Mental Health Awareness week is running from 10th-18th May. It is an initiative organised by Mental Health Foundation, encouraging people to talk about all aspects of mental health, with a focus on providing help and advice to those struggling. Other mental health charities, such as Mind, are also getting on board with the campaign.
The focus this year is nature. On their website, Mental Health Foundation define this as “any environment in which we can use our senses to experience the natural world”. This could be as simple as buying a new house plant and opening up the windows to get some fresh air, to taking longer walks in your local area. Not everyone has the privilege of living near to wide expanses of lush greenery or panoramic coastal views, but the focus of the week is on engaging with nature however you can, and in whichever way you feel comfortable.
There is lots of research proving that nature can have positive affects on mental health. For example, getting natural light can be incredibly important for people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Ecotherapy (treatment which involves doing outdoor activities) can help with depression. Exercising produces endorphins which can help if you’re feeling anxious or stressed. Nature has the power to heal, we just have to know how to let it.
“In an ideal World, every day we would all take a minute to check in on our own mental health and that of our loved ones”
You may have seen Instagram posts talking about mental health awareness week and thought, well, what’s the point? Surely, we should always be talking about mental health. Surely every week should be Mental Health Awareness Week. And yes, you would be right. In an ideal World, every day we would all take a minute to check in on our own mental health and that of our loved ones. But life is busy. Sometimes too busy, and we become lost in work emails, or essay writing; chores and tasks which seem the most important thing in the World (for approximately 5 minutes before something else takes its place). It is so easy to forget about our mental health, neglecting it like the sad house plant on the windowsill we promised to take better care of. That is why weeks such as Mental Health Awareness Week are SO important. They force us to confront it. To check in with ourselves and others, which is especially important given the past 12 months and all the trauma, anxiety, and loneliness the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to people’s lives.
These weeks are designed to bring mental health conversations to the forefront of society. But they should not then be abandoned. Therefore, you should view this week as the start of a healthier approach to discussing mental health. Talk regularly. Adopt warmth, kindness, and patience to how you talk about it (to your loved ones AND to yourself.) Mental health is for life, not just for a week.
Here are some ways you can get involved in Mental Health Awareness Week
- Social Media- follow and support accounts which are promoting the week. Whether it is liking a charity’s tweet, sharing a Facebook post of helpful resources, or reposting an Instagram story.
- Support charities and organisations- see if there are any fundraisers you can get involved with. Familiarise yourself with what resources they offer in case they may be helpful to you or others.
- Check in with friends- Send a message to friends and family, asking them how they’re doing. Sometimes the people who seem to have it together the most are the ones most in need of support.
Get involved with the campaign by using #ConnectWithNature and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek on social media. Let people know you are open to discussing mental health. It could make all the difference.
More information on Mental Health Awareness Week
Emily Hall (read more from Emily here)