Understanding PTSD by Gender: Guest blog by Dale Vernor

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(image: Kennington Osteopaths)

Post traumatic Stress Disorder, better known as PTSD can occur in a person who has experienced or been a witness to an event that is traumatic enough to affect their lives in a negative way. Witnessing a death, a serious accident, war, abuse, being a victim of a crime, natural disasters and childhood trauma can all be causes of PTSD. Many people only associate PTSD with war and veterans, but the truth is an estimated 3.5 percent of the US population suffers from PTSD.

Research has shown that there are differences in the brain when it comes to how men and women process and deal with PTSD. Science is admittedly behind on truly understanding the gender differences when it comes to PTSD and how it is expressed, but there have been some findings.

Men and women respond to stress differently. Men are more likely to respond with a fight-or-flight response in a stressful situation and women are more likely to use a more calming response known as tend-and-befriend.

This is an emotion-focused coping mechanism. It should be noted that there is so little data that stereotypes should not be formed, however, there is enough data to support differences in the genders.

PTSD in Men

Men are more likely to have PTSD due to combat trauma, trauma from natural disasters and disasters caused by human force, some sort of violence and accidents. Based on studies and research men actually suffer more traumatic life events than women on average, however, only 5-6% of men will experience lifetime PTSD. Lifetime PTSD is less prevalent in men than in women. Double the rate of women will experience lifetime PTSD at 10-12%.

PTSD in Women

Women are at a substantially higher risk for PTSD than men. Biology and psychology play a part in why those differences exist. Women are more likely to experience what is considered “high-impact trauma” at a younger age than men.

Women are more likely to experience sexual abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault that leads to their PTSD. It is sexual trauma that puts women at a higher risk for PTSD than men.

Women who suffer from PTSD will also tend to do so longer in comparison to men; on average 4 years to 1. When it comes to seeking help for PTSD women are more likely to seek support for their illness amongst a group. They tend to look for social support.

Symptoms of PTSD Same in Men and Women

The women and men who have this condition often express similar symptoms. Men may display their symptoms in a more aggressive expression where women have shown to retreat internally and avoid the outside world.

Some of the symptoms of someone suffering from PTSD are:

Re-experiencing nightmares, having flashbacks and frightening thoughts that appear real, avoiding people, places and things that may remind a person of the trauma and avoiding feelings and thoughts to cope with the trauma, signs of heighten anger and anxiety expressed physiologically, being hyper-vigilant against threats, difficulty sleeping, experiencing an onslaught of negative feelings, thoughts and judgments, unreasonable blaming of yourself, excessive guilt and a negative perception of yourself in the world, and disinterest in regular every-day activities.

PTSD and Substance Abuse

According to the U.S. National Library of medicine 50-66 % of people who have PTSD simultaneously suffer from addiction. What begins as a means to cope with the symptoms of PTSD, which are distressing, usually turns into a full-blown addiction.

Substances like drugs and alcohol can decrease anxiety in the moment, escape the pain , distract from negative emotions and increase pleasure in the short term. The coping mechanism of substance abuse affects both women and men. There are dual diagnosis treatment centers for people who are suffering from PTSD and substance abuse.

Post traumatic stress disorder, wherever you live in the world and whatever gender you are, can be hard to cope with. Please seek support if you need it and know you are not alone.

This post was written by Dale, a freelance writer specialising in mental health, based in the USA.  He can be found on Twitter https://twitter.com/DaleVernor

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5 Tips for a Mental Health Emergency Plan: Guest blog by Emily Bartels

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(image: http://crmhfoundation.org/self-care/)

 

When it comes to emergency plans, usually we think in a more physical sense, but did you know that mental health emergency plans are important?

Mental health emergencies can be quite stressful, and if you’re in a mental health industry or have any personal concerns about your own health, providing the right help is important.  Here, we will outline important tips to help you create a mental health emergency plan that will suffice.

 

Have a Support system

If you tend to get overwhelmed when an emergency happens, a big way to help reduce the trauma from it is to have a support system. Whoever you are and whereever you work, your own personal triggers and issues are still there. If you’re having issues coping, find a support system- a friend, family member or therapist that can help.

