Mental Health Importance

‘A clear distinction is often made between ‘mind’ and ‘body’. But when considering mental health and physical health, the two should not be thought of as separate.’ – Mental Health Foundation


Mental Health isn’t linear. With it being mental health awareness month I thought that there is no better way to start my mental health blog than to focus on the overall importance of mental health and why raising awareness is important to me.

Mental health influences your physical health and physical health influences your mental health. There is so much available help for physical illness. If you break a bone you go to the hospital, if you have an on going ear ache you go to the doctors or if you have tooth ache you can go to the dentist. While it is extremely important to take care of your physical health, it is just as important to take care of your mental well-being. I think it is important to stop seeing these as separate and start embracing them as having a joint impact on us. For me, this point hit me hard. I’ve suffered from chronic back pain for years and always believed it was the result of physical damage. However, when going to physio I was told that I have very tense muscles as the result of high stress levels which meant that I had to reach out for help at student well-being. Once there, I was informed that they believed that my high stress levels were the result of high anxiety levels. Looking back this made a lot of sense and made me realise how powerful minds are and it’s influence over our bodies.

I realise that there is help already available out there for mental health. You can go to the doctor to get diagnosed, there are mental health charities out there such as MIND and there are mental well-being advisers in education. However, unlike getting help for physical health there is still a negative stigma surrounding mental well-being, impacting decisions as to whether to reach out for help. Therefore, this blog is to help in any way possible to help tackle the stigma through the awareness of mental well-being. I aim to do this through sharing my own experiences and journey, sharing other peoples journeys (please send me yours if you wish to share it), talk about techniques that have helped me as well as discuss influences of the stigma.

What do you think are the best ways that we can reduce stigma and raise mental health awareness?

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Every Day: David Levithan

‘No matter what religion or gender or race or geographic background, we all have about 98 percent in common with each other‘ – P.g. 90

Genre: Fantasy/Romance novel/ Young Adult fiction.

Imagine waking up in a new body every single morning. You never know who you will be next and what problems you will be facing in their lives for a single day. Rhiannon, a sixteen-year old girl, and A feel a connection between them but have to face the challenge of finding each other everyday as A inhabits a different life. This challenge becomes a struggle, leading to them both having to make a tough decision. But this isn’t the only challenge that A faces. One boy that A took over for a day insists on spreading the word of a ‘demon’ possessing people for 24-hours, leaving A vulnerable to exposure.

This book was captivating. The constant contrasts in the lives that A lives for a day makes it difficult to put the book down.

Leviathan tackles many big issues and taboo topics in this incredible book, including drug addiction and depression. For me, this was a really good aspect because it helps to raise awareness of mental health as well as on going problems that people face. This is definitely needed to be included in more books that are published! Levithan also tackles the idea of identity throughout the book using A’s inability to fully create their own identity as the result of not having a permanent body or history to attach to.

I highly recommend this to everyone. It’s an easy read that captivates your attention with the consistent changes.

Rating: 1 2 3 4 5

Have you read this book before?

What has been your favourite summer read?

How can we increase our mental health awareness?

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood” – MentalHealth.Gov

  1. Educate ourselves and each other:
    In order to start increasing mental health awareness you must first have some knowledge about it. You can find out so much information online but make sure you use trustworthy sources, such as the NHS website. Learning about factors that can lead to a mental health disorder as well as factors that can help cope with the disorder is a good starting point.
  2. Focus on the individual:
    This is so important. It is too often that people focus on the disorders rather than the individual suffering from it. Raising awareness should be mindful of the individuals who are suffering. IF you are helping someone who is suffering from a mental disorder it is important to really listen to them. Not everyone experiences mental health disorders in the same way so it is vital to listen to how they are personally experiencing it. It is also important to remember that their mental health disorder does not define who they are. People have so many characteristics that make them who they are, so remember to focus on the person.
  3. Spread awareness:
    This one is straight forward. To help others better their understanding of mental health it is important to spread your knowledge and current awareness. Even if it is briefly mentioned in a conversation it still matters because the more people that talk about mental health leads to a wider awareness of it.
  4. Make an effort to tackle taboo topics:
    Some topics are hard to talk about and some disorders are ignored. It is important to include the difficult topics surrounding mental health because it is harder to help if only half the picture is understood. While talking about topics that are taboo can be difficult now, hopefully in the long run it will become easier because more people are open to talking.
  5. Refrain from using stereotypes and using mental health terms in the wrong situation:
    One way to help mental health awareness is to use the mental health terms in the correct context. I often hear people say that they are feeling ‘depressed’ in situations that you would might say that you are sad or tired. Depression is a mental health term used when you have been experiencing the symptoms for a long period of time. When people use mental health terms in the wrong situation it can take away the seriousness of the condition, leading to the false belief that being depressed is as common as just feeling sad.
  6. Share your story:
    Sharing your own personal experience is helpful to those who are also suffering because it tells them that they are not alone. In particular, sharing stories in relation to reaching out for help is useful as it can encourage other to seek help as well. However, mental health isn’t linear so stories that reflect the relapses that can occur are just as important because recovery can be a struggle.
  7. Talk to the people around you to see how they are feeling:
    Just talking to the people around you will help. The more you open up to the people surrounding you, the more comfortable others will feel in doing the same. We all experience so many feelings so why not talk to people about them, making it the norm to express and explore how you are feeling with people around you.
  8. Write a blog to raise awareness:
    So this might not be for everybody but blogs are a great way to share your thoughts and feelings and raise awareness for mental health. This blog was created with the purpose to spread mental health awareness, however, you don’t have to create a blog solely dedicated to mental health. Just one post could help raise awareness so why not help?
  9. Using hashtags on social media:
    This one is in relation to the previous point. There are so many social media platforms which reach a wide audience. As such, using hashtags will allow you to reach the wider audience – the more people that see the awareness the better!
  10. Share helplines and places where people can find out more information:
    So this is always helpful because you never know who might need to speak to someone. Maybe someone reading this wants to speak to someone – if so, there is a link to a NHS website that lists mental health helplines that specialise in different areas.

