Let’s Talk: Mental Health

Posted on Feb 22 2017 - 4:00pm by Samantha Clark
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As the conversation grows and the less taboo it becomes, the greater the support available. It may be quite a generic term but it encompasses the broad spectrum well, especially considering each diagnosis inhabits further categories of  mental health issues. Very broadly speaking and more commonly, mental health encompasses mood disorders (such as depression), anxiety disorders, phobias, OCD, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, dementia and schizophrenia. Looking at anxiety for example (a mental health aspect I suffer from personally) it encompasses excessive worry, health anxiety, generalised anxiety and much more.

The stats:

  • 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.
  • The most common mental health problems include: Anxiety, depression and posttraumatic stress
  • Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder
  • 50% of mental health problems are established by the age of 14, 75% by 24
  • 8-15% of women will experience postnatal depression after giving birth

Could you have a mental health problem or someone you know?

It can be pretty difficult to distinguish a particularly difficult time from a mental health problem. You may justify what’s going on as ‘it comes in threes’ or ‘it could only happen to me’. Everyone has their bad days and it’s normal to feel sad, stressed, angry, confused but if these feelings become excessive and begin impacting your everyday life, you may actually be facing a mental health issue.

For example, if it becomes difficult to get out of bed, you stop taking care of yourself, struggle to focus on a task or you feel bad about yourself these could be signs of depression. If you feel like you’re constantly worrying, nervous, have trouble relaxing, become easily annoyed or irritable; these could all be signs of an anxiety disorder.

If you notice the signs or symptoms of mental illness in yourself it’s best to make a note of your feelings and make a visit to the GP. There is lots of support and advice available, putting you on medication isn’t necessarily the first step if this is something you’re concerned with, something I, myself, was worried about.

If you’re picking up the signs from someone else that they may be suffering with a mental health problem, speak with them in private and let them know you’re concerned. If nothing else, just be there to support them, everyone needs someone they can turn to.

Support and help available:

There are a number of treatment options available but is dependant on the type and severity of the mental health illness. Based on my own personal experience, I’d recommend getting in touch with your GP at the earliest opportunity. On meeting with them take an outline of how you’ve been feeling over the past few weeks, a detail of circumstances that you feel may be aggravating your symptoms for example, outlining aspects of your home life, relationships, phobias, worries etc. whether you feel they’re significant or not and discuss with them your expectations with regards to treatment; for this aspect discuss medication options if this is something you’re open to, things you can do as part of personal development and the support the NHS are able to offer (such as counselling, seminars, workshops etc.). In most cases, the NHS are likely to recommend cognitive behavioural therapy or direct you in this way; it is a therapy which deals with the here and now and ways in which you can overcome your mental health illness in a progressive way.

In my own journey, whilst I wait for a referral, it was recommended to me that I look to the overcoming series and begin to explore cognitive behavioural therapy and how we’ll be using this technique as a means to overcome my various anxiety disorders. There are many books under this series so would highly recommend taking a look to see if there is something there that may help you or a loved one. I’ve found the book to be really helpful in normalising how I feel with a clear guide and path to overcoming my concerns and issues; it’s a place to be very honest and whether you want to better understand a condition or overcome it, these are brilliant books to do just that.

For further assistance:

  •  The Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust have released a very helpful self help library which contains leaflets on a number of conditions, including: abuse, anxiety, low mood, OCD, shyness and social anxiety and so many more. Not all the leaflets are the same; some with video introductions and workable worksheets, others are more informational. You can also download the app of the same name as a guide to read and work through wherever and whenever (we’d recommend the app as it’s more stable than the website).
  • If you’re in school, college or university, it is worth getting in touch with the wellness advisor/wellbeing service as they often have counselling and mental health support resources available.
  • Even if you’re not in college or university, they often have a number of resources made publicly. For example, University West of England have a number of self-help resources which outlines details of the condition and where you can find additional support and help; University of Exeter have a similar service and includes a number of workable worksheets. It’s worth looking at your local educational establishments website to see if they’ve any resources available that you can take advantage of.
  • If you’re feeling distressed and need someone to talk to, call the Samaritans they’re available at all times free of charge. You don’t need to be suicidal, you can contact them any time day or night; it’s confidential, non judgemental and a safe place to turn to for help. Just call 116 123.
  • Look to your local health authority: As highlighted above, a number of health authorities develop publicly available resources, it’s worth finding your local foundation trust/mental health partnership to see what is available in your area. Under the Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust for example is a service called Positive Steps under the North Somerset district. Although I was referred to this service by my GP, this is actually a service you can refer yourself to (contingent on the basis that you live within that district/registered to a local doctor’s practice) and  participate in a number of the courses they offer which makes getting a referral for more specialised help later down the line that bit easier and it’s surprising what you can learn and achieve from these alone. This isn’t the only service available either; the website has lots of information available and signposts you to local services as well.

This information was taken from Mind.org and Mental Health.org.uk.

The Charity: Mind

Mind is the mental health charity that provides advice and support to anyone experiencing a mental health problem. Not only do they offer a broad range of services but they campaign for changes in legislation, legal rights and discrimination. As highlighted, the scope of mental health problems is vast, as a valuable resource, Mind have outlined the types of mental problems and have providing detailed information on explaining health problems, tips and guidance and where to access further support relating to specific mental health problems, such as; anxiety, panic attacks, sleep problems, stress, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), phobias, OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), depression and so much more.

In addition, below is an outline of some of the information and personal services that they offer to those affected by mental health:

We’d also strongly encourage getting involved with this charity to help spread the message and further diminish the taboo associated with this health condition. Take a look at their get involved page where you can take part in charity events such as runs and skydives, be a campaigner to help spread the message within your local area and to our local council and help support the charity financially by donating to a local Mind charity shop, giving donations and fundraising.

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