I am running in the Leeds Half Marathon on Sunday 14th May, to raise money for Leeds Mind, in loving memory of my fiancée Danielle, beautiful inside and out, and who touched the lives of many people. I am doing this on behalf of Danielle, in order to raise greater awareness of mental health issues, in the hope that it might help other people, and prevent anyone else losing their chance of a bright and happy future.
Mental illness is a cruel and devastating thing for anyone to suffer. It destroys lives and has the ability to deny people of their futures. Sometimes the futures of people who have good lives and everything to live for, so can't understand why they think, or feel the way they do. Unlike a lot of other illnesses, it is invisible, can’t be scanned or x-rayed, and can’t just be cured with an operation or medication. Some people have to learn to just manage the symptoms and live with it on a daily basis. There is a lot more which could be done to make a difference to how mental health is perceived, and to the help and support available. We can all bring about change by learning more, talking openly about it, and by supporting charities such as Mind.
The key things which need to change are:
Better funding for our mental health services
Mental health illness accounts for nearly 30% of total illnesses in the UK, whereas mental health receives only around 13% of total funding. At the moment, mental health charities play a vital role, due to under-funding in the NHS.
One in four people will suffer some form of mental illness, which means we all know someone who is suffering, even if we don't know it, and maybe they don't know it either. Every year around 6,500 lose their lives as a result of suicide. That compares with around 2,500 people who lose their lives as a result of road traffic accidents, and the suicide rate is increasing.
Suicide is the largest cause of death amongst young people in the U.K. aged 10-34.
Some people react to mental illness with fear, or by thinking it is not a real problem, and that poor mental health is a sign of weakness. None of this is true, and these perceptions prevent people seeking help.
Through better education and understanding of mental health, people struggling with mental illness might be better able to recognise poor mental health in themselves, to believe there is no shame in it, and certainly no shame in seeking help. It is an illness like any other – it is not a choice to suffer depression, borderline personality disorder, anxiety, bipolar or any other mental illness.
It is not possible to ‘pull yourself together’ or ‘snap out of it’, in the same way that it is not possible to mend a broken leg by thinking it isn’t broken.
Just because someone is able to smile, laugh, and go about their day to day activities, does not mean they are not dealing with poor mental health. Appearances can be deceptive. There are many different types of mental illness, not just depression, and with these, the symptoms are not necessarily a constant low mood, lack of energy or motivation to do anything or go anywhere.
There are good mental health support services out there, but often, there is a lack of awareness of what help is available, so people miss out on getting the help they need.
With the permission of their patients, GPs and mental health workers should be able to share and exchange information with family members, in order to fully understand each individual case and tailor treatment accordingly. GPs only spend around 5 minutes with a patient, which is not long enough to get a true understanding of the problem, whereas loved ones can provide a much deeper insight.
Friends and family need to be very much part of the support and treatment process, so the health service needs to provide them with information on how to best help and protect, and guide their loved one away from counter-productive coping strategies such as alcohol, drugs or self-harm. Without this, friends and family are left to rely upon the internet as a source of information and guidance, none of which is specific to any individual case.
The goal for Mind, is to ensure anyone who suffers a mental health problem has access to excellent care and services, and is treated fairly, positively and with respect. By providing a donation through my JustGiving page, you can help to fund the work of Mind, and in doing so, help to provide support services to those in need, while campaigning for greater awareness and funding for mental health services.
Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving - they'll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they'll send your money directly to the charity. So it's the most efficient way to donate - saving time and cutting costs for the charity.
If you would prefer not to donate online, it is simple to donate by texting DGHM50 with the amount you wish to donate e.g. DGHM50 £10 to 70070.
Any donation is hugely appreciated, but just as important is talking openly the issue, tackling the stigma to make it something people are not afraid to talk about. In doing so, it is possible to change people’s lives, and if just one person can overcome mental illness as a result, it will be an achievement to be proud of for every one of you who kindly donates or brings about greater awareness.