Mental Health

"Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you love to do, in order to have what you want." -- Margaret Young

 

Mental health we all have it. The question is, on a scale of 0 to 10 on any

given day, where 10 is magnificent, how would you rate your mental health?

 

And on what basis?

 

Is it based on the importance you place generally on your thoughts and

emotional feelings, or more specifically feelings of fear, shame, vulnerability?

 

Is it more to do with your self-image or self-worth, or both? Or are they in turn

more influenced by you believing too much what others think of you?

 

Is it a physical feeling – of lack of energy, tiredness, no physical motivation?

 

Is it about days when you struggle in silence with anxiety or depression and are afraid to reach out for support, perhaps because of the judgements of others, the stigma often laid at the feet of those with poor mental health?

 

Is it time give mental health and wellbeing the similar value you would give to your physical health?

Definition

 

The world Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as: - “… a broad array of activities directly or indirectly related to the mental well-being component included in the WHO's definition of health: "A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease." It is related to the promotion of well-being, the prevention of mental disorders, and the treatment and rehabilitation of people affected by mental disorders.”

 

Positive Mental Health is “a state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” I’m not sure what the statistics are for Scotland but in the UHSA it is estimated that only about 17% of adults are considered to be in a state of optimal mental health. 

 

Poor mental health or Mental Illness is defined as “collectively all diagnosable mental disorders” or “health conditions that are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behaviour (or some combination thereof) associated with distress and/or impaired functioning.”

 

The most common type of mental illness is depression and it is reckoned in some sources that  by the year 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of disability throughout the world, trailing only ischemic heart disease. I’m not surprised, some days I feel totally surrounded by a news media that talks and shows images of ihumanity, poverty, war, destruction, violence, crime. We are not getting enough balance in our news and we may not be able to find it either in our local communities.

The Day I Snapped
Be grateful
Be open and receptive to all good

Evidence has shown that mental disorders, especially depressive ones, are related to the occurrence, successful treatment, and course of many chronic diseases including diabetes, cancer, heart disease, asthma, obesity and many risk behaviours for chronic disease, physical inactivity, smoking, drinking, and insufficient sleep.

 

For years, mental health and patient needs have been almost totally ignored.

 

When I was first diagnosed with diabetes some 20 years ago, there quickly followed worrying bouts of depression. I tried to discuss these with my consultant but she alleged there was no connection between diabetes and mental ill health.

 

In more recent times, moving to a new area in Scotland, my new general practitioner laughingly said, “I hope you never need mental health services for there is about a 12 month waiting list at present” It is no laughing matter.

On her website www.rubywax.net, Ruby Wax, comedienne, who has had her own challenges with mental health states,

 

We are not equipped for this century, it’s too hard, too fast, and too full of fear; we just don’t have the bandwidth. Our brains can’t take so much information in a world where we’re bombarded by bad news and force-fed information.

 

I can just about take in the weather then I’m exhausted. You open a newspaper, everyone’s dead. We’re only supposed to know what our neighbour is up to; if the woman next door to you is having sex with the man next door to her we need to know; but four doors down and it’s none of our business."

I once worked as a volunteer in a major psychiatric hospital in London; I had a lot of contact with patients and staff but was disillusioned at the inhumane way people were treated, confined to wards, medicated to keep them quiet, from being unruly. It was a system of the most abhorrent kind. I had just arrived from several years working in Germany where I researched and visited life in concentration camps. There seemed little difference with the way we treated our English patients. And I felt impotent to help. As always with the NHS, I was up against the system.

 

Now I hear the government is to plough, or pump as the Scottish National Party like to say now, in more money to mental health, but what does that mean? Does it work if the treatment methods remain the same?

 

Of course not. Whilst stigma is dissolving there is a way to go; attitudes to mental health need to be changed, among medical professionals, employers, colleagues, families and friends. Systems and processes need to change too. There is so much more can be done for someone than mass medicate with anti-depressants.