Here are some links for you to find out more information:
NHS mental health helplines page: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/
Mental health and work: https://www.who.int/mental_health/media/en/712.pdf
NHS 5 steps to mental wellbeing: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/improve-mental-wellbeing/
Mental Health Foundation Campaigns: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/our-work/campaigns

Mind mental health awareness course: https://www.mind.org.uk/workplace/training-consultancy/upcoming-courses/mental-health-awareness/

One Of Us Is Lying: Karen McManus

“Five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide”. 

The story follows an investigation of a student death (Simon) in detention with Mr Avery and four other students. After Simon takes the sip of death, Addy, Cooper, Nate and Bronwyn become the main suspects. As the investigation unfolds we learn that no one is truly innocent. Each of them has a façade, keeping their secrets at bay.

First, I would like to say that overall this was a great read. McManus keeps the reader captivated through the constant plot twists. The need to find out each character’s secret drew me in, constantly changing my perspective of each suspect.

I’m unsure how I feel about the stereotypes used by McManus. Addy is the popular girl, Cooper is a jock, Nate is a drug criminal, Bronwyn is a brainbox and Simon was the source of gossip. For the most part, it seemed as though these stereotypes led the development of each character, rather than events. With this in mind, I think the characters could’ve been developed with more depth, using their secrets and emotions to build our overall understanding of them.

Despite this, One Of Us Is Lying is an enjoyable easy read. Would definitely recommend to the teenage audience and young adults who like a book with a twist.

Have you read this book?
Do you have any book recommendations?

Rating: 1 2 3 4 5

The Tattooist of Auschwitz: Heather Morris

This emotionally heavy historical book focuses on the true story of Lale Sokolov, he attooist of Auschwitz, and his love for Gita.
Beginning in April 1942, the story focuses on the atrocities that occurred under the Nazi regime to those taken to concentration camps, particularly Auschwitz. 
Lale, a respectable 24-year old Jewish Slovakian, is taken to Auschwitz in a crowded unhygienic wagon filled to the limit by other men. Using his natural charms, caring nature and life-saving strategies, he reluctantly becomes the tattooist of Auschwitz. While tattooing the new members of the concentration camp he lays eyes on a fragile woman who he later finds out is called Gita.  The story follows the risks he took to survive, help feed fellow camp members, while also collecting treats for his new love, Gita. Narrowly missing death numerous times, this book elicits the deepest emotions of fear, sorrow and despair, while also enticing you to fall in love with Lale and Gita’s prospering love in a situation that seems endlessly dark.   
Heather Morris vividly brings Lale Sokolov’s story to life, providing a voice to a survivor of one of the most inhumane events in history, reflecting the horrors that many faced while slaved to the concentration camps. 
I highly recommend this book to everyone, as a reminder of the worst of humanity, in the hopes that we will not allow the occurrence of a similar atrocity.
Rating: 5/5

Keeping busy

‘Sometimes the worst place you can be is in your own head‘ – HealthyPlace

While some thrive in the solitary of their own mind’s others struggle with their demons.

Being left alone with your thoughts can be scary at times. Some people struggle with unrealistic negative thoughts about themselves leading to emotional struggles. Sometimes facing these thoughts head on can help. One way to challenge your negative thoughts is to use a courtroom scenario. You could step back and take an outside perspective, weighing up real evidence for and against the negative thought.

However, sometimes the negative thought can become a blockade. If you have a negative mindset it can change your perception of the world, leaving you to dwell on thoughts that damages your overall well-being. It is so much easier to focus on our negative attributes, exploring our deepest insecurities, rather than spending our alone time focusing on our greatest qualities.

