Explain It To Me Like I’m 7: Mental Health

1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year, and 1 in 10 children and young people will experience mental disorders. But what does this actually all mean?

Define mental health for me?

Our mental health is about our ability to cope with what life throws at us and how we feel about ourselves in this big scary world.

Giph of Kimmy Schmitt

Not all of us are unbreakable

No one has perfect mental health or feels great all of the time. That’s something we all go through. What not everybody goes through is a mental illness, or what you could also call a mental health concern or a mental health problem.

BUT more people than you might think go through a mental illness: in England, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year, most often in the form of a mixture of anxiety and depression. Also, 1 in 10 children and young people have mental disorders in a given year.

So what exactly is a mental illness?

The National Alliance on Mental Illness explains mental illness as: “a condition that impacts a person’s thinking, feeling or mood and may affect his or her ability to relate to others and function on  daily basis. Each person will have different experiences, even people with the same diagnosis.”

Errmm, not too specific is it? The problem with trying to explain mental illness is that it can be so many different kinds of things.

Mental illness is a bit like fruit. There are so many different kinds, like who  decided strawberries and tomatoes are the same kind of food? Also, even within  the same kind of fruit, like bananas, you never get two that are the same kind of  bendiness or yellowness. It’s the same deal with mental illness.

We can at least break it down into different kinds of mental health problems.  There are different kinds of depression, stress, sleeping disorders, eating and  body image disorders and personality disorders, which you can get more  concrete details on here.

The symptoms of a mental illness can be things we all experience from time to time like feeling down, stressed or having trouble sleeping. The difference is that for a period of time (e.g. two weeks for depression) the same symptoms are much stronger, or won’t seem to go away, and begin to be massive barriers to the person experiencing them leading a normal life. ‘Pain in the arse’ doesn’t even cover it.

These problems can be triggered by a number of different things, from serious trauma to everyday stress. A sucky thing about mental health concerns is that often there is no clear cause or explanation. This can make things feel even worse for the person experiencing it because they can’t find a ‘legit’ reason to explain why they feel bad.

What’s it like to have a mental illness?

Remember the banana thing from earlier? We can’t really explain what any one person goes through when they experience mental illness.

But that’s cool because the internet is a goldmine for things to help us understand what it’s like to live with mental illnesses.

These Hyperbole and a Half posts just plain get depression: Adventures in Depression Part I, Part II.

There is a lot of stigma attached to mental illness. This is because mental illness is not always understood as being like any other illness, and mentally ill people can be accused of being lazy or attention seeking. A whopping 9 out of 10 people with mental health problems experience discrimination. Not cool.

The thing is, as Professor Weare of Southampton Uni told the Guardian: “You wouldn’t go to someone lying in bed with a fever and tell them they could get up if they wanted to. There is a failure to understand that mental health problems are an illness – they are not something that you can snap out of and are not anybody’s fault.”

What to do if your BFF tells you they have a mental health concern

Mental health support charity Mind have a great page of advice on this.

Giph of Joey hugging Chandler from friends

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It’s all super basic BFF stuff that you probably have down already: Hear what they’re telling you and show your support. Sending postcards and letters, even if you live in the same neighbourhood can be a great way of showing you’re there for them while still giving them space.

Don’t be afraid to ask them how they are, but remember that the problem they are going through is just one part of who they are, so don’t focus too much on it. Try to keep in mind how you would treat someone with a serious disease or broken bone. Saying things like ‘you’ll get over it’ or ‘just try and cheer up’ are definite no-nos.

What do I do if I think I might have a mental health concern?

Recognising the issue for what it is is already half the battle, and getting the ball rolling on recovery by seeking professional advice is the other half. Some people go a long time feeling like the reason why they have a hard time getting through a day is because of some sort of personal failure, not because of an illness that there are many possible ways out of.

Again, Mind has some great advice pages on taking care of yourself and what kind of services and support is out there.

Talk to your friends and family, but also connect with people going through similar things. For example you can enjoy podcast Mental Health Happy Hour.

Mental Health Explained: Mental health is how we all cope with the world. Mental illnesses are disorders which make that much more difficult. Imagine that you’ve got a problem with your heart or your liver, but instead it’s a problem with your brain – mental illness is just that, an illness.

