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.

 

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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.

Extract from my Metro article on Homelessness and Mental health issues

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(image: concordhomeless.org)

This is an extract from a Metro.co.uk article that our founder Eleanor wrote and researched on rough sleeping, homelessness and mental health issues. To read the full article click here: http://metro.co.uk/2018/04/10/homelessness-and-mental-health-whats-being-done-to-help-7421391/

The ‘Beast from the East’ put homelessness under the spotlight in February and March as rough sleepers faced freezing conditions. But a more persistent problem among homeless people, which is little talked about, is the prevalence of mental health issues. As someone with bipolar disorder, who has never been homeless, I wanted to investigate what support there is out there for homeless people with mental health conditions.

Anyone can be affected by homelessness, regardless of age, race or sex. Among homeless people, 44% have been diagnosed with a mental health condition, according to Homeless Link. Homeless link points out that homelessness is a stressful, lonely, traumatic experience, which has a major impact on mental health.

In summarising some of its research into homelessness and mental health, Crisis says: ‘Serious mental health issues, such as schizophrenia, bipolar and post traumatic stress disorder are more common among homeless people. ‘Suicide rates are nine times higher, demonstrating the very real need of effective support’

Homeless people with mental health issues, particularly rough sleepers, often have less access to mental health professionals due to their lack of address or their complex needs. Being homeless is extremely overwhelming. Treatment may be the last thing on the mind of a homeless person with a mental health condition when they are focused on finding a way to get food and a place to sleep. The prevalence of drug and alcohol addictions is an added problem.

According to Crisis: ‘Homeless people are more vulnerable to alcohol and drug use. ‘Multiple diagnosis of substance and mental health issues can be a barrier. Rates of alcohol and drug use are four times higher than in the general population.’

Understandably, addiction can get worse when someone is homeless, due to the stress. St Mungo’s is charity that has conducted research into this area and affected change in legislation. Its investigation ‘Stop the Scandal’, looks at mental health and rough sleeping. The charity called for a national strategy to end rough sleeping and changes to the law.

Following St Mungo’s campaign, in 2017 the government backed the Homelessness Reduction Act. This legislation, which came into force on 3 April, is designed to prevent people becoming homeless and to give councils more power to tackle the issue. The government also committed to halve rough sleeping by 2022.

St Mungo’s is leading the way on this. It said: ‘Our experience is that homeless people are treated poorly and often labelled and judged. ‘People see drink or drugs behind rough sleeping, but rarely think about mental health. ‘Mental ill-health can affect anyone, but people sleeping rough face adverse weather conditions, fear and isolation’.

 

Read more: http://metro.co.uk/2018/04/10/homelessness-and-mental-health-whats-being-done-to-help-7421391/?ito=cbshare

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MetroUK | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/

What happens during a Manic episode: Bipolar One Disorder Tales by founder Eleanor

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When most people think of bipolar disorder, they may think of the two opposing poles that make up the illness. High and low. Manic and depressed. Many also believe that all people with bipolar flit between these moods constantly and that the illness is severe or alike in everyone who has it. This is not the case.

There are two types of bipolar disorder. I have the first one – Bipolar affective One disorder, which means that I have serious manic episodes which include psychosis (loss of touch with reality). This has happened to me twice in my life and both times I have needed hospitalisation. Bipolar two is characterised by lesser manic episodes (hypomania) and more mixed states.

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(image: https://www.34-menopause-symptoms.com/mood-swings.htm)

Being Bipolar One is very challenging. When I get ill, I get really really sick. Loss of insight, loss of reality, needing anti psychotic medicines now- ill. Ill to the point of being sectioned under the mental health act due to lack judgement and insight. Believing that my family are out to get me and people are going to harm me – ill.  Really unwell.

When one of these serious manic episodes strikes for me, my thoughts begin racing and I can’t concentrate. I don’t sleep, I am more creative in the short term but a gibbering wreck in the long term. I start believing I can do things that I can’t rationally. I am super vulnerable and I speak much faster. I may not make much sense and when the delusions begin, I start believing I am going to be harmed.

Luckily, these episodes are kept at bay by a host of excellent medications including Lithium and Quetaipine. I also take anti depressants to keep the low periods at bay in my life.

Full blown psychosis and mania for me are very rare but they do happen. In 10 years, from 2004-2014 I did not have a hospitalisation. I was depressed and anxious but I was able to recover at home.

