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Ross Bailey Mental Health Briefing - 19 March 2021

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Thankyou Chief Minister,

Taking genuine and proactive care of our emotional wellbeing has historically and too often played second fiddle to our other priorities in life, whether this be raising a family, work, financial pressures our physical health or indeed living through a pandemic. The undeniable fact is however, that our emotional wellbeing, the way we think and feel, determines and drives our behaviour, consequentially it has a fundamental impact on all of these so called priorities. Given the current climate one could argue that caring about our emotional wellbeing has never been more important. I’d like to use the opportunity today to speak briefly about the choices we have, collectively and individually, to both acknowledge and take care of that most precious of assets our emotional health.

The starting point is our ability to recognise and acknowledge that we’re struggling. It doesn’t matter whether you experience occasional low mood as a result of financial difficulties or a serious life threatening physical health illness, the evidence base universally asserts that the sooner you do something about it the better the outcome.

There is however, no text book or lessons that that dictate what normal emotions look like during a pandemic. Our response and degrees of resilience represent a very broad spectrum, typically formed from our own experiences and opportunities in life.  Whilst variations in our mood are entirely normal, and there is not one person listening to this who has not experienced anxiety or low mood in their life time and particularly over the last 12 months, what’s important is our ability to both acknowledge changes in our thoughts and feelings and recognise the impact that this has on our behaviour. Equally important is our ability to recognise and appreciate this in others.

Typical signs and symptoms of low mood and anxiety often include, irritability, restlessness, struggling with sleep, a feeling of emptiness and a loss of self-worth and interest in activities. If these resonate either personally or you recognise their presence in others it’s so important that they are acknowledged and help and support are sought. This may include a discussion with those close to you, your GP or accessing information and support on line whether this be through our QWELL and KOOTH on line counselling, which is available for both adults and young people 24/7 or by other means.  There are some fabulous online resources available that provide really accessible advice and information and support, these include the MIND and UK NHS websites and our own on line resource the “are you ok website”.

The “are you ok website”, which was launched last year focusses on the “Five Ways to Wellbeing” – encouraging and providing advice on how people can Connect with each other, Be Active, Keep Learning, Give, Take Notice.

  • Connect - Strong relationships are an essential part of building resilience and boosting wellbeing. The simple act of talking about something, can stop it getting worse. Talk and listen. Be there for people. This is so important both within families, communities and in the workplace. Good employers, ones that see high rates of productivity and staff retention are empathic and flexible in their approach.
  • Be Active - Being more active can improve your mood and decrease feelings of stress, depression and anxiety. There’s a great deal of clinical evidence demonstrating the impact of physical activity and mental health, Indeed many studies assert that regular physical exercise is equally if not more effective than medication in some instances.
  • Keep Learning - Being curious and seeking out new experiences positively stimulates the brain and boosts wellbeing.
  • Give - Carrying out acts of kindness, whether small or large, can increase happiness, life satisfaction and general sense of wellbeing, - this includes being kind to yourself, not being overly self-critical, again the impact of kindness and giving makes you feel good and is clinically well supported.
  • Take Notice - Paying more attention to the present moment, to thoughts and feelings and to the people around us, can boost our wellbeing often called Mindfulness. Take notice of your feelings.  Start meaningful conversations and listen.

Each of the 5 ways to wellness pages also have links to numerous local charities and third sector organisations who provide remarkable yet often under acknowledged services to our community. The “are you ok” site also includes a broad selection of articles written by local health and social care professionals and experts by experience ranging from dealing with debt, mental resilience, domestic abuse, sexual assault  to healthy eating.

Are you ok ? such an innocuous and often underutilised phrase, yet it has the potential to act as a catalyst for a chain of events that can literally be life changing. For those of a certain generation, and as a fifty year old man I include myself, you may recall an advertising campaign for British Telecom in the mid 1990’s hosted by the late great Bob Hoskins in which he set about promoting their service by bringing people together applying the catch it’s good to talk. He was so right, although he should have perhaps included it’s good to listen. “It good to talk and good to listen”, never has this been more true than it is now.

Thankyou Chief Minister.