(MEN)tal Health.

Mate, you just need to man up!

As I am sure most of you know, mental illness will affect 1 in 4 of us in our life times… That is a pretty scary statistic. What is even more scary? Women are twice as likely to receive help for mental health issues and illnesses than men… (and we wonder why suicide is STILL the biggest killer of men under the age of 35!?) Put it this way – I have around 1000 friends on my Facebook profile, from all over the world. I’d say a good 60% of them are male; taking that into account, around 150+ of them will experience mental health issues in their life times. That is a HUGE amount of people. Devastatingly, more than 1/3 of these lovely guys could end their lives, due to inadequate mental health treatment and the mental illnesses they experience.

SOME IMPORTANT FACTS TO REMEMBER –

  • As I was saying, mental illnesses are very common and can have an impact on anyones lives regardless of gender, physical health, race, sexuality, etc.
  • EVERYONE has mental health, yes absolutely everyone.
  • Mental health, like physical health is a spectrum from ‘good’ to ‘poor’.
  • Just because many mental illnesses are caused by hormonal imbalances it doesn’t mean females are the only sufferers. It may seem obvious, but too many people forget that WE ALL HAVE HORMONES.
  • Mental health is just as important as physical health and go hand in hand, as part of a healthy life style.

There are many misconceptions around men having mental health illnesses. As a campaigner against mental health stigma, some of these are so preposterous that they literally make my skin crawl – others I understand are just down to pure naivety.

  • If a fella has a mental illness they are ‘weak’ for showing their emotions and having such an illness makes you ‘less of a man’…

Most of the brave male friends and acquaintances I have spoken to have fear of facing stigma from this disgusting misconception. Stigma is DEFINITELY shrinking, but frustratingly, too large of a proportion of society seem to brand any man who is open about their feelings and mental health as a ‘pussy’ or ‘being weak’. Let me be completely clear here, I know I am not the only one to think that a man who can talk about his feelings and be a little more sensitive, appears so much more manly than a guy who keeps it all to himself. This misconception is likely to come from your buddy, maybe even a male relative, who means the best, BUT constantly makes you regret emotionally confiding in them by telling you to ‘man up’, ‘get a grip’ or tell you that ‘life isn’t that bad’ or asking ‘what do you have to be upset about?’.

  • Only Women self-harm and have eating disorders…

Self-harming exists in all gender identities. Male self-harm is at an all time high and is almost at a 50/50 split with females. Although eating disorders statistically affect more females than males, they are also across the board and can impact anyone, at any time. No one chooses to have these illnesses and no one takes the decision to harm themselves lightly, whether it be substance or drug abuse, cutting, pinching, hair pulling or putting yourself in risky and triggering situations. It’s a release and in NO WAY is a “cry for attention”.

  • Men only face mental health issues through drug and alcohol abuse…

Statistically, men are only slightly more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, although there is a link between this and mental health issues, it is by no means the only cause. So many mental illnesses are caused by hormonal imbalances in the brain, some are hereditary, others are caused by triggering life events such as abuse, failure, grief, change, hardships, social standings and economic backgrounds can all have a negative impact on your mental health.

  • Talk therapy? Sounds like circle time to me…

Going to therapy is possibly one of the most daring things anyone can do in attempt to turn their mental state around, laying yourself emotionally bare to someone you’ve never talk to if you had more of a choice is hardly appealing to anyone. There are many types of therapy, but those that work best, generally are those that allow someone to talk through what they’re experiencing to make sense of it in their own heads. Being open doesn’t make you weak.

  • Suicide is an easy way out…

No one contemplating suicide takes that decision lightly. Having tried myself, I can 100% vouch for that. Many men who suffer with mental illness experience extreme amounts of guilt, feeling that because they are feeling the they way that are, that they’re unworthy and a disappointment to their friends and family. That, because they can’t face the day and get into work, that everyone would be better without them? Not being able to accomplish their dreams, so they’re a write off? OBVIOUSLY, this is never the case but when you’re in the wrong mindset, that’s exactly how it feels. Suicide may stop things getting any worse- but it brutally stops the chance of things ever getting any better.

