From 10th-16th May, I have the privilege of celebrating my first #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek as somebody on the road to recovery with their ongoing journey with depression. Like with basically everything to do with mental health, I was blissfully unaware this week even existed until recently. For 21 years the incredible people over at the Mental Health Foundation have been doing amazing work and for the first year of many, I’ll be wearing my pin with pride and taking part in this monumental week.
What is this week about?
This week is about giving everybody in the UK the opportunity to focus on their mental health. It’s so easy for life to pass us by and live on autopilot while our mental health deteriorates. But this week is your chance to start building good habits and dedicate some real time to improving your mental wellbeing.
More than anything, it’s about starting those conversations on topics that might instinctively feel uncomfortable. These conversations don’t have to necessarily be with other people (although you should absolutely be doing that as well!), these conversations can be with yourself.
Ask yourself how you are doing and really listen to the answer. You might be surprised with the results.
It’s not selfish to focus on yourself for a moment and if there are things happening in your life that are continuously damaging your wellbeing, take time to work out how you can make things better. Change won’t happen unless you make it happen. You won’t see results right away, but please don’t let that deter you. In the long run you will thank yourself for trying.
As always, there’s a theme for this wondrous week and the theme this year is connecting with nature. Boy could we all use a bit of time with mother nature after spending what has felt like a decade trapped inside our houses. Here in London (aka the big smog), it’s tough to ever feel like an environment exists beyond the concrete towers that surround you.
But there are some truly beautiful gems scattered about that I fully intend to make the most of.
During this pandemic, millions of us turned to nature for our daily boosts and as the thing that excited us most between new episodes of WandaVision or whatever other show exists aside from WandaVision. I’m sure each one of you can think of an extraordinary number of times that the most exciting part of your day was getting some fresh air or equally can think of (hopefully) a lesser number of days where you didn’t feel like you lived a proper day because you didn’t leave the house.
There’s a reason why 45% of people cite being in green spaces as being vital for our mental health. Webcams that show footage of wildlife saw views increase by 2000% during the pandemic for Christ sake and I dread to think how many times David Attenborough's has been watched in the past year.
We thrive off of nature. It brings us creativity, empathy, consolation and wonder. But unfortunately nature can be a luxury. For many of us it’s a privilege and this week is your chance to use that luxury to aid in your happiness.
Why this week is now so important to me
In the last week alone, I’ve had a handful of close friends share stories of how a detrimental mental health has either affected them or a loved one. A number of those have said how some older generations have had such backwards views on mental health and it’s no slight to them. Information is more readily available now and I’m sure when we are older our views on a number of topics will seem outdated.
The point being that we are not far removed from a time when discussing mental health was seen as either taboo or weak or both. It’s a time I grew up in and I’m not even 30 yet. We’ve made wonderful strides in society, but we are nowhere near where we need to be.
This week is a testament to how far we’ve come. This week is a symbol of the times changing. This week is the embodiment of my new found meaning for life.
As many of you may know from reading my content over the past year, I’ve spent countless weeks and months locking myself away from the world and letting my depression consume me. During those times I never took advantage of the outside world and all that nature could do to have helped me out. So many times something as simple as a short walk has improved my mood tenfold.
No longer can I blissfully claim ignorance for all the amazing things that communication and nature have done for my mental health. So I implore you to do as I do, enjoy the little things that being outside can do for you and start having more of those conversations. Let’s make ourselves and those around us a little happier as best we can.
Until we speak again, keep hanging in there.