Do One Thing: Jeanette

I have been working as a Mental Health Nurse for 17 and a half years, supporting individuals with a wide range of mental health difficulties on their roads to recovery. My interest in working in mental health stems from the fact that I struggled with anxiety and depression as a teenager. As a shy, quiet and socially awkward teenage girl I didn’t really receive any help or support to manage my own mental health and largely had to muddle through on my own. Looking back now I know that I would have found support helpful to understand why I was feeling the way I was, and having some support around how to manage this would have helped me on my own personal recovery journey.

As a mental health professional, I have always tried to remember this and one of the things I use to support people struggling with mental health difficulties has been putting together their own unique mental health first aid kits. If I was going to give any advice to anyone regarding “Do One Thing” putting together your own personal mental health first aid kit would be that one thing.

Often people who are feeling low or anxious will struggle to know what to do to help manage their emotions and improve their mood. However they will already have a lot of the tools, resources and strategies within themselves and just need some help to recognise and remember these and put them together in a place they can access them when they are struggling.

A mental health first aid kit can be an actual box someone decorates or a drawer, folder or somewhere on their phone. A mental health first aid kit will be full of the tools, resources and strategies that are helpful for that individual. It is helpful to put a range of “items” in the kit so that people can pick and choose which tool/resource/strategy to try depending on how they are feeling at the time. This helps to give people a range of things to try when they are feeling overwhelmed and not necessarily thinking as clearly as they would do normally.

Often when people are feeling low or anxious they will try just one strategy to help themselves, however if that strategy doesn’t work then this can sometimes make that person feel frustrated, angry and even worse than they were. Having a range of things to try means that if one thing doesn’t work there are other options of things to try. Items in the kit will be unique to each person and could include things like craft items, colouring books, jigsaws, CDs, camera, running shoes, candles, relaxation tapes, trowel, nail varnish.

It is helpful to include sensory items that are important to the individual e.g. chocolate for taste, grass/lavendar/perfume for smell, a tuft of hair from your dog/cat. It can also include things like cue cards with statements on it such as “ring a friend/family member”, “stroke the cat/dog”, “go for a walk/run/bike ride”, “make some biscuits”, “listen to favourite band”. It can also include visual stimuli such as photos of things that are important to you such as friends, family, pets, a favourite star, hero, favourite place, festival/gig. It is also extremely helpful to include a list of numbers of who to contact when someone is struggling or in crisis. These could range from friends and family members to mental health professionals and helplines.

I would encourage anyone who is struggling with their mental health to put together their own unique mental health first aid kit and try it out! It sounds really simple but it really does work!

We are marking the event by encouraging you to “Do One Thing” to support your own mental health and for the mental health of those around us. Read through some of our suggested things and don’t forget to share your #DoOneThing with us if you can.

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