  • Mental health leave is for slackers and is a complete cop out…

I think this is sooooo ridiculous! Say, you’ve broken your ribs, you’re in too much pain to get out of bed so you’ve had to call in sick? What if you’re so low that moving makes you vomit and the idea of getting out of bed brings you to tears? What if all you see is emptiness and you know you need help? Why not call in sick then? It’s just as painful and crippling. Physical illness is no more important that mental illness.

  • Medications are for people who can’t sort their own issues out…

This irritates me endlessly, so i’ll keep it sort and simple- if you’re diabetic and you need medications to get by and live, what is wrong with taking medications to help with mental illnesses?? I may just be one woman, but I know a lot about mental health stigma and have a lot of experience in this field. It may not count for much but you’re never alone and PLEASE never be afraid to speak out. Getting help is more difficult than anything you may ever experience, but you’re not the first and you won’t be the last. A problem shared is often a problem halved and you should never worry about being a burden to anyone who cares about you. Recovery is always possible. You can never be replaced.

At the end of the day, everyone is entitled to emotions. Always be respectful; everyone is going through their own battles, so try not to be a dickhead. If you guys can take ANYTHING from this, let it be to talk. You have no idea how just a text can turn someone’s day around.

If you’re worried about a friend, let them know you’re there- take them out for a pint, go play cards, darts, go to a gig or for a coffee. All of these things are so simple, there is really no excuse to leave anyone out of contact if they mean something to you.

Useful UK links…

http://www.rethink.org
http://www.samaritans.org
http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/mentalhealth/Pages/Mentalhealthhome.aspx

If you liked this you may enjoy reading…

Daddykind Corner: Being a Dad with PTSD

After we did a trial run of the Daddykind Corner with my lovely husband putting up with me interviewing him for the sake of the blog and for all of Daddykind, we present to you….

VOLUME 2!

I am very pleased to introduce our good friend Darren, who has had his fair share of mental illness and has some good techniques and tips for bringing your children up aware of mental health and how to take care of it.

Darren uses his own experience to coach other men through mental health problems and other mental blocks, so he’s pretty qualified to share his thoughts on how you can move on from mental illness and be the best parent you can be.

I’m so thrilled to feature this post from Darren because we all know how dire mental health provision is and how badly it affects men in particular. Please if any mums or dads are reading this and think they need help, contact your GP, the Samaritans or your local out of hours team if you feel you are in crisis.

Tell us a bit about yourself…

Yes, of course. My name is Darren, I am friends with Sarah through her husband, Jamie. I served in the military with Jamie for 15 years and was posted overseas on many operations.
I am a father to two beautiful children aged 4 and 2, a boy and girl and separated from their mother whom I still have a fantastic relationship with….for the most part lol…
I was born and raised in the East End of London and I currently coach other men on mastering their emotions.

If you had to describe being a father in one word, what would it be and why?

If I had to choose 1 word it’d be “uncertainty” because I find I’m alway asking myself if I’m doing the right thing for them… whether that be by way of teaching and helping shape their little minds or disciplining them and training them to be good, honest, hardworking people. All that with making sure that they truly love themselves and KNOW from their core that they are worthy to achieve anything they want in life… No one said this parenting game is easy, aye?

How was your mental health after becoming a father?

I thought my mental health was fine… I was they happiest man in the world after my little girl, Evie was born…. However my wife at the time was suffering with and subsequently diagnosed with PND, which wasn’t easy at all, as I couldn’t understand why she was so unhappy all the time.

Were things different the second time around?

Oh massively… I’ll be honest and say that I never wanted a second child because I was so in love with my little girl that I couldn’t fathom having to share my love with another baby and I didn’t think it would be fair… I honestly didn’t think that I was capable of loving Mathew in the same way as Evie and subsequently it took me about 3 months to truly bond with him. Looking back it make me sad because I saw him as a burden. But now I understand that you don’t have to love them in the same way as your first and my heart literally melts every time I see him now.

Did you feel prepared for fatherhood and what could have helped you to be more prepared?

