According to the Mental Health Foundation:
• 1 in 6 adults experiences a common mental health problem
• Common mental health problems include stress, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and bipolar
• 1 in 5 adults have considered taking their own life at some point
• Mental health problems are one of the main causes of the overall disease burden worldwide
• Mental health and behavioural problems (e.g. depression, anxiety and drug use) are reported to be the primary drivers of disability worldwide

If you need urgent help
If you are worried about your mental health, then you are not alone, and help is available. Visit the government website for more information and helpline numbers.

Every May, the Mental Health Foundation organises a Mental Health Awareness Week, which this year runs from 18–24th. Their aim is to “find and address the sources of mental health problems, allowing people and communities to thrive”. The theme for this year is ‘sleep’, however, with the world currently gripped by a pandemic, and much of the world being held in lockdown, concerns are high about the impact of the crisis of people’s mental health, so they are suggesting practical and proven ways to help you maintain you and your family’s mental health in the current, unprecedented situation.

The Mental Health Foundation website has a lot of downloadable and helpful information and we have summarised a few ideas below, but they have full guides on many aspects of mental health including:

  • Mental health at work
  • Mental health in later life
  • Mindfulness
  • Exercise
  • Sleep
  • Anxiety and stress

How to help yourself

1. Help others“

Doing good does you good” is a free publication, which can be downloaded here, showing the positive impact that helping others has on the helper, and includes tips and suggestions around 3 main topics:

  • Volunteering and mentoring
  • Doing something for a good cause
  • Random acts of kindness

Even in the current situation, there are opportunities to do something for others whilst maintaining social distancing rules. Remember, you could simply say something kind to someone else – that costs nothing but can make the world of difference. 

Other suggestions in

  • Join the NHS volunteers
  • Shop for an elderly/vulnerable neighbour
  • Send flowers or other delivered gifts to isolated friends and colleagues
  • Help your children or partner with something
  • Help a neighbour by cutting their grass or weeding their garden
  • Call or email a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while
  • Make a cup of tea for someone you live with
  • Tell people that you appreciate them
  • Share some inspirational poetry, quotes or stories online
  • Donate to your local food bank

2. Manage your news input/output
The current news would make even the most optimistic and positive people question themselves as it’s full of lockdown stories, Covid-19 statistics and how everyone is being adversely affected. But there are also many good news stories out there if you look for them, and reading and sharing these can do wonders for your mental health.

Why not:

  • Switch off the TV and get your news in ‘headline-form’ only Switch off the TV and get your news in ‘headline-form’ only
  • Search for good news – see www.goodnewsnetwork.org to give you a new perspective on the day’s news
  • Be mindful of what you say and talk about – keep things positive and upbeat
  • Be aware of where your information (or misinformation) is coming from and try to avoid some of the fake news that is currently around 

3. Talk positively to children and keep up their routines as much as possible
This is an unprecedented situation for adults, but it is also a very scary and unsettling one for children and young people. Their usual social interactions have been disrupted and their daily routines turned upside down. This can cause anxiety and distress which you can help them manage by talking positively about the situation, and addressing them in age-appropriate ways.

Also try to keep a routine going in the household, to give everyone a sense of purpose. Perhaps split the day into sections – maybe morning, afternoon and evening, or into 2-hour slots – then try to give yourself something to do in each section. You should schedule in some ‘relaxing time’ of course, but keeping to some kind of routine, keeps people focused and gives everyone something to look forward to.

4. Stay connected with family, friends and colleagues
One of the biggest challenges facing everyone, but young people in particular, at this time, is the isolation from friends and family. Video conferencing with apps such as Skype, Zoom and Microsoft Teams have really taken off. Most of these apps are available across a range of devices, so you should be able to include everyone in a daily or weekly catch-up, but also think about phone calls and the good old letter or postcard too.

5. Exercise together
Exercise is known to help improve people’s mental health since it releases endorphins and hormones in the brain which can help improve mood. With gyms and parks closed, many people are looking to online exercises classes or the TV to get their daily exercise. Think also about:

  • Researching and walking around your local area but maintain the 2m rule
  • Cycle for exercise
  • Online yoga/exercise classes
  • Set up a home assault course for kids, keeping it safe and fun
  • Play some sport-based video games 

6. Mindfulness
Try an online mindfulness course such as “Be Mindful Online” offered by the Mental Health Foundation, with a reported average of 58% reduction in anxiety levels by participants2.

7. Laugh
Laughter is anecdotally known as the ‘best medicine’ but it’s also a proven form of therapy to help people suffering from stress and depression3 by altering dopamine and serotonin activity in the brain.

 You could

  • Tell jokes to each other or make up your own
  • Play a family board game that makes you laugh
  • Set up your own karaoke session – (YouTube has karaoke versions of songs)
  • Play ‘consequences’ 

Remember, mental health problems can affect anyone. And whilst it’s inconvenient to have lost our normal ‘freedoms’, if you lose your good mental health, it’s far worse.
For more information:
https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week

 

References:

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics

2. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/news/new-web-app-online-mindfulness-course-launched

3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27439375/

 

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