When we think of sustainability it is only natural that we think of the environment, that is mainly what we focus on and it what most resources point to as the most visible aspect of sustainability. After all, if we don’t have our environment then everything else is moot. But sustainability has important social dimensions too – around social justice, equality, health and wellbeing.
Talking about mental health is a step towards changing the culture around mental health and sustainability, and conversations can bring to the forefront new ideas and way to challenge the stigma that surrounds mental health.
Goal 3 of the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) is all about ensuring good health and wellbeing for all people. By including this within a rhetoric that is about encouraging sustainable lifestyles, the UN is confirming that in order for life to be sustainable, a good level of wellbeing needs to be promoted. Unfortunately though, whilst wellbeing had been included on the Sustainable Development Goals, widespread acknowledgement of the importance of mental health, for many years, has been neglected.
‘Mental health remains one of the most neglected global health issues, even though it is critical to the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by world leaders, top United Nations officials have said at an event in London.’ (Un.org)
One way that mental health and sustainability can go hand in hand is through the development of a sustainable lifestyle, but it is important to understand what that means.
‘A sustainable lifestyle does not mean you need to constantly be perfect. It means that you need to consistently try to make sustainable choices and support businesses and people in the sustainability industry.’ – (PsychReg.org)
By being conscious of the choices you are making, you are already one step closer to a sustainable lifestyle.
In recent months, mental health has been at the centre of a lot of conversations due to the spotlight on people’s experiences in the news, such as Meghan Markle talking out about her experience with mental health. Starting conversations such as these, as difficult as it feels, is a great start to challenging the environment and stigma around mental health. By talking about how we feel we can start to take steps to change our experience and our feelings surrounding them.
By starting these difficult conversations we may encounter perspectives that we never would have had before and can take these and adapt them into our own lives. The importance of starting these conversations on a large scale is highlighted in SDG 3. The inclusion of mental health within these global sustainable development goals raises the profile; it means that governments can see that action needs to be taken on this, and projects and organisations that work with mental health can hopefully get the funding and guidance that they need to be effective.
‘Mental health and substance abuse are very poorly resourced at present. Through the SDGs they are likely to become part of country development plans and of bilateral and multilateral development assistance. This could well mean that millions of people will finally receive much needed help.’ (who.int)
So start conversations.
They could be as simple as saying ‘how are you feeling today, really?’, and then really listening to the answer. Share articles with friends and on your social media pages. Let’s get talking and change the way we think about mental health and sustainability.
by Amy Bayliss-Fox, SGO Projects Officer #livingwell