High-functioning mental health: what is it?

There are many misunderstandings surrounding mental health, exacerbated by the very fact that mental health is invisible.

This can be especially difficult for those who suffer with mental health but are otherwise high functioning.

What do you mean by high-functioning mental health?

Most people would associate someone with mental health to be noticeably quiet and low or struggle to get out of bed and leave the house.

This can be true in many cases. However, a lot of people suffer with a mental health problem but can still get on with their day-to-day lives.

Being high-functioning means individuals will still go to work, socialise and otherwise function just like anyone who doesn’t struggle with their mental health.

This can lead to a number of issues including a misdiagnosis in mental illness and the notion that because someone is ‘fine’ on the outside, they must be ‘fine’ on the inside.

One notable individual who suffered with mental health but otherwise seemed ‘fine’ was Robin Williams, who took his life in 2014 aged 63. Williams was most well-known for his comical appearances in box-office hits such as Aladdin and Mrs Doubtfire.

Since his death, there have been many references to Williams being a ‘sad clown’ – he even said himself: “I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy. Because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anybody else to feel like that.’

Williams was known for his comedy and for making people laugh – yet he also suffered from severe depression as well as drug and alcohol addiction.

How can we help our friends who might have mental health problems but are high functioning?

The key thing to remember if you have any friends who have high-functioning mental health is that you should never disregard how they feel.

They may be acting and functioning ‘normally’, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t suffering.

We’d recommend checking in with your friend regularly. The Ask Twice campaign from Time to Change rings true for so many people. We are all guilty of saying we’re ‘fine’ when we’re not.

If they don’t want to open up to you or aren’t ready to talk yet, simply being there for your friend can make the world of difference. Invite them for coffee or go see a film together. You can take a look at our random acts of kindness blog for other ideas.

If you’re worried about a friend, you can seek advice on Mind who offer a vast range of information on how to help someone who struggles with their mental health.


Five fun activities for the holidays

Are you at school or university? Have you already finished for the summer?

Endless opportunities can await you when you have all this time off before term starts again in September.

We know some people use school or university as a distraction to help them deal with their mental health struggles, so having all this free time can be hard.

We’ve come up with a list of five fun activities that might be able to help get you through the summer period.

1. Have a picnic

With it being summer, the weather is mostly likely going to be fabulous! Why not take this opportunity to gather some friends and go down to your local park for a picnic? The UK is full of beautiful parks with wonderful scenery, so go out and appreciate them! Find your nearest park which has a green flag.

2. Spend a day by the beach

It isn’t really a summer holiday if you’re not at the beach! Take some time to spend a day by the sea. The fresh air will do wonders and, if you’re feeling really daring, you can even take a dip! Find your nearest beach with a blue flag status.

3. Have a games day

We do need to acknowledge that this is Britain, and the weather can be temperamental. If you have a day where it’s raining, you can always invite your friends around to play boardgames. According to a recent poll, the UK’s favourite board game is Monopoly followed by Trivial Pursuit. What’s yours?

4. Have a movie day

For any hay fever-sufferers out there, being outside might not be wise. If this is the case, you can host a movie day with your friends. Crack open the popcorn and get Netflix on. Films hitting the big screen this summer include The Lion King, Toy Story 4, Yesterday and Spiderman. If you’re one for a box-set, the latest series of Stranger Things has just landed on Netflix, or, you can’t beat a bit of Killing Eve.

5. Take time to just ‘be’

You should also take this time to just ‘be’ and focus on yourself. There will be days when you won’t want to see anybody – and that’s perfectly fine. Take some time to do something you want to do, no matter what it is, and enjoy it.

It’s not shameful to be worried about having free time and we understand that sometimes it can be overwhelming not having a distraction.

If you’re at the University of Essex, you can still log in to Chat with Charlie every evening from 6pm to talk to a trained professional.

You can also call the Samaritans on 116 123 if you need further advice.