You may want to come up with a plan to help your  responses to situations, especially when disaster strikes. If you do have anxiety and depression, do make sure that you have people that can help around you or reach out for help from a doctor or therapist.

 

Prepare For Emotional Reactions

Another big thing that emergency evacuation plan Melbourne  (in Australia) does point out, is you need to make sure that you have the right idea of what might happen.  You should know when you have chaotic reactions, and what you struggle with when disaster strikes.

Focus on what will help, what might happen when you do suffer from an incident, and make sure to communicate it to others.

Processing information is quite hard in a stressful situation, such as fear, anxiety, depression, or even a panic attack, and you should make sure that, with the group of people you trust or the medical profession, you do speak about what happens. It’s also important to make sure that you properly communicate to others.  While panic attacks and sad emotions do happen, you should know that you probably will be upset about whatever will transpire. But that its OK to feel this way.

 

Be Prepared to communicate

A large part of a mental health plan is to make sure that you communicate your needs. If you need to, make sure that you explain any mental health needs, such as medication you might need, in an emergency, with loved ones.  Its vital to your wellbeing  even when stressful to communicate. Letting others know can help them and you prepare for the worst and take action if needed. You aren’t alone.

 

Keep Contact information on hand

Pharmacies can help you get emergency medication, but making sure that you have the contact information for your provider, any diagnoses, and dosages of medication are important.  Make sure to let some people in your support system know, and also keep those phone numbers on hand in case if the emergency lines are overloaded.

 

Create a Recovery Bag

If you have extra medications, a comfort item, and anything that you can use to help in the case of an emergency or crisis, put it in a small emergency kit, which you can use if you need to attend hospital or appointments.  Remember, emergency kits aren’t just for physical health aspects, but also for mental health.  You need to make sure you’re prepared both physically and mentally for any issues that might transpire so that you’re not suffering.

Mental health during an emergency often isn’t focused on as much as say other aspects of your health. Depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts don’t always go away, and you need to be prepared for that, and reach out for help so you can recover well.

Creating a plan to try and prevent or reduce this from happening with your medical team will help if a mental health emergency comes about. From there, you can get the help that you need in order to stabilise yourself, look after yourself and recover again.

 

This blog was written by Emily Bartels, freelance writer with an interest in mental health and wellbeing.

Happy Third Blog Anniversary! : On Our Third Birthday by Eleanor

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(image : etsy)

Earlier this week, on the 1st March, Be Ur Own Light turned 3 years old! I still remember starting this blog as an outlet for my fears, thoughts and emotions after leaving a job in 2016 due to acute anxiety and panic ( part of my bipolar) . Writing the blog and sharing thoughts has been so therapeutic and it has taken me on  a journey that I could not have imagined when I started writing. As many of you know, this blog led to me writing for big media outlets and to my book deal (book hopefully will be out in November) and I am so grateful for the confidence it has given me too- and the chance to connect with people all over the world.

However, this year (as with the past 2), the blog has attracted a horde of talented writers wanting to spread their messages about mental health and wellness. Some have shared their personal stories of hope and recovery, others have given useful tips on health and wellness  and we have covered topics as wide ranging as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and addictions to drugs and alcohol. We have talked about pet therapy, writing therapy, mindfulness and yoga, amongst other therapies.

My guest bloggers have written about their recovery from mental illnesses like anorexia and bipolar disorder. National campaigns like the Diana Award also got in touch with us to discuss bullying and LGBT issues too and Jami charity asked us to cover their mental health awareness campaign (which I helped set up). Furthermore, Be Ur Own Light has also covered World Mental Health Day and Time to Talk Day this year, featuring personal mental health stories as a way to raise awareness and fight misconceptions.

Thank you to my amazing guest bloggers March 2018-2019 for your fantastic content:   

Donna at Wildwoman Book Club for Self care

Lynn Crilly- Hope with eating disorders (book)

Cordelia Moor- Living with Quiet BPD for Time to Talk Day

Sarah- On Depression for Time to Talk Day

Peter McDonnell-  Managing anxiety and psychosis for TTD

Cara Lisette- Recovery from anorexia and bipolar disorder for TTD

David Welham- Depression and Recovery/  Being a parent of children taking exams

Rachelle Wilber- Treatment for PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)

Brandon Christensen- What is mental health stigma?

