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Leona O'Neill: Wellbeing should be a priority, and not just on World Mental Health Day

Modern life can be incredibly stressful, so it's important that we all remember to look after our mental health. As World Mental Health Day approaches, Leona O'Neill suggests some useful resources to help us keep on top of our wellbeing...

One in four people in Northern Ireland will experience problems that impact on their mental health
Leona O'Neill

WORLD Mental Health Day this year falls on Monday October 10 and the theme of this year's day is 'make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority'.

In these trying times, when we are emerging from a global pandemic into a more hostile world with war on our doorstep and a gruelling and frightening cost of living crisis, looking after our mental health is more important than ever.

Most of us are feeling the pressure these days, whether that is parents wondering how they are going to afford soaring costs to keep their family afloat or pensioners frightened about how they are going to heat their homes this winter as energy prices make many things simply unaffordable. The constant stress and worry can take a toll.

And if you are feeling it, you are not alone. One in four people in Northern Ireland will experience problems that impact on their mental health, yet still, even when it is such a prevalent problem, many of us aren't willing to openly talk about our mental health and wellbeing for fear of facing stigma and discrimination.

And there lays the problem: people don't seek help for their poor mental health, instead they bottle it up, perhaps lean on unhealthy crutches like alcohol and drugs, and all of this combined can hinder their recovery.

There is a wealth of information on this great website, mindingyourhead.info, about taking care of yourself and protecting and nurturing your mental health. As World Mental Health Day approaches, perhaps you can adopt some tips. These include:

Getting enough rest

Making time for yourself, family and friends ­- talking to them about how you feel

Getting to know who you are, thinking about and trying to do things that make you really happy, and not forgetting to laugh regularly

Cultivating and encouraging optimism in yourself and others, trying to avoid over thinking and comparisons with others – learning to balance and accepting what you can and cannot change about yourself

Exercising regularly, preferably with someone else

Limiting your intake of alcohol and avoiding cigarettes and other drugs.

World Mental Health Day is a chance to talk about mental health in general, how we need to look after it, and how important it is to talk about things and get help if you are struggling. But we don't need a specific day to chat about these things.

Please, if you are struggling, talk to someone. It doesn't need to be a dramatic thing, something you need build up the courage to do: simply speak with someone you trust, a family member, a friend, a colleague. Chances are, with one in four people in this place struggling with their mental health at any one time, they have felt exactly the same way at one stage.

Contact your GP and explain how you are feeling. Contact one of the many brilliant organisations who are experts at helping people who are struggling to feel better and get back to themselves.

Please don't sit on your own with this, because you are not on your own. Many folks feel the same way, many have and are struggling. Some might be further down the road from you and can pass on helpful advice on getting through. But remember this, because sometimes when you are in a bad place, it's difficult to see through the darkness: there is help. You will feel better.

Lifeline is a crisis response helpline service operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you're in distress or despair, you can call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000 and talk to an experienced counsellor.

Deaf and hard of hearing Textphone users can call Lifeline on 18001 0808 808 8000. For more information visit lifelinehelpline.info.

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