14 Mar The Mental Health Bandwagon
I often hear the words ‘mental health bandwagon’ from people who are annoyed at the level of emphasis being put on mental health. They express wonder at why we, ‘can’t just get on with it’ and that, ‘we didn’t have all this palaver in our day’.
One can understand people becoming overwhelmed by all the messaging, the campaigns; documentaries; apps; workplace programmes; courses; the media; social media posts; blogs; articles and conversations around mental health but the ‘mental health bandwagon’ is not aimed at resilient, bullet-proof stoics. It is aimed at everyone who is open to learning, whether they are in leadership roles or labouring on the front line and particularly, at those who are struggling to get through the day. The bandwagon helps to distribute that necessary bit of education, understanding and empathy that can prevent people’s mental health from deteriorating.
The mental health continuum
With our mental wellbeing fluctuating, from day to day and hour to hour, a little bit of support can keep us ‘above the line’ on the Mental Health Continuum.
A US study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, (Keyes, C. 2002), estimated that only 17% of the 3000 people sampled, were in the top right quadrant of the continuum (‘excelling’ or ‘thriving’); 57% were moderately mentally healthy (‘thriving’ with some symptoms of ‘unsettled’); 12% were languishing (‘unsettled’, ‘struggling’ or ‘in crisis’) and the remaining 14% had a condition fitting a psychiatric diagnosis (Delphis, 2020). This is a sobering analysis of the human condition, especially if you use this model to scale up for larger groups and populations. It also shows that even if we are generally well, we cannot be at the top of our game all the time.
Whether our emotional fluctuations are due to biological, psychological or environmental factors is a debate that scientists from all disciplines are beginning to get to grips with. Whatever the cause, the lived experience is what we as individuals are dealing with and, as a society, able to make more bearable.
In the old days
In ‘the old days’, people who were struggling felt they had to hide their mental state, whether mild or severe. They may have gone into isolation or spent long periods in psychiatric hospitals or, they may have disappeared into the eternal quiet. Now we have therapies, treatments, medication and, as a result of growing awareness, increasingly supportive environments where people can flourish and recover. This is the message – understanding, compassion and recovery and a far better prognosis through early intervention. So, I hope that when the bandwagon comes through your town, you will clap and cheer and roar in collective acknowledgement of our human condition and give encouragement to those who feel marginalised for being a bit too human.
The bandwagon has garnered huge support over the last few years. The reason why it is so overloaded, cacophonous and lengthy right now is that a massive groundswell of people identify strongly with the messaging, and yes, there may be chancers among the crowd but there always will be and that’s human nature too. We mustn’t negate all the good work done because of a few ill-advised folk.
If we come across as evangelical, it’s because we need to educate as many as possible as to how best we flourish and tackle stigma and self-stigma wherever we find it. Like many awareness campaigns, they begin small but spread quickly and can grow to enormous proportions as they have in this case. They do quieten down once the issue becomes an accepted norm and this is what we are working towards. We still have a way to go to convince everybody that the mission is valid, necessary, and quite frankly, a matter of life and death.
So, next time the bandwagon comes clattering into your spaces, don’t ask, ‘for whom it plays’, statistically, it may soon be playing for you, but don’t worry, by then, most of us will know the score.
Delphis, The Mental Health Continiuum is a Better Model for Mental Health, 30 June 2020,
Keyes, Corey.L.M. (2002). The Mental Health Continuum: From Languishing to Flourishing in Life. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 43(2), 207–222.
Explanation of the Mental Health Continuum, Working Minds Matter, You Tube:
Written by MHScot Team Member, Sonia Last
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