I had no hypomanic or manic episodes for a decade! No psychosis. One therapist even questioned my diagnosis, before my 2014 hospitalisation.

Mania for me means danger. That danger means I am more vulnerable. I have to be very careful who I surround myself with during those times. I don’t drink alcohol to excess or take drugs, but some with this kind of mania do. Or they spend lots of money or engage in risk taking behaviours such as sexual activity.

I have learnt that as long as I take my medication regularly, get enough sleep, eat well (and don’t engage in long haul travel) that I can keep my symptoms at bay. If my medicines work! (this is always a fear.. that they could stop working).

Mania for me strikes out of the blue sometimes. I also have to be careful that my mood stabiliser medicine is holding me- as with high doses of anti depressants, mania can be triggered without it.

When in psychosis in hospital I have thought the following untrue delusions

– I am being harmed by my family
– There are CCTV cameras watching and filming me in my bedroom/ hospital room
– I have been abused in some way (my mind convinces itself)
– I am being held by a criminal gang (in hospital)

These delusions have always disappeared over time, with excellent care from psychiatrists and psychologists, anti psychotic medicine and good support from family.

I don’t get these when well, and rarely have to go through them. I am learning to accept that my brain chemistry is not the same as other people and having bipolar, a chronic illness, is not my fault. I just do the best I can to manage symptoms and keep myself as well as possible.
If you want to share your story of mania and bipolar, please do write below.

There is hope and recovery after mania. Thank you to all on the Facebook group who voted for this one.  

Love, Eleanor x

 

We are 2 Years Old! Blog Anniversary of Be Ur Own Light!

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(image: Michelle Leigh writes)

Wow! I can’t believe that Be Ur Own Light has turned 2 years old! We celebrated our second blogiversary on 1st March so I am a few days late but it doesn’t matter.

This blog has provided me with so many amazing opportunities so far. I have met more and more people who are like minded and want to speak about their own mental health to battle stigma. I have met some incredible people online too and such wonderful contributors. I love also finding and telling untold stories.

The blog  has really grown this year into a good mental health resource. We have had lots of contributors which has been fab. I (Eleanor, founder of blog) have also started a new career as a mental health writer and journalist. That is largely down to the success of the blog and I have truly found a niche. Be Ur Own Light is also a shortlisted finalist in the Health and Social care individual category of the UK Blog Awards 2018! Thank you for all your support of the blog and what we do.

I have written this year for Metro.co.uk, Glamour Magazine (online), No Panic, Happiful Magazine and Happiful.com, Counselling Directory, Mind, SANE, Time to Change, STOP Suicide,  Jewish News, Equilibrium Magazine, World Union of Jewish Students,
and been featured in Cosmopolitan UK, Elle UK and Prima.

Thank you to all these amazing people who have provided guest blogs this year. I have been humbled to work with experts and people with lived experience, to provide information and tell others stories to help end the stigma and provide a resource on mental health.

So thank you to these guest bloggers who gave me such wonderful content. There is more to come. This year March 2017-18 thanks to:

Hannah Brown- Recovery from Anorexia
Time With-  Therapy queries
Charlotte Underwood- Recovery from depression/ suicide
Trysh Sutton- Pure Path Essential Oils

Ariel Taylor- Trichotillomania guide
Jon Manning- Mental health in schools
Channel 4 and Lloyds Bank- Get the Inside Out campaign
Stephen Galloway- Inspirational lyrics
Eugene Farell AXA PPP- Loneliness tips
Peter Lang- PTSD and recovery
Kaitlyn W- Light beyond self harm
Jess Harris- Organ donation
Sam- Recovery from bipolar disorder
Ryan Jackson- Reasons for drug and alcohol addiction stigma
Redfin.com- Seasonal Affective disorder
United Mind Laughter Yoga- Job and wellbeing
Christina Hendricks- on PTSD
Reviews Bee- Child Mental Health
Consumer Money Worries- Mental Health and money
Stephen Smith- OCD and nOCD app
Arslan Butt- University students and mental illness
Tony Weekes- Unity MHS
Ellie Miles- Fighting Health Anxiety
Hope Virgo- Anorexia and recovery
Ann Heathcote- Government and mental health
Jasmine Burns- Strategies to help Binge eating
Bill Weiss- Surviving Opiate withdrawal
Jessica Flores- Bipolar 2 – depression
Jay Pigmintiello- Mindfulness and Meditation
David Baum- 365 Challenge for PTSD awareness
Karen- Mental health professional with anxiety
Dr Stacey Leibowitz Levy- CBT
Lucy Boyle- Burnout Syndrome
Diamond G Health Informer- Technology and mental health
Juno Medical- Anxiety Disorders

Thank you to everyone! This year we aim to cover even more mental health issues and disorders in our quest to provide information and be a home for all.

