There is an old African saying called Ubuntu. It means 'I am because we are.' It's the idea that meaning and fulfilment and the very essence of who we are is found in relationship with others.
This Mental Health Awareness week, we have a singular and vital message. That if we want to build a thriving country, community, business or home, we must think profoundly about our relationships.
We know that not smoking, drinking in moderation, eating healthily and exercising are good for both our physical and mental health. We are told so regularly. But we don't hear nearly enough about the deep impact of building and maintaining good relationships and how to do that.
Ours is a clarion call for a renewed commitment to nurturing healthy relationships. We have found striking evidence that investing in relationships is at least as important to our health and wellbeing as not smoking. We believe that both as a society and as individuals we need urgently to prioritise relationships and tackle the barriers to forming them.
That our relationships matter will come as no surprise. Relationships with the people we love are the foundation of our lives. However, the significance of our relationships extends beyond how they affect our emotional wellbeing. The evidence is clear that the quality of relationships even affects how long we live.
Relationships require reflection, time, courage and grace. Modern life often reduces the space to do this. Many of us are under strain - be it exams, work commitments or financial pressures. In a message to decision makers and the public alike, our report released this Mental Health Awareness Week reinforces the message that productivity should not come at the expense of our collective capacity to connect with each other.
In raising awareness that healthy relationships help us thrive, we also give a warning of the impact that toxic relationships have on our health and wellbeing. Bullying and abuse are explosive in their destruction of mental health. It's better for our mental health to be alone than to be abused.
Who amongst us, if given the choice, would not want to build closer ties with those we love? This year's Mental Health Awareness Week report affirms that the instinct to build and maintain healthy relationships is a good one. We should trust it. Let's build a brighter collective future; one where I am because We Are.
The Mental Health Foundation is calling on us all to make 'Relationships Resolutions'. People who make a resolution will receive a text on New Year's Eve, December 31st, checking in to see how they have done and encouraging them to carry their resolutions forward into the New Year.
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