Knocking SPOTS Mental Health Awareness

It's time we started to knock the spots off mental health!

Knocking SPOTS aims to raise awareness about common mental health issues. We want to help everyone maintain better mental resilience.


1 in 4 people experience a mental health condition every year in the UK.

Like many people, Dylan suffers from depression. He's not alone. Approximately 1 in 4 people struggle with a mental health issue every year in the UK [1]. In England, 1 in 6 people report that they're experiencing a common mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression, in any given week [2].

Dylan sleeps more than he used to.

Some days, Dylan even finds it difficult to get out of bed. This would shock those who know him best because he's usually the life and soul of the party, and has a reputation for clowning around. But even when Dylan's smiling, joking and laughing he's still suffering—he's still miserable. But he's worried what his friends will think of him if he tells them he's depressed.

Even someone who is smiling can still be suffering from a mental health issue.

Unlike measles, a mental health condition—like depression—is an invisible illness. This makes it easy to hide and difficult to discuss. However, there are some surprisingly simple things Dylan can do to make his life better.

Unlike measles, a mental health condition is an invisible illness.

All he needs to do is remember the word SPOTS...

S - Socialise

Unfortunately, Dylan's depression has caused him to become socially alienated. He spends very little time with his friends and family and, as a consequence, now feels desperately lonely.

Don't socially alienate yourself!

Loneliness in itself isn't a mental health issue. However, there is a strong link between the two. Having a mental health condition often increases a person's sense of loneliness, and feeling lonely can have a negative impact on your mental health. This vicious circle can be very damaging.

For this reason, it is important that Dylan engages in some kind of social activity to maintain good mental health. He must break out of his bubble of isolation and re-connect with his friends and family.

Dylan feels like he's stuck in a bubble and unable to interact with others.

We all have different social needs, some people are content with a few close friends, while other people prefer to maintain a larger circle of acquaintances to feel socially satisfied. However, research suggests that most people cannot cope with more than one-hundred and fifty friends. This scientific curiosity is known as Dunbar's Number, and is named after the man who discovered it [3]. The figure is broken down according to a "rule of three": Fifty of these people are considered your close friends, people you might invite to a dinner party. Then there's the so-called "circle of fifteen", people you see on a regular basis and rely on for sympathy. These are the friends that you feel comfortable confiding in about most things. Finally, there are your five best friends. These individuals comprise your close support group. (This breakdown is, of course, an approximation and the groups themselves are fluid, i.e. the people in each group may change over time.)

Although it can help with depression, Dylan shouldn't solely rely on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to satisfy all of his social needs. Engaging in conversation online might make Dylan feel less lonely, but meeting face-to-face with someone from his close support group will do him more good. This deeper connection will make him feel cared for and give him a greater sense of belonging.

Facebook is a useful way to keep in contact with friends and family, but shouldn't be over used.

Recent research [4] has also shown that four out of the five most popular forms of social media appear to be harming young people's mental health, leading to increased feelings of inadequacy. Services that focus on image sharing, like Instagram, are the worst offenders and appear to cause body image worries, support bullying and promote feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness.

However, these negative effects seem to be associated with heavy use of social media. Like almost everything in life, these sites are broadly beneficial when used in moderation and can actually strengthen your mental wellbeing.

Instagram, if used too frequently, may damage your mental health.

Feeling lonely is a lot like feeling hungry. Just as your body uses hunger to tell your brain that you need food, loneliness is your body's way of telling you that you need more social contact.


Meet up with friends and family on a regular basis. Find social situations that you're comfortable with and simply concentrate on enjoying yourself.

P - Play

All sorts of different activities could help Dylan beat stress; a quick game of Yahtzee, a kick about with his mates, or just a game of fetch with his dog, Pippa.

Playing with his dog in the park always makes Dylan feel happier.

By joining a group or club, Dylan could connect with other like minded individuals; this will help him feel part of his local community. If he doesn't want to do this, he could just play cards, even if it is just solitaire (although a game of cards is a great opportunity to spend time with others).

If he's feeling more energetic, Dylan could play a group sport, like football, rugby or cricket. A morning on the football pitch would not only keep Dylan active, but would also give him the chance to meet some new faces.

The Positive Power of Play

Engaging in playful activity can be deeply therapeutic. Concentrating on a hobby or interest can help you forget your worries for a while and change your mood if you’re feeling down. Achieving anything, no matter how small or insignificant, can also help improve your self-esteem.

Go Green to Beat the Blues

Playing and exercising in green spaces, such as your local park or a nearby woodland, has been proven to boost mental wellbeing. The University of Essex has spent many years investigating the impact of so-called "green exercise" on the mind. It has found that taking part in physical activity in a natural environment has many positive health benefits. So, Dylan should go green to beat the blues!

Tip: Try to play or exercise in green spaces. This has been proven to boost mood and mental wellbeing.

