If I were only to do one of these Dates of Note all year, this would be it. And if I wanted you to only ever read one of my posts, again, this would be it. From 13-19 May it is Mental Health Awareness Week. As you will know if you have read my previous articles, this is a cause which is very close to my heart. I have worked for twenty years – admittedly on the business side – in an NHS Trust which began as a specialist mental health provider, but has since branched out into a much wider range of services, reflecting the fact that treating mental health in isolation from other aspects of health is to provide only a part of the care that we need. In addition to this, I am officially ‘recovering’ from a period of depression which kept me off work for nine months, so I know at first hand what it can feel like to have a mental illness. Look around this site – there are plenty of clues!
The event in the UK is co-ordinated by the Mental Health Foundation and I strongly recommend that you click the link and visit their site. You will find all you could want to know about Mental Health Awareness Week, what it stands for and its history. This year the focus is on the link between physical and mental health, promoting the fact that good physical health can be a really positive force in improving our mental wellbeing, not just a ‘good thing’ that we should all be doing. Healthy living – eating properly and taking part in physical activity, of whatever type – is obviously essential, but not everyone realises the benefits that can be derived for those with mental health problems who can do something about their physical health too. I know – I’ve been there.
When I went back to work last summer I had a course at a gym with a personal trainer. To my surprise I actually enjoyed it and, along with working with a dietician to improve my eating habits, not only did I lose weight and improve my ability to do simple things like walk to the station or the shops, but I felt a huge mental boost in feeling good about myself. I still have ups and downs, as those close to me know, and these can still be quite severe, but my underlying health is much better thanks to my being more active. I’d be the first to admit that I’m still much closer to looking like Mr Blobby than Brad Pitt, but it’s all relative – I’m better than I was, and as a result I feel better mentally too. So please follow the link above, find out more, and get involved.
I know that many of those who follow this blog and/or are friends in life or on Twitter have experience of mental illness, either as a sufferer or from a loved one. I hope all of you can read this and, if you haven’t done it before, try the benefits of physical activity – you’ll be as amazed as I was. And I hope anyone who has ever mocked, abused or bullied someone with mental health problems reads this, follows the links to learn a few things and then understands why their behaviour is crass, insensitive and contemptible.
If you’d like to know more about mental health in general, the NHS website is, as always, a superb resource, so do take a look. Another good source of information and help is the Stand Up For Mental Health campaign – this is an American site, and a lot of its content is USA-related, but mental illness occurs the world over so there is much good, relevant stuff here. You can also click on their logo at the top of the page, and if you like you can follow them on Twitter.
Finally, in the unlikely event that you want to know more about my own story, I originally published this last November. To save you looking for it, please follow these links:
Thanks for reading. If this helps just one person it’s been well worthwhile. And I hope you can get involved during the next week and stay active afterwards, for the good of both your physical and mental health. At the very least, if you’re on Twitter please add the Twibbon to your avi – although with some of my Twitfriends this may be misinterpreted!