Saturday 10th October was World Mental Health Day 2015, a day for raising awareness about Mental Health founded by the World Federation for Mental Health. Donna and I caught a busy train, bright and early in the morning and whizzed off to Hammersmith in London. We attended The Big Mental Health Day conference hosted by charities Premier, Mind and Soul and Liveability. There was prayer, worship, sales of resources, talks and seminars. Donna and I were invited to share about the work of Phase during Dr Kate Middleton’s seminar called Generation Distress.
I feel like I came away having picked up two key themes that I wanted to share and explore here.
• People who are diagnosed with mental health conditions are not getting the right support that could help them achieve a full recovery or fulfilling life despite their illness.
• Many people who are not clinically “mentally ill” are also not “mentally well” and an area that needs to be focused on is promoting mental well-being for everyone.
I feel these two points are pretty well linked and that they can both be improved using similar strategies. Whilst it is often a topic that appears in the news that improvements are needed in mental health services, perhaps a further barrier to those with diagnosable mental illnesses is the attitudes of society and the stigmas surrounding mental health and the way it is a taboo subject. If we move in the direction of working with everyone to explore emotions, coping strategies and what it means to look after your mental health and achieve mental wellness then people won’t feel so afraid to access support and open up about their experiences. A general focus on improving the mental well-being of the whole population, especially from a young age, may also play a part in preventing illnesses developing.
The new “mental well-being” strand of Phase’s work is all about doing just this. Promotion and prevention, as well as intervention when needed.
Some issues raised at the conference made me think about how common motivational quotes and messages talk about people becoming the best version of themselves that they possibly can. The way this is often presented, even to young people, is as if it’s all a choice. We pick whether to make good decisions to better ourselves or bad decisions simply for instant gratification or due to peer pressure and lack of impulse control.
In society today, I don’t think it’s fair to put so much pressure on children and teenagers to be bettering themselves out of choice when many of them have never had the input that will enable them to do this. They need help and support around understanding their emotions, coping in ways that don’t have a long term negative impact and realising and striving for their dreams. These are all areas focused on in the majority of mental health interventions.
Clearly they are important for living a fulfilling life where you are in control of being the best version of yourself so we much encourage all to explore these areas in order to improve mental well-being. When many illnesses stem from these issues around emotions, by everyone understanding themselves better in these areas the gap between the “well” and the “un-well” may not seem so big. Enabling a more open nature around the subject, less shame and more support. This is a key aim of Phase's work.
If you would like to know more about the work Phase is doing in this area, how you can support or if you have any questions, please contact Donna Wade