Mental Health Awareness Week

MHAW- Lucy_ Twitter

Every day of every week we should be aware of mental health, but having one week solely dedicated to raising awareness is a perfect opportunity to really dive into all aspects of mental health.

People of every age, ethnicity and background can experience mental health struggles, short term and long term. Difficulties in understanding mental health can come from drawing a line between physical and mental health, viewing them as totally separate things, when really they overlap far more than we often realise. When we start viewing health as a whole, it can become easier to get to the route of the problem and being the road to recovery.

Factors impacting the mental health of young people:

Pressure from school and university can have a negative impact on mental health. Young people put so much pressure on ourselves to achieve that we can lose sight of why we’re really doing things.  Everyone wants to succeed and get their goal, but no grade, degree or job is worth compromising your mental health.

The added stress of seeing others succeed can also be a factor in individuals struggling with stress, anxiety and depression as it is a natural instinct to compare ourselves. We assume if we are not on top every day then we are failing, when this is far from true.

Social media can be empowering if used correctly. Many sites have positive campaigns encouraging body positivity. For example, on Instagram the accounts @bodyposipanda and @i_weigh are very popular. Many people, however, are already struggling with their feelings around their appearance and with their mental health, before they come across these kinds of campaigns.

However, social media can also be extremely detrimental, whether it be seeing other people’s beach holiday snaps that result in a young person becoming insecure about their body, or receiving hurtful messages, it is easy to be sucked into the void and become obsessed with scrolling endlessly through these sites.

Even more so, it can be harder to get away from such sites. Social media is everywhere and everyone uses it. The expectation to share your best life every day can result in young people feeling insecure and vulnerable.

Lack of understanding is a huge factor when considering mental health of young people.

It can feel sometimes like you have to turn your mental health into a competition, where you cannot share your feelings sincerely as someone else will belittle your experiences. Often people can dismiss the symptoms of genuine mental illness as just being ‘sad’ or ‘tired’, and they can try and compete with their own sadness or tiredness.

Health is not a competition.

How to look after your mental health

Luckily, there are so many ways to improve your mental health. Even if you do not struggle with a mental illness, it is important to keep your wellbeing a priority. There is always room to feel happier and calmer.

The first and perhaps most important way to support yourself and others with their mental health is with the advice of a professional. Universities in particular usually have a huge focus on mental health and there is a wide range of services to suit your needs, ranging from one-to-one counselling, nightlines that you can call and wellbeing days where you get to eat cake and play on a bouncy castle. Finding the courage to find and accept help can be a big and scary thing, but I promise you it is worth it.

You should also treat others how you would want to be treated, regardless of how they treated you. Especially if you have experienced mental ill health, your knowledge can help others feel better, and you can use your experiences to make the conversation that bit easier.

Surrounding yourself with people who make you laugh and people who support you is incredibly rewarding. Friends who support your choices, encourage you to seek help or just make you a cup of tea when you’re feeling down, those are the friends you want to be around.

Anyone who makes you feel less than perfectly happy is not worth your time. Social media has brilliant buttons that reads “unfollow” “block” or “mute”. If someone is bringing you down, or if seeing a certain person’s posts gives you feelings of insecurity, just press those buttons, it is easier than you think.

You don’t need to explain your decision to anyone, but if you do they should understand your need to put your health first. If they don’t – all the more reason to distance yourself. I always believe that if the people who are sat in front of you right now think you’re great, why should someone the other side of a screen have any say.

Finally, music, books and films are perfect for days when your mental health is feeling bad. Words are magical and they can perk us up, remind us that there is hope, that we are loved.

I recommend : Matt Haig’s – Notes on a nervous planet (Book)

  • All Time Low – Missing you (Song)
  • Twloha – Blog, campaign and charity site.

It can be hard to see ahead to a time where your mental health will be stable, but it can and will happen. Talking about it starts the process, it gives hope and motivation. One day at a time, and it starts whenever you chose to take that first step. It starts with you.

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Lucy, 19, is an #iwill Ambassador from Llanelli, South Wales. You can read her ambassador profile here.