Hundreds of events took place across the country between the May 8-14 for Mental Health Awareness Week. The Mental Health Foundation campaign had the theme ‘Surviving or Thriving’ to kick-start the conversation.

In conjunction with the week, the Mental Health Foundation announced survey results from 2,000 people across the UK in which two-thirds said they had experienced mental ill-health at some point.

Statistics from the organisations suggest mental health problems are on the rise – with the World Health Organisation reporting an 18% rise in cases of depression from 2005-15.

One of the overwhelming messages we hear is of the power of conversation in alleviating pressure – the ability to talk openly and free from stigma. Therefore, it is disappointing that a survey conducted by Comres, earlier this month, showed 49% of adults are unlikely to discuss anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder with their employer.

In the AOP’s recent survey into the wellbeing of optometrists in the UK, more than half reported they frequently work to tight deadlines and 63% said they do not have enough time to balance work and family responsibilities. In the survey, our members asked for additional wellbeing support to help manage these pressures.

In response, we wanted to create a safe space in which our members could talk. With this aim, we created our Peer Support Line – a free phone helpline that offers peer-to-peer support for those experiencing worries, stress or anxiety. Launched on May 2, the helpline provides a listening service for optical professionals at any stage of their career.

Our helpline is part of a series of ongoing wellbeing initiatives to ensure UK optical professionals are not just surviving, but thriving.