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Stress: Mental Health Awareness Week 2018

By Burn •

Sadly, approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem every year. This year, in order to raise awareness and continue breaking down the stigma, the Mental Health Foundation, who host the annual Mental Health Awareness Week, are focussing on stress.

Whilst stress is not a mental health problem in itself, it’s a significant risk factor that can develop into several mental health problems like depression, anxiety, self-harm and even suicide. In addition to this, perhaps surprisingly, stress can lead to physical health problems, from joint pain to cardiovascular problems. Stress can be caused by anything. Whether it’s a long-term health condition, work, debt or simply an intense pressure to succeed, almost all of us are affected at some point in our lives.

In the past year, a staggering 74% of people have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope.

In addition:
  • 51% of adults who felt stressed reported feeling depressed and 61% reported feeling anxious.
  • Of the people who said they had felt stress at some point in their lives, 16% had self-harmed and 32% said they had had suicidal thoughts and feelings.
  • 46% reported that they ate too much or ate unhealthily due to stress. 29% reported that they started drinking or increased their drinking, and 16% reported that they started smoking or increased their smoking.

Despite this, mental health in the workplace is often still a taboo subject. Astonishingly, approximately 50% of employers would not wish to employ a person with a psychiatric diagnosis and over 60% of employers in the private sector and in small and medium­-sized companies report that they have never knowingly done so. I’m glad to say that, rightly, Burn is not one of those companies and neither should others be. Not only is it out-dated and unjust, but on an economic level, addressing wellbeing at work increases productivity by as much as 12%.

If you are concerned that you are chronically stressed  (you can read about the symptoms here), have an existing mental health problem or are concerned you are developing one, help is available. Do not struggle in silence or feel embarrassed. Mental health has equal gravitas to physical health and receiving treatment is necessary. Currently, society wouldn’t look down on somebody with diabetes taking their insulin to manage their condition, and one day, I hope that anti-depressants and other mental health medication will be viewed in the same light.

In the meantime, here are 7 top tips for managing stress:
  1. Eat healthily – there is a growing evidence that food can affect our mood
  2. Be aware of smoking and drinking alcohol – even though they may reduce tension initially, they often make problems worse long-term
  3. Exercise – no matter how small. Even just going out for a walk to the shops can really help
  4. Take time out – tell yourself that it is okay to prioritise self-care!
  5. Be mindful – this involves paying extra attention to our environment, thoughts and feelings in a way that increases our ability to manage difficult situations and make wise choices
  6. Get some restful sleep – a good night’s sleep is critical. If you’re struggling, read the Mental Health Foundation’s guide on how to sleep better
  7. Don’t be too self-critical – remember that all of us have bad days and take a few minutes each day to list three things you have done well that day
As a society, we’re certainly moving in the right direction, but we’re not there yet. Some ideas on how to get involved and raise awareness of mental health across the UK.