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Today marks the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week, which has taken place on the second week of May since the Mental Health Foundation began the campaign in 2000. In previous years, the week has focused on how mindfulness, anxiety, sleep deprivation and relationships can affect your mental health with the theme for 2017 concentrating on ‘surviving to thriving’.

This year’s campaign aims to address the vast number of people who suffer from mental health problems and pose the question: how can we change this? The Mental Health Foundation wants you to join them in starting a conversation about what we can do as communities, schools, families and individuals to move from survive to thrive.

We all have mental health. But it is good mental health that enables us to deal with the stresses and problems of everyday life and concentrate on how we can enjoy our lives. It is often accepted that anxiety, stress and depression are a normal part of keeping your life on track, but this Mental Health Awareness Week, the balance needs to change from just surviving to thriving.

In March 2017, the Mental Health Foundation commissioned a survey, conducted by NatCen, amongst its panel members in England, Scotland and Wales to uncover the truth about mental health. The survey intended to discover the prevalence of self-reported mental health problems, levels of positive and negative mental health in the population, and the actions people take to deal with the stresses in their lives.

Of the 2,290 respondents, it was discovered that only a small number of people (13%) are living with high levels of good mental health, with the majority of people over 55 reporting better mental health than average. It was uncovered that people over 55 are more likely to take positive steps to help themselves deal better with everyday life – including spending time with friends and family, going for a walk, spending more time on interests, getting enough sleep, eating healthily and learning new things.

Conversely, more than 4 in 10 people reported having experienced depression with over a quarter of people saying they have suffered from panic attacks. However, the most notable differences were associated with household income and economic activity. From those on the lowest household income bracket, almost 3 in 4 reported having experienced mental health problems, opposed to 6 in 10 of the highest household income bracket. Eighty-five per cent of people out of work have experienced a mental health problem compared to two thirds of people in work and just over half of people who have retired.

It has also been uncovered that women and young adults aged 18-34 and people living alone are more likely to suffer from a mental health problem, with 7 in every 10 reporting that they have experienced a mental health condition compared to two thirds overall.

These stats show that current levels of good mental health are disturbingly low and the UK has a long way to go in improving the health and wellbeing of the nation. It is also evident that the highest proportion of mental health problems are experienced by the younger generation, and especially if you are female, on a low income or living alone. This is possibly linked to greater insecurities in life expectations for work, relationships and home.

To combat this, Mental Health Foundation have put together five steps for a mentally thriving UK:

  1. A National Thriving Mental Health Programme to spread public understanding about how to look after our mental health and to build 1 community resilience.
  2. A Royal Commission to investigate effective ways to prevent poor mental health and to develop good mental health, and highlighting opportunities to reduce risks.
  3. A Mentally Thriving Nation Report each year to track progress, emerging issues and actions required.
  4. A ‘100% Health’ Check to help people to manage their mental health and reduce their risks as well as identifying where they need professional mental health support.
  5. Fair Funding for Mental Health Research, commensurate with the scale of mental health problems in our society.

In order to help combat the issues that today’s society faces regarding mental health it is clear that there needs to be more open communication surrounding the subject to help break down the stigma that exists. Individually, we can also work to ensure that we encourage good mental health by aiming to reduce stresses in our day-to-day lives and learning how to best deal with them. There also needs to be a wider shift in societal perceptions regarding those with mental health issues.

VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please call 02037405973 or email info@vercida.com for more information.

We are also officially recommended by Disability Confident as a step on achieving Employer status, please click here for more information.

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