Mental Health Awareness Week - Thriving against the odds

Kerry Smith
Mental Health Awareness Week 2017 logo

This week (8th-14th May) is Mental Health Awareness Week, where the Mental Health Foundation encourages us all to think and talk about Mental Health. This can involve everyone, with organisations like ours increasing our efforts to make sure people know about the services available and individuals reaching out to each other to have a conversation.

We all have mental health and it is a shifting spectrum

The theme this year is 'from surviving to thriving' and it feels very positive that this encourages us to think about mental health as a spectrum from very well to very unwell which we all move up and down at different points in our lives. This contrasts to an idea of 'mental health' as being something other or separate and reinforces that we all have mental health and it is everyone's business.

Thriving against the odds

I find the concept of thriving rather than surviving an interesting one.  It feels that recently I have been hearing a lot of stories from people in our services and from people I know personally that suggest people are facing a lot of external factors and challenges, perhaps more than previously. This is also reflected in our services where we often face finding a way to deliver the same or improved services for lower funds. Against these challenges how do we find a way to thrive?

Some of the inspiring stories on the Mental Health Foundation's website and that we hear in our services suggest that many people can build and find strength in challenging times, particularly through reaching out to others, to seek or offer help. Whenever I reach out I always get something back, be it practical support, the sense of not being alone with my challenges, the glow from helping others, or renewed energy and inspiration from others.  

Think about what feeling good means for you

It can feel as though we should 'have it all'  in the modern world so I feel it is important to define thriving for yourself, to think about what feeling good means and includes for you,  and not  create another pressure for something you need to succeed at.  For me thriving could be anything from  achievements at work, to finding I have managed to spend a weekend full of the things I most love doing (like drumming and going to gigs) through to giving myself permission to spend a day in my pyjamas doing nothing. There's no easy recipe for thriving so the only advice I would like to share comes from one of my favorite female drummers, Kiran Ghandi: "Make decisions based on what feels good to you. As long as you have a sense of what matters to you, these decisions will actually come quite naturally" (from her Tedx talk 'Atomic Living'.)

Kerry Smith is Associate Director at Thinkaction

How to contact Thinkaction

Thinkaction provides mental health services across Kent, Medway, Surrey and the London Borough of Merton.

We can support you if you’re feeling low, stressed or anxious – and you don’t need a doctor to refer you.