This year, Mental Health Awareness Week takes place from Monday 15 to Sunday 21 May. Mental health, just like physical health, is something that we all have. It is about how we think, feel, and act. Sometimes we feel well, other times we don’t. When out mental health is good, we feel motivated and able to take on challenges and new experience. But, when our mental health is not so good, we can find it much harder to cope.
This year Leesa Hayes, Mental Health lead for Bridgwater & Taunton College, spoke to us about mental health, how it effects us, and we can support those around us and ourselves through good times and bad. (Alternatively, skip to the end for resources, student support, and courses.)
How can we support our loved ones with mental health problems?
Try to let your loved ones share without interrupting, judging, or making any assumptions. This can help them feel more comfortable. You can show you are listening by nodding or simply repeating back what they say to show you understand. They may worry about showing emotion in front of you. If they are fining it overwhelming, you can suggest that they write down what they have to say and let you read it instead.
Often, when someone has opened up about how they are feeling, they feel worried they’ve said the wrong thing or shared too much. The first way you could respond is to reassure them that they have done the right thing by speaking about it. You could say ‘I’m really glad you told me this’ or ‘it might have felt difficult, but it’s good that you spoke to me about it.’
Validate their feelings
Not matter what they are struggling with, their experiences are valid. You could say something like ‘it’s okay to feel like that’ or ‘what you’re going through sounds really tough’. By letting them know that how they feel is valid, you are letting them know that they are not alone.
Sometimes all it can take to let your loved one know that you are there for them is a hug, a cup of tea, or taking the time to sit with them. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture; you just being there lets them know that you care.
How can we look after our own mental health?
Supporting a friend is admirable, and a great thing to do, but it can bring up many difficult emotion and impact your own mental health.
Look after yourself. Do something you enjoy, perhaps a hobby like writing or drawing, meditating, or switching off to watch your favourite TV show. There is nothing wrong with prioritising yourself, your wellbeing is just as important.
Reach out to others
If you feel like you are struggling, reach out for help. Speak to someone you trust like a friend, parent, tutor, or helpline. Chatting to someone, sending a text, having a phone call, or meeting up can help you talk your feelings over.
Setting boundaries is a way you can look after your mental health when supporting someone else. It is about working out what you can do and which things you find more difficult. It is always okay to have boundaries, as they let you support yourself as well as a loved one.
Time to self
Taking time out to rest can help you unwind and give you time to process your thoughts. It can also stop you from taking on too much so that you don’t feel overwhelmed when trying to help your friends. Whether it is going for a walk or doing some deep breathing, taking time out can help you reflect on how you are feeling and look after your mental health.
Always remember, it is okay to not be okay, and there is always someone that will listen.
Find support or train in mental health
- Go to Bridgwater & Taunton College Student Wellbeing
- Go to University Centre Somerset Student Support
- Find support with Mind or Young Minds
- Read more about how to support your own mental health
- Learn more about mental health with our distance learning courses
- Become a mental health nurse with our degrees at University Centre Somerset
- Train in counselling with University Centre Somerset.