The Department of Health and Social Care is encouraging the public to become ‘anxiety aware’ in support of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week which runs from 12 – 18 May.
Everyone will experience feelings of anxiety at some point in their lives, which is normal and healthy. Like all emotions anxiety has degrees of intensity and some people may experience general anxiety over a prolonged period, or even extreme anxiety which can develop into something more serious, such as panic attacks, phobias, or an obsessional disorder.
It’s for this reason that the Mental Health Foundation which organises Mental Health Awareness Week has chosen anxiety as the theme.
Mental health problems like anxiety are more common than people think – the UK’s Office for National Statistics’ research shows that 1 in 5 people experience anxiety on a daily basis.
Member for Mental Health Services, Michael Coleman MLC, said: “People can sometimes underestimate the importance of emotional wellbeing, but in fact it is just as important as good physical health. Ensuring that information is readily available to offer a means of self-help is as important as having treatment in place for more serious conditions.
“Supporting this awareness week allows us to highlight the self-help available on the Government website such as top tips on tackling anxiety and what help is available for those who are struggling to cope. It also enables us to raise awareness about mental health issues and continue our work to challenge the stigma that those who have a mental health issue all too often face.”
There are some general strategies that anyone can use to help manage their anxiety, such as:
- Learn about anxiety – find out more about anxiety and how it affects you. Is it related to certain situations, places or people? Is it worse at particular times of the day?
- Be practical – if you are facing a practical problem in your life, it’s best to get some practical help with it.
- Talk about the problem – this can help when the anxiety comes from recent stressors like a partner leaving, a child becoming ill or losing a job. Try talking to friends or relatives whom you trust and respect, and who are good listeners.
- Learning to relax – relaxation can reduce the severity of the physical symptoms. It can be really helpful to learn some special ways of relaxing, such as changing your scenery, meditation, breathing exercises, long soaks in a bath or massage. However, these relaxation techniques may not be for everyone, you may prefer: reading, phoning friends, cleaning, exercise or listening to music. It’s a good idea to take time to relax regularly, not just at times of crisis.
- Getting help – typically people with anxiety and fears don’t often have a serious mental illness and self-help leaflets and websites can assist them with managing their anxiety and its impact. If anxiety becomes disruptive to daily life, seek advice and support from your GP in the first instance.
Specialist in Mental Health Promotion for the Isle of Man, Julie Bennion, said: “We all have different ways of coping with anxious situations, and they can affect different people in different ways. You may feel worried and anxious about a job interview or an exam. During times like these, feeling anxious can be perfectly normal. Their worries and feelings of anxiety may be more persistent and can often affect their daily life. It is important to ensure that people affected by anxiety have access to accurate information, signposting and ongoing support as we know that early intervention can often prevent the development of more entrenched and difficult to treat anxiety disorders.”
Whilst feelings of anxiety at certain times are completely normal, you should see your GP if anxiety is affecting your daily life or is causing you distress. Anxiety becomes a problem when the symptoms are:
- Severe and unpleasant
- Going on for too long
- Happening too often
- Causing you to worry that there is something seriously wrong
- Stopping you from doing something.
Treatments available for anxiety include:
- Support and advice from your family doctor, health visitor or practice nurse
- Doctors may prescribe medication for anxiety. Some anti-depressants can help reduce symptoms of anxiety
- You doctor may refer you to the Mental Health Service if your anxiety does not respond to self-help or help from your GP practice.
In the last two years figures suggest that the Island’s Mental Health Service diagnosed and treated 300 cases of people presenting with moderate to severe anxiety related illnesses. Many more will have been treated and supported by their GP or via self-help, with support from family and friends.
Anyone who feels that they are experiencing problems with anxiety is encouraged to talk to someone about it and take the first step in seeking help.
More information and advice on Anxiety and Mental Health Awareness Week is available online at