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Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 – why we need more than just awareness

Social Value UK is proud to support Mental Health Awareness Week 2021. This year’s theme, as decided by the Mental Health Foundation is nature.

The Mental Health Foundation have chosen to focus on nature in 2021 due to their research on the mental health impacts of the pandemic highlighting how important going for walks outside has been during COVID. 45% of us reported being in green spaces had been vital for our mental health, and webcams of wildlife saw hits increase by over 2000%.

It seems that we began to connect with nature much more than we had in recent times, the fundamental human need to connect to our surroundings was amplified by our inability to connect with others.

The Mental Health Foundation will be pulling together the evidence that demonstrates the powerful benefits of nature for our mental health. They are going to look at nature’s ability increase our creativity, empathy and a sense of wonder, as well as reduce stress. 

Awareness is not enough

Whilst awareness of mental health issues is important, and hopefully leads to normalisation and further acceptance of those suffering, it is not enough. What we need to see is an overhaul of actual mental health support and funding within the UK. Analysis by NHS Support Federation for the TUC showed that in 2013 there was 1 mental health doctor for every 186 patients accessing services. In 2018 this has fell to 1 for every 253 patients. 32% of local authorities that provide public health services spent nothing at all on public mental health in 2016-17 and 2017-18, according to research from the British Medical Association, proving once again that we need action, not words.

Mental health charity Mind has responded to yesterday’s Queen’s Speech in Parliament, recognising it’s good points, the much overdue commitment to banning LGBTQ+ conversion therapy, but its missteps and shortfalls. Vicki Nash, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Mind calls it “a missed opportunity for the UK Government to really set out how they plan to level up inequality across the country and meet demand for mental health support.

Whilst we must celebrate the great steps society has taken in acceptance of mental health issues, we are a long way off from a satisfactory environment. We must take this week as an opportunity to recognise shortcomings in this area, to decide on our next steps, and continuing the fight for mental wellbeing. It may seem tokenistic to say that this is now more important than ever, but it’s true. Recovery from COVID means recovery physically, economically and mentally. We must ensure mental health is included in every discussion of ‘bouncing back’. It isn’t quite so easy as awareness.

Social Value UK will continue to advocate for equality and increased wellbeing for all, this is not possible without proper mental health support available widely, freely and quickly. We encourage our members to engage with Mental Health Awareness Week, to support your peers, friends and family, and use your power and privilege to change the mental health crisis in the UK.

Further reading from Social Value UK:

Wellbeing Wednesday – how to look after yourself personally & professionally

Stress Awareness Month 2021

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