Mental Health: A Quick Guide

14 May 2019

About Mental Health

Mental health describes everyone’s state of mental wellbeing. Essentially, it affects how we think, feel and behave – and having poor mental health or facing mental health difficulties can have an impact on the rest of our lives. On the other hand, have good mental health, and regularly taking steps to look after your mental wellbeing, can help you make the most of your potential and opportunities.

We all experience times when when we feel low or stressed; this is a natural part of life and for most people these feelings pass. For example, it is normal to feel anxious before a big exam or important event and this can actually help us feel more alert and perform better.

Sometimes however, our mental health can be negatively affected by large life events such as bereavement, illness or injury, pressure at school or work, other traumatic events or a lack of sleep to name only a few. In these situations, the anxiety and stress that you might have already been dealing with can develop into something a bit more serious such as depression, anxiety disorders, severe stress and other things.

Fast Facts About Mental Health

  • 1 in 4 people will experience mental health problems each year
  • It can happen to anyone, regardless of race, religion, gender, age, family circumstances or socio-economic background
  • Our mental health does not always remain the same. It can change as our circumstances change in our life.
  • It is possible to recover, and lead a full and productive life
  • It is possible to lead a full life with a mental health difficulty
  • It is NOT a sign of weakness

Opening Up About Mental Health

It can be really difficult for us to talk about our mental health. It is important to remember that if you don’t feel ready to talk about not being ok, then you don’t have to just yet. When you do feel ready, here are a few quick tips to remember before you do

  • Speak to someone you trust – whether it’s a friend, partner, parent, teacher, colleague, GP or counsellor.
  • Choose your timing – make sure you feel comfortable in the physical space you are in for the conversation, whether it’s a quiet cafe, a walk in the park or on your own sofa.
  • Remember it might be a lot for them to hear – this doesn’t mean they don’t understand or won’t be there for you in the long run, it just means they might need a moment to let it sink in and figure out how they can help you.
  • You don’t have to tell anyone if you don’t want to – there are plenty of other coping techniques that you can use before you are ready to address it with another person, which are listed under ‘Quick Things You Can Do To Help You Deal With It’.

Read more about this in our article ‘5 Tips on Opening Up To Someone About Your Past‘.

Talking to a Friend About Their Mental Health

As difficult as it can be to discuss our own mental health, it can be ever harder to open the conversation with someone else who we are worried about. However, starting to talk about this issue is a crucial step to helping someone who might need it. Some ideas on how to have that conversation are

  • Pick your moment – make sure you are choosing a time that is good for them as well as for you, and they are able to talk about it in depth with you for a while after you bring it up. Right before an exam, or an important date might not be the best idea.
  • Keep a guide on you – Before you talk about it, write down everything that is worrying you about it and have it with you in case you need to refer to a list so you can remember it all.
  • Understand they may not want to hear it right now – they might even lash out and be mean to you. That does not mean that you haven’t done the right thing, and it also doesn’t mean that you can no longer be friends with them, it might just mean they are not ready to hear it.
  • Keep it chill – this is a serious conversation. But having it in a relaxed way can help ease the other person into a conversation with you about it and get them to open up a little. Try going for a walk instead of sitting opposite them at the table. Walking side by side instead of looking them in the eye can create a more relaxed friendly environment for this to take place.
  • Remember they are still your friend – even though they might be acting differently, they are still the person you love.

Read more about this in our article ‘How to Talk to Your Friends About Mental Health

Quick Things You Can Do To Help You Deal With It

Everyone is different. So the best way for everyone to deal with their own mental health is different too. There are loads of quick and easy things you can do to help ease symptoms in the short term before you are ready to get help, or if you aren’t feeling too great right now.

  • Be practical – write down all the things that are troubling you and then go through each individual point and see if there are any ways in which you could improve that situation.
  • Track your thoughts and feelings – keeping a record of how you feel each day, or in certain situations can help you keep track of the bigger picture. There are lots of different formats this can take – give this a read to find out how to do it.
  • Try to get more sleep – it might be easier said than done but improving your quality of sleep can be a great mood booster. Read this to find out how.
  • Try exercise – this releases natural chemicals in the body which lift your mood. Plus getting out in the fresh air for a long walk is a great way to give yourself a bit of mental space.
  • Chill out – try practicing relaxation techniques like meditation or breathing exercises. Making time to do this each night will help to bring some clarity to situations that might be stressing out and help you relax before bed.
  • Work it out on paper – try to come up with manageable plan to cover stressful periods like exams or job hunting by breaking everything down into much smaller, more manageable tasks. Sometimes, thinking about the sheer size of a situation can be enough to make us much worse.
  • Remind yourself of all the things you do well – there are things you always triumph at and trying to be mindful of that can be a big mood booster.

And Remember…

  • You are not a burden. Your loved ones care about you and will want to help
  • You cannot just ‘snap out of it’ – it takes help, support and time
  • Allow yourself not to be ‘perfect’ – many people with a mental health issue might set themselves extremely high standards and feel bad if they fail to meet them
  • YOU ARE NOT ALONE – 1 in 4 will face a mental health challenge at some point in their lives

Get Help

If you are feeling low for more than a few days, it is important that, when you feel ready, you ask for a bit of help. Confide in a trusted friend or family member and do not hesitate to visit your GP. You can discuss with them how you are feeling and any underlying issues you may have. They will be able to advise you on the treatments and therapies which may be available, as well as other things you can do at home that we haven’t even thought of!

You can also call the Samaritans on 116 123 if you need to talk to someone urgently. They are there 24 hours a day, every day.
In the USA, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
There is also more advice available from mental health experts at Mind.

Alternatively, talk to us. Our digital mentors are here to support you, but you can also support each other by starting a conversation about mental health in our community – its about time we started talking about mental health.

Just to say…

We have just given you a really quick run down here of what mental health is, what you can do to help others and yourself and how you can begin the conversation around mental health. This is absolutely not everything there is to be said on the subject – it is a BIG thing to cover, and everyone’s own mental health challenges are completely different from one another.

Nevertheless, we hope it might have helped shed a little light on the matter. You can give these articles a read for more detail on certain areas, and watch out on our blog for more!

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