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Awareness of mental health has increased dramatically in recent years. A study in March 2017, commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation, NatCen, surveyed the population of England, Scotland and Wales. Rather than simply relying on data of those receiving treatment either privately or via the NHS, this report looked at the prevalence of self-reported mental health problems, and the actions people take to deal with stress in their lives.

Nearly two thirds of participants said that they had experienced a mental health problem at some point in their lives. In contrast to this, just over one in 10 said that they currently had a high level of good mental health. In fact, four in 10 people reported experiencing depression and almost the same amount reported having experienced panic attacks.

Young adults under the age of 34, women and those living alone were at highest risk of experiencing these issues. Whilst those over the age of 55 were the most likely to have better mental health than the average, they were also the age group most likely to take positive steps to help themselves deal with everyday life.

While there may be some concentrations of both good and poor mental health throughout the population, the study concluded that current levels of good mental health throughout the country are disturbingly low. The survey did suggest that as the younger generation was experiencing poorer mental health than the older, but with less years in which it could develop, this would infer that our collective mental health is actually deteriorating.

Social movements like mental health days are thankfully rising as a result of increased awareness in the population. Created by the World Federation for Mental Health, they run in over 27 countries each year based on a variety of themes.

Based on prevailing trends at the time, each year is dedicated to one theme. This began in 1996 with ‘Women and Mental Health’ and in 2012 the Federation titled the year ‘Depression: The Global Crisis’. In 2018 it was recognised globally that there are ever increasing strains on young people, with the day dedicated to ‘Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World’.

This year the World Federation for Mental Health has decided to make suicide prevention the main theme of World Mental Health Day. They reference the fact that although suicidal behaviour has been known throughout human history, present socio-economic, political and financial factors have driven a gradual increase around the world. Particular point is made the past few decades, in which suicide ‘has reached alarming statistical levels’.

According to the world health organisation, suicide is the primary cause of death amongst young people aged 15 to 29 years old. The number of deaths by suicide each year currently sits at 800,000 people. By making suicide the main theme of world mental health Day 2019, there is hope that both governments and society recognise the increased danger posed and the benefits to all in concentrating on suicide prevention.

While there are many factors involved, helping reduce this burden on society is best achieved through both awareness and prevention. Throughout the UK, Thursday, 7 March 2019 is being celebrated as university mental health day. By targeting young people directly, and encouraging them to speak out about mental health issues and overcome remaining stigmas, there is hope that mental health concerns can be noticed and addressed in the early stages.

By getting young people and adults to talk about a subject that in the past has appeared taboo, and at times riddled with prejudice ideas, the UK and the world as a larger community can learn about potential risk factors and warning signs so that those at risk of suicide receive the help they need.