You can read all the books in the world, go to all the classes but I don’t think that anything will ever really prepare you for fatherhood. I think that as a dad having a positive male role model in your life can definitely put you in good stead to being a dad, and I never had this, which is why I do my absolute best to be the best man I can be for them because I know the importance of having both parents that want their babies to have the best start in life.

When were you diagnosed with PTSD and BPD?

I was diagnosed with PTSD from m

y military service in 2017 and subsequently discharged as a result and after using the techniques and procedures to keep on top of it I still knew that something was up with me and since have been diagnosed with BPD earlier this year after a friend opened up about her struggles it was like shinning a light on what I was going through.
Whilst growing up, I was a bit of a wild child to say the least and was in and out of care, excluded from school, engaged in dangerous or outright illicit activities at times and had a tough upbringing in East London, so I’ve always known that I’ve struggled with my emotions… something that I’ve got a grip of nowadays (for the most part). But as I grow, evolve and become more self aware over time it’s got to the point where I can’t ignore my problems and my advice to any other men reading this is: do not bury your head in the sand, just be honest with yourself… if you need help then go and seek it because drinking, fighting, drugs, being promiscuous etc etc will only lead to further problems and is just masking the true underlying issues.

What techniques do you use to manage your mental health?

There are many that you can use but finding what works for you is paramount. As a man, one of the biggest things that has helped me has been simply talking to a professional within the specific mental health niche. Because I bottled it up for so long there is only a certain amount you can take before something has to give. 
As I said, knowing yourself is also key… knowing what your triggers are and how they make you feel is also very important so you can counteract them…eg: being a massive introvert (most wouldn’t believe it lol) if I can feel myself slipping back into a rough patch…spending time alone in nature, on my motorbike, by the water really helps me to connect with myself again… it also helps to have a purpose and a goal in life and something to work on that requires discipline and focus. I find that whatever I focus on tends to expand so it’s about knowing how and where to shift your focus.

How has your understanding of your own mental health impacted on being a parent?

It most certainly has made be more aware and I listen more to my children… I’ll be honest I used to “Parent” my children and just try to get through the day making sure they are fed, watered and entertained. I now realise that it’s also key to flood their subconscious with positive affirming messages so that they love themselves. I just want them to be truly happy and not have to have a childhood they have to recover from. 

Who knows if I’m doing it right? One can only hope and time will tell.

Do you think it’s important to raise your children to understand mental illness and how would you do that?

I do think it’s super important that they know about mental health and more importantly that they take control of their own. I would certainly say that trying to go through life without any regrets is something I like to teach my kids… Whether that’s by always trying their hardest at something that they want to do and working hard for their goals or by simply being a good person and trying to never hurt the people around them or in any way compromise their integrity. 

Also, by always being true to themselves and NEVER letting the opinions of others define who they are…. I’ve always said that there is a date you were born and a date you die and that line in-between represents your life. 

So, I encourage them to think freely and live with passion and purpose.

———-

Thank you, Darren!

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Mental Health Monday: It’s okay not to be okay

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So we all have times where we’re not ourselves, and if you suffer from mental health issues then you’ll know what I mean when I say sometimes it’s okay not to be ok. It has come out in recent news that Demi Lovato was hospitalized due to a relapse in her mental health, and it truly baffles me as to why people felt it was okay to criticize her for this? Mental health isn’t something you can take a tablet to fix it takes years, sometimes lifetimes to be in a good place…and that’s okay because everyone copes in different ways.

I have had my fair share of experiences with mental illness;  Anxiety, depression, paranoia, post-partum psychosis and BPD to name a few. My experiences are completely different from those of my friends and family members that have experienced these conditions, so to people who don’t have any experience with poor mental health (and I mean this in the nicest way), what might have worked for your Aunt Becky’s hairdresser’s niece isn’t going to work for me. You see, this post isn’t just aimed at mums – as humans we are not expected to hold it together every minute of every day, nobody is expecting you to be perfect and that’s okay.

