#MyDepressionMeans: How my hashtag inspired others fighting depression : Jewish News Article extract by our founder Eleanor Segall

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On 17 December, I was sitting at home thinking about my depression. I have bipolar disorder, which is well controlled on medication; however, often in the winter I am prone to depression, partly owing to the lack of light. This means things start to feel hopeless and I have less energy. Symptoms of depression affect everyone differently. I had started feeling low and my job is not the most social, so I felt a little isolated.

I’ve been active on Twitter for a while, posting about mental health, bipolar, anxiety and sharing my story with the world via Metro and other newspapers, to battle the stigma. I had a brainwave – why not start a hashtag that can help others share their own experiences of depression? There had to be lots of us out there, feeling the same way and feeling like they needed to talk.

Seeing as waiting list times for therapy are growing longer and longer, I decided to see if others wanted to share what their depression means to them. So, the hashtag #MyDepressionMeans was born.

I shared this message:

‘I’ve been struggling with depression lately but I know how supportive the twitter community is. Thought we could use the hashtag #MyDepressionMeans and share experiences to help everyone feel less alone. #MyDepressionMeans I get up later than normal and feel hopeless. Please Retweet’

To drum up support for the hashtag, I messaged my fellow mental health campaigners and charities to see if they would get behind it.

Amazingly, charities Rethink Mental Illness, the Mental Health Foundation, the Shaw Mind Foundation and mental health publisher Trigger Publishing all got behind it and retweeted to their thousands of followers asking people to share their own experiences.

People from all over the world began sharing their symptoms of depression and what it meant for them. I am amazed that my tweet has been liked nearly 400 times and retweeted over 150 times, with around 450 responses of people sharing about their mental health.

It was important to me that when sharing this, it was done in a safe space. You can never predict if Twitter trolls will hijack the thread, but amazingly there was so much love, support and understanding.

There was an outpouring of hundreds of people, most whom I had never met, sharing about their illness, some of whom had never done so before.

What touched me the most was a video recorded by a woman who was sharing about her depression for the first time – and who was empowered to keep on sharing, owing to the phenomenal response.

By creating the hashtag, I had something people could share. This is down to the incredible mental health community and unique online support network.

 

Read the rest at: https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/mydepressionmeans-how-my-hashtag-inspired-others-fighting-depression/

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.

 

A Guide to Mood Disorders: Guest blog By Ellie Willis

Mood disorders encompass many disorders of how you feel from day-to-day, whether that is abnormally elevated (mania) or depressed and in low mood. They can include depressive illness such as major depressive disorder, dysthymia, postnatal depression and the bipolar spectrum disorders. They also feature anxiety and panic disorders. These are often down to brain chemistry and sometimes environment.

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(image: Pinterest/ Healthyplace.com)

 

Major Depressive Disorder

Major depression is defined as a depressive illness where you experience a significantly lowered mood and a loss of interest in activities that you would normally enjoy. While it is normal to feel sadness and grief when your life significantly changes, such as when a loved one passes away, when it doesn’t go away or gets worse, it may evolve into major depression. Some of the symptoms of depression are:

• Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness • Feeling guilty over insignificant things • Withdrawing from family and friends • Drinking alcohol or taking drugs as a coping mechanism • Having problems with concentration • Being unproductive • Having a lack of confidence • Feeling irritated or frustrated • Having a lack of interest in sex.

While sometimes a depressive episode seems to come out of the blue, there are often things that can trigger them. These may include: Genetic risk factors • Alcohol or other substance abuse • Medical problems such as thyroid issues or chronic pain • Certain medications such as steroids • Sleeping problems • Stressful life events 

Studies have shown that there appears to be a genetic component to depression. That is, if one of your parents has a depressive illness, you may end up suffering from depression yourself.

Dysthymia is a chronic form of depression that occurs when you suffer from a mild to moderate depression for at least two years. Although dysthymia causes problems in everyday life, dysthymia is often not severe enough to warrant hospitalisation. The chronic nature of the disorder means that you may believe that you have always felt like this.

