The government estimates that one in four people in the UK will suffer from a mental disorder (whatever is meant by that), and that the cost will be £105 billion to the economy. Shockingly 75 per cent of problems will start in young people starting by the age of 18. But is this just about numbers?
A distressing number of young people are on the edge of their emotional capacity, and indeed there have been three tragedies among teenagers which have come to my attention in the last few weeks. I can’t begin to imagine how we cope with that.
It grabs at my heart for many good reasons and not least because my job requires me to form responses to social issues on behalf of the the Anglican Diocese of Leeds.
The idea that we can identify a set of symptoms that equate to a boundary between being normal and being a mental health case is worrying. This seems to me to have the potential to promote anxiety and possibly stigmatisation. I may have got this wrong, of course, but there is often a vested interest in categorising poor mental health as a measurable phenomenon in order to deal with it. The truth is that all of us perhaps could do with a better level of mental health.
Wellbeing is a direction of travel which begins early in life. In the Christian world we would say that all of us are broken and in need of a loving and healing presence in our life.
I think that there is a great need to normalise our efforts towards good mental health and to deal with emerging problems a way that people don’t feel stigmatised – or even commoditised.
The church has a role to play in creating the kind of spaces that help people to explore what it means to be in good health in the broadest sense – physically, mentally and spiritiually. To begin to address problems we don’t always need professional services but the space to get to know each other. Genuine welcome, belonging and acceptance can go along way to setting us on a good path. I shall reflect some more on this.
In the mentime I would like to encourage you to donate to this charity using the following link – Young Minds Trust