One thing that really grinds my gears on mental health is the stigma surrounding it. Why are people so ashamed and afraid to talk openly about how they are feeling? Having a broken mind is no different to having a broken arm – both take time and care to heal. Of course, in this day and age you still find people saying, “Oh get a grip”, “Mental health isn’t a real illness” or my personal favourite… “Stop attention seeking.” These are always the people that have had no experience of mental illness and I’m super glad life has been peachy keen for them, and I honestly hope they never do experience it.

When I think back to the time my mental health was at it’s worst, I reflect back and look at how far I’ve come. I would be lying if I said I’m completely cured… I still have a hell of a long way to go, but when I look back and remember sitting on the edge of a bridge over the M20, I tell myself it’s okay. I’m only human and some days I’m going to be a mess, some days I’m going to feel worthless but until anyone has walked in my shoes who the hell are they to judge me?

Recently, I discovered a young person quite close to me was suffering with depression and self harming, it broke my heart that they felt they couldn’t talk to anyone about it. When I asked them why they didn’t talk to anyone they replied, “people will think I’m a freak, I have seen how people at school get treated for being like this and I don’t want that,” and I was left speechless. Why do we live in a world where people, even more so young people, can’t talk about their mental well-being in fear of being bullied for it? Why do they feel they can’t discuss it openly or freely without fear of being judged?

So my darlings, don’t ever be ashamed of who you are or what you are going through, you are NEVER alone and you will get through this. You are worth so much more than you feel you are and it’s okay not to be okay.

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Mental Health Monday: Coping with a relapse…

It’s not always plain sailing…

Our mental health, much like our physical health, can be up and down. You can be fine one week, and  find yourself in a bottomless pit the next. Whether you’ve largely recovered or you’re gradually on the road to recovery, it’s important to remember that relapses are normal.

You won’t always feel as great as you do on your best days and you won’t always feel as bad as you do on the worst days. It can be a rollercoaster ride of emotions, helterskeltering to the bottom or being chucked up in the air in a fit of happiness!

What do you do when you are relapsing?

1. Remember that just like having any kind of physical relapse, this is normal! You will have bad days (probably for a long time) but they’ll get fewer and fewer as time goes on and as your brain repairs itself.

2. Take some time out – self care is even more important when you’re going through a relapse. One of the easiest ways to keep yourself going is to pamper yourself a bit, make sure you look after yourself, force yourself to get out of bed and have a shower, but do take it easy. If you need to rest, then rest. You know what you need, so listen to your body and give it a break!

3. If it lasts longer than a few days, seek help. Sometimes relapses do need some medical attention and you might need support when you’re dealing with them – don’t be afraid to reach out if things get too hard. If you don’t feel like you can talk to the people around you, you are always more than welcome to reach out to one of us for a non-judgemental rant and rave, but we still advise speaking to your GP if you’re struggling!

4. Remind yourself that you are not a bad mother… When depression strikes, you can feel like the whole world is against you and that you’re completely worthless. It can take a long time to realise that those thoughts are the depression talking – you’re a perfectly capable mother, and you should never ever criticise yourself for having a relapse. You wouldn’t criticise someone for suffering with cancer, so why criticise yourself for suffering mentally?

5. Focus on the good days, they’re what will get you through the bad ones. When those bad days do come and plague you, it’s important not to dwell on them for too long or to overanalyse the way you felt when you were at your worst. You’ll have days that are equally on the opposite side of the scale that are amazing, and focusing on those days will help you pull through in the long run!

Is there anything else that you do when you suffer with a relapse in your mental health? Let us know!

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Mental Health Monday: Why I let my daughter see me cry…

Olivia has just turned 2, and she’s already so receptive to other people’s emotions. She has been from a very young age. If she sees or hears a baby crying, she goes over to them and tries to comfort them in her own adorable way. She understands that certain things make mummy sad or happy, and she tells me when she is sad or when she is happy.

I honestly don’t believe we would be at this stage if she hadn’t ever seen me cry (on numerous occasions).

