A moral and economic case against the cuts to mental health services and the need to reform the ‘back-to-work’ programme

The Government’s ‘fit-for-work’/’back-to-work’ programme is harming people’s mental health and thus it is also undermining the economic recovery.

It has been ruled by a coroner that it triggered a suicide. Yes, it is one suicide, but it is one suicide too many, and the programme should be helping people back to work in the right way, in a way that does not create more anxiety and in a way that is sensitive to the issues people have.

I don’t think it’s intentional from the Tories, it would be churlish I guess to suggest it was, but it highlights the incompetency of the system and the inadequacies of the A) advice given and B) some of the people administering the system.

Fit for work is a disgrace as it currently stands, and I could present plenty of anecdotal evidence to go alongside the evidence from Mind that it is detrimental to some people’s mental health.

It needs reforming.

Cuts to things like CAMHSwhich have been partially blamed for an increase in mental health issues among young people – are hindering people’s lives, and are threatening the economic recovery in that they create further problems down the line for people with mental health issues who then need to use the NHS because they have done one of the following. 1) Self-harmed dangerously. 2) OD’d dangerously (still self harm but more severe and slightly different) 3) Sectioned. 4) NHS walk-in centre. 5) Visited A&E due to suicidal thoughts.

Now, of course these things happen anyway and you will never stop them completely, but by cutting CAMHS and cutting early intervention, by squeezing the net so hard that you prevent people from accessing treatment at an early age or an early stage, you are increasing the likelihood of people developing mental health issues or those issues becoming more severe, and you are putting pressure on services down the line.

You also make it less likely people who are out of work due to their mental health issues and have been placed on the DWP’s programme will actually be fit for work in the future because there is less access to support, and that costs the economy billions of pounds a year. In 2009/10 the total cost of mental health issues to the UK was £105.2bn.

It is not solely the fault of the current Government that there are so few beds available for mental health inpatients, that there is so little funding for mental health, but the current Government is exacerbating these problems by cutting funding at a time when it makes economic and moral sense to actually invest.

It is somewhat rich of Norman Lamb to come forward and warn of a crisis (but he is right) when he was part of the previous government which implemented cuts mental health services.

Further, there are areas such as youth clubs which are forced to close because of cuts to local council budgets – with one of the first things councils do to save money is also to scale back Mental Health service provisions – these clubs are places that kids can go and learn about how to cope with things and in some cases I am sure have helped young people and perhaps prevented or at least lessened the effects of issues.

It is short sighted in the extreme to cut funding for mental health services, to implement policies such as fit for work without the necessary safeguards, and to implement it in such an abysmal way. It is a great idea to help people back to work, people with Mental Health issues should go back to work if they are able to, as it is in some cases far better than not working if indeed they have the ability to cope, but if they are not ready they should not be forced to take jobs that will only make them worse, and indeed they should not be pressured into finding work so soon or face the prospect of benefit sanctions.

It is economically (not to mention morally) naive to cut mental health services to the bone, to the extent that a mattress on the floor serves as a “bed” for an inpatient, to the extent that kids (and some adults) have to be held in police cells because there are no beds available. That they have to travel for 79 miles or over 100 miles for the nearest bed. That there are not enough beds.

It is not going to make the NHS more efficient to cut Mental Health services. It’s made out that it’s bureaucracy that gets cut, but it’s not just that, it has a real, and damaging impact on people and that’s so worrying from a moral point of view and also an economic point of view it’s just totally illogical. It will cost a bit more for now to invest in services, but in five years time you’ll see the fruits of it and it will save the NHS money and it will get people back to work and improve the economy in that way too.

This is not me bashing the government for the sake of bashing the government. I couldn’t give care less which party enacted these policies, it is the policies that are wrong, and they need to be changed. It just so happens that the government have made an already precarious situation even worse. I’m not saying that to take a pop, I’m saying that because I actually want people to see the realities of cuts to Mental Health services which are so dangerous.

This is not an “anti-government post”, this is an “anti-cuts-to-mental-health-services” post.

The only way is to invest in the services, and there IS money to do so. It would mean increasing the debt by a tiny, tiny, tiny amount in the short-term, but it would mean in the medium and the long term you’d end up reducing the debt.

I don’t believe economic factors should really come into it anyway- unless you are literally on the brink of economic disaster (and let’s face it, we really aren’t.) We need to reduce the deficit, and we should reduce the deficit, but let’s do it by improving our services, not by cutting them to the bone and condemning people to continued struggles.

The fact that so few people with Mental Health issues have been helped into work by this ‘back-to-work’ programme – with fewer than 9 per cent of people having been helped back into work, so many have said their mental health has been made worse by it, and thousands have died shortly after being found fit to work, means that something is seriously wrong with it. It should be there to support people, not to scare them, to threaten them with sanctions, to force them into jobs they may not be able to do.

People need support, they don’t need bullying into work. People with mental health issues are not shirkers, they do not hide from work, many want to work, but they need to be supported properly – financially and emotionally – but the system is wrong.

In addition, we need to put far more emphasis on educating people, in particular young people in education, about mental health – I don’t know at what age and to what extent because you need to be careful, but we need to do it. We also need to stop using such stigmatic terminology.

That final point is not exclusive to any politicians (or indeed, to politicians in general). John McDonnell made some insensitive comments on Twitter to First Great Western after a person was struck by a train, Douglas Carswell went one step further and deliberately used stigmatising terminology to someone with a Mental Health issue on Twitter and also blocked me for telling him how disgusting his language was, whilst also mocking “the left” for complaining (in a perfectly reasonable way) about the use of the term “nutjob” by Telegraph associate editor Jeremy Warner to describe McDonnell because he disagreed with his economic policies.

To explain the relevance of that paragraph, this is only achievable with better education and with the removal of the stigma that is perpetuated by the cuts to mental health services, by stopping comments about the disabled essentially being abnormal from the likes of ministers such as Iain Duncan Smith, by the attitudes of people in the fit for work programme and by the way the fit for work programme works.

Essentially, cutting mental health services in the way that the government has done (and previous governments not investing to anywhere near the necessary level), is foolish, morally abhorrent and just an example of how cutting the deficit dramatically in a very short space of time has usurped absolutely everything, and unfortunately, it is absolutely ridiculous economic policy.

Investment is needed in both services AND also in research into the causes of mental health issues or a crisis will hit and will just make things even worse in the future and will not help the economy at all. Reform things, but improve efficiency while also investing and put people’s needs at the heart of this scheme.

If this is what forever will be, then forever is not for me.

It’s Christmas Eve, and everyone is supposed to be happy and bubbling, looking forward to the festivities that are traditionally held over this period in December; but the reality is, not everyone is happy and neither should they be expected to be.

