Humans: Let’s Help Ourselves.

As British male suicide rates hit a 30-year low, are we reaching a turning point in reducing the stigma around mental health?

Official figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the rate of male suicides was down from over 20 per 100,000 in the late 1980s to 15.5. It’s true that awareness campaigns seem to be everywhere nowadays, people share suicide awareness posts on social media and the younger generation are much more vocal about addressing mental health issues. Here at the University of Birmingham students have access to a variety of mental health services including the student mentor scheme, the guild of students, nightline, mental health and wellbeing services and welfare officers in each department. It’s clear that an effort is being made to provide for the ever-increasing demand which accompanies the de-stigmatisation of discussing and caring for our mental health.

Looking back at the treatment and care available for those with mental health issues from the post-war era right through to the 1990s; it becomes clear that a big improvement has been made. Under New Labour in 1997, there was a big increase in mental healthcare expenditure, and now terms like PTSD and bi-polar are now commonly discussed and treated, rather than ignored and hidden.

The number of teenage suicides in England and Wales rose 67% between 2010 and 2017.

However, the new increase in research and studies paired with the reduction in the stigma surrounding mental health has led to some shocking statistics coming to light. The number of teenage suicides in England and Wales rose 67% between 2010 and 2017. Some argue that TV and film production companies are capitalising on the popularity of the subject by trivialising and romanticising the issues surrounding mental health. Netflix’s To the Bone and 13 Reasons Why have particularly sparked criticism for romanticising eating disorders and suicide. This is especially alarming considering their target audience tends to be teenage girls and as the biggest research study in 13 years published this week shows, nearly ¼ of young women have a mental illness. Experts suggest that the immense social pressure stemming from social media, TV and film is a big factor in this shocking statistic.

What’s next? Evidently something needs to change. Mental health charities are pushing for openness and kindness. Reducing the stigma around mental health is a good start and providing better mental health and welfare services is essential to progress. All in all, maybe the statistics show that there’s something to be said for the way we treat children and teenagers, clearly, something has to give.

Ellie Williams, 28th November 2018, 11:17am 


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