October the 10th marked World Mental Health Day, as recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The WHO stated that “World Mental Health Day is an opportunity for us to embrace our sense of community and normalise mental health”.
Here at BrightLife - a small charity supporting older persons - mental health is a subject matter that's close to our hearts and one of the many challenges that older people can face when suffering from loneliness and isolation. We know from research and our own support services that loneliness and mental health problems are intrinsically linked.
Mind, a UK charity dedicated to supporting people with mental health issues, states that “Feeling lonely can have a negative impact on your mental health, especially if these feelings have lasted a long time. Some research suggests that loneliness is associated with an increased risk of certain mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, sleep problems and increased stress."
Reflecting on the ambition for this year’s World Mental Health Day, there are four priorities which the WHO would like to see acted upon and as a charity we can relate to these priorities with those of our own:
Fund mental health services – it is estimated that countries spend less than 2% of their health care budget on mental health services. With approximately one billion people living with a mental disorder in 2019, services are radically under resourced.
Here at Brightlife we’ve had to change our fundraising model as a charity. The Covid pandemic has significantly changed the funding landscape for all small charities and in order to not only sustain, but to have the ambition to grow our support services, we now need to engage with businesses to help provide much needed support. For any individual or business wanting to donate please do so at: https://www.brightlife.charity/donate
Upskill ourselves and our care-givers with an understanding of mental health, understand fully personal experiences and how to provide support. The WHO Quality Rights Mental Health e-training is a great place to start. This training was designed to improve the quality of care in mental health and related services and to promote the rights of people with psychosocial, intellectual and cognitive disabilities.
At Brightlife our volunteers provide the charity’s support services. Training these volunteers is a key part of our delivery and something we’re continually focused on.
Prioritize mental health through our own self-care, analyzing workplace practices to ensure employees thrive and ensuring there is strong community care for mental health.
We’re all about community and working together. Businesses and employers play such a key role in a functioning and healthy society and by addressing mental health issues this not only benefits society as a whole but specifically those businesses who are the employers within our communities. For employers it's worth noting that a recent mental health report from the World Health Organisation - the WHO guidelines on mental health at work - states that an estimated 12 billion workdays are lost annually due to depression and anxiety.
Listen to the voices of people with lived experience of mental health conditions. Their experience will teach us how best to support and care for them.
Our telephone befriending service contacts and supports over 100 persons per week. This weekly contact is a must for many, and a lifeline for some. As a charity it means we can offer support and be that much needed ear to listen.
Mental health conditions are usually painful and unfortunately stigma only amplifies the problems that they create. As a charity dedicated to preventing loneliness and isolation amongst older persons we are able to offer support services that engage, and communicate with those persons who might otherwise experience mental health issues through being lonely. It’s important we all acknowledge mental health within our immediate networks of friends, family, neighbours, customers, suppliers and co-workers and offer communication and support where needed. In our case, we're looking to reach out and engage with those older persons within our communities who might otherwise have limited or no contact. It's important that together we can embrace the wise words of this year’s World Mental Health Day theme and raise awareness to make mental health and well-being a priority for all.