COVID-19

Coronavirus. COVID-19. Global Pandemic.

What do the words mean to you? What emotions are stirred up when you read them? What is the small pit of dread which occurs in the base of your stomach when you hear these words?

Over the past few months, we’ve heard these words being spoken and communicated. The uncertainty surrounding them has caused a mass hysteria across the globe. Healthcare workers, supermarket workers, teachers and all key workers are being branded frontline hero’s in leading the fight against this new unknown virus. This immediate reaction as a globe to fight and protect against a threat is instinctual and innate within us, known as the fight or flight response. However, the issue which is being overlooked currently is the impact this crisis has on us emotionally, the comedown after this battle we are all in, which will hit the globe hard post-crisis.

It is very well documented the innate F+F response we have is our fundamental human instinct to protect ourselves from harm. Harm can be anything we perceive to be a threat to our person and livelihood. This threat could be a blue-bottle house fly, a travelling car, open water, a common-cold or a mountain lion etc etc. Most of the time we have some knowledge of our threats, so we understand how we should respond when we are exposed to them for example if I see a wasp I know it can sting me and cause me pain or a severe allergic reaction so my response is to run away or swat the wasp away or just scream. Now let’s understand this threat are a larger scale, one which we have minimal knowledge about and unsure of how the threat will present it self to us, because of this we don’t know how to protect ourselves or others around us. This is what we are feeling in relation to the current crisis the globe is facing.

On a daily basis individuals will suffer from anxiety, depression, PTSD, paranoia or OCD etc to name a few. These can often be triggered by potential threats the person perceives in their reality, for example being unable to control a situation or being unable to go outside and enjoy your freedom. This anxiety then combined with the above feeling of being in fight or flight continuously can lead to heightened and pro-longed anxiety which in the long term is going to negatively impact of the individual mental well-being.

In addition, to those who already suffer from mental health conditions, a concern is now this crisis will trigger high levels of emotions in people for many reasons. One reason being we are all continuously going to feel in a state of fight or flight, this adrenaline rush will last as long as the threat is present. But what happens after the threat goes away? An adrenaline dump, this is when you rapidly decline from a heightened state to a very low state as the adrenaline levels drop to a normal level. This can develop into depression or anxiety as the body and mind are unable to regulate as it normally would. This dip in our mood can be challenging to our mental wellbeing and how we then begin to perceive our new reality post-crisis. Another reason is the shock and over-whelming feeling which arises when you take a seat back and reflect on what has just happened. You begin to realise the enormity of the issue, the high number of deaths you’ve dealt with, feelings of helplessness as you witness an individual losing the battle against this unknown virus etc. I can only imagine the emotional turmoil this crisis will have on all frontline and key workers across the globe.

There were no warning signs, no prediction or knowledge that such a crisis would occur during our lifetime. But it happened, it crept up on us like a dark shadow which consumed the globe in one quick act. We may feel trapped, isolated and unable to breath as the virus takes hold of the globe. But as we have learnt from history that all pandemics have a life span like a tornado they come and go causing mass destruction. The question is always the same when the tornado hits: how long will it last? will anyone get hurt? how much destruction will it cause? Unfortunately, these same questions we now ask of the current crisis.

I find in amongst all the fear, worry, scaremongering, and facts, there are some positives that will come of this crisis. We can see the mortality rates will be high, nearly everybody on Earth will have been affected by this virus in some way. This shared experience we are currently living through will show the power of humanity and expose the weaknesses we have in this generation. It comes as shock that the first lesson learned was how selfish we can be in a crisis, when the perceived threat arose, we only look to defend ourselves and forget there are people around us that are unable to protect themselves like we can. The mass panic buying and clearing shelves of food and cleaning supplies, was the first weakness shown. It shows the majority of us are egocentric and very much independent of each other, which works against us when we need each other the most. However, despite this it also showed the altruistic and empathic side to humanity the side where we quite literally will put ourselves in harm’s way to protect others that can’t. This heroism and strength we have is indescribable and outweighs any weaknesses we hold. Furthermore this crisis is benefiting Mother Nature, as the globe is healing, the Ozone layer is finally showing signs of repairing, the air pollution globally is the lowest it’s been for decades, all around us in the midst of all this chaos there are signs of new life, growth and new beginnings. Let’s take this crisis, as a chance to reset and change the way we live our lives. This has shown us the fundamental art of face-to-face social interaction which was decreasing due to social media, is now the only thing we have and want. The little things we take for granted such as our freedom to walk the earth, to live life the way we want to live it have been taken away. But when it is returned to us let’s express gratitude.

