Happy World Mental “Health” Day

Hello folks, and a very happy World Mental Health Day to you all!

To celebrate, Mindapples have been on tour around London, beginning in Brixton on Thursday and Saturday, and culminating in installing the Mindapples Tree at CityCamp London in the Hub King Cross today. It’s been an amazing few days, stepping far out of our comfort zone to get as broad a rane of people as we could in considering the health of their minds. Huge thanks to Lucy Smith at NHS Lambeth for hiring us, to Spacemakers and Transition Town Brixton for hosting us yesterday, and to Futuregov and the gang at CityCamp for welcoming us today.

For two years now, Mindapples hasn’t done anything for World Mental Health Day. Yes, it’s partly because we’re disorganised, but it’s also because, frankly, we don’t feel a great affinity with it. Let’s face it, today is actually World Mental Illness Day. It’s really important for us to honour and support people who suffer from mental distress and those who care for them – but is it really Mental Health Day? If it was, surely we should be promoting the positive things that we all want to have – a healthy mind, a positive experience of life – and giving people a really strong image of a mentally healthy lifestyle they can be a part of? 40% of our mental wellbeing is down to our “outlook and activities” (according to Lykken, D, 1999), so why are we never told that? Why aren’t we talking about that today? Where do we fit, as individuals and as a society, in this world of “mental health”?

So on 10/10/10, Mindapples is asking everyone to join us in making this World Mental Health Day about health, not illness. Please comment here and share your stories about what you’ve done and how you’ve felt when your mind is really feeling good, and share your mindapples to get as many people as possible talking about mental health as a good thing, that we can all be a part of.

We all have minds, and we all have mental health; so let’s celebrate how well we’re all doing, and remind ourselves how similar we all are for once.

Happy Mindapples Day everyone!

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2 thoughts on “Happy World Mental “Health” Day

  1. Hi Andy, Good to see you joining in with WMH day at last. I’m finding it strange that you’ve thought of it as mental illness day – we’ve always celebrated mental health and wellbeing on WMH Day.

    Over the last six years we’ve had arts workshops, music gigs, parties. We even had a wellbeing tree in 2006! We’ve had events specifically for carers with emphasis on carers looking after themselves. Events for young people to try photography and art. Some events have been aimed at people experiencing distress, but mostly we’ve aimed at a wider audience of the general community.

    This year we’ve had a two week Open art exhibition which emphasised the link of housing with mental health and wellbeing. One year we had an event around diversity that included poetry, drummers, dancers, and singers, textiles and painting, as well as lots of information about all the groups who do loads of positive stuff locally – and who could forget the dancing banana?

    Its not just us either – I know many people use the day in the same way – often WMH day work is led by mental health promotions teams.

    But aside from that, there is the serious side of mental illness. One year we held a vigil for people who had died by suicide. It was a very touching day which brought out many people who had never spoken about the loss of their friend or family member. And to be honest, that was the one event out of all I’ve done that I’m really proud of. It’s relatively ok to talk about how to promote positive feelings – people are happy for you to do it and comfortable with joining in. It’s not so easy to talk about more difficult feelings. So while our vigil subject might have been mental distress, to me, and people who came along, it was a very positive event.

    So I’d agree with you that WMH day is about positive outlook and activities, but there’s no need for you to exclude people with distress or the subject of distress. We don’t just need you to ‘honour and support’ us – we’re ‘similar’ as well.

    • Thanks Karen, I appreciate the feedback. And I really have no wish to “exclude” anyone: I and many people I know have suffered mental distress, and I think of us all as part of one continuum of experiences rather than a separate group who are “similar”.

      I really like all the things you mention, and I know that there’s some great positive work being doing under the WMHD banner. My issue is much more with the umbrella communications of the day, which the World Health Organisation (the first link in Google) describes thus:

      “World Mental Health Day on 10 October raises public awareness about mental health issues. The Day promotes more open discussion of mental disorders, and investments in prevention and treatment services. The treatment gap for mental, neurological and substance use disorders is formidable especially in poor resource countries.”

      I just don’t think that’s very positive, or particularly easy for mainstream audiences (and ‘mainstream’ is exactly what mental health should be, after all) to engage in. Maybe that’s not the best representation of the spirit of it though, but still it’s very worrying that the WHO is framing it like this. Compare the text above, for example, with International Women’s Day:

      “International Women’s Day (8 March) is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future.”

      So much more positive, and engaging. It seems sad to me that the mental health and illness communities have to put up with such a negative definition of our experiences, our value to society and possibilities for meaningful contribution. There are difficult topics to be addressed here, including the suffering and tragic consequences of mental distress, but also deeper understandings of our humanity, compassion for others, the insights and achievements of people with unusual or difficult mental states. We are about so much more than our illnesses.

      So that’s what I meant. Does that make more sense? I definitely didn’t intend to criticise the great acitivites that go on as part of WMHD – I just think we deserve a better hook to hang our efforts from, and maybe we should do something about that.