Mental Health Awareness Week – is awareness enough?

Mental Health Awareness Week is the ideal time to think about our own mental health as well as those around us. But is awareness enough or could we be doing more to support our colleagues, friends and family?

It’s true to say that we all have mental health, it’s simply our emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing, whether good, not so good or somewhere in the middle. Awareness is half the battle, but the other half is action.

What can we do to help?
  • Check in with people

We all have friends, family and colleagues we don’t speak to that often. But life has carried on for them the same as it has for us, not all of it good. So now is a great time to check in with them and ask how they’re doing.

  • Speak about your experience

You may feel nervous about this which is totally fine but if you are happy to, speak openly about your experiences with mental health.  It’s surprising how much it encourages others to do the same.

  • Stamp out stigma

If you hear someone spreading myths or unkind words about mental health, gently remind them of the impact their words can have. Stigma is as serious as any mental health condition, often makes existing conditions worse and can cost lives. Often people don’t realise that they’re doing.

  • Learn about mental health

Use simple but effective resources like the Mind website and the NHS website to learn about mental health. This helps you gain a deeper understanding and speak about it with more knowledge.

  • Leverage social media

Social media has the benefit of having a wide-reach, much wider than just how many comments and likes you see. Talking about your experiences or sharing useful resources and suggestions to improve mental health can have a big impact. Just ensure that what you’re sharing is factually and clinically accurate, use resources like Mind and the NHS and avoid tabloids, opinion and gossip presented as fact.

Anxiety is the theme for 2023

‘We’ve chosen anxiety as the Mental Health Awareness Week theme this year to kickstart a nationwide conversation, encouraging people to share their own experiences and any helpful ideas on how they can manage anxiety.’ Alexa Knight – Director of England at the Mental Health Foundation

Anxious or anxiety?

Many of us describe feeling nervous or apprehensive as anxiety which can cause confusion about what anxiety is.

Feeling nervous about a job interview is completely normal, the symptoms are minor and short-lived. We’ve also experienced that intense moment of panic or terror when our chair rocks back or we slip.

Anxiety is similar but rather than a split-second, lasts for hours or days and is repeated many times over the course of months or years. The symptoms are severe and even if caused by one event, it doesn’t pass after the event does.

Helping someone with anxiety
  • Don’t dismiss or judge

Even if what is causing the anxiety seems unusual or unlikely to you, try to understand that for the person it’s very real and very upsetting. Dismissing it won’t help.

  • Rational or logic aren’t helpful

It can be tempting to try and help by rationalising, but that can be frustrating, the person isn’t choosing to feel this way. Try to be calm, accept and listen.

  • Learn about their anxiety

You could ask about their experiences, how the anxiety affects their life, what helps, what doesn’t and learn about anxiety generally to help you understand.

  • Ask how you can help

It might be helpful to remind them to breathe, to give them some space, to take them somewhere quiet or simply sit and listen.

  • Support them to get help

Ask if they are getting help for their anxiety and if not, would they like you to assist. It may help to attend a doctors appointment, find a therapist or charity that can support them or make adjudgments in work so they can attend appointments.

  • Look after you

Supporting someone with anxiety can be tough, its normal to feel overwhelmed or in too deep at times. Remember to set your own boundaries, speak to others, practice self-care and get support if you need it. Remember, even therapists regularly speak to other therapists.

Further resources

Mental Health Awareness Week 2023 | Mental Health Foundation

Get help | Mental Health Foundation

Anxiety and panic attacks – Mind

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