I’m not really much of a blogger, much as I want to be. But it’s Mental Health Awareness Week and I feel I’ve got something to say in this area.
Firstly I want to preface this post by saying I am speaking purely about my own experiences which might not be the same as other people’s experiences. But honestly I have been on a massive journey over the last year with regards to my mental health and it has made me think a lot about what is needed. I suffer from anxiety and depression. My depression has this annoying tendency to disappear for months on end and then knock me over. After my wedding I walked into a deep grey fog and came closer to serious crisis than I have done in years. Luckily I am now really engaging with CBT for the first time (after a couple of disastrous attempts before) and can at least take control albeit however temporarily of my situation.
So in 2018 this is what I think needs to change about mental health in the UK.
- WE DON’T NEED AWARENESS WE NEED CHANGE. This might be due to my own personal echo chamber, I am forever grateful to the immense mental health community on Twitter for being there. I find that there is a lot less stigma around discussing mental health than even five years ago. What we need to do is give people the support they need.
- Help drive flexible conditions in the work place. In 2016/17, 12.5 MILLION work days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety That is a huge amount. Even though rules around flexible working were changed in 2014 but as an HR professional, I am still hearing stories around businesses that are stuck in the past. Understanding how you can support employees as individuals rather than identical worker bees can have a massive impact on mental health.
- Better mental health support in schools. I don’t know much about this but I have heard a statistic that says the majority of mental health disorders start in childhood. I can definitely say that secondary school had a major impact on my mental health and was the beginning of a dangerous self-harm addiction that would take me more than a decade to break. Checking the news this week I read two articles that tell us about the problems with mental health in children (Sharp rise in under-11s referred for mental health help) and students (Student mental health ‘failing a generation). One of my personal aims is to understand more and get involved with groups who are helping with this.
- Better understanding of how mental health differs for different demographics. Again this is something I don’t know much about. I am bisexual, and I have been fortunate to have a relatively smooth experience of growing up, coming up and defining myself with this. But statistics show that LGBTQIA people are more likely to suffer from mental health problems. What’s more, it is critical to understand the difference experiences that lesbians for example, might face when asking for mental health support, compared to bisexual or transgender individuals. Race, class, disabled, or a variety of other contexts need to be better understood so we can give the right support for each person.
So there you have it. My Mental Health Manifesto. Certainly gives me something to work with this year. So what is yours going to say?
(Image borrowed from https://emmafalt.net/2014/05/21/mhaw/)
Right. So. Here I am. (And falling back into the blogging habit of using unnecessarily short sentences).
I am not a regular blogger. I don’t have a massive following. But this is the best place to share my thoughts. So recently I have been struggling with one of the worst grey spots in my adult life. I’m not kidding when I say I hadn’t felt that bad in nearly a decade, and anyone who knew back then knows I was not easy to be around sometimes.
However I’m lucky (I guess) in that my depressive episodes have never become a permanent part of life. Now I’m climbing back out of this latest cave and starting to engage with the world again. I’ve finally reached out for help dealing with it.
In the meantime I found a free online course titled Literature and Mental Health (this is in no way a plug just my reflections of the course). Now I’ve always considered myself an avid reader and I was interested in seeing how other people have used literature in dealing with mental health struggles.
I found the course easy to sign on to, and while there are plenty of discussions, I can interact at my own level of comfort which usually involves writing a comment reflecting on a topic, and then moving onto the next.
I am finishing off Week 1 and here are my thoughts about the course so far:
- I really like the variety of people involved. It’s not just the lecturers involved, there are guest spots from teachers, poets, even Stephen Fry (who I love deeply).
- This first week is talking about stress. They give a good variety of modern and more classical poetry for us to read through. More importantly there are videos of poets and other people reading the poem. I think that poetry is woefully taught in schools (see my previous blog post here ) and not all of us automatically know how to read a poem, where to put the pauses and the stresses (and isn’t it a nice rounding of the circle that stress means something from both a mental health perspective and a poetic one? Well I think so).
- By listening to poetry the key thing I take away is the effect it has on our mind. We slow down, focus, and the rest of the world falls away. You can bring nature with you wherever you go. I find that my breathing slows automatically to fit the pace of the poems discussed, which is key to controlling some physical effects of stress and anxiety.
- I love the introduction to poets I haven’t heard of before. Ben Okri reads some of his poems and I highly recommend his work. There is a discussion of Carol Ann Duffy’s “Prayer” which I struggled with. But it led me onto the beautiful spoken word poem “Heart Cry” by Samuel Cole which is referenced on Mind’s website.
There are occasions when the teachers assume a higher level of basic poetry knowledge, but all the material is there ready for you to reflect on. And the other learners are very supportive.
Good poetry for me is like good music. It articulates the emotions I don’t know how to describe myself. It creates a situation where I can feel. And it helps me choose what I want to feel which is incredibly important when trapped in a negative thought cycle.
I’ve been recording little scribbles here and there. I think trying to practice some of the different structures of poems is a nice little personal challenge for me to deal with. When I am at my lowest, I feel like I don’t add any value to anything at all because my creative endeavours aren’t successful. I always struggle with that feeling, but coming back to a more even playing field (for now) I can challenge my thinking there and remember that it doesn’t need to be successful. I don’t need have thousands of people read my scribbles. I’m doing it to express myself. Maybe getting it in writing is all I need to do.
I’m really looking forward continuing this course and seeing where it goes. Let’s find out.
Toady is the 10th birthday of hashtags on Twitter. I know, 10 years! However did we keep track of trends before then? What did we use the # key for?
Me personally I love a good hashtag. Besides the mega-loz in winding my husband up by using them in actual spoken conversation, they are super useful! My personal favourite is using them to run twitter chats. Twitter chats can take a bit of getting used to at first and can feel like this….
But once I got into the swing of them then it’s a great way to talk to other people about a certain topic. I don’t know of any bisexual or queer regular chats that go on (hit me up if you have one!) but here are my top 4 chats :
#PJchat (Mondays 9pm GMT)
#RoundReads (Selected Wednesdays)
#TalkMH (Thursdays 8.30pm GMT) (Selected Wednesdays)
#PosiMH (Sundays 8pm GMT)
What are your favourite hashtags??
So many moons ago I decided to have a personal blog. There was a few sporadic posts but it never amounted to anything. I feel this was for two reasons:
- I am RIDICULOUSLY bad at maintaining anything for more than about 3 months at a time. Seriously, I aced a Tough Mudder half earlier this year with my twice a week gym habit……however I now have a full one in 4 weeks and I haven’t been to the gym since I got back from honeymoon. This is disappointingly standard.
- I didn’t really have a focus.
Now I’m hoping that by resolving problem number 2, I develop a better habit which in turn resolves problem number 1. So what is my focus?!
My personal twitter is very focused on the bisexual* community, with a sideline in mental health. Now for both of these there are some great Tweeps that I recommend as follows:
Queer Mental Health:
But I saw a tweet the other day about a bisexual culture panel happening in Glasgow. When I enquired about how to follow this event online, there was some enthusiasm but no way of me following the event.
Then I booked a ticket onto Stand By Me – an event by Mind launching their bisexuality & mental health resource (https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/stand-bi-me-launch-of-minds-bisexuality-mental-health-resource-tickets-36658622928).
And then I had a thought…
I’ve attended a few HR/L&D events where the backchannel on twitter and social media has been incredibly active. Through good use of hashtags and apps likes Periscope or Storify, it allows people not attending the event to follow along and share the message and highlights with a much larger audience. Maybe there is some room to do this with events on bisexuality?
I’m not sure whether this will work….but it’s going to be really interesting to give it a go.
Watch this space!