What to do if you think you have Depression: a Guide.

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(image: Christy Ann Martine)

This blog was voted for in my  Facebook group online poll and so I have decided to write it, with my advice from personal experience and more.

So firstly- what is Depression? Depression is more than just low mood. It can affect your entire ability to function. Depression symptoms include your mind slowing down, poor concentration, lack of sleep or too much sleep (when depressed I sleep too much), more tearful than normal/ prolonged low mood, loss of motivation and ability to go to work/ socialise, not wanting to do activities you enjoy, feeling lost and/or hopeless about life.

Some people who are depressed will self medicate with alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, spending money- anything to make them feel a bit better. Some may start expressing suicidal thinking and ideation or make plans to end their own lives. For others, depression can be part of a wider mental health disorder. I have bipolar disorder for example and depressive episodes are part of my illness. So its a big topic and one which is different for each person (due to brain chemistry and environment).  Anxiety and self harm can also be part of depression.

So what to do if you think you are depressed?

1) Make an appointment to see your GP/ Doctor immediately. If you can get an urgent appointment, do. Tell them how you are feeling and they may suggest medication such as anti depressants which help lift mood and get you back to normal functioning and/or recommend you to a therapist. NHS waiting lists in the UK are ridiculously long for therapy, but just speaking to a doctor and taking medicine should help. Note that anti depressants do have a side effect- and can make you more anxious/ depressed within the first two weeks so talk about this with your doctor. If you have a psychiatrist and medical team (like I do), go and see them and discuss how they can help your care.

Getting better can take months and is a combination of factors. If your depression was triggered by an event, it may be good to go and see a counsellor to discuss any trauma.

2) If you are feeling suicidal and feel like self harming, disclose this to someone you trust. You may not need to be in hospital if you have a good support network, but if you are really really ill, you may need to be. However, do not be afraid for asking for help from medical professionals- especially your GP and/or psychiatrist. They are there to help you get well.

3) If you get a first time psychiatry referral- this is what will happen. You will get asked lots of questions so the doctor can ascertain what is going on. I found that being as honest as I could was more helpful. Take a loved one with you to the appointment. They may ask you to complete questionnaires on your health too and/or refer you to psychology.

4) Use your support network- friends, family, partner. If you have a loving person who understands depression in your life- lean on them. Support from others is very helpful. Depression can be stressful for all involved and some may not understand or may tell you to ‘pull yourself together’. This is just stigma and remember depression is an illness that needs treatment.

If you feel able, see friends you love and trust. When I am depressed, I find it hard to leave the house.. but love and support from others is vital- even if theyre just bringing you chocolate and magazines. Acts of kindness really help.

5) Other holistic methods can really help depression. Whether its:

*Gentle exercise
*Meditation
*Prayer if you want to pray
*Journalling and writing down your achievements however small (eg I washed the dishes)
*Colouring a picture and making something beautiful
* Good sleep regime (when depressed this can be harder)
*Eating healthy food/ foods you love
* Taking care of yourself
*Watching a funny film
* Texting a friend
This can be hard when you are depressed but I would recommend Yoga Nidra meditation for anxiety as well as Headspace meditations….

6) Be Kind to Yourself

Depression is not your fault. Its an illness and a natural part of life. You don’t have to deal with it alone and you don’t have to beat yourself up because you are feeling lower than normal.

Reach out for help but ultimately be kind to yourself. 

Eleanor Segall is the blogger and editor behind this blog Be Ur Own Light.

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Guest Post: An Introduction to Trichotillomania- Hair Pulling Disorder by Ariel Taylor at trichstop.com

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(image: eleMINT)

Trichotillomania is a hair pulling disorder that affects millions, though many are not even aware of the fact that they suffer from this condition. It’s a well-known emotional illness and if you punch in the keyword Trichotillomania on the Internet, you’ll be bombarded with blogs, journals, and, essays discussing this hair-pulling habit.

However, when it comes to analyzing this disorder, it’s more than just a case of perpetual hair-pulling. This urge to tug or pluck hair defines Trichotillomania but one needs to know the warning signs and instances that could lead to this emotional upheaval.