Following this crisis no one knows how life will be post-crisis, what emotional burden it will it leave us with? This is a turning point in history and our lives. Let’s embrace the change and learn from this crisis, as a human race we move on together.

Lastly, for many staying inside on lockdown is difficult and can be emotional and almost seem like a challenge. So here are a few things to try which may help break the day up:

◦ Make a short list of things to do and tick them off as you accomplish them. They don’t have to big tasks or even long for example read one chapter of a book, listen to a new/old album, clean my closet, or watch a movie. The task doesn’t have to be extravagant or amazing it just has to be realistic.

◦ Take time away from social media or mainstream news. There is so much noise and information that is communicated to us every second and during times like this even in lockdown it’s vital we switch off from the world to help process what we have heard or read and to reconfigure. This will aid our emotional well-being as we are allowing ourselves to process everything and reset. This can be done through mindfulness or meditation or just by sitting still in a quiet room for a few minutes. Try it it will surprise you how relaxed you may feel after doing this.

◦ Reflection- during these unprecedented times keep a journal, voice notes or take time to think about what is happening, your feelings, thoughts and reactions. Understand how you have been impacted, what this means for you as a person, how will change after this over? Having this time is important for us to release and explore what is going on for us. As by not having an outlet to reflect this will build up inside you and can lead to anxiety attacks for example.

Finally please follow the government or official guidelines on social distancing, how to protect yourself and others from risk of spreading the virus and how you can help those in need in your community. By each of us doing our small part we will form a larger solution.

If you need medical help for any reason, do not go to places like a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

If you have symptoms of coronavirus (a high temperature or a new, continuous cough), use the 111 coronavirus service.

If you need help or advice not related to coronavirus:

  • for health information and advice, use the NHS website or your GP surgery website
  • for urgent medical help, use the NHS 111 online service – only call 111 if you’re unable to get help online
  • for life-threatening emergencies, call 999 for an ambulance

Samaritans (24hr service): Call 116 123 or email: jo@samaritans.org

Mind Infoline (provides information on where to get help in your local area): call 0300 123 3393, text 86463 or email info@mind.org.uk

A mental health journey: Anonymous

Written by an anonymous individual who experienced mental health issues and wants to share their journey.

Mental health is such a raw subject. I am 22 years old and have struggled through mental health problems since the age of 11. It’s so hard, people underestimate the pain people go through. Having your own thoughts turn against you, you get so impulsive that it makes the world spin. You don’t know what your next move is going to be, will it be a dangerous act against my life or will be an act of self care and self worth? Now that is a question I was never able to answer. I never knew what my day had in stall for me. I never knew if that day I was going to wake up and try to kill myself or I’d go for a nice walk in the park with friends.

I had this devil inside me called borderline personality disorder. This meant that I couldn’t hold friendships, I would make everyone turn against me on purpose. I would purposely start arguments so I didn’t have to communicate properly with people. Now I hate arguments and I can’t stand being around arguments. They scare me and that was caused by my own insecurities. I was so impulsive that one minute I’d be laughing and joking then the next I’d be self harming alone on my bathroom floor. I was so unpredictable to myself but most people would say I was ‘predictable’ even though I never knew what was around the corner for me. I’d go through phases of not eating and starving myself to eating normal amounts and purging all of that up. At one point I was so delicate, I was very poorly and had to force myself to drink endures in order to keep my rights from being on a section and being tubed. Although I was sectioned I still had a choice – eat or be force fed through a tube – now that was when I hit rock bottom.

