Mental Health Awareness Week 2020

Mental Health Awareness Week is about encouraging everyone to be more open about mental health.

All of us have mental health, just as we have physical health, and it’s essential we look after it. Roughly one in four people in the UK will experience a problem with their mental health each year, and a PRCA survey last year showed 60% of the PR and Communications industry have suffered from or been diagnosed with mental ill health.

As a mental health first aider, I really like that this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is about ‘kindness’. Offering and receiving kindness is vital to our wellbeing. It’s also crucial to our relationships and our sense of community, whether we’re being kind to each other or to ourselves.

Photo of Matt Dolman, author of the blog, smiling
Matt Dolman

With that in mind, here are my three top tips for boosting your mental health and looking out for those around you:

Looking after physical health helps boost mental health

Many of us are at home a lot more than we’re used to, but that doesn’t mean we can’t stay physically active and look after our bodies.

A BBC article at the start of lockdown highlighted ways to exercise at home, and of course we can go for a run or bike ride outside. One of the benefits of physical exercise is that it can help to improve your mental health and wellbeing.

But you don’t have to run 10 miles a week or keep up with Joe Wicks each morning to look after yourself. Going for a brisk walk in the fresh air, eating healthy foods and getting sufficient sleep are all great ways to look after your physical health.

And although you can’t sit together in your favourite cafe or restaurant, you might enjoy a video chat over dinner, or virtually walk with someone many miles away over the phone.

Stay connected to the people around you

We’re alone, but we’re all alone together. Isolation and loneliness aren’t necessarily the same thing, but we know that feeling lonely has a huge, negative impact on our health.

One thing people often miss about the office is regular interaction. We’re all learning to master conference calls, and these can help us stay engaged with work, motivate us to get dressed and start the day, and even notice someone having trouble coping.

But many of us find constant video calls draining, and not everyone feels comfortable saying how they feel. Setting up a team WhatsApp groups is another way of checking in with each other. And beyond work, don’t forget to message family, and check in on that friend you haven’t spoken to in a while.

I think the most important thing to remember is that it’s always OK to call, text or write an email to say you’re having a tough day, or ask after someone else – not just once, but twice.

Reach out, and don’t be afraid to ask for help

Staying connected can help us recognise that we’re all in this together, and that everyone struggles sometimes. But sometimes we need to seek specific support or professional help.

The Charity for Civil Servants has a fantastic list of resources, tips and helplines for getting you the help you need. Its mental health resources page is also good, and there’s a Wellbeing App you might find helpful too.

There are also organisations offering dedicated support for communications professionals. The CIPR has lots of mental health resources, while the PRCA have a Mental Health Toolkit.

And within your department, agency or arms-length body, you’ll often find that there are dedicated resources available to help you. Many of these organisations can give you access to resources like Headspace, or other apps which you can use to learn breathing techniques, meditation routines and other coping mechanisms.

MentalHealthAwarenessWeek #KindnessMatters #EndTheStigma

This blog post was written by Matt Dolman, a Senior Communications Manager in the GCS Flex team.

Follow him on Twitter: @MattDolman