“You can hold back from the suffering of the world, you have free permission to do so, and it is in accordance with your nature. But perhaps this very holding back is the one suffering you could have avoided.” – F.Kafka
To mark Mental Health Awareness Week (16-22 May 2016) I put together a neat list of ways you can get involved whilst making a positive impact to your network of family, relationships and the wider community.
1) Check yourself
Popular physical health campaigns, like breast/ testicular cancer awareness, encourage you to “get checked”. We should be approaching mental health with the same kind of thinking. You can start by asking yourself the following questions:
- Have you noticed that you have been feeling low for longer periods than normal?
- At times when you are feeling low, do you feel worse than what you would consider is normal?
- Are you having trouble sleeping?
- Have you been experiencing panic attacks?
- Do you angrily lash out at the smallest things?
- Do you ever have thoughts of suicide?
- Are you isolating yourself from your friends and family?
As many as 1 in 4 people suffer from mental ill-health at some point in their lifetime. If left untreated, mental health problems like depression and anxiety can often get worse and more debilitating over time. If the answer to any of the questions above is yes, then that’s OK; there are people who can help you. Arrange an appointment with your doctor and begin exploring ways you could feel better about yourself and the world around you.
Did you know that under the wonderful NHS you are entitled to at least 6 sessions of 1 to 1 counselling? In some areas you can go via your local Mind to receive this service, the waiting times can often be shorter.
2) Start up a conversation
I am privileged enough to work in a position where people often open up to me for the first time about their mental health issues. As much as I do feel really honoured by that, it shouldn’t actually be happening. If we normalise the conversation around mental health, we can remove the stigma associated with it. That way people are less likely to feel ashamed or embarrassed by their condition, and are then more likely to talk openly about it.
As I’ve said above, as many as a quarter of us have experienced or will experience some form of mental health issue, so you will likely know someone or something about it. Start up a chat at work or with your friends and family. You never know who you might be helping.
3) Donate your time
Charities are generally always on the hunt for enthusiastic new volunteers. Whether you can spare a couple of hours to help out in their offices or want to help out ‘front-line’ services, your effort would always be welcomed. Below are some great charities who would love to hear from you:
CALM – From magazine drops, manning stalls or making tea at festivals, CALM has an awesome volunteer programme with the aim of raising awareness of our national male suicide crisis. Suicide is currently the biggest killer of men aged 20-45 in the UK.
Mind – Want to work directly with mental health professionals in your community? Mind has mentoring programmes and always could do with assistance in running their weekly drop-in sessions. Find your local Mind here.
The Mix – These guys provide a wide range of online and offline support for young people coping with mental health problems. They rely on other young people to help engage with their client base. See how you can get involved.
Best Beginnings – Many mental health issues stem from childhood. Best Beginnings work to support parents in giving their children the best possible start in life. Whether you’re a healthcare professional, keen photographer or just happy to help, they are looking for help now.
Check out the CharityJobs website for thousands of other volunteer opportunities.
It is impossible to describe just how it feels to do something that is so rewarding. If anything the good feels and amazing experiences that I’ve had from volunteering have certainly made me feel happier and more aware of what’s going on in the world. You also get to meet a lot of like-minded people. Do it!
4) Get political
As I highlighted in a previous blog post, funding for vital mental health support services has been disastrously cut back under the current government. Despite promises for further investment, frontline services are still not receiving the support they need and the government are refusing to publish their figures on mental health spend. Given that demand for mental health services has increased by 20% in the last 5 years, it’s time our parliamentary representatives pulled their fingers out.
All research shows that cutting mental health support is a false economy as those who don’t receive the mental health support they need will often go on to be reliant on public services in other ways. Contact your MP and add your voice to the growing public pressure that says that cutting back on mental health services is not acceptable or necessary.
Mental Health Revolution
We are all searching for happiness. We all don’t want to suffer. The moment we decide to spend time working on improving our own mental health is the moment we stop telling ourselves about how worthless we are. We breakdown the ideas that we are unworthy of happiness, based on some blinkered philosophy that this form of ‘disciplined’ attitude might spur us to get ahead in life.
By becoming proficient at caring for our individual mental health, i.e. being compassionate to ourselves, this quality then tends to spill out effecting our relationships with others. How we see ourselves is usually reflected in how we see the world around us. Once we have all made this discovery, just imagine how this could change the world. Better times.
Find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week here.