Breaking the silence – it’s ok not to be ok

After years of silence mental health is something that has finally hit the mainstream media. A number of celebrities and well-known people have recently shared their own personal battles and experiences of mental health difficulties and there have also been a number of campaigns to raise awareness around mental health difficulties.

But does this really affect our community in today’s day and age? Surely most of us come from well-established and financially stable families. As a community of British Indians, we are predominately well educated and work in some of the most regarded professions – so why should we be worried about mental health difficulties? The truth is that like most other health difficulties, mental health difficulties does not discriminate against class, race, creed or gender.

In the UK, 1 in 4 adults experience at least one diagnosable mental health difficulty in any one year, and one in six experiences this at any given time. The most common mental health difficulties are depression and anxiety. A recent study showed that approximately 9% of people meet diagnostic criteria for clinical depression and/or anxiety in Britain. Whilst an increasing number of people are seeking help and accessing treatment, some stories end in suicide. The suicide rates of 16-24 year-old women of Asian origin is three times that of 16-24 year old women of white British origin. So, suddenly the figures now hit home – yes this does affect our community and our loved ones. But what are we doing about it? How can we help to support each other? Why are we not talking about mental health in the same way as we talk about physical health?

Mahatma Gandhi famously said “be the change you want to see in the world” If we as a community want to see change in the way we talk about mental health then we need to make it ok to talk about mental health, we need to accept that this does affect our community and we need to understand more about mental health difficulties. We also need to acknowledge that mental health difficulties occur in tandem with physical health difficulties.  We need to start thinking about health from more of a biopsychosocial perspective, meaning that we need to acknowledge that as well as a biological component, health also has a psychological and social component.

So, what should you do if you or someone else is experiencing mental health difficulties? In the same way as you might seek medical assistance when you are worried about your physical health, it’s important to get help if you are worried about mental health. As with most things your first point of call could be your GP who can then make a referral for you to see an appropriate mental health service. Often this may also be provided at your own GP practice. Some NHS and charity supported mental health services also accept self-referrals so it’s worth finding out what is available in your local area. You can also access help privately and this may also be funded by your private health insurance. If you do choose to seek help outside the NHS it is important to ensure that the person who you see is sufficiently qualified to provide treatment. You can check this by seeing if they are registered with a body like the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC) or the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP). Normally the most effective treatment for mental health difficulties is talking therapies like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). Talking therapies are usually provided individually but sometimes they may be provided in the format of group or family/couples therapy. Medication is also an effective treatment option, but results are in most cases better when medication is combined with talking therapies. If you do choose to take medication it is important that this is managed by a psychiatrist and is regularly reviewed.

We will all cross paths with people who have struggled with mental health difficulties in our day to day lives knowingly or unknowingly. As a community we need to change the culture of this topic and make it ok to talk about mental health and suicide. Mental health is not a sign of weakness but often a sign of strength. Many stories of mental health difficulties end positively with individuals making a recovery or maintaining remission. Let’s try and make more stories of mental health, stories of success.