Guest Interview with Mark Simmonds: Author of ‘Breakdown and Repair’ mental health book.

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(image: Mark Simmonds and Lucy Streule)

 

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What inspired you to write a book about yours and your daughter’s journey with mental health?

It was July 2017 and I was attending a summer party, hosted by the Marketing Society, the organisation that brings together business people working together in the areas of marketing and advertising. Gemma Greaves, the CEO, was delivering a speech, during which she announced that the Society was going to join the mental health crusade. This seemed odd, slightly incongruous. But then it dawned on me that times had changed. Mental health was no longer the taboo topic it was when I suffered my mental breakdown back in 2001.

Everyone was talking about it now. I also had another 16 years’ experience under my belt, including caring for Emily, my daughter, who suffered from anorexia from 2012 until 2018. So, I had no excuse but to come out of the mental health closet and leave a legacy of sorts to the world. And even if that book helped just one person, then it would have been worth the effort.

 

How did you manage to recover from your stress, anxiety and break down, what helped you?

It was the 19th July 2001. Extreme stress at work had brought on the panic attacks, which were soon followed by a mental breakdown and the onset of severe agitated depression. I was no longer communicating with my wife or my three young children, even though we were all living under the same roof. That morning, I went cycling down a country road. My brain felt like a jumble of spaghetti when I collided with a 10-ton truck. It appears I tried to take my own life.

That’s how I recovered from the breakdown, because when I woke up in the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford a few hours later, the dense fog seems to have lifted. From that point onwards, I began to behave like a normal human being. No idea why. The physical impact caused by the accident to my brain? The awful realisation that I had come within a whisper of losing my life, my wife and my kids. There are far more conventional ways of recovering from breakdowns, but that was mine.

How did I recover from stress and anxiety? To be honest, I haven’t! I have simply learned to manage it over the years. I have put banisters in place that help keep me on the straight and narrow: I pick the right working environments, I manage my own expectations and set realistic goals. I satisfy my needs as an introvert. I take medication. I sleep well, eat well, exercise enough. But like all mental illnesses, be aware that it’s always lurking in the bushes, ready to pounce at moments you don’t expect.

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(image: Mark Simmonds and Lucy Streule)

Did you find that Emily received good care and how did you help support her?

Yes, Emily received excellent help and support both from the NHS (Buckinghamshire Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, the Highfield Unit and Cotswold House, Oxford) and from the Cardinal Clinic near Windsor. The dedication and professionalism of all the staff was outstanding and they did their absolute best to help Emily through the illness. But here is the thing. The quality of the support and the hours spent coaxing a patient back to health have little effect or impact until that patient wants to recover.

It took Emily 6 years to decide that she had had enough of anorexia. and it was only then she finally got better. Anorexia (or Ana as we ‘affectionately’ called her) was a brutal enemy, unforgiving and merciless. More than a match for even the most qualified, most experienced doctors, psychiatrists and counsellors.

 

As a father, what was it like to see Emily struggle with anorexia and to try and save her at the time?

I have suffered from depression at various stages in my life and have experienced living at the bottom of the dark pit where Emily found herself. So, it was painful to watch her suffer because I knew exactly what she was feeling. The upside was that I was able to empathise and sympathise with her. I got it. And the way in which I talked to my daughter and tried to support her was more in line with what she needed. People who are suffering from mental ill health don’t respond very well to rational or logical arguments because their brains are temporarily ‘broken’. The neurotransmitters are not connecting with one another. They need lots of hugging, hand holding, being listened to and loved. An irrational and emotional approach is more effective than a rational one.

Where are you both now in terms of recovery?

As far as my daughter was concerned, it was just 12 months ago when the full-blown Anorexia Wars came to an end. We are all fully aware that war could break out again sometime in the future. As a good friend described it, all we could hope was “that Ana will get incarcerated and gagged in small section deep in Emily’s brain, a high security area from which she can never escape.”

Thankfully, at the moment, our daughter is flying high. She is living and working in London for ITV, eating well, drinking alcohol in moderation (trust me that is a positive thing!), firmly back on track.

