Mental Health

What is mental health? The phrase “Mental Health” doesn’t only apply to diagnosed mental health conditions (e.g., depression). Everyone has mental health, and it can go through good and not-so-good phases – just like your physical health can too.

Mental health includes our psychological, emotional and our social wellbeing - in other words how we think, feel and behave. Our mental health determines how we make choices, handles life’s stresses, and relate to other people. It can vary over time and no two people’s mental health experiences will be the same.

It’s important that our mental health is looked after at every stage of our life from infancy to adulthood and can be influenced by a variety of factors such as genetics or life experiences.

Early Warning Signs There is no physical test or scan that reliably indicates whether a person has developed a mental illness. However, people should look out for the following as possible signs of a mental health disorder:
  • withdrawing from friends, family, and colleagues
  • avoiding activities that they would normally enjoy
  • sleeping too much or too little
  • eating too much or too little
  • feeling hopeless
  • having consistently low energy
  • using mood-altering substances, including alcohol and nicotine, more frequently
  • displaying negative emotions
  • being confused being unable to complete daily tasks, such as getting to work or cooking a meal having
  • persistent thoughts or memories that reappear regularly
  • thinking of causing physical harm to themselves or others
  • hearing voices
  • experiencing delusions

ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (or ADHD) is a condition where you have an overabundance of energy and this energy can affect your mood and ability to concentrate. It is usually noticed and diagnosed in children between the ages of 6-12, however it can be diagnosed when a person is older. People with ADHD may also have additional problems, such as sleep and anxiety disorders.
 

Anorexia

Anorexia is an eating disorder and mental health condition where a person becomes fixated on their weight, possibly leading to the person not eating enough food or exercising too much. Sometimes a person with anorexia may see themselves as overweight no matter their current weight. This can lead to a self-destructive spiral. It can be a serious condition, but with the right help and support you can lessen or even remove the impact it has on your life.   
 

Anxiety

Anxiety is a feeling of worry or uncomfortable unease that can be severe or mild in its intensity. Anxiety will affect anyone during their life, usually before or during a stressful event (e.g. a test, interview or performance). However, some people experience anxiety very frequently and intensely. Their worry can be debilitating and can affect their daily life.
NHS - https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/generalised-anxiety-disorder/
 

Bereavement

During difficult times, especially times involving the loss of someone important to them, people can suffer from bereavement and loss. These feeling can manifest in people in many different ways, from anger to deep depression. If you are experiencing feelings of loss and grief then finding support will be a good way to help you through it.
 

Body Dysmorphia

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (or BDD) is when someone becomes obsessed with what they perceive as flaws to an unhealthy degree. BDD is often mistaken for vanity of self-obsession, however it is a serious mental health condition that prevents a person from not focusing on parts of themselves the see as ‘wrong’ or ‘inhuman’. This can lead to many damaging feelings.
 

Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a mental illness characterised by mood instability and impulsive reactions and behaviour. Due to BPD being a personality affecting illness, it will affect people differently. There is no defined list of symptoms or causes, however people who suffer from it are more likely to have had mental illness in their genetics and/or a difficult or traumatic environment during childhood. Despite the complicated nature of it, people who have BPD can lessen and even largely recover from its symptoms.
 

Bulimia

Bulimia is an eating disorder where the person affected by it will binge eat a lot of food and then try to immediately purge the food through methods like over-exercise. It is commonly associated with young women however anyone can get bulimia.
 

Depression

Depression is a mental illness that can cause you to feel low and hopeless for long periods of time. People mistake depression for a low mood and something that can be snapped out of. In reality depression is a mental health condition that can be debilitating and hard to escape from. It is possible to make a full recovery with treatment and support.
 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a condition where a person has compulsive and ritualistic behaviours. It can manifest in many different ways and affect anyone at any age. Living with OCD can be tough but treatment and support exists to lessen the Postnatal Depression is a specific type of depression that can occur after childbirth. It is very common, with a 1 in 10 rate of occurrence in new mothers. Whilst it is mainly seen in women just after birth. It can occur for partners as well. If you or a loved one is being affected by it, it’s important to get support to lessen the risk of the symptoms getting worse or lasting a long period of time.
 

Self-Harm

“Self-harm is when you hurt yourself as a way of dealing with very difficult feelings, painful memories or overwhelming situations and experiences.”          – MindUK definition People may decide to self-harm for many reasons and thoughts of self-harm can affect anyone. If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or have done it recently. It is vital that you seek support. There are many ways to seek both professional and personal help. Please use the links or numbers provided on this website to find support.
 

Suicidal Thoughts

If you believe you are having suicidal thoughts, please seek support through these links. Each has large amounts of information and support networks.
There are a variety of treatments that can be used to treating and managing mental health conditions and often more than one will be used to manage an illness.  What works for any one individual, may not neccesarily work for another and they may choose to seek different treatments at various stages of their life or illness.
 
It's important to work closely with medical professionals when choosing or changing treatments to ensure you have all the support and information you need.
 