I want her to know that it’s okay to cry, and that she should never feel ashamed of crying. Crying doesn’t make you weak, it makes you strong. You’re releasing a lot of emotion in the only way you can, and if you didn’t release it, you’d be worse off. You would bottle it up and the upset would turn into anger. I’m okay with Olivia seeing me upset.

There are many, many times when I’m upset because of Olivia. Maybe it’s sleep deprivation or just a general feeling that I can’t cope anymore on my own with her because I’ve had a whole day of her shouting “No!” at me and throwing herself around in a tantrum on the floor. It’s those times that I think it’s most important that she sees me crying – when it gets to that point.

I don’t want my daughter to grow up thinking that there are no consequences for her actions. There are certain things she will do that will upset the people around her, and every time she sees me crying, it immediately stops her from doing whatever it was that drove me to tears in the first place, and she comes and gives me a “cug” and we both feel better afterwards.

I want Olivia to grow up to be kind and nurturing, and learning to comfort others is a huge part of that! If I had a son, I would do exactly the same with him. It’s even more crucial to help boys learn that crying is okay and that they don’t have to bottle up their tears.

In the UK, mens’ suicide rates are 3 times higher than women’s, and a huge part of this is the notion that boys and men can’t show emotion. Suicide remains the biggest killer in men aged 20-49, and yet an astonishing 34% of men said that they would feel ashamed or embarrassed to take time off work for their mental health, compared to 13% feeling embarrassed for time off for a physical injury (https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/key-data-mental-health).

Mental illness is seen as a weakness, more so amongst men than women. I would never, ever want my children to grow up seeing these indiscriminate and often debilitating illnesses as things that make them weak. Facing their illness head on, confronting their fears, and learning how to properly cope with emotions is the best strength that our children can learn from us parents who have unfortunately been there and well and truly got the damn t-shirt!

My daughter will learn to show and cope with her emotions and to be supported, and my sons (if I ever had any) would learn the same.

Emotions.

We all have them. Why should we hide?

Monday Stumble Linky

Mental Health Monday: The "Worry-O-Meter"

This is something that I recently came across as a tool to help children address things that worry them – it’s a tool used by social workers a lot when children unfortunately end up involved in the court system for a number of reasons, and it works like this…

There’s a bright, colourful, sliding scale on which children can place their worries.

Right at the bottom, you have the TINY WORRIES, then next up you have the LITTLE WORRIES, MEDIUM SIZED WORRIES, BIG WORRIES, and, at the top are the GIANT SCARY WORRIES.

Image result for worryometer
This is the “Worry-O-Meter” as used by Cafcass

Using this system, children can write down what is worrying them, and they can put them into boxes according to what is worrying them the most.

As soon as I saw this, I instantly thought that this was a brilliant idea for all children. As parents, our children’s wellbeing is at the forefront of our minds, and those of us who have experienced mental illness want our children to grow up knowing that it’s okay to seek help and to talk about how they feel. This tool can really help us to do that, and it can be used in any environment.

At the moment, it’s pretty much only used for children with social services involvement for any number of reasons, but this could be used at school in liaison with the family if either of them raise concerns about a child’s wellbeing, and you could even use it at home yourself if you think your child is worrying about something and not opening up to you.

It’s a very child friendly way of opening up a dialogue with your child, and we all know how difficult that can be sometimes! How many times have you asked your children how their day was to be met with either silence or shrugged shoulders? While that may well be a very normal part of being a child/pre-teen/teen, sometimes it might not be normal. There might be something lingering below the surface that just needs a gentle pull so that your little one feels like they can talk to you about it!

I hope that sharing this is going to help someone, somewhere – it’s definitely a technique I’ll be employing later on when my daughter grows up a bit more!

Let me know if you have any other ways of getting your children to open up to you!

Mental Health Monday: Postnatal anxiety and me.

As a new mum, I thought that the anxiety of leaving your child, leaving the house with your child etc. was normal. What I didn’t realise was that not wanting to be alone with your child and having the constant fear that you would do something wrong and having your child taken away from you was not normal. This is how I felt 90% of the time and it completely ruined the bond I so badly wanted with my daughter. 90% of the time I’d be at somebody’s house, or out of the house with people around because I was scared of being alone with my daughter. Scared that something would happen and nobody would be around to help me. Or if I did something different to the mums at baby group, I would panic that I was doing it wrong and my daughter was going to taken into care because I didn’t know what I was doing.

