THE PERFECT GIFT FOR A MINDSET LIFT
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There is a lot going on when it comes to mental health. People are interested now, more than ever in what this means and how it impacts us.
What seems to stand out most is that poor mental and mental illness is on the rise, it affects millions of us around the world and it is hitting the bottom line of businesses hard.
A great many people, governments and businesses recognise that this really matters. Mental health is extremely popular – the bandwagon is going around and lots of people are climbing aboard.
Being a psychotherapist for many years, I should be jumping for joy. Finally, the penny has dropped and we are recognising how fundamental and vital our mental health and well-being are. For sure this is an immensely positive shift, however, this trend is seeing both good, as well as very disturbing and dangerous developments.
Greater requests and financial investment, in support strategies, are turning up on the mental health scene. All targeted at bringing about improvements in making us better.
In response, we are seeing mental health professionals and non-professionals waving their array of commentaries and remedies.
Should we be worried about this growing wave of people, who are expressing their passion for improving mental health and supporting those who are suffering and are in need of support?
I would have to say yes. The most disturbing concern in this development are individuals with little or no knowledge, training or experience, who are asking people to tell them about their mental health.
People setting themselves up as mental health coaches, advisors or experts offering strategies with limited, amateur or untested interventions, as answers to dealing with deeply personal and difficult mental health problems.
There are those who merely want to help and those who feel that good intentions are enough, believing that knowledge, education, training, experience and skills are not necessary or important.
Although well-meaning, if support is not provided in a well-informed, safe and professional way, it can do more harm than good.
Sadly, as with any new trend, there are also those who simply see people’s mental health needs as an opportunity to make money or to use this as a means to gain attention and promote their own status. This is a state of affairs that should not remain unchecked.
The fact is that, in order for support to be relevant and safe, mental health responses need to be given by those competent, knowledgeable and skilled enough to deliver them. Just like medical professionals trained and experienced mental health professionals know what is involved, they understand how to deal with the issues and most importantly they know how to spot and respond to the risks.
Just as we would not allow a surgeon to operate on us with next to little or no education, training or experience why would we allow this for our mental health?
Afterall both are complex, essential and life-sustaining factors for our existence.
I have to admit that when it comes to mental health, I am strongly protective. I began my career over 25 years ago. As a young psychology graduate, I learnt something about the psychology, emotion, neurology and social aspects of how we operate or fail to function, as humans. My understanding and know-how became much stronger through my psychotherapy training and on-going experience.
Along with time and experience, I honed my gut feeling for recognising when something was missing or not quite right about my client’s situation. This intuition stems from continued involvement, spotting the subtle and not so subtle cues, which guides some of us to follow that strong urge not to let it go, look deeper and to react in a way that protects our clients.
This is not to say that non-mental health professionals do not have a crucial part to play.
There is an essential need for advocates and people to support, promote, campaign and champion for greater awareness, openness, understanding, resources, investment and better mental health practice. People are gaining the courage to share their lived experience, in order to help break the stigma and bring about positive change.
However, like with any professional practice, in order to treat our mental health adequately and safely, rules and competencies need to apply.
So, what are the steps that can be taken to ensure that people’s mental health needs are met in the most skilled and protected way?
The basic essentials are to at the least know enough about what you are doing, in order to do no harm and to have sufficiently skilled experience or training.
If people are serious about supporting good mental health, in a beneficial way then the following ten factors need apply:
1. Know Your Stuff: Have a clear understanding and use in the distinction between mental health and mental ill-health.
2. Create Trust & Safety: Understand and respect privacy and confidentiality.
3. Know Your Limitations: Be completely open and clear about your role and abilities. If you are not a professionally trained and experienced mental health professional say so and be honest about exactly what you can and cannot do.
4. Build Your Competency: Engage in skilled training, as well as on-going personal professional development.
5. Stay Clear & on Track: Regularly make use of professional guidance and support.
6. Build Your Self-Awareness: Continuously self-monitor your reactions and needs. React to these in a way that keeps you on track and maintains safety.