Why should I be forced to make choices I don’t want to make? Why should I better myself when I’m so worthless and such a horrible person? I didn’t want to get better because I felt like I didn’t deserve a single ounce of it. I was scared of being happy, I thought if I was happy something would soon pop up to bring me down further and further.

Flashbacks that would take me back to horrible events in life that should never have to be remembered. Flashbacks that mentally and physically took over my body, hearing a voice, feeling a sensory feeling. Going paralysed. Banging my head against a brick wall just to numb my thoughts. It was a never ending battle between my body, my abuser and my mind.

But now…

I have an amazing boyfriend. I have a new diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder as well as bpd in remission. I have a loving boyfriend who reminds me every single day of my worth and how beautiful I am. I have just landed myself a job as a mental health recovery worker. I am so lucky to have overcome everything I have been through, I’d like to thank every single person who was involved in my care and helped me see the light in my darkest of days.

Anon.

Illness=Wellness

Humans are creatures whom thrive when in a group and have support. We like to think we can tackle this work alone but this has a limited life span. In order for us to progress, strive for excellence and succeed, we require the support, knowledge and presence of others.

When we feel ill, we tend to want to cuddle up on the sofa with junk food and be comforted by our loved one such as your mum.

When you face a mental illness, something which many can’t relate too and strains relationships. The support and love can diminish. Not at fault of anyone’s. Mental illness can either strengthen or weaken relationships.

Working within mental health, I’ve seen the effect the illness can have on the individual and those around them. Parents, siblings, spouses, children all get affected. If we have a community around us, we can battle anything.

Being there for someone, allowing them to feel what they are going through, allowing the to feel what they want to feel is the most powerful method of support. Trying to impose or manipulate them into your reality is detrimental. Once we realise that if we remove ourselves completely and focus on the person as a human being separate to us, we support them to be who they are and experience their reality, to which we can then be wholly apart of.

The method of being person-centred will help someone more than if you try and say “helpful quotes” or compare to situations you’ve been through. This tactic doesn’t help, as you as the supposedly listener aren’t listening, your perceiving and marking assumptions on what you think you hear. But if you actually stop and really listen to other person, be in their world, you will understand what they are going through and feel what they are feeling.

Just being there in their reality with them, sharing in their experience, wholly, gives them comfort and confidence. It can increase self esteem, self worth, being comfortable in themselves and aiding them to understand themselves and experience their reality truly in a safe space; free from judgment, perception, opinion, assumptions or feeling like they are being analysed.

This notion is difficult to ascertain and comprehend, as you have to almost be very self aware of yourself, to detach from oneself to become part of another human being, but still keeping your own self identity.

It’s easy to give up and walk away. The situation may be messy, complicated or very emotionally triggering. But by being there, being the listener can help in more ways you may not even fathom.

Male suicide!

Suicide kills more men under the age of 50 than anything else. In the UK someone takes their life every 90minutes. Estimated that for every person who dies by suicide twenty more attempt it. Many people who attempt suicide either want to end it all, or some are grateful that they may be unsuccessful attempts. To prevent suicide, we have to intervene early on. But to do this we have to understand how a person gets to the point of suicidal crisis. Everyone goes through things such as bad relationships, guilt over their children, financial or employment crisis etc, and these all can make you relate to suicidal thoughts. Therefore no one is immune to the effects of suicidal thoughts.

Typically research into the cause of suicide mainly looks into mental illness as the main explanation. It is seen if you have family members whom have a mental illness such as depression etc, or an unstable up-bringing this can make you more susceptible to mental health issues and possibly suicidal ideation. Children as young at 6-7yrs old can experience a first episode of psychosis; auditory or visual hallucinations and paranoid thoughts etc. At this age they often keep it to themselves as they are scared, but this can lead to mental breakdowns. Also other disorders like depression&anxiety or bipolar can occur. This can mean young children will often feel low for periods of time, and if not treated they can develop into suicidal ideations, which they may act upon. Suicidal thoughts don’t just occur for adults who’ve lived a life, it can occur in anyone, at any age. Many people live their life daily, with suicidal ideations, but it’s how they manage these thoughts which is the important point. According to research, people with a mental illness are 30 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population. The Beck’s cognitive triad is often what see occurring in individuals whom struggle with suicidal ideations.

