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Let's talk about mental health

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Let's talk about mental health

Experts in the field of wellbeing gathered recently at OMD EMEA's second Red Half-hour to talk about mental health and how to reach mental wellbeing.

Following last's month discussion around the importance of racial equality, this month the Red steering group focused on the importance of mental health, as they prepare to launch a week of content in recognition of World Mental Health Day on 10 October.

With one in four of people in the UK experiencing mental health challenges of some kind each year, and with the impacts of the pandemic affecting people in different ways mentally, the group took 30 minutes out of the day to talk about mental wellbeing. Mental wellbeing is the ability to cope with the day-to-day stresses of life, work productively, interact positively with others and realise one’s own potential.

Moderated by Katie Crouch, people team manager at OMD EMEA, the panel also welcomed: Ann McCutcheon, rehabilitation and wellbeing consultant at Unum, Clare Casson, wellbeing coach and nutritionist and Maxine Barratt, yoga teacher.

The group started the session by discussing the stigma still surrounding mental health.

"Historically there has always been a culture of seeing mental health as a weakness", said McCutcheon. "Mental health is very much a part of our overall health, much like our physical health. By continuing to have these conversations, to talk about mental health, and realise that we all have mental health, all of the time, that it will fluctuate, that we'll all have good days and bad days, and that that's OK, it's part of human nature. That will hopefully continue to go some way to break down the stigma.”

Casson agreed: “Sometimes the way it is spoken about, the need to develop grit and toughness" is not very helpful. "We need to get into the habit of asking ‘How are you?’ and really meaning it."

Barratt echoed the sentiments: “If you live and work in a city, it's quite an achievement-oriented place to live. The sense of striving forward and moving very quickly and achieving constantly something, the reality is that if you are struggling with your mental wellbeing at any time, you need to slow down.”

When asked on how to recognise signs that you, or others, might be struggling, McCutcheon advised to reflect on what you usually are like when you are well and pick up on any changes that might indicate that you are struggling. She recommended considering them in terms of categories: emotional, physical, behavioural and cognitive.

The group discussed the importance of breath as a way to ground yourself. Barratt explained: "Start with breathing. Start with paying attention to your breath on a regular basis. Having a couple of breathing techniques that are really simple are effective in calming you down."

Casson agreed that breathing is excellent for sleeping and toning down anxiety. She went on to recommend switching off before bed, having no screen time at least 30 minutes, but better still one hour, before bedtime. She highlighted how caffeine and alcohol disrupt the quality of sleep, and if you are feeling heightened anxiety, you should avoid them.

She maintained the importance of recognising that bed is for sleep – your room should be dark. Ideally, you wouldn't read in bed, and if you do wake up, get up and do something light, don't look at the clock.

"It doesn't matter what time it is. And if you look at the clock then your brain will very quickly learn to wake you at that time as your brain will think ‘Ooo, it's three o'clock in the morning, I wake up at three o'clock in the morning’.”

For tips and recommendation of apps, podcasts etc to aid healthy mental wellbeing, the group shared the following resources: Breathwrk app, New Economics Foundation, NHS, Sleepio, Pzizz app, Mind Over Mood.

Watch the full Red Half-hour at omd.com/emea.

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