Hitting the Pause Button: Taking a step back to promote Wellness

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(image: https://blogrhiaepoitiers.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/il-est-temps-de-faire-une-pause/)

Last week was particularly tough for me as I have written about and I felt really down. So this week, I decided to hit the pause button and just relax as best as I could, before attending job interviews next week. I am staying at my Dads in the countryside this week and while I have been doing a little bit of job hunting/ applying, I have mainly been resting and trying to promote as much relaxation as possible. I felt so drained and stressed out last week when I received some difficult news and knew I should take a step back in order to promote my wellbeing. I am feeling so much better, after having lots of sleep and not beating myself up over what went wrong.

Sometimes, I think that when we go through hard times, it can be all consuming. Your brain replays the upsetting event and tries to analyse it and think where you went wrong or if you could have done something differently. This week, after several days of this, I have chosen to pause. I have had to, for my own sanity. I am also lucky that even though financially things can be hard, I have the support of my family. Not everyone has that. That has made me be able to be more positive as well. I know that I am one of the lucky ones in that.

Last night, I went to the cinema to see Paddington 2 which was adorable. A very sweet, happy, family movie. Just what was needed really!

I know that things will get better again and am trying to draw on my strength and past experiences to be resilient and move forward. It is never easy. I am hopeful this week that I will get there, and part of that is from pausing and regrouping.

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Raising our Voices: Stigma and Bipolar Disorder (For Equilibrium Magazine Issue 63)

I was asked by Equilibrium magazine, an online magazine dedicated to mental health and wellbeing by those with lived experience, to write an article for them. I chose to write it on stigma and bipolar disorder and here it is. You can also read it online at :   https://issuu.com/antz333/docs/equilibrium_2063

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I am very excited to be writing my first article for Equilibrium. In this article I
will discuss stigma and life with bipolar.

I have lived with bipolar disorder for thirteen years, having been diagnosed at just
sixteen years old. The illness runs in my family, but it was still a shock when I
found myself unwell in hospital as a teenager. Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder,
which means moods can oscillate between depressive lows and manic highs that
can be treated with medication and therapies. When depressed, one might find
oneself feeling extremely negative and unable to do activities previously enjoyed
or, in bad cases, suicidal and unable to cope with life. When in a manic state, one
may be in a heightened hyperactive state, talking fast/not making sense and
unable to sit still. A person may act in ways they would not usually behave when
in a typical state. This can then spill over into psychosis, with delusions and a loss
of touch with reality, which can eventually lead to hospitalisation in severe cases.
There is currently no cure for the disorder; however, mood stabilising medications
such as Lithium, prescribed by a psychiatrist, and courses of therapy can very
much help. It is believed that bipolar may be caused by a chemical imbalance in
the brain, but there is still so much we do not know. It is for this reason that
stigma about the disorder and other mental health conditions, pervades across
the world.

So, what is stigma? Stigma can be defined by the Oxford dictionary as a ‘mark of
disgrace associated with a circumstance, quality or person’. In terms of mental
illness, people fear what they have not experienced, do not know and do not
understand. It is the fear and ignorance that then perpetuates myths about those
who struggle with their mental health.

Due to the sometimes unpredictable nature of mental illness, in our case, bipolar
disorder, fear and stigma are most definitely generated. When people haven’t
been through the suicidal, heart-wrenching lows, and the sometimes equally
terrible highs, they will comment that the person is ‘attention-seeking’ and just
doing it to get a reaction from other people. We have seen this recently when
depressed celebrities, for example singer Sinéad O’Connor (who has bipolar), open
up to the world about their demons. They get criticised, shot down, told they are
being drama queens, silenced, as if their problems are trivial. There is nothing
trivial about serious mental illness or how the brain can trick you into feeling.
There is nothing trivial about feeling so unwell you can’t get out of bed, wash,
live. There is nothing trivial about experiencing suicidal tendencies and not having
support, because support networks are the one thing that keep bipolar sufferers,
and those with other conditions, going. Without my support network, I know I
would find things so much harder.

