Mental Health Awareness Week 2021

By Simran Sandhu - Apprentice Council Member and Accountancy Apprentice at HS2
As I’m sure many of you may be aware from the numerous posts that circulated on social media in the past month (including AoA’s), 10th to 16th May was Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. This was a perfect time for people to raise awareness about mental health through sharing their personal experiences and battles, to help remove the stigma of the overall subject.
Interestingly enough, the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 was nature and the environment, focusing on how we can implement elements of this within our lives to reap the mental health benefits. Despite the lockdowns we’ve faced, throughout 2020 and the start of 2021, nature was always available to us as most parks and outdoor areas remained open! Many of us discovered this during 2020 when people started working from home and would happily enjoy a workday in the back garden and make an effort to go on a walk during their lunch hour. 
As apprentices, it can be easy to let stress consume you whilst balancing studying for exams/ completing assignments with making a good impression in the workplace, and ensuring tasks are finished within set deadlines. This is why it’s important to check in with, not just your colleagues and friends around you, but also yourself! Whether that’s realising you are stressed and struggling or even feeling great, it allows us to take a step to make the changes to be where we want to be. 
Touching back to the topic of nature, before Christmas in 2020 the lengthy third lockdown started to make me feel quite lonely and negative which impacted my performance at work. Around the same time, a member of my apprentice cohort at work introduced a “step challenge” where we were encouraged to go for walks or runs during our lunch break, or even after work, and record our steps for the day. This allowed many of the apprentices at my work to start being more active as gyms were still closed, and of course, physical health does impact mental health. We also became closer as a cohort which made me realise these people were in similar situations to me regarding their feelings around working from home throughout lockdown. And of course, being able to embrace the beauty of nature helped with reducing the negative thoughts. 
So, what can we do as apprentices to make a change? By becoming attuned to our own emotions and either knowing what we can do to improve our feelings or of course reaching to others for advice and support, we can then help others too by introducing these collaborative and fun challenges which make people feel included and part of a community.