What is Mental Health Awareness Week and Why Is It Important?
Mental Health Awareness Week was first celebrated 21 years ago and was started by the Mental Health Foundation, and it has since become one of the most widely celebrated awareness months in the UK. The main goal of Mental Health Awareness Week is to start conversations around mental health and encourage people to focus on their own mental health.
We all might experience times where we feel down, stressed or anxious, but if these persist for a long time or start to cause issues within your daily life then they might develop into a problem. This is more common than you might think - it is estimated that 1 in 6 people experienced a mental health problem in the last week. Some common mental health problems include anxiety and depression, which can be experienced individually or can happen at the same time.
Mental health is important for everyone to focus on, not just those with mental health conditions. Paying attention to your mental health is just as important as physical health: it means that you can perform your best and become the best version of yourself, manage your emotions when things go wrong, and maintain strong and healthy relationships with those around you.
There is still a lot of difficulty within society when it comes to opening up about mental health and seeking help, particularly amongst men and certain ethnic groups. However, it is important to break down this stigma so that everybody can feel more comfortable in expressing how they feel and are able to ask for help when it is needed.
There is a new theme set by the Mental Health Foundation every year. The theme for this year is loneliness: something many of us can relate to since the start of the pandemic a couple of years ago. It also does not depend on how much time you spend with other people, or how many friends you have: anybody can feel lonely for a number of reasons despite their social circumstances.
Although we all might feel lonely every now and again, chronic loneliness can have a huge impact on mental health and it is one of the key indicators that someone may be struggling with their mental health.
There is still a social taboo around discussing loneliness and it can often be hard for people to speak out if they are struggling or feeling lonely. If you want to take action, then use the hashtag #IveBeenThere to share your thoughts and read the stories of others on social media and tackle the stigma, or reach out to some friends, neighbours, or family members who you might not have heard from for a while.
There are a number of SVC projects that aim to combat loneliness - if you would like to get involved and join the effort to combat loneliness, take a look at our projects and consider volunteering on our befriending projects, You’ve Got a Friend or Get There Together.
How Can You Focus On Your Mental Health?
There are many ways that mental health charities and professionals recommend you can improve your mental health.
Some of the biggest recommendations include making sure you eat well and exercise regularly, taking a break and giving yourself some ‘me time’, as well as catching up with people close to you. It’s also important to make time for activities that you enjoy.
Some activities could include: arts and crafts, writing stories or poetry, singing/dancing clubs and for those who enjoy nature, a simple walk in the park or visit to a nearby seaside beach or nature trail. These are each proven to assist with de-stressing and can be a great distraction against overthinking and worrying.
Taking part in new activities, clubs or projects can be overwhelming, so be sure to consider what is most appropriate for you and don’t try to do too much all at once, be realistic about what you need. Taking small steps leads to great change!
If you are seriously struggling, it might be useful to talk through your options with your doctor or healthcare professional, or reach out to one of the helplines listed at the bottom of this article.
How Can Volunteering Help?
It can be difficult to find a new hobby that improves wellbeing, especially if you are already struggling with your mental health. We believe that volunteering is a great opportunity to try out new activities, meet new people and spend time socialising (either digitally or in person).
Something that can also be hugely beneficial for mental health is caring for others and feeling part of your community. Helping out can also make us feel needed, and can be a way to improve self-esteem and make connections with others. It can also make you feel like you’re doing something valuable and give a sense of fulfillment and improve personal growth.
Some Quotes From Our Community
Don’t just take our word for it - here is what some of our SVC community had to say around the topic of mental health, and how they take care of their own mental health.
“Befriending has not only allowed me to help and encourage a fellow beneficiary with his social and emotional skills but opened up a new variety of skills that I am now able to apply to my future career that I might not have been able to learn anywhere else. It has also helped me immensely in regards to working on my own social skills, something that I've found difficult because of my anxiety. If you're considering befriending, please give it a go! It provides you with a chance to make a new friend as well as some invaluable and fulfilling experiences.”
“Anxiety has been a part of my life for over 25 years. Initially, I tried hard to hide away from it, and felt embarrassed by how it affected me. Now I have a very honest relationship with anxiety, and have found coping strategies that really help me.
Exercise really does help me - a stroll with a friend, a spot of Zumba or a wee jog;
Talking and sharing my concerns;
Knowing my limits and feeling ok with saying “no” to things;
Surrounding myself with things I love to look at when I feel stressed – artwork, song lyrics I love, pictures of my favourite humans;
Listening to tunes which help brighten my mood;
Learning to appreciate that some things are out of my control… and that’s okay.”
“A few years ago I was finding the stresses of life too difficult to juggle. As a male in my mid 30’s with a senior role, a family to support, and carer responsibilities, I felt I had to just keep going, and spread myself far too thin. Until the point that I broke.
"In hindsight, I wish I had spoke to my employer about the challenges I was facing. I now know it’s not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength to open up and speak out. My employer was exceedingly supportive and helped me to find solutions to manage my work going forward.”
“As someone who struggles with anxiety, I have often found it difficult to try new experiences and get involved in activities that I am not familiar with. Luckily for me, I found SVC! With the support of my friends and colleagues, I have been able to get involved in a vast array of outdoor and social activities that I would not have considered before. This has contributed positively to my mental health and enhanced my confidence and self-esteem which has further enabled me to help others experiencing the same difficulties.”
Health & Wellbeing Practitioner
“As someone who supports young people to manage their health and wellbeing, the main advice I give to young people to look after their mental health are:
Try to spend less time on screens and social media;
Try to find a hobby you enjoy – perhaps a spot of volunteering;
Talk to your teachers/ lecturers about any concerns you have within education – you’re not wasting their time, it’s part of their role;
"Remember, we are all different, there are no right and wrong answers when it comes to feelings 😊”
“Mental health is something I have struggled with since being a teenager. Volunteering has always encouraged me to push myself on difficult days and often offers a distraction from things I struggle with knowing the beneficiaries' relied on me and the project I volunteered on. Volunteering has increased my confidence when meeting with people when working as part of a team, it's also allowed me to talk and listen to others and gain new skills. Volunteering has such a positive impact on my mental health.”
“As someone who has had anxiety their whole life, I wondered what the future held for me. Luckily for me, SVC exists. For me, being active in the community is such a boost for my mental health. Every project I’ve ever done with SVC has been with the best support and too many laughs and happy times to count. My anxiety usually feels minimal with SVC, as everyone is so understanding with the different needs we all have. I don’t think I’d have it in me to turn my back on SVC! My confidence has never been better.”
“I’d always felt I was a pretty resilient person able to cope with most things and really hadn’t thought in depth about my mental health. The pandemic really changed my perspective on what I needed to do to look after myself better. I’ve learnt to give myself time to think things through and the impact they’ve had on me and the importance of talking things through with others.”
References, Further Information and Support
Some specific information on Mental Health Awareness Week: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week
Mental Health Matters Wales: www.mhmwales.org.uk
Young Minds: www.youngminds.org.uk