Doctors, nutritionists and the media will regularly – and passionately – extoll the virtues of eating your five a day, cutting down on alcohol and red meat and the benefits of regular exercise. All to improve our physical health.
There isn’t a great deal said of our mental health.
Granted, the signs of physical ill-health are far more overt and potentially more life threatening. Conditions like obesity and diabetes cost the NHS £20 billion a year and that figure is expected to rise significantly over the next 30 years.
However, our mental health is inexplicably linked to our physical health as we’ve talked about before.
Poor mental health makes you 53% more likely to suffer from heart disease and 85% more likely to die from it. Considering 1in 4 individuals experience mental health issues, a significant number of lives can be saved by ensuring good mental health.
But it isn’t just improved physical health that makes good mental health so important. Our mental health impacts on our lives in a number of key areas. Here’s just three of them.
Depending on the nature of the mental health issues, it is not uncommon for individuals to form unhealthy relationships with people who help to perpetuate either conscious or unconscious perceptions of the individual or the world.
Someone with low self-worth is more likely to make friends or enter into a romantic relationship with someone who reinforces the belief that they don’t matter.
This only leads to toxic relationships that leave the individual constantly searching for validation and never finding it. This only leads to a lifetime of unhappiness.
Although that core belief may always be there, if the individual knows they have that challenge – and has support – they are more likely to build healthy relationships. Or redefine old ones.
Those in good mental health or who are able to manage their mental health can and are more likely to form healthy relationships. In turn they are more likely to sustain their mental health. This is simply because they are surrounded with individuals who not only provide positive social interactions but who are also more likely to be supportive during difficult times.
Mental health issues accounts for an average of 70 million lost employment days in the UK and has a total cost to the economy of £70-100 billion a year.
A recent report suggested that only 1 in 4 people with enduring mental health issues are able to sustain employment. Compared to 4 in 5 people with a physical disability, there is undeniably a top down lack of understanding about mental health and the impact it can have on an individual’s capacity to function day-to-day.
Less than half of those with depression or anxiety stay in a job for longer than 12 months.
There is an inescapable correlation between mental health and personal achievement, whatever that achievement looks like. It’s hard to excel in a job if the thought of just getting out of bed grips you with a cold sense of dread.
Maintaining good mental health – or successfully managing mental health issues – is crucial to address what is a major challenge with sustained employment.
If employment is a challenge then money is never far behind.
It will come as no surprise that the cause of a great many people’s mental health issues are socio-economic in nature.
Whilst there is a stereotype that those with mental health issues are underachievers or on minimum wage jobs – it’s worth noting that the evidence suggests that poor wages and lack of progression is a cause rather than a by-product.
It’s hardly a leap – if an individual is financially secure they have significantly fewer worries than someone who isn’t.
This is compounded by the fact that a great many employers perceive mental health issues as an inconvenience, exaggerated or worse. This leads to feelings of isolation and poor productivity. This impacts performance reviews, pay, progression and bonuses.
It’s hardly surprising then, that individuals with mental health issues find it difficult to sustain employment. For any employers out there – ‘cheer up’ is not an acceptable management style for anyone experiencing depression.
Whether they are in employment or receiving financial support, someone with mental health issues is also less likely to manage their money effectively because it is a major source of anxiety. The fear of not knowing their financial situation is slightly less terrifying than knowing.
People experiencing low mood or depression is far more likely to make impulse purchases or buy comfort food in an attempt to feel better.
All this adds up to major stress and takes us right back to a significant increase in the likelihood of ill-health and heart disease.
Happily Ever After
Ultimately, mental health is important because it is directly linked to our capacity to live long and happy lives.
Whether you currently experience depression, have had in the past or live issue free, maintaining good mental health – or successfully managing enduring/long term challenges – is the key to achieving this.
Success, massive salaries, a big house or a private jet are all outcomes of that one crucial element – a healthy mind. After all, as we’ve seen a healthy mind is not only essential to a healthy body but a happy life too.
Encompass Dorset supports individuals with enduring mental health issues either in a supported setting or in their own home.