World Mental Health Day: How to look out for yourself, friends and your community

Top tips for how to be there for yourself and friends, and the best ways to take action with our mental health services

October 10th marks World Mental Health Day – a day organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Of course, mental illness affects people every day of the year; but this day gives us the time to reflect on our mental wellbeing, as well as the wellbeing of friends and family. With the added stress of the pandemic, we need now more than ever to support one another.

This World Mental Health Day’s theme is ‘mental health for all’. So, to help us all get through this together, we’ve written some simple but helpful tips to ensure that you are looking out for yourself, your friends, and your local services.

Three ways to be there for yourself:

  1. Find what works for YOU

If you’re struggling to keep up with your workload, social life and other commitments, find what works for you. Perhaps a calendar or diary may help keep track of what you’re doing and where you’ll find space for down-time. Maybe you need to realise that having Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter isn’t actually good for you. It can be helpful to notice what parts of your daily routine help keep you feeling positive, and what isn’t working for you.

  1. Make time for self-care

Let yourself relax – life will still be there after you do.  Perhaps you like writing – journal, in a creative way that works for you. Or maybe self-reflection helps you feel on track and grounded – download some mental well-being worksheets online. Read a self-help book, listen to a podcast about self-confidence, go for a walk. It’s the little things that help your mind declutter; then you find space for you.

  1. Give yourself credit

Listen to your favourite album, do a puzzle, do some gardening. Just because you don’t think you’ve achieved 100%, you can be proud of being at 50%, 70%, even 10%. A 10-minute walk is better than not moving anywhere, even if you initially planned to go for a half-hour run. You’re doing great!

Three ways to be there for your friends: 

  1. Take your time to research

The NHS website has some super helpful resources regarding mental illnesses if your friend is going through something you don’t quite understand. UoB also offer mental health resources online including personalised support and online resources. By understanding what your friend is going through, you can take the first steps in offering your support. Simply putting in the effort could mean a lot to a struggling friend. 

  1. Remind them that you are there (and watch how you word things)

Suffering with your mental health can be lonely. A text, meet-up or call may seem simple to you, but it may make all the difference to a friend who is struggling. If you’re unsure what to say, try telling them about anything at all – a film you think they’d like, or something you saw recently that reminded you of them. You don’t have to have a therapist’s handbook to be there for them. 

  1. If they’re ready to talk, make sure you are ready to listen

For someone with mental health issues, having the courage to speak up is often the hardest step. So if a friend is ready to open up, make sure you’re ready to listen. The things they’re saying may seem trivial to you but the chances are that – if they’re saying it – it’s been weighing them down for a while. Give them time to speak, and when they’re done you’ll be better informed to support them.

Three practical ways to encourage mental health for all:

It’s all well and good being there for each other and speaking out on World Mental Health Day. But our mental health services are painfully underfunded, and action needs to be taken. One billion people live with a mental health disorder, and one person dies every 40 seconds to suicide. Investment into these services needs to be made.

  1. Write to your local MP about mental health services

Push for mental health services to be centralised by writing to your local MP. Templates are available online if you look up the particular cause you think is important. You could write about funding shortages, personal experiences or even potential solutions you have come up with. Giving examples of graspable changes may stir your MP into action. 

  1. Sign petitions on government websites

You can make a difference within a couple of clicks. Some petitions include: 

The UK parliament’s petition to provide emergency funding increase for mental health services due to the Covid-19 pandemic

Make it Count’s petition for the incorporation of mental health into school curriculum’s petition to make emotional support animals equal to assistance and service dogs

  1. Do charity work, or give to mental health charities 

Mental-health related charity societies at UoB include Headucate (which trains you to raise mental health awareness in local schools) and The Mental Health and Well-Being Society (which allows students to learn, connect, and campaign towards mental-health related goals). Or, some good charities include Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. Putting yourself forward to work at a mental-health charity shop can also be an excellent way to get involved.

Of course, many of us don’t have the time to actively put in so many hours. But donating to a worthy cause can make heaps of difference. For example, you could donate to YoungMinds, Samaritans or Beat – as well as many other worthy charities.

If you feel that you are at risk and need professional support, please reach out to a trustworthy help organisation or your GP. Here are some useful resources: 

Nightline: UoB’s student-Run service

•A student-run, anonymous service to talk about what you’re going through.

•Open 8pm-8am every night of term. 

•Offers an instant messaging service (real-time) or an email service (responding in 48 hours).

Samaritans: 116 123

•Speak to a Samaritan about anything that is on your mind. Free to call.

•Open 24 hours every day.

Papyrus UK: 0800 068 4141

•Available for help if you are under 35 and struggling with suicidal feelings.

•Open to call weekdays 10am-10pm, weekends 2pm-10pm and bank holidays 2pm–10pm. 

Campaign Against Living Miserably – CALM: 0800 58 58 58

•A movement supporting suicide and suicidal thoughts for men.

•Open to call 5pm-midnight every day, or use their web chat service online.

Switchboard: 0300 330 0630

•Support for those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

•Open to call 10am-10pm every day, or use their web chat service.