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This is why we all need to be talking about mental health

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One in ten adults living in Wakefield are diagnosed with depression and 200 of our children are admitted to hospital every year due to self-harm.

Those were the figures revealed in the 2017 public health report for Wakefield, which put the spotlight on the mental health of residents.

The district’s former Director of Public Health Andrew Furber, who compiled the report, said: “All of us will be affected by mental health issues at some point during our lives, if not directly, then by knowing a family member, friend of colleague who is experiencing difficulties.

“Whilst providing good treatment and care for those with mental illness is vital, it is just as important that we take steps to promote positive mental health.” The report highlighted risk factors that can lead to mental illness, as well as what can be done to boost mental health and wellbeing.

Poverty and deprivation, drug and alcohol use and loneliness are all associated with poor mental health, whilst social and physical activity and employment are ‘protective’ factors which can help boost wellbeing.

Coun Pat Garbutt, Wakefield Council’s cabinet member for adults and health, said: “One of the biggest challenges is knowing who is suffering. Not everybody shows obvious signs of poor mental health. It is looking at how we reach those people who are the most vulnerable.”

Part of Wakefield Council’s public health role is to look at what can be done to reduce the risk factors of poor mental health, putting in place schemes to tackle things like poverty, suicide rates and social isolation and commissioning programmes to support healthy lifestyle and workplace wellbeing. It also helps people to take action to boost their own mental health. Anna Hartley, the interim director for public health, said: “Mental health often touches on other things, so it’s important to look at the whole picture. “There’s a lot of fear about people opening up about their mental health but we are helping people to understand that there are support options out there to help.”

Wakefield Council’s chief executive Merran McRae said: “Our mental health is just as important as our physical health as it influences our ability to lead a fulfilling life and impacts on our ability to learn, to work and pursue leisure interests. Two thirds of adults say that they have experienced mental ill health at some point in their lives. We can all take action to ensure help is provided and support is accessed at the earliest possible opportunity. We all have a part to play.”

The council is encouraging people to do these five things to reduce their risk of developing a mental health problem. The Five Ways to Wellbeing aims to improve the mental health and wellbeing of the whole population...

1. CONNECT - spend time developing relationships with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours to help you feel close to and valued by other people

2. TAKE NOTICE - be aware of the present moment, your thoughts and feelings and the world around you to enhance your wellbeing

3. BE ACTIVE - find a physical activity you enjoy and make it a part of your life to reduce the risk of anxiety and depression

4. GIVE - carry out small acts such as a smile, thank you or kind word, or larger acts such as volunteering to help others and make you happier

5. KEEP LEARNING - develop new skills to gain a sense of achievement, confidence and self-esteem.

Wakefield Workplace Health and Wellbeing Charter .

*All employers that have signed it have identified mental wellbeing as a key issue. Workplace promotion of positive wellbeing includes sessions on how to manage stress and anxiety, raising awareness of how to spot poor mental health and where to go for support and offering mental health first aid courses.

*Live Well Wakefield - supports adults aged over 18 in need of information, advice and support about coping with everyday life, feel lonely and are looking for social opportunities, or feel low or anxious and are unsure of what services can help.

*Well Women Centre - promotes and improves the mental health, physical health and emotional wellbeing of women.

*St Anne’s Mental Health Services - a supported living scheme with constant support to enable people with mental health problems to live independently and access support.

*Samaritans - support people bereaved by suicide and work in prisons and schools delivering emotional health workshops.