February – Mental wellbeing

Looking After Our Mental Health

When it comes to living a long, healthy life, most people would agree that ‘prevention is better than cure’.   That’s why so many of us these days are quitting smoking, eating a better diet or getting more exercise.  But how many of us think about our mental health in the same way?

Just like it’s not only those with heart disease that need to look after their hearts, it’s not only those with mental health conditions that need to look after their mental health.  We all do, and good mental health is something we can work towards every day.

So what is “Good Mental Health”?

The Mental Health Foundation suggests you are in good mental health if you can “make the most of your potential, cope with life and play a full part in your family, workplace, community and among friends”.   In other words, it isn’t about never feeling sad, angry or anxious, but more about being able to function and get on with our lives, despite the problems or challenges life throws at us.

So how do we stay mentally healthy?

There are so many ways to look after our mental health.  But really, it comes down to being Active, Social and Kind (‘ASK’)…

Be Active – Physical activity is as good for our mental well-being as well as for our physical heath.  There are lots of opportunities to get more active in Bracknell Forest, whether it be playing sport, using leisure services or just walking in the countryside.  There is no ‘best way’ to be physically active – just choose something you enjoy and will do regularly.

Be Social – A good social network is crucial to good mental health.  If we’re lucky to have good family and friends then it’s important to make time for them, even if we are busy.  In addition, the local opportunities for volunteering or attending a course are good ways to meet other people and make new friends.  For anyone who finds themselves with very little social contact then you could volunteer for the befriending scheme which helps connect people with someone they can enjoy spending time with.

Be Kind – Research indicates that acts of giving and kindness – whether they are small or large – are associated with positive mental wellbeing.  We also shouldn’t forget to be kind to ourselves, because good mental health is linked with self acceptance and being OK with who we are.  This isn’t always easy, and can be something we need to work at.  Many people find Mindfulness helpful, which is an approach to mental well-being that research suggests can be very effective.

What support is there locally?

The Wellbeing in Mind Programme, based at Bracknell & Wokingham College, offers courses to adults 19+ experiencing mild to moderate mental health issues. Courses are taught in small groups in welcoming venues.

The Talking Therapies Service offers a wide range of programmes including individual therapy and access to ‘Silver Cloud’ an online mental health programme which which allows you progress in your own time and at your own pace.

The Kooth.com online counselling programme offers confidential support online, including sessions with fully accredited counsellors and therapists.  This programme was established in collaboration with local schools and our colleagues in the NHS.

The Youthline Counselling Service provides phone support for young people is a face-to-face confidential counselling service for secondary school age up to 25 at The Lodge, Bracknell, The Spot, Sandhurst and in five local secondary schools.  The aim of the service is to support young people through their issues in a safe and supported environment.

The Time to Change programme is also something we are offering to our young people.  Co-designed with the help of young people themselves, the programme is being delivered in both primary and secondary schools.  The aim is to help increase understanding of mental health issues and let young people know that, if they ever need support, then it really is OK to ask for help.

The Befriending Scheme is a volunteering opportunity which offers support to any resident who, for whatever reason, has found themselves socially isolated.  It does a great job of providing people with someone they know who is there for them without expecting payment or a return of favour.