So, how do we tackle this stigma? In one word: talking. Telling people about our
experiences. Sharing the world of people who have mental health issues and
reflecting it back to wider society, through explaining to non sufferers what its
like to live with a mental health condition. It Is so important to show wider
society the world inhabited by people with mental health conditions. Everyone
is different. Its vital to explain the unexplainable. Talking about our symptoms
but showing how we can reach recovery or what recovery means to us.

I began speaking about my experiences online via my WordPress blog ‘Be Ur Own
Light’ (www.beurownlight.com) about a year and a half ago. The blog began as a
diary, as I was navigating life with a difficult anxiety disorder which made it
difficult for me to hold down a job long term. I still live with this anxiety and am
learning how to manage it. When I first began writing, I did it secretly and only
showed it to close family members and wrote under pseudonyms. I was effectively
testing the waters to see the reaction. I was frightened I would get negative
feedback.

I began writing for charities such as Rethink Mental Illness, Time to Change and
Bipolar UK, under pseudonyms, because I didn’t yet feel able to associate my name
with the illness. I was scared, and I suppose was experiencing some self-stigma. In
thirteen years I had never written about my illness or mental health online,
though I had explained it to close friends. I remember the day when my first
article for Rethink was published –‘Being Jewish and Bipolar’- and getting hundreds
of likes, shares and positive comments. This built my confidence, and, over the
course of a year, I wrote for more charities and even started writing for the
Huffington Post Lifestyle blog and other websites/magazines under my real name.

A month or two ago, I decided to write all my mental health blogs under my real
name. There is still so much work for us all to do to bring down the stigma, but it
starts from raising our voices. We deserve to be heard and we need to talk in order
to make mental health issues ‘normal’ in society and to fight for better treatment.
One in four people suffer, although I would argue the figure is more like one in
two. Together we can battle, speak out and one day beat the stigma.

Eleanor Segall is a mental health writer and advocate, who has written for many
charities and magazines. She currently works for mental health and learning
disability charity The Judith Trust. Her blog ‘Be Ur Own Light’
(www.beurownlight.com) is read globally and tackles her life with mental health
issues and those of guest bloggers. Eleanor can be found on Twitter and Instagram

Mental Health Stigma and the Workplace: Part Two

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(image: Time to Change Wales)

I am going through a particularly challenging, and at times, upsetting period in my life at the moment. This involves job applying and interviewing and facing job rejection. I was recently rejected for a job that I really wanted and knew I could do, having interviewed there and had a positive reaction. It is really hard when you try your best and put yourself out there to follow your dreams, to have it thrown back in your face. There is a blessing in every lesson – as India Arie would say.

For me, in the past, I have had times where I have had periods of sickness off work. These have been due to anxiety and panic attacks as I have written about before. However, I am working on this in therapy at the moment and feeling so much more positive and resilient about work and life in general. I love working, I am good at it and I am able to hold down work and hope I start in a job I love soon.

I have a goal and know I will get there. Its very difficult sometimes when you have time off because it doesn’t matter what its for, the workplace penalises against you for it via sickness records. You are seen as unreliable, incapable and not a good employee, there is job stigma- even if you woke up and had a panic attack and had to force yourself in, it has a knock on effect for the job search and life in general. There is still a stigma as to how you are seen.

So- I have been seeking support to help me in the past month and I feel I know what I am, where I am going and what I want to be. I will keep being resilient in the face of setback and I will achieve my dreams of being a teacher, with the support of loved ones.

It is really tough, it makes me feel low and down on myself- but I will emerge stronger. I hope that one day the workplace changes to see employees with mental health issues as an asset and not a burden. I am also really thankful for my new therapist at the moment- everything will be alright in the end.

Guest Post: Mental Health and Money Worries: ‘The Perfect Storm’ by Consumer Money Worries

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When supporting clients with financial difficulties, not only is it essential we take in to consideration vulnerabilities for regulation purposes but CMW prides itself on the quality of care and diligence taken to support our clients. Mental Health and Money Worries is perfect for us and you- as we are here to ride the storm with our clients.

Our objective is to understand mental health problems and the impact on effective decision making; allowing us to support and signpost to the best of our ability. CMW aims to identify a sustainable pay and plan, ensuring we can positively contribute towards long term mental wellness.