Charlotte Underwood- Overcoming Adversity/ The Saviour Complex

Ralph Macey- Managing Bipolar in the workplace

Manmohan Singh- Benefits of Yoga

Alex Sabin- Enjoying the Holidays after Addiction

Spela Kranjec- How to Accept Yourself/ My Journey in surviving Anorexia

Jami charity- Mental Health Awareness Shabbat campaign

Brookman- Avoiding a relationship crisis at Christmas

Sarah Cardwell-  Womens health awareness

Anti Bullying Week, the Diana Award and Everyones Talking about Jamie

Allen- Recovery from alcoholism and mental illness

Lizzie Weakley- How to combat your eating disorder

Posy and Posy- Flowers for wellness

N- Poem on depression- Copy of my Mask

Dan Brown at My Therapy- Suicide prevention on social media- World MH Day

Lydia- On complex PTSD and recovery

Ashley Smith- how Physiotherapy helps with stress and anxiety

Amy Hutson- How Writing Therapy helps

Christine H- What family therapy is really like

Meera Watts- How Yoga enhances your lifestyle

Dawn Prime- How can Animal and Pet therapy help

Bill Weiss- Mental Health Stigma and Drug addiction

Dr Nancy Irwin- Signs your loved one is abusing drugs

Eve Crabtree- The MIND diet for Dementia

James Kenneth- Overcoming mental health challenges

Ellie Willis- A guide to mood disorders

AXA PPP- is social media bad for our health?

Lori Longoria- How baths and spas help relaxation

Tomas Sanchez- can alcohol raise stress levels and affect mental health

Dr Janina Scarlet- Therapy quest book

Cloe Matheson- tips to reduce stress

Paul Matthews- fitness and how it helps depression

Katie Rose- How to help anxiety and panic attacks

Anonymous- on sexual abuse

Kayla Clough- coping with post partum depression

Kara Masterson- 4 tips to begin the fight against drug addiction

Michelle Hannan- 5 tips to boost your immune system

Kevin Morley- Satori Mind- Tips to boost mindfulness

Sara Whitehouse at Stadia Sports-How sport can help mental health

Amy Boyington- How holistic medicine helps mental health

 

Thank you so much to all of you and I am excited to see what 2019 brings for the blog!

2018 was a very special year for me and my writing- being published in Metro.co.uk, Glamour, The Telegraph, Happiful magazine, the Jewish News and several other media outlets. I was featured in articles in Cosmopolitan, Elle, Prima, Yahoo News, Prevention magazine and Refinery29 and guest blogged on other mental health blogs too.

This year on the blog I wrote about my life with social anxiety and work anxiety, winter blues and SAD/ depression, I shared my articles about being plus size and a bride and about my recovery from bipolar disorder. Furthermore, I wrote about the Twitter hashtags I started #mydepressionmeans and #myanxietymeans, to help people feel less alone and share their own experiences online.

On the blog I also reviewed the brilliant book ‘Love and Remission‘ by Annie Belasco by Trigger Publishing, about breast cancer and mental health. Triggers mental health books are great and I read so many that I was unable to review due to time constraints including Depression in a Digital Age by Fiona Thomas and books by Paul McGregor and Ruth Fox.

This year we were given the accolade of being a Top 10 UK Mental Health Blog by Vuelio and were a shortlisted finalist in the 2018 UK Blog Awards (Health and Social Care category). I was also invited to the Mind Media Awards which was an incredible experience and this year, we have been nominated for Blogger of the Year in the Mental Health Blog Awards.

Be Ur Own Light continues to be read globally and I love receiving your messages about the blogs and finding new writers too.  Blogging makes me happy and I hope it helps so many of you too and you love what we do here.