7. Maintain Self-Care: Take time out whenever necessary, in order to maintain clarity and your own wellbeing.
8. Set & Follow Good Standards: Join or become members of relevant professional associations and follow a code of ethics.
9. Be Well Prepared: Become familiar with relevant government and professional guidelines, resources and support services regarding mental health.
10. Hand over to the Experts: Refer to relevant mental health professionals, bodies or support services whenever possible and necessary.
Those who view mental health as an easy touch or focus on financial payoffs are doing all of us a huge disservice.
The fact is that there is no single or quick fix to mental illness or keeping us in good mental health.
What is clear is that, in order to safely develop our mental health, it is essential to know what this involves, understand how this runs our lives, engage more in healthier reactions, promote effective and competent support strategies, along with continual investment in ample resources.
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) is seriously challenging our social, economic and business stability, as well as our freedom of movement and working practices.
It is not surprising then that this is having a detrimental impact on our mental health.
Our human vulnerability and ability to cope with this threat has been exposed. Naturally, people are fearful, anxious, uncertain and some of us are panicking.
This is clearly a time to take positive action and follow necessary precautions, as well as keep a tight rein on our emotional reactions.
It’s important to recognise the dangers and to acknowledge our fear and anxieties, rather than be driven by them.
This means constructively handling our health and stress, developing ways to cope and not allowing our fears and irrational reactions to get out of hand.
During a crisis, it’s important to know ways in which we can adapt and strengthen our resilience, in order to maintain good mental wellbeing.
Set and maintain your personal & professional boundaries. Managing time spent on work and socially, in a way that best suits your present needs & situation can help to reduce pressure and conflict.
Schedule time with family, friends & colleagues for home/remote activities, such as mindfulness, yoga, meditation, listening to music, dancing, reading, book reviews, or just chatting. These can help to reduce stress and lift your mood.
Avoid putting pressure on yourself and thinking negatively as this is counter-productive.
When presented with a problem focus on finding a way forward and attaining a clear goal.
Having a constructive view on the present situation and working towards a specific outcome enables you to positively draw on all of your resources, in order to get you to where you need to be.
Exposing yourself to positive internal and external messages can help build confidence and counter our negative bias, supporting a more productive mindset.
Sleep is essential for your overall physical and mental health and well-being.
Good sleep helps to build your resilience in dealing with stress and anxiety.
Create Healthy Sleep Routines & Behaviour:
✅Get up and go to bed at regular times
✅Avoid heavy meals, exercise and using screens, a few hours before going to bed
✅Ensure your bedroom is dark enough and a comfortable temperature
Reflect on the expectations set by yourself and others.
Examine how realistic these are and adjust them according.
Identify manageable steps in meeting expectations. This helps to limit disappointment and stress, as well as enabling you to achieve your goals more easily.
Eating well and being active will help to keep up your energy, strengthen your immune system and assist to maintain your physical and mental fitness.
During crisis or times of high stress, it can be easy to be tempted into increased or improper alcohol or drug use. Remain vigilant and keep busy. This will enable you to remain focused and avoid creating or worsening your mood or situation.
There is a huge amount of advice being given about how to keep yourself and others safe. It is not only wise but can be lifesaving to follow informed messages and official sources.
To help cope with isolation and physically distancing regularly check-in and remotely connect with others. This enables you to gain reassurance and companionship through being connected and supported.
Sharing your experience can be a great relief. This enables you to gain understanding and support, assisting you to deal better with your situation and feelings.
Monitoring your mental health, along with engaging in actions to reduce stress, such as exercise, taking breaks, healthy eating habits, having fun, meditation & listening to music, can help lift the mood and maintain better health.
Reach out for support if you notice signs such as prolonged low mood, excessive anxiety, increased anger and aggression, anxiety and panic attacks, obsessive thinking and behaviour, loss of hope or interest, feeling or thoughts of self-harm.
We should not underestimate how much the threat and difficulties, presented by this crisis, can deeply unsettle and distress us. This can exacerbate conditions and seriously impact those who have already been experiencing a poor mental health or mental illness.
The list at the end of this article provides information on mental health support options (UK Only).
Like never before, has there been an essential need for taking care of our mental health.
