Mental Health & Wellbeing Matters: my own mental health first aid kit

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Our latest Mental Health & Wellbeing Matters piece looks at a first aid kit to help when life is getting on top of us.

Hello and a very warm welcome to our little section on the site where we talk about mental health and wellbeing. It’s where we chat about things that may be affecting you, us, or people around us. Not every article we run is going to be of use to everyone, but hopefully across this series of pieces, there’s something that’s of use to you.

This week, we’re handing over to the brilliant Sarah, who wants to talk about a first aid kit with a difference…

Do you suffer with mental illness or poor mental health? Do you struggle to ‘adult’ for no specific reason? Have you ever considered becoming ‘unalive’, as the kids are calling it these days? Then, fear not. Susan on Facebook has found the answer: Yoga, eating kale, running marathons, and just cheering up. Hooray.

Whoops: my sarcastic side slipped out again. It does that. Especially when it comes to unsolicited advice from non-professionals who think their Facebook posts can solve all of life’s problems.

Susan, if my very being could really be cured with a motivational quote and a salad, don’t you think the countless professionals I’ve seen over my entire life would have suggested that, by now? Please return to your unpronounceable smoothie, and let me sulk in peace.

To say I have suffered and struggled with severe mental health is as much an understatement as ‘Star Wars is kind of popular’.

And this whole pandemic has not even slightly helped. In fact, since the first lockdown my mental state has been worse than ever. Monthly breakdowns, eating disorder spiralling, inability to literally do anything. It was all too much and I did not expect to survive, yet my concern about Covid itself was minimal.

For my birthday, last year, I was gifted some lovely cookies in a beautiful tin that looks like a book of fairy tales. (Thank you Clark family.) It was too nice to just throw away or indefinitely store for no reason. So I took some time to think about it.

Suddenly all the breakdowns, the nonsensical advice, and the way mental and physical ailments are treated differently by society hit me at once. And I just knew: I needed a first aid kit.

Not one with plasters, paracetamol, and a heat pack: I already have that one. I needed an emergency first aid kit for my mental health.

This particular first aid kit is for when my mental health again begins to reach depths that only Megalodons and Jason Statham are familiar with. I can take anywhere from a few minutes to a whole day just to give myself a calming break.

I am still working on completing my first aid kit, but by the time it is full it will contain:

  • Sticky notes – so I can leave myself positive notes or reminders, as needed
  • Mini-notebooks – for writing my hopes and dreams or lists of music and films to focus on
  • Happiness book – a notebook to add my favourite quotes, lyrics, memories, and more
  • Pen – can’t write without one
  • Stickers – cute or relevant to my past progress
  • Messages from friends – letters or cards of support, not to be read until needed
  • Sweets – who doesn’t love a guilt-free sugar fix?
  • Photos – of my cute cat or favourite landmark
  • Teabags – a few from my favourite brand
  • A sensory toy – to keep my hands and brain occupied
  • …and anything else I can fit in

I even made a TikTok video about it.

@taysunberry My Mental Health First Aid Kit | An emergency first aid kit for when my mental health gets too bad | A variety of items to cheer me up, and space for more #mentalhealth #mentalhealthmatters #mentalhealthawareness #mentalillness #firstaid #firstaidtips #firstaidkit #selfcare #selfcaretiktok ♬ Living Room – Clutch

The idea is that I give myself a break so I can work out how to move forward; do I seek additional help, or has that break alone given me the boost I need to keep going?

If I cut my finger, I can temporarily patch it up. Why have I never tried this with a mental health slip?

Surely we all need emergency fixes for mental health, too. So this is mine. What is yours? What would your Mental Health First Aid Kit contain? Let us know in the comments.

(And, just to put your mind at ease: I am coping relatively okay, at the moment.)

You all look after yourselves. This column will return, as always, next Wednesday. And a huge thank you to the brilliant Sarah.

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