This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and Saturday 10th October is World Mental Health Day. The worldwide event is hosted by the World Federation of Mental Health and it aims to make sure that people all around the world with mental health problems are well-treated and are able to live with dignity.
But why are mental health issues so prevalent – and what can be done to prevent them arising in the first place?
One in four adults in the world today has a mental health problem, according to the Federation. And the impacts on health and well-being are well-documented. Yet still today, badly-informed and damaging attitudes prevail with some people in their attitude to mental health issues.
In the UK, the Mental Health Foundation is seeking to challenge such prejudice with facts about mental health, an initiative it calls “Fundamental Facts”. At the heart of this initiative is a focus on prevention which is always better than a cure, but particularly so where mental health is concerned.
One big example cited by the Foundation is the importance of childhood development and adolescence. When children and young people receive the right guidance, information and support in childhood and adolescence, they are far less likely to develop mental health problems in later life. And the Foundation gives information and advice on giving children and young people the right guidance
All this week, there have been awareness-raising events around the subject of mental health and to spread the key message for the campaign this year – that there should be ‘Dignity in Mental Health’. Simply put, the aim is that mental health problems become better understood by the public and that people who have a mental illness should not feel ashamed of it, or feel unable to discuss it with their friends and family.
— Stamp Out Stigma (@StampStigma) October 6, 2015
Stress is another big issue – though the Federation points out that some stress is a good thing as it helps us perform better and is necessary to our performance and, sometimes, our very survival. But when stress levels reach extreme peaks for prolonged periods of time, it can be injurious to mental health.
Whenever you begin to feel under too much stress for too long, and it feels completely unnatural to you, it’s time to act to protect your own mental well-being. Reading this article about de-stressing by TheCircle is a great place to start, as it gives a few pointers in ways to defuse stressful situations.
Some of the simplest tactics can help. For instance, when you feel panicky, taking a few deep breaths and focusing on your breath helps to dissolve that spiral of panic, as you concentrate on visualising the breath going into your body, filling your lungs and then making its way back out again as you breathe out. This simple focus helps clear any other thoughts out of your mind and allows you to calm down so that you can begin to address your worries more rationally.
Another tip for finding ways to relax and de-stress include doing more exercise. When you exercise, you reduce your stress levels as your body releases endorphins, chemicals that help reduce your pain perception but also trigger a positive frame of mind, in a similar way to the drug morphine. If you’re not into cardiac exercise, choose a sport such as Yoga or Pilates, where the emphasis is on control, poise, posture and breathing, all of which will help you to relax as well as improve your fitness.
Sometimes just making time for yourself will enable you to relax. For example, you might see the evening as a time when you can catch up on chores like the ironing or paperwork that’s overdue. But instead, run yourself a bath and settle in for a soak with a good book. Run it hot and add some bath salts to soothe tired muscles – a tired body will add to your feeling of stress – and your mind will be able to unwind at the same time.
Overall, don’t get too stressed about stress – but do make sure you do all you can to get to grips with mental health for yourself and for your children. The Mental Health Foundation has a wealth of help and information freely available to help you.
Have you been affected or know someone affected with mental health issues? What kind of support networks do you or they use?
How to you de-stress during tough and demanding periods in your life?
*collaborative post written by a guest author