Mental Health For All

Saturday 10 October, was World Mental Health Day!

The theme this year is ‘Mental Health For All’, and it couldn’t be more relevant at a time when coronavirus has highlighted how much our mental health means to all of us.

I’ve done countless group workshops where I ask what words people associate with mental health. Invariably the answers are words like depression, madness, stress, mental illness, psychiatric hospitals. And then when I ask about the term ‘good mental health’, words like happiness, wellbeing, fulfilment, achieving things, active, motivated … come up.

So it’s become really apparent that the words ‘mental health’ which really should apply in a general sense just like physical health, have somehow become linked with all the stigma, fear and ignorance which characterises our lack of understanding of mental ill-health. If we think about our physical health, we know that there are healthy and unhealthy habits, and no-one would imagine that if you reach a peak of physical fitness in your early 20s for example that you wouldn’t need to continue to take care of your physical health indefinitely to sustain that happy state.

I believe we all have mental health, just like we all have physical health, and that there’s a spectrum of good to poor mental health, and there’s mental ill-health which can be disabling and extremely distressing. Most people will go up and down that spectrum during the course of their life experience, and many will go through a period that they may call a really low point, a breakdown, losing it, whatever…..  

Yet, unlike with physical health, we often don’t have the understanding or language to talk about what helps maintain good mental health, and what aids recovery from being overwhelmed with stress, anxiety and depression.

The psychological impacts from Coronavirus are a kind of mental equivalent to the physical challenge of running a marathon. So what can we do to build our resilience individually and collectively in our communities? How do we prepare and train for this mental marathon ahead?

Never Give Up Hope

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come”
Anne Lamott

We’ve now reached another turning point in the Covid 19 pandemic with the re-introduction of further restrictions on close contact with others. So it seems timely to re-visit the idea of psychological resilience, and in particular the principle of hope.

Help Prevent Suicide!

At the weekend the University of Sheffield shared this series of 13 short films as part of their Festival of the Mind.

Based on the book Our Encounters with Suicide (ed. Fran Biley, Alex Grant, Judith Haire, Brendan Stone), Kathryn and Penny Capper’s films explore the impact of suicide in the wider community. Giving voice to diverse perspectives and experiences, the Suicide Monologues aims to challenge taboos and generate discussion around a complex subject that’s generally not talked about.

Time to Experiment with Change?

Among the many news and research updates I follow to try and keep myself up to date, is a national research programme seeking to understand the psychological and social impact of the Covid 19 pandemic. The research study is being carried out by University College London to explore the effects of the virus and social distancing measures on adults in the UK. Over 70,000 participants fill in a weekly survey to share their views and experiences.

The Bare Necessities …

The coronavirus lockdown measures have now officially pushed the UK into an economic recession following the biggest slump on record during April to June this year. A Briefing Paper for the House of Commons said:

“Consumers may be reluctant to return to ‘normal’ spending patterns. This may be due to health concerns but also perhaps due to concerns over their income. A key factor will be how high unemployment levels rise. Particularly important is how many employees currently furloughed will return to work and how many will become unemployed. Uncertainty may also dampen businesses’ inclination to invest.”

Spotlight on Mental Health

International research is now telling us a lot more about the impact of Covid 19 on our mental health, and the picture is not good. What does the research tell us about those who are less stressed, depressed or anxious? There’s a lot we can’t control about the current situation, so what can we control?

Make, Bake and Create

by Carolyn Barber

“Why should we all use our creative power…? Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful,lively, bold and compassionate, so indifferent to fighting and and accumulation of objects and money”
Brenda Ueland

Laughter is the Best Medicine

“What Soap is to the Body, Laughter is to the Soul”
Yiddish Proverb

Children laugh spontaneously and naturally – it’s not something they have to learn. Apparently children laugh 200-400 times a day, while adults laugh as average of 15 times. Laughter, along with playfulness, gets lost as we grow up and take on responsibilities and obligations.

‘Lest We Forget’

This week, the Good Mental Health Coop hosted it’s first virtual open dialogue event, called a Mental Wealth Trialogue. A couple of the participants spoke about how the impact of Covid 19 on our mental health generally was now being talked about everywhere. As if it had just been discovered that people are often emotionally and psychologically distressed by trauma, unexpected crises, being cut off from family and friends, losing jobs and experiencing financial hardship. Who would have thought it?

What on earth is a Mental Wealth Trialogue when it’s at home?

A ‘Trialogue’ group is a neutral space where communities can gather to develop their understanding of mental health issues, the challenges of maintaining mental health and to transform thinking on developing better services and healthy communities.