Talking Therapies

This type of treatment can be carried out by a variety of professionals anad takes a psychological approach to treating and managing mental health conditions.  Some examples of this style of treatment are Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), counselling dialectical behaviour therapy and pyschotherapy.
 
This type of treatment may help you understand the things that contributed to their mental illness and identify coping strategies and healthy though patterns to improve their mental wellbeing. 
 
Most people referred thorugh the NHS for therapy will most likely be offered CBT in the first instance. 
 

Medication

While medication won't cure a mental illness it can lessen symptoms and allow individuals to cope better with work and home.  However, some medication can make you feel worse rather than better, cause harm if too high a dose is taken or cause withdrawal. It's your right to refuse or choose to stop taking a medication but remember to discuss any changes with your doctor to manage any side effects or potential withdrawal symptoms.
 
Some examples of medications are anti-depressants, anti-physchotics, mood stabilisers and tranquilisers. Each have different purposes and are used to treat different  mental health conditions or symptoms. 
 
For every type of medications used to treat mental illness there are a variety of different medications that come under each. Some may work better than others, work with your doctor to find what works for you. 
 

Alternative, complementary therapies and self care.

While they may not be as effective at managing mental illness, they may work for some idividuals in changing their lifestyle to ensure good mental wellbeing. Some examples of these are hypnotherapy, yoga, acupuncture and meditation.
It can be easy to rush through life without stopping to notice much.
 
Paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you – can improve your mental wellbeing.
 
Some people call this awareness "mindfulness". Mindfulness can help us enjoy life more and understand ourselves better. You can take steps to develop it in your own life.
 

What is mindfulness?

Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, says that mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment.
 
"It's easy to stop noticing the world around us. It's also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living 'in our heads' – caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour," he says.
 
"An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs.
 
"Another important part of mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen moment to moment.
 
"It's about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives."
 

How mindfulness helps mental wellbeing

Becoming more aware of the present moment can help us enjoy the world around us more and understand ourselves better.
 
When we become more aware of the present moment, we begin to experience afresh things that we have been taking for granted.
 
"Mindfulness also allows us to become more aware of the stream of thoughts and feelings that we experience," says Professor Williams, "and to see how we can become entangled in that stream in ways that are not helpful.
 
"This lets us stand back from our thoughts and start to see their patterns. Gradually, we can train ourselves to notice when our thoughts are taking over and realise that thoughts are simply 'mental events' that do not have to control us.
 
"Most of us have issues that we find hard to let go and mindfulness can help us deal with them more productively. We can ask: 'Is trying to solve this by brooding about it helpful, or am I just getting caught up in my thoughts?'
 
"Awareness of this kind also helps us notice signs of stress or anxiety earlier and helps us deal with them better."
 
Mindfulness is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a way to prevent depression in people who have had 3 or more bouts of depression in the past.
 

How to be more mindful

Reminding yourself to take notice of your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and the world around you is the first step to mindfulness.
 

Notice the everyday

"Even as we go about our daily lives, we can notice the sensations of things, the food we eat, the air moving past the body as we walk," says Professor Williams. "All this may sound very small, but it has huge power to interrupt the 'autopilot' mode we often engage day to day, and to give us new perspectives on life."
 

Keep it regular

It can be helpful to pick a regular time – the morning journey to work or a walk at lunchtime – during which you decide to be aware of the sensations created by the world around you.
 

Try something new

Trying new things, such as sitting in a different seat in meetings or going somewhere new for lunch, can also help you notice the world in a new way.
 

Watch your thoughts

"Some people find it very difficult to practice mindfulness. As soon as they stop what they're doing, lots of thoughts and worries crowd in," says Professor Williams.
 
"It might be useful to remember that mindfulness isn't about making these thoughts go away, but rather about seeing them as mental events.
 
"Imagine standing at a bus station and seeing 'thought buses' coming and going without having to get on them and be taken away. This can be very hard at first, but with gentle persistence it is possible.
 
"Some people find that it is easier to cope with an over-busy mind if they are doing gentle yoga or walking."
 

Name thoughts and feelings

To develop an awareness of thoughts and feelings, some people find it helpful to silently name them: "Here's the thought that I might fail that exam". Or, "This is anxiety".
 

Free yourself from the past and future

You can practise mindfulness anywhere, but it can be especially helpful to take a mindful approach if you realise that, for several minutes, you have been "trapped" in reliving past problems or "pre-living" future worries.
 

Different mindfulness practices

As well as practising mindfulness in daily life, it can be helpful to set aside time for a more formal mindfulness practice.
 
Mindfulness meditation involves sitting silently and paying attention to thoughts, sounds, the sensations of breathing or parts of the body, bringing your attention back whenever the mind starts to wander.
 
Yoga and tai-chi can also help with developing awareness of your breathing.
 

Is mindfulness helpful for everyone?

,div>"Mindfulness isn't the answer to everything, and it's important that our enthusiasm doesn't run ahead of the evidence," says Professor Williams.
 
"There's encouraging evidence for its use in health, education, prisons and workplaces, but it's important to realise that research is still going on in all of these fields. Once we have the results, we'll be able to see more clearly who mindfulness is most helpful for."