The good news is that there are a wide range of medications to treat major depressive disorder, such as antidepressants. There are many kinds of medications around, and you may have to try a few until you and your psychiatrist find the perfect one with little to no side effects.

As of the time of writing, the antidepressants most commonly used are SSRIs and SNRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors). These refer to the types of neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain that affect mood, among other things) that they affect.

With antidepressants, it is extremely important not to stop medication all at once, unless there are serious side effects and even then, only under medical advice. This is because of discontinuation syndrome. Simply put, this means that your body gets used to the medication being in your system (different to addiction where you crave the drug) and you experience symptoms such as nausea, dizziness and insomnia, to name a few.

Another important way to treat depression is psychotherapy in one form or another. This can help you by learning coping skills to deal with depressive thoughts and negative thinking, as well as having someone to speak to with complete privacy. There are a few other ways for you to combat depression in adjunct to medications or therapy.

These are: • Maintaining good sleeping habits • Exercising more • Seeking out activities that bring you pleasure • Being around caring and supportive people

Postnatal Depression

Postnatal depression is a depressive illness where a new mother experiences depression in the first few months after giving birth to a child.

Some of the symptoms of postnatal depression include:

• Feeling sad or empty • Lowered self-esteem • Changing appetite (usually a decrease) • A loss of enjoyment in everyday activities • Changes in sleep patterns such as insomnia • Not being able to concentrate • Feeling cut off from the baby • A loss of interest in sex • Feeling ashamed, guilty or inadequate • Withdrawing from family and friends • Mood swings • Thoughts of harming yourself or the baby

There are a number of factors that make postnatal depression more likely. Some of these may include: • A history of depression, especially postnatal depression in the past • If the baby is sick or colicky • If you are in an abusive relationship • If you are suffering from stress • If you have little support from family and friends •

Treatment for postnatal depression is essentially similar to that for major depression, such as antidepressants and therapy and in some cases intervention from a psychiatrist or hospital team is required.

 

Bipolar Disorder Spectrum

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterised by periods of extreme mood states known as mania and depression. It is one of the most serious mental illnesses and is the sixth most disabling condition in the world at the time of writing. It is chronic and potentially life threatening. However, those with it can go on to recovery and live happy and fulfilled lives between episodes. 

According to some studies, one in fifty people may suffer from a form of bipolar disorder. In many cases, there is a family history.

Mania is one pole of bipolar disorder – an extremely elevated or depressed mood, sometimes accompanied by psychosis. You may have racing thoughts or speak so quickly it is difficult for others to understand. You may also have trouble getting to sleep at night or suffer from insomnia. There is a danger of reckless behaviour such as overspending, unsafe sexual activity or aggression. You may feel a sense of grandiosity, making unrealistic plans. Despite mania feeling great at the time, the consequences of mania can be destructive.

Some of the signs of depression include a lowered mood, self-esteem or interest in enjoyable activities, pessimism, reduced energy and changes in appetite. Suicidal thoughts are also possible and must be monitored closely. As bipolar disorder is a recurrent illness and there isn’t any known cure, you may need to take medications to maintain your mood at a normal level.

Hypomania is the hallmark of bipolar II where the patient might feel euphoria or agitation. Hypomanic episodes are similar to manic episodes except they are less severe and sometimes pleasurable to you. There is never psychosis in a hypomanic episode. Despite hypomania increasing productivity, or making you feel increased self-esteem, the consequences can be major, especially as your mood goes down to depression.

A mixed state is a combination of manic and depressed symptoms. In a mixed state you may feel very sad or hopeless while feeling extremely energised. These can be dangerous, because of the suicide risk from being depressed as well as impulsive. If you feel you are heading into a mixed state, you should contact your psychiatrist as soon as possible.