This is a top priority for everyone. Our human limits and mental capacity are being strongly tried.
Coming through this crisis well will require significant support, commitment and investment in our mental well-being and resources. We must now rise to the challenge.
For anyone seeking support with their mental health here are a range of available support options.
Gov UK Mental Health Support
Provides advice to support mental health during the coronavirus (COVID-19) Crisis. People struggling with their mental health during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak will be offered additional online support and practical guidance to help them cope:
NHS Mental Health Support Helplines Resource
Provides a national list of organisations supporting people with a wide range of mental health problems and mental illnesses: Mental Health Helplines
Shout – TEXT 85258
Shout is the UK’s first 24/7 text service, free on all major mobile networks, for anyone in crisis anytime, anywhere. It’s a place to go if you’re struggling to cope and you need immediate help.
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I had been fighting the now glaringly obvious I was struggling, desperately struggling with my life.
How could this be?
Me, the person who was full of laughter, so driven and who possessed an enduring purpose and deep sense of meaning.
I was sure of what was right and what I wanted. Most importantly I was constantly in control. The world was full of so many amazing possibilities just waiting for me to take my pick. Now it took my entire strength and courage to muster the will to get out of bed.
Life was senseless, the world – meaningless.
I was constantly engulfed by anxiety and sadness, distanced from the world. My fierce passion and internal compass were gone and so too was that little voice, deep inside, that had always been with me, letting me know, that no matter what life threw at me everything would be okay.
All I had to hold on to was the thought that I had to keep going and hope that things would get better.
The will to survive and the drive to find happiness is a powerful one, but when the chips are down how do you come back from the edge?
Sadly some of us don’t.
Many of us believe that something like this would never happen to us. We have it all figured out and we’ve got what it takes to tough it out.
We convince ourselves that we are coping or that if we just carry on things will sort themselves out. Sometimes this can work. Most often it does not and we end up paying the price.
Taking a hard and honest look at myself and my own reactions to life taught me some valuable and soul-searching lessons in how to survive and take care of myself, as well as discovering my own self-fulfilment and happiness.
Once I had accepted that I had a major problem and was declining the heavy burden of shame, embarrassment, self-criticism, loneliness and impossible pressure to be perfect began to fall away and I felt relieved.
I could now begin to identify what got me here and find ways to rebuild my life stronger than before.
With any difficulty or problem, we first need to recognise and accept that there is one. Only then can we focus on the things we need to work on, in order to get better.
Acknowledging that we are all human and vulnerable provides insight, which supports us to react more to how things actually are and strengthen our resilience.
I expected that being a student of psychology and aspiring to become a psychotherapist it should have been easier for me to talk to others about my problems and seek support. However, this tore at me. I believed that I was a failure.
Of course, now I can see how this was a major turning point in accepting my human vulnerability, confronting my shattered self-image, deep prejudice and assumptions, as well as gaining insight and understanding about my own needs and so much more.
Talking about and seeking support can provide huge relief. Gaining understanding and guidance to deal with your situation and feelings more effectively.
Suppressing or ignoring our problems will eventually come back to bite us. The harder and longer we keep this up, the worse it will be.
I had been doing this for years. I was at breaking point and my troubles were beginning to pour out. Acknowledging and confronting problems as they emerge prevents these from building up and makes them much easier to manage.
Now whenever I see a difficulty, I perceive this as a challenge to be overcome in the quickest, most direct and constructive way possible.
Building the will to survive means making a conscious choice to do so. I didn’t want to give up, although I was suffering deeply.
I recognised that things would not shift by themselves without me actively taking steps to create a change. These involved achievable small steps in my mind and my reactions one day at a time. I had to recognise that without will or action, development is impossible.
Our tendency to always want to be right and have control over our lives is extremely powerful.
Recognising that this is not only impossible but is also not necessary, was a vital turning point for me.
We can invest and waste so much of our valuable time and energy in things, which often lack importance and cause conflict. Letting go of this tendency, admitting that we have made mistakes or are wrong both frees us and expresses our courage and the authenticity of being human.
Constantly giving to others had worn me down, and often left me angry and disappointed.
