Mental health | Common questions answered
One in four people experience mental health problems each year, but there are still lots of misconceptions out there.
Trail magazine speaks to Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at mental health charity Mind, to find the answers to some common questions about mental health.
How common are mental health problems?
“In many ways, mental health is just like physical health. Everybody has it and we need to take care of it. Most people know someone who has experienced a mental health problem. One in four people will experience a mental health problem in any given year while one in six people report experiencing at least one common mental health problem (such as stress, anxiety or depression) in any given week. Mental health problems can affect us all – they can happen to all kinds of people from all walks of life. To find out more about what mental health problems are and how they can affect us watch Mind’s animation.”
How do you know if you’re experiencing a mental health problem?
“The signs and symptoms someone might experience will differ depending on the mental health problem. Generally, if you’re experiencing a period of poor mental health you might find the ways you're frequently thinking, feeling or reacting become difficult, or even impossible, to cope with. Mind has lots of reliable information on its website, including the A-Z on mental health and you can also call the Mind Infoline (0300 123 3393) to find out more about different mental health problems, common symptoms and the support available.”
What are the key first steps for getting help?
“Seeking help isn't always easy, especially when you're not feeling well. It can take time and may not be straightforward. But it's important to remember that you're not alone, and that you deserve support. It's always okay to ask for help – even if you're not sure you’re experiencing a specific mental health problem.
“If the way you’re thinking or feeling is having an impact on your life or stopping you from doing things you normally would do, speak to a friend or family member you trust or go to your GP, who can talk you through the support that’s available. Speaking to your GP might seem daunting, and an extra thing that you have to worry about, but it’s the first step to getting the help and support that’s right for you. Mind has produced a guide on how to speak to your GP about mental health.”
How much can talking to other people help?
“It can sometimes be really difficult to talk about your feelings with friends or family; but opening up about your mental health means you’ll have someone else who can help to support you, if and when you need it. This might just be listening and offering emotional support – or there may be practical help you need. They might also be able to help you identify your triggers or spot signs that you’re struggling. There’s some useful tips on Mind’s website on how to start a conversation about your mental health.”
How can I look after my own mental health?
“Self-care techniques and general lifestyle changes can help some people manage the symptoms of many mental health problems. They can also help to prevent some problems from developing or getting worse. Things like eating healthily, getting good quality sleep, mindfulness or being creative can all help us cope with mental health problems.
“Whether you have a mental health problem or not, it’s important that we all identify what improves our own wellbeing, whether that’s reading, exercising, meditating, having a bath or spending time with friends and family, and try to carve out the time to do it. There’s some practical self-care advice and techniques available on Mind’s website.”
How can spending time outdoors make a difference?
“Our physical health and mental health are closely linked and physical activity can be very beneficial for mental health and wellbeing. Exercising at a gym or in an urban environment is great for our mental and physical health; but the colours, sounds and smells of the outdoors stimulate our senses in a different way and can boost our mood even more.
“The University of Essex carried out some research for Mind, which found that 94% of people who took part in outdoor exercise activities, like walking or even gardening, said that green exercise activities had benefited their mental health. In fact, ‘ecotherapy’ – activities that take place in nature – can be as effective as antidepressants in treating mild to moderate depression.”