CW: This article discusses topics of mental health which could be distressing to some readers.
Where do we stand?
Did you know that in the UK around 1 in 6 adults are experiencing depression, and over 8 million people are experiencing an anxiety disorder at any one time? Yet, the stigma around mental health still remains, and prevents many of us from reaching out for help.
We've come a long way, though, with many charities, such as Boys Get Sad Too increasing in popularity with their innovative ways of battling the stigma that stills exists. But how can we instil mental health awareness into our everyday lives?
You can't pour from an empty cup
Remember: before you can help others effectively, you must first take care of yourself.
Advocating for ourselves and seeking support can be challenging. Champion Health found that, out of 56% of employees experiencing symptoms of depression, only 10% were currently seeking mental health support. But there are smaller steps we can take to make opening up about our mental health a part of our everyday lives.
If in-person conversations feel too daunting, reaching out to your peers through a message can feel much more manageable. Asking a friend if they are able and willing to engage with you in a productive conversation about any struggles you're having can be a really helpful way to offload your feelings before they start to overwhelm you.
Setting boundaries can also be a productive way to regularly advocate and take care of yourself. If you feel unable to commit to something without it affecting your mental health, politely communicating that is a reasonable and proactive way to prevent taking on too much at once.
Regular rest and adequate sleep is also incredibly important for our mental health. Not getting enough good quality sleep can cause us to be less able to manage stress (Mental Health UK), so it's important we're ensuring our to-do lists don't take priority over our physical health.
You don't need to change the world
Bringing conversations about mental health into your daily life isn't a full time job, and it shouldn't feel forced. Once you are in a position where you are willing and able to support your peers, there are easy ways to encourage positive conversations - in fact, you're probably doing some of these things already without thinking.
Simply asking a friend how their day has been can show you are interested in their experiences and feelings. Above all else, listening and remaining engaged throughout these conversations are key. Alternatively, if that person doesn't seem ready to engage with you about their mental health, giving them the space they need whilst reminding them you are there for them when they are ready can be just as helpful.
Keep it comfortable. These conversations don't have to be arranged, they can occur over coffee or a text message. Part of making these conversations part of our daily lives is alleviating the pressure and making them feel easier for everyone involved.
Let them lead. Whilst it can be tempting to encourage the person to seek help, or to try and offer advice, giving people the space and support to reach these goals themselves can be more helpful. This is where listening to them can be valuable; by giving them control over the conversation, you are ensuring their comfort throughout.
If the person does show an interest in seeking help, you can ask if there's anything they'd like help with. Mental health charity, Mind, suggest attending appointments with them, signposting them to support services and educating yourself on the problem they are experiencing can be practical ways you can potentially help.
Nobody is an exception to mental health struggles of some kind, and encouraging healthy, reciprocal conversations in our daily routines can be an incredibly important practice that connect us with our peers and makes us feel supported.
If you, or someone that you know is struggling, there are support services available that might be useful to keep in mind.
SHOUT Crisis Text Line - 85258
Talk to Samaritans - call 116 123