Heres to a productive, wonderful, fun and exciting year of educating and battling mental health stigma too 🙂

Happy 3rd birthday Be Ur Own Light!  ❤ May this be a special year for us

Love and gratitude,

Eleanor    

xxx

eleanortwit

 

How to Enjoy the Holidays after Addiction: Guest blog by Alek Sabin

 

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Socialising during your recovery always requires some effort, and life after rehab always takes some serious adjusting, but it can be especially difficult during the holiday season. The holidays are a time when you reunite with family and friends and spend time at seasonal social gatherings. You may encounter friends from your past times of using, people with whom you have impaired relationships, and social situations that tempt you to compromise your sobriety. In short, despite being one of the happiest times of the year, the holidays can also be stressful and dangerous for sobriety.

While the holiday season is a season of joy and giving that ought to be celebrated, it is important to be on your guard in order to protect your newfound sobriety. In case you find yourself or a loved one struggling to navigate recovery from addiction this season, here are some tips for protecting the sobriety you’ve worked so hard for during the holidays…

 

Know Your Triggers

Take an inventory of what your triggers for substance use are. In the past, did you use when you were hungry, angry, lonely, or tired? Was substance use an outlet for stress? Do you experience cravings most when you are bored or sad?

Whatever your triggers, be sure to take the necessary steps to keep those triggers at bay. If stress is a trigger for you, for example, practice regular stress relief techniques like meditation, even when you don’t feel particularly stressed. If you are tempted to relapse when you are bored, on the other hand, make it a point to plan out your days with wholesome activities and to have a go-to activity for those times when you truly do have nothing to do.

 

Use Your Support System

It is so crucial to set up a support system within your social circle during recovery, and the holidays are a perfect time to take advantage of that support system. Talk to members of your support system, especially family members and friends with whom you may be attending holiday gatherings. Tell them about what struggles you are facing and what you are worried about this season. This will help them remain mindful of you and allow them to help you at those times this season when you need it most.

 

Don’t Be Afraid to Call for Help

Your support system can carry you through the most difficult times of the holiday season. If you are worried about temptations to pick up alcohol during a particular holiday gathering, for example, a friend or family member can refrain from drinking with you or stay by your side throughout the evening to help hold you accountable. If you are worried that spending time with a particular group of people might tempt you to use again, make alternate plans with a friend or family member who understands your recovery.

 

Consider Whether an Event is Worth It

Holiday gatherings can be stressful for a variety of reasons. You have to answer questions about what you have been up to and what’s new in your life. You may encounter people with whom you used to use during times of addiction. You may find yourself around loved ones with whom you are still trying to repair harmed relationships. There are all kinds of reasons to be stress about attending a holiday season event, and for those occasions when you think the stress may be too much, it’s important to recognize when it may be better to miss an event.

 

Make a Plan for Parties

If you do feel that a holiday party will be low-risk enough for you to attend, be sure that you still come with a plan. Bring your own non-alcoholic party drink to sip on if you know alcoholic drinks will be present. Drive yourself so that you can duck out a bit early and have more control over when you leave. Plan out what you will say any time someone offers you a drink at parties. Try to envision which scenarios may arise so that you can be prepared for them.

 

Wear Your Sobriety on Your Sleeve

Finally, make the decision to own your sobriety this season. When someone asks you what is new in your life, go ahead and tell them about your sobriety (only if you feel comfortable doing so, of course.) Talk to them about your journey thus far, in as little or as much detail as you desire. Share what you are looking forward to as you continue your journey. When others see you talk enthusiastically about your recovery, they are sure to respond with similar enthusiasm, offering a shoulder of support and becoming advocates of your recovery.

We are a Vuelio Top 10 UK Mental Health Blog! 2018 Award

Today I got an email from the lovely people at Vuelio to say they have listed us as Top 10 UK Mental Health Blog.

We are number 8, alongside some incredible blogs and organisations such as the Mental Elf and Mental Health Foundation as well as blogger friends of mine- check them all out .

Thanks so much Vuelio! This award is important as it is about being influential in our industry so am so happy to recieve it.

