“We all have mental health. Good mental health is an asset that helps us to thrive. This is not just the absence of a mental health problem, but having the ability to think, feel and act in a way that allows us to enjoy life and deal with the challenges it presents. Yet it can be easy to assume that ongoing stress is the price we have to pay to keep our lives on track. It is time to challenge that assumption”.
Following the sad loss late last year of a young man to suicide in the Knighton area, local people have been keen to raise awareness of the support that is available to people experiencing emotional distress of any sort and for any reason. Carla Rosenthal, who was at that time a Participation Officer in our team, and lives in the area, has been working closely with local organisations such as Knighton & District Community Support, Volunteering on Prescription and KINDA (Knighton Initiative for Dementia Action), along with the people of Knighton, to help organise activities:
“Events through MHAW aim to unite the community in Knighton through music, socialising and TALKING! Many local businesses are to host events but are relying on as many people to come and support them and raise awareness for a cause that's affected everybody”.
Finding paid work was one person's answer to thriving better emotionally. Another woman told us that her dogs made her happy: "They need us and we need them." She went on to describe the great impact Nature has on her wellbeing and recommended reading a book called "Walden" by Henry David Thoreau. Published in 1854 it documents the American's experience of immersing himself in the natural world whilst living simply in a small cabin for 2 years, 2 months and 2 days in Massachusetts. Thoreau observed: “Happiness is like a butterfly, the more you chase it, the more it will evade you, but if you notice the other things around you, it will gently come and sit on your shoulder.”
In fact, books were a common theme in boosting emotional wellbeing in the people we talked to - perhaps not unsurprising considering we had based ourselves at the local library! More in-depth conversations with people revealed an uneasiness with the way that the language of "illness" is used to describe those experiencing distress. One woman said: "Nothing is black and white. There is a spectrum of greyness." We discussed a recent BBC Horizon programme - "Why did I go mad?" in which Jacqui Dillon speaks about the traumatic incidents in her childhood which led her to experience hearing voices. Our library visitor had found the programme fascinating, particularly the Nature-Nuture debate. She said: "Even if 10% of people are predisposed to experience distress - they still need to be in the right, rather the wrong situation, for it to actually happen."
Other visitors to the library told us how "mind over matter" - the sheer determination to "keep going" - helped them to maintain high spirits. Life could throw all kinds of obstacles at us. There could be challenges to our physical health, or withdrawal of local services due to cuts, but going out into the community and talking to others - getting on with life - really seemed to help.
Gardening cropped up regularly when we asked people what helped them thrive. But Carla had taken one step further, and celebrated World Naked Gardening Day last Sunday 7 May! She had planted rocket, lettuce, climbing beans and watered tomatoes - lucky for her the weather had been gorgeous that day!
Not naked at Knighton Library however! Carla is actually shown wearing one of the T-shirts funded by Knighton & District Community Support Project which were circulated to help raise awareness.
Two live music events have been organised in Knighton to take place this weekend to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week:
Saturday 13 May
The Barebacks at The Horse & Jockey Inn, 10pm - 12am
Sunday 14 May
Open Mic Night George & Dragon Inn 8pm - 10pm