World Mental Health Day 2019

Not that I needed the reminders, but my inbox has been receiving a steady flow of emails about World Mental Health Day (WMHD), which is marked each year on 10 October. This date is recognised by the World Health Organisation and the theme for the year is set by the World Federation for Mental Health. This year’s theme is suicide prevention.

Having had mental health problems myself – mostly depression and anxiety-related – I feel very lucky that I have never once had the remotest hint of a suicidal thought. Others are, sadly, far worse off than I in this respect, and I am pleased that this subject is receiving so much attention. For so long it has been one of those taboo subjects of which we dare not speak, choosing instead to brush it under the figurative carpet.

This week has seen the launch of the Every Mind Matters campaign by Public Health England and the NHS, to encourage people to be more aware of the early signs of mental health issues. Their website can be found  here and is full of loads of useful advice and resources. I strongly encourage you to take a look if you or anyone you know might benefit from getting some good help and advice. The campaign is being supported by the younger royals – the Cambridges  and Sussexes – and is generating good publicity. Many companies and organisations, such as the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have also pledged support.

Today I’ve seen a piece on breakfast tv about Ellie Soutter, a snowboarder champion who took her own life last year on her 18th birthday. It featured an interview with Ellie’s mother and was heartbreaking, really bringing home the devastation caused in the lives of loved ones, families and friends when someone commits suicide. The gaping hole that they leave, all those unanswered questions about what drove them to do it, the guilt about whether their family, friends or anyone could have seen signs of their unhappiness and done something – anything – to help. There are, sadly, no easy answers to any of those questions. None of us wants to be in poor Ellie’s mum’s situation, but we don’t have hindsight to know what we might have done in her circumstances. We shouldn’t need things like Every Mind Matters to remind us of this, but the reality is that we do. The importance of spreading this word, and of sharing awareness of what we can do to help ourselves and our loved ones, cannot be understated.

One of the organisations which supports people with mental health issues is Time To Change. I’ve spoken about them before, and have recently signed up to be a ‘Time To Change Champion,’ which means that I have committed to spreading the word about what we can do to help. This isn’t a big announcement, and isn’t anything for which qualifications are needed. Anyone can do it – the more who do, the more widespread the message becomes. If you’re interested, do visit the Time To Change website. Here you’ll also find lots of good advice, including their campaign for this year’s WMHD, ‘Ask Twice,’ as you can see from the image above. This is the simple thought that, rather than accepting the usual ‘I’m fine’ answer to the ‘how are you?’ question, we might delve a little deeper. Here is the link: you’ll find a good little video about it to encourage you to think more about this, along with more advice on how to start that conversation. I’ll be posting more as a ‘Time To Change Champion’ in the months to come, and I hope some of you will sign up too.

I’m aware that this post reflects the fact that I am in the UK, but this is World Mental Health Day. Wherever you are from, this is an important day. In the column to the right you will see a box labelled ‘Stand Up For Mental Health.’ If you click on this it takes you to the website of, whose campaign this is. They are US-based, and I know that there are many similar initiatives around the world. Wherever you are, please take a few moments to find out what is available to you and what you can do to help. And if you think you might need some support, please do seek assistance, and don’t be afraid to ask.

’How are you?’

‘I’m fine thanks.’

‘Are you sure? You don’t seem quite like yourself…’

‘Well, actually…’

That wasn’t too hard, was it? If you know someone you think might be struggling, #AskTwice today and every day. You may be saving a life.

Mental Health Matters – Reblogged for WMHD

I wasn’t planning on posting for World Mental Health Day today, but rather late in the day have decided to share again this post from September 2016. This has become, by a distance, the most ‘liked’ of all of my posts and, reading through the comments for the first time in ages it is clear that it touched a chord with many people. So, for those who haven’t seen it before, here is a second chance to catch up with it.

The post was prompted by my horror at the reports that service commissioners in England were diverting money supposedly ring-fenced for mental health services into other services. In the year since then, the situation does not appear to have improved, and I have seen no evidence that mental health is any higher in the commissioners’ priorities. I find this scandalous, and hope that the Government can find time in its busy agenda of wrecking the country to deliver on the commitments they have made to improve mental health services. I saw last week an estimate that an additional 10,000 mental health practitioners are needed across the country, and that specialist Mental Health Trusts in London currently have 25% vacancy rates, or worse. Urgent action is needed to begin rectifying this, as even a start now will take years to filter through as improved services.