 

Illness of the mind is more difficult to diagnose than illness of the body. Perhaps why we have sought more to “confine” patients than seek treatments and cures. So we resort mostly to drugs.

 

I had a visitation a year ago from a mental health team – and all they were interested in was not in listening, but in satisfying themselves that they had assured themselves I was not suicidal! What a farce. I was going through a really rough time with my own physical and mental health and coping with the aftermath of my sister’s death and the ways her mental well-being were ignored. Professionals wanted only to be able to say, “We have done our checks!” It was in no way about hearing or listening to the patient or checking on my well-being, no attempt to find out how I was caring for myself, whether I was eating well. Nothing like that.

 

Neither could they understand that, from a spiritual perspective, saying “I have a conflict. I don’t want to die but equally I do not want to live in the world the way it is” is not the same as “I have a plan to end things!” Talk about auto-suggestion! By the end of that interview I am surprised I didn’t have a plan.

 

Talking therapies are of little help, even if you can get them. Talk therapies can only work if counsellor and patient hit it off and over the years I have had not one positive score from several attempts. One psychologist in the Scottish Borders, said she found it difficult to deal with me because I would not change my values and beliefs – to what she would prefer them to be! She was argumentative, impatient, and intolerant – her body language and tone of voice so easy to read. She simply could not deal with a patient who actually knew their own mind. She was out of her depth. But blamed me, the patient.

 

Drug therapy can seem effective, but it normally takes weeks to work and often makes people a lot worse before they start to get better, leading some to stop taking oral medications. But even when it works, and the patient has persevered, it comes with a whole range of side effects that are worse than the mental illness itself. So one is caught between a rock and a hard drug and a system that is simply about medicating! At no time were alternative approaches considered. There is so much available.

 

The use of alternative approaches to mental health care can be substantially helpful to people living with severe mental illness as they cope with fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, and stressors that are often compounded by the serious symptoms and consequences of mental illness. Such approaches include self-help ones including exercise, walking, swimming, being in nature, vitamin supplements, diet and nutrition, talk therapies, acupuncture, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and relaxation and stress reduction techniques. Yet never once was I directed in any of those directions, simply medicated.

 

I was interested in finding out what training our medical schools offered to general practitioners and found that GPs’ training gives them an inadequate grounding in mental health and so it is now wonder, with high caseloads, and limited time, that it is easier for them to rush to prescribe anti-depressants. They really don’t have time to talk through your mental muddle nor necessarily have the required empathy, understanding, or compassion. They are on their routine of functional ten minute appointments.

 

Psychiatric inpatient treatment whilst worthwhile, is ineffective. By the time you get there you can have waited for over a year, during which time conditions worsen. Once there, if you get 20 minutes a week of your consultant’s time, and pre-supposing that consultant is simpatico and not just a clinical “do-it-by-the-book” bod, and then only on weekdays, you are doing well. The rest of the time you are likely to be medicated. Acute pressure on beds means that patients are often discharged too soon with added pressures on community services.

 

Add to this the government’s aspiration for a seven-day comprehensive NHS, which for mental illness means hundreds of extra beds, psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses, and it seems clear that the government grossly underestimates the scale of the task they have set themselves.

But it is not just about numbers of staff and beds. What should matter is what you offer the patient in the way of a wide range of approaches and treatments and back-up services.

 

If you feel you have a mental health issue – then challenge the system, remonstrate, do not put up with this nonsense which is an excuse for a mental health system.

 

And find other ways to ameliorate your challenges.

 

I appreciate I am asking you to do something proactive at a time when you probably feel more that you want to curl up and hibernate. It isn’t east, and enlisting an empathic friend is helpful. You can’t do this on your own.

Be Aware

 

Become aware of your present situation. Be honest with yourself. Mental illness symptoms can affect emotions, thoughts and behaviours.

 

Do you have any of the following signs or symptoms?

