The 15th- 21st of May 2023 marks Mental Health Awareness Week, an annual event to raise awareness of the importance of reaching out to achieve good mental health. This year, the theme is Anxiety, a normal emotion in us all, that can sometimes get out of control and become a mental health problem. We caught up with Dave Smithson, Operations Director at Anxiety UK to discuss the work that Anxiety UK does, and the importance of spreading awareness and providing support to help with anxiety.
What does Anxiety UK work to achieve, and what support do you provide?
Anxiety UK was established as a registered charity in 1970 by Harold and Katharine Fisher from their home in Manchester. They set up a small self-help group as an alternative to simply medicating those who experience anxiety. Today, Anxiety UK is still run by people with experience with anxiety disorders and leads the field in the delivery of support services.
Our values are to be:
Committed: in that, we go the extra mile; working above and beyond what is expected of us.
Responsive: in our approach to listening to others’ needs; acting promptly, flexibly and appropriately.
Understanding: in providing empathic, person-centred, effective support.
Why is Mental Health Awareness Week important?
Although there have been strides in recent years in people feeling more comfortable sharing their personal experiences and reaching out for support, there is still a lot of stigma associated with mental health.
Mental Health Awareness Week helps open the conversation and normalise mental health which we feel is the first step to making progress. As more people feel they are able to talk about their experiences they can get the support they need. It also helps press the message that we all have our own experiences with mental health difficulties.
This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week theme is anxiety, why is it important to spread awareness of anxiety?
We know how isolating anxiety can be so we feel that spreading awareness is so important as it helps people know that they are not alone. Another important aspect s that not everyone is aware that what they are experiencing is anxiety. People are often surprised at how physical anxiety symptoms can be and it is not uncommon for people to think these symptoms are related to a different condition. This can lead to misdiagnosis and result in people missing out on support.
Why is accessibility important to Anxiety UK and how has Recite Me helped?
Anyone can be impacted by anxiety. Anxiety doesn’t discriminate. We’re here for anyone who needs our support and is proud of our equality and inclusivity awareness. We have a vast range of resources available on our website for those dealing with anxiety. A large number of options available on Recite Me means these resources are available to all. Learning more about a particular condition can be both reassuring and empowering for someone dealing with anxiety.
What do you hope for the future of mental health services?
We hope that the stigma around mental health continues to reduce and that more people can feel comfortable reaching out for support. We also hope that research into anxiety continues as learning more about its causes can help prevent people from experiencing the difficulties of the condition.
We know that choice is an important aspect of treatment, those that have freedom of choice over their treatment tend to have better outcomes. We hope that people are provided with more information about treatment choices as the most commonly recommended treatment paths are not for everyone. Some people may find that peer support is more helpful with anxiety management than 1-1 therapy for example.