Mental Health Awareness Week: what does good mental health mean to you?
Kate, our sometime Healthwatch blogger (and full-time student), popped into the office the other day for a quick chat about Mental Health Awareness Week.
Q: Kate, this year's theme considers the difference between surviving and thriving. What does good mental health mean to you?
I think of mental health as a state of well-being in which you can realise your own potential, cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively, and contribute to your community. Good mental health doesn’t mean everything is perfect or that we never feel stressed or lonely or down, but that we have found a sense of balance in our social, emotional and psychological states. For me, mental health means having a good understanding of myself; less volatility in my emotions and mood, and using non-harmful, effective strategies to cope with challenges.
Q: What kind of things do you do to take care of yourself?
I think of more than just the professional treatment I receive when I think of taking care of myself. My lifestyle choices also have a significant impact upon how I feel and function. I've noticed that my lifestyle choices also have a significant impact upon how I feel and function. I know that working towards a healthy lifestyle in terms of eating, exercise, sleep, and social relationships, can enhance my mental and physical response to treatment.
I've learnt to prioritise taking care of myself. Some of the forms of self-care I use include lovely baths and skin-care routines. I find this really relaxing, and not only does it distract me when I’m struggling, but it can also lift my mood and leave me feeling just that little bit better about myself. Self-care can be anything from knowing when to slow down and have a lie-in or a nap, to reaching out for support when its needed, be that from friends, family, or from professionals.
When I phone the crisis team, when I agree to a crisis house admission, I’ve taken care of myself. When I’ve taken my frustration or upset out through art or writing, rather than through hurting myself, I’ve taken care of myself. Find what works for you, and practice it. I know that the same two things won’t work for everyone, so it’s important to try out different ways of taking care of yourself in a way that feels achievable and helpful for you!
Q: How does engaging with the professional support that you already access help you?
Knowing that the support is available if I need it helps me to feel safer. Engaging gives me space to talk and work through difficulties I’m facing with people with whom I have built strong relationships and trust.
Q: What kind of things do you find get in the way of your wellbeing and recovery?
Cuts to mental health services: this has left services under extreme pressure, with overworked and under-resourced staff. This affects waiting times for crisis support and the amount and quality of support available.
Stigma and prejudice toward mental health, even among some professionals: this makes it difficult to feel comfortable talking about my mental health with those I do not know or trust. It shouldn’t be stigmatised and I shouldn’t be nervous to talk about it, but sometimes I am. Because of this, I sometimes don’t reach out for support when I need it and instead bottle it up and push myself to ‘keep going’.
It can be hard to pinpoint what gets in the way of my wellbeing and recovery though other than the nature and complexity of my conditions; I think generally I try my best, but I don’t always do what’s best for myself, which definitely affects my wellbeing.
Q: What services do you know of in Islington that can support people’s recovery/ maintain good mental health?
- Islington Crisis Team (phone and face-to-face support)
Crisis houses across Islington:
- The Rivers Crisis House
- Drayton Park Women’s Crisis House
- Highbury Grove Crisis Project
- North Camden Crisis House
- Islington Mind
- Stress Project
- Hillside Clubhouse
Q: Where can people go to find out more information about taking care of their mental health?
You can go to your GP. There's Islington Mind and the Crisis Team. Also the Samaritans - you can drop in for a face to face chat without booking, as well as phone or email.