I needed to stop putting other people before me and start investing in myself. I learnt to love and appreciate myself.
When you recognise and accept yourself for who you are, greater strength and confidence is gained empowering you to positively grow.
I decided to cultivate a perspective of no longer being distracted or discouraged through comparing myself to others.
I discovered that a new sense of freedom and fulfilment comes from choosing to live up to the expectations you set for yourself.
One of the most beneficial things I have learnt is to set my boundaries and know my limitations.
This is in how far I push yourself, as well as how much I allow others to impact me.
Actively managing this for yourself offers a lifeline in discipline and self-preservation.
Most of us understand that self-care is crucial if we want to protect our mental health and wellbeing.
Relaxation, exercise, healthy eating, good sleep, having fun, connecting with others are all now part of my lifestyle, which until recently was out of balance and woefully neglected.
Keeping these in check are your personal resources and strategies in building resilience and dealing with what life throws at you.
Being on the edge is terrifying. It’s a place where you and I should try to avoid at all costs.
The one most important ability in achieving this, for me, is to recognise the warning signs.
Whenever you start to feel anxious or a problem comes up, react to it straight away.
Do whatever it takes in meeting your needs: regain your balance, stop, step back or change direction and initiate the change that has to happen to keep you back from the edge.
Have you been to the edge? Share your story!
We’d love to hear what you have to say.
My life was a catastrophe.
My dreams of future success and happiness were over.
I had failed.
At age 24 I had not gained the one for my university degree, that I had so desperately worked for. I had been given endless messages that anything less than this would ruin my chances of succeeding in training as a psychiatrist and being admitted into a prestigious psychological society.
What did my life mean now?
What could I achieve other than anything mediocre?
The idea was terrifying and for a time I was submerged in fear, confusion, sadness and self-reproach for not being good enough.
This did not last for long. My strong self-belief, deep sense of what was meaningful and my determination to achieve turned this around for me.
No-one was going to tell me that I wasn’t good enough. No one and nothing was going to stand in my way of living the life I had chosen for myself. In fact, throughout my secondary school years, the teachers had told me that I would never go to University.
Our concept of success relates to the experiences which have been imposed on us from birth. That first smile, first steps, first word, ability to make friends, to be popular, get good grades, have the perfect partner, gain our dream job and it goes on throughout our personal and professional lives.
Success can be defined in several ways. Generally viewed as an accomplishment of wealth, respect, fame or the achievement of a desired / positive outcome.
Our concepts of success are strongly influenced by our society, culture, education system and our parents, as well as our own aspirations, which are deeply based on all of the pre-mentioned factors.
When asked the question Do you think you are a success? or Is he/she a success? our immediate reaction is often to assess this in terms of a person’s material wealth, family status, partner relationship, job/career progression or the level of a person’s influence, popularity or power. This is not so surprising, particularly for someone we do not know because we have little else to go on.
Success is often based on comparing ourselves to others, so we have to be honest here.
Many of us receive a deep sense of joy and satisfaction in believing that we have attained sought after goals, especially over that of others. After all, we are socialised and accustomed to this.
This creates a satisfying sense that some people have done better or are actually better than others.
This also expresses messages that others are abler, have more possibilities, are more valued, more respected, possess more power and are much happier.
This perspective is not only skewed, limited and hard to break away from, it also leads to a mindset which can be detrimental and unproductive to our mental wellbeing and life satisfaction.
People with a mindset of “success”, based on their own personal achievements possess the ability to positively influence their life perspective.
Their view of themselves and life experience does not involve comparison and is not determined by the expectations and accomplishments of others.
Their sense of self is formed from what they have personally faced and overcome. This also enables them to set realistic and achievable goals, decrease the demands placed upon themselves and make things less stressful.
In this way, they are focused on a perspective which gives personal meaning and self-worth.
When achievements are based on one’s own terms, which are judged and valued by ourselves, we reach greater fulfilment and create happier and mentally healthier lives.
We are all achieving every day with personal achievements being made from hour to hour, day to day, month to month and year to year. Facing, overcoming, resolving and achieving personal aspirations represent the defining moments of who we are.
