One in four adults will suffer from at least one mental health issue in the course of their life, and while mental health is a topic of which many people are aware, not nearly enough understand it, or are equipped to deal with it.
Aged 12, I came across my first experience of a mental health issue. My gran, who at the time was in her 80s, suffered from both anxiety and dementia. The dementia progressed gradually, to a point where each day came with a new requirement to re-learn some of the simplest tasks or facts, and re-meet the people to whom she was closest. Meanwhile because of the anxiety, without regular routine and repetition, worry and uncertainty would be a constant battle.
Often my gran would call my mother multiple times each day for assurance. She required regular visits to make sure her life was as straightforward as possible and this would help prevent panic induced by her anxiety. Other times, because of the dementia, my gran would forget where she was, despite being in her own home, or forget the names of everyone around her, including my own mother, which was very distressing.
Over time, multiple serious incidents resulted in hospital trips, and eventually the only option remaining was around-the-clock assistance in a care home. Both my gran and my mother were reluctant to take this option, but there was little alternative. Subsequently, my gran received constant assistance whenever she needed it from the caring staff, and my mother was able to go an entire day without making hectic calls and visits, which beforehand would have seemed unimaginable.
My experience of mental health issues was witnessing how they can change the life not only of the person who suffers from them, but all those to whom they are close. My mother became the primary carer for my gran despite living over an hour drive away, which is extremely difficult to maintain whilst still working a full-time job. Anxiety and depression have been estimated to cause one fifth of days lost from work in Britain, reducing the productivity of the country and damaging the economy.
When someone is physically impaired it is easy to understand the difficulties they face, you can see the impediment with your own eyes. Mental health issues can also affect a person's ability to live their life in many ways. Similarly, assistance is required to complete tasks that beforehand could have been accomplished independently. However, in the case of mental health, it can be difficult for the person who is acting as a carer to understand exactly what the issue is. This can limit their capacity to properly aid the individual who requires their help.
To deal with mental health issues, I believe that the understanding and sharing of information is key. By encouraging conversation about sensitive topics such as mental health, we become better equipped to deal with the issues that are related to it, as well as reducing the stigma around the topic. This could be about being more prepared to talk to someone who is suffering from depression or anxiety about their illness or being able to point them in the right direction to receive professional advice.
This is where My Mind and Me comes in, a year-long campaign launched earlier this month by BBC Radio 1, 1Xtra and the Asian Network and partnered with the National Citizen Service. The campaign's aim is to encourage young people to explore the issues surrounding mental health and to work towards creating a society that is better equipped to deal with mental health issues.
The campaign is one which really excites me because it is aimed at young people. By increasing awareness and tackling the misunderstanding of mental health I hope these people will grow up with a deeper knowledge of mental illness and how they can help those suffering. This will provide a greater quality of live for all.