Bipolar disorder type I is characterised by at least one episode of full-blown mania as well as depressive episodes. There is also a chance of psychosis (delusions/ hallucinations)  accompanying a manic episode. Bipolar type II features only hypomania and never mania or psychosis. While these manias are less destructive, the depression tends to be worse, and there is often a high suicide risk.

Cyclothymia is a bipolar spectrum disorder where you may have long periods of minor depression lasting at least two years alternating with hypomania. These depressive periods tend to be irritable and agitated rather than melancholic and lacking in energy.

Bipolar NOS (not otherwise specified) simply refers to bipolar disorders that do not strictly meet the criteria of any of the previously mentioned types of bipolar disorder.

The treatment of bipolar disorder involves medications such as Lithium carbonate, lamotrigine, sodium valporate, and quetiapine, as well as psychotherapy to help overcome negative thoughts that exacerbate depression or after effects of mania. 

As bipolar disorder is a recurrent illness and there isn’t any known cure, you may need to take medications for life to maintain your mood at a normal level. Despite this, many patients continue to do well as long as they stay compliant with treatment and keep aware of their changing mood states.

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(image: MTVFORA: http://fora.mtv.ca/words-of-wisdom-celebrity-quotes-on-mental-wellness/)

 

Anxiety Disorders

The term anxiety disorder covers a wide range of illnesses from panic disorder to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Despite the wide range of diseases, many share similar treatment options. There is a stigma affecting some anxiety disorders due to stereotypes in the media.

 

Generalised Anxiety Disorder

It is normal for people to feel some anxiety over normal life events such as exams, work problems or family issues. However, when it causes problems in your everyday life or is particularly severe you may have an anxiety disorder. Generalised anxiety disorder involves having irrational fears, such as being afraid harm will come to you or your loved ones, financial issues, health, relationships and work.

Physical symptoms when experiencing anxiety may include: • Light-headedness • Becoming tired easily, or being unable to sleep properly • Feeling tense or restless, or losing your temper easily • Nausea • Shortness of breath • Headaches • Trembling • Muscle tension Treatment generally involves medications or therapy.

Psychological treatments may involve: • Learning relaxation techniques such as muscle relaxing exercises or meditation • Therapy to teach you how to solve problems that cause anxiety with anxiety disorders, psychological treatments are generally more effective than medication, however it can still be useful.

The most common treatments are antidepressants or benzodiazepines such as alprazolam or diazepam. Generally, benzodiazepines shouldn’t be taken long-term, as there is a risk of becoming dependent on them.

Anxiety disorders are relatively common in the population, with statistics that approximately 25% of the people suffer some kind of anxiety disorder that may warrant treatment in their lifetime. Anxiety is treatable, and therapy or medication may minimise the effects on your life and relationships.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is a mental health condition where you experience a feeling known as a panic attack recurrently.

Some of the symptoms of a panic attack include: • Shortness of breath • Dizziness or light-headedness • Tightness or pain in the chest • Trembling or shaking • Dry mouth • Muscle tension • Difficulty gathering thoughts or speaking • Tingling fingers or feet • A choking or smothering feeling • Hot or cold flushes • Nausea or butterflies • Blurred vision • Fear of dying, losing control or going mad

When you have panic disorder, you may also worry about the implications of a panic attack such as humiliation or feeling of going crazy.

You may try and flee from the situation hoping the panic attack will stop. Panic disorder is generally treated via therapeutic methods rather than medications. This may involve your doctor teaching you about panic disorder, for example, that a panic attack is distinguishable from other mental illnesses such as other anxiety disorders or psychosis – this is known as psycho education.

A therapist may instruct you not to avoid any situations where a panic attack may occur. This may be unpleasant at first, but slowly you will not feel anxious in the situation. This will help prevent agoraphobia and the disability it causes.

A common treatment for anxiety disorders is CBT – but there are many types too including exposure therapy and talking therapies. They can be incredibly helpful for you to overcome feelings of anxiety.