Mental Health and Money Worries is the perfect storm

Mental Health presents unique challenges, this invisible illness can often be difficult to evaluate and understand for both ourselves and indeed the client!  When we support a client with Mental Health and Money Worries we need to understand… ‘1) Is it debt triggering the mental health issues. 2) Mental health issues triggering the debt. 3) Combination of both, fuelled by other factors – We recognise Mental Health and Money Worries go hand in hand.

It’s vital that we address these questions at the point of first contact with the client. We can then develop solutions to best meet their needs and take in to consideration any triggers and special considerations, such as working with a supporting carer.

Creating a Client Support Network to Weather the Storm

There are infinite reasons why a client may be facing mental health related money worries.

In some cases a client may not have previously suffered from or recognised mental health related symptoms or issues, such as anxiety, stress or depression. However, a build of debts and money worries over time may have brought on such issues. It’s therefore important we understand the debt related ‘triggers’ and support the client accordingly, for example they may have bailiffs knocking on the door or pressure from aggressive creditors. Our solutions must address these issues.

Conversely, a client may have built up debts due to time off or loss of work due to long term mental illness. Over time debts have built through no fault of their own.

Finally there is the co existing storm, where both money worries and mental health issues exist and are fuelled by other vulnerabilities and contributing factors such as gambling, alcohol/substance abuse and relationship problems.

All such factors can have significant negative impact on both mental health and debt level and therefore it is vital that our debt counselling solutions are delivered hand in hand with specialist organisations and charities whom can support a clients unique challenges.

 Educate, Inspire and Support – The Journey from Mental Illness to Mental Wellness

From first contact we focus on understanding the unique challenges and vulnerabilities of each client.

We partner with specialist mental health organisations and charities to create a support network for our clients that will provide the education, support and inspiration they need to address their money worries, mental health and vulnerabilities. Guiding them from Mental Illness to Mental Wellness.

Mental Health and Money Worries, riding the storm together!

Letter to my MP: On Mental Health and Talking Therapy Waiting Lists

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(image: Imperial College)

I have just responded to a letter that my MP replied to me today. The other day I wrote to my MP here in London about the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill which aims to stop dangerous restraint in mental health hospitals. This was a campaign through the charity Rethink Mental Illness.

I was sadly less than impressed with the response I received even though it was quick, my MP quoted a lot of figures at me. Now, one of these figures, ‘750,000 more people accessing talking therapies since 2009/10’ really got to me. In 2015, I had a short course of NHS cognitive behavioural therapy which was useful but didnt help my anxiety. However, since late 2015/ early 2016, I have been on the therapy waiting list for talking therapy to help me process the trauma I have been through, Almost 2 years later, I am still on the list and have had to go privately which is less than ideal as you will see in my letter below. I hope it resonates with you and that my MP will use my case study in parliament ( one can only hope):

Dear MP,

Thank you for your swift response to my letter regarding the Mental Health Units Use of Force Bill. In your letter to me, you stated ‘more people accessing mental health services every day….as well as around 750,000 more people accessing talking therapies since 2009/2010’.

As someone with Bipolar disorder who was hospitalised (and sectioned) in 2014 for 4 months, with another 4 months in day hospital due to psychosis and mania, I have been on the waiting list for talking therapy since 2015- almost 2 years ago. When I recently went to a review with my psychiatrist, he said he would speak to psychology for me but that because the service is over stretched I may have to seek therapy via local charities or go privately. Being that I am currently waiting to start work and on ESA, I couldn’t afford private therapy without help from my family and I have had to go private which is grossly unfair due to the trauma I have faced. However, as you state, more people are accessing mental health services meaning that even in someone with a case such as mine, I have had to wait for talking therapy and effectively given up on NHS support in that regard.

I hope you will use my case study as an example in parliament when discussing mental health with Theresa May and your party and would appreciate a response. 

Yours sincerely,

Eleanor Segall

New Look Site on Be Ur Own Light: a Mental Health Recovery Blog!

I wanted to make Be Ur Own Light clearer to access and easier to read aesthetically. I hope you like some of the minor changes to make it more accessible.

Welcome too to all our new followers- we are nearly at 300 on WordPress and over 3,000 on Twitter and over 2,000 on Instagram.

Be Ur Own Light is written to challenge mental health stigma and more posts will be published shortly.

Thanks,

Eleanor, founder of Be Ur Own Light

Starting Therapy and NHS Mental Health Under funding.

