Monday, 10 May 2021

Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 Connecting with Nature

 Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) is a nationwide yearly event, which begins today created by the Mental Health Foundation 21 years ago, that focuses on achieving good mental health.The event has grown to become one of the biggest awareness weeks across the UK and globally.
 Mental Health Awareness Week is open to everyone. It is all about starting conversations about mental health and the things in our daily lives that can affect it..This past year has been bloody tricky, to say the least  due to the covid-19 pandemic, so there’s no hiding from the fact that it has been difficult on everyone’s mental health, a lot of us spending increasing amounts of time at home in isolation  unable to see friends and family, with a lot of the things we enjoy that  have been limited on how far we can travel to help keep everyone safe.with our  outlets for wellbeing, like gyms, indoor sports, and spaces to connect with others closing overnight, the loss of weekly doses of live music has impacted on me greatly. It' been a time of great uncertainty, anxiety and stress.
We all know about the benefits of healthy living. From an early age, we are taught about the importance of exercise, a balanced diet and good hygiene. We know that if we look after our bodies, we reduce the risk of illness and we feel better in ourselves. People are not threatened by the word “health” and most people are willing to talk about it. However, place the word “mental” in front of it, and people may be much less willing to open up and share their experiences. 
The word “mental”still has negative connotations. It is still used as an adjective to describe something that was unreasoning, unreasonable, out-of-control or just plain crazy.Those who suffer are often, like me, ashamed to speak of it. Those who are lucky enough to be free of mental illness are terrified of it. Nobody wants to be seen as “mental” and this stigma is perhaps what is making it so difficult to engage in sensible, open discussion about “mental health”.The reality is, mental health affects every single one of us. The word “mental” simply refers to aspects or functions of the mind. Very few people would claim that they don’t have a mind, so why should we feel unable to discuss it?
When it comes to mental illness, we still don't quite get how it all works. Our treatments, while sometimes effective, often are not. And the symptoms, involving a fundamental breakdown of our perceived reality, are existentially terrifying. There is something almost random about physical illness, in how it comes upon us , a physical illness can strike anyone – and that is almost comforting. Were mental illness to fall into that same category, then it too could strike any of us, without warning. And that is terrifying.
But more than simple fear, mental illness brings out a judgmental streak that would be unthinkably grotesque when applied to physical illness. Imagine telling someone with a broken leg to "snap out of it." Imagine that a death by cancer was accompanied by the same smug head shaking that so often greets death by suicide. Mental illness is so qualitatively different that we feel it permissible to be judgmental. We might even go so far as to blame the sufferer. Because of the  stigma involved  it often leaves us much sicker.
Mental ill health is a real and important thing in the exact same way as physical illness, trauma and inherited conditions. It is however to say that in a better organised world our lives would be less pressured into brokeness, despair and ill health. Our minds, like our limbs, break under stress. Our lives within the capitalist system are harmed by the system, often we medicate not to make ourselves well, but very often we medicate in order to continue to function in a broken society, and capitalist system where our only immediate  value is in how they exploit us. It should be noted  that many  people believe that our Governments policies are actually fuelling the current  mental health crisis. Budget cuts to mental health services combined with no genuine support are driving  many people to the edge. As a result many young people and adults are left isolated facing long waiting lists for mental health therapies and diagnostic assessments. 
Mental health charities report that one in four people will be affected by mental health problems at some point in their lives. That’s 25% of the population. One in twelve children and young people  are affected by mental health difficulties that have a negative impact on their relationships, education and general well-being on a day-to-day basis. Depression and anxiety are now the number one cause of long-term absence from work and mental health issues are estimated to cost Britain £70 billion each year. With so many of us affected and with such a cost to the economy, you would have thought that we would at least be able to talk openly about it.
 In recent years, successive governments have become aware of the growing need to address the country’s mental health difficulties. Money is often pledged to tackle the problems of underfunding and targets are frequently set to reduce waiting times for patients to access counselling services. This is all beneficial when the politicians actually deliver on their promises but evidence points out that they don't so  unless people become more willing to hold them to account and continue to discuss their individual experiences of mental health issues, the stigma and the access to services so much needed  will remain.
Previous generations would have struggled to imagine it: whether on TV, social media or in the pub or the park, mental health is  at least increasingly being discussed across society. Though much remains to be done, the once prevalent stigma around the topic is slowly disintegrating.It’s a positive  shift, and one that is much needed.
But mental health isn’t just about illness, it’s also about what we can do to nurture and sustain our wellbeing; getting the crucial help we need in difficult times and crises, while also finding the insights, tools and communities that can support our resilience and personal growth.
Each year the Mental Health Foundation set a different theme, connected to improving, and achieving better mental health. This year, the Mental Health Foundation have made 'Nature' the theme’ and the benefits it can have on improving our mental health and wellbeing. Their aim is to encourage people to share how nature has supported their mental health, especially throughout the past year of lockdowns.
Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation explains how nature has played a crucial role in maintaining positive mental health and wellbeing over the past year, Mark said –
 “Our research on the mental health impacts of the pandemic showed that going for walks outside was one of our top coping strategies and 45% of people reported that being in green space had been vital to their mental health. It was as if we were re-discovering at our most fragile point, our fundamental human need to connect with nature.”
There is increasing evidence that spending time in nature can have a positive impact on our mental health. As well as being more active outside and the health benefits that come with this, spending time in nature can improve our mood, lower stress levels, improve confidence and self-esteem, and give us a valuable ‘time-out’ from the busy world we live in. Research into ecotherapy (a formal therapeutic treatment involving time spent in nature and close mindful examination of the impact this has on our thoughts and feelings) has shown it can reduce symptoms of mild to moderate depression. For others, simply pottering around in the garden or going for a walk can be a less structured, but equally beneficial experience. Nature can have has this calming and enchanting effect.Spending time in nature is a great way to take a break from looking at screens and look after your mental wellbeing. Going for a walk or sitting outside in a park and listening to the sounds around you is a great way to clear your mind if you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed.No matter if it's spring, summer, autumn, or winter, nature is all around us. that like our well beings still needs  so much protection and looking after, as it continues to nourish all that depend on her.
Have you ever noticed that when the sun is out you often feel in a better mood? This is because sunshine gives you Vitamin D and Vitamin D helps you stop feeling tired and sad. The next time it is sunny be sure to go out and enjoy the good weather. It will make you feel happier and boost your mood. Sitting outside, in nature, calms me so much, gardening makes me feel healthier, inspired, the rain calms me, the smell and sounds of birds, animals, flowers, the wind, watching clouds float by, calms me.
However I accept the fact that , many of us may face barriers that might stop us from connecting with nature. For example, you may be limited by your environment and access to outdoor space. Or you may be unused to spending time in green space and find it uncomfortable or unfamiliar.
We all have different experiences, different ways of coping and  if you feel anxious in new places or social situations, you could ask someone you trust to go with you at first or you could even connect with others & share how you’re feeling. Be kind to yourself and try to maintain goodwill and generosity to others, and please don't vote for the Tories, there certainly not going to help at all. In these divisive times it's certainly not an easy road, I hope I have at least  offered some positivity, a little room for optimism, even if sometimes when it gets a little too dark, I do not always find the time to practice what I preach. Please try and remember you are not alone.
If you’re experiencing mental health problems or need urgent support, there are lots of places you can go to for help.You might feel better contacting these people because they are trained experts who can get you the help you need straight away. For details of organisations such as the Samaritans and Mind, visit this list of support services

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