As far as I am concerned, life is great. As I mentioned earlier in this piece, I don’t think that you ever escape fully from either stress or anxiety, but I am determined not to let it get in the way of doing great things, trying new stuff, taking risks, saying things that you might regret, taking on people with whom you don’t agree. I want to make sure I end up under the right tombstone.

 

How has reaction to the book been and how was the writing process?

The writing process was a joy! I loved more or less every minute of it. Working closely with Kasim, my editor at Trigger to agree the overall shape and structure of the book, researching stories and expert perspectives/points of view to add colour, collaborating with the wonderfully talented graphic designer, Lucy Streule, around the illustrations. And spending hour after hour with my wife and family editing, tweaking, improving the book. A wonderful experience.

The reaction has been great, both from friends and from people I have never met.

Alastair Campbell comes into the latter category and he kindly agreed to endorse my book. This is what he said: “I loved this book and devoured it in a single day. Whether on his own illness, his mother’s or his daughter’s struggles, Mark writes clearly and without sentimentality. He is brutally honest about the reality of mental illness across the generations with important insights about how to survive it. Though it is filled with sadness and heartbreak, ultimately his story is a testimony to the power of love and of the human spirit.”

 

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Mark Simmonds published his first book, Breakdown and Repair, with Trigger Publishing, in March 2019 (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Breakdown-Repair-Fathers-Success-Inspirational/dp/1912478994). It provides a full account of his daughter’s struggle against anorexia and is illustrated by Lucy Streule. It also talks candidly about his own experiences with mental ill health.

You can also follow Mark on Instagram (mentalhealthmark).

 

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How to keep your loved one’s memory alive after their passing: Guest blog by Nat Juchems

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The passing of a loved one is one of the hardest things most of us will have to go through. A huge element of the grief you feel is attributed to the worry that your late friend or family member will no longer exist in your life. 

The fear of losing the connection you once shared is a devastating prospect. But in reality, you simply need to realize that the power to keep your loved one’s memory alive is in your hands.

Although they may no longer be here physically, their legacy and your connection with them can live on. To a certain extent, letting your loved one go and acknowledging their passing is healthy but so is allowing yourself to remember and maintain a connection with them.

Creating a special way for you and others to remember your loved one member can go a long way to helping cope with grief. While it may be too painful to think about being proactive about keeping their memory alive in the immediate days and weeks following their death, when you’re ready, these ideas will help.

 

  1.     Include them in special occasions

After the death of a loved one, special occasions sometimes just don’t feel the same. You often feel the sense that someone is missing. In reality, they are missing and you don’t need to pretend that they are not. Instead, acknowledge their absence by making an effort to include them in celebrations like Christmas and Thanksgiving.

Creating a new tradition in their honour is a great way to do this. For example, if your late loved one liked to jog, go for a family jog on Christmas morning. Alternatively, you can visit your loved ones’ memorial as part of your celebrations.

The key here is to remember that you are including them, rather than dwelling on missing them. The first time, it will likely be harder than any subsequent occasions, but in time you will be able to do this with positivity in your heart, rather than extreme sorrow.

 

  1.     Celebrate their birthday

One surefire way to help keep your loved one’s memory alive is to celebrate their birthday. Unlike certain other events, their birthday is the one day of the year that is a celebration of them, and only them. You don’t need to throw a party but doing something small, like having an intimate dinner or buying a birthday cake and singing happy birthday as a family can really create a wonderful sense of remembrance.

 

  1.     Continue doing the things you loved together

So many people simply stop doing things that they used to do with their loved one, but it’s so important that you continue. If your loved one was still here, they would likely still be doing it. By carrying on for them, you help them live on through you. Not only that, doing this acts as a way to soothe your soul and help with your own grief; many happy memories will come up, reminding you of times you did the activity together.

 

  1.     Set up a memorial

Realistically, the very foundation of keeping your loved one’s memory alive relies upon you actually remembering them. Now, that’s not to say that you would ever forget them, but as time passes, you may forget to remember them. As unlikely as that may seem now, the frequency of flashes of them in your mind decreases with the passing years. By creating a permanent memorial to them, you will always have somewhere to go, to celebrate them, to remember them.

