BHB and Minister of Health Launch Mental Health Awareness Week 2011

Community Urged to Invest In Their Mental Health

Bermuda Hospitals Board today launched Mental Health Awareness Week 2011, with the theme ‘The Big Push – Investing in Your Mental Health’. The theme focuses on five everyday steps we can each take to enrich our lives and improve our mental health: to connect, be active, keep learning, take notice and give. The week’s activities include a visit from a specialist in Mental Health First Aid, Betty Kitchener, who is offering a public presentation on Wednesday 12 October at the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute (MWI) from 6pm to 8pm.

Betty Kitchener is a Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Youth Mental Health, University of Melbourne. She is the Program Director and co-developer of the Mental Health First Aid Training and Research Program, which she began in 2001 with Professor Tony Jorm in Canberra, Australia. She has facilitated the spread of the Mental Health First Aid Program across Australia and to 15 other countries. Betty has also been part of a research project which developed Guidelines for Mental Health Carers. Having experienced recurrent major depression herself, she brings an important consumer perspective to her work. Betty has received numerous awards for her Mental Health First Aid work, including an Exceptional Contribution to Mental Health Services Award and an Order of Australia Medal.

Minister of Health, Zane De Silva, JP MP officially launched the week at City Hall. “I’m very pleased to officially launch Mental Health Awareness Week 2011,” he commented. “We face challenging economic times, which are bringing additional pressures to many people at work and home. The good news is that that investing in your mental health is more about time than it is money. The five ways of wellbeing are about connecting with people, being active, taking notice of the world around us, learning and giving to others.”

Chief Operating Officer of MWI, Patrice Dill, said: “Mental Health Awareness Week 2011 includes a raft of activities for healthcare professionals and the community. Our guest this year, Betty Kitchener, will be training MWI staff to prepare them to offer a Mental Health First Aid course for the community and is delivering a presentation on Wednesday that all the community is invited to. However, our big push is to help improve the community’s mental health by promoting the five ways of wellbeing.”

Chief of Psychiatry at MWI, Dr Chantelle Simmons explained: “In 2008, a UK initiative known as the Mental Capital and Wellbeing Project sought to identify the factors which have the maximum impact in terms of mental well-being. It was recognized that this initiative could benefit not only the individual, but society as a whole. Thus, the project was charged with identifying steps which had a proven evidence base for improving personal well-being, defined broadly as feeling good and functioning well. Upon review of the evidence base, five key messages emerged as the main influencers of well-being: Connect, Be Active, Keep Learning, Take Notice and Give. As people reflect upon the above five actions for improving personal well-being, it is our hope that they will find them to be realistic goals which could be incorporated into their day-to-day life at minimal cost. Our goal is for Mental Health Awareness Week 2011 to serve as a springboard for encouraging our community members to invest in their personal mental health.”
Dr Simmons went on to describe the five ways of wellbeing:


“The first step recognizes the importance of reaching out and connecting with those around you. This may include family, neighbours, colleagues and friends. Nurturing such relationships has been shown to provide support and enrichment. Further, the evidence base indicates that social relationships not only promote wellbeing, but also protect against the development of mental ill health for individuals across the lifespan.”


“There are numerous opportunities which you could explore based upon your individual fitness level. Examples include walking, biking, dancing, swimming, playing cricket. Individuals of all ages who participate in regular physical activity have been found to have a greater sense of well-being and lower rates of depression and anxiety. Studies have also demonstrated that physical activity can protects against the development of cognitive decline in older adults.”


“As you navigate your way through life’s often hectic schedule of responsibilities and activities, you’re encouraged to pause and take notice of your surroundings. Appreciate that beautiful sunset, nurture your curiosity, or take a deep breath as you enjoy your lunch in Victoria Park. One study revealed that if an individual is trained to be aware of their sensations, thoughts and feelings for 8 to 12 weeks, s/he will experience improvements in well-being for several years thereafter. Those that are more attentive to what is taking place in the present (i.e. awareness of the here and now) are more likely to have a positive mental state and improved self knowledge.”


“You could elect to keep learning via formal classes, taking on a new responsibility at work or sharing in a new experience with a friend. Regardless of your preference, there are a variety of options available on our island ranging from the Community Education Classes to numerous educational and service based programs. Individuals who participate in lifelong learning are more likely to have higher self-esteem and stronger social interactions. Further, adult educational activities are associated with positive well-being and life satisfaction.”


“This fifth step can be as simple as offering a smile to colleague, pausing to let another car out during the busy morning rush-hour, or doing something nice for a friend. There are also numerous worthy, local charities which one could choose to volunteer their time with. Social cooperation has been demonstrated to be itself rewarding. Of interest, one study demonstrated that individuals who committed a weekly act of kindness for six-week had increased well-being, compared to the control groups.”


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