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Relationships and mental health

 By Elaine Thompson, Birmingham CrossCity CCG's Deputy Chief Nurse and Quality Officer, and a mental health nurse

The relationships we have in our lives can be many things. They can be wonderful and memorable, sweeping us along like a rollercoaster, raising us up high one minute and then bringing us back to earth. Relationships can challenge us, reward us, frustrate us, or be the very reason we get out of bed each morning.

During our lives, if we are lucky, most of us will have those special relationships that, at that particular moment in time, will mean the very world to us. We will have relationships with our family, friends, neighbours and co-workers. Each of these relationships will be different.

I recall reading a quote once that went along the lines of how as human beings we are rather like wet clay, and that as a result, the relationships we come into contact with will leave their mark and shape the people that we become. But what about our relationships, what mark do we leave on the lives of others?                                               

As a mental health nurse I know the value of good relationships in supporting people to live a positive and rewarding life. To me good relationships can help and guide us when we need advice, listen when we need to be heard, make us laugh when the world is grey and lonely or just be there for us when needed.

I think that in this modern world, when we all have such busy lives, it is easy to be lonely. Often people will say that, despite all the different ways we have to communicate with each other these days, they still feel isolated and in need of a real friend.

This point was clearly demonstrated to me some years ago when one of the national mental health charities ran a mental health stigma campaign which highlighted the case of a man who broke his leg and how his friends, colleagues and neighbours sent cards and flowers wishing him a speedy recovery, but then later when the same man experienced a mental health issue, the same friends, colleagues and neighbours did not know what to say or do – and hence kept their distance.

Mental illness affects one in four people in the UK, and people with mental health issues need the same compassion and understanding as anyone else who is unwell and trying to cope.

I firmly believe that we can all do something to support people with mental health needs, and would stress that the changes needed are quite easy to achieve by all of us if we make the effort. We need to remember that often it’s the little things that people do that make the biggest difference to the people around them e.g.

  • A simple smile
  • Taking time to listen
  • Making that phone call to check if someone is alright
  • Sending a text or email to say that you are thinking of them and wishing them well.

So if you would like to make a difference, or find out more about mental illness visit Time to Change.



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