World Mental Health Day 2018: Raising awareness and combating stigma
World Mental Health Day – 10th October – is an important date to have in your diary. Just as we strive to keep ourselves physically fit and well, being aware of our mental health and how we are feeling – and thinking – is just as vital to our overall well-being.
Celebrated annually, the aim of the day is to both educate and open up discussion about mental health on a global scale, encouraging people to share their experiences and to combat stigma, while also focusing on a specific theme; previous topics, selected by the World Federation for Mental Health, have been mental health in the workplace, dignity in mental health and psychological first aid. For 2018 there will be a particular focus on young people and their mental wellness in a changing world.
In addition to raising awareness of the effects of mental illness on the younger generation, everyone involved in marking World Mental Health Day will work to break down the stigmas and evolve the support and care for those of all ages who experience problems with their mental health.
Though there is still stigma around mental health, everyone faces anxiety, stress and pressure in their daily lives, so sharing how we feel is something we shouldn’t be ashamed to do. But for many, these feelings can overwhelm them up to a point where their ability to manage stress, cope with change, or maintain relationships is affected. There are also rarer conditions like Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia, as well as eating disorders, that carry an even greater stigma. In reality, due to fear of judgement, it will take the majority of people over a year to talk to a friend, family member or colleague about a mental health problem and, often, they still face negative responses. A recent study by Time to Change – an organisation dedicated to ending mental health discrimination – showed that one in ten young people wanted to “give up on life” because of the judgements made about mental illness. At a time in their lives when young people are leaving home and making important decisions about their future, developing new friendships and applying for jobs, they need to know they can share their concerns and be open about their mental health without fear of discrimination. Opening up conversations across the globe, and focusing on what can be done to improve our understanding of these conditions and illnesses is what World Mental Health Day is all about.
Here are some simple steps to taking care of your own mental well-being.
Talk and listen
A lot of people don’t really consider their mental health, and therefore that of others. Some of us thrive under a bit of pressure, others find it difficult to mange their anxiety; some people can’t find a way to escape from their low mood but don’t feel they can talk about it and therefore avoid seeking help. It helps to be aware of what your thoughts are and how they are affecting your behaviour, and to speak to someone you trust if you are worried about how they are making you feel. If you are concerned about a friend or family member’s mental health, the best way to help is to listen, or to open up a conversation where that person feels they could talk to you if they wanted.
Eat, drink and sleep well
The nutrients we get from our food affect our minds as well as our bodies and there’s no better reason to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Cooking fresh ingredients with friends or family at home and eating together can also make mealtimes more social and enjoyable. Avoid trying to use alcohol to relieve stress; it’s a depressant and will exacerbate negative feelings. If you’re having trouble sleeping, keep active during the day, try to identify what’s causing your stress or anxiety and see if it’s something that you can talk about, and allow yourself to wind down in the evening by establishing a routine and putting down your tablet or phone.
Being active can work wonders for your mental health. Exercise releases endorphins to make us feel positive, works out stress and can help to improve sleep. Even if you feel you have very little energy, just going for a walk or gentle run can invigorate you. Looking well physically also helps to improve self-esteem.
Care for others
When you’re feeling low it’s easy to want to cut yourself off from the people and the world around you. But doing something kind or caring for someone who you are close to can help you to feel better, even just giving your time or skills to help someone out. Doing a good deed can make you feel more positive about yourself and could even change the way you perceive your behaviour, especially if you think it is having an effect on others. Our relationships are probably the most valuable things in our lives, so trying to maintain these bonds is very important and incredibly worthwhile.
For those who want to get involved in raising awareness on World Mental Health Day, visit here to order your green ribbon (the international symbol for mental health awareness) or to find out about organising a Tea & Talk event.
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For further information about World Mental Health Day visit the website here.
For information about mental health problems, advice and support visit Mind’s website here.