It is Mental Health Awareness Week.
One thing that strikes me about our Vendors, who sell the Big Issue magazine day in and day out, is that they do something unconsciously brave; to sell the magazine, they have to make themselves visible.
For most of us, our problems are not visible. No one knows what goes on inside our heads or hearts, unless we speak about it or communicate it in some way. Certainly, just traveling to work each day, you will be in the same bus or train compartment, walking along the same street, as people who will be experiencing problems with drugs, alcohol, relationship breakdown, domestic abuse and you would never know it.
Mental Health is one of those invisible problems. You would not see it. Hear it. Know it. If you have a broken leg, your colleagues can see it. If agoraphobia has grown on you and reduced your mobility, it is not so obvious that your movement is impaired. If you are down with a cold, everyone can see you are snuffling, and you get tea and sympathy. If you are dropping down a cycle of depression, people might not know that, or what to do. This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and it does what it says on the tin. Let’s all get aware about our mental health. There are some great resources out there.The Mental Health Awareness Week website has some suggestions.
Employers like The Big Issue have a range of resources available for staff, from external helplines run by our health provider to internal online training for staff and managers. We support charities and social enterprises providing mental health support, such as the Mental Health and Employment Partnership, through our Outcomes Fund. There are social enterprises such as Big White Wall and for profit providers such as Sanctus, each taking their own approach to supporting people on better mental health.
One of resources I most like is set of doodles created by a former colleague of mine, Paul Brook, in the creative team at Joseph Rowntree Foundation. He has put together pieces of cartoon art, doodles, expressing depression in picture form. They are really hopeful doodles and he also blogs about it.
I know what I do for my mental health. Some of it is keeping active. I cycle when I can, not just to keep physically fit, but because it destresses me every day on the way home and to work. I do T’ai Chi, not just because of the calming nature of it, but for the social connection, to my classmates, teachers and students alike. These things positively build my mental health. Now, if you’ve got a broken leg, exercise will not solve the break. You need treatment from a health professional. But working on your physical fitness might prevent a fall and help you with the recovery and in the same way that working on my mental health helps me deal with the stresses and strains of work and life.
So think about mental health this week. Have a chat to your friends and colleagues about it. See what you can do to support your own mental health and that of the people around you.