As it is mental health awareness week, we want to use this blog post to raise awareness about mental health, and how we can support each other online.
All of us live with mental health, as we do physical health; it might be good or bad, or more likely, somewhere in the middle. It is likely to change through our lives, for instance if a loved one dies we would expect to grieve; and as many of us have experienced, living through a pandemic can cause us to experience intense sadness, loneliness, anxiety or depression.
What do we mean by mental health?
We can all feel anxious, stressed or low at times, but it can become a problem if these feelings get worse, go on for a long time or affect our daily lives. If we start to struggle with sleep, find ourselves struggling with not eating enough or eating too much, have lost motivation to do things we enjoy or are quick to anger, it might be time to find help and support. Sometimes talking to a trusted friend or family member can be helpful, or contacting the GP or a mental health organisation, such as MIND.
Is it OK to struggle with my mental health?
Yes, almost everyone will need help with their mental health at some point in their life, it is nothing to be ashamed of or hide. The more open we are about our concerns around how we are feeling, the easier it will be to get help.
What are the different forms of mental illness?
There are many different kinds of mental illness and multiple symptoms associated with them. No two people with a mental illness diagnosis have the same symptoms or experiences. Here are a few of the most common mental illnesses and symptoms:
Anxiety disorders including generalised anxiety, social phobias, specific phobias (for example, agoraphobia and claustrophobia), panic disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Symptoms can include nervousness, restlessness, a sense of impending danger, panic or doom, increased heart rate, hyperventilation, weakness and/or trembling, difficulty concentrating or remembering, trouble sleeping and gastrointestinal problems.
Mood disorders including bipolar disorder and depression. Symptoms include lowering of mood, alternating manic and depressive episodes, loss of interest and enjoyment in activities previously enjoyed and reduced energy.
Eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia nervosa and other binge eating disorders. Eating disorders affect females and males and can have serious psychological and physical consequences. Symptoms can include avoiding food, binging and purging, weight loss or weight gain, organ damage and tooth damage or loss.
Additional mental health diagnoses include psychosis, PTSD, paranoia, dissociation and schizophrenia.
How can I support someone with their mental health?
Friends and family will often notice if we are struggling with our mental health, but it can be hard to know how to help someone we are concerned about. Here are a few things you can do:
Let them know you are happy to listen
Be patient and let them share at their own speed
Remember that practical things are really helpful, for example shopping on their behalf
Offer to go to their GP with them
Don't force them to do anything they don't want to, it is their decision
Look after yourself and reach out for support from a trusted person or helpline
Will Jesus heal me?
Of course, we believe in a God who heals us. But just as a broken leg needs medical intervention, so our mental health also often needs us to seek out the skill and care of the medical profession. It is sensible to heed their advice on medication, treatments and care for yourself since God has given them their medical expertise and knowledge. Through them, God can provide healing. Prayer is also good alongside the medical care since engaging with God allows God’s grace and peace to flow through us. As the theme for Mental Health Awareness week is the restorative power of God’s creation, then we can walk and pray enjoying forest bathing while opening up our lives to God’s grace. We can also ask others to pray for our healing. Just don’t ignore the health professionals – God has provided a brilliant NHS for us in the UK to be part of the healing process in our lives.
Where can I get further information?
For more information about mental health diagnoses we recommend the following websites:
NHS every mind matters https://www.nhs.uk/every-mind-matters/
Rethink mental illness https://www.rethink.org
Later this month we will be highlighting the importance of using the online space to support people with their mental health.