Mental health is an increasing issue for us all. One in four of the UK population will be diagnosed with a mental illness – that’s diagnosed!…what about the further estimated 18% of us that suffer in silence or find the stigma associated with a mental struggle too hard to address?

So there are 28 million of us in the UK that are directly affected by mental illness of some sort. But if we’re not sufferers ourselves then we’ll know someone who is, whether a family member, a friend or a work colleague, the problems related to anxiety and stress are growing.

In fact the cost to the UK economy is enormous and getting worse:

15.8 million work hours are lost each year because of mental health issues including stress, depression, anxiety as well as more serious conditions such as manic depression and schizophrenia. This makes up 11.5% of the total number of sick days for 2016 according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), costing a staggering £35 BILLION* a year– if that isn’t catastrophic enough, year on year this number grows by 25% too.

* £10.6 billion in sickness absence

£21.2 billion in reduced productivity at work, or ‘presenteeism’

£3.1 billion in replacing staff who leave their jobs because of their mental health.

With the problem so widespread why are so many people not getting the right treatment early enough?

There are some key reasons that people don’t get the intervention that they need at the time that they need it, such as:

Their location

The lack of free time or time that they can devote to the treatment

The embarrassment or fear of a face-to-face meeting

The long waiting lists

The high cost of some therapies

Additionally, many people who would benefit from mental health care opt not to pursue them or fail to fully participate once they have begun. One of the reasons for this disconnect is stigma; particularly to avoid the label of mental illness. Stigma feeds two kinds of harm that may negatively effect treatment: It diminishes self-esteem and reduces social interaction.

What is mental health stigma?

There are three types of stigma associated with mental health:

Perceived stigma:

What an individual thinks most people believe about the mental health problem.

How the individual thinks society views them personally, as someone with a mental health problem.

Experienced stigma:

Specific attitudes and discriminating behaviour, such as restricted participation in activities, that are directed towards an individual with a mental health problem.

Self-stigma:

The internalising by the mental health sufferer of their perceptions of discrimination and perceived stigma

Why does stigma matter?

Whichever way that stigma manifests itself, the affects can be catastrophic. As well as it’s affect on the quality of daily living it leads to a lack of self-esteem and a ‘why try’ attitude, leading to social withdrawal and isolation and consequently to loneliness. Stigma also has a detrimental affect on treatment outcomes, and so hinders efficient and effective recovery from mental health problems.

How can we overcome these problems?

Recently, mental health has been the focus of high profile campaigns and there is an increased awareness of the issues, however, there are still barriers that everybody faces. Of note a couple of the initiatives that are working well are:

Time to change is an initiative run by charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness is doing some fantastic work and gaining a lot of traction with their work with communities, employers and schools. They’re focussing on male perceptions to mental health both personally and in the workplace. As well as men they’ve also identified a need to focus on supporting young people more. Their research has shown that with young people, stigma often presents as judgement.

Mental health awareness week is very well supported by many charities and media channels which is changing the ways people view mental health, particularly through celebrities and sports people sharing their own stories.

Digital healthcare

So there is a shift towards openness with regards to mental health but there is a new type of health service that addresses stigma at its infancy and most of the other barriers to treatment we mentioned earlier and it’s one that’s proven to be very effective with health issues of all kinds… it’s e-therapy or digital health.

Calmer Sea is one particular service that breaks down the obstacles preventing someone changing the way they feel on a day-to-day basis. The Calmer Sea app offers a mix of over 18 therapy types so rather than try just trying mindfulness, meditation or CBT on their own it combines some of the best, clinically proven, therapies from around the world and delivers a selection of over 200 exercises and activities to try.

Why try digital health and Calmer Sea in particular?

Calmer Sea is available around the clock and so can fit around the users timings and schedule; it also has quick access calming and breathing techniques for when the user gets stressed.

As Calmer Sea can be accessed via smartphone or tablet, the comprehensive therapies can be used by anyone who doesn’t want to work face-to-face with a therapist, or anyone who finds it difficult to leave home.

If the user wishes, the therapies can be accessed and the programme followed without anyone knowing, alleviating any stigma issues.

As talking therapies can often have waiting lists, Calmer Sea can be used when waiting for face-to-face services and also used as a blended therapy – there’s a built in progress section that captures prevalent thoughts and moods so that this can be discussed with a therapist or GP.

Being online means that therapy is easily accessible by people in rural areas.

The service is cost effective, and can possibly reduce the direct costs of treatment compared to treatment as usual. Calmer Sea can be used free for the first 3 steps of the programme, following that it is just £7.99 per month for as long as it’s required.

As social withdrawal is often a symptom of mental health problems, the Buddy section of Calmer Sea links a user with a mentor who has progressed further down the process and acts as a support through recovery.

Calmer Sea is available on android and IOS devices from mid-July 2018


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