Trichotillomania comes under the obsessive-compulsive spectrum and is akin to Obsessive Compulsive Disorders – OCD. When it comes to OCD, Trichotillomania too is defined by compulsions i.e. the sudden need to pull or pluck out hair. Nonetheless, Trichotillomania stems more from an impulsive side while OCD is a repetition of a particular habit – more along the lines of obsession.  The main area that’s most affected is the scalp however, people don’t shy away from tearing out their eyelashes, eyebrows or other hair for that matter. A person feels at ease after hair is uprooted or successfully pulled from the skin. Chronic Trichotillomania can lead to hair loss resulting in bald patches. It’s a source of great concern to people who have family members dealing with this condition especially if they have never encountered or been familiar with an issue before.

 

Early Signs Of Trichotillomania

 

Sense Of Comfort

In times of stress and agony, individuals pull their hair inadvertently which is followed by a feeling of relief and comfort. For instance, Sally, a fifteen-year-old, starts pulling her hair when she hears her parents get into a verbal altercation with each other. For some kids, parents who quarrel often can be a reason of great discomfort. Many aren’t aware of ways to deal with such situations and resort to things or activities that give them temporary solutions. Trichotillomania happens to be one of them. The intense tugging and twisting of hair is a sign of silent suffering and pain. Somehow, that very pain turns into relief until the awkward moment of distress has passed.

Perpetual Pulling

The urge gets the better of an individual and they pull away not realizing the pain it would cause. There’s a lot of embarrassment and shame that comes with Trichotillomania. Initially, there’s denial and quite a few take a while to come to terms with accepting the fact that yes, there’s a problem. They resort to covering their bald patches by donning a hat or wearing scarves. Any unevenness on legs or hands is covered with extra layers of clothes or tattoos. People dealing with this problem either pull their hair for brief or long periods of time.  The impulsive behavior cannot be controlled and hair is pulled, no matter what.

Comparatively more than men, women are prone to get diagnosed with Trichotillomania. It brings with itself other emotional problems such as bipolar mood disorders and depression. Uneven patches of hair on the body makes many wary of social interaction since the fear of being bullied or ridiculed tends to seep in.

 

What Causes Trichotillomania?

There isn’t a specific reason that leads to Trichotillomania but there are several biological, psychoanalytical and behavioural theories associated with this disorder. For instance, neurochemical imbalance, as well as trauma connected with childhood or stressful events. Trichotillomania that occurs under psychoanalytic model denotes an unconscious unsettled past – an unfortunate incident of abuse by an acquaintance or a complete stranger.

The behavioural model for Trichotillomania stresses on painful events. For example, loss of a parent, or constant family skirmishes precedes the onset of hair pulling. An attempt to release tension is caused by such distressing instances and moments. This behavior becomes perpetual and later turns into a habit. The person may not even be aware of any initial triggers. However, it only has to be one event in response to what someone may perceive as the urge for pulling hair. The biological model for Trichotillomania purports neuro-chemical imbalance, mostly with serotonin. Levels of altered dopamine too play a vital role in aggravating Trichotillomania. It still isn’t sure if genetics need to be taken into consideration. Although some studies do suggest a rise in the percentage of Trichotillomania in people whose relatives suffer from different psychiatric disorders.

 

Plan Of Action

Continuous tugging of hair needs to be reported medically and if Trichotillomania seems an underlying cause then psychiatric as well as a medical treatment has to be initiated. Not many are aware that the earlier the intervention, the better the probability of the behavior being in control. However, it is essential to note that a person – child or an adult, sometimes do not present for treatment for Trichotillomania until two years since hair-pulling takes place. Psychological behaviour therapy and medication help with treatment for this condition. Habit reversal training as well has done wonders to people who have been suffering from this emotional ordeal.

Lastly, acceptance and patience are key factors in addressing this psychological disorder. With time along with medical help and the support and love of family and friends, Trichotillomania can surely be managed.

For more please see http://trichstop.com

Channel 4 Launches Lloyds Bank’s Mental Health Awareness Diversity in Advertising Campaign: For Time to Talk Day #GettheInsideOut

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(image: Channel 4)

Channel 4 to launch Lloyds Bank’s £1m award-winning Diversity in Advertising campaign

  • Professor Green, Victoria Pendleton, Jeremy Paxman, Rachel Riley, Ade Adepitan, Alistair Campbell and Alex Brooker star in Lloyds Bank’s mental health awareness campaign
  • New research finds 75% of people believe there is a stigma in Britain attached to people with mental health conditions
  • Almost three quarters (74%) think the average person would be unwilling to discuss their own mental health issues
  • But nearly three quarters (72 per cent) think society has a better understanding of mental health conditions
  • Openness of celebrities and media coverage contributes to positive change

 

Lloyds Bank’s winning ad campaign of the Channel 4 £1m Diversity in Advertising Award launches exclusively on Channel 4 on mental health awareness Time To Talk Day (1.2.18).

