After an experience with someone suffering from severe depression, I knew it was time to go on a course.
In my previous Pf Magazine column, I told you that my knowledge of mental health was not adequate and I had signed up to a mental health first aid course. Here’s what I learned.
In addition to identifying discrimination around mental health problems, relating to other people’s experiences, feeling more able to support people and thinking about my own mental health, I have also changed my perspective on mental health.
I had previously thought of mental health issues as specific conditions, such as general anxiety disorder, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, but I now understand mental health to be a continuum – in precisely the same way we define our physical health.
Depending on a person’s circumstances, they can have positive mental health, or encounter a less favourable situation, in which they experience symptoms affecting their daily lives and relationships.
Furthermore, our mental health changes frequently – we have good days, bad days, indifferent days and dreadful days. There are no absolutes. As with physical health, mental health can vary throughout a person’s life. Someone with a diagnosed mental health condition can have positive mental health, if they are receiving appropriate treatment, support and care, while a person with no diagnosed mental disorder can have very poor mental health.
The goal is to keep above ‘the line’, regardless of whether we have a diagnosis or not. We all have mental health needs and it is estimated that one in six people in the past week has experienced a common mental health problem.
Mental health first aid does the same for someone experiencing mental ill health, as first aid does for physical injuries. By teaching people how to give first response care, it dispels fears and misconceptions people have when someone is having a mental health issue or crisis.
In the final analysis we all need to think about what we can practically do to enhance our mental wellbeing.
With mental health resources stretched, it has to be better for everyone if we are equipped to look after ourselves and support those around us. For more info go to mhfaengland.org
Mind craft: Five ways to mental wellbeing
Connect – engage with people around you and spend time developing those relationships
Be active – take a walk, go cycling or get involved with sport
Keep growing – pick up new skills and increase your learning
Give to others – even the smallest act can count, whether it’s a smile or a kind word
Be mindful – take in the present moment, including your thoughts, your body and the world around you.
Deborah Evans is Managing Director of Pharmacy Complete. Go to pharmacycomplete.org