The theme for this years Mental Health Awareness Week centres around the theme of surviving or thriving.  To me, I view this concept as the difference between having just enough or the bare minimum to stay alive and creating the best conditions for life and being able to flourish.

In mental health these are powerful concepts as illnesses, such as depression and schizophrenia, can rob the individual of the motivation to live the best life they can and many function at a level where they are just keeping their heads above water.  Thriving requires energy and to have energy you need to be in environment where certain conditions are being met.  Some of these are outlined below:

  • Stimulating and positive challenges
Nobody thrives in an environment where they feel bored and unstimulated.  Challenges need to stretch the person while remaining positive and they should provide the opportunity to learn and grow.
  • A healthy balanced diet
A diet that is varied with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables will help the body to function well.  It is also important to remain hydrated and keep stimulants, such as caffeine, to a minimum.   
  • A comfortable living environment
A home is more than just a roof over your head, it is a place where you can feel safe to relax and recharge.  It is also a space that is yours to personalise and keep the items that have meaning to you.
  • Healthy friendships and regular social interaction
It is not uncommon for people living with mental illness to feel lonely and isolated from their community.  In order to function well we need to maintain some form of social interaction with others.  Healthy friendships require healthy personal boundaries where you are able to identify what behaviours you find acceptable in other and which are not and feeling confident to be assertive when those needs are not being met.
  • Access to adequate support when required
None of us have the ability to manage every challenging situation alone.  Sometimes we need support and assistance from professionals as well as friends and family.  
  • A sense of safety
A sense of safety is not always easy to achieve when someone is struggling with their mental health.  They may feel at risk from themselves or feel anxious and paranoid around others and be unsure of others intentions towards them.  Having a reliable and trusted network of support will help to build this.  
  • Being financially secure
Although money does not buy happiness, everyone needs a certain level of income to cover the cost of housing, food, bills, clothes and other essentials.  It is also important that we can treat ourselves from time to time and know that this will not effect or limit our access to those essentials.  In this sense I am not talking about having lots of money but enough to allow a decent quality of living.  It would be hard to put a figure on this as it will vary from person to person depending on their circumstances but it would mean being able to afford all what you need and some of what you'd like.  It also means not relying on an overdraft or credit card to live.
  • Good quality sleep
The amount of sleep we require may vary over time and with age, health and lifestyle but in order to remain healthy, both physically and mentally, we all need a period of sleep everyday.  Sometimes factors affect the quality of sleep and this can impact our performance the following day.  If this is consistently absent then it is important to look into the causes and speak to your doctor.

In summing up, it is important to stress that surviving is okay. Sometimes, when someone is really unwell, that is tough enough.  However, in order to have the best quality of life we should strive to create the conditions that allow us to thrive as this is when we truly flourish.