TV star and author Ruby Wax is urging people with mental health problems in North Wales to seek help.
The outspoken comedian is backing Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, which is running mindfulness sessions for staff and the general public as part of a raft of initiatives in a six-month campaign.
The first sessions will take place on May 19, as part of Mental Health Awareness Week, with others planned in the coming months in communities and health board premises across North Wales.
During the week, which runs from May 16 to 22, mental health charity Hafal will also have stands in BCUHB’s inpatient mental health units during the week: Hergest at Ysbyty Gwynedd, Bangor, Ablett at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, Bodelwyddan, and Heddfan at Wrexham Maelor Hospital.
Throughout the week, the team from Hafal will be encouraging people to make a pledge to do something positive that will enhance their own or others’ emotional wellbeing.
Senior BCUHB officers are also being urged to make a pledge to support staff in the campaign, which runs to World Mental Health Day in October.
The health board, which employs more than 16,000 people, is also calling on other employers to run similar mindfulness sessions and other activities to encourage staff to think about their own emotional wellbeing, and end workplace discrimination and the stigma against those seeking treatment.
Comedian, writer and actor Ruby, who has talked about her own depression and is an ambassador for Mind, has campaigned on mental health issues and called for an end to stigma about the illness through the Time to Change project.
Ruby recently gained her Master’s degree in mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy from Oxford University and is presently touring the UK with her Frazzled stand-up comedy show, which includes walk-in clinics those for those seeking support.
She said: “Mental illness is affecting one in four people right now – and most of them feel unable to ask for help.
“Everybody has different ways to deal with what’s going on their lives: for me mindfulness works.
“I would encourage everybody who has the chance to go along and try these sessions run by Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board,” added Ruby, who has also written two books about mindfulness.
Rob Callow, BCUHB interim head of engagement, said: “The BCUHB community drop-in taster sessions will also include a chance for those taking part to talk to us about what matters to them with regards to mental health and wellbeing.
“We are now looking for more locations across North Wales where we are able to hold these sessions, so that we can reach as many communities as possible.
“The sessions will be around an hour long and provide a chance for people to try it for themselves, with information on hand if they would like to learn more about the technique, or to access any other health services.” The health body’s board members also recently took part in a mindfulness taster session, said chief executive Gary Doherty.
“As one of Wales’ largest employers, providing healthcare in what are often very stressful situations, we recognise that our staff need support to ensure their own mental health.
“I would urge that other employers follow our lead on this, and run similar sessions for their own staff. In addition, mental illness should be seen as a health condition, so those seeking treatment do not face discrimination or stigma.
“We all need to find ways to cope with the demands of everyday life, whether that’s using mindfulness techniques, going for a walk, playing an instrument, taking part in a sport, or simply taking time to read a book.
“Mind, the mental health charity, has suggested five steps to well-being, which includes connecting, being active, taking notice of the world and people around you, learning and giving.
“North Wales is the perfect place to get out for a walk with friends and family to enjoy the summer and great views, try a new sport, such as biking, kayaking or climbing, or enhance your photography or art skills.
“In addition, we have many opportunities for people to become volunteers with our teams, and we would be happy to hear from anybody who wants to give some of their time, and enhance their own life and the lives of others.”
More details about mindfulness at http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/mindfulness.aspx
Mental health charity Mind has worked with the New Economics Foundation to create five ways to wellbeing for workplaces. They are:
Evidence shows feeling close to, and valued by, other people contributes to functioning well in the world. Social relationships promote wellbeing and for acting as a buffer against mental ill health. Mind suggests:
- Talk to someone instead of sending an email
- Speak to someone new
- Ask how someone’s weekend was and really listen when they tell you
- Put five minutes aside to find out how someone really is
- Give a colleague a lift to work or share the journey home with them.
Regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety. Exercise is essential for slowing age-related cognitive decline and for promoting well-being. Activities such as walking also help encourage social interactions as well providing exercise. It includes
- Take the stairs not the lift
- Go for a walk at lunchtime
- Walk into work – perhaps with a colleague – so you can ‘connect’ as well
- Get off the bus one stop earlier than usual and walk the final part of your journey
- Organise a work sporting activity
- Have a kick-about in a local park
- Do some ‘easy exercise’, like stretching, before you leave for work in the morning
Being aware of what is taking place in the present directly enhances well-being and savouring ‘the moment’ can help to reaffirm life priorities. Heightened awareness also enhances self-understanding and allows you to make positive choices based on your own values and motivations.
- Get a plant for your workspace
- Have a ‘clear the clutter’ day
- Take notice of how your colleagues are feeling or acting
- Take a different route on your journey to or from work
- Visit a new place for lunch.
The chance to engage in work or educational activities particularly helps to lift older people out of depression. Setting goals has been strongly associated with higher levels of wellbeing. These could include
- Sign up for a class
- Read a newspaper or a book
- Set up a book club
- Do a crossword or Sudoku
- Research something you’ve always wondered about
Individuals who report a greater interest in helping others are more likely to rate themselves as happy. Research into actions for promoting happiness has shown that committing an act of kindness once a week over a six-week period is associated with an increase in wellbeing.