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Richmond gets mindful for Mental Health Awareness Week

GPs in Richmond are supporting Mental Health Awareness Week this month, which runs from Monday 11 May to Sunday 17 May.

Mental Health Awareness Week is an annual event organised by the Mental Health Foundation and aims to raise awareness of mental health to combat discrimination and stigma and promote mental wellbeing.

In Richmond, around 20,000 people suffer from a common mental disorder, such as anxiety or depression.  Whilst this is below the national average, a significant number have not sought help from their GP. 

Dr Graham Lewis, local GP and Chair of Richmond Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime. 

“Mental health problems can include low mood and depression, stress, anxiety, anger and panic attacks,” he said.

“Most people who feel low will start to feel better after a few days or weeks, but if these feelings persist or get in the way of everyday life then it's time to seek help.

“If you've been feeling depressed for more than a few weeks or your anxiety is affecting your daily life, make an appointment to speak to your GP.”

The theme of Mental Health Awareness Week 2015 is mindfulness – a process that uses meditation and breathing techniques to focus on the present moment and putting aside thoughts about things that are out of your control, such as past events or worrying about the future. 

It’s a mind and body based training that can help you change the way you think, feel and act.  Through being more aware of the way you think and feel about your experiences, whether good or bad, mindfulness can help you to change the way you manage and react to stressful situations, giving you a valuable tool to stay mentally healthy.

Richmond Wellbeing Service provides free and confidential talking therapies and specialist support to local residents who are concerned about their mental health – either through self-referral or referral through your GP.  Click here, or call 020 8548 5550 for more information.

“It’s important to remember that mental health problems can happen to anyone, and there’s no need to feel embarrassed or ashamed” continues Dr Lewis.  “We’re fortunate to live in an affluent part of the country with high rates of employment, low levels of deprivation and good access to recreational opportunities.  However, with almost 11% of residents suffering from a common mental health condition, we’re not immune. 

“Talking to friends and relatives to share experiences, sleeping well and improving diet and exercise routines can really help to lift low mood and manage common mental health disorders.  However, don’t leave your concerns unchecked.  You can talk to your GP or contact Richmond Wellbeing Service anytime if you’d like information on accessing advice and support. The important thing to remember is that you’re not alone.”

Why not try to bring mindfulness into these daily activities:

Go for a walk: try and walk ‘mindfully’, noticing the sounds around you and the feel of your feet on the ground. Give your brain a break by thinking about your body and the present moment, rather than speculating ahead about what you’re about to do.

Eat a mindful meal: try and slow down and taste the food in your mouth. Really explore the texture; the colour; the smell. You’ll find that if you slow your actions down, your mind will slow down too.

Turn off technology: instead of watching TV or texting for hours, why not try changing your routine? Do something that allows you to concentrate on the sensations in your body like going for a walk or taking a bath.

Capture moments on camera: taking photos is a great way of being mindful of precious moments as they go by. They’re also a good way of reminding yourself to notice the small things in life.

Take a course: Find a course in your local area at Alternatively, the Mental Health Foundation’s web-based course can be found here.

If you've had thoughts of self-harming or are feeling suicidal, contact someone immediately such as your GP, a friend, a relative or someone else you can trust. If you've already taken an overdose or cut yourself badly, dial 999.

They Samaritans operate a service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for people who want to talk in confidence. Call 08457 90 90 90.

To find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week, click here.