By Karin Blak
10th October 2020 is World Mental Health Day and this year more than any other, mental health tops the conversations we have and the situations we experience. Anxiety and depression are experienced by more people than ever before while loneliness is being recognised as one of the biggest contributors to the struggles of many. Existing mental health issues are made worse by the threat to life and the pressure on services is beyond what they can cope with. COVID-19 has opened up gaping issues in society that we have tended to ignore. It’s time to change.
Having a day when we give particular thought to mental health is great and certainly an improvement on the lack of inclusion and acceptance of psychological struggles normally present at work and in our communities. However, it isn’t just on this day each year that mental health needs attention. Every minute of each day someone is struggling with their emotions and psychological turmoil. Every minute of each day someone feels isolated and alone in their mental health experience.
There is plenty we can all do, not just this one day each year but every day of every year. It doesn’t have to take a lot and it doesn’t have to cost anything. Here is a list of easy actions that we can include in our everyday life:
- Talk: Be willing to talk about mental health issues, the more we talk the more it will become accepted as a normal part of life. If we have experienced therapy, share the experience and how its improved life. We don’t have to talk about the finer details, those are ours to keep. Talking in general about how we cope with our own mental health issues can help others to know there is a way through, that life can be different and that none of us are alone in our struggles. It can give hope, the most important ingredient we all need when we struggle psychologically. Talk at work, in our communities, with family and friends, make it a normal part of our everyday conversation.
- Listen: Be curious, pay attention to the many articles written, to the reports on the latest research, show an interest in the individual’s experience of mental health. When we experience a mental health issue whether this is anxiety, depression, autism, bi-polar or any of the many labelled psychological difficulties or if we are simply struggling with life in some way, having someone be interested in us can make the difference between feeling outside of society or feeling included and accepted.
- Learn: if there is something we don’t know, ask, explore, find out more. Discovering more about mental health will make us more accepting of other’s as well as our own struggles. We become more supportive and compassionate as we gradually find out how we can positively influence the struggles of a mental health issue.
It doesn’t have to take a lot to influence the struggles of others, a small positive gesture can change the course of someone’s day perhaps even their journey through life. Today and every day from now on, don’t just walk away, take a little time to connect and accept that life can be confusing or chaotic for some, it can be lonely and isolating and one day it could be you.
Time to Change is a campaign to change the way people think and act about mental health problems. Find out more on their website.
Karin Blak is a qualified couples counsellor, family therapist, and psychosexual and relationship therapist. In 2019 she received the East Midlands SME Most Dedicated Relationship Therapist award. Karin has worked at GP surgeries, inpatient units, Sure Start Centres, Relate, Connexions, and in private practice, and sat on the ethics board at the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapy (COSRT). She has spoken on BBC Radio and blogs on Medium about relationships and self-development topics.
Karin’s book The Essential Companion to Talking Therapy will be published by Watkins on the 9th of February 2021 – pre-order your copy here.