Last week the UK marked Parent Mental Health Day, an awareness event that was introduced in 2022 by Stem4, a charity that supports young people to build positive mental health.

The campaign theme for this year was #BuildFamilyResilience and focused on the importance of a solid family system as the foundation for positive mental health, not just in young people, but also for those who support them.

This week we celebrate Time to Talk Day, established by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness to encourage the creation of supportive networks by having conversations and making time for people to talk about their mental health.

Building supportive networks

The aims of these two campaigns are interlinked. Connecting, supporting one another, and creating opportunities to talk for those who are struggling provide a firm foundation for resilience, whether at an individual, family or community level.

What is resilience?

Resilience is a fundamental aspect of positive mental health, particularly in the face of adversity. It’s not just the ability to pick ourselves up and carry on when we fall. It gives us the strength to face daily issues with a positive ‘can do’ attitude.

At a family or community level, it means building supportive relationships or networks that allow us to pool our resources to find ways to adapt to challenging life situations and navigate through difficult times together.

With so many families and individuals experiencing life ‘at the coalface’ in the current economic climate, resilience has never been so important. The pandemic has taken its toll on our mental health, striking workers bring daily reminders of our stretched NHS and other public resources, and the cost-of-living crisis is generating unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety.

Why does talking help?

Talking helps us to express our emotions and process our feelings. However resilient, there will be times for all of us when we need to talk. Good listening is also required. This means allowing the speaker a safe, unhurried space to be able to fully describe their feelings. As a listener we need to develop the skills to focus and reflect on what they are saying and try to see things from their perspective before offering any help or advice.

How do we build resilience?

It is much easier for an individual to develop resilience if they feel rooted in a supportive framework. Inclusion helps us to strengthen our social and emotional skills, maintain a positive image of ourselves, and protect our mental health.

5 steps to help you build resilience

  1. Focus on your relationships

Remember! It is quality, not the quantity of relationships that is important. Who are the ‘go-to’ people in our lives? Who do we trust to call on when we need support? Now look at this from a different perspective. How easy do others find it to call on you in times of need? Relationships require work and commitment from both sides.

This brings us back to the importance of making time to talk. Spending quality time together and taking time to chat. This might mean a coffee or lunch with friends, walking the dog with your partner, cooking together; these are all positive ways to support, connect and enjoy one another’s company.

  1. A problem shared is a problem halved

Bottling things up is never helpful. Knowing that we have a secure, non-judgemental space to talk about our fears and anxieties helps us to process and address negative thoughts, particularly during times of change or loss.

Although we may never forget what we have lost, sharing our feelings helps us find the strength to adjust to the changes that have taken place.

  1. Big picture thinking

Resilience depends on a positive outlook, as this affects the way we think and interpret situations. It’s easy to allow one small negative to overshadow a number of positive aspects of your life, so try to begin shifting your thinking patterns. A negative outlook only increases our anxiety, sending us into a spiral of destructive thinking.

Anxiety feeds on worst case scenarios. If you are stuck in a negative thought pattern it is tempting to conjure up bad or unhelpful images, but try instead to focus on positive explanations. Both have the same probability.

  1. Look after your emotional health

Emotions play a big part in our lives and can affect our mental health. If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, don’t try to bury your stress. Acknowledge it and try to find positive ways to manage it. This might mean taking some ‘you time’ away from the stressful situation to think about any small changes that could help to make things more manageable, or talking to someone close to see if they could help share the burden.

If a relationship starts to affect you negatively, or if you are finding it hard to regulate your anxieties or emotions, it is important to recognise this early and start to take steps to protect yourself.

  1. Self-care

You don’t just need to look after your mental health when you have a problem. Just like physical health, everyone can benefit from actively looking after their own wellbeing.

Take time to pause and think about all the types of self-care that are needed to look after your physical health. Quality sleep, healthy eating, regular exercise, new activities, taking breaks. All these things can help, particularly during stressful times or if you are experiencing mental health issues.

A final word

Humans, for the most part, are enormously resilient. Some have a bigger pool of resources than others, but we all need to draw on resources around us, particularly in times of significant stress or hardship.

It is also important to recognise that sometimes we can get stuck. This may be due to unresolved issues from the past, or our own self-limiting beliefs. If you are finding it hard to move forward, it may be helpful to seek help from a therapist or life coach. Start by making an appointment with your GP. They will be able to signpost you to an accredited provider or a support group if you both think this could be beneficial.