Over the past few months, the detrimental impact the coronavirus pandemic has been having on people’s mental health has been widely discussed.

According to recent research conducted by mental health charity YoungMinds, more than half of parents and carers are concerned about the long-lasting effects the pandemic is having on their children’s mental wellbeing.

Furthermore, an investigation carried out by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) suggested that young people’s mental health is suffering the most during lockdown.

The aim of Mental Health Awareness Week, which is taking place this year from Monday 18 May to Sunday 24 May, is to raise awareness of a topic related to mental health and to provide support for those who need it.

Here’s everything you need to know about the annual event:

Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK was conceived by the Mental Health Foundation, an organisation founded in 1949.

The charity states that it takes “a public mental health approach to prevention, finding solutions to individuals, those at risk and for society, in order to improve everyone’s mental wellbeing”.

The first Mental Health Awareness Week took place in 2001, and has since become one of the most significant mental health awareness observances in the world.

In the US, Mental Health Awareness Week is observed in October, coinciding with World Mental Health Day on 10 October.

What is this year’s theme?

This year, the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK is “kindness”.

The theme for the week was originally supposed to be “sleep”.

However, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the Mental Health Foundation decided in April to make a last-minute change.

“Now more than ever, we need to rediscover kindness in our daily lives,” said Mark Rowland, chief executive of the organisation.

Could our response to the pandemic change society for the better?

“We want to use Mental Health Awareness Week to celebrate the thousands of acts of kindness that are so important to our mental health. And we want to start a discussion on the kind of society we want to shape as we emerge from this pandemic.”

Mr Rowland added that throughout the Covid-19 crisis, the organisation has witnessed kindness “prevailing in uncertain times, helping people to connect and communities to cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic”.

The Mental Health Foundation said that it will return to the original theme of “sleep” at a later date.

Throughout Mental Health Awareness Week, the organisation is to release new data regarding the mental health benefits of spreading kindness.

How can you get involved?

There are plenty of ways you can get involved online with Mental Health Awareness Week this year, from sparking conversations on social media to holding virtual fundraising events.

On the Mental Health Foundation website, the organisation is encouraging people to “carry out or reflect on an act of kindness”, sharing it with a photo or video on social media with the hashtags #KindnessMatters and #MentalHealthFoundationWeek and tagging the Mental Health Foundation.

There is also a dedicated #KindnessMatters gif you can use when posting on your Instagram Story, which you can find by searching either “KindnessMatters” or “MentalHealthFoundation” on the gif function.

You can also join in by fundraising online, doing activities such as hosting a virtual quiz for friends and family or organising a fundraiser through Facebook Donate.

The Mental Health Foundation has compiled a list of ways you can fundraise in honour of the week, which you can access here.

To donate to the Mental Health Foundation, click here.

If you are in need of mental health support, you can contact charity Mind by calling the helpline on 0300 123 3393, emailing info@mind.org.uk or texting 86463. The helpline is open Monday to Friday (except bank holidays), 9am to 6pm.

By Sabrina Barr, as published in The Independent on 16th May 2020

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