Monday 16 May marked the beginning of 2016 Mental Health Awareness Week.
Mental Health Awareness Week seeks to generate discussion on lifestyle factors, such as eating well, exercising more, stopping smoking and friendships, that can impact positively on our mental health.
This year’s Awareness Week theme is 'Relationships'. We are all asked to go the extra mile in prioritising our relationships and to consider how much time we actively commit to listening to friends, family and colleagues and building and maintaining good relationships. For the Civil Service it is about creating the climate in which people can talk about mental health and redoubling our efforts to create an inclusive culture in which good relationships for all our people can thrive.
As individuals, we must also take care to look after our own mental health. Lifestyle choices can make a significant difference and need not cost a lot of money or take up lots of time. Mental Health Foundation have provided 10 practical tips:
- Talk about your feelings. Talking about your feelings can help you stay in good mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled.
- Keep active. Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and can help you concentrate, sleep, and look and feel better. Exercise keeps the brain and your other vital organs healthy, and can benefit your mental health.
- Eat well. Your brain needs a mix of nutrients in order to stay healthy and function well, just like the other organs in your body. A diet that’s good for your physical health is also good for your mental health.
- Drink sensibly. We often drink alcohol to change our mood. Some people drink to deal with fear or loneliness, but the effect is only temporary. Drinking is not a good way to manage difficult feelings.
- Keep in touch. There’s nothing better than catching up with someone face to face, but that’s not always possible. You can also give them a call, drop them a note, or chat to them online instead.
- Ask for help. We all sometimes get tired or overwhelmed by how we feel or when things don’t go to plan. If things are getting too much for you, ask for help. Your family or friends may be able to offer practical help or a listening ear.
- Take a break. A change of scene or a change of pace is good for your mental health. It could be a five-minute pause from cleaning your kitchen, a half-hour lunch break at work, or a weekend exploring somewhere new. A few minutes can be enough to de-stress you.
- Do something you are good at. What do you love doing? What activities can you lose yourself in? What did you love doing in the past? Enjoying yourself can help beat stress. Doing an activity you enjoy probably means you’re good at it, and achieving something boosts your self-esteem.
- Accept who you are. We’re all different. It’s much healthier to accept that you’re unique than to wish you were more like someone else. Feeling good about yourself boosts your confidence to learn new skills, make new friends and helps you cope when life takes a difficult turn.
- Care for others. Caring for others is often an important part of keeping up relationships with people close to you. It can even bring you closer together.
I hope you will find these tips useful. Talking about mental health is important and can be a way to cope with a problem you’ve been carrying around in your head for a while. Just being listened to can help you feel supported and less alone. And it works both ways. If you open up, it might encourage others to do the same.
Line managers have a critical role to play, and Mental Health First Aiders or Advocates, who have recently been appointed in every business unit, can provide further support.
It is likely that all of us will experience or know someone with mental health problems. The latest estimate is that 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem in any given year. This is why I have identified Mental Health as a key priority and you can expect to hear more from me on this on this important issue over the coming months.
If you have any comments or queries on this blog, please post them below, or contact me at: Disability.Champion@dft.gsi.gov.uk.
Follow Philip on Twitter: @PhilipRutnam.