Not just because it is nearly World Mental Health Day.
Or we are experiencing an 'unprecedented natural disaster'.
I am writing this blog because I see, feel and hear speaking mental health is still taboo in 2020.
Speaking up and sharing my own mental health strategies, inviting my online equestrian community to share, offering a safe space for a coffee and chat on world mental health day, raising funds for the Mental Health Foundation, is the equivalent to being put in quarantine. If I thought quarantine right now was the right thing to do? I would happily trundle off with my #MentalHealthMatters hashtag and enjoy this extra space to practice more of my mental health strategies.
So why am I not silenced? Like a bolt of lightning, the reality hit me - mental health in the equestrian community IS still stigmatised.
On Tuesday I completed my compulsory BHS Safeguarding for Equestrians virtuaI course.
A very well organised and structured 3 hours of my life. My coaching framework was upgraded; from "being vulnerable" to "adults at risk" to remembering the sobering cases of physical and sexual abuse by horse trainers in recent times. I was inspired to be the change our clients need. So I did't really notice the clear absence of the impact of good mental health on us, the coaches to help our clients. The course got me thinking....
Do equestrians actually understand mental health?
Mental health is the way we think and feel, coupled to our ability to deal with life's (normal) ups and downs.
I started to think about the safeguarding course content and concluded we are choosing to make up the stories around mental health that serve us. Fit our own narrative around mental health.
Or is the stigmatisation of mental health a falsehood? Are equestrians the only human population with the antibodies to mental health problems? Do the the ups and downs of owning a horse provide mental health immunity? Has the population of equestrians gained 'herd immunity' to mental health problems?
Cleary the evidence says not.
In May 2020, riders launched Riders Minds an online mental health support charity. Whilst event riders Matthew Wright and Niall Fergusson produced a video openly discussing mental health issues, both sharing they have “suffered badly” from depression in the past and invited their supporters to send in questions about their own mental health concerns.
“We have both been at the point where we considered taking our own life. We can talk very openly about this together now and it helps,” Matt Wright said to Horse and Hound “We want to encourage others to speak out too about their own experiences with mental illness, to help others see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
What if 2020 is the 'switch' that had to be 'flipped' on mental health and riders, coaches, judges and national federations? Because being mentally healthy is not about declaring you don't have a mental health problem.
Good mental health is about:
Becoming the rider you can be
Expanding resiliency bandwidth
Contributing more to family, friends, work and communities on and offline
As Dr Brene Brown asks herself every day "have I contributed more than I have criticised?"
Mental health is everyone’s business.
And once again... one size fits one. Everyone is different. You may optimise a disappointment, failure or setback, whilst another rider/coach/judge may feel weighed down by it for a long time.
Your mental health doesn’t always stay the same.
It changes as circumstances change. As we move through different stages in our lives. Unfortunately, stigma can be attached to mental health problems. This means that people feel uncomfortable about them and don’t talk about them much. I think that's where horses come in. The Mental Health Foundation acknowledge how pets help us. By caring for our horses, dogs, pets we are optimising our mental health. Why aren't we talking about this? Especially on how to safeguard ourselves, not just from physical and sexual abuse but to amplify how to self-care. I often feel overwhelmed by how some equestrians speak to other equestrians. I wonder if we felt secure in ourselves, we would not need the reinforcement from bashing others, instead we would step into empathy. Safeguarding mental well-being is not choosing shame. Shaming horse lovers to improve horse welfare is not a horse justice tool. Shaming shatters mental health. And our mental health always impacts our horse's welfare.
Below is the Mental Health Foundation for Good Mental Health. I will go through each of the MHF recommendations for good mental health on the days leading up to World Mental Health Day. On World Mental Health Day I will go Live with a key person of mental health influence. Join Coffee With Horse Lovers today in Facebook and be the soloutions, not the problem.
In the meantime, let's all stay curious about mental health, what it means to us, how when we normalise mental health conversations we can really start to live our best lives.
Because mental health ALWAYS matters
Stay curious, safe and kind
Shared from Mental Health Foundation Website on 26th September 2020
1. Talk about your feelings Talking about your feelings can help you stay in good mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled. Talking about your feelings isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s part of taking charge of your wellbeing and doing what you can to stay healthy. Talking can be a way to cope with a problem you’ve been carrying around in your head for a while. Feeling listened to can help you feel more supported. And it works both ways. If you open up, it might encourage others to do the same. It’s not always easy to describe how you’re feeling. If you can’t think of one word, use lots. What does it feel like inside your head? What does it make you feel like doing? You don’t need to sit your loved ones down for a big conversation about your wellbeing. Many people feel more comfortable when these conversations develop naturally – maybe when you’re doing something together. If it feels awkward at first, give it time. Make talking about your feelings something that you do.
