• 13 May 2022

What Mental Health Awareness Week Means to Me

With Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) coming to an end, Waterman Group’s Health & Safety Training Development Manager and Wellbeing Lead, Kevin Staniforth, has been reflecting on what this week has meant to him.

There’s a lot to take in with a week like this and, while thinking about the importance of MHAW, I began looking into various resources to help.

Based on the Mental Health Foundation’s theme of loneliness, I first started by looking up the definition of this word in the Oxford Dictionary – it’s a noun described as ‘a feeling of being unhappy because you have no friends or people to talk to’ with examples including:

  • a period of loneliness in their life,
  • feelings of loneliness and depression.

I also found lots of information on Mind’s, Verywell Mind’s and the Samaritans’ websites. All of these helpful sites offer a great insight into what loneliness means, but I particularly liked the description provided by the NHS:

“Loneliness is an issue that can affect us all, young or old, at any point in our lives. We might live in a busy city or a rural location, on our own or with others and still feel isolated. You should not blame yourself for feeling like you are struggling, now or at any other time.”

My search then led me to rewatch the well-known 2000 survival movie, Cast Away, starring Tom Hanks. I’m sure many of you have seen it, but for anyone who hasn’t, this film is an excellent example of bringing extreme survival and loneliness together after the main character, Chuck Nolan, finds himself marooned on a desolate island when his plane crashes – Wilson told me to keep this short and simple!

Lastly, I took some time to listen closely to the words of American singer-songwriter, Fiona Apple: “When you’re surrounded by all these people, it can be lonelier than when you’re by yourself. You can be in a huge crowd, but if you don’t feel like you can trust anyone or talk to anybody, you feel like you’re really alone.”

In light of MHAW, I asked myself if I’ve ever experienced loneliness, and the answer is yes. Maybe not quite on the same level as Chuck, but there have been numerous occasions where I’ve lost close family, friends and beloved pets that has made me miss their company, conversations, friendships and unconditional love. I also realised that I sometimes miss those in my life who are still living as well. Maybe they live far away, or our busy schedules prevent us meeting up as much as we’d like, but this is another form of loneliness too, even if technology does help to bridge that gap.

There are so many reasons why we feel lonely, however, as with any potential mental health condition, as humans we all deal with this differently. If this year’s theme of loneliness has taught me anything, it’s that you are not alone and there is always support out there if you need it!

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