We asked the Mental Health Foundation a number of questions relating to mental health issues. They are shown below and have been given to us by their Associate Director, Dr. Antonis Kousoulis.
Q) Mental health issues affect so many people – but, mostly, they are described as ‘hidden’ disabilities. How do you overcome that?
We are coming from a long history of mystifying and hiding mental health problems in our communities and health services. We’ve come a long way since that and mental health receives at the moment more attention than ever before. The more we talk about our mental health, normalise our health, and help those who need it to ask for help, the more we will address this persisting issue.
Activities that the Mental Health Foundation does, like the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival, and the MHF Live music initiative, help raising the profile of mental health in communities by giving the voice and power to the people with lived experience. It will take a concerted effort across the sector though to ensure parity of esteem between mental and physical health.
Dr. Antonis Kousoulis – Associate Director at the Mental Health Foundation
Q) Campaigners encourage people to talk about mental health problems. The Princes (both Harry & William) have said that we have to bring these problems out into the open. Does the ‘Mental Health Foundation’ support that?
Yes, it is important to see highly influential people, like the Princes and various celebrities, talking about mental health, as this helps inspire people who may not otherwise be open about their struggles. Celebrities are highly influential people whose actions and decisions are watched and often emulated by wide audiences, and hence have substantial sway as health advisers.
Q) Insurance and understanding welfare benefits can be difficult for those with mental health issues.
The example of many, and meaningful work done around insurance, show that that there is still a long way to go to overcome the stigma and support people who are vulnerable with appropriate policies. This needs a coordinated approach across several areas of government. For example, the Department for Work & Pensions can ensure that people with existing mental health problems can get access to high quality advice in navigating the welfare system and understanding their entitlements.
Regulating Insurers more closely based on health evidence can also help. Mental health problems are defined as disabilities under the Equality Act and perhaps this remains a good way to ensure they receive some benefits that are appropriate and respected.
Q) What are the future plans of the ‘Mental Health Foundation?’
The Mental Health Foundation is the UK’s charity for everyone’s mental health. With prevention at the heart of what we do, we aim to find and address the sources of mental health problems. We must make the same progress for the health of our minds that we have achieved for the health of our bodies. And when we do, we will look back and think that this was our time’s greatest contribution to human flourishing.
We will continue building up our prevention strategy through multi-pronged programmes in research, development of solutions, public-facing resources, and policy advocacy. To achieve our mission of prevention we need to understand and implement what works for whom and ensure that we address the major inequalities that put certain population groups at disproportionate risk of experiencing mental health problems. When considering that determinants of mental health most often lie in in non-health domains (like social, education, housing, criminal justice, family, and labour policies), it means that the policy decisions we are looking to influence should involve multiple levels and departments of government.
Q) Is there still a stigma for individuals (mainly men?) in saying they need help?
The fact remains that most people who experience mental health problems never seek help. Many of us never recognise that the distress we feel is something that can be helped. yet more of us feel unable to seek help because of stigma.
The way men experience and express symptoms of poor mental health may be informed, in part, by societal expectations – that is, the ways in in which men have traditionally expected to behave. These traditional notions of masculinity tend to favour strength, stoicism, dominance and control. Though these are not inherently negative traits, rigidly adhering to them could result in a negative impact on men’s mental health and often means that men are more reluctant to express concerns about their mental health and access services.
To tackle stigma we will need to start from making mental health improvement everyone’s business, across our communities, schools, workplaces, homes, and make sure we engage those who are not at the moment seeking help.
Hannah Currie – leading the Foundation’s MHF Live initiative
To find out more about MHF Live CLICK HERE
The Mental Health Foundation website has lots of information and advice for anyone affected by mental health problems. It also shares new research and campaigning activities dedicated to finding and addressing the sources of mental health problems. For more information please CLICK HERE