Make sure your mental health is top of your priority list this Christmas

Getting the Christmas dinner right, buying presents on time, finding a new outfit for the work Christmas do, worrying about where and who to spend Christmas with, managing finances: the festive season comes with many preoccupations that can leave people pushing their mental health and well-being down to the bottom of an ever increasing list.

A recent survey by the mental health charity Mind found that issues such as debt (41 per cent of recipients) and feeling lonely (83 per cent) were some of the prime reasons for why people struggled around Christmas time.

Londoners are more likely than people living in other parts of the UK to experience mental health problems as a result of unemployment or debt, meaning that the festive season can place added pressure on the mental wellbeing of the capital’s citizens. Social isolation is also a key issue facing some of the two million over 50s living in London which can be heightened by the fact Christmas is closely associated with coming together with loved ones.

While the festive season can be a source of much happiness and joy, we know that there are equally many people who find it a very difficult time of year - experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety or even loneliness and depression, yet not talking to anyone because they don’t want to ruin the ‘Christmas spirit’.

Help is however, close at hand both at Christmas and throughout the year. The Improved Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme was launched by the NHS to provide easy to access and support to people struggling with common forms of mental ill-health such as stress, anxiety or depression.

IAPT is a self-help service, which means people can use the service with or without a referral by a GP. This usually begins with a chat on the phone to a mental health professional who can advise on the best route forward for that person.

London has a variety of IAPT services designed to help Londoners better cope with and overcome the mental health problems they may be struggling with, from group or individual talking therapy sessions, workshops or cognitive behavioural therapy. To find your local IAPT service in London visit this website

The Wandsworth IAPT service, run by South West London & St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust is offering free sleep management workshops for people experiencing sleep difficulties open to anyone over 18 who lives, or has a GP in, Wandsworth.

“Difficulty sleeping is extremely common among people experiencing mental health issues. Our practical workshops will provide advice and help to promote better sleep which will improve people’s overall well-being,” says

Katie Bogart, a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner at the Wandsworth IAPT.

“It’s important to remember that everyone’s sleep cycle is different and that there’s no such thing as an optimum amount of sleep – the mythic eight hours for example!”

For more information about the sleep workshops, call 0203 513 6264 or visit www.wandsworthiapt.nhs.uk

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