'Keep Calm and Carry On'? Time for a New Mantra!
When we began this site, it spun out of our recognition that we had both landed in a place of real happiness. Though it is easy to forget about the hard times when we are in the midst of the good, it's also important to consider unhappiness.
We discussed this with Dr Patrick Kennedy-Williams, Clinical Psychologist and here is what he had to say on the old "Keep Calm, Carry On"
You know the expression; you’re never more than three feet away from a spider? The same can perhaps be said of our ubiquitous national motto, “Keep Calm And Carry On”. No tea towel is safe, no mug unbranded. It’s everywhere. Especially in our heads.
It was originally spun as a motivational image just before the Second World War, to raise the morale of the nation, ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ evokes that wonderful British stoicism that defined the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It makes perfect sense for that era, yet the slogan retains a nostalgic grip on the nation and impacts us, and I would argue, our mental wellbeing.
The problem is, times are changing. Our upper lips needn’t remain so stiff. In fact you could even say that 'Keeping Calm and Carrying On' is getting in the way. In England alone, an estimated 6 million adults are living with depression and anxiety, and the number of children and young people with mental health difficulties is increasing. Here’s the worrying bit - 75% of these people are not receiving appropriate treatment.
But all is not lost. Services are becoming increasingly more available. Since 2007, a huge amount of funding has gone into a national mental health initiative known as IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies). These free local services now provide access to talking therapies, through the National Health Service, for every person living in England. (You just need to google 'IAPT', click here, or go to your GP). Even though these treatments are effective, they aren't used as much as the numbers indicate they should be. Of course, the reasons for this are multiple and complex. But I think our culture of 'Keeping Calm and Carrying On' flies in the face of help-seeking. It seems to suggest keeping your head down, getting on with it, suffering in silence is the 'right' thing to do. In my professional experience, this seldom works. When it comes to our mental health, it helps to be proactive, reach out, tell people, start the conversation.
I do think times are changing, albeit slowly. Listening to the teenagers I work with - their emotional literacy has a distinctly millennial feel to it. Young people are talking about mental health in a different way. They will say, "A friend in my class is suffering from anxiety," or "She is struggling with an eating disorder." It’s more open. We need a mantra that reflects this.
'Keep Calm and Carry On'? I think not. Maybe 'It’s OK to Need Help'. The latter, I can assure you, would make my work a lot easier. This can start at home, and then with friends. Change the culture by starting the conversations.
Thank you, Dr. Kennedy!
Think about it, if someone told you they were struggling, you would probably help, the likelihood is that the people around you would do the same. We say, be proud to ask for help! Proud because if you're asking, it means you've got courage; we know when we ask, we're putting ourselves out there it can be scary, but that's ok. We are big and strong and if the first person we ask refuses to help, we'll ask another and another until someone says yes!