Mental Health Awareness Week is on until 25 September Here mental health advocate Brendon Adams from Blenheim highlights his journey and why he wants to help.
What inspires you to help raise awareness for mental health?
Up until 2010, I had very little appreciation or knowledge of what mental wellbeing was. You could say I experienced an awakening. From that moment I got to meet and talk to a wide variety of people working within our current mental health system. From high-level psychiatrists, the many branches of social services, and the many people living with a vast array of mental health matters. I have no doubt my 10-year experience has been my driving force and inspiration to continue to help raise awareness for mental health.
What have been your goals to raise awareness for wellbeing?
I was 37 years old when I first learned anything about the topic. I felt I could have been better equipped with some form of prior knowledge. That’s not to say that the information wasn’t around, more so to speak to the fact that the subject was seldom spoken about. Almost considered Taboo. Making it ok to talk about mental health and wellbeing and being comfortable doing so would be one of my main goals. It’s ok to not be ok, and it’s ok to talk about it. To help others will always be my primary goal.
What are some of the main concerns our mental health systems faces?
I guess the most obvious concern to me would be the apparent lack of resources available to cope with the demand for our mental health system. It seems to be the poor cousin of our general health system. It is often very hard to convince people to seek help for themselves or loved ones especially when they’ve tried and have been turned away because the problem doesn’t appear to be big enough. This will often lead to a problem exacerbating. Then the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff type scenario plays out and the help is often too little too late. This seems to be prevalent with men in particular. Men generally struggle to talk about their feelings and what’s going on for them. They tend to bottle things up or their situation is played down.
What are key signs that a person may be suffering from mental health, both what to look out for in ourselves and in others?
Signs may include the following. Don’t want to see their friends or no longer enjoy spending time with their friends and family. Stop doing things they used to love or don’t seem to be enjoying themselves. Can’t remember things, concentrate, or pay attention. Feel bad about themselves – guilty, worthless, or ashamed. Have a big change in eating patterns or appetite. Have extreme mood swings. Feel hopeless or really sad, or cry a lot. Feel anxious, stressed, nervous, or scared a lot and can’t seem to relax. Are not happy unless they’re using drugs or alcohol. Don’t take care of their appearance or personal hygiene. Have physical signs of injury or that they are hurting themselves. Have panic attacks – rapid heartbeat, unable to breathe, feeling dizzy, and extremely scared or anxious all at once. Unsettled sleeping patterns.
What do you think can help people be resilient in times of adversity, including strategies for coping?
By being mindful of the four basic cornerstones to good health, you can help yourself and others in many ways. To start with you would want to 1. get a good night’s sleep (7-9 hours a night). 2. Eat well and frequently, drink plenty of water. 3. Get plenty of exercise throughout the day. 4. Talk to someone about what’s going on. Too often we see the signs of suffering get worse if any one of these cornerstones is compromised.
How can people support loved ones who suffer from mental health?
I often have people ask me where to start when trying to get help either for themselves or for their loved ones. The answer is never simple as everyone’s situation is different. The good news is the increase of awareness we are now seeing as our culture shifts from this being a topic once kept in the dark to a topic bought into the light. There seems to be more understanding and acceptance nowadays than there used to be. Although we still have a long way to go. Encourage an open and casual conversation with someone you think may be suffering and be prepared to listen without judgment. Encourage belief and self-worth in someone that they can help themselves and get the monkey off their back. Sometimes that’s all it takes and that is a good start. Be kind and caring.