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Mental Health Awareness Week

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. Stephen Clark from Combat Stress tells us more.

Mental Health Awareness Week

When I heard that Mental Health Awareness Week in 2013 was going to focus on the importance of physical activity and mental wellbeing I have to say I thought it was a great idea.

Physical activity causes the body to release endorphins, which we know can improve our moods. Exercise is also a great way to promote self-esteem and a feeling of control when the environment feels challenging.

Working at Combat Stress I’m lucky enough to meet Veterans of all ages and from all conflicts. One of the things that they all have in common is that they have performed at the very height of physical fitness in service of HM Armed Forces.

The veterans who come to us have spent many years exercising day-in and day-out and having their nutritional needs met in the cookhouse. When you leave a routine like that it's easy to gain weight and for your physical health to suffer.

Unfortunately, it's true that physical health also suffers when someone is in the grips of mental ill-health so a vicious cycle can start to build.

The link between physical activity and mental health was debated in the media last summer but at Combat Stress we see a real link between physical activity and mental well-being – that's why we have gyms at each of our three treatment centres and have incorporated physical activity into the well-being programmes that we run at these sites.

We keep these sites, and our Community Outreach Service, running through the generosity of statutory bodies, the general public and organisations like the RAF Benevolent Fund.

The work that we all do together saves lives and families. If you want to read more, there is a great (and free) booklet from Mental Health Foundation that explains the links between psychical activity and mood, stress and self-esteem.

By Stephen Clark

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