British Union Conference (BUC) Director for Health – Sharon Platt-McDonald was invited to BBC Three Counties Radio on Sunday, 5 February, to talk about mental wellbeing and her work with community groups.
'Time to Talk Day' was the caption for this year's Mental Health awareness day, which falls on the first Thursday of each February. The nation was encouraged to take time to talk about mental wellbeing on 2 February and take action to change the negative attitudes towards mental health and address stigmas. (https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/take-action). The 2023 event was organised by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.
Platt-McDonald says research continues to highlight the disparities in mental health diagnosis, care and treatment of individuals from diverse backgrounds. Mental Health Foundation's analysis of the experiences of Black and Asian groups found data that reveals negative impact on their mental wellbeing due to issues such as:
- Racism and discrimination
- Social and economic inequalities
- Mental Health Stigma
You can find a full report at:
Currently working with One Vision charity, Platt-McDonald is part of a team delivering an initiative called 'Community Connectors' to address these issues. Speaking with show host Edward Adoo, she outlined the scope of One Vision's Community Connectors Project and explained the following aspects:
- Community Connectors are members of diverse communities who understand each diverse community's barriers, stigmas and cultural sensitivities and know what help is available.
- They will signpost friends, family, colleagues, and neighbours towards support available in their community.
- Community Connectors will have access to, and good relations with, these diverse communities and will be very effective at integrating with their local communities – providing a bridge between local people and services and building community capacity and social capital.
- They will develop promotional and marketing materials in key languages.
So how can we individually positively impact our mental health potential? Here are some aspects to consider:
Mental health and cultural implications
Assessing the impact of culture on mental wellbeing, expression of one's mental health and perceptions of their own psychological wellness, Psychology Today published an article on their website captioned: 'The Role of Culture in Mental Health' (25 March 2021). It states:
"When it comes to mental health, the culture of the society that surrounds us influences our attitudes about seeking help, the type of support we need, and whether or not we decide to seek help at all. Cultural norms can account for minor differences in how people communicate their symptoms to major omissions of which symptoms they report."*1
Mental health and nutrition
In their analysis of the impact of nutrition on mental wellbeing, UK's Mental Health Foundation states:
"One of the most obvious yet under-recognised factors for mental health is nutrition. What we eat and drink affects how we feel, think and behave. The Foundation's message is not that nutrition is a silver bullet for mental health problems, but it does have a part to play in prevention, treatment and recovery."*2
In another review of the dietary impact on mental health, an article published in Nutritionist Resource by Katherine Nicholls (1 April 2020), she writes:
"Eating a diet that is well-rounded and nutrient-rich can help to improve mood, increase energy levels and help you think clearer. There are several elements at play here, from the number of carbohydrates you eat to the way deficiencies in vitamins and minerals affect mental health."*3
Mental health and exercise impact
Numerous studies continue to highlight the importance of physical activity on aspects of wellbeing such as enhanced cognition, brain regeneration, maintaining mental wellbeing, and helping to combat mild depression. (http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression)
Its efficacy in boosting mood is also well researched. Regular exercise causes fewer stress hormones (like cortisol) to be released and stimulates the release of chemicals called endorphins (happy hormones) which lifts mood. In highlighting exercise as a mood enhancer, Dr Otto says: "The link between exercise and mood is pretty strong," Giving its specific benefits, Otto states – "Usually within five minutes after moderate exercise, you get a mood-enhancement effect."*4
Mental health and faith
Nurturing your faith has been found to be a protective factor in mental wellbeing. On their website: https://www.rethink.org 'Rethink Mental Illness', posted an article headed: 'Spirituality, religion and mental illness'. They state:
"Spirituality and religion can be helpful to manage stressful life events and improve your mental health."*5
Outlining steps to assist service users in the inclusion of their faith as a critical aspect of their care, Rethink Mental Illness gives the following advice:
- Health professionals should be aware of the role that spirituality and religion can play in mental health.
- Spirituality and religion may help manage your condition. You may find it gives you hope and support.
- Your health professionals could include spirituality and religion in your care plan. Ask your care coordinator to include it in your care plan if you would like to.
The Mental Health Foundation and the Royal College of Psychiatrists have published information on spirituality and mental health. These can be accessed at:
The BUC Health Ministries Department has published a Mental Wellness Handbook for churches. Please get in touch with the department if you would like to purchase a copy.