When are we going to treat Mental Health as seriously as Physical Health?

Today is World Mental Health Day. I am aware both as a Mental Health specialist and a councillor, how little we talk about mental health.

We seem to live in a society, where we don’t talk about our feelings and emotions and mental health is still seen by too many people as a taboo subject. We spend our lives filling our time with ‘things’ and ‘keeping busy’, that we often neglect ourselves in the process. Very often, even if we make an effort to look after ourselves, this very often focuses on the physical, e.g. going to the gym, losing weight etc.

Don’t get me wrong, looking after ourselves physically is important. All, I’m saying is, so is looking after ourselves mentally and this doesn’t happen nearly enough in our society. The stats show that 1 in 4 of us has experienced depression or anxiety. However, by 2030, it is estimated that there will be approximately two million more adults in the UK with mental health problems than there were in 2013. (Mental Health Foundation (September 2013), Starting today – The future of mental health services)

Mental Health issues is a growing problem and yet it does not have the same priority that physical health does, whether that be by Government or indeed by people generally as individuals (very often) or within our communities.

So what we do, as individuals, in our communities and at Government level to promote mental health? The NHS is promoting 5 ways to Wellbeing:

  • Connect – connect with the people around you: your family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. Spend time developing these relationships.
  • Be active – you don’t have to go to the gym. Take a walk, go cycling or play a game of football. Find an activity that you enjoy and make it a part of your life.
  • Keep learning – learning new skills can give you a sense of achievement and a new confidence. So why not sign up for that cooking course, start learning to play a musical instrument, or figure out how to fix your bike?
  • Give to others – even the smallest act can count, whether it’s a smile, a thank you or a kind word. Larger acts, such as volunteering at your local community centre, can improve your mental wellbeing and help you build new social networks.
  • Be mindful – be more aware of the present moment, including your thoughts and feelings, your body and the world around you. Some people call this awareness “mindfulness”. It can positively change the way you feel about life and how you approach challenges.

If you are concerned about someone, be there for them and don’t be afraid of starting a conversation about how they are. When someone we know is diagnosed with a physical health issue, very often we rally round, but that does not happen nearly enough with mental health issues.

While the Government has committed to improving mental health care, it does not go far enough and also has a focus on young people. This is great but let’s not forget about other age groups and also, lets think outside of the box. It’s not just about more money (although this is very much needed). Mental Health Awareness training, activities, both in the community and in Hospital, buddying projects, as well as intergenerational befriending services can all play a part in keeping all of us mentally well.

So, on this World Mental Health Day, I hope we can reach out to someone and be interested in how they are doing. Having a good chat and connecting with someone can make all the difference.

www.northeastlondoncounselling.co.uk

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