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HIV and The £30 Test: Explained

 

We live by the motto “better to be safe than sorry” but will the release of a HIV Self Test Kit help lower the number of people who are unaware they are infected, or just increase paranoia throughout the country? Scenes of Reason decodes HIV and asks whether people should have to pay to get checked…

 

The Story

For the first time, people will be able to purchase a HIV self test kit to use at home. It’s the first time you’ll be able to buy testing kits which have been legally certified for home use. Unlike other HIV tests they don’t need to be sent off to a lab to get results.

The tests will give a result in 15 minutes, although anybody testing positive must go to their doctor to be diagnosed again. It is supposed to be 99.7% accurate.

 

What is HIV?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus attacks the body’s immune system, which is the system in your body which protects you from disease and illness. HIV is transmitted through blood and other bodily fluids. It can be caught by having sex without a condom, or by sharing infected needles. So, when it comes to sharing needles – just, no.

There is no cure to HIV but treatment exists enabling most people with the virus to live for a long time and remain healthy. However, it is extremely important to diagnose the virus sooner rather than later. HIV can lead to AIDS which stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. At this stage the body cannot fight off infections. Sufferers are left extremely weak and in danger of death from illnesses such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and some cancers among others.

 

Use the HIV Self Test Kit to check your status

It’s important to get diagnosed as soon as possible – a HIV self test kit will hopefully help this

 

Time to de-bunk some myths about HIV/AIDS:

HIV does NOT just affect gay men. Anyone can catch HIV – male or female, young or old, gay, straight or bi-sexual. AIDS is a problem ALL across the world – not just Africa. Although AIDS is undoubtedly a problem in Africa, it is a worldwide issue.

You don’t need to be sexually promiscuous to contract HIV. Apart from unprotected sex there are other ways the virus can be transmitted – i.e. from contaminated needles, and in some cases from mother to child (however the good news is that with proper treatment you can significantly reduce the risk of this occurring). Now we’ve got that cleared up…

 

 

What are the Symptoms?

When infected by HIV most people experience flu-like symptoms for 2-6 weeks, after which most people experience no further symptoms for years. Most commonly people will complain of a sore throat, fever, a rash on the body and sometimes tiredness and swollen glands. Around 26,000 people are estimated to have the virus and be unaware of it, leading to the spread of the disease.

More information on HIV/ AIDS

 

HIV Self Test Kit – What do I have to do?

HIV self test kit uses blood to test for anti bodies

Blood is taken to test for anti-bodies, which is how you test for HIV. With the HIV self test kit you will be able to get results withing 15 minutes

The HIV Self Test Kit is the product of BioSURE UK, a company which specialises in testing solutions. If you get infected with HIV your body will try to fight it by producing anti-bodies (special types of protein made by white blood cells to kill off invading viruses). HIV tests search for these anti-bodies in your blood. If it finds traces of these anti-bodies two purple lines appear, which indicates the user is HIV positive.

The HIV self test kit costs £29.95 and can be purchased from the BioSURE website and via the NHS.

 

 

HIV Self Test Kit – The Small Print

Anything which assists diagnosis and lowers the risk of death is obviously a good thing. Although the accuracy is high, it is not 100% and the HIV self test kit may not pick up infections that have happened recently within last three months. BioSURE have also acknowledged this:

“the BioSURE HIV self-test may not detect recent HIV infection as it can take up to three months for the level of antibodies to become detectable,” – Brigette Bard, the founder of BioSure

Therefore if you think you have or are at risk of catching HIV you should go to your doctor and get checked as soon as possible. And if you use the HIV Self Test Kit and are confirmed positive – you must also go to your doctor to be re-tested. HIV charities have supported the launch of the product but have also re-enforced the need to improve access to support for those who have been diagnosed. HIV testing is provided by the National Health Service (NHS) free of charge to anyone. Some clinics also get your results back to you on the same day. Many major news outlets failed to mention this in their reports.

 

A HIV self test kit checks for HIV in the blood

The Debate

The home kit will hopefully increase the number of people getting checked out, and therefore lower the number of people dying from HIV related illnesses. All good then, unless you test positive and you have to go to the doctors anyway.

However –  “Flu-like Symptoms” is a pretty broad description – are we going to see a load of “man-flu” sufferers panicking and running out to buy the kit? Does more need to be done to educate people about the virus?

And how do you feel about having to pay £30, when the NHS provides a free service? Is it more important that the NHS should receive enough funding to continue and improve its service?

 

All valid questions – but what do you think? Should people have to pay to get a HIV Self Test Kit? Let us know what you think.