World Mental Health Day 2021
One in four of us will experience a mental health problem at some time in our lives. So statistically, either you or your friends, family or someone you care for will be affected. It is important that we talk about mental health today, tomorrow and every day of the year.
Following the Covid-19 pandemic, carers in particular have experienced increased feelings of anxiety or low mood. Caring roles have increased and support has become difficult to access, with many services being closed or moving to online.
Jane, from North Tyneside, is a carer for her son, Ben, who recently attempted to take his own life. He developed mental health issues following a chronic illness. As a family they have experience of accessing support from professionals, the Carers’ Centre and friends. “some support is better than others,” she says. Jane began to seek support from the Carers’ Centre following the first lockdown in 2020.
“It was a huge relief speaking to someone at the end of the phone,” explained Jane. “I was driving down the road, and had to pull over. I just sat and sobbed following that first phone call. It was the first time I had told someone my story. I’d finally found that safe space.”
Jane mentioned the difficulty in accessing support for her son, and the dilemma faced in seeking support for herself. Additionally Ben struggles to accept his parents needing support due to their caring role.
“When working with the community team, it’s all about stabilising on medication. My son needs therapy. No one has sat him down in a room and asked what got him to this point,” she says.
The family have researched private therapy options, and have been advised that a psychologist would be more appropriate rather than talking therapies. Psychologists that cost hundreds of pounds, and are inaccessible for many. “How do you access that kind of care, if you can’t afford it?,” Jane asks.
The numbers of people living in poverty is rising and during 2020, inequalities in society became more apparent. These inequalities have had a huge impact on mental health. According to the Mental Health Foundation 75% to 95% of those in low to middle income countries are unable to access mental health services at all. Accessing services often relies on having money, education and time. Stigma and discrimination also adds to people’s mental ill health, affecting job or employment prospects and relationships with family and friends. Accessing early intervention is often key.
In her book ‘Sane New World’, Ruby Wax recognises the stigma that is still associated with mental illness and the need for it to be accepted within wider society.
“We are mentally ill, we are the one in four and proud’’, says Wax. “Change the laws. We are like everyone else. Maybe if we do this we don’t have to hunker down in isolation anymore, quivering in case someone we know finds out, or worse someone at work finds out and we’re dismissed or treated like a person with Ebola.’’
Ros Hull at the Carers’ Centre supports carers who are caring for someone with a mental illness, offering groups enabling carers to meet others with similar caring roles and to share experiences. The peer support here at the Carers’ Centre gives you an opportunity to have a break from your caring role, alongside exploring different ways you can support your loved one whilst they are going through challenging times.
“At North Tyneside Carers’ Centre we have received funding to work towards further improving the well-being of those caring for someone with mental health issues in North Tyneside, explained Ros.
We have been successfully running a number of workshops and courses around ‘Coping with Caring’ for someone with mental health issues and ‘Understanding Diagnosis”. Workshops to support families and carers to better understand the conditions of the person they are supporting,” she continued.
There is of course stigma associated with accessing support, and many people are worried about how people will view them if they accept help for either themselves or the person they care for. Why isn’t mental health taken as seriously as the difficulties we can physically see? Mental health campaigning organisations like Rethink Mental illness and Mind are certainly trying to change this societal view. They want it to become more acceptable to ask for help and that people can feel confident knowing what to do or say. This could also mean not saying anything at all. Silence is often just as important as dialogue – knowing how to use it, and using it well.
The monthly Mental Health Peer Support Group facilitated by the Carers’ Centre is an invaluable support to carers offering advice and information for people going through the same issues. We offer 1:1 emotional support and individual WRAP (wellbeing recovery action) plans. We have also been able to offer some social activities and well-being events which have included theatre trips, creative arts sessions, guided walks with afternoon tea and day retreats to Minsteracres.
World Mental Health Day aims to get the world talking about mental health, to normalise conversations, and to begin a dialogue about accessing support and care. We all have mental health, and some of us develop mental illness, so as a community in North Tyneside and beyond, we can work together to promote positive wellbeing for ourselves, friends and family. Launch Pad in North Tyneside are organising a Mindful walk around North Tyneside for residents to get involved in. For more information and to find out more, contact LaunchPad by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you attend any events for World Mental Health Day, we’d love to hear how you got on!
And as Bryony Gordon, journalist and mental health campaigner says: “It’s totally normal to feel weird.”