This year I have also written personal posts about my fight with my anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, mental health and dating, mental health and weight gain, NHS waiting lists and therapy,  book reviews for Trigger Press for Hope Virgo and Karen Mantons books, Workplace and mental health stigma, Reading as therapy and more! Time to Talk Day and Eating Disorder Awareness Week marked and many conversations had eg stigma about psychiatric medication.

We have won various awards from other bloggers- Liebster, Sunshine, Mystery and Top 30 social anxiety blog and Top 100 bipolar blog from Feedspot.com.

I am so excited that we have over 4,000 followers on Twitter, almost 600 on WordPress, over 2000 on Instagram and of course my loyal Facebook followers too.

Thank you friends and supporters! Heres to a great year talking about all things mental health and normalising it to all.

Eleanor x

Extract from Cosmopolitan UK Article by Olivia Blair on Anti Depressants- featuring our founder Eleanor

I was so excited to be featured in Olivia Blair’s article for Cosmopolitan UK on anti depressants- 6 women share what its really like to be on Anti depressants.

I am so thrilled to be in this article with 4 other brave women. My first time in Cosmo! Thank you Olivia.

Below is my part of the article but please click here to read the others experiences too:  https://www.cosmopolitan.com/uk/body/health/a18720313/women-on-antidepressants-working/

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(image: Getty Images/ Cosmopolitan)

I become suicidal when depressed, it’s vital I take medication for my health”

Eleanor Segall, 29, mental health blogger

“I started taking antidepressants when I was 15 after an acute depressive episode where I had to take time off school. A year later I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was hospitalised so I was prescribed a mood stabiliser as well to keep me on an even keel.

I was concerned about some of the side effects but the positives for my mind and brain chemistry outweighed the negatives. Over the years, I have been on different antidepressants including fluoxetine, duloxetine and now sertraline. I also continue to have psychodynamic therapy and have tried CBT, art therapy and meditation.

There is a big stigma around anti depressants, particularly against bipolar and other chronic conditions. But I think this new study offers proof that, for some of us, they are vital.”

Extract from my latest Metro.co.uk article: 6 people share their experiences of friendship during Mental Illness

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(image: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

I have bipolar disorder and four years ago I was hospitalised for a severe manic episode.

Without the love, kindness and support of my friends, I definitely would not have recovered as well.

Their support reminds me I am not alone and helps me to feel loved and safe. But mental ill health can be frightening for those who do not understand it, and sometimes friendships can be lost when one person experiences a mental health condition.

Some people may find it hard to cope with symptoms of a friend’s illness and, as such, cut ties or back away.

Jessica Valentine, psychologist at the Brighton Wellness Centre spoke to Metro.co.uk. She says: ‘Sometimes having a friend with a mental health illness can be draining. ‘On the other hand, it’s good to experience the journey of mental health; the ups and the downs, from a personal level. ‘You really get to ‘feel’ your friend come out of the depression. And, it somewhat makes you feel that you are living it too, side by side, helping them.’

The Mental Health Foundation explains that friendship can ‘play a key role in helping someone live with or recover from a mental health problem and overcome the isolation that often comes with it.

It advises that many people who manage to hold onto friendships while experiencing a mental health condition can see those friendships become stronger as a result.

I wanted to see the role of friendships in other peoples’ lives, either when they were coping with a mental health condition, or when they had witnessed a friend in crisis.

Here six people explain their experiences:

Read their experiences and rest of article: http://metro.co.uk/2018/03/01/6-people-share-their-experiences-of-friendship-during-mental-illness-7343290/?ito=cbshare

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MetroUK | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/

Dispelling the Online stigma: Twitter, Antidepressants and #MedsWorkedforMe

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(image: amyransom.com)

I wasnt going to write a blog on this because it might feed the Twitter trolls. But I have decided that its really important that I speak out about whats been going on this week on there, in realm of mental health on social media. Theres been a lot of stigma against medication as well as much support for it.

