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Mental Health Week - 18 to 24 May 2020 - theme is 'kindness'

Well, May is mental health month and last week was Mental Health week. Especially in these isolating times it’s worth looking at mental health in a little more detail. Rather than treating it generally we thought it would be good to get the views of a YouDriver on the subject.

This reflects Chris’s views and is based on his experiences.

Are they mental health issues or life issues?

Over many years I have worked with employees, friends and colleagues who have started conversations about how they feel. I listen and (gently of course) ask a thousand questions to understand as much as I can, to try to find the cause. In many, certainly a majority. of cases the person has been taking medication.

My first reaction is – why? What and how did you get to this stage – to go to a doctor, then they prescribe serious addictive medication that merely numbs the effects and certainly never cures the cause.

With doctors giving you ten minutes to ask, dig, delve, diagnose and come up with a solution there is no way they can make an accurate diagnosis in that time and certainly not know what the cause is. Often in its early stages the issue does not require medication but requires someone to work with the individual to get to the bottom of the problem. There are other options, for example Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and people can be placed on a CBT programme, but that is often a lottery and it can take months to get on the list.

Doctors in my opinion don’t have the time or the experience to deal with mental health issues. Prescribing strong anti-depressant drugs to a 21-year-old man who feels down and allegedly depressed 2 to 3 times a week isn’t the answer, when in reality the young man had so many things happening in his life that he was struggling to cope. He needed a physical person to talk things through with.

What I noticed more than anything is as you dig a bit deeper and chat with the person, they explain how they feel. When they start to describe the feelings, I will often say OMG I feel like that sometimes and life can kick you hard, can’t it?

It’s amazing how when the person realises that the emotion is part of human life and others suffer with it as well, they start to think ‘Oh it’s not really mental illness, it’s part of life, and I need to find a solution to get around it.”

Obviously if people are left to fester over time the matter escalates and secondary things start to happen such as social isolation, eating disorders, poor self-worth and many other effects start to creep in.

Watching for signs very early on is so critical especially with young people.

Today’s society doesn’t help

Today two of our major problems are labels and instant coffee.

We are so quick to label people, including ourselves. For many that means – I feel low, therefore I am depressed, therefore this is medical and I cannot do anything about it. I need professional help. I hear young people saying all the time “I’m stressed, I’m depressed” and I wonder if they are really stressed or depressed or if they’ve watched something on a soap opera that looks like that therefore they think that’s what they have.

If you have children and you start to hear this, don’t be alarmed but gently sit down and start to dig a little and try to understand the matter.

Don’t rush, take time to observe and see how you or other members of the family can help. Naturally if it persists or other effects start to show then it’s best to seek professional advice – but medication should be the last resort.

Instant Coffee – we want a quick fix for everything today. Talking to people who feel lethargic or lacklustre, when you suggest reviewing their diet, eating habits and lifestyle, they think that that’s too hard and it’s easier to just go to the shop and buy multi vitamins.

Maybe we go to the doctors with these mental health symptoms and think “I need a pill and I trust a doctor – who wouldn’t?”, and often the doctor won’t argue and will give you what you perceive as the magic pill to cure how you feel. However, some antidepressant drugs have awful side effects and in reality it’s the last thing you need.

In summary this month the message is – let’s get talking! Often early stages of unhappiness, stress, anxiety etc can be halted, reduced by talking and help.

We are all busy in our lives and often have our own life issues to sort out. But we need to stop and listen and watch others and be more aware of the subtle signs of life stresses. I don’t like to use the word mental health issues because if we did, I think 99% of society would have mental health issues. I think in many instances it’s not a sign of mental illness to feel sad each week or even each day.

It’s dependent on your circumstances and what’s happening, but it’s also about controlling your emotions.

Look at the list below. We all could tick several of those boxes, but we need support and understanding to overcome them and to be told we are not ill, it’s just life. We can work together on it.

So, I could write a book on this subject but you would get bored and switch off. But as a director, manager, co-worker, dad, mum, grandparent, son, daughter, friend or neighbour, watch out for the simple signs in people and get people talking. What do they say; a problem shared is a problem halved.

