The theme of this year’s UK Mental Health Awareness Week (May 8-15) is Thriving or Surviving. Given there has been so much media coverage around mental health over the last few weeks, including members of the Royal Family and Prime Minister Theresa May, it’s pleasing to see the shift in focus from talking about mental ill health to promoting good mental health.
In a recent survey commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation just 13% reported having high levels of good mental health, while over two thirds said they had experienced a mental health problem.
We all have mental health and just like with our physical health there are times when we might not be in the best shape. There are lots of things we can all do to help promote our mental health, and as small as they may seem, in time can really start to change how we think and feel about life and our ability to cope with daily stressors.
- Healthy eating – eating more fresh fruit/veg and drinking more water are just as good for your mental health as your physical health
- Exercise – even just a short walk a day can boost your morale as well as burning calories
- Limit caffeine/alcohol intake – these stimulants may feel like they work at the time but when the effects wear off the feelings worsen
- Sleep – sleep is just as important to our health as healthy eating and exercise. It allows our bodies to repair themselves and our brains to consolidate our memories and process information. Poor sleep is linked to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
- Talk – talking about your feelings isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s part of taking charge of your wellbeing and doing what you can to stay healthy
- Keep learning – evidence shows that continuing to learn throughout life improves mental wellbeing. It doesn’t have to be getting more qualifications, it could just be learning new skills through taking up a hobby or learning to do DIY
- Give to others – volunteering has many proven mental health benefits including helping to reduce stress, finding new friends, learning new skills as well as creating the fuzzy feel good feelings of helping others
Here in Carillion we updated our Health Like Safety strategy this time last year to promote positive mental health and we have many tools in place to support our employees in achieving the changes listed above. In addition, we are currently training around 200 mental health first aiders to support our people.
So what are you going to do during Mental Health Awareness Week to promote your own mental health and wellbeing as well as that of those you work with?
For me it’s going to be continuing to push mental health and wellbeing within Carillion.
We’ve made great progress over the past few years but we can do more. We all have mental health and stats tell us that many of us are likely to suffer a period of mental ill health at some point in our lives.
The more it’s talked about, the more normal it becomes meaning those who do need help can get it quickly without fear of stigma or discrimination.