This time last year, as storms hit the country, I trekked across London and eventually made my way to my ex-girlfriend’s house to spend the day with her, despite the best efforts of the weather disrupting the transport system. We had been dating for six months or so, having previously been close friends.

That relationship ended a few months ago. It was my first meaningful relationship, but ultimately despite some rather wonderful times, it turned out to be a relationship that came to an end, albeit an amicable end. Was it the right thing for both of us? Most probably, yes.

Christmas has never been a time of year that has much appealed to me, but I always looked forward to it for one reason. I would see my uncle. Sadly things changed and he is no longer part of my life, but that’s true of many people who have been a part of my life but no longer are. I’m sure other people have similar experiences, because life is never going to be stagnant, by it’s very nature it is designed to change, people change.

But this year it’s different. It’s very different. It’s so much more difficult. I have no real plans, it’s just another day, another week.

It is the time when you most want someone to put their arms around you and just say something like “I love you” or “you mean a lot to me”. The time where your mind is screaming to someone, just show me that I’m worthy of being alive.

Loneliness is a terrible affliction. I distinctly recall a phrase someone wrote on a forum I use. It read “Loneliness is a curse so inhumane that no human being is capable of performing a crime so horrible that would make it justified as a punishment.”

It creates a void in a person, a black hole which sucks away the happiness, the positivity and the self-worth that a person can feel.

So, despite the fact that I have over 130 contacts in my phonebook, that I have edited a university online newspaper, a football fanzine and in the past the sport section of a citizen magazine/newspaper, and am hoping to launch a career in journalism, right here, right now, I don’t feel I have much to live for. Even now, I’m critiquing the way in which I write this entry; despite the fact it is being written to prevent any feelings from escalating to a dangerous point.

A constant battle is fought inside my head between rationality and irrationality but sometimes even rationality can destroy me. I want to live, but I don’t want to live like this, because this is like there are several caged animals inside my head, tearing away and thrashing constantly in an attempt to escape their various prisons.

Talking to people and reaching out to people through writing is providing a welcome relief for me, it distracts me, it reminds me that if there is one thing I can be proud of myself for, it is that I have some ability to convey my thoughts through the medium of prose, and I have used it to propel myself towards a career.

When you feel low, when you feel alone and sad; if you feel darkness is about to engulf you, then just ask yourself one more time, is there someone who will listen to me? The answer is yes. The Samaritans are always on hand to listen to you, even if there is no-one else in your life you feel you can talk to for whatever reason.

On the eve of my 22nd birthday two weeks ago, I visited the Samaritans near my university. A young man opened the door and asked how I was, offered me a cup of tea and invited me to sit down. Immediately, I felt as though someone was on my side. Someone wanted me to feel comfortable. They wanted to help. I asked for help, and I received it. All he did was talk to me, and listen to what I had to say; but that was all I needed, someone who would listen and who would hear what I was saying.

It’s been a long time since I began to experience feelings of loneliness and depression. It’s been a long time since I used destructive methods of coping with them on a regular basis, but I slipped up not so long ago to spend the night in a hospital bed. It made things no better, in fact, it made things worse. Was I thinking rationally, no? Was I desperate for someone to listen to me? Yes. But it was not the best way to get the support I needed, none of which was forthcoming from any professionals following the stay anyway. I was sent on my way and that was that.

Anyway, I digress. This post has little structure because it represents my thought process right now. Flimsy, sporadic, lacking in structure.

Life is not treating my kindly of late, a master’s degree is highly challenging – although hopefully rewarding come the end – and stressful. Deadlines all over the place, exams, lecturers who I struggle to engage with on any sort of personal level to the extent to which is necessary for them to understand that I have no motivation to complete a day on this planet sometimes, let alone write about the impact of a Business Improvement District on the local economy. That is not their fault, but it is a difficult thing.

Something I used to enjoy, writing and editing a fanzine, has become markedly more difficult and has left me with feelings of frustration, along with other negative feelings of late; which are partially a result of my rapid mood deterioration.

What am I saying? I don’t know. I’m lonely, I miss that I no longer have a close friendship with someone who meant a lot to me, I miss being able to laugh at things for no reason other than because I am happy. I miss the simplicity of previous years and I miss understanding how I feel.

There is a black hole in me as it stands, and until it closes, I will have to battle on.

This is not forever, it cannot be forever.

Talk to someone. If you feel low, please open up and talk, even if it isn’t directly, as with this blog.

Samaritans: 08457 90 90 90
jo@samaritans.org

Robin Williams’ apparent suicide hits home – the realities of mental illness

Suicide. Depression. Mental ill health. It’s real.

Facts and figures are frequently bandied about regarding suicide and mental ill health, but I have no interest in saturating you with more. I want to talk about the realities.

Firstly; I am sorry that it has taken the death of a well known public figure to encourage me to write this, but, you see, I’ve had my own battles to fight. I’ve won the war, I know I have, but there are those last few battles that I have to fight as some refuse to give in and admit their defeat.

I have never understood how people can become so emotional over the death of someone they did not know personally, someone they knew only through a personality concocted by directors of movies. That is, until today. The untimely passing of Robin Williams, who it appears took his own life, saddened me greatly. As a young child I recall watching Mrs Doubtfire at my grandmother’s house and laughing hysterically throughout. But this is not about Williams’ career, in fact, it’s not about Williams at all really. It’s about a darkness that cares not for one’s wealth, age, gender, social status or anything else. It is an illness, a truly real illness, but it has one key distinction that sets it aside from others; it is largely unseen.

When depression takes hold, it does so in a way that can affect anyone and affect all it targets, differently. Cancer is talked about openly, and that is how it should be. If a young man breaks his arm at school/college then the cast will go on and usually it will be signed by his peers, but should someone be broken by mental illness we are left none the wiser until too often it is too late.

It is OK to talk about depression, about ill mental health of any kind, and it is OK to ask for help. Those who seek to continue perpetuating the ill-thought out myths that to even consider suicide is selfish do not see the dark irony in their statements, that irony being that their words, their views and their actions serve only to make it more difficult for people to talk about how they feel and to ask for help. Whilst it must be stressed that the only person responsible for their actions is themselves, one might argue that indirectly, those who seek to dismiss others as attention seeking or selfish are a contributing factor in suicides.

Writing this is taking me a lot of motivation, a lot of effort. You see, I’ve been hiding away lately with struggles of my own. I felt alone, I convinced myself that I would never amount to anything, I was sure that any small inkling of talent I had was simply going to waste, and most of all, I felt like a failure. It’s been six months or so now since I stopped taking medication for anxiety and depression, but as I alluded to earlier, there are still battles to be won.

