Signposting on WMHD
I believe strongly that themed days like today's World Mental Health Day continue to be hugely important.
Yes, many more of us are now talking about mental health. But importantly there are still people struggling with their mental health for the first time, with maybe little awareness of local support/ services and without the support network some of us have now established.
That said, is a reminded to look after yourself a bad thing?
WMHD is, I think, not for everyone. In that some of us 'need' it less, and personally I think that's ok. I am very aware we are not all in the same place, in terms of journey, recovery, education, access to support. So WMHD can't mean the same thing to us all.
For me there's a few key aims to my World Mental Health Day... day.
Awareness raising. While this is still the main focus nationally, and I think it has it's place (see above para). I would like to see 'awareness' shifted to education.
Education. Education on mental health: illnesses, symptoms, treatments, impacts and wellbeing; it all seems fairly surface level at the moment. There's increasing understanding of depression and anxiety. But often very little about more complex illnesses. I think this is one of the key differences between awareness and education. We are still not educated on mental health, and particularly certain illnesses.
Signposting to local services. Over the last couple of years I've seen more and more people 'hate' on themed days like WMHD, but offer little alternative action. Yes posting once about mental health on your social media and then not talking about it the rest of the time is likely going to have little impact. But what else can you/ I do? Well, signpost to local services, donate, fundraise, volunteer; there's a lot of options. WMHD could be the day you start your social action, it could be about signposting to ways to support these local services.
Maybe that's why I quite like this years #DoOneThing campaign, because that could be the traditional look after yourself with a walk, bath, etc. Or it could be sharing information about local service or supporting them in a more active way.
One of the reasons themed day campaigns struggle to 'do something' is because much of the work, particularly service delivery is done by local charities. Charities offering free to access services. They often have little to no budget to 'do something big', because their funds are spend on service delivery.
If you want to see 'more change' think about how you vote in elections, how you make your voice heard, how you support local service provision. If we are truly passionate about this, we need to rethink how we support, or don't certain campaigns.
If a certain tv show mentions mentions mental health 3 or 4 times a year, but then treats guests, the public, other panel members aggressively or insensitively; then maybe don't support that show or their campaigns.
When I see people shout down WMHD (and similar) it makes me think about someone who's struggling or considering seeking support seeing this, and it doesn't make me feel good.
WMHD and others like are... a day, just a day. What we can do is choose what campaigns/ campaigners we support.
All this said, these are my views, I'm not saying I'm right, or that there is a 'right'. I think having a conversation about why themed days exist and what their purpose is, is a very valuable discussion to have.
I am going to round off with some local support in my area, Hampshire. I encourage you to share information about your local services and support as part of todays #DoOneThing, but also ongoing. Do one thing is, for me, about getting started.
Happy World Mental Health Day, do whatever you feel you need or want to to support your own wellbeing. If you feel able to why not try and support someone else's