I started to see this as abnormal when my daughter was around 4 or 5 months old. I saw other mums staying at home alone with their children and taking a different approach to parenting and wondered why they seemed okay with it but not me. I mean, this was normal right? Hmm… not so much. I went to see my GP who suggested I saw a therapist. So I agreed, reluctantly at first, to go to the first session and I was so bloody nervous. The anxiety had kicked in 100 times worse. What if I say something and they think I’m an unfit mother? What if I go there and they think Evie is unsafe with me? I could go on…Surprisingly, they were incredibly understanding and instead of judging, they listened. They listened to me ramble on about my worries, my fears and my goals. I was diagnosed with postnatal anxiety which, once explained to me, made perfect sense. I didn’t feel any less anxious after that session, but my thoughts were out there. Thoughts I hadn’t even told my partner about because I was scared of sounding crazy or stupid but I finally knew that I wasn’t either of those things.

I continued on with a therapist but this time, with CBT (Cognitive behavioural therapy). Each week I would have a different thing to do e.g. messy play at home for 15 minutes, watching a TV show with Evie at home on my own etc. Slowly, I started to create that bond with her that I had been so desperate for and could cope with being alone with her. Don’t get me wrong, the anxiety still creeps about and springs up on me when I least expect it but the bond between me and Evie now is amazing. She genuinely is my best friend and I love spending mummy & daughter time with her! I wish I had known that postnatal anxiety was a thing sooner. You hear a lot about postnatal depression and postpartum psychosis during pregnancy but never the anxiety part. (Not in my pregnancy anyway). So please make sure you are familiar with the symptoms!

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/postnatal-depression-and-perinatal-mental-health/perinatal-anxiety/#.WuegOKXTWJ0

https://www.panda.org.au/info-support/after-birth/symptoms-of-postnatal-anxiety-and-depression

Mental Health Monday: My first CBT session…

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Good morning lovelies! A couple of weeks ago I posted about 6 forms of therapy you can use to help you with depression, and my 8 top tips on how to stay motivated.

Today, I’m tying these two together with the help of the skills I’ve learned as a result of my CBT sessions! I’ve had one proper session with feedback and so I’m on my second lot of activities to go through, and I hope that what I will share will help you to challenge negative attitudes and keep your motivation on a daily basis.

Obviously, I am not a doctor or a therapist, so if you are struggling with depression or anxiety and want to access some CBT sessions yourself, consult your GP to find out which services are available to you. I’m in North Hampshire and the one I’m using is TalkPlus, so if you’re local to me then give them a google and you can fill out their online self referral form! CBT sessions will either be group sessions or individual sessions, and being able to opt for one or the other will again depend on which service you’re accessing. I’ve managed to access individual sessions and I am finding them really helpful!

The CBT Model

In case you didn’t already know, CBT is all about recognising and understanding the relationships between your behaviour, thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. They call this the CBT model, and I’m going to attempt to draw a super helpful diagram to illustrate it for you. 
You can use this model to evaluate the relationships between what you’re feeling and thinking and how you react. I found this really helpful to do because it made me realise that it is so much easier to actually challenge the behaviour for you to make a positive change to your life than it is to challenge the negative thoughts. How often do we get stuck in downward spirals feeling stressed and unmotivated? The trick is to change the behaviour and start making that spiral go back up!
Step 1:
 
Identify the behaviour you want to challenge
Step 2:
 
Separate your thoughts, emotions and physical feelings and sensations into the other three boxes
Step 3:
 
Take a moment to reflect on what you’ve written. For me, just seeing on paper it made me stop beating myself up over nothing!