Your memorial site doesn’t necessarily need to be in the place where they were laid to rest, you can set up a special area in your home or even plant a tree in your garden. If your loved one was cremated, you can give a cremation urn pride of place within your memorial, or you can simply include their picture and other personal items.

 

  1.     Embrace their passions

One of the best ways to immortalize your loved one is to continue their passions or projects for them. If they were a volunteer, you could start to volunteer. If they loved the theatre, you could take some theatre classes. If they wanted to visit a certain destination, you could take a family vacation to that location. These gestures don’t have to be grand, but by acknowledging their passions and taking action to continue them to some extent in their honor, you will be actively creating a powerful way to help them live on.

Losing a loved one is never easy but keeping their memory alive can give you some semblance of peace. While it may feel that simply remembering pales in comparison to actually having them with you, it is vital that you don’t remain in that negative mindset. Grief manifests in a number of different ways and the ‘stages’ vary in length and intensity for each of us. Just remember, when you’re ready, the best way to remember them is to do the things which honor their memory and keep them alive within your heart. 

 

Nat Juchems is the Marketing Director at Green Meadow Memorials, Nat helps those grieving the loss of a loved find the right memorial to cherish.

Before becoming the Marketing Director at Green Meadow Memorials, Nat worked for six years in the memorials ecommerce industry as a Marketing Director and Ecommerce Director, using his skill set to manage powerful paid search and organic search campaigns as well as implement merchandising strategies and manage the software development teams that made everything work.

A guide to Therapies and finding the right one for you: Guest blog by the Worsley Centre

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(image: Quotir)

If you find yourself at a point in life where you think you might need to seek some professional help, then the decision as to which therapy is right for you can be a daunting one. At its worst, depression and anxiety related disorders can take away our ability to make rational, informed decisions, so how could you possibly know which one is right for you? 

There’s no definitive way of knowing, and even if you start one course of therapy, only to discover it isn’t for you, it’s important to remember it’s not a one-size-fits all decision. If you’re trying to take a long-term approach to taking care of your mental health, then you need to take the time and effort to find the appropriate course of treatment to meet your needs. 

So here’s a basic guide to some of the most common therapies, and how they might be able to help you (although it’s worth bearing in mind that this isn’t an exhaustive list). 

Counselling 

This might sound like a catch-all term to describe all of the therapies below, but actually counselling is subtly different from other types of therapy. Counselling can often be a useful short term strategy to cope with events in our lives which can, quite understandably, cause mental health stresses. These can include bereavement, miscarriage, sudden redundancy, relationship problems or problems with infertility. Counselling sessions normally last for 6-12 weeks, though they can of course be tailored to every individual person’s needs. 

Psychotherapy 

Psychotherapy is primarily a talking therapy, but may also utilise art, writing, music or drama. Psychotherapy can help with a range of conditions, including anxiety, stress, depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder. This therapy aims to teach you to manage painful emotions and relationships more successfully. 

Psychotherapy basically involves talking with the patient, discussing strategies to solve problems and changing behaviour. 

It’s worth noting that most of the other therapies in this post are forms of psychotherapy. 

Psychodynamic therapy 

This is a form of psychotherapy which focuses less on the patient-therapy relationship. Patients are told to speak freely and openly about any issues that come to mind, whether it be fears, anxieties or desires. It is a more short-term incarnation of psychotherapy. It’s often used to treat people with serious depressive disorders, or who may struggle to forge meaningful relationships in their lives. 

Interpersonal Psychotherapy 

Interpersonal psychotherapy is a short-term form of psychotherapy treatment. It’s very structured, and includes a lot of homework and continuous assessment. It primarily looks at ways depression can be triggered by changes in relationships to others, such as bereavement, or relocation. 

It will usually start with a 1-3 week assessment of symptoms, as wells as social history and the patient’s relationships. The therapy aims to come up with treatment strategies to deal with problem areas in a patient’s life; over the course of the treatment the emphasis of these problem areas might change, as will the therapist’s strategies. IPT is a relatively young form of psychotherapy treatments. 

