As it’s Mental Health Awareness Week I wanted to share a bit of my story and my passion for all things mental health related having worked in healthcare communications for over 15 years.
1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health issue in any given year. I have my own experience of this as part of my divorce journey 6 years ago where I sought therapy for support (as well as the love of a strong network of family and friends) and I have also used NHS psychological therapy services for my longstanding insomnia.
A fair few years ago, my mum was diagnosed with a depressive episode with severe psychosis and was sectioned under the Mental Health Act. This was a challenging time for the whole family to say the least. I am so happy to say my mum is much better now. My partner’s dad has Alzheimer’s which is getting progressively worse. Again, the impacts are not just on him but the wider family and his loved ones.
As you can see looking after our mental health and wellbeing is vital. And the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown should not be underestimated in terms of anxiety, depression and stress. People are struggling with worries about their health and that of their loved, wanting to ensure they are safe. Some of us are stressed about our jobs, finances and how we might sustain our businesses through the pandemic. Others are dealing with feelings of loneliness and isolation.
As well as my personal experiences, I have worked for much of NHS career in mental health services. I have always been passionate about giving a voice to those who can struggle to be heard and I feel that mental health is a cause that is close to so many people’s hearts but is still overlooked, often underfunded and something we are not comfortable being open about. Throughout my career I have developed award winning anti-stigma campaigns, mentored communicators working for voluntary sector mental health services and delivered mental health awareness raising events.
Admittedly over the past few years there have definitely been huge strides in bringing the conversation to the fore about mental health and attempting to get some sort of parity of esteem with physical health. Those in the spotlight are talking about their own mental health and organisations such as Heads Together are really getting the recognition and coverage that is needed to bring mental health discussions into the open. However, we still hear far too many accounts of people who are struggling to cope, who don’t have support and who sometimes sadly see no road to recovery.
Now more than ever we need to look after ourselves and those around us. It is ok not to be ok and to ask for help. There is support out there. The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is kindness, and a little really does go a long way. Take a moment to check in with your friends and family, ask a colleague how they are doing and maybe even check if your neighbours need anything. Even suggesting a (virtual) cuppa could go a long way to providing someone with the support they need to feel valued and cared for.
If you need some support, then you can access the following: