Call to end mental health stigma on Wearside

Mental health is a growing problem at Christmas
Mental health is a growing problem at Christmas
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With Christmas fast approaching, people of Sunderland are being urged to take care of their mental and physical wellbeing and not let festivities grind them down.

Statistics from Public Health England reveal in the past three years 73 people in the city died as a result of suicide - of those 60 were men - four times the number of women.

However, while suicide rates are decreasing in Sunderland - mental health charity Mind says this figures is still too high.

With Christmas only weeks away and the heightened stresses and pressures surrounding this time of year, Mind says this could be the time when people need to take a step back and think about themselves as, for many, it is the build up to the big day that impacts on people’s health.

It is also a time when friends and family need to reach out to those who may be finding the festive season difficult.

Jacqui Reeves, services manager at Washington Mind said: “Charities such as Washington Mind often see a very different side to the high street version of Christmas. People often contact us at the lowest point of their lives.

“If you or a loved one are struggling with a mental health issue, if you have financial difficulties or are coping with a bereavement, joining in with the Christmas festivities can just be too much to bear.”

Today, The Echo is calling on people to reach out to others and to let those who are struggling know that there is support available.

The charity is also keen to challenge the stigma which surrounds suicide and mental health and encourage more people to seek support and not to be waty of broaching the subject with anyone they fear may be having suicidal thoughts.

Last year, the charity received 86,882 enquiries and requests for information and had 11,167 people using their services.

Issues which can impact on people’s mental health can include debt and family breakdowns.

Jacqui said: “Loneliness increases stress levels and can contribute to mental health problems. Over half of people who have experienced depression or anxiety isolated themselves from family and friends.

“All of this is made worse by stigma and discrimination with nine out of 10 people reporting their mental health problem has a negative impact on their lives. The result is people withdraw and isolate themselves, meaning that it is likely that they will engage with mainstream services or talk to professionals.

“However, mental health problems are incredibly common and nothing to be ashamed of. One in four of us will experience a mental health problem at any time and the first step to dealing with these problems is to speak to someone. We work with hundreds of people each year who overcome their challenges in life and go on to live their lives.”

As part of the campaign people across Sunderland are now being urged to get behind the campaign, talk to their friends and reach out to those who may be struggling, not just at Christmas but all year round.

Jacqui added: “We can do so much more working together, little deeds can be big things to those in need.”

Washington Mind provide a range of support and avice to people who are experiencing or at risk of developing mental health through online resources, counselling, alternative therapies, social activities, telephone support, group work, training and volunteering opportunities.

For more information on crisis support and other support agencies visit the wellbeinginfosite on wellbeinginfo.org/self-help/mental-health/crisis/