Why did you become a mental health buddy?
I wanted to have the tools and techniques to better support colleagues, friends and family. Often, people turn to me when they are struggling and I wanted to have more guidance to be able to support others in the best way possible. I also sometimes struggle with becoming too overly involved. I hoped that having more knowledge and understanding of mental health would help me manage that better for myself.
How was the training process?
Intense! I had a really great group to work with, all of whom were open and honest which meant we had some really rich conversations. You learn a lot about yourself, and it can be very emotional, especially if you have experienced any mental health issues personally. It was so worthwhile and I gained a huge amount from the training.
What have you learnt so far while doing this?
That most people will experience some mental health issue at some point, and that almost everyone will know someone who has struggled or is struggling. In my opinion, I think everyone, regardless of who they are or what they do, would benefit from going through the training. You learn so much, all of which can benefit both others and yourself.
What does mental health mean to you?
Mental health is a spectrum. I feel we all move up and down that spectrum all the time and no one is immune to poor mental health. I like the term mental well-being and think we all, as individuals, have to make a conscious effort to maintain our mental well-being, the same as what we do for our physical health.
How can we all help protect our own and others’ mental health?
By finding what works for us to help balance our mental well-being. This will be different for everyone. Fortunately, in 2023, there is a huge amount of resources out there and organisations are offering more and more to support people. It is, however, not a one-size-fits-all approach, and you have to find what works for you. For some, talking is the answer. For others it is exercise, meditation, reading…the list goes on. We also need to be aware of times when our mental health may be getting too poor to manage on our own and know when to ask for more professional help. As friends, colleagues or family members, we need to look out for each other. We need to continue to break down stigmas that surround mental health and realise, as I said earlier, that no one is immune.
What are the benefits of becoming a mental health buddy?
There are four main benefits:
- Being able to listen and support an individual in their time of need.
- To help ensure that an individual gets the help they need when they need it.
- To learn more about mental health, the symptoms, triggers and different conditions that affect people.
- To learn more about yourself and your own mental well-being.
This year's theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is around ’anxiety’. What would you say to someone who is struggling with anxiety?
Try and find a way of rationalising the irrational thoughts and feelings that can take over during a bout of anxiety.
For me, this is talking to friends or family and trying to practise deep breathing exercises. I find talking really helps me to calm down and get a more rational perspective. I know, in my circle, who the best people are to help me with this and I reach out to them. The breathing has really helped me when I am at the point of a panic attack as it calms me whilst getting air into my brain!
But for others, this may look different. The one thing that is so awful about anxiety is that it clouds your thoughts and leads you to catastrophise, so, if you are suffering with anxiety, trying to bring a sense of calm is key.