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Alex's Blog: World Mental Health Day

                 On 10 October every year, world mental health day takes place with the aim of raising awareness of mental health wellbeing around the globe.  Each year World Mental Health Day picks a theme to promote worldwide. In the year 2016, the theme was “psychological first aid” which helped people to learn the basic principles of psychological first aid that allows ordinary citizens the tools to respond to people who could be very upset or distressed by for example teaching them what not to say during the high situation. Workplace wellbeing is the theme for this year,2017 Mental Health Day. Workplace wellbeing is important as an enormous number of individuals in different organisations in the UK report problems with their mental wellbeing. Supporting and engaging with peoples mental and wider health is important and beneficial to employees and employers.  Employees that feel happy and healthy make businesses more successful. At the same time when an organisation supports employees’ mental health and wellbeing, this has the power to improve their quality of life. 

WHY IS WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY IMPORTANT?

The World Mental Health Day is important as it raises awareness about various aspects of mental health, raise awareness and educate others how to manage and maintain good mental health.It also encourages people to move away from negative stereotypes of mental illness and lastly teaches the public psychological skills/techniques. The day also provides an opportunity for those working in the mental health field to talk about how they support others what more needs to be done to raise further awareness and better understanding of mental health and wellbeing for people worldwide.  People do not always feel comfortable talking about mental health as it is a very private matter. The event encourages people to talk about mental health more openly.  It helps to destigmatise the idea of mental illness. World Mental Health Day tackles negative stereotypes of mental illness through facts that help people to understand patterns of mental health problems, their causes and solutions.  It unites the world by sharing the same goal which is to raise awareness of mental health issues. 

WHY IS THE THEME WORKPLACE WELLBEING? 

The biggest causes of absence from work are mental health problems, colds, back pain, coughs and stress (Office for National Statistics,2016). Awareness needs to be raised on issues such as work-life balance, getting active at work, mental illness in the workplace, stress management at work and much more.

For instance, when individuals are stressed this activates their nervous system which can affect the individuals’ immune system making them more to fall ill. The research evidence in psychology  reveal some respiratory infection start from stress (Pedersen, 2011) and 47% of stressed individuals develop a cold in comparison to 27% with relaxed lifestyles (Cohen, 2007).

Simple changes in our everyday work routine can ensure that our physical health and mental health will become better. During the World Mental Health Day, different organisations across the world will be working together to inform employees and employers what kind of improvements can be done to boost their mental health and wellbeing. Keeping the workforce mentally healthy, should be important to employers and staff themselves. There is evidence to show how having a healthy workforce lowers staff turnover, reduces sickness absence and boost overall productivity. 

HOW DO I STAY MENTALLY HEALTHY AT WORK? 

Do some exercise while in the office. I know this sounds not doable, but if you have few minutes, where you are not as busy as usual, you can do a few stretches, or anything that is possible within the space. Physical exercise improves your emotional and mental wellbeing. If you have some time perhaps get yourself a gym membership. 

Be realistic. Strive to be good at what you are doing, but realise you do not have to be perfect all the time. 

Challenging negative thoughts may allow you to stress less as it’s a way of cutting the link between thoughts, feelings, behaviour and physical symptoms. (Murtagh & Greenwood, 1995, Ellis 1957, Beck 1967).

Balance your time. Occasionally you need to work longer but try to fit in time with your friends and family.

Develop good relationships with your colleagues. This can help build up a network of support and make being at work more pleasant and enjoyable. 

 Develop end of day habits that will make you realise that it is the end of your working hours and time to relax. The end of day habits can include: cleaning your office desk or as soon as you get home run a warm bath or showers. 

Do 5 minutes mindfulness breathing exercise. Try to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth and breathe from your abdomen rather than from your chest. Focusing on the rhythm and sound of your breath is of particular importance when you are upset or distressed as doing so can have a calming effect and help you stay grounded in the present moment. You can do these breathing exercises anytime during the day. Finding time to stop during your day and take three deep breaths in and out can help to provide calm in stressful moments.

Get a good night sleep by making sure your bedroom is dark and quiet - Use thick curtains, blinds, an eye mask, earplugs, make sure your mattress, pillows and covers are comfortable and relax at least 1 hour before bed - for example, take a bath or read a book.

TEA AND TALK

You can organise a celebration for the World Mental Health Day yourself in the comfort of your own home. All you have to do is get together your family, a group of friends or colleagues, put the kettle on enjoying some of the cake and encourage them to donate to Mind in Harrow. Do not feel obligated to celebrate it in October - you can hold Tea & Talks at any time of year. For more information about organising fundraising events please visit: http://www.mindinharrow.org.uk/fundraise-for-us.