As such, when you can’t escape your negative thoughts it is useful to distract yourself. Perhaps you could go for a walk, clean or reorganise something. If it’s a frequent occurrence, why not take up a volunteer role somewhere? This will both distract you and provide a rewarding experience while also providing an opportunity to build new relationships. While it is important to face these negative thoughts head on and challenge them, it isn’t possible to always feel up to doing so. It’s okay to use the short-term solution of distracting yourself when you feel the lowest.

What do you do to distract yourself?
Do you like spending time alone with your thoughts?

Mental Well-being: A few techniques

Time to talk well-being.

My brother sent me the following message and it really spoke to me:

Make sure you treat yourself right, eat well, sleep well and relax (going for walks around the field are very good – being around nature!) Don’t be ‘on’ all the time and remember to switch off. Also, looking at electronic screens too much can make you feel s***, so if you feel it, take a break, go in the back garden with a cup of tea and a blanket – don’t have any work and just relax for 20 mins – 30 mins.’ – My brother (2019).

While there is not usually a quick fix for mental health, there are some ways to help your overall well-being daily.

I can not stress enough how important it is for us all to take a break and breathe in some fresh air. Sometimes you might feel too overwhelmed to take a break because so much is going through your mind, but, it is critical that you try.

‘Exposures to outdoor environments have great potential to be protective factors for the mental health of young people’ – Piccininni, Michaelson, Janssen & Pickett (2018)

Nature can have such an impact on your mental health. Aim to spend some time outside, maybe go for a walk, visit a park or spend time in the garden. It has been linked to reduced chronic stress and improved concentration. If you do not feel up to spending time outside, then why not get some house plants.

One thing that really helps me is reading. If I am having a really bad day I will turn to a book as my great escape. Reading allows you to dive into a different world through other characters, allowing you to take a breather from what ever is currently troubling you. This is not me saying that it will work for everyone, I am just suggesting that it is worth giving it a go if you haven’t yet found a healthy way to cope.

‘Along with preserving cognitive abilities, exercise can also be a powerful tool for preserving mental health’. – Wright & Zhao (2018)

Another way to help your overall wellbeing is exercise. I have recently started using this method as well. It has been shown that even just the minimum daily walk can help improve your wellbeing. So, why not try and get yourself to talk a little walk or, if walking isn’t for you, then why not try circuit training or order some weights.

Thank you for reading this short blog post!

Please comment any other techniques you use to help improve overall wellbeing.

References

Piccininni, C., Michaelson, V., Janssen, I., & Pickett, W. (2018). Outdoor play and nature connectedness as potential correlates of internalized mental health symptoms among Canadian adolescents. Preventive medicine112, 168-175. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2018.04.020 

Wright, V. J., & Zhao, E. (2018). Psychological and/or Mental Health Benefits of Maintaining Activity and Exercise. In Masterful Care of the Aging Athlete (pp. 25-29). Springer, Cham.  https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16223-2_4 

Body Image: It’s time to love yourself.

‘Body image’ is a term that can be used to describe how we think and feel about our bodies. Our thoughts and feelings about our bodies can impact us throughout our lives, affecting, more generally, the way we feel about ourselves and our mental health and well-being’.
– The Mental Health Foundation

So, let’s talk body image.

Everyone I have ever come across has experienced trouble with their appearance. Whether it’s that they think their nose is too big, ears stick out too much or, the most common that I’ve come across, the belief that you are fat.

I’ve been there. I’ve hated my appearance too.

But, as I previously tweeted:
 ‘It’s okay to look different. None of us look the same. We need to stop comparing ourselves to each other, making false expectations about the way that we are meant to look. The differences in how we look is what makes us independently beautiful’.

Yes, there are things you can do to change aspects of your appearance, such as getting your ears pinned back or losing weight, but you will never be happy unless you accept yourself and your uniqueness. You won’t ever look identical to someone else and you know what? That’s okay. In fact, that is more than okay because it means that you are the truest you.

Confidence will not come straight away to many, but if it does then that’s brilliant. Most of us will need time to gradually build it up and that’s okay. Give yourself the time you need without putting pressure on yourself.

To some, building this confidence up seems impossible but I believe that you can do it. Start with the smallest first step you can think of and slowly build up. Maybe your first step is your ability to accept compliments, embracing them rather than dismissing them. Maybe try to think of one aspect that you like about yourself and focus on that. Build it up gradually until you realise what an amazing being you are.

Our bodies are different and that’s okay. It’s time for you to love yourself.

Here are some links where you can find support:
Mind: https://www.mind.org.uk/
Young Minds: https://youngminds.org.uk/
Anorexia and Bulimia care: http://www.anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk/
Beat: https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/