Mental health and mental health education

August 28, 2020

Laura Duff

Anxiety

This may seem like quite an - upsetting - topic to read about, but welcome to my anxiety series. During this series I am going to be discussing my different experiences with anxiety. The aim is that these blogs will be lighthearted, but also informative. Anxiety is something that a lot of people don’t know how to explain and don’t even really know what it is when they feel it, so I hope I can relate to even one person out there.

My anxiety started at a very young age of 11 or 12 and got gradually worse until my 6th year of High school. Once it got to the point where I could barely attend school because I was scared to leave my bed, I knew I needed help. None of my friends knew why I was off school, they just thought I was skiving. I didn’t want them to know because it embarrassed me. Reaching out to friends wasn’t an option. Why would I want people to know I was staying in bed because I was so anxious, I couldn’t sleep through the night? Or that I had loads of panic attacks throughout the day for months?  

At that point in my life, I tried to tell myself, “I’m not weak, I’m courageous, and I’m cool.” The idea of telling anyone also made me anxious. Having anxiety doesn’t have the connotations of courageous and cool. It is a mystery. Millions of 16-year-old girls suffer from it and can’t even describe a fraction of it.

What did they tell us about mental health in school? (Although that was already a couple of years ago for me, I struggle to believe much has changed in the curriculum since then) Absolutely nothing. Even in Higher Human Biology or in Guidance class. What does the lack of education about a particular topic create? A stigma around it. This has been discussed in the recent popular discussion of "Black Lives Matter". The history of slavery in Britain is seldom talked about throughout school, and therefore we tend to disregard it when it is discussed, as rarely as that is.  

Mental health problems affect 1/4 people in the UK (Ref 1). 1/4 of the UK are overweight (Ref 2), and there is a whole section in the curriculum teaching us about this and the benefits of exercise (Physical Education Class). I also remember in primary getting, “Healthy Eating” classes where we learned all about a balanced diet. This was carried on through to High school, with Home Economics class which was compulsory until the ages of 13/14, in which you learned how to cook healthy, yet very tasty meals. So why did I never learn about how to deal with my anxiety? Why did I not even know what it was when I got diagnosed with it at the doctor's? I struggle to understand why one aspect of our health is taught so thoroughly and the other is so massively overlooked.

I am not a closed book; people would describe me as the opposite. But when I had anxiety, it was such an untouched subject that I didn’t even know where to begin. I had never heard of it before I went to the doctor's. I thought I was going crazy. If a quarter of people suffer from mental health problems, maybe some of my friends were going through similar things, similar thought processes and experiences. We would have been able to build up a better understanding of ourselves, of each other; if we knew.

At last I am 19, and I am in a much better place now, and in hindsight I wish I had told my friends. The name of this blog post being, “My Experience with my Mental Health and Mental Health Education in School” I would like to conclude with, it was bad, and there was none.

Stay tuned for more anxiety-related blogs.

Laura Duff

References:  

Ref 1: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/adult-psychiatric-morbidity-survey/adult-psychiatric-morbidity-in-england-2007-results-of-a-household-survey/

Ref 2: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/obesity/

The team call me the 'mighty Duff'. I'm 19 years old and study Cognitive Science at the University of Edinburgh. Throughout our time together, I'll be writing about topics related to mental health, food and fitness! I'm also a host for the Wedotalk, check them out on YouTube, Spotify or Soundcloud! Down below you'll find my personal links, I make vlogs as a hobby!

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