 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy 

Cognitive behavioural therapy is a short-term form of psychotherapy which puts its focus on problem solving as a way of breaking certain thought patterns and modes of behaviour. It’s very much a therapy which focuses on the here and now, as opposed to trying to look for explanations of present day behaviour in past events. CBT has proven to be effective in the treatment of anxiety and panic disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias and obsessive compulsive disorder. 

CBT works on the concept that a person’s perception of a certain situation determines their and feelings, and hopefully break free of unhelpful patterns of behaviour. 

Mindful Based Cognitive Therapy 

This is another form of cognitive therapy which incorporates mindfulness strategies and breathing exercises into courses of treatment. Mindfulness techniques use breathing and meditation to place people in the present moment, and MBCT uses these techniques to encourage patients to deal with overwhelming or stressful situations.  Again, it aims to break unhelpful thought patterns which can lead to recurrent episodes of depression or anxiety. As well as mindfulness, patients are taught to understand the relationship between how you think and how you feel. 

Neuro-Linguistic Programming Therapy 

Neuro-linguistic programming focuses on behaviour modification techniques to help improve a client’s sense of self-awareness, confidence and communication skills. Again, it helps people to understand that the way they operate in the world is in turn affected by how they view of the world. 

It’s often used to treat phobias, help people deal with self-esteem problems, post-traumatic stress disorder and is designed to help patients understand the workings of their own mind. 

Couples and Family Therapy 

The title of this therapy is relatively self-explanatory, but basically it encourages individuals to resolve problems in the context of family units, or as part of a couple. This helps people to better understand their role within a group dynamic, and how their actions affect the other person within a family or couple. 

During the therapy, family members are encouraged to work together to solve a problem which may be directly affecting a family member, with each person encourage to express their thoughts and feelings in an open and supportive forum. Family and couples therapy is geared towards making different family members empathise with one another, understand each other’s point of view, and switch roles where necessary. 

The ultimate goal of family and couples therapy is restore healthy relationships. This branch of therapy essentially believes that family life is like being part of a system, which is only as strong as the individual within it. Family and couple therapy ultimately aims to restore balance to this system. 

These are, arguably, the most well-known and high-profile forms of therapy. As outlined at the beginning of this article, it’s not an exhaustive list; there are many more specific types of therapy which may prove to be the right one for you. It’s also worth mentioning that it’s perfectly normal to try a few of the therapies on this list, as it might take a few referrals before you find the right one for you. 

The Worsley Centre offers counselling and psychotherapy sessions for couples, individuals and groups in the Greater Manchester area. 

https://theworsleycentre.com/ 

 

Coping with the Anxiety and Stress of Becoming a Single Parent : Guest blog by Emerson Blake

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(Image: Jordan Whitt at Unsplash)

About one-in-five children in the United States live with an unmarried parent; a percentage that has more than doubled since the late 1960’s and one that is slowly on the rise. While many people have children with the idea, and hope, that they will raise their kids alongside their partner, there are some situations in which parenting becomes a party of one. Whether the reason be due to the death of a spouse/partner, divorce, or in some cases, abandonment, the transition to taking over the job alone can be challenging. 

There are many stressors that can be faced by single parents, including: 

  • Visitation and custody problems 
  • Continuing conflict between the parents 
  • The grief of losing a spouse or partner 
  • Effects of the breakup or loss on the child’s peer relations
  • Less opportunity for the parents and children to spend time together
  • Potential problems when entering new relationships 

The increase in daily stressors can not only negatively impact the family relationships, but it can also cause an increased level of stress and anxiety on the parent that is now learning to navigate the new territory of single parenting. 

The fear of the unknown, the stress of trial and error and the anxiety about what the future holds can make the transition into single parenting emotionally stressful. While you may feel as if you are entering into a world full of the unknown, there are some ways you can aid in coping with the stress and anxiety that this major change can bring. 

 

Find Sources of Support 

Maintaining positive support systems will be a crucial part in transitioning to a single parent household. While many parents may feel as if they have something to prove by showing that they can handle the change on their own, they are likely to feel deeper effects of the stress if they choose to not accept the help of others. Welcome the help of your family and friends with open arms and don’t be afraid to vocalize when you feel like you need assistance. Whether that be asking a family member to help out while you run a few errands or taking the time to talk about your feelings with a close friend on your drive home from work; realizing you have the support of other people and utilizing that will help alleviate some of the stress and anxiety. 

