How We Can Use World Mental Health Week to Change the World

World Mental Health Week, observed annually in the first week of October, provides a critical platform for raising awareness, advocating for mental health, and campaigning for change on a global scale. The theme varies each year, this year’s theme is ANXIETY, of particular importance to me, having experienced anxiety attacks at times of stress. The objective remains consistent: to create a world where mental health is made normal, understood, and supported. So how can we leverage World Mental Health Week to instigate transformative changes that impact individuals and our communities in a positive way?

  1. Educate and Raise Awareness

Knowledge is power. During Covid, I was scrolling through Facebook (as you do) when I saw an advert for FREE COURSES England – counselling skills. I was feeling very anxious myself due to the uncertainty of the economy and my mum was very poorly, and the news was flooded with an expected mental health pandemic.

Normally when things are free, I am quite sceptical and often too good to be true, so I checked it out and realised it was a government-backed initiative to raise awareness and help give the general public the skills to get people talking about their mental health. I managed to complete my course in 3 months, even finishing my final essay whilst on holiday in Portugal because I became absolutely hooked on the knowledge I was finding out. It was so empowering!

I then discovered that with my newly found skills, I was able to discuss mental health with my children, my friends and family. It motivated and inspired me to carry on and find out more about therapy. So why not be inspired and use this week to educate yourself and others about mental health issues, stigmas, and available resources? Share what you discover, don’t keep it to yourself and spread awareness. The more people understand mental health, the more empathetic and supportive our society will be.

  1. Promote Open Conversations

Encourage open conversations about mental health. Create safe spaces where people can express their thoughts, fears, and experiences without judgment. By talking openly about mental health, we can chip away at the stigma and help others feel less isolated.

  1. Advocate for Policies Supporting Mental Health

Leverage this week to advocate for policies that prioritise mental health services and funding. Write to your local MP, sign petitions, or join advocacy groups working toward improved mental health policies. Your voice matters, and collective advocacy can drive substantial change.

  1. Support Mental Health Initiatives

Donate to mental health organisations, volunteer your time, or fundraise for mental health causes. Every contribution, big or small, can make a significant difference in providing resources and support to those in need.

During the pandemic I began volunteering for a charity ‘Two’s company’ which was set up as a telephone befriending service for lonely people living at home. It may only be a tiny bit of my time, but I’m hoping it’s at least making a little bit of a difference.

  1. Prioritise Self-Care

Use this week to recommit to your own mental well-being, because you can’t look after anyone else well, if you’re not well yourself. Practice self-care, whether it’s through mindfulness, exercise, hobbies, or spending time with loved ones. By recognising how important your own mental health is, you’ll be able to be there for others when you are ready, and you set a positive example for others.

Mel Robbins ‘You’re in the best place to help the person who is in the place you used to be’

  1. Challenge Stigmas and Stereotypes

Take a stand against stigmas and stereotypes associated with mental health. Correct misinformation when you encounter it, and challenge harmful stereotypes perpetuated by media or society. Education is key to breaking down these barriers.

Stand up for people who are struggling with their mental health and be their advocates. Do not dismiss mental health issues as something they’ll just get over, because when you are in a downward spiral, you cannot escape your own mind without intervention.

  1. Show empathy and Offer Support

Be empathetic and supportive to those struggling with mental health issues. Listen actively, offer assistance, and encourage them to seek professional help. Your kindness can be a lifeline for someone in distress.

  1. Engage with Local Communities

Engage with your local community to promote mental health awareness. Organise workshops, events, or support groups to facilitate conversations and spread knowledge. The more informed our communities are, the better equipped we are to address mental health challenges.

This is a particular passion of mine and several years ago we partnered with local creatives and our local Council, Ashfield District to deliver workshop sessions for new mums who were struggling with their mental health. We provided timeout, with childcare from our local Applegarth Day nursery  and creative sessions with mindfulness and meditation for relaxation. The group bonded beautifully, self supported and still to this day tell me how much that group supported them. I’m really looking forward to developing and facilitating similar groups in the future.

  1. Collaborate with Mental Health Professionals

Collaborate with mental health professionals and organisations to support their initiatives. Whether it’s through fundraising, volunteering, or offering your skills, your collaboration can amplify their impact and spread the word.

  1. Be an Ally

Be an ally for those facing mental health issues. Stand up against discrimination and be a source of understanding and comfort. Small acts of kindness and solidarity can make a significant difference.

World Mental Health Week offers a unique opportunity to drive change and create a world that values mental health. By educating ourselves and others, advocating for supportive policies, promoting open conversations, and challenging stigmas, we can collectively transform attitudes and behaviours towards mental health. Let’s embrace this week to initiate a positive shift in our communities and the world. Together, we can make a lasting impact on mental health awareness and support and save lives!