Why are people still afraid to get help for mental health issues?
Despite one in four of us experiencing a mental health problem each year, millions of people in the UK are still too scared to speak to their GP about it.
Depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anorexia, bulimia and any other mental illness is incredibly difficult to live with, yet many people continue to do so and suffer in silence as a result.
So why are people still afraid to seek help when they have a mental health condition?
- It’s scary - mental illness is scary and like any illness, we all think it will never happen to us. Seeing our GP and receiving an official diagnosis means that it’s real
- There’s nothing wrong with me - we all have bad days or even bad weeks. We may feel irritable, sad, moody, tearful or distracted – it happens to all of us and it doesn’t necessarily mean that anything is wrong. It’s easy to convince ourselves there isn’t a problem when we’re experiencing the symptoms of depression or anxiety. A lot of people assume these feelings will go away, but it’s important to understand that mental health problems don’t work like that. In a lot of cases, people don’t seek help until their symptoms are unbearable
- Stereotypes – the stigma and stereotypes surrounding mental illness have improved over recent years and people are so much more understanding and open about disorders that affect the mind. However, there are still misconceptions about mental illness and this often stops people from getting help. You may feel like your work colleagues would judge you or treat you differently, or you might not want friends and family to worry about you all the time. People may also have concerns about how being diagnosed with a mental health condition could negatively impact their career, education, or other life goals
- It’s a difficult time – a person may be feeling scared, alone, ashamed or worried that people will judge them. Depression, for example, can feel incredibly overwhelming and often, sufferers put everything they have into just getting through the day. This can affect decision making and is one of many factors preventing a person getting help
- Lack of awareness – even if somebody is ready to get help for mental illness, they might not know where to get it. In some areas of the UK, there are still no, or very few, mental health professionals.
- Practicality – sometimes, people know they need help and where to get help but it’s simply not practical to do so. Getting time off work to go and see a doctor, difficulty in travelling to places or childcare issues can make it difficult to have a private conversation with a doctor or get to a surgery in the first place
Why it’s important to seek help for mental health conditions
By delaying treatment or avoiding it altogether, a mental health condition will most likely worsen. However, the prognosis of a mental health condition is often promising and many people make a full recovery, providing the problem is addressed quickly and efficiently.
Leaving a mental health condition undiagnosed and untreated can also lead to further problems in your personal life. Relationships may break down, you may lose touch with friends, find it difficult to support your children and your work may suffer too.