The outpouring of grief over the death of a public figure is understandable, but the pleasant surprise was that so many seem to finally appreciate mental illness is truly a dangerous affliction to those who experience it. Nonetheless, it takes a significant figure’s death to highlight that suicide is not selfish, that people who seek to end their lives are not just looking for attention. Whilst it is encouraging that mental health is discussed, perhaps it would have more power if we talked about it when we needed to, if we accepted it on a wider scale.

People need to know that there is someone out there for them to go to. Talking about one’s feelings does not simply allow the cessation of pain, but it gives an outlet, it gives a person hope.

Mental ill health is prevalent, far more so than some would have us believe. It needs to be treated on a par with physical health. There are a total of 14 inpatient CAMHS beds in the whole of Wales. There are over 300 beds in general hospitals in the same country for the same age range. Parity has not been reached. You probably don’t remember this, but a Private Member’s Bill was introduced into Parliament regarding mental illness, the Act was passed but not before a “debate” was held. One “practising fruitcake” MP was honest to explain his troubles, as were a handful of others. Alas, the Parliamentary chamber was almost deserted, arguably representing the view of MPs towards mental health.

Taking the services out of the equation, people have an ability to help each other. Ask someone how they are feeling and mean it, send them a text, an email, a letter even. What we have, is the ability to offer hope in the most hopeless of places, an ability to shine a light down the darkest, deepest tunnel, an ability to haul someone from off the floor and onto their feet again. Professional support is essential but if we combine it with personal care for one another then perhaps we can go some way towards defeating this invisible illness.

I have seen first-hand what mental illness can do to people and I have experienced it myself. Writing is my passion, yet when I was younger my illness robbed me of the ability to construct sentences, to write coherently and at length all in one. I fought back, but from time to time I struggle to write because I have no motivation to do anything. There have been days where I haven’t wanted to leave my bed, days where all I’ve felt is that the best thing for everyone would be to rid the world of my presence, what I believed to be my worthless, futile presence. There are a number of people close to me who have taken overdoses or self-harmed in other ways in an attempt to find a way to subdue their pain, only to realise that it is a most destructive action, to see that there was always someone willing to listen and to remind them that they can recover from their illness.

Fortunately for me, I and my friends have received sufficient help, I have someone by my side who shows me that I am cared for, loved, appreciated and that my life serves a purpose. I also have a group of mates who happen to share the same love of a football team who are incredibly understanding when it comes to my editorial duties of the fanzine we run and offer their support should I need it; and I have a friend who put her experiences to great use by studying to be and recently qualifying as a mental health nurse.

We have to sit and listen to people, to understand what they are feeling, what they are trying to tell us and what they need. We need to not only listen, but we need to hear them.

If you are suffering, I implore you to reach out and tell someone. Anyone. It’s OK to talk.

No Place to Hide

Not here. Not over there. Not anywhere.

Ian Gilbert’s conference for teachers about mental health was an inspirational and empowering event, encompassed by first hand accounts from a teacher & students themselves. People who had suffered at the hands of mental health issues.

One of those speakers would take particular interest in the term “mental” due to the negative connotations it brings. Indeed, Nina Jackson has seen first hand what difficulties students face when suffering from a mental health issue. Her experience in Bridgend as a teacher is harrowing yet powerful. A detailed description of events which occurred in the small mining village in Wales left the room in stunned silence. It nearly moved people to tears, but it truly hit home what an impact hiding away can have on a person. It came at a terrible terrible price for those who suffered in silence from the stigma, but some were saved because of her quick thinking, her gentle attitude, awareness and kindness.

It’s OK to Talk.

Having come from a very dark place myself, I can empathise with many people out there who struggle with their emotions, who suffer from mental health issues. I don’t want to just empathise. I want to make a difference. So, despite my anxiety I spoke for 30 minutes about how it’s OK to talk. A room filled with 100 teachers and school counsellors.

How do you follow something which makes you cover your face with the notebook provided, which makes you feel so much in your stomach, which almost induces tears? How do you follow a speech like that?

It wasn’t about following anything or anyone. I wasn’t there to hide behind anything or anyone. I was there to be myself, just as everyone told me. That shone through as I discussed how it’s OK to talk.

An unconventional opening led me to introduce the person who has been my rock through the dark, difficult times, and is still there for me now that things are better, who means the world to me. They were there with me in spirit, supporting me through texts throughout the day. Calming my nerves. My best friend, the young woman I love, who helped me to gain the confidence to actually speak at this Conference.

I continued. “I was four years old…” what has that got to do with anything? What could I possibly have experienced aged 4? The answer:

“I was four years old when Tony Blair swept to power under the mantra ‘Education, Education, Education.'” Regardless of what you think of the man, the mantra, the slogan, it’s a powerful one.

I was happy to quote the former British Prime Minister, explaining that one of the most important things, the most important tools we have, is education. Education. If we educate ourselves, we give ourselves a greater chance of succeeding, of combating our troubles, of defeating them and finding a way through the dark. This conference was about what teachers could do for their students. How can they better support their students? Education. It’s Ok to Talk. To Educate students to see that it’s OK to talk about how they feel, about what they feel. If you educate a teacher, they can then pass that knowledge on. Teachers are in their job because they are able to communicate knowledge in a manner which is understood by students.

Trust. Teachers have a hugely important personal bond with students. A position in which you hold great responsibility and power. Teachers are the people who students see every day and you get to know them well. They form bonds with you & you learn that they trust you with all sorts of things. This is critical when a student suffers from emotional issues or mental health issues. Be approachable, sensitive and aware. Making promises and saying that a student can miss lessons until they need to go back, or extending deadlines and then reneging on such promises is only likely to create further problems for the student, making it more difficult for them to recover. Teachers can help students by easing them into talking about things. Phrases like “is everything OK?” “are you feeling OK?” Prompt questions which force them to give some sort of response which can give you an indication of how they feel.

Listen. To listen to a student is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal. To use your eyes, mouth and ears properly. Teachers are not counsellors, but they are the first port of call for a student who is struggling. So the care and the attitude they receive as a first impression is essential in determining how much they share and how likely they are to continue talking about how they feel. The best thing a teacher can do is listen & give positive signs such as acknowledgements to show they are listening. It’s not necessarily your place to offer advice, it’s your place to listen. People need you to listen & hear what they are saying. Don’t tell them what they think or feel is wrong, but let them know that what they feel & think is OK. Let them know that it’s OK to talk to you or anyone else. Empowerment. Empower the student so that they realise they have the ability to get better, to see this through and for things to be OK. The power is in the hands of the person who is struggling, only they can help themselves, but you can help them to help themselves.

Remind people, reassure them. THEY ARE NOT ALONE. Be gentle, sensitive. Take care to listen. Don’t force anyone to talk if they don’t want to. Ask a lot of questions but don’t be to intense. Remind them that how they feel is OK. Discussions don’t have to be candid, they don’t have to be completely based around speaking. There are many ways to communicate how you feel, such as writing or images.

