Mental health: The importance of awareness and relationships

One in four of us in the UK are affected by mental health problems.1 From anxiety and depression to schizophrenia and bipolar, here, we share the facts and dispel the myths.

Mental health is a complex subject because the term covers such a wide range of feelings, emotions, symptoms and treatments. The one thing that links everything together is the importance of relationships in the treatment and management of mental health problems.

What is a mental health problem?

'Mental health problem' is a term used to describe any symptoms you may have that affect the way you think, feel and behave. They are extremely common and you’re very likely to know someone who has experienced a mental health problem at some time in their life. 

What types of mental health problems are there?

The most common types are depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and phobias, and these can affect anyone at any time in their lives. They can also be successfully treated or managed with the right support.

More serious and less common types of mental health include schizophrenia, bipolar, personality disorders and eating disorders. Again, these can often be managed with the right support. Mind’s A-Z of mental health is a great resource for finding out more about the many different types of mental health problems. 

What causes mental health problems?

Unlike a physical problem, such as a broken leg or bloating, it’s very hard to know the exact causes of mental health problems. For many people it’s a combination of factors, from a traumatic event or drug and alcohol misuse, to long-term stress and social disadvantage (i.e. poverty or homelessness).

So, why are relationships so important for those with mental health problems and for those close to people who are suffering?

Fundamentally, because we are social creatures, building relationships is in our nature. We use our relationships and interactions with other people to feel happy, build self-worth, feel like we belong and know that we are understood.

There are some really easy ways to ensure nurturing your mental wellbeing through relationships is high up on your agenda.

Here are some top tips for looking after your own daily mental health and helping your friends, family and colleagues look after theirs:

Make time to catch up with loved ones

Fix a particular time each week to meet up with or speak to a family member or friend. Not only will having a routine help to ensure you stick to it, but it’ll be something you can both look forward to doing on a regular basis.

Speak face to face - or at least over the phone

Remember that texting and emailing someone is not the same as speaking to or meeting up with someone. It’s easy for messages to be misinterpreted, forgotten about and even ignored. Plus it’s difficult to convey your, or gauge someone else’s true feelings in a short message. Pick up the phone instead, or even better, find the time to meet up regularly.

Make the most of your lunch break

If you work in an office, try to build in some social time during your lunch break. This might be as simple as grabbing coffee with a colleague, or booking yourself in to an exercise class at the local gym. Getting active is also a great way to boost positive feelings because exercise causes the body to release endorphins – your body’s natural happy chemicals. 

Care for yourself, care for others

According to research, having strong relationships can help you to live longer, deal with stress more effectively and be happier. Conversely, being alone and isolated can be as detrimental to health as smoking, blood pressure and obesity.2

Make sure you know how your friends and family are feeling by speaking to them as often as possible – it’ll help your own mental health, too.

If someone you know is struggling with their mental health, there are five very simple things you can do to help:

  1. Listen and offer reassurance.
  2. Stay calm and be patient.
  3. Stay in regular contact and try to be impartial.
  4. Look for information and organisations that could help them.
  5. Offer practical help, like organising their medical paperwork and going to their appointments with them.

What do you do if you think you have a mental health problem?

The first step is to talk about the way you’re feeling to your GP. You may find that opening up about it is exactly what you need to see that you can manage your feelings with the right support.

Your GP may make an initial diagnosis, or choose to refer you to a mental health specialist, like a psychiatrist, psychologist or counsellor, who will make a diagnosis over a longer period of time. 

Having the confidence to talk about how you’re feeling, safe in the knowledge that mental health problems are real, manageable conditions and never something to be ashamed of, is crucial to recovery. But it’s also crucial to ensuring any stigma surrounding mental health problems is quashed.

Mind offers some great self-help tips that centre on the importance of positive relationships with friends, family and colleagues. Everyone in the UK falls into one of these three categories – mental health awareness is not just for people with mental health problems, it’s for all of us. Play your part by getting involved in raising awareness.

To find out more call us on 0808 101 0337 or make an online enquiry.

Sources

1http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/mental-health-problems-introduction/about-mental-health-problems/?o=6289#.Vu0Md_mLTIV
2http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/enhance-your-wellbeing/relationships/why-personal-relationships-are-important

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