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The Conversations Are Beginning As Mental Health Awareness Week Ends

14/05/2017 16:16

It's Mental Health Awareness week, as you've probably already heard.

And it's coming to an end.

But the conversations that are starting must continue. People are speaking up, and people are sharing their experiences about mental health problems. Prince Harry and others are helping to thaw the collective British stiff upper lip, breaking barriers in talking about mental health. As initiatives such as Frazzled Café gain momentum - Ruby Wax's M&S partnered drop-in for people to chat with trained volunteers about the stresses of life - hopefully this openness will continue.

When more than 300 million people are living with depression, it's time to have these conversations. The World Health Organisation is devoting this year to the discussion, using World Health Day to launch the Depression, Let's talk campaign. The videos highlighting depression have already clocked up more than 7 million views in just a few weeks.

But there is so much more to be said. The conversation about mental health is just starting. Once we have addressed the immediate impact of mental health conditions on people's lives, we need to discuss how to manage them, and how to prevent them where possible.

We need to start talking about how we use our minds. Talking about how we can develop thought patterns that evidence suggests could help decrease the progress or relapse of some mental health conditions. Talking about how analysing the way we process information can help us change how we think and behave, as in therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy. Discussing evidence suggesting that approaches such as mindfulness can help prevent relapses of depression.

We need to start talking about mental health as we do physical health. This is not just a conversation for people affected by mental heath problems. Arguments for the interlinked nature of physical and mental health started long ago, as early as Hippocrates and Galen, and their flowing robes and open-toed sandals. It's ebbed and flowed, gaining and losing popularity with the tides, but research into mind-body connection is now mainstream.

We all have a blood pressure but when does it become too high? We all have a weight, but when does it become obese? Sure, there are designated medical cut-offs for these values (usually 140/90 and 30 for blood pressure and BMI for weight, if you were asking...), but the point is that they are on a scale. And perhaps it's time mental health was spoken about in this way too.

So our challenge after this week is to continue talking. To continue to be aware. To continue the conversation.

This is not just a conversation for people affected by metal health conditions; it's a conversation for anyone who has a brain.

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