If someone doesn’t want to talk about how they feel, then no-one can get them to talk. There’s no point in trying to force them, as this will most likely cause them to recoil and withdraw further, potentially setting back their recovery.

It’s about letting them know that if there is a point that they need or want to talk, then it’s OK to do that. 

How can you better inform about mental health? – Lesson  plans, incorporate ideas into a lesson plan, assemblies. Link mental health with physical health. When you talk about physical health, talk about how exercise can improve the mental state of a person.

How would you react when behaviour outside of the classroom had been impacted by a person’s mental health? Focus on discussing the causes of the behaviour, speak to a counsellor/pastoral care. How would you deal with bullying that has arisen as a result of someone having a mental health issue?

Teachers are not the ones who can solve the problem, it would be important to show them how they can explain to students that it is in their power to change things around, ensure they have access to all the information available. EMPOWER THE STUDENT.

Head girl/boy/prefects – maybe somehow get them to be a part of a push on information about mental health. Have a day where the assembly is about mental health. Role models who have suffered?

The BASICS – Make yourselves approachable. Let them know it’s OK to feel the way they do. Let them know it’s OK to talk. Help them to know they are in control & there’s no pressure. Support them. INFORM THEM. EDUCATE THEM about mental health. EDUCATE YOURSELVES about mental health.

It’s OK to talk. If you think a student is struggling then let them know that it’s OK to talk about how they feel. Show them, don’t just tell them. Show them by listening attentively & being approachable.

I’ve come a long way in 4 years because teachers listened to me, took on-board what I said & helped me to address how I felt. They were kind & considerate, they encouraged me to seek support & they were never negative. They didn’t just roll over & accept me doing no work, but they suitably adjusted things so that I could still succeed.

No Place to Hide.

The conference opened with former children’s commissioner Sir Al Aynsley-Green discussing his personal experience of children’s services and Government policies with regards to children. A specific focus on the United Nations’ Convention of The Rights of The Child ensued, noting particularly that students have the right to be involved in decision making. Aynsley-Green produced a report from the British Medical Association which claimed that “politicians are failing students on a grand scale.” This is evident throughout the cuts being introduced by the Government, but more specifically, those being made to mental health services. If we deal with the problem at its root causes, rather than simply treating the symptoms, then the likelihood of recovery is significantly higher & a quicker recovery can be ensured. Funding cuts on mental health are simply going to make things far more difficult, and ironically put more pressure on the NHS in the medium to long term. The former children’s commissioner continued by discussing the negative portrayal of children in the media, urging people not to tolerate local injustices such as being banned from shops or having “mosquitos” which make shrill noises designed to stop children congregating in certain areas.

Following this, it was Oliver James who was next to speak. The child psychologist launched a fierce attack on Thatcherism and Tony Blair. James claimed that Thatcher increased the materialistic nature of society, which was later reinforced by Blair. Essentially, the speech was about how children had been failed by politicians and what he called “selfish capitalism.” To an extent, the speech was useful, as it focussed on certain aspects of society and how there is a culture of expectancy in academia. It also discussed how this became the norm from a previous norm of doing whatever people were best suited to. How does this link to mental health? The link to mental health is that these things have arguably caused a far greater increase in mental health issues and dissatisfaction with life. The focus was on where, why and how society has contributed to an increase in mental health issues.

Next up was Andrew Curran. A breath of fresh air, the neurologist gripped his audience with an engaging presentation about the human brain.

The key point of the speech was the focus on the psycho-emotional well-being of people. A natural follow on to Oliver James, Dr Curran noted that children have two unconscious role models in life; one being their parent and the other usually their grandmother. A scientific explanation of memory and the role of the medium spiny striatal nerve cell being the specialist facilitator of learning was engrossing, whilst the idea that emotional engagement results in a feeling of reward is surely one which resonates within all of us. The Independent Thinking Associate’s speech was fascinating but most of all very informative.

Dr Curran reminded people “don’t underestimate the importance you have through compassion and kindness.”

Compassion and kindness are two essential attributes to have when dealing with mental health. The relation to mental health here is the way in which the brain works, and how we can alter it’s development, hopefully enhancing it, from a young age. Teachers have a great role to play, and to educate students about mental health is one way to improve it and break down the stigma.

The subsequent speaker was Poppy Jaman from Mental Health First Aid England. MHFA is about increasing the mental health literacy of the population. There is a distinct difference between mental and physical health, but MHFA looks to help reduce that difference by engaging with the public in how to treat mental health issues. The idea of “ALGEE” is particularly relevant

  • Assess for risk of suicide or harm
  • Listen nonjudgmentally
  • Give reassurance and information
  • Encourage appropriate professional help
  • Encourage self-help and other support strategies

All of these things were mentioned in my own speech aimed at teachers. They are extremely important, specifically for teachers when approached by students with mental health issues. The MHFA speech was fascinating and gives an excellent insight into how best to treat people with mental health issues without prior professional training.

The first speaker after a lunch break was Dr Sara Evans-Lacko. Intent on breaking down stigma, Dr Evans-Lacko produced statistics which highlighted the severity of stigma that surrounds us. In everyday conversations, stigma is perpetuated by the language used by people. But what can we do to break this down?

Time to Change launched in 2009, with a particular video “The Stand up Kid” most notable for its powerful content describing the way in which it is so easy to ignore mental health issues and not deal with them properly in schools.

Dr Phillippa Diedrichs then produced more statistics whilst discussing body image concerns and how to promote a positive body image. Focussing largely on avoiding the discussion of body image at all, or at least keeping it to a minimum,

Dr Diedrichs gave an outstanding presentation of how society has created a world in which 50% of adolescent girls don’t feel comfortable leaving the house without make up on.

An interesting point on how eating disorders and body image concerns can affect academic performance was made, with the explanation that without eating it is more difficult to concentrate in class and process the information communicated.  The Succeed Foundation member discussed the social and economic burdens of a negative body image perpetuated by the media with particular reference to the internalisation of cultural beauty ideas. This was then exemplified with examples of what society tells us the perfect male and female body looks like.

Nina Jackson followed up with her harrowing tale of loss whilst teaching in the Welsh Valleys. Claiming the students whom she lost were given “no chance” due to the severity of the poor economic situation, Nina spoke with emotion and a real desire to make a difference. Discussing anxiety at the point in which a student’s life comes to a crossroads, it was clear that she herself had suffered in the past. Which road do we take? That was the key question. Labelled with behavioural difficulties, perhaps the system deemed the Welsh students to be troublemakers, when in reality what they needed was someone to listen, someone to care. They were kicking out against a seemingly hopeless and endless pit of despair that presented itself in the area. Abandoned. No-one was there to listen.

