TV star and author Ruby Wax is urging people with mental health problems in North Wales to seek help.
The outspoken comedian is backing Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, which is running mindfulness sessions for staff and the general public as part of a raft of initiatives in a six-month campaign.
The first sessions will take place on May 19, as part of Mental Health Awareness Week, with others planned in the coming months in communities and health board premises across North Wales.
During the week, which runs from May 16 to 22, mental health charity Hafal will also have stands in BCUHB’s inpatient mental health units during the week: Hergest at Ysbyty Gwynedd, Bangor, Ablett at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, Bodelwyddan, and Heddfan at Wrexham Maelor Hospital.
Throughout the week, the team from Hafal will be encouraging people to make a pledge to do something positive that will enhance their own or others’ emotional wellbeing.
Senior BCUHB officers are also being urged to make a pledge to support staff in the campaign, which runs to World Mental Health Day in October.
The health board, which employs more than 16,000 people, is also calling on other employers to run similar mindfulness sessions and other activities to encourage staff to think about their own emotional wellbeing, and end workplace discrimination and the stigma against those seeking treatment.
Comedian, writer and actor Ruby, who has talked about her own depression and is an ambassador for Mind, has campaigned on mental health issues and called for an end to stigma about the illness through the Time to Change project.
Ruby recently gained her Master’s degree in mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy from Oxford University and is presently touring the UK with her Frazzled stand-up comedy show, which includes walk-in clinics those for those seeking support.
She said: “Mental illness is affecting one in four people right now – and most of them feel unable to ask for help.
“Everybody has different ways to deal with what’s going on their lives: for me mindfulness works.
“I would encourage everybody who has the chance to go along and try these sessions run by Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board,” added Ruby, who has also written two books about mindfulness.
Rob Callow, BCUHB interim head of engagement, said: “The BCUHB community drop-in taster sessions will also include a chance for those taking part to talk to us about what matters to them with regards to mental health and wellbeing.
“We are now looking for more locations across North Wales where we are able to hold these sessions, so that we can reach as many communities as possible.
“The sessions will be around an hour long and provide a chance for people to try it for themselves, with information on hand if they would like to learn more about the technique, or to access any other health services.” The health body’s board members also recently took part in a mindfulness taster session, said chief executive Gary Doherty.
“As one of Wales’ largest employers, providing healthcare in what are often very stressful situations, we recognise that our staff need support to ensure their own mental health.
“I would urge that other employers follow our lead on this, and run similar sessions for their own staff. In addition, mental illness should be seen as a health condition, so those seeking treatment do not face discrimination or stigma.
“We all need to find ways to cope with the demands of everyday life, whether that’s using mindfulness techniques, going for a walk, playing an instrument, taking part in a sport, or simply taking time to read a book.
“Mind, the mental health charity, has suggested five steps to well-being, which includes connecting, being active, taking notice of the world and people around you, learning and giving.
“North Wales is the perfect place to get out for a walk with friends and family to enjoy the summer and great views, try a new sport, such as biking, kayaking or climbing, or enhance your photography or art skills.
“In addition, we have many opportunities for people to become volunteers with our teams, and we would be happy to hear from anybody who wants to give some of their time, and enhance their own life and the lives of others.”
More details about mindfulness at http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/mindfulness.aspx