Mental Health Awareness week – an issue which is everyone’s business


The Mental Health Foundation’s campaign, running until Sunday, highlights the importance of speaking out about mental health problems.


By Anna Tabrah

‘Doing good does you good’ – this year’s message from Mental Health Awareness week, which runs until Sunday.

Every year the Mental Health Foundation creates a campaign to highlight the importance of speaking out about mental health problems.

With one in four of us experiencing some kind of mental health problem at one stage of our lives, it is clear that it’s an issue which is everyone’s business.

Kate Whalley, Director of Wandsworth Mind, said: “Raising awareness is important because it’s all about helping people to understand mental health and letting them know which services are available in the community.

“The best thing you can do for anyone with mental health problems, is to acknowledge it and talk to them about it and offer support to seek any help they may want.”

Mental health service provider Richmond Fellowship agrees that raising awareness continues to be important.

A spokesperson for the charity said: “Unlike physical ill health, mental health problems are often still viewed by the general public with ignorance, suspicion and fear.

“Unfair and discriminatory stigma is attached to people experiencing mental health problems, particularly in the workplace.”

So what is it that the Mental Health Foundation’s 2012 campaign aims to do?

Research recently carried out by the foundation shows over three quarters of the people asked believe society has become selfish.

In a report called ‘Doing Good? – published to coincide with Mental Health Awareness week – the foundation shows how helping others can positively impact your wellbeing.

Of the people asked, 87% said it made them feel good to carry out an act of kindness for someone.

Dr Andrew McCulloch, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: “Although it’s worrying that people feel society has become more selfish, our research also showed that the majority of people agree that being kind to others can have a positive effect on their own health and that they feel good when they carry out an act of kindness for someone.”

Dr Dan Robotham, the lead author of the report, stresses that it’s not about grand gestures, but little everyday acts of kindness.

He says that in a time of financial difficulty, many of us may not feel inspired to go out of our way to help others.

Dr Robotham said: “Our message would be that even though we may be short of money or financial resources, there are simple things we can do to help others and help us become more socially included.”

To show how small these acts can be, he drew upon his own experience of a gesture of kindness.

“I commute and the other day someone dropped their umbrella and I picked it up for them and made sure they got it back,” he said.

“That took some of my time but made me feel good about myself afterwards.”

And there is science behind all this to suggest that doing good can really make you feel better about yourself.

Dr Robotham said: “It is a rush of endorphins and stimulates the brain – like eating chocolate.”

And who wouldn’t be inspired by a calorie-free alternative to chocolate?

From simply saying thanks to strangers who hold open the door for you, to thanking family or friends for supporting you – everyone likes to feel appreciated.

The project shows just how simple it is to carry out a good deed on a day-to-day basis.

Dr Robotham adds that doing good comes naturally to human beings – we just need to relearn how to implement this in our daily lives.

“We want to remind people about how something like acting kindly is programmed into the human condition,” he said.

“It’s something that is rooted in us.”

So really, there’s no excuse not to get involved this week!

For more inspiration, you can download the Mental Health Foundation’s pocket guide to doing good for free at:

The Mental Health Foundation has even set up a Facebook page for people to share their experiences of kindness. Visit it here:

In the words of Aesop ‘No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted’.

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