We witness this in many different ways:
Continually confronting our fears and life challenges.
For someone who is severely depressed, “success” can be defined in terms of their personal achievements of being able to get out of bed, wash, get dressed, make something to eat or go out.
Surviving or leaving an unhappy or abusive situation or relationship.
Caring for loved ones.
Regaining something that we had once lost.
The commitment and responsibility of parenthood.
Being the first to achieve an unattained feat.
Accomplishing our personal best.
Learning a new skill.
Gain greater insight and knowledge.
Completing a set task, no matter how small or how big.
All of these examples reveal just a tiny fraction of our continual personal achievements.
Whenever I came up against an obstacle, I found a way around and my focus was clear. When things seem to block your way see this as an opportunity to explore the wider possibilities.
I didn’t become a psychiatrist and this led me to follow a more fulfilling path in becoming an Existential Psychotherapist. This perfectly suited my personal beliefs and way of life.
I don’t care if people view me as a success or not. This is not what is important or meaningful.
My life has been a continuous stream of personal achievements. I have overcome severe depression, I’ve faced prejudice, discrimination, hatred, jealousy with reserve and dignity.
I am honoured to fulfil a fantastic career in the service of supporting others.
I have learnt a new language, lived in a foreign country.
I learnt to love myself and am loved by others.
I continually strive to be respectful, kind and caring to family, friends and strangers.
I maintain an open mind and am constantly growing; my personal feats are countless.
We’d love to hear what you have to say.
This is the second article in our series focused on Mental Health. In the first article, the author tackles the myths and stigma surrounding mental health.
We cannot fail to see the growing interest in the promotion of mental health awareness and in the movement to instigate positive change.
This is strongly being supported by the increase in media coverage, world prominent figures, members of the British Royal Family, celebrities, mental health advocates and charities, as well as people sharing their personal experience.
In fact, many countries, governments and businesses, around the world, have come to recognise the huge importance and impact that mental ill health has on our human functioning, happiness, community relations and economic development.
The figures on how many of us experience mental ill health and the profound impact on the economy paint an alarming picture.
1 in every 4 people in the UK and over 1 in 6 in the European Union and World Wide experience a mental health or substance misuse problem. This is estimated at being around 970 million people constituting 13% of the global population (2017)(1). This has been shown to have a major impact on employee absence, engagement, productivity and the economy.
In the UK mental health problems are estimated to have an economic cost of £70 – £100 Billion (2013), €600 billion is estimated to be the cost to the EU countries with €240 billion on lost productivity(2).
The World Health Organization estimates that depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 trillion in lost productivity (2017)(3).
In the UK only around 25% of people are estimated to have access to appropriate treatment (2014) (4) with as little as 12.1% of adults receiving mental health treatment (2014)(5).
The human development, social and business case for the need in a greater consideration and investment in mental health has not only been made but is being heavily witnessed.
In the interest of building a greater society, the focus must be on making us healthier and happier, along with creating a more resilient and highly productive workforce. To achieve this the welfare of people’s mental and physical health needs to be on an equal footing. This requires significant and structured investment.
The UK Government has recognised this in its recent funding and made mental health more of a priority in 2011 with its new strategy of “no health without mental health”. In 2012 it was made a legal responsibility for the NHS to maintain an equal commitment and level of care for both mental and physical health by 2020.
We can see how businesses, organizations and individuals are beginning to recognise and implement strategies to support Mental Health and Wellbeing. This progression is essential for positive and engaged cultures, which promote strong and lasting growth.
We are now talking more openly about our mental health issues and challenging the stigma.
The developments of an increasingly more positive perspective on mental health are encouraging, nevertheless, a much larger transformation is necessary.
We now require the implementation of more adequately funded support services and effective collaborative, long-term strategies involving the tacking of the deep-rooted stigma, negative stereotypes and discrimination associated with mental illness. These are all necessary if we are to create a more open, accepting, safer, supportive and inclusive society, in which people and workplaces can benefit and thrive
Real and lasting change can be promoted by the establishment of a comprehensive and strong mental health strategy involving the implementation of structured state, social and business practices related to continuous life-long development.
