A small conversation about a person's mental health has the power to make a big difference.
We know that the more conversations we have, the more myths we can bust and barriers we can break down, helping to end the isolation and shame that too many of us with mental health problems feel. Around 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem this year, yet the shame and silence can be as bad as the mental health problem itself. Your attitude to mental health could change someone’s life. All it takes is a simple 'are you ok?'
There are so many myths that contribute to the stigma around mental health, it's so important that we challenge them. Read the below myths and think about how many you might've originally thought were true: 1. Mental health problems are rare. Untrue: 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem, which means someone you know may be struggling with mental illness. 2. I can’t do anything to support someone with a mental health problem. Untrue: There are lots of things you can do to make a difference to someone's life. Check in with them - this can be as simple as a 'hello' text to show you're there if they need you. Listen without judgment when they talk. Treat them no differently to anyone else.
3. You can’t recover from mental health problems.
Untrue: They might not go away forever but lots of people with mental health problems still work, have families and lead full lives.
The Black Dog analogy from the World Health Organisation explains this well.
We're all experiencing a higher level of stress and anxiety right now, so if a mate says they're fine when you ask how they are, a second ‘are you sure?’ can make all the difference.
If you're not sure whether you should be concerned about a friend, there may be some noticeable changes in their appearance or personality. If you think:
I haven’t heard from them in ages
Their appearance has changed
They are using social media differently
They might be self-harming
They seem distracted or absent
They’re saying unsettling things
They’ve mentioned taking their own life
They’ve told me they’re not doing well
These are all indicators that they might be struggling with their mental health and need a friend. If you're still unsure, you can always seek guidance from a mental health professional or by calling NHS 111.
In England, men are more likely to suffer from undiagnosed mental health disorders, since 1 in 8 struggle with depression, anxiety, panic disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) but are far less likely to seek psychological therapies than women. Often, due to societal expectations and traditional gender roles, men are expected to be strong, dominant, and in control. While these aren’t inherently bad things, they can make it harder to reach out for help and open up.
Research shows that higher rates of suicide are found in minority communities, including gay men and men from BAME backgrounds. Young, black men are three times more likely to be at risk of suicide and six times more likely to be sectioned, which could be attributed to socioeconomic hardship, unemployment, relationship breakdown and lack of social support. Young Black Minds is a Leeds Mind service in partnership with Black Health Initiative, open to male-identifying black individuals, aged 16 to 25 who live in Leeds.
What is the Note To Self Project?
Third-year Illustration student, Sophie Warner started the Note To Self Project because she believes we need to be mindful of how wellbeing has become a part of our everyday culture. She explains:
'Many people now aspire to better themselves and have some sense of their own wellbeing through doing things that make them feel happy or healthy; but as a trend, this has become damaging and even toxic for some individuals. If they develop a negative perception of themselves where they cannot afford the plethora of products on the market, they are misled to think that their wellbeing is equivalent to the money they have spent. The Note To Self Project was created to challenge this perception, I use the medium of sticky notes to remind people if they have checked in with themselves that day. Sticky notes were an inexpensive way to carry out this project and I really hope people are spotting them around uni!'
Get involved by taking them home, photographing them, and tagging @stickynotesoph with the #thenotetoselfproject on Instagram.
This Welfare Fortnight, your Campaigns Officers, Katya Sheath & Zoe Van Rhyn-Behm created a set of Coping Cards to highlight the themes of each day. These are now downloadable so you can reuse and remember them any time you like. Click here to download them all.