Likewise, blue play and exercise—playing or exercising in or near marine and aquatic environments—is also becoming more popular. This includes activities such as fishing, sailing, rowing and river swimming. All of these things can help you maintain good mental wellness.

The University of Essex has a long history of conducting research into the benefits of green exercise.

If you suffer from poor mobility, you might want to consider one of the less physically strenuous forms of green activity, such as environmental art, gardening, reading or writing (both of which can be done outside in a green space).


Consider the following three questions to try and find a form of play or exercise that will help you relax. If you can, try and take part in physical activity in the natural environment, as this will help improve your mood and mental wellbeing.

  • What do you enjoy doing?
  • What activities can you lose yourself in?
  • What did you enjoy doing in the past?
Dylan looks happy, but he's being plagued by the cloud of despair!

O - Own it

Dylan shouldn't waste time trying to hide his illness. He should take ownership of it and put all of his energy into finding ways to live with it.

Dylan shouldn't give in to the cloud of despair! We all have stormy days and sunny days. Sometimes life feels like an uphill battle, and that's OK. Keeping some kind of mood diary might help Dylan regulate his depression. This information will also help when he tries to explain his illness to others. This can be done with a notepad and a pen, or a smartphone app, like Daylio.

Tip: Keeping a mood diary can help you better understand your own mental health. You can track your mood using a notepad and pen, or an app, like Daylio, on your smartphone.
Download Daylio for Free!

Dylan shouldn't worry that expressing his negative thoughts will put people off. Connecting with others and being honest about his feelings, especially with those who care for him, will likely help his recovery.


Own your illness, don't hide it. Try to find practical ways to manage your mental health.

T - Talk

Dylan should talk to people he trusts about his illness in an open and honest manner. Discussing your feelings isn’t a sign of weakness; in fact it's a very effective way for Dylan to deal with the problems he's carrying around in his head.

Tip: Talk about your mental health in an open and honest manner with people that you trust.

Having a conversation, and being listened to, will help Dylan feel supported and less lonely. He should find someone he can trust (and who is easy for him to make contact with). It doesn’t need to be someone in his family, or even someone he spends a lot of time with. What counts the most is that they'll be empathetic and able to understand how he's feeling.


Find someone you trust to talk to about your thoughts and feelings. Communication works both ways; if you can share your troubles with another person, you might encourage them to do the same.

S - Seek Help

If Dylan is still struggling to cope, he should seek help from a professional. None of us are superhuman, we all get tired or overwhelmed at times, especially when things go wrong. Consider getting help from your GP if your feelings:

  • Affect your mood over several weeks
  • Stop you getting on with life
  • Have a big impact on the people you live or work with

Shockingly, only 1 in 8 adults in the UK are receiving treatment for a mental health condition [2][4]. Over a third of visits to GPs are about mental health.


When things are getting too much for you, and you feel like you can’t cope, spot the early warning signs and seek professional help from your GP. Your GP may suggest ways you or your family can help. They may refer you to another part of the health service, or to another health care specialist.

Connecting with others can help you improve your emotional resilience.

Connect with Others

Most importantly, Dylan should connect with others to improve his own emotional resilience. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength.

So, remember the word SPOTS to improve your mental health and wellbeing.

  • S - Socialise
  • P - Play
  • O - Own It
  • T - Talk
  • S - Seek Help

Do you feel like Dylan? If you do, you should follow the simple advice on this page.

Please share this information with your friends and family to spread the SPOTS message and stop the silent suffering of so many people. Together we can increase our emotional resilience and reduce the stigma associated with mental health. It's time we all started to knock the spots off mental health!




#Anxiety #Depression #Stress

More Information

If you'd like more information about common mental health issues, take a look at our Mental Health A to Z.


A list of resources used to build this page.

[1] McManus, S., Meltzer, H., Brugha, T. S., Bebbington, P. E., & Jenkins, R. (2009). Adult Psychiatric Morbidity in England - 2007, Results of a household survey. The NHS Information Centre for health and social care.

[2] McManus S, Bebbington P, Jenkins R, Brugha T. (eds.) (2016). Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey: Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, England, 2014. Leeds: NHS digital.

[3] Dunbar, R. (1993). Coevolution of neocortical size, group size and language in humans. Behavioural and Brain Sciences, 16 (4), pp.681-735.

[4] https://www.rsph.org.uk/our-work/policy/social-media-and-young-people-s-mental-health-and-wellbeing.html

[5] Welsh Health Survey 2015: Health status, illness, and other conditions

Information about the Knocking SPOTS project.


The Knocking SPOTS project aims to raise awareness of common mental health issues through as series of interactive social media campaigns.

The project was created and developed by the School of Health and Social Care based at the University of Essex with support from NHS (Health Education England).


Created By
University of Essex


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