
Mental health by purely looking at the numbers is incomprehensibly scary. We need to talk more, listen more and acknowledge that within every family, in every community and in every country there is a hidden killer lurking. The hidden killer is that if you do not talk about this issue there is no recovery for those who are suffering. The key challenge is getting rid of the taboo around talking about it. We easily discuss and debate other diseases like diabetes, heart disease among others, yet we are ashamed to talk about everyday events that happen to every person on this planet that can lead to anxiety, depression etc.
I am emboldened, proud and happy to see the Princes of the United Kingdom leading the debate openly and candidly. Let us join in that march to remove any stigma around mental health, and get help for our loved ones, friends and community members as needed.