 

  • Ability to concentrate has diminished

  • Alcohol or drug abuse

  • Anger becomes excessive

  • Daily routines and problems are difficult to handle

  • Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations

  • Eating habits change, poor choices, eating too much / too little

  • Fatigue, low energy, get-up-and-go has gone

  • Fears or worries have increased or become extreme

  • Feeling sad or down, especially for no apparent reason

  • Focus is difficult to maintain

  • Guilt is common

  • Hostile feelings are evident

  • Irritability

  • Mood changes, highs and lows - often and extreme

  • Sleep problems, poor quality and little sleep

  • Sex drive changes, libido is low, erectile dysfunction has happened

  • Stress is really difficult to handle

  • Suicidal thinking

  • Thinking has become confused, even reduced

  • Understanding and relating to situations and to people is difficult

  • Withdrawal from friends, activities and life

 

The sooner you can get help, the sooner any of the above can be treated and the less down a slippery slope you will go.

Be informed. What help is available? What can you do on a self-help basis. There is so much available now on-line.

 

Be open to change and things working out. Change the story you tell about your depression to yourself. Change your language. Change your attitude.

 

Make an appointment with your doctor. Write down what you feel you need to cover during the consultation. This is your first port of call in Scotland to seek help from the NHS. Do not be fobbed off by a quick consultation and a prescription for medication. If necessary, and you are not up for fighting your corner, take a friend or representative with you and tell them where you might need their support.

 

Be compassionate and kind with yourself; you are not a failure, fraud or the first nor last to have mental health problems.

 

Take small steps each day to care for your health, mental and physical. Experiment with some of the following: -

 

  1. Get a diary and commit to take some regular notes.

  2. To begin with, maybe write down what you can immediately think of as the cause of your poor mental health.

  3. When did it become apparent? Did something traumatic or significant happen round about then? Can you heal it?

  4. What’s missing from your life? Is there a void? Have you lost friends or relatives? Have you retired and feeling life empty?

  5. Even the process of writing can be therapeutic.

  6. Draw up a plan, no matter how brief or lacking in depth it may be.

  7. If you didn’t have your health issues, what would you be doing?

  8. How would you like your life to be that perhaps right now it isn’t?

  9. How would you describe a healthy you?

  10. Have a mix of goals for the day, the week, the month and maybe longer.  If you have too many, it may become daunting.

Self care

Set forth to care for your body  and mind– a healthy body means a healthy mind.

 

Consider: -

 

Movement – this is not about being a gym bunny, but just ensuring you maybe walk or swim or get some form of activity you enjoy.

 

Nutrition – assign yourself a task to learn about foods that keep us mentally healthy. You may find it cheaper than you think.  Cut way down on starches and sugar and get plenty of fresh, natural food. Sure, right now you may not feel like cooking up a kitchen storm, so plan simple changes.

 

Relax or meditate – you may lead a busy professional life, or have children to look after, perhaps even an aged relative. Your time is what YOU make of it so plan to find 30 minutes a day when you can listen to some music, do some meditation, turn to YouTube.com for a guided relaxation, potter in the garden, do some Qi Gong, take up an easy hobby. They key is to resist not doing it and to always choose something you enjoy.

 

Reach out – at times like these it is important to reach out and ask for help. Most people like to be asked so banish any thoughts that you are a burden to others or are likely to be miserable. In addition to family, friends, and sometimes colleagues, there are services offered by your GP and don’t forget to seek out local charities. Tell people you need them to LISTEN, not to feel sorry or try to fix you. You need space to talk and to be heard.

 

Get out and about – even if it may be the last thing you want to do. Could you volunteer as a way of helping others but also to help you meet others. Are there interest groups you could join? Maybe groups are not your thing. Some charities offer befriending services. As a first port of call, try the Samaritans.

 

Surround yourself with only positive people – as far as you can. The last thing you need are people bringing their problems to you, or burdening you with negativity. It doesn’t mean necessarily letting go the negative minded people, but in your plan, aim to find ways to attract more positive minded people into your life.