There are also other forms of support available should you be interested in seeking them out. Finding a support group for single parents will allow you to find others who are in your same situation and understand the struggles, allowing you to build a friendship based on commonalities. Not only will this support group be good for you, but it will also assist in bringing other children into your child’s life that they can play with and learn from! 

 

Take Time for Yourself 

While becoming a single parent may give you the illusion that you no longer have time for yourself, it is important that you do make personal time a priority. Time spent away from your children is actually good for you and them. As parents, we constantly feel the need to put our children’s needs above ours; however, taking a little bit of time for ourselves occasionally is a healthy desire and can have a positive impact on our overall mental health. These don’t have to be costly, extravagant gestures. Here are a few simple ideas of things that you can do for yourself as a single parent: 

  • Indulge in a good book – set aside some time for yourself each night to escape into a completely different world by indulging in a book that interests you, inspires you and teaches you. 
  • Take a hot bath – there’s nothing nearly as relaxing as a long, hot bath at the end of a stressful day. Consider adding essential oils to your bath or using a bath bomb to really get yourself feeling calm and relaxed. Both of which are commonly used to alleviate stress and anxiety. 
  • Plan a dinner with friends – part of maintaining yourself is keeping a social life. Adult interaction is well-deserved after a day spent at home with the kids. Feeling like you have someone you can talk to who understands and relates to you is helpful in opening up about any stressors or anxiety you are currently feeling and need to get some advice on. 

 

Stay Consistent 

Sticking to a daily routine will keep the structure and will help you and your children feel more secure. While things don’t always go according to plan, maintaining a schedule is a healthy way to set expectations for your family. Focus on scheduling meals, chores and bedtimes at regular times – especially during the week days with school and work. Keeping discipline consistent across families that have divorced or separated parents is also a suggested way to remain consistent. Children that rotate between each of their parent’s houses likely experience a lot of inconsistency between schedules and routine; so, agreeing to discipline the children the same way will bring about some level of familiarity across each home. 

Much like many other times in life, learning to take on a new role and live a new kind of lifestyle can be anxiety and stress-inducing. The major change of becoming a single-parent can impact everyone in the family, so it is important to ensure efforts are made to make the transition a little bit smoother for everyone. As the parent, we will likely be affected in many different areas i.e. financial status, relationships, routine, schedule and workload, which is likely to make the stress and anxiety almost overpowering.

Welcoming the support of friends and family, making time for yourself and sticking to a routine are all natural and healthy ways to cope with the adjustment. The stress and anxiety that come along with change are common, but ensuring you take steps to aid them will benefit you, your family and your mental health in the long run. 

Guest blog written by Emerson Blake, Freelance writer from USA

 

How Horses can help Mental Health issues through Equine Therapy: Guest post by Lyle Murphy

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(image: Unsplash.com)

Modern medicine continues to reveal new complementary treatment methods that enhance the health care solutions we rely on every day. Equine assisted therapy is one of the most exciting and versatile treatment methods available. Research published in medical journals support the use of equine assisted therapy as an essential part of holistic mental health treatment for conditions as varied as autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, and anorexia.

Despite longstanding success in using therapeutic horseback riding and other equine assisted therapy techniques in health care treatment, many people aren’t familiar with the benefits. This information is especially relevant for parents caring for children who have mental health problems. Read on to find out exactly how therapeutic riding can make a huge difference in a patient’s quality of life.

Understanding Equine Assisted Therapy 

Equine assisted therapy actually covers a wide range of activities and therapeutic techniques that leverage the unique dynamics between a patient and a horse. Treatment methods are supervised and directed by a medical professional, differentiated from recreational equine activity through a local ranch or social club.

Horseback riding has been shown to contribute to the development of improved coordination and balance, directly aiding the physical rehabilitation process. Additionally, activities like grooming and feeding can help to improve motor skills and problem solving. More advanced treatments may be performed under the direction of an equine therapy specialist.

Equine Assisted Therapy Treats Several Mental Health Issues 

This list is by no means an exhaustive account of all the medical conditions that can be treated with equine therapy. Instead, it provides a sense of the how broadly the treatment is already being utilized.

