Mental Health Awareness Week; an opportunity to highlight forgotten foundations of good Mental Health

Mental Health Awareness Week provides an opportunity to start a national debate on the importance of supporting good mental health. The success of the week is largely down to the involvement of our supporters, followers and the public who really grab the theme and run with it each year.

This is why one of the biggest lessons we have learnt over the years is the importance of choosing a theme that’s accessible and relatable to the lives of as many people as possible. Having a universal theme is essential because it reflects the universality of mental health.

In previous years, you may be aware, the Foundation has focused on how mindfulness, anxiety, sleep deprivation and exercise can impact our mental health. This year, the theme focussed on the importance of relationships, in their many forms. We found striking evidence which overwhelmingly pointed to good-quality relationships being key in helping us to live longer and happier lives with fewer mental health problems – with the impact of our social connections on our health and wellbeing comparable to well established risk factors such as smoking.

While you are likely to have heard that at any one time 1 in 4 of us will be experiencing a mental health problem, it is easy to forget that 4 in 4 of us have mental health. When we think about mental health, we usually think about people living with mental health problems, but good mental health isn’t simply the absence of a diagnosable problem.

Our reach in 2016

The accessibility of the theme allows journalists to cover mental health awareness week from a range of angles depending on their audiences and the existing news agenda for the week, so helping the Mental Health Foundation reach many more people. For instance, our Chief Executive, Jenny Edwards, appeared on the BBC Breakfast sofa talking about the importance of relationships for older, recently retired men and on Sky News focusing on the importance of children being treated for mental-ill health close to their support networks. 

Across digital communications we measure the impact of Mental Health Awareness Week by looking at who is talking about us, liking our social posts and sharing the stories we publish. This year, our Twitter Thunderclap joined by Kensington Palace, MIND, Time to Change and a range of local councils, police forces and NHS Trusts had a social media reach of 4.5million. The social reach of Mental Health Awareness Week across Twitter and Facebook exceeded 8.5million this year.

In recent years mental health has risen up the public policy agenda. Mental Health Awareness Week helps maintain momentum. We used the week to call for action from national governments, public bodies and employers to promote good relationships and to tackle the barriers to forming them, holding a keynote Westminster seminar which was attended by Minister for Mental Health Alastair Burt (Conservative), Luciana Berger (Labour), Norman Lamb (Liberal Democrats) and Philippa Whitford (SNP).

The main focus of the week was on challenging everyone to go the extra mile in prioritising relationships. We hope you rose to the challenge. Thank you for the part you all played in making Mental Health Awareness Week such a success.

It is not too late to make your relationship resolution.