Welcome to Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 – a week to focus on how we can best support our own well being and that of the people in our lives. We’re thrilled today to bring you a guest blog from our colleagues at the William Harvey Library at the George Eliot Hospital in Nuneaton.
Over the last year, we’ve held Twitter chats with Rayanne and Lisa about all aspects of health information (both physical and mental – you can catch up on our Twitter Moments here) and they also compiled a blog about all things sleep related earlier in the year (you can find that here). Today, they’re sharing with us more information and resources that may be of use this Mental Health Awareness Week.
Each year, the week looks at a particular theme as well as highlighting more general resources that may help in supporting our mental health. This year’s theme is ‘Nature’ – how connecting with the natural world around us can benefit our well being, how getting outside can have a positive impact and how nature and its beauty can boost our mood. To find out more about the theme, visit the Mental Health Foundation website and explore the many resources available there.
We’ll share a few Nature-related reading recommendations later in this post and don’t forget, there are also the Reading Well collections available at your local Warwickshire Library and on BorrowBox. There are five collections in all – Reading Well For Mental Health, Reading Well For Dementia, Reading Well For Long Term Conditions, Reading Well for Young People (also known as Shelf Help) and Reading Well For Children. The titles provide quality-assured information and have been chosen and recommended by leading health professionals and those with lived experiences. You can explore and request copies of any of the books in the collections via our catalogue.
Now, it’s over to Rayanne and Lisa…
Wow May already, although, when looking at some of the weather on recent days, you would be excused for thinking we are still in the middle of Winter! Many of us are experiencing change yet again with the relaxation of restrictions so this Mental Health Awareness Week is an ideal time to consider some of the many excellent mental health websites we’ve highlighted in our #HealthChat series.
To start with, we have some key advice on what to look for when you are searching for health information online.
How can I find reliable information online?
Lots of us struggle to find reliable, up to date, quality health information online. We all do it- rattle off a Google search and click on the first link we see. Here are some useful tips to keep in mind when searching for those invaluable pieces of information:
- Use what you already know. You may already have a source in mind that you know and trust, for example, using the NHS website as a starting point for information about all health conditions, including their Coronavirus pages or the government website for COVID-19 updates.
- Be critical. If something looks off or you spot a mistake in the information provided, be sceptical about everything else that website tells you. Remember that anyone can publish information on the internet, so it’s up to you to be selective about what you read.
- Try asking yourself questions about the information you’re looking at:
- Who published it? Are they selling anything or trying to push a viewpoint?
- Does it look professional? Any spelling mistakes?
- Is it up-to-date?
- Does it match what you already know about the subject?
- Can I verify the information somewhere else?
- There are two Information Standard tools you can use or look for – the HON code (Health On the Net Code) and the PIF tick (the Patient Information Forum tick). If the online document has either, it is a good indicator of a reliable health information source.
- If in doubt- check! Ask a friend or relative what they think of what you’ve found. Your local library will be able to advise you on resources to look at for finding good quality information. And always check with your GP or other doctor before following medical advice you’ve found online.
Of course, this doesn’t just apply to health information! We’d advise you to put these techniques into practice whenever you search on the Internet. This great infographic from IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) sums it up:
Trusted Mental Health Information
Perhaps one silver lining of the pandemic is that mental health services and charities have made it even easier for us all to seek good advice or support online. It’s best to follow the advice above and stick to trusted websites from charities or mental health services you recognise rather than un-moderated chat forums and social media. Whether you are seeking ways to improve your mood, find new ways to help you relax, or are struggling and need more urgent help we’ve some suggestions below.
The theme of Mental Health Awareness Week (10-16 May) is Nature. According to a report by the Mental Health Foundation, seeking pleasure in green spaces, growing plants and watching wildlife were activities many adults found helped them to cope with the stress of the pandemic.
It might be seasonally unspring-like at the moment but the Mental Health Foundation suggest ways to connect with nature throughout the year in their guide Thriving with Nature.
If like us you’ve developed a love of podcasts over the last year then check out the podcasts available on the Mental Health Foundation website which include free breathing and mindfulness exercises – short enough to squeeze into your day.
You can also download the app from charity Action for Happiness for daily suggestions and tips on making small changes to improve your wellbeing and cultivate happiness. We’re fans of the Action for Happiness calendars at George Eliot Hospital – the latest is Meaningful May.
There’s a wealth of information on the NHS website Every Mind Matters. In addition to the pandemic, we are all coping with life’s usual ups, downs and challenges. Find out how to cope with experiences such as bereavement, serious illness, money worries, substance misuse and life changes on the website.
As restrictions ease people may feel anxious about returning to work and adjusting to becoming more social again. There’s some great advice and videos from Every Mind Matters on how to look after yourself during this period and take things at your own pace.
You could also visit the Anxiety UK website. Established in 1970, Anxiety UK provides a telephone helpline and text support, staffed by volunteers with personal experience. The website has guides to help you understand different types of anxiety and free resources on relaxation, mindfulness and breathing exercises to help manage anxiety.
