How ‘five a day for the mind’ can help Croydonians to combat depression


By - Tuesday 19th April, 2016

There’s help available in our borough for mental health difficulties. But what happens next, and how do we keep ourselves well? Sarah Strong of Croydon Depression Alliance makes some suggestions


Ceramic installation made by members of Croydon Friends In Need.
Photo author’s own.

You’re anxious, depressed, isolated. Who do you tell? Where can you go? What can you do about it? Where do you even start?

MIND UK estimates that one in four people will have a mental health issue within any given year. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, one in five will experience depression. There is a wide range of experiences from a one-off episode connected with a particular life event to ongoing challenges related to longterm physical difficulties. What is clear, however, is that such issues are not rare. If you have been through something like this, you aren’t the only one.

It is often pointed out how difficult it can be to talk about anxiety and depression compared with an obvious physical injury. It takes time to break down the stereotypes associated with depression. It is not a weakness, it is not something shameful, and you can access more help locally than you might imagine.

For those that have easy access to the internet there are various sites where you can look for general information, though it is best to stick to trusted ones such as NHS, mental health charities, and learned bodies that concentrate on depression, anxiety, and the like.

Your ‘five a day for the mind’ can help you support yourself and others

Croydon is fortunate that over the last few years the access to therapy and counselling on the NHS through Croydon Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) has seemingly bucked the trend elsewhere and has increased funding. This has allowed the expansion of the service. More therapists and a wide range of therapy options to choose from means that those people who may be helped by Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can enter treatment sooner. Counselling is being made available via IAPT too.

But what do you do afterwards? How do you sustain recovery and keep yourself well?

It’s worth taking a look at the ‘five ways to wellbeing‘ that were drafted by the New Economics Foundation a few years ago. These are a group of evidence-based actions that have been proven to contribute to wellbeing.

  • Connect: find others to talk to, particularly people who have had their own experience of anxiety and depression and understand what it’s like. A supportive network, such as Friends in Need, can become invaluable

  • Be active: this can be something as simple as a walk around a local park. There are plenty of guided walks in the Croydon borough under the Walking for Health scheme

  • Keep learning: attend one of the free library talks, join a CALAT course, learn about a new subject, go and listen to a live music session that you wouldn’t normally go to

  • Give: do something for someone else. Find a volunteering position via Croydon Voluntary Action, help clear and tidy local sites, such as Park Hill Park. Write a piece for the Croydon Citizen, perhaps?

  • Take notice: be aware, be curious, observe your surroundings. The practice of mindfulness will help a great deal here

Many of the services and support networks related to mental health refer to the ‘five ways’ in some form or another: NHS/South London and Maudsley trust, Depression Alliance, Friends in Need, Mind and Time To Change, as well as government publications. The mental health version of ‘five portions of fruit and veg a day’ can provide you with opportunities to support yourself and to support others.

Sarah Strong

Sarah Strong

Sarah Strong has been working with Depression Alliance and South London and Maudsley NHS Trust for three years following twenty years in information services. She has lived in the south of London for over a decade. When not working, she is usually to be found on a bike, pedalling somewhere around Kent and Surrey, daydreaming about doing historical research.

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