SCIE opinion – 14 May 2014

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Photograph of Tony Hunter

Mental Health Awareness Week

By SCIE’s Tony Hunter

Comedian Ruby Wax tweeted:  “It’s Mental Health Awareness Week. Though those of us who are mental are always aware”. Although we’d never use that language ourselves (if Ruby chooses to, especially for comedic effect, that’s fine) it’s a useful reminder that people with mental health problems are constantly reminded of their ongoing conditions and that can be challenging.

But at least there is that level of awareness, especially amongst working-age adults. There are schemes in workplaces now that recognise mental health issues and how people can carry on working alongside their conditions. See our report on mental health, employment and the social care workforce.

It’s all good news but Mental Health Awareness Week should also be about people who are less obvious and sometimes a bit hidden. For instance, we have a number of resources that look at areas such as the emotional wellbeing of older people, the change from child to adolescent mental health services and parental mental health and child welfare.

Take the case of the mental health and wellbeing of older people in black and minority ethnic communities. We have three Social Care TV films on this. One film explores some of the ‘risk factors’, such as poor housing, that can lead to poor mental health. It focuses on early intervention and prevention, which can delay the need for more costly interventions; these are often needed when individuals reach a point of crisis.

The film centres on Mrs Mahindra, who was isolated at home after illness. She was referred by social services to an organisation in the community called SubCo. After being able to successfully access a variety of activities and services she has made new friends, and enjoys improved physical health and mental wellbeing.

The film stresses the importance of conducting proper assessments, communication between people who use services and staff, understanding and appreciating diversity within communities, and offering choice.

One of the reasons that Mental Health Awareness Week is important is that staff who work in the area can use it as a way to improve their work. Our films are useful for social workers and social worker managers from older adults social care and older adult mental health teams; social care staff in the independent sector, which includes the voluntary and community sector; community nurses; and community mental health teams. Various staff, working together in a variety of settings, can support people to improve their mental wellbeing.

Ruby Wax says that we need to understand how our brains work, rewire our thinking and find calm in a frenetic world. All good advice for staff members who can really make a difference to people who need support over mental health issues.

Links

Mental Health Awareness Week

SCIE’s mental health resources