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Highland communities urged to get behind Stress Awareness Month


By Alan Shields


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A stethoscope on the top of the EKG chart
A stethoscope on the top of the EKG chart

Highland communities are being asked to play their part in Stress Awareness Month this April.

The campaign is held annually to raise awareness of the causes and cures for a modern stress epidemic.

Highland Council say the Covid-19 pandemic and the effects of the last two years have been immensely challenging.

The local authority say that could have resulted in many people across the region experiencing a significant increase in stress and a deterioration in their normal coping mechanism - and that in turn may have also contributed to poor mental health.

Among the many contributing factors highlighted included disrupted social lives, the worry of the pandemic, cancellation of gatherings, travel restrictions and work/home schooling.

However, Highland Council say one positive to emerge from pandemic and the reason for selecting as this year’s Stress Awareness Month theme was the amazing strength of ‘community’.

Communities across Highland have played an integral role throughout the pandemic, demonstrating resilience and collective efforts to support people. Loneliness and social isolation remain a significant risk factor for both deteriorating mental health and suicide.

As restrictions lift it’s vital to continue to support people as we immerge post-pandemic.

Suggested ways to reduce stress and improve mental wellbeing:

Socialising - with others has multiple benefits for mental health. Whether it’s a sport, hobby classes or volunteering, activities give meaning and purpose to peoples' lives and can help build confidence. An opportunity to laugh and talk with others in social situations serves to turn focus outwards. Being able to talk through problems and share worries with others decreases stress levels.

Volunteering – is good for reducing stress because, much like socialising, it turns focus outwards. Helping others with their problems, can help gain a positive perspective on our own difficulties. And there are associated benefits when working together with other like-minded people to achieve a worthwhile goal, uniting in us in a shared sense of purpose.

Adopting a positive mindset - Being in control of our thoughts increases the ability to find solutions to challenging situations and to deal more effectively with stress.

Conversations have the power to change lives, helping to create supportive communities where conversations can be had about mental health and feel empowered to seek help when needed.

Highland Community Planning Partnership has a dedicated Mental Health and Wellbeing Delivery group which signposts individuals and communities to trusted sources of support for mental health and wellbeing including where to get help in a crisis; resources and weblinks to support mental wellbeing.

There is a ‘Prevent Suicide Highland’ app which allows users to complete a ‘Prevent Suicide’ safety plan and can be completed with the help of a trained listener or with a friend or family member.

It also includes telephone numbers for local and national helplines which can offer support in some situations where people are feeling distressed or suicidal and there is guidance on what members of the public can do to help someone, they suspect is feeling suicidal.

For help the Samaritans can be reached on on 116 123, Breathing Space on 0800 83 85 87, NHS24 on 111 or jo@samaritans.org


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