What is Mental Health and why did we decide to launch Sunbeam for Life?

| 03 Jul 2019 |

According to the World Health Organisation: “Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

If you haven’t already seen this, please take 3 minutes to watch this video on the definition of mental health created by “Mind Matters Australia”. Click here

Very often, we confuse the term mental health with the term mental disorder. It is important to make a clear distinction between the two. When we talk about mental health, we are talking about how people feel and how well they are coping in their everyday life.

Feelings such as sadness, anger, fear are totally normal when they happen from time to time and are balanced with feelings of joy and happiness.

It is when these more negative feelings won’t go away and they seem to gradually come to dominate our daily life that we need to ask ourselves whether there might be an underlying issue that should be further investigated.

So, what does all of this have to do with the two of us?

As mothers, living in London with three children each, we began to acknowledge and experience personally how important it is to be in control of our own, and our families’ mental health. We also started to understand the importance of looking after our mental health in the same way we look after our physical health.

The number of parents and children in the UK who deal with stress, anxiety, eating disorders and addiction (whether this is to electronic devices, gaming, alcohol or drugs) is on the increase. According to an NHS Survey on Mental Health of children and Young People in England, 2017 (PAS), 12.8% of 5 to 19-year-olds had at least one mental disorder when assessed. This percentage rises with age and reaches 16.9% among 17 to 19 year olds.

We, as parents, are no exception. Over the last few years, each of us has faced difficulties with our children. This first-hand experience, paired with the fear and loneliness that we both experienced alongside it, is what initially brought us together and what then sent us on a path of discovery into the world of parental wellbeing and youth mental health. We made it our mission to understand how to identify the early signs of malaise before these can develop into a proper mental health disorder and to then help other parents in their journey of discovery by offering both information and support when needed. Furthermore, if our personal experiences alone did not fully convince us of the need to act on this subject, statistics and studies did.

According to: https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/mental-health:
“Countries are not prepared to deal with this often “invisible” and often-ignored challenge. Despite its enormous social burden, mental disorders continue to be driven into the shadows by stigma, prejudice, or fear of disclosure because a job may be lost, social standing ruined, or simply because health and social support services are not available or are out of reach for the afflicted and their families.

In spite of these challenges, there is growing support to move mental health from the periphery to the centre of the global health and development agenda. (Last Updated: Apr 03, 2019) We strongly believe in the power of friends and communities as a support system for parents. It is vital to encourage others to open up and talk about mental health in order to break the stigma that accompanies the term. When we start to open up, we realise the common issues that affect those around us and this knowledge in itself can help normalise a challenging situation for many. What we may have originally felt as shame that we kept hidden, somehow becomes easier to share and through sharing, our burden is suddenly released. This, at least, is how it worked for us. By acting as a sunbeam for one another, we discovered that while our difficulties did not suddenly vanish, they were more bearable because someone nearby understood us, did not judge and instead shined positive energy on us.

This, in a few short words, is how Sunbeam for Life was born. Our goal is to try to bring positive energy to other parents by providing both the knowledge and the support system that we ourselves found essential in our own time of need.


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