Recreational mental health

I’ve had some good chats with Stian Westlake and Yvonne Roberts of the Young Foundation recently, and we were talking amongst other things about ‘prevention’ and ‘cure’ in mental and physical health.

The physical health community has been directing a lot of energy towards ‘preventative’ healthcare recently, and the mental health community has naturally followed suit with an increasing focus on prevention within mental health in recent years. I like this approach myself (although not everyone would agree), but I wonder if there’s actually a third dimension to physical health: the ‘recreational’ aspect.

Yes, of course people play football to reduce their chances of heart disease – but they also do it because it’s fun. Yoga is good for you, but it also makes you feel better afterwards, and you get to hang out with nice people and swap stories about chakras. Not everything we do for our physical health is because we’re worried about getting ill. A lot of it is, as they say, ‘fun’.

So I think it’s time we started talking about ‘recreational mental health’. I’ve spend years finding things I enjoy but that are also good for me, whether that’s hanging out with friends, playing the piano or inventing new mental health campaigns. And that’s the stuff I want to share with the world, and find out what neat things other people have discovered too. It feels like there’s a whole side to the debate that we’re missing.

So as well as asking what we can do to get well, or to prevent ourselves from getting ill, let’s also ask how looking after our minds can be fun and make us feel good. Because who says mental health needs to be so serious anyway?