10th October 2019
When I started to write the latest Land Trust blog for World Mental Health Day I decided I wanted to start with a definition, a simple explanation of something that 1 in 4 of us are going to struggle with at some point every single year.
I went to Google and found the following:
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. It affects how we think, feel and act. It determines how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life from childhood and adolescence, through to adulthood.
In summary our mental health, and how we are feeling, affects every single choice that we make, and ultimately defines the direction of our lives. It’s as important as being able to walk around, arguably more important, because if you feel so bad you can’t get out of bed in the morning who needs legs anyway?
The statistics are quite shocking. I work in an office with between 20 or 30 colleagues depending on who is out and about that day. It’s generally a pretty cheerful place with plenty of conversation and smiling faces.
But the statistics show that if there are 20 if us in the office then it’s likely that at least five of us are struggling with our mental health, whether that be depression, anxiety or something else entirely. It could be me having a rubbish day, the person sat next to me or someone working on one of our sites on the other side of the country. It could be someone who you would never suspect, the office joker, whose smile doesn’t quite reach their eyes, or the person with the big booming laugh who is secretly dying inside.
Mental health is something the Land Trust aims to tackle across our portfolio of sites. When I interviewed for the job here I was asked to do a presentation and one of the suggested topics was mental health. Doing the research I was astonished at the number of people who suffer with a mental health related affliction every single year and the impact it has on businesses, our economy and the health service.
I think it is this that has finally made people wake up to what an issue it really is and how helping someone who might be having an anxiety attack is just as important as somebody who has a physical ailment.
When the numbers start to add up the powers that be start to take the issue more seriously.
Mental health is something that the Land Trust is having a huge impact on through some of the fantastic work that we do. Our Health for Life project at Countess of Chester Country Park highlighted huge improvements in the mental wellbeing of participants that took part in activities such as Green Gym, Parkrun or Nordic walking. We run mindfulness courses at many of our sites, while our Green Angels educational training programme has helped turn people’s lives around, improving their mental health and wellbeing and helping them into further education or employment.
I’m really proud to see the positive impact that so many of our initiatives make to people’s everyday lives but I also know there is still so much more that can be achieved.
The growing momentum behind social prescribing should mean that organisations like ourselves and others like us will have an increasingly important role to play in helping people live healthier and happier lives.
Social prescribing is something, which given the right support and resource, could make a huge difference in the battle against this silent illness. For too long the answer for someone who might have gone to their doctor feeling down or depressed would be to prescribe them a pill.
More often than not this will make the person feel better, and it is absolutely the right course of action for many people, but what a pill can’t do is tackle the root cause of the problem and look at the reasons someone might have been struggling in the first place.
Does the person feel they lack a purpose in life? Have they dropped out of school or education and don’t know what to do next? Do they spend their days inside, cut off from friends and family and crippled by loneliness?
This is what social prescribing aims to tackle. Rather than sending someone away with a prescription it might refer them to do an outdoor activity, where they meet new people and forge new relationships. It might be an activity that allows them to do or create something positive for their community, increasing their self-esteem and getting them back out into the world again. Every step helps whether it is a little one or a big one. This will continue to be at the top of the Land Trust’s health agenda for many years to come.
It is absolutely fitting that this week the NHS launched their Every Mind Matters campaign with the help of the Duke and Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex. Having people of that profile prepared to speak out makes a huge difference and I thought it would be fitting to finish with some words from that video.
“Everyone knows that feeling when life gets on top of us. All over the country millions of us face challenges to our mental health. At all ages, at all intensities and for all sorts of reasons. We feel stressed, low, anxious or have trouble sleeping. Me, you, your brother, your mother, your friend, colleague or your neighbour. Waiting, wondering, hoping, hurting. We think there is nothing to be done, nothing we can do about it.
“But that is so wrong. There are things we can do.”
Mental health issues can strike any of us at any time but the world is changing. There are options out there. Nobody should have to suffer in silence anymore. Things can be done. You shouldn’t have to feel this way. You deserve to feel better.
And if you are struggling as the campaign says ‘You’re not alone. We’re in this together. Every mind matters.’
For more information about the NHS’s Every Mind Matters campaign click here.
To read more about the Land Trust’s Health for Life research click here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Aaron Gales joined the Land Trust in March 2018 as a Communications and Marketing specialist.
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