Trying to predict and prevent suicidal attempts is unfortunately heartbreakingly difficult. Even though mental illness is a major factor, many people with a diagnosed mental illness may never have suicidal ideations. A worrying notion is there maybe twice as many people in the general population whom have suicidal thoughts, but aren’t in contact with mental health services. A survey conducted by Men’s Health magazine in November 2017, had 15,000 male responders. 56% admitted to having suicidal thoughts. This does not mean that 56% of the men whom responded are mentally ill. Nonetheless, it highlights that men are struggling with these thoughts, and something needs to change in the current services and society. 70% of the respondents admitted that their own physical health is not good. One conclusion from the survey was, there is a conflict in masculinity; that men today pride themselves in the idea of the “new man”. But men are in general struggling to reconcile that, with the old thought that men are tough and strong. Men identify themselves with their career and this helps with their self esteem. Some men still believe they should be the main breadwinner of the family and struggle to reconcile these ideas together. This can lead to panic, isolation and withdrawal from society. However , despite these difficulties, men aren’t unaware of these issues and the effect upon them. 69% were good at identifying markers in their mental health, family, friends and intervening to help remedy it. Whilst being unable to identify they have an issue and acknowledge it. It is seen, people are aware of the type of services available in the local community, but men often feel unable to approach such services; battling an internal dialogue between the man they feel they should be, compared to the man they want to be. Men often find it harder in general to ask for help than women.

Furthermore trying to understand the cause of suicide, can be difficult as the there are differing rates of suicide across the UK. Interestingly, the northern part of England has the highest suicidal rate. Therefore, can your risk of suicide be linked to where you live or were brought up? Statistics show if you live in the north east, you are 35% more likely to die by suicide than if you live in London. The main reasons for suicide found in the North were attributed to; bereavement, finance and relationships breaking down. But these are not the sole causes. Research shows that individuals within the lowest socio- economic group in the most deprived areas are 10times more likely to die by suicide than those in the highest socio-economic groups in the most affluent areas. Also, if someone doesn’t have protective factors and a strong network of people around them, they are likely to feel alone and isolated, which can lead to suicide. One major factor as a cause of suicide, is if you know of someone who is close to you, that has taken their own life.

Men often feel like they are living a double life; a confident stable person vs someone who is struggling daily with personal issues. Because of this men find it hard to articulate how they are feeling, bottling everything up. It has been found even though more women attempt suicide than men, more men die by suicide compared to women. Research highlights that men use more lethal and life ending methods of suicide than women. Men’s physical pain capacity and tolerance is higher than women. Overtime a males pain tolerance increases overtime. So if men engage in risky behaviours like self harm and experience traumatic events, this may elevate their pain tolerance. Men can become more emotionally isolated than females, as they invest emotionally to a smaller set of people compared to females, whom often have a larger network of support.

However, knowing all these risk factors, it doesn’t help us understand who will take their own life. Therefore without this foresight, it can be difficult in preventing suicidal deaths. Different people require different methods of help. Research looking into the interactions between multiple risk factors and the chance of suicidal death, are able to predict the likelihood of successful/unsuccessful attempts of suicide up to 90% accuracy. This can help us understand when to intervene to prevent suicide. However this is based upon a computer algorithm, which analyses a vast amount of date and factors. Therefore, can a healthcare professional rely solely on a machines diagnosis?

