In my late teens and early twenties I had first-hand experience of the sea of suffering and torment we call depression. Since then I have advocated creating real, safe spaces where people can find respite, share experiences, be heard and engage in purposeful-activities.
Could our Western fast food, carb and sugar diets be exacerbating mental illness? Could our 24/7 social media platforms be magnifying feelings of inadequacy and overloading the teenage psyche? Could the loss of community life and extended kinship networks be fueling the rise in anti-depressants? I wonder now if the very way we live has become toxic and life-limiting.
Young men are still caught up in an archaic idea of masculinity that asserts that it is only the weak who suffer mental illness. This was the belief-system I had until I opened up. In fact it is those who take that leap into the void and open up who are the strong ones, I believe. Today's teenagers are a little more socially well equipped to talk things through but there is still a long way to go.
What concerns me greatly is the lack of a cohesive mental health service out there for young people. I would go so far as to question whether the services are open-minded enough about the human aspect of suffering, our personal stories/narratives and our innate need to belong. I currently do some lecturing on Arts and Health and Narrative Mental Health at the University of Brighton and have built www.creativity4wellbeing.com (C4W) to encourage people to embrace the creative process and 'journaling' as part of their recovery and life journeys.
Richard K Potter BA Hons PGCE MA