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Making mental health a priority

10 October is World Mental Health Day. This year’s theme is ‘Make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority’.

It’s something we have been thinking about at Farrer Kane. Like many organisations, the lockdowns necessitated by the pandemic caused us to reflect on how we relate to each other as a team, the ways we connect and how we can support each other. We know that Covid 19 took a toll on mental health: the WHO cites figures indicating that anxiety and depressive disorders rose more than 25% during the first year of the pandemic. Then, as now, many people found it difficult to access the right support.

We have made a decision to be part of the drive to reduce the stigma around mental health issues and to be more proactive about how we support and prioritise mental wellbeing in our workplace.

As a starting point we’ve recently sent one of our team along to a two day MHFA England training course, delivered by Christo Hudson of The Black Box Approach.

With its courses, MHFA England aims to reduce stigma around mental ill health, providing trainees with the skills and knowledge to recognise the signs of mental ill health and help people find the support that they need, as Mental Health First Aiders.

The MHFA tells us that one in four of us will experience a mental health issue in any year. Figures published by Mind indicate that 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (like anxiety or depression) in any given week in England. These statistics paint a clear picture. They show that we all can expect to experience a mental health issue at some point, if not personally then in our close circles of family, friends and colleagues.

One of the MHFA’s starting points is that ‘a mentally health community is a healthy and productive community’ and indeed, the WHO has underlined that health is “physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease”. The WHO underlines that “Mental health is defined a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential”.

Thinking about mental fitness and wellbeing, the MHFA suggests we consider it not as a static state, but something that moves across a continuum every week, every year throughout our lives. It can be plotted both as shifts between feeling at our maximum and minimum mental fitness, and between having no diagnosis and a diagnosed mental illness.

We are fully embracing these notions: that for all of us, mental fitness will help improve our capacity for resilience and happiness, and the ways we’re able to contribute to the communities we’re a part of; that mental wellbeing is fluid, and that there is no shame or stigma attached to seeking support.

We believe that it’s important that we are well informed and open to learning more about these issues, to better look after ourselves, and those around us. We want to create an environment where people able to talk about their mental health openly – as we learned in our MHFA training, when people delay seeking help, it can make recovery more difficult, and people are often more likely to seek the help they need if someone close to them suggests it.

Alongside putting our training into practice, we’re going to be making a point of sharing useful resources and information with our team, publicising the support available to our team through our health and wellbeing package, and work towards creating a mental wellbeing policy that pulls together all that we’re doing in this area and sets out what we aim to achieve in future.

For this World Mental Health Day we’ll wrap up by pointing you towards the 5 steps to mental wellbeing. Have a think about how you might be able to incorporate these steps into your day to day: the NHS states that evidence shows they can help you feel more positive.

They are:

Connect with other people, because good relationships are important for mental wellbeing

Be physically active, because being active can raise your self esteem and cause chemical changes in your brain which change your mood

Learn new skills, because your mental wellbeing will benefit, with improved sense of purpose and self-confidence

Give to others, because when you are kind your own mental wellbeing is improved with a positive feelings and a sense of reward

Pay attention to the present moment, because ‘mindfulness’ can help you enjoy life more and understand yourself better

Read the full detail on the NHS website.

Image credit Mental Health Foundation

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