Suzette Jones, Health and Wellbeing Adviser, Diocese of Guildford shares her experience of what can help make a difference in looking after our mental health.
Mental health problems can affect anyone; one in four people will experience a mental health problem every year, and half of them say that the associated isolation and shame is worse than the condition itself.
As Health and Wellbeing Adviser for the Diocese of Guildford and drawing on more than 30 years’ experience of supporting and working with people with mental illness, including carers, I know it can feel lonely and isolating to carry this load without being able to talk about it, for whatever length of time.
Often worry can stop us from opening up to friends and family, or colleagues at work, about a mental health problem – we may be worried about what someone will think or how they might react. It is so important to encourage each other to have a conversation - no one should be ashamed to talk about mental health. So what are some of the things that we can do to make a difference to others and to look after our own mental health?
Grab a cup of tea
As a nurse, for me it often starts with a cup of tea and sitting down together with a patient, parent, friend or carer. Sometimes we sit in silence; other times the person chats and I listen. It’s in the sharing of experiences: sometimes despair, frustration, anger, or relief, that hope stirs.
Have a chat
Psychotherapies and talking therapies (like counselling, behavioural, cognitive and dialectical) work for many people. Some can be done over the phone and even online. Having someone to talk to and someone to listen can make all the difference. And if you’re concerned about someone just asking how they’re doing can go a long way. Listening and not judging are some of the most significant things you can do; healing can come out of that shared connection – the talking, the listening, the being alongside.
Meditation and mindfulness
Mindfulness practice can be found in a range of settings including hospitals, schools, businesses and sporting venues. Mindfulness simply means paying attention to our experience in the present moment, on purpose and with an attitude of kindly acceptance. It is a natural human capacity which can be developed by regular practice of simple exercises such as observing breathing, walking, speaking, everyday living; and it can be for anyone regardless of age, ethnicity, faith or none.
Take a breathing space
Need to take a moment to pause in a busy day? Listen to this five-minute mindfulness exercise.
If you can, sit down with your back straight and your feet firmly on
the floor, in a position which is comfortable to you. If safe to do so
close your eyes, or bring them to rest on something in the room.
At this moment in time what thoughts are in your head? Observe them
like they are clouds passing through your mind. Now move to your
feelings – how do you feel in this moment? Tuning into your body, what
sensations are there? Acknowledge them, without trying to change them in
any way, just noticing and observing. Listen now
There is a spirituality to Mindfulness, a deepening of self. Spirituality means to belong and many who attend Mindfulness groups find a belonging in the stillness. Prayer can also be where that deep sense of connection, comfort and peace is found. For me, it is in the depth of meditation is where I feel God’s presence, love and hope.
The common denominator in all these approaches is the support, the love and the care we get from family, friends and professionals. It’s the human contact that’s important; and for me, knowing that God is with us, alongside us in our darkest moments.
So today on Mental Health Awareness Day, let’s take a moment to have a chat about mental health with someone or take a breathing space for our own wellbeing. As we pray we may all find hope in being alongside each other, together in God’s love.
If you would like to find out about the Diocese of Guildford’s Mindfulness courses, please email Suzette.Jones@cofeguildford.org.uk
For help and information on mental health, including more ways to support friends, family and loved ones, visit Time to Change and for a safe space to talk to someone at any time, contact Samaritans.