Mental Health Awareness Week – Get Inspired

What are mental illnesses and how common are they? We’ve used the UK as an example and statistics from The Royal College of Psychiatrists:

  • Anxiety affects 10% of the population
  • 20% of people become depressed at some point in their lives
  • Personality disorder affects 1%, although for some it’s mild
  • Anorexia affects one in every 150 15-year-old girls and one in every 1000 15-year-old boys
  • Bipolar disorder affects 1%
  • Schizophrenia affects 1%
  • OCD affects 2%

Think of these percentages in terms of your classroom/lecture hall/office or as a proportion of your address book/Facebook page – these are serious statistics – 1 in 4 will be affected in some way or another. Not everyone will receive a formal or accurate diagnosis. What’s more, many of these figures are reflected throughout the globe. Schizophrenia for instance has the same prevalence worldwide crossing every border, culture and walk of life.

You can find out more about mental health, how it’s defined and when it becomes a problem via this excellent recent article on the BBC website.

Each year Mental Health Awareness Week has a different focus – in 2013 it’s all about physical activity. For those with a mental health diagnosis the lack of joined up thinking across mental and physical symptoms can be disheartening and often counter-productive. While the current campaign focuses on physical activity and its impact on wellbeing, there are many other physical areas which deserve attention: diet and nutrition, sleep, stress and environmental factors to name the most obvious. We look forward to exploring these in more depth later or post up your links if you have some good ones.

Returning to Mental Health Awareness Week, take a look at the Mental Health Foundation’s ‘Get Involved’ section which lists events across the UK and on a separate page offers a free download covering the importance of physical activity to all round health, not just mental.

There are awareness days, weeks and months all over the world now as well as the WHO’s World Mental Health Day – marked annually on the 10th of October. These dates offer a great opportunity to focus all our minds on health as well as the stigma which still surrounds mental health issues. Take this week to review your own mental and physical condition and reach out to those around you who might welcome your support.

Oh and don’t forget the physical activity – we’re thinking about it in musical terms – play, sing, clap, tap, rap, dance…  Check our friends Tom Morley and Dawn Ellis’ Who Will You Make Peace With? video for some creative inspiration:

Take 5 for Mental Health Awareness Week: do what you can.

I remember visiting a friend who had severe depression in hospital some years ago and asking her, by way of making conversation, who had been to see her. Later on I was talking to the nurse who was looking after the ward and told her how shocked I was that no family had come, and only one friend, who’d made regular visits at least. I was annoyed, most of all with her family – she’d been in hospital for around 10 days and bar that one loyal friend, no relatives, no one else had been! How could they be so neglectful? The nurse replied with a pearl: ‘Everyone does what they can.’ Some people just can’t cope and so they keep away, some are plain busy or too wrapped up in their own lives, and I suppose the sad reality is that a few others don’t really care.

15 or so years have gone by and my friend still remembers my visits and I still remember the nurse’s reaction. The small amount of time it took me to visit each week made a huge difference to my friend – she remembers everyone else who came too.  And the nurse’s advice has served me well, removing a layer of irritation and frustration when I find people aren’t doing what I’d expect them to.

It can only take 5 minutes to make a difference. It’s Mental Health Awareness this week and an ideal time to take those 5 minutes to reach out to someone who will value your support.  If you know someone who’s feeling low, having a particularly stressful time or who’s dealing with mental health issues, take 5: visit them, phone them or simply send them a card or a text message.

If you’re fortunate enough not to know anyone experiencing problems, you can still reach out to others. How many people do you come across in your neighbourhood, on the bus or in the supermarket who look harassed or distressed? Give them a smile if nothing else, hold a door open, stop and chat for a while, offer them your seat, help them with their shopping or some other small chore.

Beyond that you could volunteer, donate, take part in an event or organise something to raise money to help others.

Whatever you do, do what you can and find the time – just 5 minutes could make all the difference to someone else’s day and it’ll make you feel good too. If you’re feeling low or having a hard time, helping someone else will give you a boost. Check the Doing Good Does You Good link from The Mental Health Foundation on our Facebook page for more ideas. Mental Health Awareness Week 2012 runs from 21 – 27 May.