Mental Health Awareness Week 2022

Whilst I have strayed from my original reason for starting this blog – mental health issues – it is still a major interest and concern of mine, and I always mark this current week with a post. If you are reading this in the US, you will probably know that May is recognised there as Mental Health Month: it is good that mental health has this focus, which has been run by Mental Health America since 1949. They can be found here, and this year they have adopted the theme of Back To Basics. You can read about it here if you want to know more, and as they say on their site “After the last two years of pandemic living, many people are realizing that stress, isolation, and uncertainty have taken a toll on their well-being. Our goal is to provide foundational knowledge about mental health & mental health conditions and information about what people can do if their mental health is a cause for concern,” and you will find a toolkit to help you further to download there.

In case you didn’t know, this is matched here: this week – 9th to 15th May – is Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) in the UK. This is managed by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), and has also been running since 1949. Their website is equally good, and can be found here. MHF puts prevention at the heart of its work, and provides many resources to assist with this, as you will see from their website. To support MHAW the MHF chooses a theme each year, and this year they are focusing on loneliness and its impact on our mental health. They have got in some well-known supporters to help promote the week – one of their recent initiatives has been the Mental Health Minute, and this was played yesterday morning to around 20m listeners across more than 500 UK radio stations:

They have also released this brief animation to back up the message, and give us some ideas of how we might help others, or ourselves:

In addition, they have produced a special report for this week, which you can find here. As they say on their website, this report explores what it’s like to be lonely: its causes, consequences and the groups of people who are more likely to experience severe and enduring loneliness. It looks at the strong links between loneliness and mental health and sets out new findings around the public’s understanding of loneliness and who it affects. It then goes on to explain why we need to address practical, structural and psychological barriers to connection if we want to reduce the burden of loneliness and prevent its impacts on mental health.

Amongst the top ten factors they list which are contributory factors towards loneliness I can count four as applying to me, so perhaps I need to be careful! I have lived on my own since I was divorced, more than fourteen years ago, and my health is such that I can’t get out much. I have a great carer who comes in three mornings a week to change my leg wraps, and he is good company too. I don’t exactly find myself looking forward to his visits, but it is a comfort to know that I have someone I can rely on, rather than impose on my daughters and their busy lives – though I know they would help if I asked. This theme got me looking back on previous posts as I knew that I had written about it before, and I found one from Christmas Day 2012, just a few months after I began this blog. I doubt that any of you will have seen it before, so here’s the link to Home Alone, Or Lonely This Christmas. That piece was prompted by several messages I had seen on Twitter which seemed to assume that being ‘Alone’ was the same as being ‘Lonely.’ As I said back then, many people’s thoughts at Christmas are to look out for elderly neighbours, family or friends who are on their own. But loneliness isn’t just the province of the elderly, and I ended the piece with encouragement to “please, think about the people you know, love and care about, and just make sure that if they are alone today, they aren’t feeling lonely.”

Those sentiments still hold good, and not just for Christmas. The links I’ve given you to the MHF website for MHAW open up a load of thoughts about what to do to help prevent loneliness, and I hope you take a look. After two years of the pandemic, which I don’t think is really done and dusted yet, we have all become much more used to being in our own company. I’ve always been good at doing that, but others may be less fortunate. Take the existence of this week as a reminder that our mental health is vitally important to us all, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you think you need it. We have, I am sure, all had feelings of loneliness at some point in our lives, but hopefully they haven’t become all-consuming to the point at which they impacted adversely on our mental health.

The little hashtag #IveBeenThere is being used to support the week. It is a good, pertinent slogan. If you are on Twitter, keep an eye out for it, as you will see many inspiring stories of how people have overcome their feelings of loneliness, and the beneficial impact this has had on their mental health. There are several of these stories on the MHF website, too, if you follow the link I gave earlier. Let’s be honest: we have indeed all been there at some point, but we don’t have it taking over our lives in the way that it does for some. Take care, of yourself and others.