Stress Management and Wellbeing at Work
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by your workload at the start of a week. Mind suggest some simple practical steps to incorporate into your week to help reduce stress and foster a healthy work life balance. Check out their article on Five Ways to Wellbeing.
And of course being librarians we would suggest reading! Just 6 minutes of reading for pleasure can reduce your heart rate (Lewis, D., 2009). Our Wellbeing Reading Group for George Eliot Hospital colleagues has been running for just over 2 years. We borrow Reading Group Collection sets from Warwickshire Libraries and meet over our 30 minute lunchtime once a month to chat about what we’ve read. Shared reading has really helped to maintain and build connections with colleagues whilst maintaining social distancing and meant we all take time out of our day to relax with a good book.
You’ll find a variety of books on the shelves at your local Warwickshire Library as well as available as either eBooks or on eAudio on BorrowBox. There will be titles aimed at providing information about mental and physical wellbeing, including the Reading Well collections already mentioned and a wealth of fabulous fiction you can dive into, whatever you fancy reading.
You’ll also find a selection of writing about nature, tying in with this year’s theme such as the selection here.
If you’re not sure what to pick, library staff will be happy to make some suggestions or you can explore the Mood-Boosting Books collections from The Reading Agency.
The Laura Hyde Foundation provides support including bereavement support, access to information and therapies for healthcare staff, medical students and emergency service personnel. They have a number of resources and information available here.
Also at Every Mind Matters, there’s information on recognising the signs of stress and how to manage it. For those of us who continue to work from home or retain some homeworking, there’s 7 simple tips to tackle working from home and ways to improve your physical health.
Reaching out and advice on helping others
Mind provides information on a range of mental health topics to support people in their own area from 9.00am to 6.00pm, Monday to Friday. Call 0300 123 3393 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. There’s advice on how to help others with a mental health condition and a Coronavirus hub containing advice on coping with the pandemic – from managing anxiety if you are feeling anxious about returning to work to loneliness and bereavement.
Rethink Mental Illness is another great source of information about mental health conditions and advice on living with mental illness. The charity also provides practical specific solution-based advice on issues such as the Mental Health Act, care and benefits via their Rethink Advice and Information Service – you can contact them by Freephone, chat, email or post.
Samaritans offer emotional support 24 hours a day – in full confidence. Call 116 123. You can also email email@example.com to receive a response within 24 hours. As well as immediate support there’s a self-help app and a confidential helpline for health and social care workers in England as well as advice if you are worried about someone.
Local Information and support
Local mental health services are provided by Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership Trust who have an online library of leaflets written for adults and children and young people. You can also find information on the Mental Health pages of the Warwickshire County Council website.
For help and non-judgemental support, there’s the 24/7 Coventry & Warwickshire Helpline 0800 616 171 or a webchat option.
Information and support for men
We covered both physical and mental health in our chat in November 2020 to mark Movember, aware that men often delay or find it difficult to seek help from friends or professionals. ¾ of suicide deaths registered in 2019 in England and Wales were in men, with men aged 45-49 at most risk (Office for National Statistics, 2020).
Movements such as Movember and CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) are raising awareness of male health and suicide. CALM provides helpline and webchat support for those in crisis or affected by suicide.
There’s more local and national sources of support and information available from It Takes Balls To Talk and the Men’s Health Forum is another source of trusted advice on mental and physical health. It includes a handy list of questions to check your current mental health.
Young people and those supporting young people
Young people have been particularly affected by the pandemic and it’s been incredibly tough for parents and carers but there’s some excellent sources of information and support available:
Every Mind Matters has information on spotting the signs that a young person might be struggling and how to help. There’s also a set of self-care videos for young people with useful tips on managing worry and other young people’s experiences.
The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families has guides for parents and carers and lots of resources for young people including jargon busters, support following bereavement and a guide on helping friends who they have concerns about. You can find the resources here.
At the Young Minds website, you will find information aimed at young people on symptoms, talking about feelings, eating disorders, and issues such as bullying and problems at school, as well as clear explanations of mental health conditions. There’s also a guide to self-care and to supporting others for young people. Children and young people can text YM to 85258 for urgent support – more information can be found here. There’s a dedicated helpline for parents too.
Barnados have a service called Boloh (which means speak) to support Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic children, young people, parents and carers who are affected by Covid-19 via a helpline and webchat. Support is available in many different languages, 7 days a week.
For local information, you can also visit the Family Information Service website. There’s a wealth of information about services available in Warwickshire and guides for families on a wide variety of topics.
We would always recommend seeking help from your GP if you feel you are struggling. Your mental health is as important as a physical condition so don’t feel it’s less urgent or not a priority.
Some workplaces also provide access to wellbeing and counselling services – the important thing is reach out and seek help.
Rayanne and Lisa
IFLA (2020) How to spot fake news- COVID-19 edition. Available here (Accessed: 4 May 2021).
Lewis, D. (2009) Galaxy Stress Research. Brighton: Mindlab International, Sussex University.
Office for National Statistics (2020) Suicides in England and Wales: 2019 registrations. Available here (accessed 1 May 2021)