Today is World Mental Health Day and this year’s theme is ‘mental health for all’.
It’s poignant – in a year where many of us have had our wellbeing impacted by the pandemic – that we think about the importance of everyone being able to being able to get support from friends, family and professionals to improve their mental health
From feelings of isolation, to increased worries about the future – our mental wellbeing has also borne the brunt of this terrible crisis.
Research from the Samaritans has shown just how big an impact it has had. They reported that covid-19 came up in nearly every contact they’ve had.
As always, it’s important to know that these feelings are normal and it’s ok to not feel ok. I would also hope everyone is able to talk about mental health if they wish. Whether that’s with a friend or family member, or a colleague – you are not alone.
For some, they may not wish to talk – and that’s fine too. But improving our mental health doesn’t only come from talking about it – though that is an important part.
The five ways to wellbeing, developed with mental health charity Mind, points out that being active, even just going for a walk or exercising at home can have genuine benefits, as can ‘taking notice’ – like visiting a new location, taking photos of nature or even just nurturing a plant – simple tasks that can help us feel grounded. So can learning a new skill, reading a book or doing a simple crossword or sudoku.
Connecting to other people in some way or giving – these are all ways that can help improve how we feel, even when talking about our feelings might feel too much.
I hope too that people are aware of some of the support there is out there from both local and national charities. I’ve put some of those ways at the end of this piece.
Better is possible
The pandemic has also highlighted something that Greens have said for a while. The structure of our society as it was is not something we want to go back to – and that is within our grasp.
We have an economic system that values productivity, and work, above our wellbeing – often driving us to be overly self-critical or harsh about what we are ‘achieving’. It’s time for this to stop.
I have always valued access to nature and can often be found on my allotment. But lockdown gave me an even bigger chance to value the outside space we have.
Studies, like this one from Harvard University Medical School, has shown that time outdoors, or even experiencing nature through tending to plants on the windowsill at home, can help us all reduce stress, anxiety and depression.
Calming nature sounds and even outdoor silence can lower blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which calms the body’s fight-or-flight response.
Better is possible and it’s within our grasp.
Places you can get support
Community Roots – a Brighton-based hub that signposts to available local support, ranging from help with talking therapies, sleep, mindfulness, money and debt and domestic abuse.
Mind Brighton and Hove – Mind run a range of services in Brighton and Hove, East Sussex and West Sussex to support you and your mental health.
Samaritans – whatever you’re going through, a Samaritan will face it with you. Call 116 123, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Sussex Mental Healthline – freephone 0300 5000 101 – provides 24/7 support from registered clinicians. As well as crisis support it provides psychological support to anyone with general concerns about their mental health and if needed, they can refer you for local assessment and treatment.
Sue Shanks is a Green councillor and chairs Brighton and Hove City Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board.