Today (10 October 2020) is World Mental Health Day and the theme for this year is ‘mental health for all’. Your mental wellbeing plays such a large role in your life and is just as important as your physical health but historically it hasn’t been given as much attention.
There has been a stigma that surrounds mental health which still means people can feel uncomfortable talking about mental health problems. A lot of people still don’t feel comfortable talking about how they feel as they think it shows weakness or that people think they are attention seeking but talking about your emotions helps you to deal with how you are feeling. It’s much healthier to know and talk about how you are feeling. The strongest people are those who can admit when they are struggling, and it is good that people are now speaking out about their struggles. If everyone sees people from all aspects of life talking about how they feel, it can make it easier for them to speak up themselves.
It is important to look after your mental wellbeing as you can then make the most of your potential, you can cope better with anything that life throws at you and you can play a full part in your family, workplace, community and with your friends. It also puts you in a position to be able to help if any of your friends and family are struggling with their own mental health.
Mental health is something we all have. We all have times when we feel stressed out or low or scared. The majority of the time, those feelings will pass but they can develop into a more serious problem and that can happen to anyone. Mental illness does not discriminate, it can affect anyone. We are all different and while one person might bounce straight back from a setback it might leave someone else feeling weighed down by the emotions for a long time.
Like your physical health, mental health doesn’t always stay the same. It can change as your circumstances change and as you go through your life. It can be changed by things that happen to you or your friends and family or by significant life events. Just like physical illness, mental health problems can cover a vast scale ranging from the worries that we all experience as part of our day-to-day life to more serious long-term conditions. If you do experience mental health problems, you can make a full recovery or find a way to manage them, but this can be helped by early identification and then seeking out help.
If you are concerned that your mental wellbeing is being affected, what symptoms can you look for? As with any illness, the symptoms will vary from person to person and will be dependent on your experience, but you might be feeling down, upset, or tearful for longer periods than normal. You might be restless, agitated, or irritable. You might feel guilty, worthless and be very hard on yourself. You can feel empty, numb, isolated, and unable to relate or deal with people. You can find yourself getting no pleasure from things you used to enjoy and feeling hopeless. You can lose your self-confidence or self-esteem and might have suicidal thoughts or want to self-harm. You might not want to interact with people or have difficulty in thinking clearly, speaking, or making decisions. You might be using alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs to self-medicate. Mental illness can also affect your sleep and your weight and appetite might change.
Mental health problems are a very common problem. It is said that 1 in 4 people are likely to experience some form of mental illness during their life but in these times of crisis, it is more likely to be higher than that. Anxiety and depression are the most common problems and can have a severe and long-lasting impact on people’s lives, not just the person suffering but also those around them. Despite it being such a common problem, many people who live with a mental health condition, or think they might be developing one, try to keep their feeling hidden as they are scared of other people’s reaction and of speaking up and asking for help.
What should I do if I am struggling? There are many places that you can get support and it is ok to ask for help. You might not find the right solution first time but stick with it and be willing to try different things are different approaches will work for different people at different times. You can get help from your GP, a trained therapist, friends and family, charities and support services or from peer support. Many of these are available in person or on-line if you don’t feel comfortable with talking to someone face to face. There are some good sources of help listed on the Resources page of our website or have a look at Mind or the Blurt Foundation.
Suicide is still the largest killer of men under the age of 45 and much of this is down to mental health. We all need to look after our own mental health and that of those around us. We are all in this together, especially in these unprecedented times, and it is ok to not be ok. We all need help and support at times and there is no weakness in being able to admit that you need help. Let’s keep talking and break the stigma that still surrounds mental illness. Your mental wellbeing is just as important as your physical wellbeing so let’s start treating it that way.
Let’s turn every day into a day that we focus on mental wellbeing rather than it just being one day each year.