Putting it very eloquently, Nina explained that we need to “Feed the heart with emotional well-being” and to learn to love ourselves, learn to know ourselves and learn to love our own company.

The final speaker was Charlotte, from VIK Young Minds who is involved in the AcSeed programme. Her story is one which, sadly, too many people can relate to. Having suffered from a distorted body image which drove her to self harm, she was admitted to hospital. However, she found her way through the darkness and into the light, sufficiently to spend 30 minutes talking about how to improve emotional well-being in schools.

To end this review of the Mental Health Conference “No Place to Hide” I will share an idea from Dr Andrew Curran.

What the system does is somewhat irrelevant. We do not need the system. If everyone of us tries to improve the psycho-emotional well-being of people by giving good quality one to one care then we can help people, we can help people recover & help people with their well-being.

There really is No Place to Hide any more. No place to hide from the realities of the situation, no place to hide from the fact that unless we break down stigma, unless we act, unless we stand up and be counted, nothing will change.

It’s Ok to Talk.

The Importance Of Trust

As Mental Health Awareness Week is upon us, it is probably one of the most crucial times to remind people that it is OK to talk.

Trust is an important part of any relationship of any kind, but particularly when there is ill mental health involved, it becomes even more prevalent. To trust someone with thoughts of suicide or self harm, self loathing and self doubt, is difficult and something that many of us struggle with. The simple fact of the matter is that unless you trust someone and talk about how you feel, your mood is not necessarily going to improve quicker. Talking gives you a release, it prevents the thoughts that surround and perpetuate certain aspects of your feelings, from manifesting themselves deep inside of you. It also helps to simply have someone else know how you feel, even if there is little they can do to help, it is better than no-one knowing. Sometimes it can be difficult to trust people because we fear their reaction, but if you don’t open up to anyone, you will never know what that reaction could be. There is no doubt that at times it isn’t as positive as we expect, but similarly a lot of the time people are willing to listen and to comfort you, if not try to help you. It is my belief that there is always someone out there who is willing to try to help you and support you but unless you open up to people then it is impossible for them to help.

When you’re feeling full of irrationality it can be even more difficult to trust people. It can be difficult to take a negative reaction and a knock back, but it is possible to recover from that and go again with trusting someone with how you feel. Giving up on talking about your feelings is a sure fire way to lessening the chances of improving your mood. 

Of course it is not as simple as just saying “I am suicidal” or “I want to hurt myself” because it’s not something people really WANT to hear. Regardless of whether people want to hear it though, it doesn’t mean that they’re not willing to hear it. For instance, my friend has been struggling of late and of course I don’t want to hear that she has been struggling because it upsets me, but at the same time I know I can help her and that talking about how she feels to me helps, so I am happy to listen to her. 

The critical thing is to try not to be afraid of what people may think or say. If you are good friends with someone, then you will have a gut instinct as to what their reaction may be, there are signs and there are hints from the things people say and how they react to certain things, as to how they will react to how you feel. If you need support then you have got to ask for it, because ultimately it is you who is most important and there are people, professional and non professional who are able to give you some sort of support. 

When you speak about how you feel, it is best to be specific but aware of what you are saying. To be clear and concise but not too blunt or to say something in a manner that will shock whomever you are speaking to.

Trusting people with how you feel is often rewarded with strong friendship and kindness. Support and happiness. Whilst you may not be happy, talking to people can go a long way towards helping you understand, control and manage how you feel. 

Remember that it is ok to talk, and anyone who tries to claim otherwise needs to look at how we treat physical health and how openly we discuss physical illness, and then come back and say it’s not ok to talk about physical illness as well as mental illness. If they do, then they’re not really worth your time or energy.

This then ties in with the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week 2013; Physical Activity. 

Physical activity is a brilliant way to boost your mood. Whether you feel like going for a run, or just walking down to the shops, it really does make a difference. Fresh air and adrenaline together act as a brilliant catalyst to improve your mood and bring positivity into your mind.

Trust in yourself, trust in your friends. It’s OK to talk.

The Internet And Mental Health

The internet. It’s a great invention, & most people use it at least once a day, but is it good or bad for our mental health? How does it impact upon mental health?

There’s a thousand and one ways to answer those questions & of course the answer is at least partially subjective & dependent on a number of factors, but ultimately I think it has got to be one of the best things out there to support people with mental health issues.

Social media is huge in finding support & realising that you are not alone with how you feel. There are an astounding number of twitter accounts which are set up with the aim of supporting people or raising awareness of mental health issues. There’s also plenty of accounts where people vent about their feelings, or talk about their feelings & how they are being impacted on a day to day basis. This can be both a positive & a negative thing.

Certain accounts can be triggering for people, with them talking in great detail about self harm or suicidal feelings. This is something that is crucial to monitor. Firstly, it’s important that these people get professional support, but secondly it’s important that if something is triggering you that you step away from it. They can cause distress & harm, therefore having a negative impact on your mental health, especially of they are something that is seen every single day. The thing is, though, it is crucial to remember that these people have their own issues, rather than criticising them, try to encourage them to seek support from a professional & talk to them about how they can go about doing so, or if they already are, then what it is that they are withholding &/or why.

The support accounts can be helpful, but they should in no way take the place of professional help, & hopefully most will state this in some form or another because it can be dangerous to take advice from someone with no professional knowledge. Make sure that you trust the person & know where they are getting the information they are giving out, from. From a personal point of view, everything I write is based on my own experiences & is geared towards encouraging people to speak about their feelings, & to give people hope, rather than attempting to provide advice. Occasionally I may offer words of advice, & in private I do, but publicly I will always post what is on my mind from personal experience, which generally tends to be what helped me through. Largely, support accounts provide a platform & a tool to be utilised & provide information which can be used to build on what is gained through professional intervention.

The internet more widely, as a whole, is slightly different. There’s far too much stigma out there still, I see it everyday on some of the forums I use that have nothing to do with mental health. However, there’s also plenty of places out there which allow for support, plenty of information & assist in gaining knowledge about the symptoms of mental health issues, ways to combat them & simply people to talk to. It allows people to make more friends, sometimes those with similar issues to themselves & in some ways can create a peer support system. Again, I stress that professional support should not be replaced with this, but that it is still useful.

