• Lee Calver
  • 12 May 2014

Mental Health Awareness Week 2014 focuses on anxiety

Mental Health Awareness Week 2014 kicks off today, with the theme of this year’s event focused on anxiety, one of the leading causes of mental ill-health in the world.

Anxiety is known to be a big issue in British society, and according to the Mental Health Foundation, levels of anxiety are rising.

The charity revealed that a recent survey found that almost one in five people from around the UK feel anxious all the time, while nearly half of Britons stated that they feel more anxious than they used to.

According to its research, approximately three-fifths of the 2,300 British adults polled admitted that they experience anxiety on a daily basis, with 7% of those surveyed revealing they would visit their GP over feelings of anxiety.

Commenting, a spokeswoman for the charity said that more must be done to raise awareness and understanding of anxiety and its potentially debilitating effect on the nation’s mental health and emotional wellbeing.

Jenny Edwards, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said:

"Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems in the UK and it is increasing, yet it remains under-reported, under-diagnosed and under-treated."

She continued:

"A good ability to cope with anxiety is key to our resilience in the face of whatever life throws at us. However, experiencing it too much or too often means we risk becoming overwhelmed. Anxiety at this level can have a truly distressing and debilitating impact on our lives and impact on our physical as well as mental health.

"As individuals and as a society we need to be more anxiety aware. If we truly recognised the cost anxiety has on society, as well as the mounting distress it causes to individuals, communities and employers, we would act now."

Perhaps the most shocking statistic from the research study is the fact that the prevalence of stigma continues to prevent people from seeking help. The research revealed that 26% of people regarded feeling anxious as a sign of not being able to cope, while 29% said they would be embarrassed to tell someone they have anxieties.

Stats such as these show how important it is that events such as Mental Health Awareness Week not only take place, but are discussed widely to ensure that mental health issues are being talked about regularly.

Mental Health Awareness Week first took place in 2000 and has focused on many important issues over the years, including loneliness, anger, fear, exercise, and alcohol. The success of the awareness week is largely down to the generous support received from organisations and individuals throughout the UK who get involved by publicising the week, organising activities and events, and hopefully having some fun as well. As ever, Mental Health Awareness Week is looking for your support and wants to know what you will up to. If you are planning an event for Mental Health Awareness Week 2014, you can inform the charity, who will then add your event to the map.

The charity has also created a new guide, ‘Are you anxiety aware?’ to help people understand the issue.

A series of posters are also available to support events throughout the week across the UK, with over 400 organisations signed up to help publicise the campaign and raise awareness. To download the guide, posters and the full report, Living with Anxiety, visit here.

Recently, a group of leading employers launched a campaign to end the culture of silence around mental health in the workplace, which is estimated to cost the UK economy £70bn per year.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the problem of mental health at work to ensure that tackling it carries the same strategic importance at board level as planning for staff physical health.

As well as costing the UK economy approximately £70m a year, recent Office for National Statistics (ONS) data found that sickness absence caused by stress, anxiety or depression had increased to 15.2 million days lost in 2013, an increase from 11.8 million days in 2010.

The campaign’s report, ‘Mental Health: We’re Ready to Talk’ stated that employers do not have proactive plans in place to ensure the mental well-being of their employees. Similarly to the Mental Health Foundation’s research, the report also found that many people affected by these problems lack the confidence to speak out.

To help improve these alarming statistics, the campaign is calling on UK businesses to take action and demonstrate a commitment to tackling mental ill-health at work by signing the Time to Change organisational pledge.

Organisations that proactively engage with mental well-being will also reap the benefits from doing so according to the report, which highlighted benefits such as improved employee motivation, greater staff retention rates and increased competitiveness.

We want to hear from you about how your organisations proactively engage with mental well-being and as a result the benefits you have seen from doing so. Our latest forum discussion group is dedicated to Mental Health Awareness Week, so please share your experiences and events with us and inspire others to get involved.