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We Need A Revolution In Mental Health

Written by: Mark Newey, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


It is now widely recognised that we have a mental health crisis. The standard figure that 1 in 4 of us struggles with a mental health issue at some point in our lives is no longer valid: indeed, it actually first appeared in 1980, and a lot has changed since then! (David Goldberg and Peter Huxley: The Pathway to Psychiatric Care. Page 10 London, Tavistock 1980.

Make your mental health a priority, human head drawing on blackboard with medicines.

The real problem is that we don’t understand what constitutes mental wellness and how to maintain it: we’ve never been taught. Because of the stigma, when we start to struggle, we hide it. We can’t admit that we’re not coping. This is, of course, particularly the case for men, who have been brought up to be impenetrable and strong, able to handle all adversity. Yeah right! Stress, anxiety, and depression are not mental illnesses: at least not to start with.

Post-lockdown Mental Wellness

The pandemic and lockdowns have inevitably made things worse: just short of 50% of the population were struggling with stress, anxiety, and/or low mood. (PHE January 2021) Most people are still battening down the hatches; during the lockdowns, we had little choice: we had to put our heads down and just get on with it. The difficulty is that having been exposed to extended extreme uncertainty, we’re struggling to move out of it. The big issue here is that from a neuroscience point of view, the last two years have had a dramatic effect on our brains: the way we think and the way we behave have fundamentally changed...whether we realise it or not.

These changes have happened slowly day-by-day over two years and have largely gone under the radar. Most people right now are exhausted, distracted and lacking in energy and motivation.

  • 49% of people believed that the pandemic had made their mental health worse. (PHE January 2021)

  • 79% of UK workers are experiencing some level of burnout, with nearly half of UK workers (48%) showing signs of more severe burnout – only second to Japan at 50%. (O.C. Tanner Institute 2020 Global CultureReport)

  • 80% of the UK working population are disengaged from their work.(Deloitte’s Shift Index Survey2019) And that’s pre-pandemic!

Prolonged Exposure to Uncertainty

The pandemic and lockdowns were characterised by uncertainty, so this is something we have been struggling with for 2 years. The trouble is, we haven’t been able to get away from it now even though things are supposed to be “back to normal”: the Ukraine war, the energy crisis and the forthcoming recession have kept the uncertainty fires stoked! This has inevitably led to most of us becoming burned out, even if we’re not aware of it.

The Failings of the NHS

The real problem, though, is less widely known: the NHS is nowhere near coping with the crisis.

  • 1 in 5 people wait over a year for mental health treatment; 1 in 10 waits 2 years

  • Drop-out rates from NHS-funded talking therapies are as high as 90% in some areas of the country

  • Only 41.8% of NHS patients complete their therapy programmes

  • Only 13% of the NHS healthcare budget is spent on mental health problems

  • In 2017, two-thirds of children referred for specialist mental healthcare were not receiving treatment even if they were self-harming or had suicidal thoughts

We’re now moving into recession, so the chances of any significant extra funds for mental health are unlikely.

Declining attention spans

The prolonged exposure to anxiety has also dramatically accelerated an already significant societal issue: our plummeting attention spans. A study at the University of Oregon found that if you are focussing on something and you get interrupted, on average, it will take you 23 minutes to get back to the same state of focus. It also found that most office workers never get an hour of uninterrupted work in a typical day. In fact, according to another study done by the University of Irvine, California, the average American worker is distracted every 3 minutes.

In addition, the concept of multitasking has been fundamentally misunderstood. Our brain architecture dictates that our conscious mind can only produce one or two thoughts at once. Multi-tasking, an ability to focus on 5-9 things at once, is a myth. The term was never meant to be applied to human beings. In the 1960’s, computer scientists invented machines with more than one processor so that they really could do two or more things at once. They called this machine-power ‘multi-tasking’; human beings took the concept and applied it to themselves!

Your attention is focused on cues for potential danger (the fight or flight response) as opposed to being focussed on being present with what’s going on. It’s not that, for example, students are not paying attention in class. It’s that they’re first paying attention to any signs of threat or danger in their environment: that’s where their primary focus is. Clearly the prolonged exposure to uncertainty makes this lack of attention even worse. To pay attention in normal ways, you need to feel safe; even mild levels of stress can significantly alter attentional processes and create structural changes in the brain with long-term effects.

Clearly, smartphones have had a profound effect on the attentional deficit, but surprisingly they may not be the biggest reason. A YouGov/Council for Evidence-Based Psychiatry poll on declining attention in US and Britain showed that the reasons people gave for their declining attention were as follows:

  1. 48% of people said stress

  2. 48% of people also said a change in life circumstances (having a baby, getting older)

  3. 43% said difficult or disturbed sleep*

  4. 37% said their phones

*40% of Americans are chronically sleep-deprived, getting less than the necessary minimum of 7 hours per night and 23% of Britons get less than 5 hours a night! Only 15% of us wake up feeling refreshed.

We Need a Revolution in Mental health

The good news is that if we approached mental wellness proactively rather than reactively, we could make a significant impact with speed and with little funding needed. It is crazy that we wait for somebody to get really ill, expect them to put their hands up and ask for help and then make them wait 1-2 years for that help.

The key to mental wellness, thriving, leading a good life, and maximizing our efficiency, our ability to concentrate and make good decisions is Radical Self-Discovery. As the diagram below shows, all the things, we want in our lives as business owners start with Radical Self-Discovery.

A Government Petition

The “powers that be” have little time to focus on this issue, so we need to force them to do so.

Cohoots will therefore be setting up a government petition to introduce a compulsory GCSE syllabus in Emotional Intelligence, Mental Wellness, Nutrition, Financial Management and Entrepreneurialism. This has the potential for children to leave school knowing how to look after their mental health and thrive, transforming the future of mental health in a single school year. Entrepreneurialism or setting up your own business is becoming more and more important for school leavers.

Here are links to two more articles on stress and mental health in Brainz:

If you would like a no-obligation virtual 30-minute coffee break chat to explore further how Radical Self-Discovery can genuinely transform your life and your business, please don’t hesitate to contact me from my website. You can also follow me on LinkedIn.


Mark Newey, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine Mark Newey is a Protagonist and Disruptor, empowering small business owners to totally transform their company's biggest asset: themselves. Running a business is stressful, especially in today's environment: if we are stressed, our cognitive capacity drops by 40%, which means we are operating at 60% efficiency. Mark has distilled 22 years of experience from his own breakdown and working with 3000 clients (of whom 1200 were small business owners) into a foolproof system: The 7 Steps to Radical Self-Discovery. Only 10% of companies thrive and grow coming out of a crisis. The difference between the 10% and the 90%? The mindset of the entrepreneur.



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