Mental Health May: Introduction and perceptions

Back in February, Brig writer Stuart Graham produced a fantastic month of content all surrounding LGBTQ+ issues, from personal stories and interviews to general articles about the subject. Due to its success I wanted to create a month of content around something close to my heart – mental health – and so as deadlines are now gone (nearly – I still have two exams, but oh well!) I figured I could devote a chunk of time to making a similar month of content all around mental health – with Stuart helping out as well.

Over the course of this month we will be sharing stories from people who have come forward to talk about their experiences with mental health openly and honestly including interviews, stories and articles. Later on in the month I will give my own story about mental health as well.

To start the month we decided to release a survey asking about people’s perceptions towards mental health and wanted to discuss these before moving onto the daily content. This is because we wanted to get people’s general ideas on what they thought about mental health.

Before, I start this however I wanted to give a quick warning. Over the course of the next month some of the content is very personal and unedited, and so without saying “trigger warning” (as I personally hate the phrase), if you feel you may be affected by some of the content discussed please take caution. The whole month is aiming to bring light to issues that aren’t as well discussed as they should be, but if you are in a vulnerable place, please take caution when reading. Thank you.

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Photo Credit: http://whatstrending.com/creators/21302-ginny-mcqueen-exposed-mental-health-social-media

Perceptions Survey – Sample of 100 people from University Facebook Groups

The first question we asked was “What is the first word that comes to mind when you hear the phrase “mental health”. We wanted to start the survey off with this as it would give a general consensus as to what people thought about mental health and the overwhelming majority of answers were “depression” (23%), “struggle”, “misunderstood” and “suicide”. There were a range of answers as well including “vulnerable”, “agony”, “invisible” and “ignored”. The answer that was most interesting however was “real”.

83% of people said they did, or currently are experiencing mental health difficulties, with a further 92% of people saying someone they are close to is dealing with mental health issues. This just goes to show how present it is and how surprising it is that it isn’t talked about more.

We then asked people if they thought there was enough visibility of mental health issues within the university and the majority said “no” (72%) with this rising to 81% for the wider society. We then shifted focus to the media asking if people thought mental illness has been covered well. The majority said “no” (71%). We then asked people to justify their answer and many did say that on the whole there has been an improvement over recent years, but there is still a long way to go.

Problems with stigmatisation were mentioned a lot, along with mental health issues being misrepresented. One person in particular said “movies like Split which dehumanise people with mental health conditions and make them into horror tropes still exist, so awareness might be up, but it’s still being portrayed poorly.” Another film/television show that was brought up repeatedly was “13 Reasons Why”. The Netflix series was released recently that centres on a young girl who takes her own life and the 13 reasons why. People said that it “glamorised” mental illness and made it “trendy”, and even “romanticised” it.

13-Reasons-Why-soundtrack-cover

Photo Credit: http://screenrant.com/13-reasons-why-netflix-2017-twitter/

We moved on to ask if people thought all differing aspects of mental health were covered equally and in detail, with 94% saying “no”. We then again asked for a justification and most said that depression and anxiety is covered more so than everything else and is covered, on the whole, fairly well. But every other form of mental illness was either covered badly or not at all, which increases the stigma around it and the confusion of what the illness is.

The final question asked if people had any other comments and the main comment that was brought up was “awareness”. With more awareness the stigma can be broken down and having open and honest frank discussions about this topic helps everyone.

We hope that that this month can aid in that discussion.

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