Mental health: What can I do?
This open public meeting held on Wednesday 1st February 2017 was a talk by Hannah Cooper and Jacquie Wrout about their work at the charity One to One.
The One to One project has been running for 33 years helping adults with mental health problems. There are 3 staff members and a large team of volunteers. Hannah and Jacquie had prepared a handout sheet of information which is copied below.
The talk started with the story of a typical patient; Steph’s story. ‘The black dogs’ names are depression and anxiety. You never know when they are going to come back to their master. Although I am their master I have no control over them. They are constantly barking, confusing me. I can’t think with them barking so loudly. The shame of owning these black dogs is real. You feel like they are a sign of weakness. You’re so worried about people seeing the black dogs, so worried the black dogs will escape and bite someone that you give up trying. You isolate yourself, wanting to be alone with them. The dogs soon take over everything in your life. This is why you hide.’
Mental health in our community: Mental health problems are very common in our community. 1 in 4 people experience a mental health problem in any given year, so we would do well to look more closely. 3 in 4 people who have mental health problems fear the reactions of family and friends when they talk about their mental health problems. Almost 9 in 10 people with a mental health problem have faced stigma, three quarters have lost friendships. 1 in 10 young people will suffer from mental health problems. Mental health issues affect people from all backgrounds and if you are at work you probably work with someone who has a mental health problem. It is a myth that people with mental health problems are violent; they are more likely to be victims.
Statistics in Norfolk: Norfolk has a population of about 800,000. Of these 70,477 women are affected by common mental health disorders compared to 44,434 men. The prevalence of depression in Norfolk is 12.3% and this is above the national average of 11.2%. In Norfolk, 52.5% of the population live in an area which is classified as rural. Rural isolation is known to exacerbate mental illness.
What can I do? Do offer emotional support, patience and encouragement. Remember that depression / anxiety are illnesses and people cannot simply ‘pull themselves together’. Do remind them that you care – invite them to talk about their feelings. Do keep in touch. Encourage them to take part in activities that give them pleasure. Do find out about self-help / support groups in the area. Do encourage them to get professional support if necessary from the local mental health services or from their GP. Do remember to look after your own emotional wellbeing as well.
Some things to avoid: Try not to get drawn in to ‘cheering them up’ – validating their true feelings will be much more helpful. Try not to worry about saying the wrong thing – this may lead to you showing fear and avoidance to the patient. Try not to pressure them to talk, they might not want to talk about their mental health problem but it is important they know that they don’t have to avoid it. Avoid assuming you know how they feel – you will stop listening to their experience. Avoid assuming that you know what is best. Avoid thinking that you need to be the expert – you don’t have to be an expert on mental health to make a difference.
Accessing professional help: The following are some helpful points of contact which can be accessed on-line:
· West Norfolk Directory; Ask Lily (Living Independently in Later Years).
· Wellbeing Service – www.wellbeingnands.co.uk 0300 123 1503.
· Adult Community Mental Health Service – www.nsft.nhs.uk 01553 609933.
· Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment Team – www.nsft.nhs.uk 0300 790 0371
· One to One Project – www.onetooneproject.com 01553 770770.
· Together UK – www.together-uk.org 02077 807300.
· West Norfolk Mind – www.westnorfolkmind.org.uk 01553 776966.
· King’s Lynn Samaritans – www.samaritans.org 116 123.
What can we do for ourselves? Five ways of Wellbeing:
1. Connect: Connect with the people around you. Connect with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours at home, work, school or in your local community. Think of these as the cornerstone of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.
2.Be active: Go for a walk or a run. Step outside. Cycle. Play a game. Garden. Dance. Exercise makes you feel good. Most importantly discover a physical activity you enjoy and one that suits your level of mobility and fitness.
3.Take notice: Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons. Savour the moment, whether you are walking to work, eating lunch or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you.
4. Keep learning: Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Take over a different responsibility at work. Fix a bike. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. Learning new things will make you more confident as well as being fun.
5. Give: Do something nice for a friend or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out as well as in. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you.