Overall the internet can have a positive impact on mental health, it can create friendships, increase social opportunities & provide information as well as support. However, it is how these tools are seen & developed that is the most critical aspect in determining how useful the internet is for mental health. Largely it is down to how we use the internet. Use it too much & it can have a detrimental impact on our social lives, thus not helping our mental health. Indeed, it can be far too easy to get to a stage where we are simply focussed on our on-line lives, rather than striking a healthy balance between the two. I refuse to use the term “in real life” because the internet is real life, it’s just an extension of our lives which happens to be slightly different. It’s terms like this which perpetuate the stigma around forming relationships on-line & ultimately can contribute to mental health issues. People can feel trapped between two worlds, the outside world in person, & the on-line world. For some people the internet is their only recluse, to escape from the mundane reality of everyday life, the pain & suffering they experience in their day to day life. Some people find it easier to form relationships on-line, which in turn can also help them to form relationships in person. It can be frustrating to see people say that accounts such as those which trigger people & talk vividly about mental health issues in a somewhat perturbing way, should be closed down. Yes, they need professional support, but you’d be taking away a vital network & resource for them to vent & to talk. It’s absolutely critical that they are allowed to express how they feel, but likewise they need to be challenged, or at least they need to have it told as it is. Abrupt, but polite & sensitively done.

The internet has played an absolutely massive part in my life & assisted immensely in bringing me out of depression & into a more stable, happier place. Most of my closest friends are those who are going through similar to me or similar to what I have been through. They are the people I’ve known through on-line conversations when I’ve sought to find people that help me see I was not alone. They are the people who have come through a lot of difficult situations, low moods & struggles. Most are not “recovered” & they are neither in a place you might want to label depressed or any other label you wish to use. They’ve come through the darkest days & they’ve got somewhere, but they’ve fallen back into confusion & difficulty as a result of x, y & z. However, they are stronger for their experiences & more prepared to deal with what comes at them, finding ways to deal with their issues. These people are friends I have made through on-line conversations. I’d rather have friends who I had things in common with & cared about, than worry about the manner in which I have made those friendships. After all, they are friendships, it just so happens that I don’t get to see them face to face all that often.

Stigma will possibly always exist in some form, as language evolves & meanings become skewed, words become ambiguous. Some people will see things in a different way to others & for whatever reason may find it enjoyable to mock those with mental health issues, or at least to attempt to increase the myths & misunderstanding surrounding mental health issues & mental illness. The internet provides a platform for them to do this, but equally it provides a platform for people to strike back & dispel some of those myths & misunderstandings. A collective effort to find ways to talk more about mental health is required, as it will encompass all of the things mentioned in this post & hopefully save a few lives, improve a few lives, transform a few lives, because your voice, your pen, your keyboard, they’re some of the most powerful tools you will ever have or find. Whilst your actions may speak louder than your words, it is your words which can also put warmth into the coldest of places, to put light back into the lives of people, create a spark & propel people towards achieving what they are capable of, propel people towards greatness.

Be careful with what you put on the internet, be careful who you trust, but don’t be afraid to use it to find like-minded people, those who can relate to your experiences. Feel free to support people, but remember that you cannot help anyone unless you are in a good enough place yourself. By looking after yourself, you look after others who you may support. People who care about you. Next time you go to write something about your state of mind on a forum, a blog, on Facebook or Twitter, take a moment to consider what potential impact it may have on someone. If it’s likely to upset someone, then perhaps write it down privately. Try to seek out that support in a direct, constructive way. It can be difficult when you are led by your feelings & not your head, but it’s not impossible, & it’s a technique which will serve you well in the future. The best way to find support, is to ask for it. Attention seeking? Yeah. Yeah it is. Attention being that fundamental human need that we all have. Quite why there is so much negative association with that phrase I fail to accurately comprehend, but to seek attention is not a problem. It’s how you go about it that matters. Everyone needs attention, & if you’re lacking it, or needing some more to help you through, then please ask for it, because there’s always going to be someone out there who is willing to support you. Hinting at things, posting cryptic things, as a general rule is not going to help anyone. Sometimes you might need to get something out that only you understand & hope that maybe another person might realise what you’re talking about, & that’s ok, but try to limit the times you do that & actively seek support in a direct manner.

The internet has allowed for much greater social interaction, more information & support in terms of mental health, but really, the main benefit of the internet when it comes to mental health is to integrate all of these things & allow them to interconnect. If you write a blog about how you feel, & you share it via social networking or a forum, you gain the opportunity to discuss mental health & mental health issues. By talking about it, you help to understand it better, new ideas form & more detailed, developed discussions occur. More complex & engaging conversations happen, you get to understand the way people think & how to interact best with people. By sharing it with social networks you allow a greater number of people access & you can form relationships through these means. You also will be able to find more information about how to find support in your area, & then you can begin to find better ways to help yourself through the feelings that you may deem insurmountable, but are in actual fact, usually temporary. There are websites out there which allow you to relax & take your mind off of things, websites which allow you to engage with the world & what is happening in it, websites which allow you to discuss common interests & meet people who share your interests. Websites which help you to find information about things. The internet is an extension of our every day life & it’s one of the most important tools when it comes to mental health. The relationships which can be formed assist in recovery, or in teaching about mental health issues. They give another view on things. Ultimately, the internet provides a foundation upon which you can choose to access & build upon. It allows for a journey of greater self discovery, but it needs to be noted that a lot of things which it provides are merely more detailed versions of what you can find in your day to day life in person. Use the internet in an appropriate manner alongside maintaining healthy relationships outside of it & it can be an instrumental part of recovering from mental health issues.

It’s ok to talk.

A Day In The Life

The Beatles. They have little, if anything to do with the content of this blog post, but I think the title of their song “A Day In The Life” sums things up quite nicely I feel.

Tomorrow (10th November) is the day I believe to be 2 years since I last picked up a blade & cut myself. Sounds so crass doesn’t it? But it’s ok to talk, although I always tend to be careful not to trigger anyone.

A whole two years. That’s just over 10% of my life so far. I’ve fought many battles, many urges and many times have I felt like giving up but come through all of those to, in effect, be victorious. I took arms against a sea of troubles. Just as so many others are doing & have done. I never gave up & I found a way through a very tough period in my life which, touch wood, is behind me now. 

A day in life because it is another day in my life. It represents that I am still here, living & breathing despite not really wanting to in the past. It represents another day in my life on the way to getting where I want to be, achieving what I want to achieve & finding some sort of balance in my life. 

The one thing that saved me from myself was talking to people about how I felt. I’ve had so many positive reactions, so many people who have willed me to get better & to succeed in my life. I don’t always realise it either. There’s certainly some people who stand out as having made life that bit more bearable. Sometimes a bit of TLC & love is needed, tough love, soft love, but most importantly, unconditional love. It’s incredible to look at things, to see where I was, & where I am. I try my best to support quite a few people, some of whom I’m very close to. Thankfully, most of my close friends have come through their battles like I have & found some peace with themselves. Not all of them have, but those who haven’t are on the journey which I have no doubt will lead them to feel better in themselves. I’ll always do my very best to help people if I have that ability. Even more so with those who I love & care about, naturally.

