One day at a time: seven tips for the seven days of Mental Health Awareness Week

Lisa Rodrigues CBE

Lisa Rodrigues is a writer and mental health campaigner who was awarded a CBE for services to the NHS in 2012. Just one year later, she surprised friends and colleagues by coming out about her own experiences of depression since the age of 15.

Shortly after this revelation, Lisa was hit by her worst ever depressive episode. With help from her GP, psychiatrist, therapist, family and best friend, she managed to go back to work in January 2014. Lisa says she is deeply grateful to them and her wonderful work colleagues for supporting her in her final 8 months running an NHS trust, and giving her a warm send-off into her new world.

Lisa now uses her understanding of stigma, including self-stigma, to raise awareness and reduce the negativity still associated with mental illness.

Here, she offers seven tips for the seven days of Mental Health Awareness Week, for both people suffering from mental health illnesses and those around them.

Monday 16th May

1:4 people experience mental illness at some point in their lives. But 4:4 of us can help.

Why not start a conversation with someone about Mental Health Awareness Week (#MHAW16) and charities that can help people? It could be Samaritans, Mind, Rethink, a local charity that you have heard about, or any charity that helps people in the mental health field.

See JustGiving’s list of mental health charities.

Tuesday 17th May

Two heads are better than one, especially if you are feeling low. When I have an episode of depression, my thinking goes awry and I start believing terrible things about myself that, on a good day, I would know were not true. I wrote this letter to help other people. Sometimes I read it myself. There are other great letters on the Recovery Letters site.

Wednesday 18th May

Three books I would recommend to help you understand mental illness better and hopefully discuss it with others, perhaps in a reading group, are:

· Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

· Depressive Illness: the Curse of the Strong by Dr Tim Cantopher

· Shoot the Damn Dog by Sally Brampton

Thursday 19th May

Four things I try to do every day to help maintain my mental health are:

· Get out in the fresh air and do some exercise;

· Do something to help someone else;

· Count my blessings;

· Spend time with at least one friend or loved family member.

Friday 20th May

I managed to raise £5K via JustGiving when I did Ride 100 in 2015. But it doesn’t have to be a huge amount; charities are always grateful for anything you do to raise money and their profile.

Fundraising for an event or challenge is a great way of reaching out to people who you might otherwise be shy to talk to about something that matters very much to you.

Saturday 21st May

The six people who have helped me most to learn to manage my own mental health are all people who have had similar experiences and who I have met through being more open about my own. I give thanks for knowing them every day.

Sunday 22nd May

I trained for seven months to do Ride 100 in 2015. It was huge thing for me to do in the year I turned 60. I’m probably prouder of that achievement than I am of almost anything else I have ever done, apart from having my children. You can read more about it here.

So go on. Sign up to do something scary. And reach out to ask other people for their help. After all, what’s the worst thing that can happen?


You can read more from Lisa on her blog: Lisa Says This

Twitter: @LisaSaysThis