Celebrities and medical experts including comedian Tom Davis, Dr Ranj Singh and Dr Linda Papadopoulos support new government campaign to boost mental health

Ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week (15 – 22 May), Better Health – Every Mind Matters from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities is launching a new campaign backed by BAFTA award-winning comedian, Tom Davis, TV and NHS doctor, Dr Ranj Singh, and leading psychologist, Dr Linda Papadopoulos, to encourage the nation to make the first move for their mental health and get active.

New research released today has revealed that three quarters (75%) of adults surveyed report feeling anxious, but less than half (45%) are aware that physical activity is proven to reduce symptoms of anxiety.

The campaign is the latest action taken by government to improve people’s mental health. The government is already increasing investment in mental health services by at least £2.3 billion a year by March 2024 so that an additional two million people can get the support they need.

Last year, the draft Mental Health Bill was published, intended to modernise the Mental Health Act so that it’s fit for the 21st century and better supports people with serious mental illness, and the government has committed to publishing a Major Conditions Strategy to tackle conditions that contribute most to morbidity and mortality across the population in England, including mental ill health.

For Mental Health Awareness Week, BAFTA award-winning comedian and actor, Tom Davis, has opened up about his own mental health alongside NHS and TV doctor, Dr Ranj Singh, in support of the Better Health – Every Mind Matters campaign. In a new film released today, the pair discuss how they deal with anxious thoughts and call on the nation to make the first move for their mental health by getting active.

Comedian and Actor, Tom Davis, comments:

Anxiety is no laughing matter. I’ve had a colourful career, from working on building sites, to the shop floor, to being a comedian in front of thousands, and I’ve struggled with anxiety in every role. There’s a big difference, though, to being outside your comfort zone versus feeling overwhelmed by it and letting your anxious thoughts hold you back. And being active for just a few minutes each day can make a huge difference. It’s important to find something that you enjoy and do it regularly. I love boxing and try to go often, but even taking my daughter to the park can really clear my head and help to keep those anxious jitters at bay.

NHS and TV doctor, Dr Ranj Singh, has also shared his tips on how to ease anxiety (see NTEs) and advice on how the public can start getting active for their mental health:

Anxiety is part of everyday life, and it can help us focus or take extra care when needed, but when it gets too much, it can have a really big impact on how we want to live our lives. Physical activity is one of the simplest, but most effective, things we can do to help alleviate anxious feelings, calm racing thoughts, and give us something to distract from negative thinking. Regular physical activity is best, but even a few minutes each day can help. I personally love dancing because some good music instantly lifts my mood!

New research among 2,000 adults in England has revealed around four in 10 report having trouble sleeping (38%), feeling less confident (37%) and having less energy due to anxiety (35%). For just under a quarter (24%), anxiety has stopped them from attending social events and almost one in 10 admit it’s even impacted their relationship, as they spend less time with their partner (8%).

Physical activity releases feel good hormones and improves mental health but, according to the new research, less than half of adults are aware that it’s proven to reduce symptoms of anxiety (45%), reduce stress (45%) and distract from negative thoughts (42%). Four in 10 adults are not doing the NHS recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week.

The research revealed that over a third (35%) of adults tend to use distraction techniques to relieve feelings of anxiety, including watching TV (47%), browsing the internet (36%) or even isolating themselves from others (33%). However, those who do regular physical activity report that it helps to boost their mood (68%), confidence (61%) and relieve anxious feelings (61%).

With almost one in five not doing any form of physical activity (19%), the research also revealed that not feeling motivated (41%), not enjoying physical activity (25%), and not having enough free time (19%) were the top barriers to getting active. Only 13% of us are aware of the NHS recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week.

Leading psychologist, Dr Linda Papadopoulos commented:

People are often surprised to know the benefits that just a few minutes of movement can have on our mind; you don’t need to do a full body workout to reap the rewards. Being active increases feel good hormones, like endorphins, and can boost confidence. I always recommend getting outside for a brisk walk or gentle jog because being in nature can help us feel happier and more relaxed. And the best bit is it’s free!

Minister for Mental Health, Maria Caulfield, said:

We know poor mental health can significantly impact our quality of life, so I’m pleased to see this campaign highlighting the simple steps we can all take to reduce its impact – such as spotting and addressing the signs of anxiety early on.

But we know sometimes more support is needed, and that’s why we’re currently investing £2.3 billion every year to expand and transform mental health services in England so that two million more people will be able to get the mental health support they need.

Delivered by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, the Better Health–Every Mind Matters campaign offers NHS-approved tips and advice to help people manage their anxiety, including links to free NHS apps, such as Couch to 5K and Active 10, that will help them make the first move.

The Better Health – Every Mind Matters website also gives people the opportunity to sign up to anxiety-easing emails, offering expert advice to help them stay on top of their mental wellbeing and show them how to make these new steps part of their routine.

Social media: #everymindmatters #moveforyourmentalhealth #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek #MHAW / @NHS

Published 14 May 2023