 

Mind your language – notice how you talk to yourself. Is it helpful, or hindering? Are your beliefs helpful or not? Do you think “things will never change” or tell yourself “I can get through this as a strong person.”

 

Quit bad habits – replace with good ones. Cigarettes and alcohol do little for mental health so is it time to cut back or cut out? Are you binge eating and mostly on processed foods and snacks. Find ways to replace the bad with good foods. The new way of eating will bring mental health benefits.

 

Do more of what makes you happy – if you enjoy swimming, aim to swim more often. If it’s sitting home doing the daily crossword in the newspaper, buy a crossword magazine.

 

De-stress – find a way to reduce the stressors in your life but remember it is not the stressor that is the problem – it your attitude to whatever bugs you. A demanding boss cannot MAKE you feel depressed; it is your internal mental thought about what s/he does. Can you shift the story you tell yourself that keeps you stuck in feeling sad or depressed or angry?

 

Sort out your finances – sometimes financial problems can bear down heavily upon us. If necessary get advice (try the Citizens Advice Bureau) or find ways to manage your finances differently and reduce – have a budget, find ways to reduce expenses.

 

Low in spirit – sometimes our mental lowness can be as a result of a spiritual void in our lives. Many confuse spirituality with religion, but it need not be so. Just planting a seed for spiritual support comes more from within.

 

Forgiveness – what are you holding on to. Who do you need to forgive? Do you need to forgive yourself? Not because you were or are bad. Forgiveness is letting go the negative emotions we hold about ourselves or others.

 

Gratitude - If we seek abundance in health or any other aspect of life, we must be abundant in spirit. We can begin to cultivate spiritual wealth by opening our hearts in gratitude. In your diary, take time out each day to write down at least 3 things for which you are grateful. Read the list and feel the gratitude.

 

Love yourself – love, love, then love some more, simply because you are a wonderful, deserving human being.

 

There's a world out there ...

live it!

A shorter aide-memoire - repetition aids the formation of new habits

 

  1. Be compassionate and patient with yourself and your feelings.

  2. Bring music and colour and nature into your life

  3. Choose to be around loving, supportive people.

  4. Connect with friends, family and with the community

  5. Create a solid connection with a spiritual not religious source of love, wisdom and comfort. You are not just your brain!

  6. Develop a sense of belonging – to the community, to a group, to maybe just one other

  7. Develop work-life balance

  8. Don’t tough it out on your own – things generally do not fix themselves

  9. Find support group eg MIND, The Samaritans, Scottish Association for Mental Health, Silverline Scotland

  10. Find work you love, or a hobby or tasks, or even volunteer duties

  11. Get to know some mental health buddies

  12. Identify your passions and purpose in life

  13. Join support groups, or even start one!

  14. Learn ways to reduce stress

  15. Listen within to your feelings. Where in your body can you feel the feeling? Be still and silent. What is it trying to teach you?

  16. Open to learning about what your feelings are telling you. Listen to your body.

  17. Practise self-care, daily – Engage in activities that you enjoy and that feel right for you

  18. Set boundaries with others. Speak up when you are b being disrespected.

  19. Take care of your body, your time, your space and your finances.

Beyond the physical - The Metaphysical

 

As a wee reminder:- as we go through life in this physical world, physical things happen to us. Accidents,  contracting colds and flus, infections, broken bones. And  some of us may live with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other conditions. but we are NOT those conditions. They must not define us. I am not a diabetic, I am not a heart case, I am not cancer. Resist those labels you will be given.

 

Cause and Effect

 

For your true healing to occur, the causes of any illness must be addressed. Today our health service will patch up the broken, and they are brilliant at it,  or seek to treat symptoms. It seldom explores causes and effects. So if you don't treat why weeds come back, they will come back!

 

One of the most common causes of ill-health are our negative internal states, our thinking and beliefs, that appear within us in response to negative or traumatic life experiences. And it’s not enough just to say “think differently” or “pull yourself together!” as I have often been told. If only it were that simple don't the do-gooders believe we would have done it?

