Steps Forward in Mental Health Awareness
There is, sadly, an awful lot of bad and discouraging news when it comes to mental health. But alongside this there are good stories: of breakthroughs, of new knowledge, of people campaigning tirelessly, and of people taking the brave step to open up about their struggles. Here's a round-up of positive actions and events from the last year.
1) Stormzy, possibly the first superstar the grime scene has ever produced, held an interview with Channel 4 where he spoke frankly about his experience with mental health. This is hugely important, his story resonating particularly with young people, men, and members of the BME community. Other musicians and celebrities have spoken out this year, including Lady Gaga on her struggles with PTSD, Demi Lovato, Jamie T and Zayn Malik on anxiety, Bruce Springsteen on depression, Chrissie Tiegen on post-natal depression.
2) Hussain Manawar is a poet and charity fundraiser and founder who is also set to become Britain's first Muslim astronaut in 2018 after beating thousands of others in a competition to go to space. He has dedicated this victory to everyone with mental health difficulties. His poems touch on the themes of depression and self-harm and in March of this year he held a world-record breaking lecture on mental health awareness.
3) In what has been called a 'defining moment for mental health', Prince Harry spoke about the turmoil he experienced after his mother's death, and how bereavement counselling helped. Will and Kate launched their Heads Together campaign with a series of videos talking about mental health, featuring Alastair Campbell, Freddie Flintoff, Ruby Wax and Professor Green.
4) Clarke Carlisle on depression; Rio Ferdinand on bereavement; Andy Woodward on sexual abuse. Footballers and other sportspeople have spoken bravely about the difficulties they have faced in their lives, on and off the pitch. Recently, Everton player Aaron Lennon has been hospitalised for stress; so while more clearly needs to be done, a much-needed conversation has been started.
5) Mindfulness, which has been proven to have a positive affect on anxiety and depression, is becoming more and more mainstream. More than 5,000 teachers have been trained to teach mindfulness, a number that is growing all the time. The Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group exists to research new evidence and explore the application of mindfulness in a range of policy areas.
6) Politicians brought up the subject, and changes are afoot. In January prime minister Theresa May announced the goverment plans to "transform" attitudes to mental health, with a focus on children and young people. Funds have been made available for training teachers, and an extra £15m for community care. According to the Conservative Party Manifesto, released this week, the 1983 Mental Health Act would be replaced with new laws tackling "unnecessary detention", while 10,000 more NHS mental health staff places would be created by 2020.
7) Media coverage on mental health is increasing all the time. Artist Grayson Perry's Channel 4 documentary All Man tackled important issues around masculinity, Stephen Manderson (aka Professor Green) explored suicide and mental health in a documentary for the BBC, psychotherapist Philippa Perry explored Bipolar disorder, and many TV shows have featured story lines and characters struggling with mental health, including Cold Feet and recent release 13 Reasons Why.