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Those of you who follow this blog will know that I was on the NHS therapy list (still on it) for almost 2 years with no therapeutic support. In that time, I worked with an excellent NHS Care Coordinator and a support worker when I came out of hospital but I didn’t have in depth psychotherapy because the NHS list is so long in the area that I live.

This comes down to chronic under funding of a badly needed service. At the moment, finances are strained for me due to anxiety/ panic attacks disrupting my work. So, I was on the list waiting and waiting.

But no help was coming. I was told to speak to charities who did excellent work. But I didn’t feel I wanted group support as I had done group therapy before. My family very kindly agreed to fund a few therapy sessions for me privately because if I had waited and waited for talking therapy- it wouldn’t have arrived. I was seriously unwell a few years ago so I feel for anyone else in my position who has been through a trauma and still can’t get follow up help, in terms of psychological therapy.

Its part of a bigger funding problem here in the UK. Across the board, children, adolescents and adults with mental health issues don’t get enough support in community and sometimes there are waits for hospital beds. I have been lucky enough not to have to wait for hospital treatment when needed or have to go to the other end of the country for it. Yet I know people who have had to, and their mental health inevitably declines.

Back to me for a second. I can’t bash the NHS fully because I had excellent CAMHS care as an adolescent and in the previous borough I lived in. It is only when I have moved borough that I have noticed the strain on the system- more people trying to access it, less staff and less funding, more cuts leading to waiting lists and lack of support. My psychiatry team have generally been excellent, but the psychology service isn’t running fully. As an adult in an NHS hospital in 2014, I had excellent care which was not far from my home.

So this week, I met my counsellor for the first time, who seems lovely, genuine and supportive. I hope that talking through issues and past traumas will help with the emotional undercurrent of my anxiety disorder. It is worth a try.

(Oh and Aladdin the musical this week was completely magical!)

I am also job applying and reaching for my dreams. I just hope and pray that life turns around again and positivity will remain 🙂

Guest post: How nOCD App helps thousands with OCD- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder by Stephen Smith

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In the summer of 2014, I was tired of struggling with OCD, Obsessive compulsive disorder, so I decided to do something about it and begin my app, nOCD. nOCD, standing for “No OCD”, is an online platform that I believe would have helped me during the worst of my struggles and that currently is already helping thousands of others with OCD today. The platform is designed to help people with OCD during all four phases of treatment: 1) coping with the onset of OCD symptoms, 2) selecting a care team, 3) actively managing OCD treatment, and 4) maintaining OCD treatment progress.

My team and I at nOCD are able to address each phase of treatment using a unique combination of highly vivid content and 21st century technology. For instance, people with OCD can view our content on Instagram or Twitter at @treatmyocd and download nOCD for free on the App Store (m.treatmyocd.com/saveslives).

People with OCD say the app has been a major difference maker. It gives people guidance in the moment of OCD episodes, a structured platform to do Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) exercises, a community to talk with others (in beta), and real-time data 24/7. Here is more information about how it works:

  1. SOS Guidance: nOCD offers members clinically effective guidance in the moment of any OCD episode, using OCD specific Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. During an episode, members can hit the button “SOS” on their phone, which tells the app to immediately provide Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (Response Prevention). For instance, if the member is obsessing, nOCD will ask questions such as: “Are you experiencing an Obsession or a Compulsion?”,  “What Obsession are you experiencing?”. “What triggered the Obsession?” And “How intense is your anxiety?” Then, based on the answers, nOCD will offer specific Acceptance Based Therapy guidance, to help the member effectively respond to the obsession without doing a compulsion. We believe the SOS feature can empower people with OCD to live their lives fully, knowing help is always in their pocket.

  2. Structured ERP ExercisesnOCD provides members with the tools and organization needed to consistently do planned OCD treatment exercises regularly and effectively, acting like a mental gym. The main challenge with doing these planned mental exercises is that they instigate anxiety. Since the anxiety alone can reduce OCD treatment adherence rates, the app attempts to remove all pain point. It offers members the ability to create loop tapes, scripts, and drawings. It also has built in exercise reminders and educational tips.

