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According to the Mental Health Organisation website;
“Mental health problems range from worries we all experience
as part of everyday life to serious long-term conditions. The majority of people who experience mental health problems can get over them or learn to live with them, especially if they get help early on. Mental health symptoms have traditionally been divided into groups called either ‘neurotic’ or ‘psychotic’ symptoms. ‘Neurotic’ covers those symptoms which can be regarded as severe forms of ‘normal’ emotional experiences such as depression, anxiety or panic. Conditions formerly referred to as ‘neuroses’ are now more frequently called ‘common mental health problems.’ Less common are ‘psychotic’ symptoms, which interfere with a person’s perception of reality, and may include hallucinations such as seeing, hearing, smelling or feeling things that no one else can. Mental health problems affect the way you think, feel and behave. They are problems that can be diagnosed by a doctor, not personal weaknesses.”
According to the NHS website at least one in four people experiences a diagnosable mental health problem in any one year, and one in six experiences this at any one time. More than half of those with a common mental health problem have both depression and anxiety. Nearly 850,000 children and young people aged five to 16 years have a mental health problem – about 10% of the population. Between one and two in every 100 people experience a severe mental illness, such as bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia, and have periods when they lose touch with reality. Fewer than one in 10 accesses treatment.
These are alarming figures when you consider how many people are suffering in silence and not accessing the help and support they need. So what are the reasons behind this? Could it be becuase of the stigma attached to having mental health issues, embarassment or not wanting to admit to yourself or in front of others that you are struggling and need support? Or is it that you have asked for help and are on a long waiting list only to be told that you will recieve limited sessions of help due to the demand of public health services across the UK. Often the most vulnerable people in society fall under the radar simply because they do not have the capacity to seek professional support when needed, for others accessibility and articulating their needs is an issue.
Common mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, panic disorders, phobias and obsessive compulsive disorder can cause great emotional distress, and can affect how you cope with day-to-day life and your ability to work. So from a medical perspective such a person may be offered anti-depressants following an assessment and be labelled as suffering with depression or anxiety. Whereas the therapeutic approach would examine the person holistically looking at the environmental, financial, family, social, emotional factors and what support networks a person has in order to manage. All of these factors are considered in therapy alongside the physical health, psychological assessment, medication and conditions or labels. So in effect a macro not micro look at the persons whole life. A person with good support networks could fare better in therapy and on medication than a person living alone in isolation with no friends or family. Even though both have depression and are in therapy and on medication, the fact that one has more support than the other could have a massive impact on how they cope. Each factor and its impact is taken into consideration via the counsellor.
Psychological problems can involve both an explicit and implicit nature so its about being aware of where on the spectrum a person may be in their life. Common mental health and other psychological problems such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, Phobias, and Eating disorders often have roots in deeper issues at the core of the problem, it’s not so much in our lives but within ourselves. Negative self -belief, self -loathing and shame are often carried by us into adulthood from our childhood. Hearing negative messages from significant adults in our lives when young can have a lifelong impact on our psyche.
There are a small number of people who suffer with severe and complex mental health problem such as clinical Psychosis. Psychosis can make you experience changes in thinking and perception severe enough to significantly alter your experience of reality. These conditions include schizophrenia and affective psychosis and can have the same lifelong impact as any long-term physical condition. People categorised with severe and complex mental health problems may be helped by working on aspects of the foundations of themselves but only with a counsellor who is trained and experienced to work with this level of client problems and normally in conjunction with other services such as Community Psychiatric Nurses’s, Doctors, Mental health workers and support workers.
Often at this level they will be on some form of medication. We must remember that medication is just as important as therapy and to always seek medical attention when feeling unable to cope, therapy and medical intervention often go hand in hand and work effectively to support individuals who need help. As a counsellor it is important to understand a clients medical condition and decide if they can be supported via therapy. Hence honesty from the client at the time of assessment is essential in identifying needs and offering the appropriate mode of support.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net
Everyday life can become so stressful that even the slightest things can set us off in a spin. Anxiety and depression have been listed as the two most common mental health problems faced by everyone at some point in their lives. Knowing this, what can we do to help ourselves and when is it right to seek help from our GP’s and seek out counselling?
The answer to these questions will differ from one person to the next because we are all unique and have different ways of coping with life. As a general rule most people visit their doctors in the first instance to discuss symptoms which can lead to taking prescribed medication like anti-depressants. Sometimes counselling is suggested but more often than not the first course of action is medication. Counselling can be sought via the NHS or privately.
In order to understand what causes us anxiety it is important to know the signs, symptoms and what we can do to alleviate personal stress levels and manage. According to MIND, the National Mental Health Charity the following are some common signs of anxiety:
- Losing interest in activities and tasks that were previously enjoyed
- Poor performance at work
- Feeling tense, uncertain and fearful of things
- Worries affect sleep, appetite and ability to concentrate
- Feeling powerless, out of control or overwhelmed by emotions
- Having panic attacks
- Feeling on edge, irritable and unable to relax
- Seeking reassurances from others, not trusting oneself
To cope with these feelings individuals may turn to vices such as smoking, drinking, or misusing drugs. Holding on in failing relationships and feeling unable to hold down a job. for some people anxiety can be so severe it takes over their lives causing frequent panic attacks. They may withdraw from society, develop other phobias, or begin having obsessive compulsive thoughts or behaviours like exsessive cleaning.
How can I help myself?
Facing your anxieties and addressing why you feel this way is the start of making a difference, looking at the reasons behind what led you to feeling this way and unpicking that fear and insecurity. The following are some ways of helping manage symptoms yourself:
- Relaxation and mindfulness techniques of breathing exercises. Mindfulness CD’s can be purchased to listen to and use when feeling stressed. Attend a class on Yoga, relaxation or mindfulness and learn about controlled breathing, deep breathes from the stomach in through the nose and out through the mouth.
- Assertiveness training can help, maybe start a dancing, singing or drama class to encourage more social interaction and learn how to feel more confident, look up local classess in your area.
- Takes advantage of compimentary therapies such as massage, acupuncture, reflexology, herbalism and hypnotherapy. There are various modes of alternative therapies which can help to relax and stimulate you. Even simple things like lavender oils in the bath or drinking chamomile tea can act as a soothing experience.
- Use your freinds and family for support, make that call, go for a coffee and a chat and ask for what you need.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle, drink plenty of water, go for a jog or run, or even the gym where you can also use the sauna and steam room. Eat well, plenty of fruits and vegetables and try to cook from fresh avoiding packaged and processed foods where possible. Try to avoid stimulants like coffee, cigarettes and alcohol as these will impact on your ability to relax and may reduce the quality of your sleep.
- It is advisable to seek medical attention and visit your GP if symptoms persist long term as they may be able to support you with prescribed anti-depressants and referrals for counselling.
If you are feeling anxious and need further information and support the following are organisations that can help:
- No Panic: 0800 138 8889 nopanic.org.uk
- MIND infoline: 0300 123 3393 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Anxiety UK: 08444 775 774 anxietyuk.org.uk
- Samaritans 08457 909090 samaritans.org
- British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy: (BACP) 01455 883 300 itsgoodtotalk.org.uk
Go on, have a go. Think about each aspect of your life right now in this present moment and reflect on what is real, what you want, and how you feel about your life. It may help to write things down as you move through this exercise. It could throw up some surprising revelations, and help you to focus you on whats important to you.