Leeds rugby star backing Mental Health Awareness Week

Leeds Rhinos captain Stevie Ward is backing Mental Health Awareness Week which gets underway today with the focus on the power and  potential of kindness during the coronavirus crisis.
Leeds Rhinos captain Stevie WardLeeds Rhinos captain Stevie Ward
Leeds Rhinos captain Stevie Ward

Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from May 18 to 24, is the UK’s national week, led by the Mental Health Foundation, to raise awareness of mental health and inspire action to promote the message of good mental health for all.

In 2016, Ward, who has spoken publicly to discuss his own struggles with depression, launched the Mantality website, which features a wide range of articles about mental health.

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Ward said he wants to dispel misconceptions about what makes people happy and what doesn't make people happy.

He said: "Looking to help others and be kind to others will help your own self esteem because you will feel good about yourself.

"People can become quite insular when they are feeling down, but it helps them to help others."

Ward said putting more effort into social connections can also help boost mental health.

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Last year, Ward, launched the Mantality in Education project at Woodkirk High School, where he used to be a pupil.

The Mantality project aims to equip the young men with the mental tools to achieve their potential and better cope with adversity.

Mantality has teamed up with leading sports psychiatrist Dr Allan Johnston to deliver a free online resource at http://mantalitymagazine.com/coronavirus/ to help people with their mental health during the coronavirus crisis.

And Ward is inviting people to join him in a WhatsApp group from Monday May 25 for a free two-week Mantalitity Cultivate Programme.

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He will be sending out daily tasks designed to improve mental health to the group.

Anyone interested in taking part in the programme is asked to e mail [email protected]

A Mental Health Foundation spokesperson said: "Kindness is defined by doing something towards yourself and others, motivated by a genuine desire to make a positive difference.

"Research shows that kindness and our mental health are deeply connected.

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"It is an antidote to isolation and creates a sense of belonging. It helps reduce stress, brings a fresh perspective and deepens relationships.

"Kindness to ourselves helps boost our self-esteem. Kindness can even improve feelings of confidence and optimism.

"Mental Health Foundation research shows that protecting our mental health is going to be central to us coping with and recovering from the coronavirus pandemic - with the psychological and social impacts likely to outlast the physical symptoms of the virus.

During Mental Health Awareness Week, the foundation is asking people to do three things:

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Reflect on an act of kindness. Share stories and pictures (with permission) of kindness during the week using the hashtags #KindnessMatters and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

Use resources in your family, school, workplace and community to join with thousands in practising acts of kindness to yourself and others during the week.

Share your ideas on how you think we could build a kinder society that would support our mental health using #KindnessMatters and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, which provides specialist mental health and learning disability services, are also backing the kindness theme of this year’s campaign.

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The trust has highlighted a few examples of the kindness and support for service users and staff in the past few weeks.

A trust spokesperson said: "We have been touched by donations to our vulnerable service users to help keep their spirits up – including food treats and clothing.

"Our new Letters to Loved Ones scheme is helping service users stay connected to the outside world and we’ve been impressed by the occupational therapist’s fantastic idea of the Ward Olympics - getting inpatients involved in a little healthy competition with activities and challenges to keep them active and feeling positive.

"This has been an especially difficult time for some of our most isolated inpatients as visiting has been suspended, so these kind gestures and ideas have been especially appreciated."