  3. Custom Therapy : nOCD customizes the entire treatment process to each member, helping augment therapy with licensed clinicians. Patients can customise their hierarchies, their compulsion prevention messages (acceptance based messages), their ERP schedule, and more.

  4. 24/7 In-App Support Group :Inside the nOCD app, people with OCD can join different support groups and anonymously post to each groups wall. We’ve created a platform where people can support each other through treatment and learn quickly that they are, in fact, not alone.
  5. Real-Time Data Collection: It collects real-time data about every aspect of the patient’s condition and treatment. It also longitudinally displays the data for every patient and clinician to see at any time. nOCD protects each users PHI data to the highest degree possible. For example, it uses a dedicated (encrypted) Ec2 instance on Amazon Web Services, SSL connection, Touch ID login access, LastPass Password security, and new, monthly, VM keys. nOCD is a HIPAA compliant commercial enterprise.

 

Life Mental Health Update and the Liebster Award!

Its been a really interesting week for me. I firstly decided after not getting the right NHS therapeutic support that I had to take life into my hands in two ways. Firstly, I needed to see if I could get funding for private therapy to help my anxiety and panic attacks about work. I was able to and then I have booked an appointment to see a recommended psycho-dynamic counsellor. I am hoping that my counselling sessions will help the anxiety and fear around certain things.

Secondly, I decided that if I want to live my dreams and have a life that is fulfilling and true to myself, I have to pursue them. Obviously I have to make my dream achievable too so I have been applying for jobs that feel right for me. My dream has been to be a teacher and I hope to get there one day. I have been interviewing for various positions in schools and hopefully the right one for me will come up soon. I will leave it to God and the universe to decide and do all I can.

So, its been quite a whirlwind for me this week and definitely being pushed a little outside my comfort zone, putting my heart and dreams on the line. However, I am really proud of myself for doing this. I have wanted to seek therapeutic help for years and while its a shame I can’t get it for free on the NHS, I hope it helps me to change my life. My family are a great support for me with this. I am starting this week and will see what happens.

So I have been going to job interviews and its really scary being asked so many questions and waiting for feedback. I know though that I can do it and make myself and my family proud (I hope anyway!)

As well as the above, I am very excited to be going to see Aladdin the musical at the theatre with my boyfriend for our anniversary. He is a wonderful support to me and I love disney!

Lastly, a blog friend, the Happiness Hunter https://thehappinesshunt.wordpress.com   has nominated me for the Liebster Award which celebrates new blogs. My blog has been going almost 2 years but I feel so thrilled to receive the award. Thank you so much! Due to time constraints I can’t nominate other blogs for the award but dedicate it to all my blog followers who are battling mental health stigma and writing so amazingly.  

Go and visit the above blog too, its wonderful! Thanks again 🙂

liebster

Guest Post by Arslan Butt: The Invisible Crisis: College/ University students coping with Mental Illness

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(image: EFTO)

“College/ university life,” young, enthusiastic individuals freshly out of school are either excited for this new phase of their lives or tend to think of it as another societal hurdle they need to overcome.

There’s a lot of stress that new students end up experiencing because they’re going into a different educational setting and they want to prove themselves.

Whether it’s worrying about academics or their college-related social life, college/university affects everyone in different ways and thus, comes with its own set of pros and cons. Students are subject to varying levels of stress and other mental illnesses that need to be addressed.

There’s just so much pressure when you’re a first year student. You have this drive to prove yourself but at the same time you don’t want to stand out the wrong way. There’s nothing more stressful than being the student everyone jokes about,” said Stacey Wilson (Film and Digital Media student at Santa Cruz, California).

“Dealing with college/university life is tough enough. Add in the drama that goes on at home and everything just gets tougher for any student,” said Janene Secor (English Major from The Ohio State University)

Youth Are Vulnerable to Mental Health Issues

Parents and students might not have mental illness on their mind when they start college; however, such a period of young adulthood is a crucial one for mental health. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 75% mental illnesses are triggered by the age of 24. Some are triggered in adolescence and some start in college/university.

Furthermore, in 2012, one in five people from 43.8 million adults experienced some type of mental illness. That’s why knowing about mental illness and how it is triggered is important especially when it comes to students.