2. Keep active Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and can help you concentrate, sleep, and look and feel better. Exercise keeps the brain and your other vital organs healthy, and is also a significant benefit towards improving your mental health. Exercising doesn’t just mean doing sport or going to the gym. Walks in the park, gardening or housework can also keep you active. Experts say that most people should do about 30 minutes’ exercise at least five days a week. Try to make physical activity that you enjoy a part of your day.
3. Eat well What we eat may affect how we feel – for example, caffeine and sugar can have an immediate effect. But food can also have a long-lasting effect on your mental health. Your brain needs a mix of nutrients in order to stay healthy and function well, just like the other organs in your body. A diet that’s good for your physical health is also good for your mental health. A healthy, balanced diet includes:
Lots of different types of fruit and vegetables
Wholegrain cereals or bread
Nuts and seeds
Plenty of water Three meals a day or five smaller snacks throughout the day, plus plenty of water, is ideal for maintaining good mental health. Try to limit how many high- caffeine, sugary drinks or how much alcohol you have.
4. Drink sensibly We often drink alcohol to change our mood. Some people drink to deal with fear or loneliness, but the effect is only temporary. When the drink wears off, you feel worse because of the way the alcohol has affected your brain and the rest of your body. Drinking is not a good way to manage difficult feelings. Apart from the damage that too much alcohol can do to your body, you would need more and more alcohol each time to feel the same. This is called building ‘tolerance’ to the substance. The approaches in this booklet are healthier ways of coping with tough times. Occasional light drinking is perfectly healthy and enjoyable for most people. Stay within the recommended daily alcohol limits:
5. Keep in touch Strong family ties and supportive friends can help you deal with the stresses of life. Friends and family can make you feel included and cared for. They can offer different views from whatever’s going on inside your own head. They can help keep you active, keep you grounded and can help you solve practical problems. There’s nothing better than catching up with someone face to face, but that’s not always possible. You can also give them a call, drop them a note, or chat to them online instead. Keep the lines of communication open: it’s good for you! If you’re feeling out of touch with some people, look back at our section on talking about your feelings and get started! It’s worth working at relationships that make you feel loved or valued. But, if you think being around someone is damaging your mental health, it may be best to take a break from them or call it a day completely. It’s possible to end a relationship in a way that feels okay for both of you. It can be hard to cope when someone close to you dies or if you lose them in another way. Counselling for bereavement or loss can help you explore your feelings.
6. Ask for help None of us are superhuman. We all sometimes get tired or overwhelmed by how we feel or when things don’t go to plan. If things are getting too much for you and you feel you can’t cope, ask for help. Your family or friends may be able to offer practical help or a listening ear.
7. Take a break A change of scene or a change of pace is good for your mental health. It could be a five-minute pause from cleaning your kitchen, a half-hour lunch break at work, or a weekend exploring somewhere new. A few minutes can be enough to de-stress you. Give yourself some ‘me time’. Taking a break may mean being very active. It may mean not doing very much at all.
8. Do something you’re good at What do you love doing? What activities can you lose yourself in? What did you love doing in the past? Enjoying yourself can help beat stress. Doing an activity you enjoy probably means you’re good at it, and achieving something boosts your self-esteem.
9. Accept who you are Some of us make people laugh, some are good at maths, and others cook fantastic meals. Some of us share our lifestyle with the people who live close to us, others live very differently. We’re all different. It’s much healthier to accept that you’re unique than to wish you were more like someone else. Feeling good about yourself boosts your confidence to learn new skills, visit new places and make new friends. Good self-esteem helps you cope when life takes a difficult turn. Be proud of who you are. Recognise and accept the things you may not be good at, but also focus on what you can do well. If there’s anything about yourself you would like to change, are your expectations realistic? If they are, work towards the change in small steps.
10. Care for others Caring for others is often an important part of keeping up relationships with people close to you. It can even bring you closer together. Why not share your skills more widely by volunteering for a local charity? Helping out can make us feel needed and valued, and that boosts our self-esteem. It also helps us to see the world from another angle. This can help to put our own problems in perspective. Find out more about volunteering at www.do-it.org. uk. Caring for a pet can improve your wellbeing too. The bond between you and your pet can be as strong as between people. Looking after a pet can bring structure to your day and can act as a link to other people. For example, some people make friends by chatting to fellow dog walkers.