Today is World Mental Health Day, an annual celebration of mental health awareness, advocacy and education.
World Mental Health Day is an opportunity for people to talk about what needs to be done to make mental health care a reality and to break down stigmas attached to mental health issues.
In 2016 the campaign is focused around psychological first aid, raising awareness about how we can psychologically and socially support people who are coping with traumatic events.
Mental health impacts us all. In the UK, one in four adults and one in ten children struggle with mental health each year. This can have a huge impact on their ability to work, get through the day and sustain relationships.
Despite much higher awareness around mental health issues today, damaging attitudes still exist that can make it difficult for people to recognise a problem and seek help. In the UK only a quarter of people living with a mental health problem receive ongoing treatment – meaning the majority of people who are struggling with their mental health are left to deal with it on their own with the informal support of friends, families or colleagues.
For many people, getting to grips with mental health is difficult because you can’t see the symptoms. That’s why awareness days like World Mental Health Day are so important; helping people to understand the causes of mental health problems and solutions goes a long way to helping break down stigmas.
Across our lifespan we face different mental health challenges at different times. In later life, the five key factors that affect the mental health and wellbeing of older people are:
- Participation in meaningful activities
- Physical health
Finding information and support
If you’re living with a mental health problem or supporting someone who is, having access to information and support is vital. Across the UK there are excellent charities whose mission is to provide advice, care and support when you need it most.
It’s common to feel unsure about seeking help – many people feel they can’t reach out until they are unable to handle things on their own. It’s always okay to seek help, even if you have not been diagnosed with a mental health problem or aren’t sure what’s wrong. Common reasons people seek support include:
- finding it difficult to cope with thoughts and feelings
- thoughts and feelings having an impact on day-to-day life
- wanting to find out about available support
The best place to start is by going to your GP. Be open and honest and focus on how you feel rather than meeting a specific diagnosis. Your doctor is there to support you so try not to worry that your problem is too small – if you’re nervous or feel you might struggle to communicate, try writing down a few notes so you know what you’d like to say in advance, or consider bringing a trusted friend or family member to provide support.
Mental health charity Mind has excellent resources about seeking help for a mental health problem and what you can expect along the way. It also has great resources on how you can offer practical and emotional support to a loved one struggling with mental health issues.
On the internet, Elefriends is a supportive online community where you can share experiences, find tips and reach out to others in a safe space.
What do you think should be done to raise more awareness about mental health?