 

The adverts will feature celebrities – including Professor Green, Jeremy Paxman, Rachel Riley and Alex Brooker – as well as members of the public and Lloyds Bank colleagues playing a variation of the ‘Who am I?’ sticky-note guessing game, to explore the common misconceptions about living with a non-visible disability.

 

And to coincide with the campaign’s launch, a new Lloyds Bank and Mental Health UK survey, reveals that although improvements have been made in how society thinks about mental health, 75 per cent of people still think there is a stigma attached to the issue.

 

Lloyds Bank and creative agency, adam&eveDDB, created the mental health adverts  after winning Channel 4’s Diversity in Advertising Award, set up by the broadcaster to improve diversity in advertising.

 

As the award winner, Lloyds Bank will receive £1m worth of advertising airtime on Channel 4. The competition invited entrants to put forward creative ideas featuring non-visible disabilities.

 

Channel 4’s Sales Director Jonathan Allan said: “Producing an advert that puts non-visible disabilities at its heart was a demanding brief and it’s been a real pleasure working with Lloyds and adamandeveddb as they developed a fantastic new campaign that makes people think more profoundly about mental health.

 

“If this campaign can encourage the public and advertisers to think a little harder about all aspects of diversity, it can help make a real difference to people’s lives.”

 

“The TV ad is brilliantly simple, yet hugely effective,” says Robin Bulloch, Managing Director, Lloyds Bank. “And while winning the Channel 4 Annual Diversity in Advertising Award in itself is a great achievement, the positive difference the campaign will hopefully allow us to make to so many people’s lives is the real ambition here. By raising awareness of invisible disabilities and taking action to promote healthy wellbeing, we can support our colleagues to recognise the signs and feel confident and equipped to support customers and each other.”

 

Lloyds Bank has been working with Mental Health UK to launch #GetTheInsideOut which will appear on the adverts. #GetTheInsideOut campaign will encourage more people to speak about mental health and aims to inspire those living with a condition to speak up about mental health.

 

Research from Lloyds Bank and Mental Health UK, undertaken by YouGov, found that seventy-five per cent of respondents feel there is a stigma in Britain attached to people with mental health conditions. And 88 per cent feel society needs to do more (much more (62%) or a little more (25%)) to better understand mental health issues.

 

The survey reveals that 67 per cent of respondents think people are more comfortable talking about mental health conditions now than they were five years ago. And people feel that the four main factors behind this change were – celebrities talking about mental health (70 per cent); media stories about mental health (70 per cent); societal change (68 per cent); and charities raising awareness (56 per cent).

 

But the research also reveals that 74 per cent of respondents think people would be fairly unwilling (62 per cent) or not willing at all (11 per cent), to discuss their own mental health issues.

 

Managing Director of Mental Health UK Brian Dow welcomed the research commissioned by Lloyds Bank and said: “We have come a long way in a short time to raise awareness. In large part thanks to the hard work of the charity sector, campaigns like Time to Change, a willingness of celebrities, notably the Royal Family, to talk about mental health and positive engagement by the media.

 

“Nevertheless this research shows that we cannot rest of on our laurels – there is a lot more that we need to do.”

 

Although the survey showed that people think significant steps have been made in the past five years on people’s awareness of mental health, more still needs to be done.

 

The survey discovers that compared to five years ago;

  • 72 per cent of respondents think that society  has a better understanding of mental health conditions
  • 69 per cent feel people empathise more with people with mental health conditions
  • 70 per cent think society is more aware of the everyday realities of living with a mental health condition
  • 70 per cent also feel there is more awareness of mental health issues raised in the media

 

In addition;

  • Fifty-six per cent of respondents said they’d feel comfortable talking to someone they don’t know very well about their mental health.
  • While 37 per cent said they’d feel uncomfortable, with over half (57%) of this group concerned that they might offend the person  and a similar proportion (56%) worried they would embarrass or upset themLloyds Bank and Mental Health UK Charity Partnership

    Lloyds Bank is proud to be working in partnership with Mental Health UK. Together the Bank and Charity aim to promote awareness of the link between mental health and money problems, encourage discussion between customers and colleagues. To date, colleagues and customers have raised over £4.8 million which has enabled Mental Health UK to design, build and launch a pioneering new service called Mental Health and Money Advice. This service is the UK’s first advice service dedicated to helping people understand, manage and improve their financial and mental health.