Talking openly means talking safely and in a matter of fact way about our mental health and its impact.
Being able to share one’s experience promotes many benefits in allowing people to gain relief, acceptance and support, as well as creating engagement.
This enables people to learn, understand and develop in a naturally healthy way.
Accepting mental health on an equal footing with our physical health is a necessary development.
These are hugely interrelated and contribute fundamentally to our overall health and wellbeing, which is vital for our positive growth.
[bctt tweet=”Caroline Ribeiro-Nelson (Head of Free Choices UK): Mental health relates to all of us #mentalhealth #brandminds2020 ” username=”brand_minds”]
From a very early age, the importance of good psychological health and well-being supports to build psychological resilience.
This is more important now more than ever, in a world where the young are confronted with increasingly complex technological, political and social developments, which deeply impact and make greater demands on mental strength and flexibility.
We need to stop giving harmful messages to boys and men and create a culture where talking about and taking care of their mental health and well-being are a natural process, rather than a weakness.
This is crucial, in order to deal with their mental health problems effectively and to reduce the higher risk males face.
Implementing clear and comprehensive processes in the establishment of government and health service policy and procedures is mandatory.
This is essential along with an investment of appropriate finances, in order to provide adequate structures and resources. This will enable the delivery of vital and high-quality mental health services.
Access to resources is achieved in the creation of a variety of mediums, through which people can quickly and easily find the most appropriate support services and resources.
Mental health service users and their carers having efficient access to resources can greatly reduce stress and allow more people to gain the necessary support.
Ensuring that there are clear and straightforward information and advice from mental health professionals and services, will allow more people, with mental health issues and their carers, to receive support more quickly and effectively.
A real and significant change in the workplace and economy can be brought about by governments and business leaders, throughout all industries and across every sector, making a strong and on-going commitment to place mental health and well-being high on their agenda.
A focus on creating a healthy, happy and resilient work cultures is supportive of a more engaged workforce and productive economy. This is good for people, society and business.
Mental health relates to all of us.
Alongside government, health services and societal role models everyone needs to be involved in promoting our mental wellbeing. Sharing and working together, freely and honestly can be a powerful force in instigating positive change.
There are increasingly more organisations and individuals working in the same way with the same goals.
Psychological, Mental Health and Well-being providers and supporters coming together to form a nationwide network would provide a comprehensive and coordinated strategy.
A consistent and focused approach is clearly more productive and effective in building a more healthy and resilient culture.
Is mental health a topic of interest in your organisation?
Feel free to share your thoughts with us.
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According to the 2013 Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer, mental health problems cost the UK economy an estimated £70-£100 billion each year and account for 4.5% of GDP.269 It is estimated that 20% of this cost is attributed to health and social care costs, 30% to lost productivity, and the remaining 50% to human suffering.
Department of Health. (2014). Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer 2013, https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk
Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014. Leeds: NHS Digital.
Is mental health a subject of discussion in your organization? Read on to discover the myths and stigma related to mental health.
If we are to cope well with life demands and develop as fully healthy human beings, then a major shift is required, where our mental health is accepted and responded to as a natural and essential part of who we are and how we live.
To achieve this, the deeply seated detrimental beliefs and negative behaviour, which exists around mental health, have to change. This inevitably involves the development of accurate knowledge and understanding, along with the creation of adequate mental health structures and professional services.
Such a transformation is far from easy, so how do we gain significant change and why is it so hard to shift our thinking and behaviour about Mental Health?
Changing negative messages and myths about mental health is tough, not only because these are deeply rooted and often established from very early on in life, but is further compounded by the fact, that in our culture we are very uncomfortable and unfamiliar with talking about our troubled mental status.
We then understandably possess a very strong tendency to avoid doing so. When someone asks How’s it going? the automatic response for many of us is “oh fine”, “great”, “couldn’t be better” or when things are getting to us a strained “okay I suppose”.
Low and behold if you were to share what an absolutely terrible week it’s been so far with your youngest child struggling with ADHD, your mother just being diagnosed with cancer, you feeling overwhelmed with having to meet your department’s unrealistic targets and beginning to experience low mood, anxiety, exhaustion revealing signs of depression.
