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Suffolk charities help people tackle stress during Mental Health Awareness Week

PUBLISHED: 15:27 15 May 2018 | UPDATED: 15:27 15 May 2018

Julian Support backs Mental Health Awareness Week. From left, Ben Mills, Tom Alexander, Brenda Ely, Georgina Edwards and Jennie Greenhalgh. Picture: GEMMA MITCHELL

Julian Support backs Mental Health Awareness Week. From left, Ben Mills, Tom Alexander, Brenda Ely, Georgina Edwards and Jennie Greenhalgh. Picture: GEMMA MITCHELL

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Campaigners in Suffolk are urging people to take action to ensure stress does not take control over their lives.

Ezra Hewing, head of mental health education at Suffolk Mind. Picture: GREGG BROWNEzra Hewing, head of mental health education at Suffolk Mind. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The call is being made by charity chiefs during Mental Health Awareness Week (May 14-20), which this year is all about stress and how to cope with it.

Representatives from the Suffolk branch of charity Julian Support spent time in Ipswich town centre on Tuesday talking to people about the issue.

Recovery coordinators Brenda Ely, Georgina Edwards, Jennie Greenhalgh and support workers Ben Mills and Tom Alexander were raising awareness of what stress is and how to manage it.

Mrs Ely said stress, if left to fester, could lead to serious mental and physical health problems, and even suicide.

Former children’s entertainer Mr Mills was putting his skills to good use and engaging with families by making balloon animals.

“It’s a good ice-breaker,” he said. “It’s mainly mums and dads offering them a free balloon and getting chatting about how people cope with stress and people are pretty open about it – I think everyone has a bit stress.”

Ms Greenhalgh said the internet and social media were often a source of tension in people’s lives.

She added: “I think that causes me stress from the point of view that I’m not as switched on, but then those who are switched on are bombarded.”

While work is known to be a big cause of strain, Ms Greenhalgh said some people told her they struggled in retirement.

The charity workers handed out leaflets detailing positive coping mechanisms, including exercise, hobbies, meditation, yoga, nature and music.

Ms Greenhalgh said people sometimes relied on negatives strategies to deal with pressures, such as smoking and drinking alcohol.

The campaign week is also about breaking down barriers to people talking about mental illnesses and seeking help.

“Mental health is nothing to be ashamed of,” Mr Mills said. “Everyone has their ups and downs in life and we have to take care of each other.”

Suffolk Mind is also supporting Mental Health Awareness Week.

Ezra Hewing, the charity’s head of mental health education, said: “Stress, if unaddressed can give rise to feelings of discomfort, anxiety, depression and trigger the symptoms of both mental and physical ill health.

“Stress is nature’s way of telling us that a key emotional need, perhaps to feel physically or financially secure, to have control over our lives, or to feel valued and respected, or to have privacy and time out, is not being met in our lives.

“Doing something to calm ourselves down, going for a brisk walk or practising breathing exercises, can give us the headspace to identify unmet needs, to seek solutions or help and assistance, so that we can get needs met and reduce stressful feelings.”

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