This guest blog was written by Ellie Willis, an expert in mental health.

 

Guest Post: Interview with Dr Janina Scarlet, author of new book ‘Therapy Quest’

I have got to know Dr Janina Scarlet, psychologist as I have written more across the media. Janina writes about therapy and mental health in an approachable and meaningful way. She also loves superheroes and fantasy and incorporates them into her work!

This week for Mental Health Awareness Week, I spoke to her as she launches her  new book ‘Therapy Quest’.

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(image: The Book Publicist/ Dr Janina Scarlet)

 

What is your new book Therapy Quest about?

Therapy Quest is an interactive fantasy book in which YOU (the reader) are the main character. You are transported to a magical world of Here and are the Chosen One to stop an evil sorceress, Mallena, from destroying the world. Only you don’t feel like a hero. Not at all. Your anxieties and insecurities nearly lead you to abandon your quest altogether. However, if you decide to partner up with some new friends, such as a vampire with an eating disorder, and an Ogre who struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder, you just might be able to become a hero after all.

The book is written in a game-like format, which allows you to make choices along the way. Each choice you make will change the rest of your journey and can either allow you to earn or lose points. Some choices can kill your friends or your character, so you have to be careful.

Each time you make a choice, you will also learn a mental health skill, and you will need all the skills you can learn along the way to help you in your final battle.

What was your inspiration for writing it?

I knew I wanted to write a fantasy book with self-help elements in it, in which the reader could learn these skills through the characters they were reading about. My editor, Andrew McAleer, had the brilliant idea of having a similar format to “Choose Your Own Adventure” fighting fantasy books. This sounded like a very interesting challenge to me, and I am extremely honoured to have been able to work on it.

Could you explain a bit about what Superhero Therapy is and how it works in the book?

Superhero Therapy refers to incorporating elements of popular culture, such as fantasy and science fiction books, movies, TV shows, as well as video games, comic books (Superhero or otherwise) into evidence-based (research-supported) therapy to help clients to become their own version of a superhero in real life (IRL).

In Therapy Quest, the reader is the Chosen One, the Hero of their own journey even if they question their ability to do so. Through learning skills such as mindfulness, self-compassion, acceptance, and following their own core values, the readers are invited to take their own superhero journey and develop their own superhero skills, which can be utilized in their every day life as well.

Who could you recommend the book to?

I would recommend this book to anyone age 12 and up who might enjoy fantasy books and would like to learn skills to manage depression, anxiety, trauma, or other mental health struggles.

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Dr Janina Scarlet is a clinical psychologist and the author of Therapy Quest, a revolutionary self-help book which combines therapy with an interactive fantasy quest.

Fitness and how it can help Depression: Guest Post by Paul Matthews

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(image: Fortaleza Fitness Center)

Dark times can come. When you reach your darkest days, the ones in which your thoughts are controlling you and you can barely do anything, you should try and keep yourself busy, if this is possible. Its not always possible for people who are unwell- but distractions and exercise are always helpful, especially if they benefit your overall health.

These are the top 3 reasons why taking exercise could help you if you’re suffering from depression:

1: Engage your mind and keep it busy

Last year was one of the worst periods of my life: I broke up with my girlfriend, changed my job and lost one of my best friends. I was that sad and my mind was not properly functioning, all my thoughts were invading me all day and I was barely able to do anything.

One day, I went for a 5 mile run, because it was sunny, right after work. During this time, no negative thought hit me. That was when I opened my eyes: if you don’t dwell on depressive thoughts, then you will be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I decided to get a gym membership and I started working out for an hour after work. It has really helped me manage my depression. I am happy right now: my life is busy, but I have plenty of energy every day and less dark clouds.

Keep active and you should hopefully see the benefit!