Activity Diary

Going forward, this is going to be the thing that is really crucial to helping me keep my motivation and to (hopefully) help me to recover from my depression once and for all.
You can do this for as many weeks as you like, but the idea is that for each activity you do (and this can be anything at all, I even had an afternoon nap on mine) you write down one word to describe how you feel, a percentage intensity for that emotion, and then you rate your senses of achievement, closeness to others and enjoyment on scales of 1-10.
So… an example would be;
Sunday 10-12, watched Moana, happy 80%, A(achievement ) 5, C(closeness) 3, E(enjoyment) 9.
Once you’ve filled out a week’s worth of activities, you can start to change what you do so that the activities you are doing give you a greater sense of achievement.
Step 1: 
 
Click this link for me to send you a FREE printable pdf of the weekly activity template straight to your inbox.
Step 2: 
Fill in the blanks, and start planning your time with more activities to give you greater senses of achievement, closeness to others and enjoyment!
Step 3:
 
Reap the benefits of a more fulfilled life. As I said in my post about keeping your motivation, if you tackle smaller tasks, you’ll feel the accomplishment you need to tackle bigger ones too!

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Mental Health Monday: why the stigma?

You may be familiar with the hashtag #endthestigma on social media, used in conjunction with posts about our mental health. Opening up discussions about mental health can reduce the stigma and lead to better understandings of what the issues may be, but why is there such a stigma in the first place?

3 things we can do to help future generations 

#endthestigma

https://player.vimeo.com/video/301598462 #EndTheStigma from Mummy Kind on Vimeo.

1. Remember, your mental health is a disability with the power of invisibility

Imagine instead of depression or anxiety or bulimia, you have a broken leg. Everyone can see your broken leg. Everyone can imagine and envisage how painful it must be, so then you get empathy.
With mental heath conditions, your illness is under an invisibility cloak. Nobody can see it, and very few people can then imagine the pain that you’re in. There’s a lack of empathy, and an attitude of “just get out of bed”, or “you don’t look depressed”.
One way we can stop these ridiculously unhelpful comments is by being open and honest. Not with the world but with ourselves and those close to us. Don’t hide away because you have an illness! This will also enable our children to grow up knowing the issues and with a better awareness and understanding, so that the stigma will be even closer to disappearing completely when their generation are all grown up.
2. Treating mental illness the same as a physical illness

Off the back of the first point, physical and mental illnesses can both relapse! So why on earth are we more afraid of admitting that depression has reared its ugly head again than we are of a chest infection coming back?

I recently went back to my GP to have a chat about my mental health, and he very helpfully explained to me that I must not see medication as a failure, having tried to manage for so long without it. I wouldn’t try to treat a kidney infection without medication so I shouldn’t have to try and treat my depression or anxiety without medication either!

The sooner people understand that physical and mental illnesses are the same, and should be treated in the same way, the better!

3. Don’t let society tell us who to be

Society generally often has an opinion of who we should be or when we should be happy… Well, for starters, you can be both depressed and happy – it is possible! But that aside, societal attitudes have a lot to do with why there is a stigma in the first place.

Emphasising certain attributes on young boys that they have to be tough and cannot show emotion is one thing which contributes to men’s suicide rates being so high! For us females, telling women that they should be happy following the birth of a baby is yet another aspect of the huge circle of guilt that plays into postpartum mental illness!

Teaching our children that they can be what they want to be and that they can share emotions from a young age can really help to alleviate the stresses they will face as adults in the same way that we are under those stresses now.

This post was written as part of our Raising Healthy Minds Campaign

So that is this week’s #MentalHealthMonday post! Get involved with the discussion on twitter and tweet us @mummykindoff

Let us know if there’s anything you do to raise awareness of mental illness! We would love to feature the stories of brave men and women so please get in touch!

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Mental Health Monday: 6 forms of therapy you should be trying!

Once you recognise that you potentially have mental health problems, the next step is how to deal with them. There are a number of options available, and these are the ones that myself or other mums I know have tried and had some benefit from! I hope that this list helps someone going into a GP appointment to know a bit more about the options and what they could try!

