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Mental Health Awareness Week 2021

View profile for Malcolm Underhill
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Mental Health Awareness Week 2021

This week, the 10th-16th May 2021, is Mental Health Awareness Week. This year the focus is upon #nature and particularly the restorative powers that nature has. As evidence of this evidence, the Mental Health Foundation published results showing that going for walks was one of our top coping strategies to deal with the consequences of the pandemic. 45% of those who were surveyed reported that green spaces were vital for their mental health.

Whether it’s taking a walk in your local park, making off into the hills, running in the rain or enjoying the warm sunshine on your face as you walk across a beach, we all know that whatever the state of our mental health, going outside and getting back to nature replenishes our spirits and energy. I therefore commend to anyone who is feeling low, to take the opportunity this week, to get outside and spend as much time as possible enjoying the wonders of our natural world.

Although research shows, and by our own experience we know, the great outdoors is a way of releasing tension, nature alone cannot heal poor mental health. It is just one of a number of measures that can be necessary to address states of melancholy, depression and other psychiatric symptoms.

I know this because the work I do, helping individuals who have suffered assaults, particularly sexual assaults, whether as adults, or as children. Those who have suffered such trauma can experience a range of negative symptoms for many years and without treatment, those symptoms may well become lifelong. Therefore, at this time when we are reflecting upon what we can do to help ourselves and others to improve mental health, let us particularly think about those who are in more challenging situations than ourselves. I urge those who have been the victim but survived sexual assaults to come forward and seek help.

Over many years governments have increased the funds available to support those with issues of mental health, particularly focusing upon the most vulnerable, including victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, which has been brought into sharp focus during the pandemic. However, I also know the funding available still does not meet the needs of all those who require counselling or therapy.    

Nevertheless, the first step to improving health, is to talk to others. Decades ago society was not interested in an individual’s mental health. Fortunately, much has changed since those times and we are now all well aware of the importance of mental health and the ways in which it can be improved. Consequently, those who need help can have confidence that they will be listened to, that they will be believed and that they will be directed towards support that can address their symptoms.

I derive a great deal of personal satisfaction if I can help an individual who has suffered sexual assault, whether as an adult or in childhood, to gain access to mental health treatment, including access to private medical treatment. This can be achieved by pursuing the person who caused the harm, the domestic violence offenders, paedophiles, rapists and others who cause such harm to their victims. It is not possible to pursue sexual abuse compensation in every case, but on many occasions it can be done. Survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault are entitled to pursue compensation for the harm they have suffered at the hands of others.

The starting point in all this, is taking that first step, to talk to someone, asking for help. It is not necessary to provide a detailed history about the cause of your mental health symptoms, but simply ask for help. The details are not important when making an initial approach so do not be put off from seeking help.    There are many people who are prepared to listen, just listen and only take action to help you, if you want it. Steps can be taken at your own speed, when you ready to talk.

Talking is most important as it can be a release, the lifting of a great weight from your shoulders. Unfortunately, making the decision to talk can be difficult and for that reason I return to the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week-nature. For those suffering with the consequences of poor mental health caused by trauma, take the opportunity this week to reacquaint yourself with nature.    Find a quiet and peaceful place where you can think about what you would like to do; perhaps thinking about a better life and how you may be able to achieve that.  There is a lot you can do yourself.

A great deal can be achieved by reconnecting with nature but in addition, it is most likely that you will need professional help. Please seek this as there are many people able to help.

I therefore wish you all a wonderful week, enjoying the sun, breeze, wind, rain, flowers, trees, mountains, lakes and beaches. Wherever you are, nature is not that far away.

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