MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS
Running from Monday 18 – Sunday 24 May this year, with kindness as its theme, this is a vital awareness-raising initiative, at a time when we’ve never needed it more.
Our mental health affects everything we do, at all ages and stages of our lives. It’s the leading cause of sickness at work in the UK. 10% of children and young people in the UK have a mental health problem. Yet there’s still a fair amount of stigma attached to mental health issues. We can’t see mental health and when there’s a “break” in it, we can’t see it in the same way we can see a broken leg, say. It’s all too easily ignored, minimised or mocked, none of which helps.
Mental health issues have overshadowed my life; both my parents died by suicide (which is why I always do talks on World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10), my mum due to depression and my dad the grief and guilt that followed. So I’ve a long-standing personal interest in paying attention to my own and others’ mental health.
I cried earlier this week when I heard that a young man in the town where I live (he was 16) had taken his own life. A year 12 student, he’d become distressed over Covid-19 and with school closed, its effects on his exam grades. There is no possible way of putting into words the devastation of his death for his family. And he was so young, that he hadn’t yet lived enough to know that with time, “this too shall pass”.
This is why it’s so important to hold on, and know better times sit on the other side. But in the middle of this, there was a glimmer of light: the kindness of the local community in rallying round his family and raising the funds needed for his funeral, at a time when money is tighter than ever for many.
Communities around the world are working together to help people – often complete strangers – find food and in many cases shelter. Neighbours are helping one another out in ways small and large, forging relationships that will hopefully last.
Those of us who are lucky enough to have work are hopefully experiencing – as we are here – the kindness of colleagues, whether a listening ear, practical help, or doing something fun (Friday Frittata*, anyone?).
The excellent Mental Health Awareness Week website has a free PDF booklet to download for employers to use when focusing on their people’s wellbeing – at a time when it’s never been more important to do so.
Kindness takes many forms, and as well as helping others, we help ourselves in the process.
At the beginning of lockdown, I asked my colleagues here at Kissing With Confidence how they look after themselves in terms of wellbeing and over the course of MHAW we’ll be putting out a selection of their tips and techniques on a daily basis. Stay tuned – and please practise kindness to yourself and others next week and beyond.
*live every Friday on Zoom – email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.