Reflecting on World Mental Health Day

Carolyn Barber of Portsmouth’s Good Mental Health Cooperative, and local researcher and social entrepreneur, reflects on World Mental Health Day.

The theme this year was ‘Mental Health For All’, and it couldn’t be more relevant at a time when Coronavirus has highlighted how much our mental health means to all of us.

I’ve done countless group workshops where I ask what words people associate with mental health. Invariably the answers are words like depression, madness, stress, mental illness, psychiatric hospitals. And then when I ask about the term ‘good mental health’, words like ‘happiness’, ‘wellbeing’, ‘fulfilment’, ‘achieving things’, ‘active’, ‘motivated’ come up.

So it’s become apparent that the words ‘mental health’ which should apply in a general sense just like physical health, have somehow become linked with all the stigma, fear and ignorance which characterises our lack of understanding of mental ill-health. If we think about our physical health, we know that there are healthy and unhealthy habits, and no-one would imagine that if you reach a peak of physical fitness in your early 20s for example that you wouldn’t need to continue to take care of your physical health indefinitely to sustain that happy state.

I believe we all have mental health, just like we all have physical health, and that there’s a spectrum of good to poor mental health, and there’s mental ill-health which can be disabling and extremely distressing. Most people will go up and down that spectrum during the course of their life experience, and many will go through a period that they may call a really low point, a breakdown, losing it, whatever.

Yet unlike with physical health, we often don’t have the understanding or language to talk about what helps maintain good mental health, or what aids recovery from being overwhelmed with stress, anxiety and depression.

The psychological impacts from Coronavirus are a kind of mental equivalent to the physical challenge of running a marathon. So what can we do to build our resilience individually and collectively in our communities? How do we prepare and train for this mental marathon ahead?

Click here to find out more about Resources for Resilience – online links to help you take care of your mental health, and local services if you’re based in our home city of Portsmouth.

Find out more about this online Festival through September and October – Connections in Creativity – organised by Sarah Haskett of Creative Mental Health to showcase creative talent and raise funds for the Good Mental Health Cooperative.

In the Resources section of the Good Mental Health Coop website, there are a wide range of resources you can use to build your mental and emotional resilience during these testing times. The Resources are divided under 4 themes – Meet, Relax, Learn, Create – please take some time to browse and check them out.

You can also find information about local support and services available if you’re feeling emotionally or psychologically distressed.

This article was originally published as a newsletter. Check out the Good Mental Health Coop website, where you can sign up to receive Carolyn’s weekly mental health updates by email, and find out more about the amazing work the Coop do. You can also follow the Coop on Twitter and Facebook, and you can read all of Carolyn’s articles for S&C here.

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay.

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