Don’t panic: it’s Mental Health Awareness Week

Did you know it’s Mental Health Awareness Week? Don’t panic if not; you have two more days to get your head around this year’s theme, anxiety, now one of the most common mental health problems here and in the rest of the world.

The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) is a key driver of Mental Health Awareness Week and its growing success in reaching out to sufferers and those who support them is largely down to the work of organisations and individuals throughout the UK, who help by promoting the week, hosting events and generally spreading the word.

This year, the MHF has produced a series of eye-catching posters, an easy-to-read guide to anxiety and a report entitled Living with Anxiety, based on some excellent field work conducted in April 2014. This survey of 2,330 adults (aged 18+) was implemented online and results were weighted to render them representative of the British population as a whole.

‘Anxiety’ in the context of the survey was defined as ‘feeling worried, nervous or uneasy’, and some of the findings make for interesting and sobering reflection:

  • Almost one in five people say they feel anxious a lot of the time or nearly all the time
  • Almost half (45%) of people say that money/debt/financial problems are they main cause of anxiety in their lives
  • Four in every ten people who are currently employed say they experience anxiety about issues associated with their work
  • Young people (aged 18 to 24) were twice as likely to feel anxious about being alone as older people (aged 55+)
  • Comfort eating is used by a quarter of people to cope with feelings of anxiety (most common in women and the young)
  • The most commonly used strategies to combat feelings of anxiety are talking to a friend, going for a walk or taking physical exercise

These are just a few of the nuggets and the report will reward your efforts to delve a little deeper, specially if you are involved with the treatment of anxiety and related disorders.

Are we, then, more anxious as a nation than we have been in the past? The report suggests that this is certainly the belief of those who participated in the survey, who say that they are more anxious now than they were five years ago. But equally, their current identification with the condition may be a function of the level of awareness that now exists among the population – thanks to the work of organisations like the Mental Health Foundation and initiatives such as Mental Health Awareness Week.

Still, it would seem prudent to take a common sense approach to what the figures are telling us – if the results are to be believed, work and money are potent triggers for problems with anxiety. Could it be there’s something important going on in society at large?

Written by Jacqui Hogan