This week is ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’. Starting on Monday 18th May and running until 24th May, this year’s theme focuses on ‘Kindness’. Our mental health is important and is something we each need to be aware of in the same way that we look after our physical health. Each year, ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’ asks us to think about our own mental health as well as that of others and raises awareness of this important topic.
This year’s theme is ‘Kindness’ – towards others and towards yourself. The ‘Mental Health Foundation’ have produced this video to demonstrate the impact a kind act can have. The smallest thing can mean a great deal and help improve both our own mental health and that of others. Sending a ‘Hello’ message or funny photo, reminiscing about a shared memory or a simple smile may make someone’s day.
Today, our Senior Librarian for Priority Groups, Deborah shares her thoughts on the subject as well as providing links to organisations that can offer support and information and give advice if you need it. She’s also picked out some titles in our eBook & eAudio collections that might appeal.
Being aware of our mental health is important all the time but perhaps given what we are living through now, it may have taken on even more importance.
The world is going through an event that is unprecedented, at least in our generation, and the effect that this is having on us both individually and as a society can and should not be underestimated. No matter your circumstances, in the last two months we have all gone through changes and adjustments to the way we live our lives, both big and small and these changes will have brought with them additional worries, concerns and pressures.
Some of the things you are worrying about now may be as a direct result of the virus and its effect on how we live and work. For example, this may be around looking after family and loved ones or around work and financial concerns. You may be worried about catching the virus. You may also find existing mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and stress have been magnified as a direct result of the adjustments we have been asked to make.
I’m not a mental health expert so I can only speak from my own personal experience. Being an introvert by nature, most of the changes to my daily life have not actually been that different! I miss the little interactions with colleagues at work and as someone who is horribly shy (and ridiculously awkward – anyone who has met me will confirm!), those small interactions with people gave me a lift and a boost to my confidence that I can sometimes lack. I have mild OCD (checking and contamination based), which is at a level which doesn’t normally prevent me from functioning on a daily basis (much) but during lockdown, this has both felt like a gift (yay to already being aware of surface contamination!) but also a nightmare (SURFACE CONTAMINATION!) and I have definitely found myself spiralling on a number of occasions. I also have elderly parents who live a fair distance away, one of who has un-diagnosed dementia and the other who is coping with that (and everything else) alone right now with their own issues around anxiety. The worry we have about family or friends, who are more vulnerable at this moment, is stressful and can wear us down. Are they getting enough food, supplies, medications?
Mental Health Awareness
During ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’, we bring a focus to what ‘mental health’ is, why it is important and what we can do to support our own mental health – even if we think we are doing okay.
As with most things in life, prevention is often better than cure. The Mental Health Foundation gives the following as a definition of good mental health;
“Good mental health is not simply the absence of diagnosable mental health problems, although good mental health is likely to help protect against development of many such problems. Good mental health is characterised by a person’s ability to fulfil a number of key functions and activities, including:
- the ability to learn
- the ability to feel, express and manage a range of positive and negative emotions
- the ability to form and maintain good relationships with others
- the ability to cope with and manage change and uncertainty.”
Would you expect yourself to walk on a broken leg? Or try to carry heavy items with a strained wrist, ignore problems with your sight or hearing? In the same way that our physical health is important, our mental health is too. We can not function in the ways we should if our mental health is compromised.
Being able to recognise how our mental health is at any given time and being aware of the support and mechanisms we can use to support ourselves means we are prepared and have the tools to help us cope.
Can reading help?
Books and reading are an awesome tool to help. I’m slightly biased as I work for the library service and I love books! But there is academic research as well as anecdotal feedback from people to show how well books can help boost our wellbeing and mental health.
Reading for pleasure is a great tool for emotional and personal growth and can provide escapism – time you can take for yourself and be transported to any place, anytime just using the magic of words and your own imagination. Reading can provide a chance for relaxation. Books are a distraction. They are excitement, intrigue, anticipation and a way for us to connect with a whole variety of emotions!
They can also be a way of learning. Books can open up other worlds for us, not just fantasy or historical, but the worlds of people who live with or around us, both now and in the past. Books offer us the chance to tread in another’s footstep for a short while, see how their stories are similar or differ from our own and can help us feel empathy for others who may be going through very different experiences, allowing us to gain greater understanding and insight.
Last but not least, books can also be a tool for us to find out more about mental health itself. In the same way that you can find out about ailments to our physical body, we can also find out about those that may impact our mental health.
At present, whilst our buildings remain closed, we can’t offer access to our physical books but you can browse our eBooks and eAudio via Borrowbox. You can browse the selection here and below are some of the many titles you could read/listen to.
