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?