12 May 2017

Surviving or Thriving: Mental Health Awareness Week 2017

Let’s get down to it

As you might have already guessed, the theme for this years’ mental health awareness week is ‘surviving or thriving’. So this isn’t just looking at people who have mental health problems, but instead encompassing a wider array of individuals, looking at why so many are failing to thrive with good mental health.

At the head of this awareness campaign lies the Mental Health Foundation, who have been campaigning all week, helping pave the route to a more mentally healthy community.

They’ve been posting online and campaigning in person to explore how we might nurture and encourage good mental health for all. We’re going to look at some of their best advice, but you can read all of their stories and find further advice on their website here.

Remember:

This week isn’t just about the 1 in 6 adults each week who experience mental health problems.

This week is about everyone.

We all have mental health, and we all need to learn to take better care of ourselves.

What does it mean to Thrive?

Thriving is:

“The capacity of each of us to feel, think, and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face. It is a positive sense of emotional and spiritual well-being that respects the importance of culture, equity, social justice, interconnections and personal dignity.”

Source: The Public Health Agency of Canada

How do we perform as a Nation?

In Britain, only 13% of adults report positive mental health, an alarming notion when considering all of the downfalls of an un-thriving country.

  • 1 in 5 adults reported that they had considered taking their life at some point
  • 1 in 15 have self-harmed at some point in their life
  • Collective mental health is declining, with younger adults more likely to report a mental health problem than the older generation, even though they have had less time to experience it
  • Nearly half of adults think that they have had a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their life
  • There is an estimated 4.6 million people in work who may have a common mental health problem
  • Symptoms associated with mental health problems (e.g. sleep problems, fatigue, irritability and worry) affect one sixth of the working-age population of Great Britain

Measuring the prevalence of mental health problems is challenging for many reasons: underfunding, the hidden nature of mental health issues, and the variation in diagnostic practices across the country.

But with so many self-identifying as having mental health problems, it is clear that Britain is currently a ‘surviving’ country. We want to build a community that is mentally thriving, prosperous and content, but many don’t know how to start this process. Read below for 10 steps to promoting positive mental health.

Ten steps we can all take to thrive:

   1. Talk about your feelings

This is probably one of the hardest, but most obvious steps on this list. It’s important to remember that talking about your feelings is not a sign of weakness, and in fact can be incredibly difficult to open yourself up to the vulnerability of letting another individual in. However, by talking to someone you trust, you look to improve your mental health and general wellbeing.

   2. Keep active

There are countless studies to back this one up. Regular activity has been clinically proven to help reduce symptoms of mental illness, such as depression. And although it doesn’t necessarily prevent mental health problems, it does go a long way to boosting esteem, improving your mood and aiding sleep. This doesn’t mean you need to be hitting the gym every day, this could mean a walk in the park or some day to day housework.

   3. Eat well

Nutrition matters. What we eat and drink affects how we think, feel and behave (note: the notorious turkey dinner at Christmastime and the onset of sleepiness!). If you want your mental health to thrive, you need to consider what you are fuelling your brain with. Try to opt for a varied and balanced diet, including plenty of fruit and veg each day.

   4. Drink sensibly

Many turn to alcoholic drink as a way to manage difficult feelings. Regular drinking lowers levels of serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood. So you might feel better in the short term, but prolonged and/or regular alcoholic drinks will actually make you feel worse in the long run. Try to stick within the recommended limits; drinking can be perfectly healthy and enjoyable in moderation.

   5. Keep in touch

The best self-reported activity for positive mental health in all age groups is spending time with family or friends. Feeling low? Maybe it's time to meet up with some friends for a chat or maybe a fun activity. You could even combine steps 2 and 5 at the same time.

Nothing compares to the feeling of being included and cared for by the important people in your life. Building and maintaining lasting relationships is crucial for our mental health, but don’t be afraid to let go of toxic relationships that are damaging your wellbeing.

   6. Ask for help

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and you’re struggling to cope with your present situation, perhaps it’s time to seek help. If you are concerned that you are developing a mental health problem you should seek the advice and support of your GP as a matter of priority.

Help doesn’t always have to be in the form of going to see your GP or talking to a family member however. There are many support groups out there for a range of problems, such as the Samaritans, Slimming World and Alcoholics Anonymous. You can also find support through online charities, such as The Mental Health Foundation, SeeMe, and BeMindful.

If you are in distress and need immediate help and are unable to see a GP, you should visit your local A&E.

   7. Take a break

Taking a break doesn’t have to conform to any sort of format. It could be taking a walk away from your desk at work, it could be an adventurous holiday away from home, it could be doing nothing at all and letting your thoughts wander. A chance for reflection can help to put things in perspective, and even aid you in dealing with any present problems.

If you’re having trouble shutting down from work or other stressful situations, try some mindfulness and meditation and tap into how you’re feeling. Contemplation is good for the soul.

   8. Do something you are good at

Nothing boosts self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment like doing something you’re good at. Hobbies are a great way to add positivity and achieve better mental health. It’s important to pick something you enjoy doing, and it can also be good to choose something where you are not associated with other aspects of your life – giving you space to just be yourself.

If you’re struggling to find a hobby you enjoy, try searching online forums for some ideas, and don’t be afraid to try something new – you might not realise at first but it could be just the thing you’re looking for.

   9. Accept who you are

There has never been a better time in history to celebrate differences and diversity amongst the community. Everyone is different, and that means we all bring new and interesting qualities to the lives of the people around us. It’s time to accept that you are a unique individual, and wishing that you were more like someone else isn’t going to do wonders for your health.

You might not be good at everything you wish you could do well, but recognising the things you do well can boost your self-esteem and even give you the confidence to branch out, learn some new skills, form relationships and make new friends.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t aim to become the best version of yourself you can be. Realistic and achievable changes can be good for you, but be sure to take small practicable steps in your process.

   10. Care for others

At Newcross, we couldn’t agree more with this one. Good deeds and caring for others does wonders for the soul, not to mention the people you are helping. Many lasting relationships are based on caring foundations, and the feeling of being needed and valued is a wonderful one.

Good deeds can boost morale; knowing you have made someone else’s life happier or easier.

 

Smiling is infectious,
you catch it like the flu,
When someone smiled at me today,
I started smiling too.

Read the full poem here.

 

For further details on these 10 steps visit: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/how-to-mental-health

Each of us has different backgrounds, resources, experiences and opportunities which affect our risk of mental ill-health and ability to thrive. It’s important to remember that every one of us is different and what works for someone else, might not always work for you.