The LOWE Down: Mental Health & Well Being
Mental health and wellbeing are the unseen current that flows through our society. What we see on the surface when we wave to our neighbour, chat with a co-worker, or read about a celebrity may be a deceptive calm surface over turbulent waters. Mental ill health can affect anyone and likely will at some point in time. Across one year in the UK, one in four people will experience some form of mental health issue. This statistic was recorded in 2016, and with COVID-19 we have seen these numbers rise. Mind – a charity dedicated to providing advice, support and empowering people experiencing a mental health issue – completed a survey of 16,000 people in the UK to better understand the impact of lock down and coronavirus on people’s mental health.
Here are some confronting statistics that we think highlight the urgency of our situation:
- 60% of adults and over two thirds of young people have said their mental health has gotten worse during lockdown.
- Over half of adults with no prior experience with ill mental health reported their mental health got worse during this period.
- 9 in 10 people with disabilities, learning difference and long-term illnesses scored lower than the survey average for well-being.
- BAME people were more likely than white people to suffer from mental ill health triggered by challenges with employment, finances, getting physical health support and caring for someone else.
Mental health is constantly evolving and it is important for us to be open with ourselves and each other about how we are feeling. In order to provide a non-judgemental point of contact for our guardians, to educate our office and to ensure that we have the resources necessary to help anyone who is experiencing mental ill health, Millie, our Community Manager and our Guardian Manager Vicci, recently undertook the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course.
On a day-to-day basis, I work very closely with our guardians on a day and as such I talk to so many different people, some of whom are unfortunately going through difficult times. Undertaking this course has given me a structure to the way in which I can support those in need and make them aware of all of the amazing resources that there are to help them. Increasing my knowledge of the incredible work that organisations such as the Samaritans and MIND do, has made me feel much more confident in the direction that I can point our guardians in when they require further resources and information.
Like physical first aid, MHFA has a handy acronym that takes you through the appropriate steps when offering support to someone experiencing mental ill health.
A – Approach, assess and assist the person
L – Listen non-judgementally
G – Give support and information
E – Encourage the person to get professional help
E – Encourage other support
Understanding our frame of reference is really important in everyday interactions, not just when offering MHFA. We all have biases that are built up by our unique experience. Supporting someone non-judgementally means accepting this and setting it aside. Empathy is vital, and we can empathise with someone even if we haven’t experienced what they are going through first-hand. Just being there to listen to someone and giving them space can make all the difference.
A really handy technique for anyone experiencing anxiety or for someone supporting a person experiencing a panic attack, is the 5-4-3-2-1. You ask them (or you ask yourself!) to complete the following steps:
5 – take 5 breaths
4 – name/notice 4 things you can see
3 – name/think of 3 things you can touch
2 – say 2 words
1 – how are you feeling?
I love my work as Community Manager, however similarly to Vicci, I was looking to gain a stronger understanding as to the tools that I could use when assisting guardians who come to me for advice but also with regards to myself the professionals who I could put them in touch with for further assistance. Not only did the Mental Health First Aid course help me with this, but it also gave me some helpful ways of taking care of my own well-being. As our instructor said, “you can’t pour from an empty cup”.
I find visualising my experience helps me come to terms with what I am going through. The stress container is a really simple way of understanding the balance that we all need. We all have different sized containers, but when that container is full it is vital we turn that tap. I find writing in my diary helps ground me and relieve the tightness in my chest. It may sound twee, but it really works for me.
Direct and open conversation is the only way to properly address a situation. When we say something out loud, we can confront the issue and begin to receive the support we may need. Mental health is spoken about a lot, but this doesn’t make the actual conversation on a personal level any easier. Sometimes we may feel that mental health support is good for other people, but we don’t want to waste resources on our problem. The truth is there is no problem too small. Sometimes a person need support, and sometimes they offer it. Everyone deserves hope and help.
If you or someone you know is experiencing mental ill health, we highly recommend the following resources as recommended to us by Mental Health First Aid England.
Tel. 116 123 (24/7)
The Samaritans provide a platform for people to talk about feelings of distress and disrepair, whilst providing confidential, offering non-judgemental support. They are an amazing resource with so many ways of supporting people. If you are uncomfortable over the phone they have effective online platforms and other ways of helping.
Tel. 0300 123 3393
Mind provides and advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. “We won’t give up until everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets support and respect.” Mind has a huge range of local, independent Mind organisations that offer a range of services from therapy to self help groups. Mind also provide great resources for anyone providing support for a person experiencing mental ill health, and offer legal advice.
Tel. 0207 251 5860
Addaction provides free, confidential support to people experiencing issues with drugs, alcohol or mental health. Your borough will have an Addaction arm who can support you. They also have great resources for people who are supporting or looking to support someone else.