    For further information –

    Channel 4 –

    Tim English, Group PR Manager

    1. 020 7306 6984
    2. tenglish@channel4.co.uk

     

    Lloyds Bank –

    Eve Speight

    M: 07585965319

    E: eve.speight@lloydsbanking.com

     

     

7 Tips for Feeling Less Lonely (for Time to Talk Day) by Eugene Farrell at AXA PPP Healthcare

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Ahead of Time to Talk Day tomorrow, the concept of speaking about mental health worries and communicating rather than bottle feelings up is really important.

According to the Office for National Statistics, Britain is the loneliness capital of Europe, with many Brits unlikely to know their neighbours or feel they have friendships that they believe they can rely on in a crisis.

 Research by the charity, Relate, found that 9% of Brits of all ages don’t have a single close friend, while separately, a study by AXA PPP healthcare that British adults aged 18 to 24 are four times as likely to feel consistently lonely than those over 70.

 In addition to this, “the build-up to days like Valentine’s Day and the day itself can be quite intense, which is difficult for those who are already feeling isolated or lonely,” explains Eugene Farrell, Head of Trauma Support Services at AXA PPP healthcare.

 “Although loneliness is often associated with the elderly, it’s actually an issue which can affect the physical and mental wellbeing of people of all ages.”

 “In fact, studies have found that loneliness can increase the risk of high blood pressure, and have an impact on cognitive decline, dementia and depression. While addressing your experience of loneliness may take time, taking steps to build new and improve existing connections will help to improve your overall wellbeing.”

 Here, Eugene gives his top tips on how to overcome feelings of loneliness:

1.    Making new connections can be an obvious way to combat loneliness and yield positive results, for example joining a group or class you are interested in will increase your chances of meeting like-minded people to connect with. Increasingly too we are turning to the internet for companionship, with community groups existing in almost every niche interest group you could imagine.

2.    Be more open. If you feel that you have plenty of connections but don’t feel close to any of them, the underlying issue may be that you need to open up to them more to deepen your connection, as an example letting the friend or acquaintance in on a vulnerability felt or your honest opinion about an issue.

3.    Stop comparing yourself to others. The desire to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ is not a new one, however the rise of social media has only exacerbated the problem by giving individuals the chance to constantly compare themselves to others. If you’re already feeling lonely, the idea that everyone else’s life is more idyllic than yours can make you feel even more isolated and alone. This can lead us to ‘compare and despair’ – which further exacerbates our negative experiences. Remind yourself that people only share what they want others to see about their lives. Don’t form unrealistic expectations about life and friendship based on what you see online.

4.    Keep all lines of communication open. Having a chat with a friend or relative over the phone can be the next best thing to being with them. Or you can stay connected with loved ones online. Video chat, exchange photos and keep up to date with the latest news from friends and family with Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or simply keep in contact by email.

 

5.    Volunteering is also a great way to meet new people and feel good about helping others. It will not only allow you to give something back to your community but will also help you to feel more connected, involved and needed. There are lots of volunteering roles that need your skills and experience. It can also have a positive effect upon your mental health through helping others.

 

6.    Pride comes before a fall. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people and ask for help, companionship or just a chat. They may be feeling lonely too!

 

7.    Take it slow. If you’ve felt lonely for a while, or experience anxiety around new social situations, throwing yourself in at the deep end could only act to exacerbate the problem. Instead, dip your toes into the water first by going to a local café or sports event where you are surrounded by people, and just enjoy sharing their company. Or try a class where you can dive into the activity itself to distract you from the pressure of introducing yourself to people straight away. With loneliness, slow and steady often wins the race.

  If you think you might be struggling with symptoms of loneliness, find more tips and advice at AXA PPP healthcare’s Mental Health Centre.

Grey Clouds… Inspirational Lyrics by Stephen M Galloway.

This set of song lyrics/ poetry was sent to me by an amazing person on Twitter- Stephen Galloway who wanted me to share it to help others. He has his own mental health issues but wants to help readers of Be Ur Own Light. I hope you enjoy reading, please note: you may feel emotional reading, so read these beautiful words with care!

