In one year, estimation shows that one in four of the British population will experience mental health problems. That’s around 16 million and its an ever growing figure. One in ten children, in the uk, has a diagnosable mental health condition and the number of children and teens suffering from panic attacks is increasing.

They’re shocking statistics. Statistics that call for rapid change, urgent improvement and a radical shift in the way that mental health is viewed. However, mental health illnesses are synonymous with stigmas and judgements from society making the battle against mental illnesses a battle against society also.

Tackling mental illnesses,for this reason, need to come hand in hand with tackling society’s perceptions of mental illnesses.So what can be done?

Going on a first aid course a couple of weeks ago, I was blown away by how much I could learn in a short six hours. I walked into the course knowing very little about the recovery position and knowing even less about coping with choking and how to do CPR. Leaving the first aid course a couple of hours later, however, I was confident in my ability to save a life – confident that were someone unconscious I would know what to do and confident that I could cope and thrive in a fatal and stressful situation. With my first aid certificate under my arm I was smug, proud and had knowledge that could make me a key figure in saving a life.

We need something like this for mental illnesses. Ask me how to deal with a choking child, I would know exactly what to do and many others would at least have a vague awareness. Ask me how to deal with a panic attack and I wouldn’t even know where to start. Ask me how to do CBR, I could do it right away – and many others would have some idea of what to do. Ask me how to help and support someone suffering from depression, isolation, an eating disorder, self harm or anxiety and I wouldn’t know where to start- and neither would many others.

First aid courses have provided thousands of people with knowledge on how to help suffering people – knowledge which has filtered through to society and helped society have more awareness of first aid care. A similar thing needs to happen for mental illness. Day courses could be run which provide members of society with information about mental illnesses – in children and in adults – how and why they start, the symptoms surrounding them and what can be done to provide support to those suffering from them.

Not only will this provide society with individuals who are given the ability to support those suffering from mental illnesses but will allow knowledge about these illnesses to filter through to society which will, in time, deteriorate the ignorance surrounding mental health.

In workplaces, schools and public areas across the land it is mandatory to have someone first aid trained around at all times. Why not have a mandatory system where at least one person in a workplace, in a school or in a public environment has to have been on a ‘first aid course’ about mental illness or rather a ‘mental health course.’ This person would be a key figure in these environments in educating other staff, teachers or workers in mental health while supporting those who need support. In schools especially, having a mental health coordinator could be key to changing the stigma surrounding mental health for the next generation.

Mental health has been ignored for so long because you can’t see it. You can’t see the effects that it has and you often can’t draw the links between death and mental illness in the same way as the link can be drawn between a heart attack and death. Awareness is growing, however, more and more people are away of how mental illness causes break downs in the family, causes inability to work and function properly and hinders people from leading happy, healthy lives. This awareness needs to be harnessed- through the use of mental health courses and classes- in order that it comes hand in hand with knowledge about how to support those suffering from mental illnesses in order that awareness may continue to grow.

Theresa May’s speech about mental health at the start of 2017 reflected this shift in how the population wants mental health to be viewed. May went on to said about mental health that ‘left unaddressed, it destroys lives, it separates people from each other and deepens the divisions within our society. Changing this goes right to the heart of our humanity.’ Society is yearning for views on mental health to be changed.  And the government is changing. Its time for society to not just yearn but move forward also. Society needs to take responsibility, along with the government, for the burden of mental illness. And responsibility can be taken through the provision of mental health courses.

I paid £25 to go on my first aid course and would more than willingly pay another £25 to go on a mental health course. Individuals within society need to be activators of change and by individuals paying a £25 fee to go on an all day course about mental health society can begin to tackle mental health and the stigma surrounding it.

First aid courses have changed how first aid is viewed. Its time mental health experienced the same change.

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