• Jane Williams

Three reasons why Mental Health Awareness Week is a great thing

Updated: May 12, 2019

I think it’s fantastic that each year, the profile of mental health awareness week has grown. The Mental Health Foundation have been running this week in May since 2001. Their work has been hugely powerful in raising awareness and opening up conversations about mental health. Here are three reasons (no doubt there are many more!) why Mental Health Awareness Week is great.

1) More people are talking about their mental health and sharing stories of their experiences. Sometimes just having that space and opportunity of a dedicated week can help people to do this. A couple of years back, I hosted a ‘tea and talk’ as part of mental health week at the wonderful Rogan’s books (1) People weren’t obliged to talk about their mental health: they could have just had a nice cup of tea and a piece of cake. But they did: there were many very open and honest conversations that afternoon about experiencing good, and not so good, mental health. People connected together over something that is, after all, something we all have in common. We all have mental health.

2) The language of mental health is much more commonplace in our everyday conversations.

In the relatively recent past, the language of and support for mental distress was very different. And not something that was spoken about openly. Just 20 years ago, words such as stress, trauma, resilience, depression or anxiety (to name but a few) were not words that you might hear in everyday conversation. Being mentally ill was a hush-hush, behind closed doors sort of thing. People had ‘had a turn’ or ‘weren’t quite themselves’. It wasn’t really okay not to be okay. There’s still a long way to go, but by sharing common language and common experiences, we continue to reduce the stigma about when our mental health isn’t so good.

3) People understand that talking therapies can help their mental health. Perhaps in the past for some people, choosing to have therapy came with a stigma or a sense of shame. Not anymore. Referrals for talking therapies in NHS services are increasing. One in five people in the UK have had counselling or psychotherapy. 94% of people consider it acceptable to have therapy for depression or anxiety (compared to 67% in 2004). The opportunity for regular awareness raising about mental health will have contributed to this shift in attitude about talking therapies.

So here’s to Mental Health Awareness week 2019! This year’s theme is body image. Let’s hope it gives people the opportunity to reflect about mental health and to reach out if they need to.

1) If you live in Bedford, or visit, do go to Rachael’s shop: it’s wonderful.

2) This research is a few years old now, but I should think that the trend has continued.

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