A small conversation about mental health has the power to make a big difference.

By Claire Andrews: Community Development Worker for Roseworth Big Local, Volunteer Chair at Stockton Central Community Partnerships, Mum, Wife, Cooker of epic Sunday dinners and ‘Shadow Priest’ in World of Warcraft.

Mental health affects 1 in 4 of us, but a lot of people are still afraid to speak up and talk about what they are experiencing. Well I’m here to say…no actually…I’m here to shout, that there is no health without mental health.

This last year has been really hard and has impacted us all in different ways and I can’t sit here and pretend I understand the range difficulties people across Teesside are facing – but I can say that I care, you are doing the best you can and that I hope you are okay.

I had my first experience of seeing a counsellor when I was 16 and over the years I’ve used formal support (like counselling or seeing a health professional) and informal support (connecting to friends, using art and self help books). I have times where maintaining my mental health is really easy and times when its really hard and I need extra help. I’m not ashamed of that and I’m happy to openly talk about it if it helps other people. I’ve managed to cope so well this year because I’ve had my husband and son with me and I’m also very fortunate that I’ve managed to keep working and volunteering. This year I had to delete my personal Facebook account; as the constant stream of information was driving me up the wall! One of the most unusual ways I’ve coped during the pandemic; playing world of warcraft. I’ve spent a lot of my free time playing online games and I’ve made so many friends across the world and managed to stay connected to people when I couldnt leave my house.

Good mental health is something you have to work at, practice and train. Then like most routines, once you figure out what works for you, it gets easier to maintain it *

There are lots of small things you can do to make your mental health a priority today. You can look at what you eat (your food and mood are often linked), you can do a bit of activity and see how it makes you feel, download a free mood tracking app, log your sleep and mood to increase your awareness. You can even join a support group, most are online at the moment but there are some 1-1 walk and talk / run and rant sessions available in lockdown (check out our friends at @red balloons).

But the most important thing you can often do if you are struggling is talk. Talk to a friend, talk to family, talk to someone you trust online or talk to your GP or another health professional that you trust.

You can talk to a counsellor or therapist, you can refer yourself, you don’t need your doctor to refer you. Impact offer free counselling and therapy across the Teesside area.

You can phone the Samaritans for free 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 116 123

If you are in crisis and need urgent help:

  • call 999 for an ambulance
  • go straight to A&E, if you can
  • Call the local crisis team. This link will help you find the number Mental Health Helpline for Urgent Help – NHS (www.nhs.uk). If you can’t do this by yourself, ask someone to help you. Mental health emergencies are serious. You’re not wasting anyone’s time

Find out more about time to talk day here: Time To Change | let’s end mental health discrimination (time-to-change.org.uk)

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