The importance of mental health
After weeks of intense and heated discussions about inadequate and expensive local transport, an ashamedly low funded NHS and the existential question about how European we can dare to call ourselves from now on, hardly anyone has even touched on the underestimated issue of what concerns each and every one of us: mental health writes Annika Loebig, a student at Peterborough Regional College.
One might think that in times of what look like the start of a political apocalypse, attempting to stay sane would be everyone’s top priority. Although all parties seem to acknowledge the importance of improving services especially for young people, it is not very likely that we will see any changes as long as Twitter wars and ridiculing politicians dominate everyone’s everyday agenda. Increased funding for schools and a fair pay raise for teachers are all important issues, but how can we ensure that students can reach their peak when their mental health is being neglected?
Mental health services are on the list of needs that have been cut dramatically, and according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, overall school services will be cut by 8% by 2020. Considering that schools are already short on resources, it’s not surprising that we make headmasters, teachers etc believe that schools shouldn’t be responsible for an individual’s mental well-being, when in fact, schools actually benefit from having students with a good mental health: It makes them thrive and fulfil their potential, increase their attendance and participation at school, simultaneously giving students and teachers the opportunity to create more effective and engaging lessons.
However, the most ironic point one can make against the argument that there is not enough money available to spend on these services is that prevention of mental health problems could even lead to decreasing costs of mental health treatments, which currently reach up to billions of pounds every year. Another benefit from focusing on giving students appropriate and adequate mental health support is that research shows that many people can make a full recovery from their mental health problems if they receive treatment at an early stage.
Not only will this give people the chance to perform ideally throughout their studies, but consequently benefit the economy and society in general, because this way we create healthier and simultaneously more productive and capable contributors to our society.
A report by BRFSS says that most people with persistent mental illnesses are at risk of living below the poverty line, struggling with unemployment and obtaining affordable housing. As a result, these individuals would need a number of additional social supports, without any guarantee that the service will be affordable or even available. This is why we need to speak up and educate everyone on the benefits of preventing and treating mental health issues, because in the end, these are issues that will affect us all.
Although mental health services for young people do exist, and the work of for instance the YMCA, NHS and school counsellors needs to be appreciated, they are still inadequate. Part of the problem is the fact that students tend to be only broadly aware of existing mental health services. The demand for help is bigger than it seems, since according to a survey by YouGov in 2016 , one in four students suffer from mental health problems, anxiety and depression being the most common reported issues. That’s why we need to expand and improve services, in addition to promoting them more efficiently. When depression affects around one in 12 of the whole population, perhaps we should work on solving such an obvious problem: especially when our sanity is at risk now more than ever.