Mental health has finally crowbarred its way into the public agenda. Taboo and wilfully ignored for so many years, there is now an increasingly open dialogue and willingness to discuss experiences, and a media-backed emphasis on support and understanding, particularly highlighted this week, it being Mental Health Awareness Week. Many well-known advocates, from sporting heroes and TV stars to the Royal Family and their Heads Together charity, have clearly helped raise the profile of the importance of mental wellbeing
Speaking in support of such a worthy cause and from a position of influence is one thing, and no doubt of great benefit to the wider goals. But it is an entirely different and more personal prospect for an individual to open up and talk about their own experiences in struggling with mental health. That is what BN1 reader Andrew Nicholls has done below, as well as offering practical advice for anyone enduring similar experiences across the city.
The consequences of living with mental health can be devastating, and sometimes it seems like getting better is impossible. You can reach a point in your life where you think you have everything under control, but one minor event can send you spiralling.
Recently, I’ve felt fine. To many people, saying that is a basic response. It’s just what they say when someone asks how they are. But for someone that spends much of their life in pain and suffering, just being able to say that they feel okay, is positively wonderful, because a lot of the time, they may feel quite the opposite, and it’s a horrible thing.
I had a really decent day a couple of weeks ago. I had a good night’s sleep, and I felt refreshed after a great shower. I smashed it at the gym. I had a meeting that went well, and I checked my finances and they were fine. But despite how great I was feeling, when I walked by a pack of razor blades in Boots, I still nearly bought them with the intention of ending my life.
It didn’t matter that I felt fine. Sometimes mental health can come straight at you like a speeding car that you didn’t see coming. I just managed to step out of the road. One day that may not happen, but it’s still important to try.
It’s estimated that one in six adults live with some kind of mental health issue. It’s a big problem, but fortunately, knowledge has increased, and the help and services that are available have improved.
Counselling is mainly about treatment in the short term, and particularly focuses on behavioural patterns. It instructs you on how to identify issues you may have, and helps you plan steps to take towards resolving them.
The Counselling Directory can help you find an individual Counsellor.
Very different to counselling, psychotherapy is usually a long-term process. It’s designed to help you look at, and understand, the emotional problems that have built up over time, so that you can adjust the way you act, and hopefully resolve them.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
CBT is a well-known discursive therapy that advises you on how to change the way you feel, think, and behave. It is centred on the idea that a lot of problems emerge because of how we emotionally respond to things that happen, rather than the actual events themselves. CBT looks at how you think about situations, and how you react to them.
IPT is useful for when low mood and anxieties happen as a result of unhealthy aspects of relationships. It advises you how to communicate feelings and expectations, as well as helping you learn coping techniques.
Info on services in Brighton can be found through Brighton and Hove Therapy Hub.
Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy
MBCT combines mindfulness techniques such as meditation, stretching, and breathing exercises with elements of CBT to combat negative thought patterns. It teaches people to focus on the present, rather than stressing about the past or the future, and to let go of negativity. It also helps people to understand their own body, which in turn allows them to identify the signs of oncoming episodes, and prevent them before they become an issue.
There are MBCT courses being run at Brighton Buddhist Centre.
Don’t ignore the value of simply talking about your problems with people in a similar situation to yourself, as opposed to a therapist. This can be useful because it can help you to realise that you’re not alone in how you feel, and it can be great to hear about what has worked for others in improving their lives.
Info about Support Groups in Brighton can be found through Mind.
Sussex Recovery College
The Sussex Recovery College offers short courses with a focus on mental health and recovery. Its courses are designed to increase knowledge and skills, and to help promote the importance of self-management.
There are many courses available at the Sussex Recovery College website.
What works for one person will not necessarily work for another. We’re all different, and our mental health journey will be unique. Medication and therapy can be useful, but isn’t the only tool available. There are alternative practices such as hypnosis, biofeedback, aromatherapy, herbal remedies, massage, yoga, and acupuncture that many people find helpful.
Whether or not they work on a medical level is always going to be up to debate, but there is no denying the value they have in reducing stress, and promoting well-being.
Perhaps the most effective way to survive your mental health journey is to simply do something to distract yourself from your issues. While this may not make your problems go away, it can occupy your mind and give you an outlet. Doing things that make you happy for a short period of time will likely improve your long-term well-being, and it’s always good to have something to look forward to.
The list of activities that may help would be endless. You could spend time with friends, join a sports team, read a book, watch a film, join an acting class, go for a walk, play a video game, or tackle a climbing wall. The possibilities are likely infinite. In all honesty, distracting yourself when you’re feeling low is probably the best thing you can do.
Good luck, and be safe. Life is worth living.