This week marks Mental Health Awareness Week (between the 10th and 16th of May). According to the official Mental Health Foundation website, this week is about having important conversations about our mental health – because we need to talk more about it.
The theme this year is nature – chosen because nature is a constructive way of combatting poor mental health. Speaking from mine own experiences, I completely agree – immersing yourself into nature can be incredibly calming. The Mental Health Foundation website talks of nature being somewhere you can use your senses – I think for me, standing by the sea is really calming. It may sound cliché, but if you can picture standing by the waves and looking out into the sea, imagining that you’re the only person in the world at that time then it really does help.
Despite it being the final day of Mental Health Awareness Week, you can still get involved by going out and experiencing nature for yourself, sharing it with others, maybe in the form of a photo or video and using the hashtags ‘#ConnectWithNature’ and ‘#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek’; encouraging others to connect as well.
Mental health awareness is crucial. There’s always been some stigma surrounding it – it’s almost like sometimes we should keep quiet about the worrying thoughts in our head, and adopt a ‘shut up and put up’ approach. Society has definitely come a long way in regards to how we see and deal with mental health. Even having a Mental Health Awareness Week in the first place is a huge reminder that most people struggle with it, and whether the problem is big or small, people should not feel invalid because of their mental health.
I think almost everyone I know has suffered with mental health issues – I think it’s fair to say it’s become a normal part of life. Whether you’re stressed about work, grieving a loss or even struggling from a poor night’s sleep, mental health can strike in various different ways and at almost any time of the day.
When I have found that I am having a difficult time coping with my mental health, writing down my worries and coming up with solutions for them seems to work for me. Being able to read my issues out loud and break them down helps me to see how important they are, and realise how significant the worry is.
Although this week is about starting conversations, doing exactly that is something that I have battled with before. I’ve found I don’t always like to communicate my problems because I don’t want to be judged or I do not want to impose on someone else’s life. And of course this is rarely ever the case at all; talking to your loved ones is a great way to exhaust a worried thought you might have or to calm down after a panic attack. But for me, sometimes I think speaking to a family member or friend isn’t the right option, simply because I don’t always want to talk about my problems.
However, the point of Mental Health Awareness Week is to talk and open up about your experiences. And it’s also true that actually having these conversations in the first place helps people like me, who don’t necessarily feel comfortable speaking out about our own health health. We need to make this conversation the new norm, and remove the sense of discomfort or shame that often lingers alongside.
It is without a doubt that the pandemic has caused a lot of strain to our mental health – for me, it definitely had a negative impact and I felt my mood constantly sliding as the UK lockdown dragged on. Despite this though, statistics are looking up. The Mental Health Foundation reported that figures for anxiety and worry due to the pandemic took a decline, from 62% (March 2020) to 42% in February.
But unfortunately, there are also statistics from The Mental Health Foundation stating that February saw feelings of loneliness were higher in those groups who were either out of work, parenting children as a single person and those with mental health conditions already. This is further proof that mental health problems can happen to anyone of any age and why we need to help each other.
A few things that I do to fight negative feelings include drawing, writing, listening to music or going somewhere that I feel safe. The fact that nature is this week’s mental health theme really resonates with me because I love the idea of escaping your worries and feeling comforted somewhere else. It’s so easy to get wrapped up with your mental health and let it isolate you like a heavy blanket, but I think the pivotal point about this week is that you are not alone and there is always a positive approach to help improve our mental wellbeing.
For advice on how to seek further mental health support, visit Mind.
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