pressure cooking mental illness

pressure cooking mental illness

A government campaign to raise mental health awareness amongst young people and their families was recently launched by Time to Change. Run by the charities Rethink Mental Illness and Mind, the programme aims to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health and urges more conversations about the issue to arise. Statistics from the campaign show that one in 10 children experience mental health problems, ranging from eating disorders and depression to self-harm. The director of Time to Change, Sue Baker, says, “Young people have told us that stigma is life-limiting – it affects friendships and school life, and for a quarter it even makes them want to give up on life. This has to be the generation for change.”

Although the campaign targets 14 to 18-year-olds, it does also draw attention to a number of university students who suffer from mental health problems and the ways in which they may or may not seek help. Following the stressful process of actually getting a place at university, it’s unsurprising that many students struggle to cope with homesickness, learning to cook, socialising and managing their newfound workloads. The National Union for Students claims that 20% of students experience mental health issues at university, but the growing demand of counselling services would suggest that the percentage may be increasing. A BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour discussion with two female students at high-performing universities involved anecdotes of how difficult the transition can be and the pressure to have a great time. Described as a “pressure cooker of factors”, students in the 21st century are certainly struggling to perform academically as well as succeed in having a desirable presence on social media. While warnings of cyber bullying are rife throughout secondary school, the potential of self-bullying and a drive for perfectionism is often at the root of many mental health difficulties faced by students today.

A government report shows that one in five 16 to 24-year-olds suffers from psychological issues including depression or anxiety and that young women are more likely to show symptoms of distress when compared to young men. However, male suicide is the biggest killer of men aged between 20 and 45 in the UK. CALM, the campaign against living miserably, is a charity which aims to prevent male suicide in the UK and offers support to those who are in crisis as well as the culture which dissuades men from seeking help. Although it is important for universities to address issues surrounding lad culture, consent and binge drinking, it is also important that men are encouraged to use counselling services just as much as women. Indeed, the heart of the matter lies within access to education and the problems which are exacerbated when there is a lack of it.

Many of us can recall PSHE lessons where we learnt about personal hygiene and were instructed on how to put a condom on a banana, but the lack of discussion surrounding mental health only increases misinformation and the stigma attached to the subject. According to a BBC report, schools are so unclear on how to treat children with mental health problems that they often resort to calling 999 and having children taken to A&E. If sufficient help cannot be found offline, it’s unsurprising that many young people turn to the internet for help. While a lot of people may come across the glamorisation of mental health problems (thinspiration blogs are a particularly harmful example of this), many also find comfort in vloggers who talk about their personal experience with mental health. Videos by Zoella and Tanya Burr emphasise the importance of self-care and being open about one’s problems. When many people feel that they have no one to turn to, these vloggers become reassuring factors in their lives and a friendly presence. Of course, their videos are heavily edited and function on the pretence that they are just as “normal” as us, but viewers are fully aware of this and the attraction of watching them is the same escapist quality of reading a book or watching a film.

A significant argument raised time and again surrounding mental health is the one which asks, if you would take medicine for a cold, why wouldn’t you do the same for a mental illness? Part of the stigma is the ignorance around medication and the assumption that someone on it is either a danger to themselves or others. It may not be the solution for everyone, in fact it isn’t a permanent solution for anyone experiencing difficulties, but being more open about mental illness and the various ways of treating it can not only help 1 in 4 people get through their day but it could save someone’s life.


Written by Victoria Rodrigues
Sub Culture Editor


Images (right) Haejin Park for Buzzfeed

Image (above) Alex Trochut for The New York Times

mental illness #2

mental illness #1