September brings change on a number of fronts. Evenings getting shorter. Back to school or college for some. Holidays are over. The calmer, warmer, sunnier conditions are gradually replaced with a duller, drearier, stormier outlook. This could be said as much about the weather as it could about someone’s mental health. It is therefore so important to see major campaigns at this time of year that promote positive mental health and well-being. Suicide prevention day took place on 10 September and Ireland’s Mental Health Week takes place from the 7th-11th of October and these are vital to keep the conversation going around looking after our mental well-being.
A campaign that has achieved great things is the Australian based R U OK? Day. It’s a simple idea based on helping people form connection and belonging. However, it does not put the onus on the person who is struggling to seek help. It reminds and encourages the broader community to take a moment to ask each other ‘R U OK’. While it may achieve media spotlight on 1 day per year (10 September), it gently nurtures a sense of responsibility among society to ‘check-in’ with one another and to begin conversations about their ups and downs. It is a cultural shift to embrace discussion about anxiety, loneliness and suicide 365 days a year.
So how can we continue to drive this momentum forward within Ireland? I’m really encouraged to see that the children of Ireland are leading the way. The Buddy Bench program run in most primary schools in many ways reflects the R U OK campaign targeted at adults. It teaches kids to notice how others are feeling on the inside by the clues they give on the outside. And it empowers children who are feeling lonely, anxious or excluded to identify these feelings and be aware of them so they can make choices accordingly. Other Children offering support to that child, is the same as society asking ‘R U OK?’. A child sitting on the buddy bench is the same as the adult saying ‘I’m not ok’.
So what does all this mean for you and me? As Autumn wraps around us, how can we keep a calm and bright outlook when it comes to our minds. First and foremost, talk to people and listen to what they say. Become aware of the ‘signposts’…what are they saying? What is going on in their lives? Go and sit beside the person on the ‘buddy bench’, or ask someone R U OK? Take a minute out of your day to CONNECT. I also believe there is so much to be gained from participating in seminars, fundraisers and talks that are running as part of Mental Health week/month. Akin to the herd mentality, the more people who attend, the more it fuels the discussion and makes people aware of the supports that are in place.
Finally, remember to ‘check-in’ with yourself. Bob Marley wrote ‘Some people feel the rain, others just get wet’. This is what Counselling is often about. Helping people to identify the opportunity to establish connection or a sense of purpose. Helping people see the shiny thing in the corner of their eye that otherwise might be blocked by clouds. So this winter, what changes can you make that will allow you to live the best life you can. What can help you feel the rain?
The article is written by Noel, Low Cost Counsellor at The DMC Clinic. If you would like to discuss how any of the topics mentioned above are impacting your mental health, please contact The DMC Clinic to arrange an appointment.