Across the country, equine therapy has already been incorporated into mental health treatment plans for adults dealing with:

       

  • Mood and behavioral disorders
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Trauma and grief
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Sex and gambling addictions

Holistic Mental Health Care Through Equine Therapy 

Successful engagement with a horse is a physical, social and emotional challenge. That’s why it’s such an ideal complementary treatment for patients dealing with mental health issues. By working through the demands of horsemanship under the guidance of an experience medical professional, patients are able to work to build better habits and develop strategies for managing their symptoms.

 

Identifying Emotional Triggers 

One of the most important benefits of equine assisted therapy is the relationship between a patient and their horse. Horses are extremely sensitive to human emotions, making it difficult to ride if a person’s emotions are running wild. The plus side is that this sensitivity can also be used to identify emotional triggers and help patients discover the root of their mental health issues.

Building Communication Skills 

Due to their sensitivity to emotion, herd animal social dynamics, and relatively high intelligence, horses are strong communicators. They can also be easily agitated, making it important for patients doing equine assisted therapy to practice keeping their emotions in check. These lessons in self-control help the patient build skills they will likely rely on for the rest of their lives.

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(image: Unsplash.com)

Overcoming Physical Challenges 


Even the act of getting into a saddle requires are certain level of coordination. Unrefined motor skills are a very common symptom of a wide range of mental health problems. As a result, equine assisted therapy puts a focus on refining physical skills.

Gaining Confidence Through Goal Setting 

Ultimately, becoming a good horseback rider requires individuals to master a long list of skills. The step-by-step process of learning to ride also naturally provides a set of goal posts for patients to reach for and overcome. The opportunity to set goals and achieve them is an important part of the emotional development process and a key perk of equine assisted therapy.

Explore More Equine Assisted Therapy Benefits 

Another advantage of equine assisted therapy is that it offers patients an alternative, promoting holistic care. There is a time and place for medication, but  I believe that the current cultural climate pushes for treating most conditions with pills and often fails to take a more holistic approach.

About the Author:
Lyle Murphy is the founder of Alternative to Meds Center, a holistic medication tapering and addiction treatment facility in Sedona, AZ. Lyle has dedicated his life to holistic mental health.

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

Beginning the Conversation: On my Mums Depression- Guest post by Sarah for Time to Talk Day

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Note : Please read with care- Trigger warning (suicidal thoughts)

When a topic of conversation hits the mainstream, it becomes easier to understand and it spawns more conversations. It snowballs.

Right now, we’re living in a time when society is more open than ever about mental health. Issues are not swept under the rug (as much as they used to be, at least), and life-changing conversations are being had. For me, these conversations on Time To Talk day tend to be amongst friends. It feels…easier, to be open with them.

But what about having a discussion with your parents? What is it like to talk about mental health with a mother or father who has struggled, or currently is struggling with their mental health?

It’s tough. I will tell you that now. But it is important.

I know this because my mum has had depression for 12 years. The best way that I can describe her depression, whilst remembering that every experience is unique, is that it is like a cloud. Some days it can be lighter, and almost brighter, though still casting some shade.

Other days it can be dark, foreboding, and cast its shadow over any and all. The darkest time for her, and for our family, was at the beginning of her depression. It was during that time that I nearly lost my mum at 14.

I could almost say that she actually was lost to our family, if only for a while. I lived with a woman who looked like her, and sounded like her. But her words and actions were foreign and strange to me. Her drive and her energy seemed to vanish overnight, and a woman sitting in the dark, who felt like she had nothing to give, took her place.

I remember going to school, walking past her open bedroom door and saying goodbye to her as she lay in bed. At that time, when I asked her if she would be getting up that day, the only response I heard was:

 

“No.”

 

Those conversations were short. They definitely weren’t sweet.

She struggled. I struggled. My brother struggled. My dad struggled. We were desperate for her to get better, and feared that she’d never make it out of the dark. Eventually, with help though, she did. But, while she is now in a better place, there are still highs and lows.

Because I was so young at the time, I never really spoke to my mum about her illness. Life carried on for me, and a new status quo emerged. But over time, we began to talk.

