This post is written by Friederike Saunderson, NLMT Music Therapist
The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day is likely a response to the fact that the world has seen events with a global impact on our mental health. The WHO recorded a significant rise in depressive and anxiety disorders during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, while at the same time mental services were disrupted. More than 80 million people were forced to leave their homes as result of poverty, ongoing conflicts, and public health emergencies.
All this has taken a toll on people’s mental health. What does it mean to respond adequately to this crisis?
For mental health foundations across the globe this means addressing mental health problems across families, workplaces, and communities, calling on governments to take measures to protect our mental health, and supporting people across all stages of life.
How about us? How can we as individuals prioritise mental health and wellbeing in our own lives and beyond?
Look after yourself
Prioritising our own mental health can sound like another thing on the list; we might feel pressured to include routines and disciplines into our daily lives, rather than considering what is helpful.
So why is it important looking after your mental health and what does it mean for us?
The simplest answer is that it improves your overall quality of life and helps you function when you need to. Mental Health means something different to everyone; to some it means having a diagnosis and taking medication, to others it means having concerns or worries that keep them from sleeping and focussing on work. For others it might mean having anxieties that stop them from building relationships, past experiences that make everyday life difficult, or it might mean looking after someone who struggles.
Take some time to think about your own life and what impacts your mental health. You may find this sounds easier than it is. Indeed, for some people thinking about their own mental can be very difficult for different reasons. Perhaps we have never really reflected on how our life circumstances affect how we feel or perhaps this feels too painful to do. Talk this through with someone you trust to help you feel safe as you think things through. This might mean seeking help from a mental health professional.
If you feel you need urgent help, call 999. Another option is contacting a free and confidential phone service e.g. the Samaritans. Your local borough will also have a 24/7 mental health crisis number. Why not find out their number today and store it in your phone in case of emergency? If you live in Barnet the number is 0800 151 0023.
Look after the mental health of the people you care about
It’s important to look after your own mental health as it equips you to look after others.
Just as we hear on every flight safety instruction "Put on your own oxygen mask before you help others", the same principle applies to mental health. Knowing your personal needs and how to address them will equip you to help them figure out their own. These might be similar or totally different from your own.
So why not check in with someone you care about and who you know struggles this week?
Again, this can sound easier than it feels. When we see others struggle, we can feel out of our depth even though we want to help them. You might think you’re not well enough yourself so how can you help others? There might indeed be times in our lives where we feel too overwhelmed and we’re unable to look after others. At the same time, Mental Health has become such a big topic in our western society that we might be in danger of turning it into a discipline we need to master, but we find ourselves only ever reaching a state where we can just about cope. It’s important to remember that knowing what it
is like to struggle with your mental health can help you approach others with compassion. Sometimes, just giving someone the feeling of being understood by another can make a big difference to their wellbeing.
On the other hand, you might feel you want to help but you struggle to understand what your loved one is going through. If that’s you, don’t worry, you can still be helpful by showing care and a willingness to listen. You might be able to direct someone to professional help. If you’re worried that you or someone you care about might have a severe mental health condition, tests are available online e.g. the NHS's Depression and Anxiety self-assessment quiz.
In the spirit of the World Mental Health Day 2022 theme, we thought about how we can look after ourselves and others, but how can we do so on a global level?
There are plenty of ways you can get involved. Consider causes you care about and then think about how this relates to mental health. Perhaps you have a concern for people with cancer and support them through charities. Now is the time to think about how you
can bring their mental health more into focus.
For others it might mean getting out of our comfort zone and engaging with issues that we normally don’t think about or people we normally don’t engage with. This could mean for example befriending people from a different cultural or demographic group. Or perhaps, you never considered how to prioritise the mental health of the people you work with. To find out more how you can prioritise global mental health and well-being check out these World Mental Health Day resources.
We at North London Music Therapy believe that focussing on your mental health is the best way to help you understand your concerns. Music Therapy offers you a trusted relationship with a therapist and a space where you can safely and creatively explore them. We provide sessions for people from all backgrounds, ages, life stages and difficulties in life. You can bring anything you like to a session. No issue is too small.
As the mental health and wellbeing has become a greater global concern this might be an opportunity to connect with each other and together, each of us can make a difference in making this world a better place.
To find out more about music therapy, contact NLMT here