Even though you may think differently, no one is immune to mental illness.
According to the World Health Organization, one in four people (currently this is approximately 450 million people worldwide) will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives.
Disturbingly, however, a multitude of current studies indicate it is extremely difficult for many people, especially men, to reach out and seek help for mental disorders. Obviously, however, if help isn’t sought, such illnesses can’t be controlled or cured.
In fact, many alarmed medical experts are indicating that in our increasingly complex, speed-filled, stressful world, the don’t-seek-help stance is reaching crisis status, causing grave harm not only to individuals, but to the societies in which they live.
So what is contributing to this personal silence?
Well, economics plays a significant role.
A recent study by the British Equality and Human Rights Commission shows that, despite the fact that it is illegal under The Equality Act of 2010, there is a wide mental-health pay gap in England.
Men there living with depression or anxiety earn 26 percent less than men who don’t experience that condition. For men who experience panic attacks, the gap is an incredible 42 percent. The study shows that while women also experience a mental-health pay difference, that gap is only 10 percent.
Officials for the Men’s Health Forum weren’t surprised at those results, since they support their own findings.
The MHF has reported that 34 percent of men would be embarrassed or ashamed to take time off from work for mental health concerns. For men who had actually experienced mental health problems – and therefore had also experienced the reaction to them – 52 percent are concerned about specifying their problems and taking time off for treatment.
MHF chief executive officer Todd Martin says the findings indicate that despite scientific advances in identifying the reasons for mental disorders and how they can be treated, widely-held stigmas about such diseases, especially as they affect men, still exist.
“Based on figures like these, employers need to do much more to tackle stigma and discrimination against mental health problems in the workplace,” Martin contends.
But the CEO also believes changes in the British health system are needed, too. “We can’t wait for every employer to change,” Martin says. “People must be able to get confidential support for mental health issues outside working hours without their employer knowing.”
Nations around the world are now coming up with innovative, countrywide programs to try to reduce the long-standing stigma surrounding mental illness. Most are aimed at encouraging more discussion about mental illness, both the problems it causes and, even more importantly, the treatment options that are available.
Once a year, Bell Canada sponsors its Bell: Let’s Talk day, which is set for January 31. The program promotes four simple ways people can help end the stigma surrounding mental illness. They are:
- Breaking the silence and have informative, open discussions. This is crucial since two out of three people suffer mental illness in silence, fearing judgement and rejection. Experts point out that being open to such conversations is the first step toward eliminating the stigma.
- Educating yourself to have the right tools, knowing the right words to use, and understanding how to correctly speak with someone who is experiencing the devastating impact of mental illness.
- If you believe that someone is suffering from mental illness, being a good listener and asking how you can help or simply being there for people you care about is often a first step in their recovery.
- As so often is the case, kindness is the key to helping. Expressions like “don’t worry, you’ll get over it” or “just relax” actually hurt more than help. But simple acts such as a sincere smile coupled with a willingness to talk or an invitation to chat over coffee can open up the conversation and let someone know you are there for them.
Started in 2010, the annual Bell Program continues to promote an awareness strategy that is focused on four pillars:
- overcoming the stigma attached to mental illness
- supporting a variety of agencies that help provide mental health support when and where it is needed
- investing in research programs with the potential to have transformative impacts on mental health, and
- encouraging greater corporate engagement to help workers overcome mental health issues.
So how does Bell Canada fund these programs? Here are some examples that you can participate in on January 31st:
- Send a text message. For every text sent by Bell Canada, Bell Allant, and Bell MTS customers on Let’s Talk Day, Bell donates five cents towards mental health issues.
- That same five-cent contribution is made for any phone call.
- The company also makes a five-cent donation any time you watch its Bell Let’s Talk video on Facebook, Instagram, or SnapChat or tweet using the hashtag #BellLetsTalk.
If you want to get involved in the program or just learn more about mental illness, Bell Canada has put together a comprehensive toolkit which you can download here.
This is the fourth segment in an ongoing series written by Dave Price on some of the challenges men experience with aging. Here are his other three posts;