Mental Health Awareness Week provides an opportunity to start a national debate on the importance of supporting good mental health. The success of the week is largely down to the involvement of the public and stakeholders who really grab the theme and run with it each year. This is why one of the biggest lessons we have learnt over the years is the importance of having a universally accessible theme that can be used by a range of organisations as a springboard for their own content, to ignite their own debates.
In previous years the Foundation has focused on how mindfulness, anxiety, sleep deprivation and exercise can impact our mental health. This year, the theme focussed on the importance of ‘Relationships’ in their many forms. We found striking evidence which overwhelmingly pointed to good-quality relationships being key in helping us to live longer and happier lives with fewer mental health problems – with the impact of our social connections on our health and wellbeing comparable to well established risk factors such as smoking.
While most are likely to have heard that at any one time, 1 in 4 of us will be experiencing a mental health problem. The virility of this (albeit important) message means it is easy to forget that 4 in 4 of us have mental health. When we think about mental health, we usually think about people living with mental health problems, but good mental health isn’t simply the absence of a diagnosable problem.
This is why one of the most important things we’ve learnt over the years is the importance of choosing a theme that’s accessible and relatable to the lives of as many people as possible. Having a universal theme is essential because it reflects the universality of mental health.
The adaptability of the theme allows journalists to cover mental health awareness week from a range of angles depending on their audiences and the existing news agenda for the week. Our Chief Executive, Jenny Edwards, appeared on the BBC Breakfast sofa talking about the importance of relationships for older, recently retired men and on SKY News focussing on the importance of children being treated for mental-ill health close to their support networks.
Across digital communications we measure the impact of Mental Health Awareness Week by looking at engagement with stakeholders and the public. This year, our Twitter Thunderclap joined by Kensington Palace, MIND, Time to Change and a range of local councils, police forces and NHS Trusts had a social media reach of 4.5million. The social reach of Mental Health Awareness Week across twitter and Facebook exceeded 8.5million this year.
In recent year’s mental health has risen up the public policy agenda. Mental Health Awareness Week helps maintain momentum. But ultimately increased awareness is a tool to bring about change. To this end, we used the week to call for action from national governments, public bodies and employers to promote good relationships and to tackle the barriers to forming them, holding a keynote Westminster seminar which was attended by Minister for Mental Health Alastair Burt (Conservative), Luciana Berger (Labour), Norman Lamb (Liberal Democrat) and Philippa Whitford (SNP).
However, beyond influencing decision-makers Mental Health Awareness Week is for all of us.. By texting ‘TIPS’ to 70300 you can receive our daily relationships challenge. Mental Health Awareness Week last just 7 days, but as is the case with our physical health, there is something we can do every day to protect and sustain our mental health.