This week, a study by Oxford University and published in the psychology medical journal the Lancet, found that anti depressants work and are effective in a large number of cases. It was hailed as the first major study to prove this. Some medications were found to be more effective than others, but it provided a fantastic proof- that anti depressant medications do help relieve depression in many cases. They are not just a placebo pill.

However, of course, there are a large number of people who have had bad experiences with anti depressants and want to make their voices heard- yet often at the expense of those of us who it works for.

On Twitter, using the trending hasthtag #antidepressants and #medsworkedforme, I shared that anti depressants coupled with my mood stabilisers, have very much helped my bipolar disorder. My brain chemistry and illness is such that unmedicated I can have episodes of suicidal depression, psychosis and mania. My medication keeps my moods balanced and well, so I can function and live a normal life. I have been on anti depressants for almost 15 years now. I have been on fluoxetine, duloxetine and now sertraline.

The only bad experience I ever had with them is when my previous mood stabiliser stopped working and due to an increased dose of duloxetine to relieve my depression (which it did), I tipped over into a fast and unpredictable manic episode. This is the risk that those of us with bipolar run.

Yet, by and large my experiences with meds have been hugely positive. They keep me stable and well.

Unfortunately, on Twitter, I got trolled for the first time by people sharing the following ‘helpful’ opinions (they were not helpful and highly stigmatised):

1) You should reduce your sugar intake as sugar causes highs and lows and is addictive as cocaine. If you reduce your sugar, your bipolar will improve.

(To this I had to reiterate that no medication and less sugar will make my illness worse… and that excess sugar does not cause bipolar 1 disorder.. i.e. it does not have that impact on my mood swings.. bipolar is a real illness in the brain. Reducing sugar may help with overall health but seriously you are going to tell me this?)

2) Others asked what alternative therapies I had tried- eg exercise instead of medication. I reiterated the above re psychosis and suicidal ideation. Which unfortunately cant be treated with exercise alone.

3) People shared their own stories eg the man who had multiple severe illnesses and takes no medication because ‘it shortens life span’ and its a medical fact apparently that these medications cause psychosis. (Some psychiatric meds cause side effects but psychosis- really? Also why would you tell me it will shorten my life?)

There was a lot of what I would call militant stigma against medication, either by people who fear it or have experienced negative effects.

While medication is not for everyone, we shouldn’t be shaming people for taking it. I shouldn’t be shamed for keeping my brain healthy and well through taking meds. And neither should any of you.

Make sure you fight this stigma (and the block button is always useful).

Love,

Eleanor

Extract from my article for Metro UK: How to Improve on-screen depictions of Mental Illness

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This is an extract from an  article our founder Eleanor Segall wrote for Metro.co.uk. To read the full article click here:

http://metro.co.uk/2018/02/21/how-to-improve-on-screen-depictions-of-mental-illness-7315828/

As someone with bipolar disorder, I am often intrigued by depictions of mental illness on TV and film. For many years, mental illness has been stigmatised, and this has been reflected on screen. Thankfully, this stigma is beginning to be broken down, but it is still present.

In her award-winning article, Mental Illness in the Media, for the International Bipolar Foundation, Hosana Tagomori, who was a high school student when she worked on the piece, wrote: ‘The media often portrays characters with mental illness as incomprehensible, tortured and convoluted… the entertainment value often gets in the way of an accurate portrayal. ‘Patients are perceived as dangerous or insane, due to the inaccurate portrayals in media, where the character is almost always hopeless, deranged, and dangerous.’ ‘It is quite easy to subconsciously absorb these misconceptions.’

Indeed, this is a challenge that those of us with mental health issues face. We want our illnesses to be portrayed correctly and accurately on screen, without having to watch stereotypes. Depictions of mental health can be disappointing

Tagomori wrote: ‘In the television series Homeland, the bipolar character always seems to be the pop-eyed, insane mess who is constantly going ballistic: ranting, drinking and screaming’. While this can be true for some people with bipolar in the middle of a manic episode, it is not a balanced approach to the illness. We know that people with bipolar disorder can often be stable and well on medication and that a long time can elapse between episodes.

Portrayals of those with mental illness as ‘insane messes’ raises dangerous misconceptions, including that people with mental health problems will never get well. For me, a brilliant representation of bipolar disorder and postpartum psychosis appeared on EastEnders in 2015.

