Thursday 10th October marks World Mental Health Day, with this years theme being suicide prevention.
Every year close to 800,000 people globally take their own life and there are many more people who attempt suicide. Every suicide is a tragedy that affects families, communities and has long-lasting effects on the people left behind, but it is preventable. It's the leading cause of death among young people aged 20-34 years in the UK and is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds globally.
It's more apparent than ever that looking after our mental wellbeing is of real importance. You can't handle everything on your own, and that's completely okay. Take time to remember that it's okay to need others and reach out for help, but what can you do to promote positive mental wellbeing?
Connect with people around you. Other people matter when it comes to our mental health, as forming good relationships gives us a sense of purpose and security. Positive mental well being can be passed on through relationships, as spending time with others who have a strong sense of mental well being can improve our own. So take some time each day to be with family, arrange to go out with friends or even bite the bullet and speak to someone new!
Be Active. There is a definite proven positive link between our body and our mind, as physical activity causes chemical changes that increase our mood through the release of endorphins. Being active doesn't have to mean going to the gym, you could simply go for a walk or cycle. It's all about finding an activity that you enjoy and incorporating it in to your daily routine.
Keep Learning. Learning doesn't have to stop at school, there are plenty of things you can still learn in order to get the most from life and it could even mean taking up a new hobby.
Give to Others. Our actions and thoughts have the biggest impact on our mental well being, from small acts of kindness such as a simple smile or a thank you, to the grander gestures such as volunteering for a good cause.
- Be Mindful. It is easy to run through life without stopping to notice exactly what is going on around us, so this is all about being directly aware of what is going on not only around us, but also inside us from moment to moment. It's about reconnecting with our body and the sensations we experience. We become aware of our thoughts and feelings, taking less things for granted and enjoying life more. It also allows us to take notice of negative events occurring, allowing us to look after our mental well being more closely. To be mindful, it's about taking notice of the everyday, so you need to keep it regular and practice!
In Scouts, we have been making a conscious effort to make the mental health of our members a priority. Since they were trained in March, our Mental Health Awareness Co-ordinators have been working hard to provide provision for support across Merseyside. They have put together a stream of resources, most of which are available for download, that can be accessed directly from the County website:
Within the mental health awareness section of the website there is a poster to signpost young people to support along with an information sheet about supporting our young people's mental health in scouting.
You can find advice on how to talk to our young member's about mental health, along with tips for promoting positive mental well being. There is also a list of places to signpost our members to, listed by Local Authority, along with National organisations that provide help and support.
We have been working hard on activities that can be used to discuss mental health, which will be available on the website shortly. A really simple activity you could try with your group is to encourage them to say something nice about each other. Get your group to sit in a circle, taking it in turns to say something nice/positive about the person to their right. Encourage them to think of something new and not just repeat what has been said about them, such as they were helpful during a task, or they made them laugh with a joke they told during a session, or they appreciate their friendship. Hearing a compliment goes a long way to boosting someone's self esteem, as it activates the reward area of our brain.
The team also recently ran a Mindfulness Zone at Mersey Moot. This is something we are working on to put together at County Camps to encourage our members to take time out when needed. There were comfy chairs with cushions and blankets, games, colouring, lego and mindfulness activities on offer, along with access to resources should they have been needed.
Our District Mental Health Awareness Co-ordinators role is to:
- Be a point of contact for adult volunteers needing up to date knowledge and guidance on the latest mental health information;
- Signpost adult volunteers so that they can help young people to access appropriate support with developing their mental health and wellbeing, from external agencies;
- Know and understand The Scout Association’s Policy, Organisation, and Rules dedicated to safeguarding young people, regarding any concerns;
- Provide advice to Districts, Groups, Sections and Units on how to better promote positive mental health with young people.
A list of District Co-ordinators is available on the website, should you need us.
Jess Makin, County Mental Health Awareness Co-Ordinator