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See the list here: https://www.vuelio.com/uk/social-media-index/mental-health-blogs-uk-top-10/

Do I need Outpatient or Inpatient Treatment for Addiction? Guest post by Alek Sabin

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If you are struggling with addiction, or have a loved who deals with substance abuse, making the decision to seek treatment can be the most empowering decision you make in your life or theirs. Failing to do so can lead to lives and families being torn apart, and even runs the risk of an overdose. Of course, there are a variety of treatment options available, and many who are considering seeking treatment wonder whether outpatient or inpatient treatment is better suited for them. Here is a look at the key differences between outpatient and inpatient treatment.

Outpatient Treatment

This article here does a very good job at describing how well outpatient addiction recovery treatment works. Basically, outpatient treatment is an option that allows individuals to receive treatment that is less intensive than inpatient treatment. It is well suited for individuals who are seeking comprehensive treatment for alcohol or drug addiction, who need more support than weekly counseling but less support than inpatient treatment, and/or who have completed an inpatient programme and need continued support in recovery.

 

How Outpatient Works

Outpatient treatment typically draws on a variety of approaches in order to offer recovering addicts the healing they need. A comprehensive outpatient treatment might involve individual therapy, group therapy, education, and relapse prevention training. Recovering addicts will also explore a variety of therapy approaches, including cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and recreational therapy.

 

Benefits of Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment can offer several benefits. For starters, individuals can receive treatment while protecting certain aspects of their current lifestyle, such as a job, education, or family responsibilities. Outpatient treatment also tends to be more affordable than inpatient treatment since you are not paying for room and board. It can also grant you more access to your family and friends, who might serve as a valuable source of support as you navigate recovery.

 

Different Levels of Treatment

Every outpatient program is different, and there are various types of outpatient programs, each offering a specific level of support. Three of the most common types of outpatient treatment are partial hospitalisation (day treatment), intensive outpatient treatment, and general outpatient treatment.

Partial hospitalisation, or day treatment, is a more intensive form of outpatient treatment that allows individuals to meet for to five days a week for several hours each day in order to receive intensive treatment. Intensive outpatient treatment is somewhat less intensive, and it is primarily for individuals who need an organized treatment program but who can navigate recovery in the course of their everyday activities. General outpatient treatment, meanwhile, is for individuals who require moderate support in order to achieve sobriety.

 

Inpatient treatment

Inpatient treatment, also known as residential treatment, involves the same treatment techniques as outpatient treatment, but it is more intensive because you typically check into a facility and live there throughout the duration of your program.

 

How Inpatient Works

Inpatient treatment draws on the same individual therapy, group therapy, and educational approaches as outpatient treatment, but it can include some more intensive techniques as well. Many recovering addicts seeking inpatient treatment, for example, will first undergo a medically assisted detoxification process in order to manage withdrawal symptoms. Inpatient treatment also involves around-the-clock care, which may be necessary for individuals who are recovering from abuse, trauma, or a co-existing mental disorder.

 

Benefits of Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment can also offer several unique benefits. First, it gives recovering addicts the opportunity to focus on their recovery, without the distractions of everyday life. In addition, since individuals live within the care facility, there is no access to drugs or alcohol, reducing the chances of relapse significantly. Because it is a live-in facility, there may also be more specialized services available, such as a gym facility, yoga classes, acupuncture, or nutritional education.

 

One potential drawback to inpatient care is that it can limit your access to support from family and friends. For this reason, many inpatient programs include a specialized family program where family members can participate in the recovery of their loved ones—all while receiving the healing they need as well.

 

So What Is Right for You?

If you are seeking treatment for an alcohol or drug addiction, it’s important to consider not only the level of care that you need, but also those factors that might try to draw you away from your recovery. If you are living in an environment that is not conducive to a successful recovery, for example, then inpatient treatment may be the option for you, even if you think you may not require that level of care. When in doubt, you should always consult an addiction recovery facility. Many offer free assessments to help match you with the precise level of care that you need.

Please note: each country will have its own differing treatments and care. 

My story of recovery from Alcoholism and Mental illness: Guest blog by Allen

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(image: https://www.rehab-recovery.co.uk)

My name is Allen and this is my recovery journey from alcoholism and mental illness.