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(image: shutterstock)

Grey Clouds…

If you get lost along the road
Let me be the hand you hold
I swear I’ll help you bear your load
And lead you safely back to home
If this world should seem too dark
Let me show you where
To heal all of those painful scars
Make whole again that broken heart
You’ve been there for me, now please believe I won’t leave until your skies are clear
And those grey clouds have disappeared
If your words just won’t come out
Let me be the voice with which you shout
If your fragile mind is filled with doubt
I’ll hold you tight; I’ll hold you proud
If your shoulder’s sore from all the weight
If the path you walk just won’t stay straight 
Just call my name and right away
I’ll be back by your side again
You’ve been there for me, now please believe I won’t leave until your skies are clear
And those grey clouds have disappeared
I want to help for you saved me
From a loneliness like you won’t believe
I was blind until you helped me see
I was numb until you made me feel
You were there for me, now please believe I’m not leaving ’til your skies are clear
And those grey clouds have disappeared
Please believe I’ll be right here
Until those grey clouds disappear
Just like you did for me Oh, just like you did for me

© Stephen M Galloway – 11th August 2017

How I stopped Self Medicating my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder- PTSD and found Recovery by Peter Lang


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(image: sayquotable.com)

Peter Lang shares his amazing story of recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, homelessness and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Trigger warning: please be careful when reading, talk of drug use. 
Most people think of veterans when they think of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Unfortunately, I know all too well that PTSD can also affect civilians. PTSD is defined as the psychiatric disorder that happens following a traumatic event. While war is a common traumatic event that causes PTSD, it’s not the only kind of trauma. Traumatic events can include abuse, life-threatening illnesses, and serious accidents.

As a homeless drug addict, I experienced my share of traumatic events. I spent most of my twenties without a home: couch surfing with acquaintances and strangers all over the country, living on the streets of Philadelphia, and living on the beach in Maui. Throughout this time, I used every substance you can think of: alcohol, heroin, cocaine, meth, prescription medication. I drank so much, I developed avascular necrosis in my hips, which later led to a bilateral hip replacement after a car accident at age 30.

After I got hit by a car when crossing a street in Philadelphia, my mom asked me to come down to Georgia to stay with her. I spent the next two years in a wheelchair. Though I tried periodically to stop drinking and using drugs—with some success—I still struggled. I know now that one of the main reasons I was struggling was that I was trying to self-medicate my PTSD.

On the street, I experienced many traumatic events. There were so many times I got beaten up or taken advantage of or almost died. Once in Hawaii, I did die, and they had to revive me in the hospital. The doctor told me with the amount of alcohol I had in my bloodstream, it was a miracle I was alive.

In early 2016, I met a woman who changed my life. We fell in love almost immediately after meeting each other, and we got married a year later. We are about to celebrate our one-year wedding anniversary.

She made me see that it was okay to ask for help with my PTSD. I didn’t have to feel like I had to take care of it all the time. She made me see that a great deal of my struggles with substances was because I was just trying to numb the pain from traumatic events I hadn’t dealt with.

At one point, I was prescribed benzodiazepines, which did help my PTSD. However, I was never able to take the medication the way I was supposed to, and they became just another substance for me to abuse as opposed to a helpful tool.

It was clear that in order to stop self-medicating, I was going to have to see a counsellor and confront my traumatic events. I started seeing a therapist regularly, and she has helped me immensely. She has helped me to open my eyes and stare the traumatic memories in the face, knowing that they don’t define me.

Another tool that was incredibly helpful for me was meditation. By meditating, I could learn how to become spiritually centered and stop identifying with the painful memories. I’ve also been greatly helped by Buddhist-based 12-step meetings, which have given me a unique perspective on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Now, I’m doing better than ever. My wife and I are ridiculously in love, we just moved into a nice house, and I’m working full-time as a freelance writer and marketer. I wouldn’t be where I was today if I was unable to deal with my PTSD. I would have never been able to stay clean and sober if I kept self-medicating.

I still struggle with my PTSD frequently. It hasn’t gone away. But now I have the tools to handle any episodes that do come up.

Many people suffering from a substance use disorder are also suffering from a co-occurring mental health disorder. You can treat one without also treating the other. Luckily, you don’t have to. There are plenty of resources that will help you to seek the treatment that you need. All you have to do is ask for it and be open to it.

Peter Lang is a freelance writer from Atlanta, Georgia. He occasionally writes for The Recovery Village. In recovery himself, he has dedicated himself to helping others struggling with substance abuse.