 

With negative thinking, we create out of balanced thinking and out of balanced mind-body responses, throwing the body off course.

 

We create:-

 

Disharmony – we ruminate negatively over what has happened to us, we tell ourselves that life has lost it’s meaning or there is nothing to live for or we have lost connection with the  most beloved person in our life. If we keep repeating this story, no matter how true on the day it happened, we reinforce it, and eventually through that repetitive habit,  it we manifest illness into our lives and in this case usually some form of mental ill-health, mostly usually depression. Our way of responding often is to become either angry or hopeless. And when we operate from those two internal states life is never at peace, and so we do not heal.

 

Our essence in life is Love but so many of live our lives through fear; guilt and blame and fear over what has happened, and fear of what might happen. We seldom live in the present moment. Someone living life with a chronic sense of fear gnawing away at them is triply vulnerable to illness because their anxiety progressively diminishes their sense of well-being, and this, in turn, affects their feeling of being safe in the world, and the fear and stress over this will trigger both physical and mental conditions. Effectively our immune system gets screwed and so does our health.

 

But for me, perhaps what my depression taught me, was the  biggest issue was Soul Loss with perhaps the most common symptom of soul loss being depression. I am convinced more and more from my own experience and that of clients, that Soul Loss is a much ignored concept in our health and healing.

 

How would you know if you are suffering soul loss? Take a look at this list.

 

  1. addictions

  2. apathy and listlessness

  3. difficulty in discriminating and choosing

  4. chronic depression

  5. chronic negativity

  6. emotional distance, disconnecting from others and from life

  7. feelings of Weltschmerz and ennui, of “what’s the point?”

  8. feelings of being all over the shop, unable to focus

  9. inability to feel love or receive love from another

  10. inability to remember parts of one's life and almost certainly to recall the joyous moments

  11. indecisive

  12. joyless existence

  13. Language - the term “soul loss” is not in common parlance in the West, but we express it through idioms eg “lost the will to live” “lost my mojo”  “A part of me died when X happened”  “I see no future”

  14. melancholia or despair

  15. no drive, initiative, motivation, or enthusiasm

  16. suicidal tendencies

  17. wishing not to “be here!”

 

When we discuss these deeper feelings with an empathic other, we can begin to realise that what was lost, can now be found especially if we open to Divine Grace.

 

Who can you talk with?

 

Amazing Grace Lyrics

 

John Newton (1725-1807)

 

 

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,

 That saved a wretch like me.

 I once was lost but now am found,

 Was blind, but now I see.

 

  T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.

 And Grace, my fears relieved.

 How precious did that Grace appear

 The hour I first believed.

 

Through many dangers, toils and snares

 I have already come;

 'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far

 and Grace will lead me home.

 

Amazing Grace

Susan Boyle

Early Warning Signs

Still not sure if you or someone you know has mental health issues? Having one or more of the following feelings or behaviours can be an early warning sign:-

  • Aches and Pains which are unexplained

  • Confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared

  • Daily tasks - inability to perform regular tasks like taking care of family, getting to work or school

  • Eating - too much or too little

  • Energy – low or none

  • Harming self – thinking of harming yourself or others

  • Helpless or hopeless, lost, at a loss

  • Isolating yourself - more and more

  • Mood swings, severe, that cause problems in relationships

  • Motivation – low or none

  • Numbness -feeling like nothing matters, nothing is important

  • Pleasure – no longer take pleasure in your usual things

  • Sleeping - too much or too little, or disturbed

  • Thoughts, persistent, and memories you can't get out of your head

  • Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual

  • Withdrawing - from people and your usual activities

  • Yelling or fighting with family and friends

  • Voices – hearing them or believing things that are not true

Links

Websites

Breathing Space (Scotland)        0800 83 85 87 

Samaritans                            116 123

Forgiveness is absolutely fundamental to healing 

© 2017,2018,2019  by Andrew Hunter

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