On 12th October 2005 I had my last drink of alcohol and the following morning I was admitted to a psychiatric unit.  On reflection I didn’t know what was happening and had no clue what was happening emotionally, physically or mentally just that I was going into hospital for a short stay to get better.

Better from what? Whats happening to me? When can I go home? It was like a constant conversation in my head and I couldn’t turn it off.  Little did I know that I had been admitted because I was a risk to myself and others and I was going to be detoxed from alcohol and drugs.

I was never the world’s greatest drinker but I loved everything about alcohol and now know that since my teenage years,  alcohol was a constant in my life at home, in pubs, on the train to work, in the park, in the toilet, in secret or in the open and it had been that way since teenage life.

So I stayed in that psychiatric unit for 6 ½ months and I was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 (a mood disorder) and prescribed medication to deal with that.  Since that time, I have experienced two courses of electro convulsive therapy, Cognitive behavioural therapy, one to one counselling, 12 step programmes for drugs and alcohol,  taken anti-depressants and anti-psychotics and  read numerous self help books.

This week I will reach 13 years of sobriety- a great achievement considering I couldn’t go a day without alcohol. However,  2018 has seen me admitted into another psychiatric unit, following numerous suicide attempts and thoughts.

I received an additional diagnosis of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder and a dawning realisation that I need to go way back to my early years to start to really understand me. Childhood / teenage trauma, bullying, substance and alcohol misuse, relationship problems, low self-esteem and lack of confidence, financial woes and debts mounted up.

The past 13 years have enabled me with the help of a twelve step programme to manage life, be as good a father as possible, to be a son, brother and uncle, and a friend.

I have been able to hold down a job and  study a degree in Psychology and Counselling,. I became a Mental health first aider and I suppose now I need to look at me and listen to others as to how I can manage my mental health and addiction. I can learn to be the best father I can be to my son and daughter, and focus on what I need to do to alter the cycle of mental illness that has plagued me for so long.  

Long term therapy seems to be the best option and I hopefully begin this process with an assessment very soon. I am so proud to be miles away from where I was in early 2018. Then, I asked a member of the Home Treatment Team (for crisis care) if I could go into hospital. I also shared for the first time that I have heard a voice for most of my life and the voice has made me harm myself.

I am now doing so much better and hope that therapy helps me to heal even more.

Allen is a writer, mental health first aider and mental health worker.

Why Writing therapy helps : Guest Post by Amy Hutson, Counsellor

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(image: Amy Hutson)

I first started using writing therapy without really knowing what it was when I was having a tough time at school. There was something valuable about getting my thoughts down on to a page, instead of spinning around my head that helped to make sense of everything.

Since training as a counsellor many years later, I came across writing therapy and took some training in how to use it with clients. I’ve found it can be very powerful, alongside therapy or even on its own.

But what is writing therapy?

Writing therapy or expressive writing is basically writing as fast as you can without worrying about grammar or whether it makes sense. It might sound a bit odd, but it taps into your unconscious thoughts and can be cathartic writing things down, as well as helping to come up with answers to something you’ve been struggling with.

In the 1980s James W. Pennebaker was the first person to research how writing therapy helps and he set the challenge of asking people to write about their most traumatic experiences over four consecutive days. The results of the study were staggering, people felt much better both mentally and physically. So much so that people made less visits to the doctor at about half their usual rate, after the experiment.

So how can you use writing therapy?

There are lots of different techniques I use with clients, depending on what issue it is we’re discussing or what I think might be helpful to them. But here are a few things you could try at home and if it ever feels a bit too painful what you’re writing, you can stop at any time or write about something that feels safer.

Journalling

If you’ve never tried writing in a stream-of-conscious style of writing in a journal, I’d recommend starting here. Some people like to buy a lovely notebook and find a quiet space to write, sometimes at the beginning or at the end of the day. Then the idea is to write about whatever comes to mind. Even if you start by just writing ‘blah blah blah’, you will probably find something insightful will come up if you just keep writing and don’t stop to think. If writing every day feels too much, you could try writing whenever you feel you need to – it could be you’ve had a really rough day and want somewhere to vent or maybe something incredible happened and you want to record and remember it.