Below I have made a few suggestions on how to tackle the effects of life on people. We may be suffering from one or many of these life issues. By stepping back, using self-analysis and talking to others will determine how much of a problem it is. Then you can decide how best to move forward.

Let’s look at a video before that.

We all have mental health

We all have mental health as well as physical health.

This video from the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families is part of a teacher toolkit and was developed in collaboration with young people, teachers and mental health experts.

This video gives a couple of examples of mental health issues in young people.

Is it in our DNA or can it be a social thing?

Well, it can be both. Some who have higher levels of positivity / negativity can grow up in a social environment and be suppressed over the years. But as soon as that individual changes that social environment, natural tendencies will come flooding back. Recognising our own style and approach is really important when making our life choices, especially in love, career and family.

This video gives an couple of examples

Signs and symptoms of mental illness can vary, depending on the disorder, circumstances and other factors. Mental illness symptoms can affect emotions, thoughts and behaviours.

Examples of signs and symptoms include:

Feeling sad or down. Life can be like been in a boxing ring and you cannot get out, the art is to not get punched and if you do get back up always get back up. Solution; talk to others first, think it through but don’t rush for a solution. We have all felt this way on a regular basis – it’s life.

Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate. When you have a lot going off in your life there are times when you suffer this effect. Stop, step back and talk to others. If it persists for a long time you need to look deeper.

Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt. At times we all have these and It’s natural to worry about things that are really important. The word extreme means different things to different people so you need to talk to someone else and gauge if it is extreme, and if in doubt seek professional advice

Extreme mood changes of highs and lows. These can also happen in everyday life and they are perfectly normal. We may have inner calm but there is always someone that wants to burst our bubble – the glass half empty brigade – watch out for them. If they become very extreme talk to other people; you will be surprised how often it happens to others.

Withdrawal from friends and activities. As we develop in our lives our feelings, emotions and thoughts change. We may move, change jobs, and our lives change. Managing change is a skill and we need to be aware of how to do it. Often this can happen in life, the older we get the more cynical we become so they say but withdrawal from society totally isn’t a good thing. Humans need interaction whatever that might be, so managing this is important. Living in a tree isn’t good for your soul.

Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping. Getting a good night’s sleep is really important, but if you’re worrying about things you could be using lots of mental energy; this happens to all of us in our lives. Talking to others helps you understand it more and there are many solutions to help you to switch off.

Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations. Extremes like this are a problem and you need to seek professional advice, but some detachment from reality are common in humans; we see it in everyday life, on the TV, in the media, social media etc. If someone has a dull life, they are naturally going to look for an escape. Talking honestly to people about how we feel can help.

Inability to cope with daily problems or stress. This can be the effect of a life that is going wrong. We all know people who seem to have a car crash life and wonder why. If our work/ homelife/ social life is extreme then it can cause stress. We need to take a step back, talk to others or in extreme cases seek counselling.

Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people. This happens to everyone sometimes – it’s called life! How to manage it is talk to others, try to judge how strong your issue is then decide on a course of action.

Problems with alcohol or drug use. Excess alcohol envelops your life eventually and reduces your ability to take personal responsibility. There are many support functions online.

Major changes in eating habits. Usually this is a symptom of something deeper going on. If you start to put lots of weight on don’t let it get out of control – excessive drinking and eating will create even bigger health problems. If you see others ballooning don’t be frightened to speak up and say.

Sex drive changes.  It’s life, it happens as we age or life circumstances hit us. Our body and brain cannot always deal with all life issues and sometimes this affects our sex drive. Again, step back, self-analyse and don’t rush to judge. The internet is full of information or if you can talk to someone else to see how much of a problem it is.

Excessive anger, hostility or violence. We can all feel anger and hostility towards life, others and things, but violence is a different matter. Once we start to step into violence then we need medical help.

Suicidal thinking.  People who are at the stage of wishing to end their lives is a serious matter. Medical counselling and support are needed.

YouDrive thinks…

These are Chris’s views, based on his experiences. We’ll revisit this as a discussion in our next post.

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