They still weren’t nice conversations, but they were a start. My mum told me how she felt suicidal, as she lay there in bed. At the time, she said it so matter-of-factly that it sounded blasé to my teenage ears. This revelation stung, and I couldn’t understand a simple question. Why?

Why would she want to do this to me? Why would she want to leave her two children without a mother? Why would she want to leave behind a husband who loved, cared for and adored her? These questions swam in my head for years, and I was incredibly angry with her as I saw it as some form of maternal betrayal. I thought she was selfish.

As I’ve gotten older and talked to her even more about this, my views have changed. I realised that my response was selfish. She explained to me that her depression made her feel so worthless, and so useless, that she would in fact be doing us all a favour by leaving our lives.

I’ve also realised that I’m incredibly lucky, because a lot of parents sadly succumb to this insidious disease. This needs to change.

That’s why I’m writing about this today.

That’s why I still talk to my mum about how she’s feeling. That’s why my brother calls me and lets me know when she’s feeling low, which is a common occurrence in winter for a lot of people with depression. As I live far from home, he reminds me that a quick conversation to ask about her day, tell her about mine, and maybe even make her laugh makes all the difference.

If you are, or have been in my situation, I urge you to talk to your mum or dad. I urge you to talk to your friends and family, because it can be a huge burden to carry alone. It’s like I said, when more people talk about something, it becomes easier to understand. When we understand the problem, we can start to treat it.

If you’d like to find out more about having these conversations, you can do so by visiting the Time To Talk website. They have a range of materials that can help you take that first step, and start talking.

This article was written by Sarah, a mental health writer for Time to Talk Day 2019. You can find her at : 

http://pandorashealth.co.uk/

https://twitter.com/PandoraHealth

www.instagram.com/pandorashealth/

What is Stigma? Guest post by Brandon Christensen

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What is Stigma?

Stigma is a mark of disgrace that sets a person apart from others. When a person is labelled by their mental illness they are often no longer seen as an individual, but as part of a stereotyped group. Negative attitudes and beliefs toward this group create prejudice, which can lead to negative actions and discrimination.

The sad truth is that mental illness is widely misunderstood. Those who suffer have been called names, been blamed for their condition, and isolated. Stigma, and the feeling of shame that it brings, often prevents people from seeking help and treatment for their disorder, even when it is desperately needed. It is crucial that all of us in the mental health community raise our voices and fight to eliminate stigma. If you are not sure where to get started, here are some of the best ways you can work towards reducing stigma in your community.

Ways to Reduce Stigma

1. Become educated and teach others about mental health

Educate yourself about mental health needs so that you are best equipped to discuss them openly! By learning the facts instead of the myths, you will be able to educate others. As you learn more, keep an eye out for opportunities to pass on the facts with friends, family members, or coworkers. If you see someone struggling, encourage them to seek the help of a professional therapist.

2. Encourage equality between physical and mental illness

Unfortunately, not everyone sees mental illness as important as it is, which is why it is so widely misunderstood. People would never shame someone who has the flu, so why does this happen with mental illness? Reminding people of the equality between physical and mental illness is a great way to reduce the stigma and find parity of esteem!

3. Show compassion and get involved

Always remember to treat people who have mental health problems with dignity and respect. Think about how you’d like others to act towards you if you were in the same situation. A simple act of asking a friend or family member how they are doing can make their day and remind them that you care. One of the best ways to show compassion within your community is to get involved with a local non-profit organization that’s working on Stigma Free initiatives!

4. Fight stigma when you see it

You probably see and hear stigma in the public more than you realize. Start paying attention to situations that might be perpetuating this. For example, if you see something online or out in your community that sheds negative light on mental illness, take action and say something rather than turning the other way. Make sure your words and language come from a place or caring and concern, rather than confrontation.

It is so important to the mental health community that progress is made in eliminating the stigma that still surrounds something everyone deals with in one way or another – mental health.

By coming together to fight this common cause, we can make a global impact on how disorders are perceived in society. No matter how you contribute to the movement, you can make a difference by following just one of the tips above and committing to live stigma free!