The unsent letter

The unsent letter can be powerful when you want to say something to someone but feel you can’t. It might be you’re angry or upset with someone and you’re holding on to those strong emotions, because you feel unable to share them. So, you simply write everything you want to say to this person in a letter without worrying about hurting anyone’s feelings, because it’s not going to be sent. Writing it alone can really help, but it can also be used as a way of getting your thoughts together before confronting someone in a less emotional state.

If you want to take this one step further, you could write a letter back to yourself from the other person. The results can be surprising, as they can offer another perspective to the situation you might not have thought of.

Quick lists

Writing lists quickly and without editing them can be helpful and used in lots of different ways. Say you’re feeling anxious, you could start a list like:

I’m really anxious about:

  • My new job
  • Lack of sleep
  • Bad diet

Rather than just focusing on the anxiety, writing a list can sometimes help uncover what might be causing it, which you could then explore further in a journal, with a friend or a counsellor.

Another example of a quick list which can help if you’re feeling low is:

Three good things that happened today:

  • I got through the day at work despite little sleep
  • I met a friend for coffee
  • I went to the gym

Writing therapy really helps my clients and it could help you too!

 

Amy Hutson is a counsellor and writing therapist, who offers therapy in Hove and worldwide on Skype. For more details visit www.amyhutsoncounselling.co.uk

 

Can Animals and Pet Therapy help our Mental Health? Guest post by Dawn Prime

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(image: http://www.usatherapydogs.org/)

Can animals help our mental health? Approximately one in four people in England will experience a mental health issue each year (YouGOV). Every mental health issue is individual, and every situation is different; this can be shown in many forms including stress, anxiety and depression. Living with a mental health condition can affect many aspects of our daily life, with many describing it to be a lonely and isolating experience, whilst others withdraw from social interaction.

So, can animals help with mental health? In my experience they certainly can, and the therapeutic power of pets has been well documented. I believe that this is done in a number of ways, from improving mood, to calming down and giving a sense of purpose.

Whether it’s dogs, cats, rabbits or fish – each animal has a way to help and offer great companionship to those experiencing and overcoming mental health.

Mental health benefits associated with pets include:

* Decreased anxiety

* Reduced loneliness

* A known sense of comfort and safety

* A greater improvement of self-esteem and confidence

* Help in depression

At the best of times a pet can be a great source of comfort, companionship and motivation, and in many ways they can help us all to live mentally healthier lives.

Caring for a pet gives our day a purpose and reward, similar to that sense of achievement in say, looking after a child. For example, owning a pet – especially a dog – means you will need to go for walks, which can often lead to conversations with other dog owners along the way, so simply put, it’s helping someone with mental health stay connected and less withdrawn in a social circle. Social anxiety can be a major hurdle to overcome but by having a dog, you have a ready-made conversation, as dog owners like to talk to other owners about their dogs!

Pets can also give owner’s incentive to remain calm – most pets are generally cute or cuddly and have the ‘awww’ factor, however our pets’ mood, at times, can very much reflect our own, so if we feel sad, our pet could be too.

Commanding and teaching our pet brings confidence and reassurance, and in time this will naturally train our own brains to let go of any negative stress. Unlike people, pets won’t judge your illness, so many people find it therapeutic to talk to animals as they listen – remember they are non-judgmental, and who knows they might just understand!

We can take stroking our pet as something we sub-consciously do whilst we watch the TV or read a newspaper, but did you know that stroking a pet can, at the same time, stop our minds drifting into negative thoughts.

Our mind releases feel good endorphins, so can make us feel better and calmer. The simple act of stroking a pet is also well known to lower blood pressure, as well as reducing physical and emotional stress.

Therapy animals also have a valuable role to play; often in a professional setting they provide comfort, support and can help to engage people. Therapy animals are trained to help people with mental health conditions such as depression and provide a calming atmosphere – with a typical therapy session involving the therapist, the animal and their handler.

Therapy pets can include “dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, rats, miniature pigs, llamas, alpacas, horses, donkeys and mini-horses,” as long as they’re at least a year old and have lived with their owner for six months (Pet Partners).