This centered around a story line for pregnant character Stacey Fowler (played by Lacey Turner), who has the disorder and experiences a psychotic episode after giving birth. Before watching the scenes in which Stacey has psychosis, I was concerned how it would be shown on screen, but I needn’t have worried. Sensitive, accurate portrayals of mental illness on screen can help to educate viewers EastEnders worked directly with the charities Mind and Bipolar UK to create the story line, so the script and performance were as accurate as possible.

In 2015, Dominic Treadwell Jones, producer of the story line spoke to the Radio Times, he said: ‘EastEnders have worked closely with Mind, Bipolar UK, other experts in the field and women with personal experience to show a story that is true and painful, while also filled with the usual twists and turns viewers have come to expect from EastEnders. Lacey is one of the most raw and intuitive actresses on TV.’

Also speaking to the Radio Times about the EastEnders story line, Clare Dolman, vice chair of Bipolar UK, said : ‘As the national charity supporting people with bipolar, we’ve been glad to work closely with the BBC on Stacey’s storyline. ‘There is a very high risk that women with bipolar will become ill when they have a child and 20-25% of them will have a postpartum psychosis, so it’s fantastic that EastEnders are raising awareness of this devastating condition.’

In the scenes where Stacey is experiencing psychosis, the character believes she is the Virgin Mary and that her baby is Jesus. She experiences delusions and auditory hallucinations. I was concerned about how I would feel watching it, but what I most felt was a sense of pride that British television was portraying bipolar correctly, sensitively and appropriately.

Read more: http://metro.co.uk/2018/02/21/how-to-improve-on-screen-depictions-of-mental-illness-7315828/?ito=cbshare

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Guest Post: Mental Health in Schools- Support, Goals and Prevention by Jon Manning at Arthur Ellis: School Enterprise

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Last year, 916 children per day in the UK were referred to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. In some areas of the UK, there are mental health appointment waiting times of up to 2 years.

 

As with everything, we need to learn from this, adapt and solve. Many of our children are subject to a huge amount of information through a variety of channels including social media, news, peers etc, much, much more than if you look at only ten years ago. With these added pressures, we need to ensure they have a more robust support system in place that is ready to react when they need it.

 

Arthur Ellis: School Enterprise is a non-profit organisation solving mental health issues. Founded through the real life experience of Jon Manning who suffers with Bipolar Disorder. With the help from Medical Professionals, Teachers and Local Authorities, AEforSchools was created, a support system that embeds itself in schools and mentors pupils on those waiting lists and provides empowering workshops for those within school counselling.

 

Like many things, a mental health issue snowballs, it doesn’t always go away, it may get worse. With the numbers rising, our young people need to understand and be able to differentiate between good mental health and mental illness and know how to take control of their lives to minimise the effects of it. The more children that can take this control at a young age, the more resilient they will become and be able to live fuller lives as they grow.

 

One thing that I have learnt from my journey to gaining a diagnosis, is that a support network is key. You need to be able to feel comfortable enough to open up to someone who can listen and work with you to support you. Not everyone will be able to help with everything. Personally, my Mum and Dad had different approaches, I would approach one for certain things and the other for something else.

 

Another main task I took on was exercise, no matter how small. Some days, I didn’t feel able , which is okay. I would however, make sure I did three lots of exercise per week. I found that setting an achievable goal helped so much with giving me a purpose, I could relate that back to how I felt after a jog or a few press ups and it began feeling better…with that, I added a day. This sometimes took so long I felt there was no progress at all but I knew the most important thing was that I was doing it. I found that my Mum was the part of my support network to help push me to not to forget those press ups! You tend to do it when a strong, female is telling you to!

 

Making little goals and having a support network to help push you to strive towards goals is a great way of tackling issues. You may need medical intervention but this is a good way to help without it (or with it depending on what you need). It is easier to stop a snowball rolling down a hill while it’s still small. The further down it gets, the more help you will need- and that is OK. Be open. Those that are close to you often understand, tell someone you trust.

 

When I first told people about my diagnosis I often got the reaction ‘Well that makes sense’. We had all been thinking the same thing but hadn’t spoken about it. I was shaking at the thought of telling people, not knowing how they would react, what they would say and what they wouldn’t say- but how they might look. However, because it was the right people, it was fine, liberating in fact to disclose my bipolar!

 

So use that network you have around you, talk about how you’re feeling and think about something you love, do it in small doses and get your network to help you complete those goals.

 

Teach your children the same and they will grow up more resilient, more confident and able to handle the ups and downs of life.

 

Jon Manning, Founder, Arthur Ellis: School Enterprise  https://www.arthurellisltd.com/