Good mental health is just as important as good physical health, and maintaining it should be a priority for everyone. It helps you to feel good about yourself and cope well with the everyday pressures of life.
One in four people in the North of Ireland/Northern Ireland will experience problems that affect their mental health, yet very few of us are willing to talk about the subject openly. Those with mental health problems often face stigma and discrimination, and fear of these can prevent people from getting help and hinder their recovery.
Mental health problems affect society as a whole, not just a small, isolated segment. Although certain groups are more vulnerable, no-one is immune to poor mental health.
Mental health problems are health conditions that are characterised by alterations in thinking, mood or behaviour, but good mental health is more than simply the absence of problems.
You can find out more about mental health and detailed information about specific conditions from the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Remembering a few simple ways to protect your mental wellbeing could make all the difference. These include:
- Get enough rest;
- Make time for yourself, family and friends - talk to them about how you feel;
- Get to know who you are, think about and try to do things that make you really happy, and don’t forget to laugh regularly;
- Cultivate and encourage optimism in yourself and others, try to avoid over-thinking and comparisons with others – learn to balance and accept what you can and cannot change about yourself;
- Exercise regularly, preferably with someone else;
- Limit your intake of alcohol and avoid cigarettes and other drugs.
If you’re feeling low, it helps to talk to someone you trust, eg. a friend or family doctor. Talking is the first step in the recovery process and, with appropriate help, people who have experienced feelings of anxiety or despair can, and do, go on to recover.
The Public Health Agency’s website Minding Your Head has information on how to protect your mental and emotional wellbeing and the issues that can affect it, eg anxiety or depression. It also contains information on local services that can offer help and support.
The Take 5 campaign also contains advice on how you can protect your mental health and take easy steps to improve it. The campaign is based on research from the New Economics Foundation (NEF). NEF’s centre for wellbeing developed a set of five evidence-based actions that, if practised regularly, can improve personal wellbeing. This same research shows that wellbeing does not depend on spending money or consuming more. NEF has produced five postcards, one for each of the five ways to wellbeing, and you can download those here .