Around 95% of the directors of the college counselling centre have stated that the number of students with psychological problems in an increasing concern on campus. About 70% of the directors also believe that the number of students who are a victim of major psychological problems has increased in recent times.

Similarly, the rates of depression and anxiety have also increased compared to the previous decade. According to a survey involving college students, being conducted in 2013, found that 40% of men and 57% of women experienced overwhelming anxiety while 27% of men and 33% of women experienced episodes of severe depression that made functioning difficult for them.

Studies also suggest that almost one-third of students fulfill the criteria for depression or anxiety while they are in college.

The Importance of Mental Health Awareness

Depression is stated as the biggest reason of disability across the world which affects around 300 million people globally. Yet, mental health is still stigmatised greatly in our society.

When people talk about their mental illness in society, they can face stigmas although these are starting to fall.

Many studies also agree that to end the discrimination against those with mental ill health, it is important that people are provided with the right education about mental health conditions. 

Furthermore, increasing the accessibility of treatment and screening of psychological problems is crucial for college going students.

In some cases, children that are diagnosed with mental health disorders end up with poor educational outcomes and thus, poor economic outcomes as well. This varies from person to person. 

Offering Students the Support They Need

Research quite clearly states how strong behavioural and mental health supports can improve the life of a student.

When the students get help for psychological problems, then counselling can have a big impact on personal well-being, retention, and academic success.

 

Offering Mental Health Facilities in Colleges

It is being observed that students have started to utilize the counselling services provided by colleges/universities in a much more positive manner and more frequently. However, there has been a stigma-based backlash from a few college administrators and professors that call their students less resilient and needy because the students use these services.

This attitude is the reason why a majority of students refrain from asking for help, and this is what colleges exactly need to eradicate.

Many colleges/universities have started introducing programmes that directly challenge the prejudice and ableism by not discriminating against students that are struggling with mental illness. Colleges should aim to make mental health care accessible to everyone just like UCLA in America has.

Colleges should aim to provide free mental health treatment and screenings for all of their students. UCLA has started off their efforts of educating their faculty and students about mental illness by holding a voluntary sessions for students to determine if they need help with their mental health.

If a student shows signs of depression, UCLA will provide them with therapeutic services for free, according to the chancellor Gene Block. UCLA has also decided to provide their students with an eight-week programme on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which is  a goal-oriented, focused, and short-term therapeutic treatment that asks for collaboration between the therapist and patient. This doesn’t work for everyone, but is a good start. 

Due to the kind of burden a lot of students feel by starting college, it is important that those vulnerable students with mental health issues have the tools and resources they need to cope with stress, anxiety, depression or other psychological issues.

The treatment program, as well as the online screening, is considered as the first campus-wide screening program for mental health conducted at any university. By catching depression in the early ages, officials of UCLA hope to significantly reduce the damage that the illness does in the early-adult years.

Garen Staglin, the co-chair of the leadership council of the Depression Grand Challenge, hopes that the efforts made by UCLA encourage other institutions and businesses to also focus on mental health issues.

The efforts made by UCLA in Los Angeles, USA have not been futile; Larry Moneta, the vice president of the student affairs at Duke University is quite interested in how UCLA will help its students.

I’m incredibly glad about UCLA’s mental health screening initiative. Mental health issues need to be destigmatized, especially in academic settings so students can comfortably seek the help they’re in need of. I hope other’s implement such programs too,” said Katherine Bracken (English and Theatre student at The Ohio State University)

 

Sources:

http://time.com/4473575/college-mental-health-guidebook/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/theory-knowledge/201402/the-college-student-mental-health-crisis

https://hpi.georgetown.edu/agingsociety/pubhtml/mentalhealth/mentalhealth.html

http://www.apa.org/about/gr/education/news/2011/college-campuses.aspx

https://www.bustle.com/p/ucla-will-offer-free-mental-health-checks-to-students-heres-why-its-so-necessary-2360904

https://www.thefix.com/all-incoming-ucla-students-receive-vital-mental-health-assist

http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/ucla-to-offer-free-mental-health-screening-treatment-to-all-incoming-students

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Arslan Butt currently works for https://www.CanadianPharmacyWorld.com, has a passion for keeping up-to-date regarding the latest health and lifestyle trends. He likes going on long walks, trying out new healthy eating regimes, and working out.