Personally, I have known people whose anxiety has improved since having a pet. They find it very comforting in having some company which isn’t human, and someone they know who will love them unconditionally. It is re-assuring to know that they have a responsibility for looking after someone else that takes their mind off their own problems, whilst having a positive impact on their own well-being – helping them cope with everyday life.

Finally, it’s important to remember that every pet is different and it’s vital to be aware of the commitments they bring, for example a dog will need good walks at least twice a day and a horse will need to be ridden out. If you are not sure about taking on a pet but want the benefits that are associated with being around animals, then there are many local animal sanctuaries which would value a volunteer.

Animals can be wonderful creatures and really therapeutic for our mental health.

This article was written by animal nursing assistant, health advisor and writer Dawn Prime. 

Mental health stigma and drug addiction Guest post by Bill Weiss

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(image: https://understandinginternationalmentalhealth.wordpress.com)

The stigma that some people see looming over drug addiction and drug abuse disorder will prevent thousands of people from getting the help they so desperately need and deserve. Viewing drug abuse as a disfigurement of one’s will and self-worth is very harmful and can leave people in active addiction.

The fear of admitting that they are struggling and the judgment that will face afterward can be catastrophic. It has been scientifically proven that drug abuse disorder and addiction is a disease of the mind and body. There should not be any negative views toward someone when they decide it is time to get help for this issue.

During active addiction, many users will take part in actions that the clean/sober them would never think about doing. From the outside looking in, these decisions and behaviors can seem unusual, most of the time they are.

Watching someone absolutely self-destruct is very difficult. You may just want to shake the person struggling and scream “WHY CAN’T YOU STOP?!”. If only it was that easy.

Drug abuse and addiction is a surface issue, it’s the problem the whole world can see, but over 80% of drug addicts struggle with underlying mental health issues.

 

Mental Health Issues and Drug Addiction  

Far too many of those currently in active addiction have never received proper care to help them with their mental health issues. Anxiety, depression, PTSD and bipolar are the most common underlying mental health issues that can easily influence drug abuse. When one does not receive proper therapy and/or medications to help them with these problems they may turn to drugs for relief. Self-medicating the problem provides temporary relief, but nothing is actually being done to resolve and work on the issues.

The longer someone uses the worse their mental health issues will become. Depressive episodes can turn into suicidal thoughts and ideations. Anxiety can turn into panic disorder. Drugs do not solve the problem, but for someone struggling with mental health issues will find a level of mental peace from the drugs. Even as their life spirals out of control, they may accept it and continue to get high.

This isn’t their fault. Long-term abuse of any narcotic substance will alter the way one’s brain reacts to and handles certain situations. The chemical balance has been thrown out of whack, the drugs now have near complete control.

Breaking free from the powerful grip of these drugs is not easy, especially if the person struggling believes they will be harshly judged as the stigma around addiction follows them.

 

Breaking the Drug Stigma

Accidental drug overdoses are now the number one cause of accidental death in the USA. We are facing a drug epidemic like never before, more US citizens passed away due to a drug overdose in 2017 than in the entire Vietnam War.

As a country we must help remove this stigma, it is literally a matter of life and death. Millions of people are currently struggling with drug addiction, tens of millions of families will be affected. How can you do your part of getting rid of the addiction stigma?

Educating yourself and others about drug addiction statistics and facts will help one truly understand the impact that drugs have had and will continue to have in this country. Drug addicts are not how they are commonly depicted in movies.

Addiction can affect anyone, any sex, religion and financial background can fall victim to substances and mental health issues. It is not just something that destroys the lives of the homeless and the poor. These are mothers & fathers, brothers & sisters, friends, aunts and uncles who are being destroyed by these terrible substances.

If someone you care about is currently struggling with drug abuse/addiction the best thing you can do for them is to let them know that you are there for them whenever they are ready to get help. While you may not 100% understand what they are going through, you know that they need help and that’s all that matters.

It is strongly suggested by most medical professional that anyone struggling with drug abuse or addiction issues gets professional help from a drug treatment center.