On a personal note, I know that despite my own treatment finishing four years ago, I am never far from tipping over the edge and needing help again. I was well looked after, up to a point, and the final piece of the jigsaw was provided by my employer’s Occupational Health Service – I worked for an NHS Mental Health Trust at the time. I have since retired, so that is no longer available to me, and I know that local services where I live are limited. The prospect of needing their support again worries me, not because I don’t have confidence in their skills, but because they are under huge pressure and depression – which I had – isn’t exactly a high priority in the great scheme of things.

I hope you can take a few moments to read my original post. Whilst it isn’t themed for WMHD it raises important issues. We shouldn’t allow these to be swept under the carpet.

Take It Easy

At the risk of repeating myself, I started this blog to share my experience of depression in the hope that it would help others. I worked for more than 20 years in the NHS for a large mental health Trust and although I haven’t blogged much about it recently mental health is still a subject about which I care deeply. Last week there was a story in The Times which alarmed me about the way mental health is supported, and which I felt I had to share. This post is about the situation in England but I suspect that the issues are common to many other countries around the world.

A little bit of background: when the Tory-led coalition government came to power in 2010 they embarked on a major restructuring of the NHS. There had been no mention of this in their manifesto, but that’s another story. One of…

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World Mental Health Day 2013

The Mental Health Foundation's 2013 Event
The Mental Health Foundation’s 2013 Event – click to find out more

As is the custom this Thursday, the 10th October, is World Mental Health Day (WMHD), one of the annual dates considered sufficiently important to be supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO).  Each year a particular theme is chosen for the day. Last year, this was Depression, which is in effect where this blog started with my post for that day. The theme chosen for this year is ‘Mental Health and Older Adults’ – OK, own up, who told them I’d just retired?

Realistically, this wasn’t chosen just for me! Information given by the WHO makes it abundantly clear why this selection is so important:

  • the global population is ageing rapidly, and by 2100 the number of people aged 60 and over is forecast to have tripled from the current level of 605 million to more than 2 billion, out of world total populations of around 7.1 billion now and a forecast 10.8 billion by 2100. This would represent an increase from 8.5% to 18.5% of the total;
  • approximately 20% of those aged 60 or over suffer from a mental or neurological disorder of some kind;
  • the most common mental health problems in this age group are dementia and depression;
  • mental health problems are under-identified by healthcare professionals and by older people themselves.

Putting all of this together it becomes immediately apparent that the usual clichés like ‘ticking time bomb’ and ‘disaster waiting to happen’ are hardly understatements! We are all getting older every day – a deep, philosophical insight there – and may well reach the point when we need care and support in our later years. Increasing awareness of these issues now is vitally important, as services worldwide struggle to cope with current levels of need against a backdrop of reductions in funding. We will all need to be more aware than we are now of how mental health problems can affect older people and be ready to do all that we can to help, whether this be by caring for family, friends or neighbours or by contributing time or money to charitable work in this field. To give you a personal view, my post earlier this year for Dementia Awareness Week shows in its own small way how this pervasive disease can affect those who love the sufferer. I know that I’m classified as being ‘vulnerable’: I have just retired, which is a major life change, I live alone and I am in recovery from a long spell of depression. But I’m not going to let this worry me, nor am I going to just sit here and wait to become ill. I am taking plenty of steps to ensure that I don’t yield to that vulnerability, and hope that you will do the same for yourself and your loved ones.

MHF logoThere are many organisations that provide help in this area, some of which are linked in my ‘Blogroll’ below left. A very good general site for all sorts of information is the Mental Health Foundation, whose main event this year is to encourage people to talk about mental health for older people – the Tea and Talk campaign.  The Foundation’s page on WMHD can be found here. Please do take some time to look at this, follow some of the links for further information, and see all sides of mental health issues for older people, both good and not so good. It could be you or someone close to you that needs help and understanding at some point.