Mind: An Exclusive Interview on Mental Health

Mind: An Exclusive Interview on Mental Health

Hi Kathleen, thanks for speaking to us. Can you introduce us to Mind and tell us about the services you provide?

Mind is the leading mental health charity in England and Wales. We provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. We campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding. We won’t give up until everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets both support and respect.

Last year, 400,000 people used our local Mind services across England and Wales, 16.7m people visited our information pages on our website and we answered over 60,000 queries to our Infoline.

What are you hoping to achieve this year and what campaigns are you running?

2017 is set to be an exciting year for Mind, and we’re thrilled that WHSmith is going to be a big part of it.

In the last few years, we’ve seen a huge number of employers make great strides when it comes to tackling stress and supporting the mental wellbeing of their staff. This year sees the launch of Mind’s first Workplace Wellbeing Index, a benchmark of best policy and practice, designed to celebrate the good work employers are doing to promote positive mental health. We will be recognising these forward-thinking organisations at a celebratory awards ceremony in March.

We’re also excited to see the culmination of Heads Together, the campaign which unites the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, along with Mind, and seven other mental health charities, to change the way we talk about our mental health. Heads Together is this year’s London Marathon charity of the year, and will see thousands of people pounding the pavements to raise money and awareness for mental health.

We will also be continuing to campaign for better mental health services, which have historically lagged far behind physical health services. We want everyone with a mental health problem who visits their GP practice or another primary care service to get the support that best suits their needs. That’s what our new primary care campaign ‘Find the Words’ is all about.

What advice would you give to someone who suspects that someone in their life might be having difficulties?

One in four of us will experience a mental health problem every year. The symptoms and severity can vary hugely between different people, but in most cases the support of a loved one to help someone open up and get help can play a vital role. Here are some suggestions for how you can help:

  1. Encourage them to seek help
    Perhaps the most important thing that you can do is to encourage them to seek appropriate treatment. You can reassure them by letting them know that help is out there, and that you will be there to support them too.
  2. Get talking
    It takes a lot for someone to say “I need help”, but it doesn’t hurt to raise the subject yourself. Try to be open so they know that it’s OK to talk about what they’re experiencing. Sometimes you don’t have to explicitly talk about mental health to find out how they are doing – it can be as simple as texting them to let them know you’re thinking of them, or suggesting that you go out for dinner or a walk.
  3. Don’t blame
    Try not to blame them for feeling anxious or depressed, or tell them to ‘pull themselves together’. They are probably already blaming themselves, and criticism is likely to make them feel even worse.
  4. Be patient
    Someone with depression may get irritable, and be more liable to misunderstand others, or feel misunderstood, than usual. They may need reassurance in some situations, and you may need to be patient with them.
  5. Look after yourself
    Your mental health is important too, and looking after someone else could put a strain on your wellbeing. If you are able to stay well, you are more likely to be able to provide good support for longer, without getting too overwhelmed. This could include trying to stay healthy and physically active, confiding in someone else about your feelings, taking a break from time to time and being realistic about what you can and can’t do yourself.

If you’d like to read more, Mind has lots of advice on supporting someone else: http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/helping-someone-else

What would you like to see in place in the workplace to support employees and colleagues?

Almost one in three workers have experienced mental health problems in the workplace, with the cost to employers estimated at £26 billion each year. Aside from the economic cost mental health problems have a huge personal one too, which means employers have a responsibility to promote workplace wellbeing and help prevent poor mental health. It’s in their interests to take workplace wellbeing seriously, as those that do typically have more engaged, productive and loyal employees, who take less time off sick.

Our Workplace Wellbeing team are increasingly advising employers in how to create mentally healthy workplaces, but we need to see all employers tackling it.

What’s the most rewarding change you’ve seen in attitudes towards mental health?

In addition to the number of people we support every day in our local Minds, though our Infoline, and via our website, we are also fighting to change negative perceptions on mental health.

Time to Change, the campaign that Mind launched in partnership with Rethink Mental Illness, aims to change the way we all think and act about mental health problems. Time to Change has done extensive research into people’s experience of stigma. Between 2008 and 2014, 3.4 million people were found to have had a positive change in their attitudes towards people with mental health problems (an 8.3% change). Over the same time, average levels of discrimination also fell from 41.6% to 28.4%, which is really significant. We know we’re making great strides in tackling stigma, but there’s still a long way to go.

What misconceptions about mental health do you wish you would put a stop to?

We know that media reporting and dramatic portrayals of mental health are incredibly powerful in influencing the public. When done well, the media can be a tremendous tool in raising awareness, challenging attitudes and helping to dispel myths. Sadly, our research shows that the media still relies on a lot of negative stereotypes when it comes to mental health reporting.

Mind works with the media to improve the quality of their reporting and dramatic depictions of mental health. We provide consultation on soap storylines, give workshops to newsroom journalists, support people to speak out in the media for themselves, reward good practice and use new and innovative methods to challenge poor reporting.

What more needs to be done for mental health in the future?

There is still much to be done to ensure that everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets the support and respect they deserve. Mind is going to be particularly focused on improving the support people currently receive.

A GP surgery is often the first place we go when we’re struggling with our mental health, but although one in three GP appointments are mental health-related, less than half of trainee GPs do their training placement in a mental health setting. Our primary care campaign ‘Find the Words’ is helping to tackle this and ensure that people with mental health problem’s experience of primary care is more positive.

A recent survey by Mind found that nearly half of people with mental health problems had felt suicidal because of social factors such as debt, housing, welfare problems, or relationship breakdown, in the last two years. Our Life Support campaign brings into focus just how important social issues are when it comes to our mental health. Helping people with these issues could both help save money, in the long run, and ease the burden on mental health services.

What are your thoughts on WHSmith’s activity around mental health this year?

We’re delighted to have been chosen by WHSmith as one of their charity partners for the 225th anniversary. With WHSmith’s support, we can develop our vital new work with young people. Together, we can change the lives of vulnerable people and improve the services and support they receive. Currently, 1 in 5 young people will experience a mental health problem at some point, and 50% of mental health problems in adult life start before the age of 15 – nearly 75% before the age of 18.

In addition to the impact you’re making on our work, we’re thrilled that WHSmith is wholly committed to making a difference within your own organisation. By signing the Time to Change Employer’s Pledge, WHSmith are demonstrating a strong commitment to change how we think and act about mental health in the workplace and make sure that employees who are facing these problems feel supported.

You can find out more about Mind and find out how to get involved in their work over on the Mind website.