Taking steps to boost our wellbeing on World Mental Health Day

Dónal Nolan

Renewed focus is being placed on the journey of self awareness this Friday, October 6, as North Kerry marks World Mental Health Day with a number of appropriately health-boosting activities.

It's the work of the North Kerry Mental Health Team, taking place in Listowel this Friday with a warm gathering in the Mermaids at 10am - a 'meet and greet' - before all set off on a Walk for Health in the Town Park, prior to returning to the Mermaids for teas, coffees and plenty of chat as well as a discussion on the theme 'Good Mental Health for Me and My Family'.

Psychiatrist Dr Ann Horgan of Kerry University Hospital is one of a number of medics, counsellors and community figures leading the work of the team and she told The Kerryman that the day's activity will be very much about emphasising the many simple, and positive, steps we can all take to improve our mental health - no matter how difficult our troubles might appear to us at first.

"Exactly as with improving our physical health, we can take huge steps to improve our mental health simply by getting more exercise, more sleep and eating more healthily while moderating our alcohol intake. But simply being in contact with other people is so important too. That's what our event is all about really, reminding people of the many positive, but simple, steps they can take."

Problems with alcohol and drugs; social isolation and unemployment leading to financial stress and emotional strain on families are behind the majority of mental health troubles.

However, the modern emphasis on providing more and more care in the community via GPs, counselling services, bereavement groups and voluntary organisations like Pieta House is making headway.

"We're trying to encourage people to prioritise their mental health and well-being and to seek help with problems if they feel they can't do it alone," Dr Horgan explained.

There is so much help out there today, with one's GP perhaps the best first step of all. Today, 20 per cent of all GP work is mental-health related; as doctors talk to patients about the patient's problems in order to get a clear sense of the response needed, which may require referring patients on to counsellors or psychiatrists ,depending on the level of need.

More and more people appear to be taking such steps to deal with issues at an early juncture when it is easier to get perspective, before things might spiral deeper.

"There's a great saying: 'It's okay not to feel okay'," Dr Horgan said.

"People sometimes feel they shouldn't be feeling a certain way, but it is important to accept your own self for all your strengths and weaknesses.

"Exercise regularly, eat healthily, abstain from drugs, moderate alcohol intake and maintain relationships. If you have a problem talk to somebody about it early and try to be sensitive to the people around you too, reach out to them and ask them if they are okay," Dr Horgan advises.


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