World Mental Health Day 2023
October 20, 2023
Every year we celebrate World Mental Health Day in October, and this year’s theme is that ‘Mental health is a universal human right’. The day is all about raising awareness and driving positive change for everyone’s wellbeing, including those from groups most likely to face barriers to good mental health.
In this blog post we will explore a few top tips for both talking about your mental health, talking to someone about their mental health and how we can all look after our own mental health.
Talking about your mental health
Talking can be really helpful, but starting the conversation can be difficult. Have a think about someone you trust that you want to open up to; this may be a close friend, a family member or someone from a support helpline. Then, consider where you feel comfortable enough to have this conversation. Sometimes, it’s easier to chat whilst doing an activity together, so perhaps you may want to walk and talk (stopping on the way to get a milkshake with all of the toppings is optional…).
You may want to start the conversation a phrase like “I’ve been finding things difficult lately” or “I’m struggling to cope at the moment”. They may have been through something similar in their own life, or they may not have – but being open and honest about how you’re feeling and the impact this is having on your life can help them understand what you’re going through, even if it does feel uncomfortable at first. Remember, talking about your mental health is brave and courageous!
Talking to someone else about their mental health
If you are worried about someone, it’s important to have a conversation in a place without distractions so they feel comfortable and able to open up. The famous quote, “Listening is the greatest gift we can give to another human being” is in fact very true – too often we underestimate the power of a listening ear and a kind word, which can make all the difference to someone who is struggling.
We can show people that we are actively listening to them by facing them, not interrupting and by being curious. We can ask questions to help clarify what they mean and we can ask open questions, relevant to what they are saying. Remember, people are often not asking for solutions – they are just asking to be heard. However, it is OK to ask them how you can help as this allows them to consider if they would benefit from any practical support, or whether they’d like to keep things as normal with the opportunity to chat about what is going on in their life.
What works? Mental health tips…
When we consider looking after our mental health, it can be useful to consider the ‘5 ways to wellbeing’. These are five things that can really boost our mental wellbeing: connect, be active, take notice, give and keep learning. These are different things that can help contribute to positive experiences of life and help us to feel happier.
Connecting with others is a great way to boost your mood! It can enhance our sense of belonging and help us share positive experiences, and it can be easier than you think:
- Talk to someone instead of sending a text
- Ask how someone’s day was
- Put five minutes aside to find out how someone really is
- Get in touch with someone you haven’t spoken to in a while
Being active has been proven to release feel good chemicals in the brain. There are lots of ways to get active (and they don’t have to include the gym, if that’s your worst nightmare…) – here are a few ideas to get started:
- Go for a walk with a friend
- Get off the bus one stop earlier than usual and walk the final part of your journey
- Have a kick-about in a local park or garden
- Look online for free dance or yoga videos that can be done inside, if the Autumnal weather is putting you off venturing too far into the great outdoors!
Taking notice involves slowing down and paying attention to your thoughts, feelings and senses. We can do this by practicing mindfulness which encourages us to live in the moment, slow down and relax.
- Have a look around you and think about 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste
- Take some mindful deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose and count to 5, before breathing out slowly. Repeat this 3 times.
Notice how these techniques bring you back to the present moment, and limit your worries about the past and the future.
Giving to others can be equally rewarding for ourselves – if we do good, we often feel good! Consider whether you could do a random act of kindness for someone today:
- Write someone a kind note
- Give someone a compliment
- Donate old clothes to charity
- Volunteer your time with a local charity, animal shelter or community group
Keeping your mind active and embracing challenge can also help your mental health – it can also really boost our self-confidence and provide us with a sense of accomplishment.
Not sure where to start? Perhaps you could:
- Listen to a podcast
- Learn and try out a new recipe
- Research something you’ve always wondered about
- Download an app to learn a new language
These methods of self care and wellbeing can be really helpful, but they can’t fix everything – if you really are struggling try reaching out to a professional or GP. Samaritans are also available to phone 24/7 and, if you feel you are in danger due to your mental health, call 999.