Written and collated by Sarah Cant, Cam City WI Campaigns & Resolutions Lead
NFWI 2018 Resolution - Mental Health Matters
‘Mental health matters as much as physical health. The NFWI urges all WI members to recognise the importance of parity between mental health and physical health, and take action to make it as acceptable to talk about mental health issues as much as physical health issues, and to lobby government for better support for mental illness.’
Callow End WI, Worcestershire Federation
Summary of the discussion on Mental Health Matters at September 2018 meeting
Thank you to all members who attended our September 2018 meeting to input ideas and discussion about the Mental Health Matters Resolution. As a summary of what was talked about (for those who were not able to attend and to encourage further discussion), here are some of the points which were mentioned.
What do we do to relax?
Coming to the WI was one of these, thankfully! Traditional ideas were listening to music, having a bath, watching TV (and being able these days to binge watch), and meditation (the Headspace app was mentioned).
Some of our favourite ways to relax are catered for by your WI, including knitting and other crafts, reading, walking, and watching a good movie (we have a club for each of these!).
Some of us like to be active, taking part in martial arts, gardening, or going swimming or running. And some of us like to exercise our brains, by playing video games, studying, researching family history, planning holidays and going on them, and taking part in pub quizzes.
The mental health benefits of gardening are well known, and NFWI are looking for ideas from keen gardeners for a promotion next Spring. Good ideas that you had included:
Growing vegetables, carrying out small projects, and trying container gardens or hanging baskets.
One idea mentioned that I have tried (as I have not done anything with my garden except for cutting down weeds!) is the pleasure of blackberry/fruit picking and then making jam, sloe gin, etc. Someone mentioned doing gardening projects for people/businesses/charities.
Guerrilla Seed Bomb making is something that Cam City WI tried out as part of a meeting few years ago.
And finally, a really nice idea I thought was to put a postcard through the door saying how lovely someone's garden looks, if you are passing by!
Do we take care of our mental health as much as our physical health?
It seems easier to talk about a physical illness than depression, anxiety or other mental illness, so how can we encourage people to not just say 'I'm okay’ when we ask how they are? Finding the right time is important, and being prepared to listen to how the other person is feeling no matter how trivial it sounds. We need to be honest with ourselves about how we are feeling, we can talk more about the contraceptive implant in our arm than the mood swings we experience.
We are erasing the stigma of mental illness by talking about it more, and some employers are cool about needing time off for your mental health, but with others you still need to say that it's for your physical health or that you're 'not well’.
Finally, what could we do as Cam City WI members to ensure we are supporting each other?
The new name badges were welcomed, as it helps to talk to each other by name! Trying to talk to someone you don't know at each meeting builds confidence. With this, we can be more open with each other, talking about our feelings, listening to others, and giving 'a crap’. It seems that sharing mental health tips would be great, but not so much in giving advice as sharing what helps us. We need to know how to support our friends.
Thanks again for your input, this is just a quick summary. And lastly, volunteering as a way to relax was mentioned...we always need new committee members!
How will the National Federation of Women's Institutes (NFWI) work on this issue and support WI members?
At a national level the NFWI will:
work alongside mental health practitioners and national organisations with expert knowledge of the sector to further the aims of the mandate.
provide members with ideas for how they can mark relevant international awareness days, such as World Mental Health Day on 10 October.
At a local level the NFWI will:
provide WI members with information so that they can learn more about the different types of mental health problems and the steps they can take to look after their own mental wellbeing as well as support others. To do this, the NFWI will draw on the advice of mental health experts and best practice guidelines.
empower WI members to take the messages of the campaign to local healthcare professionals and lobby for better care for people with mental health problems.
support WI members to build connections with local branches of national organisations that are working to tackle the stigma associated with mental health problems.
As a local WI, Cam City will:
for now, focus on us and what we can do to look after ourselves.
Regardless of whether we are experiencing a mental health problem, the Mental Health Foundation has some excellent tips on how to look after your mental health. Here they are with a few notes from me.
Talk about your feelings.
'This can help you stay in good mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled.'
'I don’t need to say much here, but I do know that having a dog helps me a lot!'
Like keeping active, a diet that’s good for your physical health is also good for your mental health.
'Please don’t drink to deal with fear or loneliness as it’s only a temporary help'.
Keep in touch.
'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!'
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.'
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 or a half-hour lunch break at work. A few minutes can be enough to de-stress you. Give yourself some ‘me time’.'
Do something you’re good at.
'Enjoying yourself can help beat stress. Doing an activity you enjoy probably means that you are good at it, and achieving something boosts your self-esteem.'
Accept who you are.
'We are 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.'
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. (And looking at the full guide, that includes caring for a pet, so having a dog, I find, is definitely a good thing!)'
NFWI 2017 Resolution - End Plastic Soup
'Microplastic fibres are shed from synthetic clothing with every wash and are the main contributors to microplastic contamination of the oceans. The NFWI calls on Government and industry to research and develop innovative solutions to this problem in order to stop the accumulation of microplastic fibres in our oceans'.
Ashley Green WI, Buckinghamshire Federation
The NFWI report 'In a Spin: How our laundry is contributing to plastic pollution' is worth reading. Consumers have been taking positive action, but there is still a lot to do, as based on the survey results, at least 9.4 trillion microplastic fibres could be released through washing per week in the UK.
The NFWI is calling for consumers to alter their washing habits, buy less new clothing, and extend the life of the clothes they already own, in order to reduce the pressure put on the environment. Obviously this subject needs collaboration and the NFWI is also calling on retailers and the industries involved to tackle the issue. We feel that there is a lot that we can do, from sending postcards to our favourite retailers and letters to our MPs, to actually changing our habits (without being smelly!).