Life is not something that you should give up on easily in my opinion. I’m not here to tell you what is right & what is wrong, that’s for you to decide, but there’s a lot of good things about life. Even when we can’t see them, or we cannot list them. Some of these things are intangible. There’s many things that cause us pain & suffering, but personally, I feel that the good things outweigh these. At least, eventually they do. 

There’s always hope. Hope & happiness, rationality. But HOPE. If you’ve got hope, then hold onto it because it means you’ve got something to build upon when it feels like everything is going against you. If you can, then find someone who is willing to give you everything they possibly can to see you through the tough times, the pain & the suffering. The person who will treat you the same whether you’re low or feeling good. A friend. A true, proper friend. 

I’m so grateful to everyone who has helped me get to this point. Thank you. 

It’s Ok To Talk

A reminder.

It’s ok to talk… about how you feel, about what you’re afraid of, but also about your hopes & the things you are feeling positive about. Talking about our feelings can frequently seem to end up in a way that we interpret as “moaning” but our friend(s) who listen reassure us is merely explaining how we feel. Remember that it is how you react to your feelings & what you do about it that matters. At least, that is what I believe. 

The reason I write this tonight is because of my anxiety & general stress. Even on a day recently where you would have expected anxiety to be at a minimum it was controlling me & affecting me, which showed me just how much I have had on my mind of late. I don’t always talk about it because I am aware of how it can make other people feel, & because I just find it difficult to do so sometimes for fear of the reaction, especially based on how I have worded what I want to say. The positive aspect though, is that this afternoon & this evening I have been far more positive about things than I have since this anxiety began to take control of me again. Something someone said to me made me want to write this blog post though, because it really made my day & it reminded me that I have a job to do. That job is to remind you all that it is ok to talk, just as my friend has kept reminding me of late. It’s so important that we address our feelings from time to time, because they can transgress beyond a point where we have the capability to cope well, which in turn makes things escalate further. The vicious circle is difficult to remove yourself from, but with determination & a will to talk, it is possible. 

Talking can take many forms, it doesn’t have to be a totally candid discussion with a friend at all. You can express your feelings &/or thoughts in many forms, & you can share as little or as much as you feel comfortable with. What is critical though, is that you don’t feel pressured into doing talking. It may seem as though I’m encouraging you to talk out, & I kind of am, but equally it is about doing what is right, & being comfortable. It’s about letting you know that if there is a point that you need or want to talk, then it’s ok to do that. 

When you work together with someone, you can achieve so much. Sharing things can assist you greatly in overcoming the things that you most fear, that hold you back from being who you want to be. 

Gradually things begin to slot back into place. Sure, there’s going to be days where it is tough, where you feel so drained from all that goes on in your mind, but when you can see the pieces of the puzzle fitting together to create the bigger picture, that is when things look up, & that is when you need to grab it with both hands & take even more control of everything. I speak from personal experience, which is why this is different to having a professional write an article about depression/mental health issues. I’m not saying it will be the same for everyone, or that you can just think about things & control everything just like that. Merely, I’m trying to show what can be achieved when you find yourself in a good place emotionally, & to show that a lot can be achieved by self discovery & determination.

Nothing needs to be insurmountable.

I recently managed to get a company to design 200 wristbands saying “Mental illness – itsoktotalk” & “#TalkOut” on them, all profits from the sale of these will go to MHRUK Charity http://www.mhruk.org They are £2.50 each & can be purchased here http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=120991089672&ssPageName=ADME:L:EOISSA:GB:1123#ht_500wt_1156

The idea is to remind people that it is ok to talk, & to try & reduce the stigma around mental health, mental health issues & mental illness. Get people talking about it, because the more we talk about it, the more people realise how common it is, & hopefully the more people get help by talking to a professional, or at least a friend to begin with.

Positivity. Optimism. Let these two things guide you as best they can. 

Remember: It’s ok to talk.

I’m On A Roll, I’m On A Roll, I Feel My Luck Could Change…

Lucky.

It’s been a while people, a long while. Far too long, but sadly I’ve been unwell. I must learn to take my own advice & talk about my feelings a little more, or at least to reach out to people when I need them.

Life is very very difficult at times, which is why it’s crucial that we develop ourselves a strong support network, however that may be. Surround yourself with positivity & people who really care about you. Be careful not to shy away from them despite the niggling feeling that you get with depression which causes you to do just that. I’ve realised that I need to talk about how I feel, or to talk to people & find some company again. You see, I’m a lonely guy. I’m not your average 19 year old bloke, I do some of the things that a stereotypical 19 year old guy does, but apart from the fact there’s not really such a thing as an average person, I am just… well… I’m just different. I’m trying to learn to embrace that, or at least accept it. I’m incredibly anxious, I have been for a while now, but I don’t know how it came about. Loneliness is a critical part of my feelings, I am a social person, with so much love & affection for people generally, it’s just, most of my friends are people I know from online.

Why is that a problem? It’s not a problem to know people from online, but it’s partly why I’m lonely ironically. I would love to have more friends who live near to me, who I can see everyday & just be like the majority of people are, have a friendship group where I can just talk about random things & when I need come to people for help, but also to just have a hug now & again. Life’s about striking a balance, & that equilibrium is difficult to find or achieve, or even both. For me, it’s going to have to be a case of opening my eyes to my feelings again, not just falling deeper into a pit of despair where I cannot see the wood from the trees. When I can understand, comprehend & simply see what is troubling me it frustrates me unless I can at least think of ways to get through it, because I’m not the type of person to want to mull things over & just feel down. It’s almost impossible to describe this in words, but I’m going to give it a go.

There’s a way you know you’re on the cusp of getting better, or that you are in a better place than you used to be. What is it? Well, for me, it’s when I realise that I need to do x, y & z to improve my mood, when I can somehow see the positive, happy things again, even if they are fleeting thoughts, passing ships in a vast ocean of emotions. Tonight, I realised that I need company, I need to seek out support, I need to ask for help when I need it, & I need to keep myself occupied with random little things, silly conversation, as well as serious conversation. I remembered that I need to try to relax again, regardless of how difficult it is, I need to try. It was only tonight that this happened, & I think, it was thanks to just talking to someone who was willing to support me if I needed it, but doesn’t know much about my situation. Somewhat ironically, someone whom I am envious of for the time they get to spend with people, their friendship group,  their relationships. Someone who I’ve only ever found to be a really good guy, who is not that dissimilar to me in some ways I think. I was able to clear my mind of the fog, suddenly the gloomy skies became clearer again, allowing the sun to come out tentatively to enable me to see what I could do to help myself. Maybe the skies will turn gloomy again, but if that is to be, they do so with my knowledge that it will not be forever again. Again. Again, because it seems like forever, but it’s not & it never will be. So long as you hold on to hope.

