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Mental health awareness week

Take a pause, have a deep breath, and ask yourself: how are you really feeling? If you aren’t doing well or if you are struggling, remember that is okay. It is okay not to be okay, you have gotten through one of the toughest years in modern history.

As we go into Mental Health Awareness week, it is an opportunity to pause and reflect on how far we have all come. Last year, in May 2020, I wrote about the importance of recognising ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’ in a year that was unlike any other we had ever known.[1] At that time, it was impossible to predict that it was just the beginning. We had all hoped that with the end of 2020, it would mean that we could slowly get back to some sense of normality.

It is more important than ever to be aware of the mental health of your loved ones, friends, and colleagues, not just for this week, but as a constant. If there was ever a year that has taught us that mental health needs to be taken seriously, it has been this one.

There has been an increase in mental health complaints since March 2020. There has been a staggering rise in depression, anxiety, and loneliness across the entire population. One of the devastating consequences has been the increase in self harm and suicide. There are not yet published official statistics on the number of suicides in the last year but, it is estimated that there could be an increase as high as 145%.

Alongside Covid 19, there is no doubt that we are also in the midst of a mental health crisis.

Lessons Learned

The past year has taught us a number of lessons.  The recently elected Scottish Government has made a commitment to put more funding into the mental health sector to charities and the NHS. This is in recognition that the current services are becoming overwhelmed with the demand.

Across the population, everyone has had their mental health affected by this year. From losing loved ones to being unable to see loved ones; the impact has been a collective experience. As human beings, we are social creatures, and it goes against our very nature to spend so much time alone and unable to interact with one another.

Another significant factor is the impact on the workplace. For those furloughed, to essential workers, to NHS employees and for those that worked from home throughout: for all, in some way, there has been an impact on mental health. A number of publications and charities have recommended that all workplaces need to recognise the importance of having proper support in place for their staff and consider having available mental health days. With mental health becoming a greater focus, it is clear that some permanent changes will need to be put in place.

Connect with Nature

This week is one for reflecting on the challenges of the past year and of the importance of continuing to support one another.

The theme for this week is ‘connect with nature.’ Throughout the lockdowns, the ability to get outside, even for just an hour a day, has been fundamental for maintaining mental health. This has been based on studies that have shown that nature is central to psychological and emotional health. It is estimated that around 13% of UK households did not have access to a garden or outdoor space. In areas that were city dense, there was significantly higher reports for those suffering with mental health issues.  

The task set is to try and, at least once this week, take a moment to go outside and reconnect with nature. There is a direct connection between mental health and the ability to immerse and interact with nature.

The message also goes hand in hand with protecting the environment around us. Nature is a fundamental but we also need to recognise the importance of protecting the environment and ensuring that it still exists for the next generation.

Speaking for myself, after working from home for over year, the ability to hike and go outdoors, have provided both comfort and a sense of normality. If you haven’t tried it already, grab a pair of boots and head outdoors, it can really make a difference.

In heading outdoors this week, we are all encouraged to reflect on the last 12 months. Remember how far you have come and if you can get through this, you’ll be able to get through anything else that follows.

#ConnectWithNature

[1] Mental Health Awareness Week – 18th to 24th May 2020

Blog by Emma Wheelhouse, Solicitor

 

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