Building mental resilience

Half of all mental illness begins by the age of fourteen. That headline from the World Health Organisation (WHO) introduces the theme for World Mental Health Day on 10 October as ‘young people and mental health in a changing world’.


Sadly the WHO introduction goes on to acknowledge that majority of cases of mental illness in young people go unrecognised and untreated with suicide being the second leading cause of death among 15 to 29-year-olds and depression being the third most prevalent illness. In the light of this the WHO is calling for governments, social, healthcare and educational sectors to undertake programs which both improve understanding of mental illness in young people and help those young people to improve mental resilience.


In line with this MHFA England has released a toolkit for use by those who are in contact with young people aged between eight and twenty-four. The toolkit includes facts, infographics and links to resources which help those involved to identify potential causes of mental illness and to provide appropriate support.


It is perhaps important to recognise that those within the upper end of this age range may well already be in the workforce. So whilst toolkits such as these may seem to be more appropriate for schools, employers may also wish to take advantage of the resources provided. One of reasons behind the WHO’s focus on young people is that helping people to build mental resilience when they are young can bring benefits throughout their lives.


However, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that mental illness can affect people at any time. As the mental health charity Mind says on its website “Our mental wellbeing is dynamic. It can change from moment to moment, day to day, month to month or year to year.” And whilst periods of low mental well-being don’t necessarily develop into mental illness, taking steps to build mental resilience can help people to understand and manage their mental well-being.


We probably all know some of the most common trigger points such as bereavement, problems at work or in relationships, or money worries. What is perhaps less understood is the fact that we all react differently to such events and that even if we seem to cope at the time, past events may make us more vulnerable to experiencing periods of low mental well-being at some time in the future.


Here again the Mind website has some handy hints and tips which not only look to build an understanding of trigger points but also how to build our own mental resilience. These include building positive relationships, looking after your physical health, and taking time for yourself. Now admittedly when you are feeling stressed, when the to-do list seems to be getting ever longer and your mental energy to tackle any task seems to be getting even lower, taking time for yourself can seem like an impossibility. That’s where building mental resilience comes into play, firstly in making plans in advance in order to cut down on routine tasks or to share the workload, and secondly in being prepared to ask for help when needed.


World Mental Health Day may only crop up once a year but that doesn’t mean that we can ignore mental well-being for the other 364 days. By building awareness and sharing coping strategies we can all make a difference.