Each year the 10th of October is pinned down in the calendar for marking the World Mental Health Day. This occasion is observed annually with the aim of raising awareness on mental health-related topics, mobilizing actors in the support of mental health, as well as bringing it into the public sphere by striving to end the stigmatization surrounding it today. We will highlight the contribution of the Mental Health Foundation, which has been the United Kingdom’s leading charity for people’s mental health, since 1949. Dr. David Crepaz-Keay, Head of Applied Learning at the Foundation, in this exclusive interview for Youth Time, elaborates on the nature of their work and speaks about the 2020 theme Greater Investment in Mental Health.
To put things into perspective, let’s remind that according to data provided by WHO, close to one billion people are living with a mental disorder, three million people die every year from the harmful use of alcohol and one person dies every 40 seconds by suicide. World Mental Health Day 2020 occurs at a moment where our lives have noticeably changed due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, Dr. David Crepaz-Keay discusses divergence in people’s experience of the virus depending on their socio-economic context.
Read ahead to gain some advice on the general dos and don’ts in order to take good care of our mental health from Dr. David Crepaz-Keay and Mental Health Foundation.
Good mental health can make the most of one’s potential
Dr. Keay gives a basic explanation regarding the importance of a good mental health.
“Being mentally healthy doesn’t just mean that you don’t have a mental health problem. Just as it is possible, even crucial, to live a healthy lifestyle with, for example, diabetes, so you can live (should, even) live a mentally healthy lifestyle whether you have a diagnosed mental health condition, or just want to be at your best.”
“If you’re in good mental health, you can: make the most of your potential; cope with life; play a full part in your family, workplace, community and among friends. Some people call mental health ‘emotional health’ or ‘well-being’ and it is just as important as good physical health.”
Looking after your mental health, he went on, is particularly important if you are facing challenges in your day to day life.
Good relationships, education, and good jobs improve our mental health
According to Keay, when society puts our mental health at its heart, we will all benefit from greater fulfillment, improved quality of life, and increased productivity and life expectancy.
“There is compelling evidence that health and mental health have biological, psychological and social determinants; this is sometimes called a bio/psycho/social approach. “
There are many ways to improve mental health, and he elaborates on a few of them.
“Food, housing, fair employment, and reducing inequalities require action at a national or local government level. If communities could guarantee that our homes, schools and workplaces were free from bullying and abuse so that people felt safe, then there would be real mental health benefits.”
“Good relationships, good education, and good jobs protect and improve our mental health, if any of these are damaged or destructive, our mental health will suffer.”
What can we learn from the Mental Health Foundation?
Mental Health Foundation engages in a variety of practical ways to prevent mental health problems before they happen:
- Community and peer programs, they test and evaluate the best approaches to improving mental health in communities and then rolling them out as widely as possible.
- Research; they publish studies and reports on what protects mental health and the causes of poor mental health and how to tackle them.
- Public engagement; they give advice to millions of people on mental health. We are most well-known for running Mental Health Awareness Week across the UK each year.
- Advocacy; they propose solutions and campaigns for change to address the underlying causes of poor mental health.
COVID-19: inequalities more likely to cause anxiety
During the COVID-19, Keay argues that it’s important that we understand that stress and anxiety and even paranoia are nature’s way of alerting us to danger and preparing to respond to threats.
“In the context of the current pandemic anxiety should prompt us to behave safely, wear masks, keep safe distances and protect those we are close to. [… ]”
While we have all been affected by the COVID-19 crisis, the evidence from the Foundation’s Coronavirus: Mental Health in the Pandemic study shows a divergence in people’s experience depending on their social and/or economic context in society.
“Groups affected by socio-economic inequalities have been more likely to experience anxiety, panic, hopelessness, loneliness, and to report not coping well with the stress of the pandemic.”
“We will be shining a light on the ways millions of people are coping with the effects of the pandemic and improving their wellbeing. We are calling on the government to invest in people’s mental health across different departments, not just health. “he further calls.
Conclusively, Keay shares some general dos and don’ts for taking care of our mental health.
Do’s for your mental hygiene
Try to keep up a regular routine
It’s easy to feel out of control. Having a regular routine that works for you in the current circumstances will help keep at least some things under control.
Look after your sleep
Everything is easier to cope with if you are sleeping well. That will be easier if you go to bed and get up at the same time each day. Remember to wind down in that hour before bedtime, put your phone or tablet to one side and try to relax.
Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and can help you concentrate, sleep, and feel better. Exercise keeps the brain and your other vital organs healthy, and is also a significant benefit towards improving your mental health.
Your brain needs a mix of nutrients in order to stay healthy and function well, just like the other organs in your body. A diet that’s good for your physical health is also good for your mental health.
Keep in touch
There’s nothing better than catching up with someone face to face, but that’s not always possible. You can also give them a call, drop them a note, or chat to them online instead. Keep the lines of communication open: it’s good for you!
Don’t for your mental hygiene
Overdo the news or social media
Too much may increase your stress and anxiety and disrupt your sleep.
Overdo the alcohol
We often drink alcohol to change our mood. Some people drink to deal with fear or loneliness, but the effect is only temporary.
When the drink wears off, you feel worse because of the way the alcohol has affected your brain and the rest of your body. Drinking is not a good way to manage difficult feelings.
Bury your feelings
If something is worrying you, do talk about it. If you are worried about your family or friends; ask how they are and give them the space to tell you.
Photos: Mental Health Foundation, Shutterstock / Photomontage: Martina Advaney
Stay safe and healthy!
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