Medication

Sometimes, when you visit the GP the first response is to prescribe medication. Thankfully, when I went to the GP with my postnatal depression I had the experience of having been on antidepressants previously, and I knew that they wouldn’t be very effective for me. I did eventually end up using medication, but not for very long at all. However, there are some misconceptions about using antidepressants that need addressing!

You CAN breastfeed while on antidepressants – sertraline is the most common one for breastfeeding mothers, but the majority of tablets carry the same risk level for a low dosage. If this is one of your concerns, bring it up with the doctor because they have a handy little book they can check that tells you if it passes to the milk or not!

Side effects ARE worth mentioning to the GP – when I was on sertraline I could barely stay awake. It is a common side effect of this particular medication, and I went back to the GP to say that I couldn’t continue to use it. Easily enough I was switched onto an active antidepressant, fluoxetine, which did not make me feel drowsy at all. Even with medication, you need to find what works for you – it’s not one size fits all! I know a mum who was on sertraline successfully as she used the drowsiness side effect to help her get to sleep at night too by changing when she took the tablet to right before she went to bed.

You SHOULD NOT feel ashamed for taking medication. After all, depression is a chemical imbalance in your brain. If you had a limb amputated you wouldn’t manage it without analgesics, so why should you manage without medication when part of your brain isn’t functioning properly as it should?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

I’ve tried this once in the past in the form of group sessions, but I’m fairly certain it can be done one on one too. I found the group sessions really helpful when I was younger, but my memory is failing me here as it was over 10 years ago now!

CBT can work for a number of mental health issues including depression, OCD, eating disorders and more. It is an active form of therapy which aims to change your outlook on life by setting goals and completing tasks in between sessions. It can make you feel like you’re really making a meaningful change in your life.

Counselling/Talking Therapy


Talking therapy includes a lot of different types of therapy that actively involve you talking to a therapist, but they take many forms! CBT (above) is one of them too. There’s also family therapy, relationship therapy, psychotherapy, etc. But counselling is the most common of them.

Counselling on the NHS is usually done by self-referral and it’s a pretty simple process. When you contact the GP about your mental health concerns, you can ask for contact details of local counselling services – they should all have these to hand. Otherwise, have a look on the NHS website to find your local service.

This is something that works really well for me. I’ve attended family therapy and counselling a few times and, although I don’t get on with family therapy (probably due to my family being the root cause of many issues), when I try counselling I always see a marked improvement from when I started. If I had the money to do it, I’d probably pay to see a therapist for counselling weekly because it helps me that much! At the end of the day, it’s all about finding what works for you. If you absolutely hate the thought of this, peer support might be a better option!

Peer Support

If you’re a twitter user, I strongly recommend following @PNDandMe. Rosey hosts a twitter chat every Wednesday 8-9pm for parents suffering with their mental health to talk in a supportive environment on a particular topic. Mummykind has co-hosted one in the past, and I regularly take part in them when I remember! This is a great way to remind yourself that you’re not alone, and it’s also much easier to type out how you’re feeling than to say it out loud, so it could be worth having a go if you’re daunted by the thought of going to counselling!

Craft Attack (or similar)


Harriet went through a craft therapy group after she had little Florence, and she’s written about her experience before on MummyGoesWhereFloGoes. I haven’t tried this one personally, but I can only imagine how something so therapeutic itself can really help you to overcome or manage you mental health difficulties. Even if the groups aren’t available in your area (ask your GP to check!), taking some time to yourself with a colouring book or another crafty project might just help you to calm yourself and re-centre – refocus on you!

Birth Afterthoughts

Again, this is another one that Harriet has trialled and is particularly helpful if you had a traumatic birth and are suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However, it’s not only available if you do have a PTSD diagnosis!

It’s available to any woman who has recently given birth, and the idea is in the name – it’s for you to ask questions that you only thought of after the birth, to have your questions answered so that you can maybe come to terms with things that happened during or after the birth of your baby. This service might not be available in every NHS trust so make sure to discuss it with your midwife/health visitor to find out if you can access the service where you are!

I hope you find this little summary useful, and please, if you’ve tried any other kinds of therapy let us know what they are and how you found them in the comments!

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