Changing the general populations outlook towards suicide, may help reduce suicidal rates. In America, they have a system where they ask the primary healthcare professional to screen each patient every time they see them, to find out if they have had any suicidal thoughts. Each patient who is seen as a risk is then referred onto the appropriate care/service. In addition, the patient formulates “Rescue Plans” for when they reach crisis point. It was found, that the suicide rate in the local community decreased by 80% and for a few years it was 100% effective, with no suicides reported. If we are more proactive and change the attitude towards suicide, we are more likely to prevent suicidal rates increasing. However, individuals in the lower socio-economic groups who often don’t visit any health services in the US, are still at a higher risk than those whom are able to afford healthcare.

Currently in the UK the governments target is to reduce the deaths by suicide by 10% before 2020. But many believe we should have a bigger goal than 10%. Zero suicidal alliance has the goal of bringing the initiate the US are using of ‘zero suicide’ to the UK. It’s aim is to apply and use the resources we currently have in a more useful way, to prevent people reaching a crisis point. So far nearly all the NHS trusts across the county have signed up for this initiative. However, there is still a lack of funding for research in the mental health sector and for suicide research.

One preventive method in helping others is talking and asking questions like “are you ok?” or “are you suicidal?”. By starting this open conversation, people feel supported and protected. People than feel listened to and their feelings are validated. As small as asking these questions, may save someone’s life.

Let’s face it together!

To learn and progress in life we have to sometimes do things that are outside our comfort, confront difficult situations and emotions. However, the more we face, the more likely we will find it easier the next time. All these “pills” are hard to swallow but even accepting one can lead to a chain reaction of being able to cope with the rest. Each one is making a small change to our lives, which will benefit us for the long term.

When someone has a mental illness such as depression and anxiety these steps can seem impossibly large and unattainable. This can be for many reasons such as past experiences, lack of support around them or current situations.

If we offer help, guidance and an ear to listen to them, we can help those whom need encouragement to take steps, take the first step.

Misconceptions of mental illness

Mental illness is more than what you see. Mental illness is deeper than it’s felt. Mental illness is harder than people know.

In today’s society, even with all the knowledge the world can offer, at our fingertips. We can still be ignorant to some topics. Mental illness is one vast area which still is shrouded in questions, misjudged, but everyone thinks they understand it.

We use throw away comments like “I feel depressed”. But what actually does it mean to “feel depressed”.

If we stop and think, learn about illnesses which are becoming more and more prevalent in our communities. We will find a large amount of people facing difficulties we never knew existed, feeling isolated in a crowded place and struggling to find hope.

As with physical health conditions, mental illness is equally as complex.

Lets look beyond what we see and think.

You never know…

As humans we judge a book by its cover before we open the pages and explore it further. If we did, we would find their are deeper layers, complex thoughts and intense feelings that are shaping the outcome of the book. This analogy can be used in how we perceive others in our lives. They say it takes 10secs for an individual to make up their mind about another person. 10secs?? Is this fair?

This innate judgement is within us, we often have little control over it. But like the book if we take the time to get to the know the person, understands their thoughts, feelings and personality, we may find we change our view on them.

Change is something we are privy to and can do with ease. It doesn’t cost anything, but does require a sacrifice. This is something we can control.

For example when meeting a person for the first time, automatically we will judge how they look in relation to ourselves. But than we start talking to them and find they may not be what we expected. I can almost say this is 100% fact for every single person and it’s happened to everyone.

But the real test is how we then go on treating that individual. Do we realise our misjudgment and go out of our way to be kind and befriend the individual. Or do we stick with our initial thoughts and treat that person accordingly.

The saying goes we are all onions with many layers. Humans are very complex people. We have no idea what is going on in anyone else’s life other than our own. So why do we think we do know and make assumptions. I go through life on this premise, that we are more than surface deep, so give people time and get to know them. However I have observed that this notion is ignored many people, they only look superficially and this I find is where problems arise. I don’t expect everyone to explain their life story to others to avoid judgment. But for people to be more open minded and understanding.

“ often the loudest person in the room is often the most hurt and fragile”

This oxymoron that shouldn’t make sense, makes complete sense. Think about it.