Even tougher still if you are a leader, manager or head of an organisation who adheres to the belief and expectations that you cannot reveal signs of weakness or vulnerability or you will lose your authority and no longer be respected.
If we break a leg or have an operation, we do not have such fears or negative beliefs, as our physical illnesses are more readily accepted and supported.
Putting our mental health on an equal footing with our physical health is vital for our overall wellbeing. Brushing our teeth on a daily basis is something that we all know is good for us and we need to do, in order to maintain good oral hygiene for healthy teeth and gums. In the same manner, in which we are taught to brush our teeth, we need to learn and develop the normal everyday habit of talking about and taking care of our Mental Health.
[bctt tweet=”Caroline-Ribeiro Nelson, Head of Free Choices UK: Putting our #mentalhealth on an equal footing with our physical health is vital for our overall #wellbeing.” username=”brand_minds”]
One of the biggest barriers to improving a person’s mental health is stigma.
Nearly nine out of ten people with mental health problems say that stigma and discrimination have a negative effect on their lives. 
Mental Health Foundation
Many people feel unable to talk about their issues through fear of being judged, unfairly treated or not understood.
They remain silent, attempting to cope with problems by themselves and unable to receive appropriate support.
Removing the stigma of mental health and changing negative reactions requires better understanding through rectifying the misinformation and myths, which exist around mental health.
This relates to myths such as
mental illnesses are not real illnesses,
it’s a weakness,
weak personalities bring on mental illness,
it is shameful,
there’s no hope once you develop a mental illness,
it means you are not worthy or as good as someone else,
it’s under your control and you should pull yourself out it,
it makes you more dangerous, unreliable or unpredictable,
along with many more.
Take for example the belief or myth that “mental illness makes you less effective as someone else”.
Although people experiencing a mental health issue may have difficulties in aspects of their lives, this does not mean that they are unable to perform competently and therefore it should not be generalised. This varies and is dependent on a number of different personal and social factors and circumstances, along with a person’s coping, intervention and support strategies. It is, in fact, the case that someone who is experiencing mental illness can be just as effective or even more so, than someone else.
“Research has proven that diagnosis and severity of symptoms are not an indicator of work outcomes, but having had a job, wanting to work and believing you can work are better indicators of success (Grove and Membrey, 2005)”. 
Incorrect information, stereotypical thinking and beliefs, pre-judgements, societal reactions and our own biases can greatly hinder our ability to talk about our mental health and prevents us from effectively understanding those in need of support.
We can then gain insight through reflecting on where we think our beliefs and attitudes around mental illness come from. These can relate to our own or family experience, friends or people we know, cultural and social influences or the media. As negative and false ideas strongly contribute to the stigma associated with mental health understanding and challenging these can promote more positive attitudes and behaviour.
An effective approach is taken by Time to Change, one of the UK’s largest Mental Health Campaign Organisations; this organisation focuses on implementing an on-going social and cultural movement, which instigates a fundamental and wide-reaching shift in attitudes and behaviour.
This involves mental health education, media exposure, collaboration with organisations with mutual interests and utilising a variety of strategies, which support employers and employees in the workplace, schools, community champions and national, as well as global campaigns, along with the provision of training and resources, which enable open, active and practical participation.
The National Attitudes to Mental Illness Survey 2016 findings, released by Time to Change in May 2017 found that between 2008 – 2016 there had been a 9.6 % positive change.
This constitutes an estimated 4.1m people with improved attitudes towards people with mental health problems in England. The survey revealed that people’s willingness to work, live and continue a relationship with someone with a mental health problem have improved by 11% since 2009. 
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www.personneltoday.com/hr/changing-attitudes-to-mental-health/ Changing attitudes to mental health By Personnel Today
on 3 Sep 2012 (Grove and Membrey, 2005)
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK384914/ Corrigan PW, Kosyluk KA, Rüsch N. Reducing self-stigma by coming out proud. American Journal of Public Health. 2013;103(5):794–800. [PubMed] [Reference list]
THE PERFECT GIFT FOR A MINDSET LIFT
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