Mental Health Awareness Week

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week (organised by the Mental Health Foundation) and I’m so pleased to see the UK getting much better at talking about mental health issues. It’s not that long ago that ‘mental health’ was synonymous with the word ‘crazy’…we weren’t a terribly tolerant or understanding nation. We were very ignorant. Now, more and more people are feeling like it’s OK to say “hey, I’ve suffered from anxiety” or “I’m struggling with depression”…and maybe talk about other mental health issues.

Mental Health Awareness Week

We’ve focussed so much on our physical health…being slim…fit…’healthy’… we almost forgot that mental health it just as important as physical health.

Nadia in The Independent talks about men and mental health (she’s working on a campaign with Stephen Fry & Professor Green to reduce suicides in men):

We learn about physical health with biology and PE, yet a person is not complete without their mental health (no one is a headless body), so we should be teaching our future generation how to nurture theirs. There is no point in just teaching facts if we don’t equip people with the skills of how to cope in life.

So true.

Kat at the Huffington Post talked about her experiences and says:

Often mental illnesses are coping mechanisms at dealing with difficult emotions or stressful situations. They are the symptoms of an underlying problem.

I’ve suffered from anxiety and panic attacks…I’ve had some fairly stressful situations in my life and when the anxiety hit properly, some years back, it was a reaction to me not dealing with the situation I was in at the time. It was only when I was out of the situation and happy in my second marriage that I realised quite how much I’d buried my head in the sand and let everything get completely on top of me.

I found that both Mindfulness and therapy (CBT mainly) helped enormously…therapy to truly understand where the anxiety came from and why…and Mindfulness as a coping mechanism. I now feel like an incredibly strong person who knows myself very well and is pretty much free from anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean I never get a bit anxious…that’s “normal”. I mean that sustained anxiety that begins to disrupt your life. I don’t take my anxiety-free life now for granted, I worked bloody hard to get here and I’m conscious of not getting myself in that space again. If I do, I won’t judge myself. Shit happens…it’s how you deal with the shit that counts.

So many people suffer from anxiety…from mild to more severe. Check out this blog post from Sophia covering six fab young women and their experiences. In the past 5 years, many friends have opened up about anxiety issues…I wonder if it’s that we’re all talking more, or if our fast paced lives lead to a more anxious style of living? Maybe both.

Mindfulness is the theme of this year’s Mental Awareness Week. Many people are using Mindfulness to help their lives, even if mental issue is not an issue at all. It’s a great way to give your brain focus. It’s not a cure for anxiety or depression…but it certainly can help. This is the book that got me started and one I recommend to friends that ask (click the image to view on Amazon):

Mindfulness

So, what’s the “take out” from this?

If you are suffering in silence from anxiety, depression or something else…talk to someone. A friend or a therapist. Make that first move…talking helps SO MUCH. Believe me.

If you free from these issues, make sure you’re there for those that do suffer. Listen and make sure that you’re there for that friend when they need it. It could make the world of difference to their life.

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