Author Bio

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(image: Brandon Christensen)

Brandon Christensen is a passionate business leader and mental health advocate who is on a mission to leave the world a better place than he found it. Brandon is the co-founder of Modern Therapy, a tele-mental health company. Brandon has been featured as a keynote speaker onmental health topics at colleges like NYU, Skidmore College, and Columbia University. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Ramapo College of New Jersey.

Website: www.moderntherapy.online

Instagram: @moderntherapyonline Facebook: moderntherapyonline Twitter: @_moderntherapy

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/

What’s Family therapy really like? Guest post by Christine H

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(image: Christine H)

Therapy is growing more and more accepted as a mainstream practice, rather than a scary, stigmatised ordeal. After all, it’s important to take care of mental health, and sometimes, we could all use a little extra help.

However, when it comes to any kind of therapy, it can still be scary. We don’t know what to expect, and we worry that we’ll be forced into something that makes us too uncomfortable. This can especially true in the case of family therapy. Often, family therapy is utilised when one or more family member confronts a serious mental health challenge (such as, for example, bipolar disorder, addiction, or major behavioural issues) that affects the rest of the family.

So, in order to dispel some of the misunderstandings surrounding family therapy, and to perhaps help people become more comfortable with it, here are some important things to know:

 

There May Be a Mix of Alone and Together Time

Contrary to popular belief, family therapy isn’t just going to be your family talking in a circle with a therapist the whole session. Well, maybe sometimes it will be. But other times, “family therapy” refers to a lot of different compilations of relationships within your family. Parents may talk with the counsellor separately, and then a child who has been the primary subject of therapy will talk with the therapist, and then perhaps the counselor will enable a conversation between the child and parents in order to share information that needs to be shared.

Additionally, family therapy is most effective when all family members are utilising therapeutic tools to get what they can out of the experience. For example, often in the case of addiction, support groups are available for both the person struggling with addiction, and for the family members who are affected by it. In these separate group therapies (which you can learn more about here) family members can gain new perspectives which will empower them to return to family therapy with the information they need to make it a productive venture.

 

Information that You Want Confidential Can Be Confidential

During all the mix-match of family therapy modules, many individuals are wary about sharing information with the counselor if they don’t want it to be shared with the whole group. And although this might sound kind of shady, it’s not just about keeping major secrets. Often, it’s about protecting family members’ feelings, or being embarrassed or worried about our own feelings.

Since family systems therapy is ultimately about repairing relationships and empowering healthy communication and cooperation, a counsellor can help individuals identify what information is important to share, and how to go about it in the best way. However, there are some challenges that are best talked out one on one with the therapist, and not in the group as a whole. It’s important for all parties involved to understand that they can still control the information that’s shared, and the way they choose to do it… or not.

 

It’s Not All Talk Therapy

Although sometimes all that’s needed in order to strengthen a family’s power to communicate and cooperate is an outsider guiding the conversation, other times talk therapy can be frustrating for families, as they’ll find themselves going around in the same old circles and arguments that they would on their own. That’s why most counsellors will utilise other techniques and approaches to achieve family goals.

For example, sometimes it’s useful to utilize experiential therapy, which could include anything from a cooperative ropes course, to role playing exercises. You can learn more about those options here.

 

Practicing Outside of Therapy Sessions Is Vital

One common assumption of family therapy is that the work will get done in therapy sessions, and it doesn’t have to change the way things are outside of therapy. Family therapy can only be successful when it creates changes to habits and systems within the family dynamic that aren’t serving individuals as well as they should.

Most of the time, a therapist will give family members assignments and goals that they can do–both by themselves, and as they interact with the rest of the family–in order to improve family relationships. Often, these are small habits in the way that we talk and the way we share duties in and out of the house.

 

This article was written by expert on family therapy Christine H:

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Christine is a professional writer and an avid reader who’s passionate about storytelling in any form. At any given moment, she’s in the middle of at least three books on anything from psychology to ninjas. Although she’s a marathon swimmer and enjoys camping in the mountains, she believes there’s nothing better than a carton of ice cream and a Dawson’s Creek marathon. She blogs about marketing here. Follow more of her writing on Twitter @readwritechill.