October is Mental Health Month

October is Mental Health Month. You didn’t know that? Well, there hasn’t been much mention of it in the media. While the stigma of mental health certainly has improved in the last decade or so, there are still many people who are wary to disclose their psychological health issues for fear of prejudice. Along with the fear of discrimination or judgement as being “weak” or “crazy,” most people think that they are alone with their symptoms.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over a third of people in most countries report problems at some time in their life which meet criteria for diagnosis of one or more of the common types of mental disorders. In an age where we feel pressure to succeed and the pace of life keeps accelerating, stress, anxiety and depression are becoming more common (and more easily identified).

mental healthMany of us find comfort in being able to identify with others who have similar difficulties. I have had patients disclose to friends or colleagues about their struggle with panic attacks and anxiety (for example), who were taken aback to find that many others have dealt with similar symptoms in the past.

Television programmes like Frasier have brought a light-hearted side to the field of mental health. More recently, In Treatment, a series depicting the daily life and work of a Psychotherapist, has unveiled some of the mysteries about therapy.

Mental health is just as important as our physical health. When a patient needs to be booked off work for depression or anxiety, they are often quick to list all the reasons why it is not possible – “I have an important meeting on Wednesday” or “I have invoicing for month-end.” I always ask patients what they would say if their appendix were about to burst –“Sorry, doctor, I can only schedule surgery in ten days’ time!” While it’s good to be responsible and diligent, we need to stop minimising the importance of our mental health. Looking after our minds is just as important as looking after our bodies.

As part of Mental Health month, I’ve been tweeting #mentalhealthtips – you can follow me @Nicky_Abdinor