 

Light Beyond Self Harm by Kaitlyn W at withbeingalive.wordpress.com

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(image: Dare to Live SOS) 

The author Kaitlyn blogs at www.withbeingalive.wordpress.com . Trigger warning: talks about self harm behaviours (but not graphically), please be careful when reading.

When you are curled within the cradling, spiked tentacles of self-harm – one wrapped around each wrist, and another brushing away any tears – those pesky alternatives of “holding an ice cube!” or “colour in!” can seem shallow; laughable even. You are shoulder-deep in the swampy mud that is self-harm, the goop surrounding you can feel ever-rising, and there is a stigma of wading in this particular swamp – you should be ashamed that you are.

 

During self-harm, it can feel impossible to have hope. A hope for a different reality can feel light years and stone barricade walls away. It can feel like the darkness (or swamp mud, whichever you would prefer to call it) is all consuming, your actions are all that you are, and the glittery, floaty wings of change have no way to weave in.

 

However, it is my privilege to share today that you are so much more than self-harm tells you that you are. Consequently, that there is hope beyond self-harm, and that this hope is yours. Ultimately, self-harm does not need to have a role in your life.

 

Despite how inherently wrongly created and badly designed for life you may feel, this is not who you truly are. Despite the mess, the exhausting racket that constantly parties too hard in your brain, remember that you are only witnessing this all from one perspective. You exist not only to yourself, right now, but also to child you and future you, to other people, and you exist beyond the darkness you feel. In all these other ways, you are who you are, and you are not the engulfing darkness. You have the potential to be who you are, to live the life you deserve to live; to be in the light beyond self-harm.

 

It’s safe to say that self-harm exists as a little bundle of menace, born from doubts, fears, life experiences, unhealthy coping strategies, and maybe a few other things thrown into the mix too. Although that can feel like an awful lot, or perhaps literally everything, which is an incredibly heavy load to carry, it really isn’t everything. Your doubts and fears can simply be. They inherently don’t have to control your behaviour. As for a way to cope, there are plenty of other ways to cope too. Self-harm isn’t the sole solution or the only option.

 

In a grumbling, gravelly voice, self-harm can mutter about how you won’t be able to survive without it. That you deserve the constricting boundaries that self-harm makes you believe you are worthy of. In these times, it can really help to recognise that this is self-harm talking. That these thoughts aren’t you, and that you don’t need to act upon them. You could imagine that self-harm is a preteen yelling at the Xbox, or maybe you like the swamp monster with tentacles idea. Either way, give self-harm an identity that’s not you. Self-harm then becomes an annoying, whining brat whose tantrums you can work on ignoring, rather than indulging. Do you really think self-harm deserves a brownie?

 

What also really helps to pry yourself free from self-harm’s sticky little claws, is finding out what works for you. Go to therapy or a support group and engage in professional help; they have spent several years training to help people in exactly the same situation. Find someone you can talk to; a small yarn can go a long way. Try out those alternatives (and there are so many more too) that were mentioned at the beginning; they can seem plain kooky, but give them a go! I guarantee that there will be at least one that can ease self-harm’s whinging, taking it down from a full-blown tantrum in the middle of the supermarket, to perhaps a soft snivel on the bottom step of the staircase.

 

To end with, there is light and hope in having a life beyond self-harm. You have the potential to exist as bigger and brighter, as vast and brilliant, than what self-harm croaks about you. Go out there and stomp and shout, and simply be – be loud, be radiant – you are greater than what self-harm tells you that you are

On Developing Positivity and Hope: A Self Development Journey

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(image: motivation grid)

Its a brand new week. I have of late been struggling with anxiety attacks again (when I go to sleep sometimes the feared situation pops up in my mind and stops me from doing what I want to do) so I am taking time to heal myself and be more positive. I want to find hope and live a more positive life so I can live the life I want to live.

This prompted me to start my friend Holly Matthews 21 Day Happy Me Project. This blog is not an advert for it, but the course is something I am doing for me, using positive affirmations and thinking, the law of attraction and goal setting to find techniques to live a happier, healthier life. So, I have printed off my work book, listened to the first webinar and audio and aim to set a few mini goals and start work. Also, Holly is awesome and a big inspiration to me!

My anxiety disorder is  a struggle- I still can’t seem to get it under control, its like taming a beast. However I hope that through finding a more positive mindset and talking out my feelings in therapy (separate to this project) that I will start to feel better again.

I am working on self development at the moment, however long it takes but must remember to be kind to myself and keep going through the storms.

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

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

EFTO
(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.