Mental Health Awareness Week is great - right?

Posted 6 days ago

Mental Health Awareness Week 2024

The University of London's new Health and Wellbeing Coordinator breaks down the complexity behind one of the most important weeks in the wellbeing calendar.

Mental Health Awareness Week is earmarked in every content creator, DE&I Advisor and HR Manager’s calendar every May, and for good reason. Months of research, preparation, time and effort goes in to ensuring no stone is left unturned when the middle of May finally comes around.

Of course, it’s a wonderful way to continue great work in increasing awareness of mental health and wellbeing and making sure everyone knows what support is out there.

However, Mental Health Awareness Week for many of us is not always something of a celebration. Some of us might experience anxiety leading up to and during the week, but feel like we can’t voice it. Why? 

calendar

Good mental health and wellbeing is important every week 

Let’s start off with something I think everyone knows anyway. It’s great to have a week to really showcase the importance of mental health, but we must keep up that momentum year-round. 

What’s the solution? Use MHAW to make commitments (either personal or larger scale if you’re in a position to do so) towards better mental health, that you will hold yourself accountable to throughout the year. For example, UoL have recently signed up to the University Mental Health Charter, and we’ll provide updates on our progress. You could also try committing to practicing mindfulness once a week, and check in with yourself in a few month’s time. 

This way, mental health awareness week ensures positive action all year round. 

a smiley face in a puddle

Magic-wand posts 

I’ve noticed these even more this year with the theme being Movement. I’ve loved seeing my social feeds full of people explaining how exercise saved their lives – sometimes literally – and often improved their mental health and wellbeing. I’ve seen so many great pictures of people on their wellbeing walks with their dogs (definitely keep those ones coming) or taking 20 minutes out of their day for some yoga. 

Whilst there is significant and substantial evidence that says exercise is good for mental health, we must be careful not to conflate “good for your mental health” with “a cure for mental illness”. 

Your experience is not less valid - nor are you less worthy of support - if you don’t exercise. Equally, if you finish a workout and still feel low, you are not broken. 

What’s the solution? Try exercising alongside other aspects of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, such as a good sleep pattern and balanced diet, but don’t be afraid to seek proper medical advice too. 

a person sitting at a desk with their hands behind their head

Obligation to participate 

I can really relate to people who feel like they have an obligation to say something during the week simply because I, like many others, have my own experience of mental health difficulties. 

I remember thinking “I really should post something about mental health awareness week on my Instagram”, but I didn’t feel comfortable doing so. It didn’t matter that I spend 35 hours a week working in this space, to me, the fact I didn’t want to post something made me feel like I was letting other people down. 

In reality, it’s our everyday actions that matter, and you don’t need to do anything for this mental health awareness week, if that is your preference. 

What’s the solution? It’s the words we do say that count. We can all be mindful of the way we speak about mental health when we do talk about it, and the actions we can take to make the world better for people with mental health challenges. 

mental health awareness week 2024 campaign