Birmingham City Council’s new Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, Cllr Paulette Hamilton, focusses on the often taboo subject of mental health.
Statistics say that one in four of us will have problems with our mental health at some time in our lives – after 18 months as Birmingham’s first ever Mental Health Champion, I’d say that in fact very few of us sail through life untouched by the issue.
So, after being named Birmingham’s new Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, I’m determined to focus on my city’s mental health just as much as I do on our physical wellbeing.
The sad fact is that Birmingham is a city of health inequalities and people know all about things like the variations in life expectancy across the city. But we are also a city of mental health inequalities and I want to help shine a light on that to help promote better understanding of what, sadly, is still a taboo subject for too many people.
But I don’t want to be all doom and gloom. Yes I want to highlight the issue but I’m also keen to point out that there are mental health benefits to so many of our services and initiatives.
For example, the physical activities on offer in our wonderful parks help to boost the city’s collective mental wellbeing. Research has shown that exercise releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good – boosting your self-esteem, helping you concentrate as well as sleep, look and feel better. Not bad for something we can quite easily do for free!
So find time to treat yourself and just go for a walk, run or bike ride. Alternatively you could join our Active Parks and ParkLives activities in parks across the city. It’s all FREE and a weekly Tai Chi session could do wonders for your mental wellbeing.
OK, so perhaps many of you already knew of the link between exercise and mental health. What about smoking?
In the UK, smoking rates among adults with depression are about twice as high as among adults without depression. People with depression have particular difficulty when they try to stop smoking and have more severe withdrawal symptoms during attempts to give up.
That’s where our Stop Smoking Service comes in. Quitting is hard but you’re four times as likely to succeed with help from the service than if you go it alone.
For friendly advice and support on how to quit, go to http://www.bhamcommunity.nhs.uk/about-us/services/adults/stop-smoking/ call 0800 052 5855 free or text ‘QUIT’ to 80800.
If smoking is addictive, it’s not the only habit we’re trying to help people quit or manage. And substance misuse can also have a severe impact on your mental health. Alcohol dependence is the most common form of substance misuse, but any drug, including heroin, cocaine, crack and cannabis, comes into this category, as does the misuse of glue and aerosols.
Our Reach Out Recovery service offers treatment and recovery services to support anyone experiencing difficulties with drugs and/or alcohol in a range of local community settings across Birmingham. Our services are free and confidential.
Even what we eat can contribute to our mental wellbeing. There is growing evidence that good nutrition is essential for our mental health. Nearly two thirds of those who do not report daily mental health problems eat fresh fruit or fruit juice every day, compared with less than half of those who do report daily mental health problems.
I could go on. The simple fact is that so many things can influence our mental wellbeing and, in my new role, I’m determined to highlight this often ignored issue.
So I’ll close with a little advice.
If you’re having mental health problems, you’re not alone. If someone you know is experiencing mental health problems or needs urgent support, there are lots of services that you can go to for help.
There are also lots of simple, everyday ways you can support someone who has a mental health problem. Why not read the Time To Change tips for talking?
Anyone can experience a mental health problem, so understanding the things we can do to improve our mental wellbeing and that of family and friends is important to us all.