 

2: Your lifestyle can affect your mental health

One of my friends who had depression loved junk food. He was constantly sad and depressed. He also did hardly any exercise. I encouraged him to exercise more and go to the gym if possible. The exercise helped him feel more positive and like he was taking good steps back to wellness. 
3. Help Your Self Esteem and Do it for you 

Many people told me that they were embarrassed to do exercise and particularly going to the gym as they felt “ugly, insecure, overweight and not fit” and so on. The best advice I can give is: get yourself some good fitness clothing you feel comfortable in. This might sound a bit weird, but properly fitting exercise wear can boost confidence and promote positive mental health.

Its also important to note that you aren’t the only one feeling this way and most people feel the same about themselves. Take that leap today.

When you are approaching fitness, whether if it’s in the gym or outside, or even at home, you must not forget about why you are doing it, why it’s important for you and how this could help you with your mindset.

Gentle exercise includes swimming, walking and yoga. There is something for everyone.

Try and see over the wall and remember: after the storm, the sun will rise again. Keep it up!

 

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Paul Matthews is a freelance business writer in Manchester, who has headed up several campaigns. His aim is to better inform business owners and professionals on the hidden dangers of the workplace. You can often find him mountain biking or at the local library.

You can contact him at : https://twitter.com/paulwritesalot

Guest Post: Learn How to cope with Postpartum Depression by Kayla Clough at ourstart.com

After having a baby, there are many women who find themselves suffering from postpartum depression. Postpartum depression can cause feelings of sadness, lethargy, anxiety, and hopelessness. It’s important to do everything that you can to treat the symptoms of postpartum depression as much as you can so that you can build an amazing bond with your baby and rest assured that you are being the best mother that you can possibly be. The following guide walks you through a few ways you can handle postpartum depression effectively.

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(image: Kayla Clough)

Talk About the Way That You Are Feeling

There are many women who feel ashamed of the way that they are feeling and try to hide it from their friends and family. This is not a good idea because it can lead to isolation and cause the sadness and feelings of hopelessness to become exasperated. It’s best to be upfront and honest with your friends and family about the way that you are feeling so that they can help you battle the feelings as much as possible.

 

Take a Break from Time to Time

Being a new mother can be overwhelming. There is so much to do, and it often feels as though everything you do is not good enough. Take a break from time to time to unwind and allow your emotions to reset. Taking a long bath or simply enjoying a cup of tea alone on the porch while reading a great book can help you to be able to feel less anxious and allow your body and mind time to relax so that you can go back to caring for your baby with less stress.

 

Get Plenty of Sleep

When you are not getting enough sleep, it can be hard to regulate your emotions. It’s best to get as much sleep as you can when you have a little one. Take naps when they take naps and realize that the house, laundry, and the dishes can all be taken care of during the day. You can lay your baby down next to while you fold clothes or carry them against your chest in a carrier while you wash dishes or clean the house.

 

Get Up and Move

After having a baby many women feel lethargic and do not realize that they need to get up and move around to make themselves feel better. Getting regular exercise has been shown to lift moods and can help you to lose some of the weight that you may have put on during your pregnancy. It’s important to realize that the better you feel about yourself, the better mother you can be with your little one.

 

Don’t Be Afraid to Get Professional Help

There are times when overcoming postpartum depression on your own is too difficult to do. You can seek professional help from a psychiatrist to get advice and medication to help treat the symptoms that you are experiencing. Being able to be less stressed, anxious, and sad can help you to be able to live a more fulfilling life.

Postpartum depression does usually go away over time. If you have suffered from postpartum depression before, there is a good chance that you will suffer from it with future pregnancies. Be sure to properly prepare for the situation so that you can treat it from the start so that you do not have to suffer from the feelings associated with postpartum depression for any longer than you have to.

 

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Kayla Clough is the email specialist at OurStart. Kayla is a recent graduate of Eastern University in PA, USA where she majored in Marketing and Human Resources. Kayla loves all things fashion, her golden retriever Max, and coffee. When she is not working, you can find her binge watching Sex in the City and baking her latest find on Pinterest.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OurStart

Blog: https://ourstart.com/