GP’s and local community services across the UK are claiming there is a crisis in the lack of resources and support for those struggling with mental illness. The charity, Mind reported that 1 in 4 people will experience problems with their mental health every year.
In an effort to reduce the number of referrals for mental health services, GP’s and health charities are encouraging people to take steps to improve their wellbeing. After speaking to health professionals, we put together a list of ways to improve your mental health:
Step back from social media
John Martin, a volunteer who has worked for Samaritans for over 30 years says one of the main concerns people speak to him about are insecurities that stem from social media and cyberbullying.
He explained: “A lot of teenagers and older people using social media get very upset by what is written about them and they then have tendencies to take it personally. Sometimes people need to take a step back.”
Previously, an influential study conducted by professor Douglas Kendrick Ph.D. at Arizona State University, found that websites such as, Facebook and Twitter, can be especially harmful to mental health because people have tendencies to compare themselves to others and often feel inadequate.
— The Charity for CS (@foryoubyyou) November 12, 2013
Listen to your body clock
Mental health specialist worker at Manchester’s Woodlands Hospital, Charlotte Shepherd explained that creating a routine can help maintain a healthy sleeping pattern and have additional benefits including; reduced stress levels and depressive moods.
She said: “Have a focus and look after yourself physically and mentally, take time out to relax and get enough sleep. A lack of sleep is such a trigger for mental health problems.
“Having a routine can resolve insomnia and a good night’s sleep can subsequently regulate your meal times and make you more productive.”
Supporting Miss Shepherd’s advice, recent findings of a research study on insomniacs suffering from depression proved that after those struggling with depression treated their insomnia the treatment they would undergo for depression was twice as successful. The study that was conducted by Dr Rachel Manber a professor of behavioural sciences at Stanford University.
Take care of yourself and connect with nature
Seth Gillihan, Ph.D, is a psychologist and clinical assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. His work has proven that keeping a healthy lifestyle can help to maintain better mental wellbeing.
He explained: “A lot of what keeps us feeling well are just good rules for living. Prioritize relationships, exercise consistently, follow a healthful diet, practice moderation with alcohol and following a consistent sleep schedule.”
He added: “Practicing being in our life, focusing on the present, releasing unnecessary worries, accepting what is, and sustaining mindfulness are all ways to improve mental wellbeing and they have tremendous support from professionals for being helpful in countless ways.”
Brian Newton, licensed clinical psychologist also carried out research that found creating daily routines and exercising outdoors can successfully minimise stress and instil a sense of control which can help reduce depression.
This is also supported by a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which gives quantifiable evidence that walking outside for 90 minutes in a rural area reduces the activity in the part of the brain which is associated with depression.
Regain your self-esteem and confidence
Mentalhealth.org is a UK charity which use funding to conduct research to determine methods to help people with mental health conditions. Work carried out by the charity has found that regaining self-confidence can be a great benefit to reducing feelings of depression.
A spokesperson for the website said: “Mental health problems can be related to severe personal insecurity issues. It is really important to first accept that everyone is unique and important to feel confident within yourself and build your self-esteem because it has proven to significantly improve mental health.”
Journal your thoughts and feelings
Journaling is an ancient tradition and is often use as a way to express feelings privately and now, writing down your daily activities and feelings can reduce stress, anxiety and increases your ability to rationalise your feelings says Maud Purcell psychotherapist.
The act of writing activates the cerebral cortex which is responsible for stimulating rational and analytic thinking.
Additionally, Dr Heidi Moawad a neurologist who has dedicated her research to patient empowerment and improving mental health and wellbeing has evidence to support this. She explained that analytical skills require interaction between the temporal lobe, prefrontal region and parietal lobe. These are located near the back of the brain at the top of the head.
Pursue your passions
Clinical psychologist Dean Parker has worked with those struggling with developing relationships, depression and anxiety for over 30 years and he believes that a positive outlook is dependent on improving self-esteem through doing something that you are good at.
He said: “Identifying your passions can help you have a realistic goal that you work towards and encourage you to maintain a positive mentality. Taking part in hobbies that you used to enjoy could spark your interest and encourage a more positive mind set.”
Talk to someone
John Martin a volunteer worker at Samaritans explained that as a suicide prevention charity, they are contacted once every six seconds by someone experiencing suicidal thoughts and most calls end in a positive resolution preventing the person from taking any further action.
He explained: “People email, text, call or visit us in our centres so often because it has been proven that many people benefit from having an impartial person to speak to.”
This is also backed up by advice published by the help site, ‘Student’s Against Depression‘ which emphasises that research studies show talking to someone about personal issues can alleviate stress and prevent feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Our reporter, Eleanor Crone went to speak to Liz Eate, a child and family health and wellbeing lecturer at the University of Derby to find out how families struggling with mental health issues can maintain a positive mental outlook.
If you are struggling with mental health problems and want a safe and confidential service visit Mind’s website or speak to your local GP.