The 10th of October marks World Mental Health Awareness Day and as a blogger who frequently documents my own mental health struggles online, it was only natural to write a post dedicated to this important day. In the UK, 1 in 4 will experience a mental health problem every year. There is an estimated 70 million workdays lost all over the world due to mental health and by 2020, mental health is estimated to be the second biggest cause of death worldwide. These are truly heartbreaking statistics and we’re on the brink of an epidemic. With funding cuts affecting our NHS and services being stretched to their limits, it’s more important than ever that we bring awareness to mental health, help reduce the stigma and educate people on the steps they need to take to get the correct help they need.
There isn’t a day that goes by where mental health doesn’t feature on my Twitter timeline and it’s truly incredible to see just how many people are now starting to open up and share their experiences. Whether it’s venting about their day, people comforting others, tweets of encouragement or someone telling their story, it’s refreshing to see this being normal conversation rather than being frowned upon like it has been up until now. The stigma is breaking down day by day but there is still so much that needs to be done. I wanted to share some of the things I believe we need to be doing to help people understand, work harder to bring mental health into the spotlight and ideas on how you can get involved in being part of that.
Explore & Educate On ALL Mental Health Conditions
I suffer from Anxiety and Depression and it’s so comforting to see how many people are now beginning to understand what having these two, horrible, at times debilitating illness entails. We’re seeing more and more people speak out and shout the message that mental health is nothing to be ashamed of, how to get help and some even sharing their experiences. As much as anxiety and depression are becoming normal topics of discussion, there are so many other mental health conditions out there that do not receive as much recognition and quite frankly, still have so many negative stereotypes out there that other people fear – but people always fear what they cannot understand. From personality disorders, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), eating disorders and SAD (seasonal affective disorder), it’s key that we bring these mental health conditions to the spotlight too, making sure we break down the misconceptions associated with some of these illnesses. We need bring more awareness to these conditions, how to support and care for someone who has one and how to help break down the misunderstandings some people have. A great podcast I’ve been listening to which helps bring these illnesses to light is Mentally Yours, run by the Metro. Each week they focus on a different mental health condition and I couldn’t recommend this podcast enough. It’s informative, eyeopening and handles these topics in a very respectful and sensitive way.
Become A Mental Health First Aider
This course was originally developed in Australia by a couple who realised there was no mental health equivalent to physical first aid to help people in distress. The course hit the UK in 2004 and there are currently 300 instructors over the country, with 40,000 course attendees – a number which is still growing. It’s a 12 hour course that will equip you with the skills to help someone in a mental health crisis by teaching you what to say or do in those situations, understand basic information about common mental health conditions and how to comfort someone in who is in distress. There are courses all over the UK, you can find more information here if you’re from England and here if you’re based in Scotland. It’s such a great way to educate yourself further on what to do in crisis situation and can help save lives. I’m planning to enrol in my course once I’m in a better place as I believe this course is so valuable to doing all we can to support people when they are at their lowest.
Fundraise and Volunteer
There are so many incredible mental health charities all over the UK from Mind to The Mental Health Foundation, Young Minds and the Scottish Association For Mental Health to name just a few. The work they do each and everyday strives to break the stigma, help people in need and provide constructive advice on educational information on mental health conditions. Fundraising for these charities is such a valuable thing to do and helps bring the charities dedicated to mental health to people’s attention – as well as raising money for a great cause. The Mental Health Foundation have a great list of ways to fundraise from ideas for the workplace, schools and even socially. I’m hoping to have a Christmas bake sale at work with all proceeds going to the Scottish Association for Mental Health – I’ll be sure to keep you updated on this. You can also volunteer for The Samaritans, who regularly look for call handlers. Although this job can be distressing, it’s incredibly rewarding to know you’re helping others at their most vulnerable. There are also a host of other charities who would appreciate some support such as the Scottish Association for Mental Health and MIND.
Probably the biggest one is to KEEP TALKING! There has been so much progress over the last few years in breaking the stigma down towards mental health and although there is still so much work to be done, it’s so encouraging to see more and more people taking help normalise this topic of conversation. Sharing my story on my blog was something I never thought I’d have the guts to do, never mind it helping other people but I was overwhelmed with the messages of support and encouragement from people to say they could relate to how I was feeling. It was totally unexpected and made the daunting experience so worth it. There is a great community on Twitter if you search the hashtags #mhbloggers and #TalkMH. There is daily tweets from people talking about this subject, sharing snippets of advice and blog posts. Even if you don’t suffer from a mental health condition, retweeting or sharing posts is a great way to contribute to the online conversation around this stigmatised topic.
These are just some small ways we can help continue bringing mental health to the forefront of conversation by helping to normalise mental health conditions, encouraging those in need to get support and comforting people in their time of need. More education is needed but it’s great to see so many people now take their mental health as serious as their physical health. If you are struggling mentally, I can’t encourage you enough to take the step towards seeing your GP or speaking to someone you feel comfortable chatting to about your feelings. Below I’ve linked some great resources who can help you when things are feeling too much. I hope you enjoyed this post and found these steps useful. Let me know if you are doing or plan to do anything within this post.