This post is kind of spontaneous so please bear with me. Usually I mull over a post idea for a while or let it float around in my head for a while before I put my fingers to the keyboard. Today however, I decided I was writing this post about 5 minutes ago.
This all started because of an article that is doing the rounds on Twitter. You may already have seen it. The title certainly got my attention; “Mental illness can reduce life expectancy more than smoking” The full article is here. Not something you want to read first thing in the morning when you are already feeling jittery, as I was. But something strange happened as I was reading the article. I started to feel angry. I don’t usually get angry, I get anxious or frustrated or sad but not angry. Yet suddenly there I was feeling really angry, with myself, with my illness, with the world! I have never smoked in my life, I don’t drink much, I have never taken drugs and now I could potentially be facing a shorter life because of something I can’t control! Smoking is a choice, mental illness isn’t! It seems so unfair.
I managed to calm myself down and reread the article, several times. It isn’t a very long article and doesn’t go into that much detail but what I have gathered is that it isn’t the illness itself that lowers life expectancy so much. The main reason the life expectancy in people with mental health conditions drops is because of what the article calls “High risk behaviours”. Such as drug/alcohol abuse, self harm and suicide. Different figures are given for different conditions, although the figure for anxiety wasn’t disclosed, which annoyed me!
So what can we do about it? I have been racking my brain for some feedback or advice we can take from the article. This was all I could come up with:
- Don’t take the article too seriously. The figures are averages and they depend on several different factors. This doesn’t necessarily mean that our lives will be any shorter, especially if we are healthy in other areas of our lives such as diet and exercise.
- This research may seem scary but at least research is being done. Research can help us diagnose and treat mental health better, the fact that more research is being carried out is a big positive.
- These figures may shock the government into action. A direct quote from the article “The scientists from the Department of Psychiatry said the figures “should galvanise governments to make mental health more of a priority”” That would definitely be good news!
If you have anything to add please comment below. I would love to know what you think =)