Reading Well Collections
The Reading Agency has put together a brilliant resource called ‘Reading Well‘. Based on a model called ‘Books on Prescription’ which was developed in the 1990s (and you may be familiar with as we’ve had a similar scheme in Warwickshire for a number of years), ‘Reading Well’ offers collections of recommended self-help titles on a variety of mental health conditions.
The titles have been reviewed by mental health professionals as well as people with experience of the conditions that are covered. In an age where we can look up anything on the internet, and the information we find online can be put there by anyone, this is very important as it demonstrates the validity of the information and advice contained in each title.
There are five collections altogether, three of which focus primarily on mental health;
We have several titles from the collections above available in either eBook or eAudio (and in some cases, both). You can browse the book lists here.
Outside of the ‘Reading Well’ collections, there are other titles available on Borrowbox which you may find useful. I’ve highlighted just a small selection below, so if you have some time, please browse through our online collection.
Deborah’s highlights from BorrowBox
The Stress Solution by Rangan Chatterjee
Taken from the book description: “‘It’s thought that between 70 and 90% of GP consultations are related to stress’. This has to change. Dr Rangan Chatterjee knows this better than anyone. As a practising GP, he’s seen first-hand how stress affects his patients and has found simple but effective methods to help them. Now he’s on a mission to show that combating stress is easier than you think. He shows how a small change in the way you approach your body, mind, relationships and purpose can help you lead a more fulfilled, calmer life.” Listed as both an eBook title and on eAudio.
The Anxiety Solution : A Quieter Mind, a Calmer You by Chloe Brotheridge
The author aims to help you understand why we feel anxious and to provide techniques to help us manage symptoms of anxiety to in turn help us be more confident and happier. Listed on eAudio.
It’s OK Not To Be OK: Good Advice and Kind Words for Positive Mental Well-Being by Claire Chamberlain
This small book reassures you that nobody is fine all the time, something which I think we do try to convince ourselves of. If you are feeling down, this reminds us that we are not alone. Put together in bite-sized chunks with quotes, this may be give you some helpful suggestions about where to start. Listed in eBook format.
It’s Not OK To Feel Blue (And Other Lies) by Scarlett Curtis
Another book that reaffirms that you are not alone. ‘It’s Not OK to Feel Blue (and Other Lies)’ contains entries from over 70 inspirational people who share their experiences with their mental health. Sometimes hearing about other people talking about their experiences can help us approach our own. Listed as both an eBook and on eAudio.
It’s OK if everything might feel a bit overwhelming.
It’s OK to talk about it.
It’s OK to not want to talk about it.
It’s OK to find it funny.
It’s OK to be human.
Finding Hope in the Age of Anxiety by Claire Hayes
Claire Hayes puts forward the idea that anxiety is a normal part of every stage of life. But that we can ‘acknowledge our thoughts and feelings and take our power back using techniques to embrace compassion, better understand and be courageous.’ Listed on eAudio format.
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
This book appears on the ‘Reading Well for Mental Health’ list from The Reading Agency. Matt Haig writes about his firsthand experiences with depression at age 24 and how he came through from seeing no hope to learning to live again. Everyone’s experience with depression is different and as Matt writes in the note at the start of the book ‘There is no right or wrong way to have depression, or to have a panic attack, or to feel suicidal. These things just are. Misery, like yoga, is not a competitive sport. But I have found over the years that by reading about other people who have suffered, survived and overcome despair I have felt comforted. It has given me hope.’ Listed in both eBook format and eAudio.
There are more titles being added to Borrowbox all the time so do keep checking back. If you need any help, email us email@example.com or you can watch our two BorrowBox help videos – ‘BorrowBox Basics‘ and ‘Tip & Tricks‘.
Our eBook and eAudio titles are proving very popular so you may find you’ll have a wait for some titles featured here. When you borrow a title from BorrowBox, your loan is for three weeks. However, if you find you have finished with a title sooner than that, you can hit the return link in your ‘My Loans’ list so that it becomes available for the next reader to enjoy.
If you find yourself struggling, there are places you can find help and support. You are not alone. Even now, during the restrictions under Covid-19, there are people you can reach out to.
The Big White Wall is an online resource for over 16s which can be used for free by any Warwickshire resident. All you need is your postcode.
Coventry and Warwickshire MIND are offering support and further information through their website.
The Samaritans are there 24 hours a day 7 days a week. You can call free at anytime on 116 123. You can also email them on firstname.lastname@example.org if writing things down is better. Response time is 24 hrs for email.
A final word from Deborah:
Please don’t forget that you are not alone, even if you think you are. There are people around who can help, people who have been where you are now or are still there. Things might be difficult but it’s important to remember that things do change. Easy to write perhaps, but true.
Find your happy place and stick with it, whatever that might be. We all deserve to be happy.
Be kind – to others and to yourself.