Kate Livingstone: Taking good care of our mental health

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You may or may not be aware but last Thursday was World Mental Health Day, an event which has been celebrated on October 10 since 1992 to globally educate and raise awareness of mental health issues.

It got me thinking about just how far we have come as a society over the years with regard to understanding just how important our mental health actually is.

I don’t doubt for a second that depression and other mental health conditions have always been around but back when I was very young it wasn’t something that was discussed openly and there was definitely a bit of a taboo around the subject.

There didn’t seem to be much sympathy either for people suffering. I remember one of my mum’s friends always having bouts of feeling down and everyone always telling her to just dust herself down and stop feeling sorry for herself.

Looking back that lady was probably suffering from depression and we know now, through education and increased awareness, that people with poor mental health can’t just simply click their fingers and get on with things – they need medical help, in the same way as someone with heart or kidney problems does.

Although of course there are so many different mental illnesses that a one-size-fits-all approach simply cannot apply either.

Over the last ten years in particular however I’ve noticed a welcome wave of change in the destigmatisation of mental health issues which is probably why there seems to be more people seeking help nowadays, especially among the younger generation.

I know from speaking to Emma that mental health is also a subject being widely discussed in primary schools with both Jack and Sophie regularly taking part in health and wellbeing events and telling their old gran that ‘it’s good to talk’.

The first time Emma and I heard this we erupted with laughter but now when they come out with it I feel proud that my grandchildren are teaching us something so important at such a young age.

Mental health charities also advocate that talking can help improve our mental health as can exercise, eating well and keeping in touch with loved ones.

Taking a break and caring for ourselves too is also important. You can’t pour from an empty cup after all.