Journies. I frequently travel around the country to either see people, or to watch football. They make me appreciate the world a little more, I get out of a rut, out of my house where I do myself no good, & into the beauty that is nature & sometimes also man made beauty. Man made beauty in the form of buildings which have much culture, a meaning & the meaning that is within them expresses the serenity that I so long for.

Yesterday I was in Bristol, the day before I was seeing my friend a little further north of London, & in the future I will travel further. Despite a large number of things not going to plan, & it being a horrible day, there were a few bright lights helping me through the day. A group of 5 friends were busking in the city centre near Temple Meads, & I was rooted to the spot listening to two of them sing either together or solo. Nothing so spontaneous, or rather, faux spontaneous (Covent Garden) has ever caused me to just sit & watch/listen, until now. They were brilliant, not because they were perfect, but because they were giving it a go, singing with emotion & with the intention to make people happy whilst earning a rather small amount of money via donations. I walked up & put some money into their guitar case, something I’ve never done before. As they began to pack up, I walked over & told them that they had made my day a hell of a lot better. The day would later be fraught with frustration & anxiety, but they made it all the more bearable.

For me, it goes to show that simple things can make a difference to us. People make a difference, music makes a difference. Neither of those are really simple, but when put into context they can be. It’s not about making a name for yourself, or fame or whatever the media strongly implies it is. For me, life is about finding small things, little things like luck, friendship & love that make you happy. Find these things, search for them & give something back to people, & you’ll find things at least that tiny bit better.

So I say to you again, hold on. When you’re going through hell, when you think there is no hope, nothing, that’s when you most need to hold on for the brighter days, better days, happier days… or even just the days where you don’t feel like you don’t want to be here anymore. Whenever you’re down, whenever you feel like you can’t take anymore, whenever you’re stressed, whenever you just need someone to listen to you, remember that it’s ok, & that there are people out there who are more than happy to listen to you & to talk to you.

There’s a song I stumbled upon whilst going through old messages & it’s one that I absolutely love but haven’t heard in a while.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRD51qEJ8t4 (James – Sit Down)

Someone wrote of this song: “Tim Booth once said that “this is a song about absolute misery, feeling entirely alone, it’s about being awake at 4am and having no one to talk to” It’s meant to be comforting for people in this situation, saying that they’re not alone, and they’ll get through it.”

It is, for me, at least, a song which has a great meaning behind it, but a song that reminds me we don’t have to do it alone. There’s someone out there who will be willing to talk to you at 4am, even if they’re absolutely shattered, I know, because I’m one of them for my friends if they need me.

To end, I have to talk about my closest friend. This is the friend I’ve been asking questions about on twitter, about how to help her through a very very tough time. Without her, I wouldn’t be writing this, I would probably have given up on trying to support people through letting them know how important it is to talk about your feelings when you are ready. I might well have given up on any hope of getting rid of this returning darkness that refuses to let me escape it’s sometimes incessant mutterings, this pain, self loathing & self doubt. Someone who feels better for helping me, something which I only remembered when I went through some old messages tonight. My friend, she’s just that, a friend. ‘Just’ that, someone who is so central to my continue recovery. I love you, I hope you don’t get tired of hearing that, because I really do care about you so much, & appreciate everything you’ve done for me, just as you appreciate what I do for you.

Spanish proverb: ‘It’s always darkest before the dawn.’ Hold on, it gets better. I promise.

Fortune Favours The Brave

Usually phrases like the above are horrid cliches often used in negative ways to tell people to do things that they are not ready for. 

So then, why do I have it as a title? My life has been a tad topsy turvy lately, two of my closest friends have been suffering the ill effects of depression and mental ill health whilst I myself have been on the opposite end of the spectrum so to speak, finding myself getting a job, being told many many positive things about myself by a senior university lecturer and just finding a lot of things clicking into place. For my friends to be worse for wear though, that was eating away at me, my heart was slowly being destroyed as I worried about them both.

However, one of them who I am very close to, they were willing to be 100% honest with me and to share everything with me. They were brave enough to listen to what I had to say and despite not wanting to do the thing that would make them better, they found the courage to do so.

I go over in my mind and in my emails/texts to see the messages that I have shared with people, and I look at where I am, and where they are now. I don’t think anyone of my friends has shown anything over than great bravery to talk to me, their friends, and/or a professional about their mental health issues. They’ve all taken very very tough decisions, but ultimately the short term difficulty from taking those decisions was worth it for the successes that were achieved in the medium to long term.

This story http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/shortcuts/2012/jun/27/why-british-children-so-unhappy?fb=native&CMP=FBCNETTXT9038 from the Guardian asks why British children are so unhappy. Anyone trying to give a single answer to this question would be extremely naive. There can be all manner of studies, research and opinions on it, but ultimately it comes down to the individuals. 

I personally believe that we need remove the culture of consumerism as the article suggests. Far too many young people are obsessed with the latest technology and consumer goods, but contrary to popular belief I do not agree that they are constantly stuck indoors playing computer games. I feel that the media portrays young people in a negative manner, whilst its reporting of social issues such as drinking and smoking as well as sex can cause, certainly in sensitive and suggestible young people, a lack of confidence and the belief that they are somehow abnormal. Why the media sees fit to generalise in such a manner, and to imply that almost all the nation’s children are going out drinking at 11pm at night, I do not understand.

Everyone is unique, and they have their own ways of dealing with things and reacting to things. No single mind is the same, and it frustrates me that the media has an agenda to push that all young people are the same when we really are not. 

I would argue that the media has a significant influence on people, it causes us to change our views about things and about people, so when it pushes a certain agenda which is inaccurate only those who take the time to question it see that it is a generalisation. 

I find myself avoiding newspapers and the news as much as possible, despite being a Politics student, because it is full of bad news, as bad news is what sells. There is a lot I disagree strongly with, and it upsets me to read. I’m sure I am not the only one. Something must be done to have the image of young people improved in the eyes of the media.

What does this have to do with mental health? Well, I believe that it does us no favours to constantly see things that society is supposedly telling us to do, when in fact it’s the media telling us society wants us to go out and get drunk every night, to have wild sex and to take drugs. Some people don’t do these things and see themselves as outcasts, abnormal. Combine this with irrational thinking that often comes with mental health issues and you have a recipe for disaster.

I’m sorry this is such a random blog post, it represents my state of mind as it currently stands and I always like to write honestly and as a representation of my beliefs at one particular moment.

I just wanted to express that it’s easy for us to do the easy things and look for easy ways out. To ask for help indirectly, but it’s the more difficult things that really make us who we are, that get us through the tough times.