Let’s keep the #mentalhealth conversation going everyday

So tomorrow is #timetotalk day which as with all these initiatives is a fantastic opportunity to raise the profile of Mental Illness and especially the issue of stigma which sadly is all too real for many people today. Whilst it is vital for charities to set aside days to focus on and generate much needed publicity it is also important that those of us who are able to keep that conversation going everyday of the year where possible. 

#timetotalk day should not be the only day of the year to talk about mental health but just another opportunity from a possible 365 days each year. I for one will try to remember that every conversation that I have has the potential to change lives. 

Firstly talking about mental health in the same way we do with other illnesses and conditions helps to lessen the stigma that  there still seems to be. Many people have been surprised when I have mentioned depression in the same way that I might talk about asthma and I know that this can make a difference overtime. 

Talking about our own stories and journeys of mental illness can also have a huge impact on those we meet whether at work or even at the local gym or coffee shop. We should never underestimate how hearing someone talk about their experiences could encourage someone else to seek help for someone they know or even for themselves. It is important not to forget what an impact a personal testimony has the potential to have. 

At the Church where I am a member I have just written an article for our monthly magazine to raise the profile of mental health within the Church. I have researched websites that can signpost people to information and support and even if just one person is helped by this then it is definitely worth doing. 

I hope events for #timetotalk go well tomorrow and that it opens up the opportunity for many more conversations during the year ahead. 

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Where have I been?…

So after a long break from Twitter and from my blog I am back! 

There are lots of reasons why I decided to have a break but I think I made the right decision and I am proud of myself for making a few changes (both on and off line) that I hope will keep me well for longer and also help me to see the positives that I am experiencing as well.

Twitter is an amazing source of support, however I got a bit worried a month or so ago that it might of been fuelling my paranoia.  I don’t for one minute think that it was the sole cause but it was something that I was aware of and therefore that I could quite easily do something about. Other aspects of my paranoia aren’t always so easy to sort.

I also found myself getting quite upset about stigma on Twitter.  I started to take personally stigmatising comments and at times became anxious when I read certain tweets.  This wasn’t healthy and so therefore a break enabled me to realise that I couldn’t solve the problem myself and eradicate mental health stigma.  It also helped me to realise that I can do just as much in my life at Church, at work and within my own circle of friends and family to start changing the way people view mental health without challenging every reference on Twitter.  

I have also been incredibly busy (with very positive things) and I am slowly getting used to the fact that I am not 100% well but that is ok (ish). I have started swimming and eating much more healthily which is also having a positive impact on my life. I am still having the occasional day when I resent being ‘not quite well’ – where the anxiety prevents me from doing what I really want to do or the sleepness nights trigger a negative spiral of thoughts and I feel that I am going to become very unwell and therefore walk on eggshells for the next few days.

I am pretty realistic about the fact that I will be unwell again in the future but the period since my last serious depressive episode has been different. I am acknowledging my vulnerability but staying more positive than before. I am coping and whilst some days are better than others I am moving in the right direction.

Thanks for sticking with me! 

Out of the blue …..

Just a short blog to put down in words how hard it is when what I might refer to as ‘Early Warning Signs’ or difficult feelings/symptoms hit me out of the blue.  

Today I had to stay in my car and was unable to drive off as totally overcome by emotion, just cried for no apparent reason and this was hugely unsettling. When I am depressed this is sometimes expected but when I am feeling quite well it hits me hard and seems to knock me for six.

Earlier today I also had a mild panic attack which I could probably put down to having 3 meetings in a row at work and feeling under pressure (or thinking I was under pressure) but I wasn’t expecting it.  

Subsequently I now feel very fragile, like I am walking a tightrope and not sure whether I might fall off or not. I am sure this is just a small wobble but what I do know tonight and trying to hang on to is that I am feeling positive enough to have quite a bit of hope which is good.

So for the rest of this Mental Health Awareness week (#MHAW15) and in the weeks to come (as awareness us good all the time!) I am hoping that I can continue to raise awareness, have positive conversations and not experience too many more days like today! 

Fighting the #Stigma battle

Maybe triggering – please take care…

Last night saw the inspirational, sensitive and excellent documentary aired on Channel 4 – ‘Stranger on the Bridge’. It told the story of how Jonny Benjamin, after a huge hunt found the stranger who helped him on Waterloo Bridge one morning when he planned to take his own life.  

I would recommend people watching this if they haven’t already as it was brilliantly put together and as someone who has lost a friend to suicide and have been suicidal myself I found it very helpful.  It was though very moving and could also be hugely triggering so please take care if you are fragile at present.

I thought that the whole story gave a very powerful message in the fight against Mental Health Stigma.  This is something that is very close to my heart and when I am well I do my best to talk about mental health and try and break down some of the misconceptions and challenge stigma that I come across in my day to day life.  Normally the stigma which I challenge is amongst people I have met before and more about helping people to realise that talking about mental health is ok and can be so positive for all concerned.  

One thing I have tried not to do is challenge the huge ‘celebrity’ (I use this term loosely) voices that seem to take great delight in doing whatever they can to damage those with mental health illnesses further.  I am acutely aware that these people thrive and feed on publicity of any kind and probably sadly make their money by causing hurt and upset to many vulnerable people. I was though angered by a certain tweet regarding the ‘Stranger on the Bridge’ programme and felt I needed to challenge this.  

I decided to tweet a reply but to an employer of the person concerned and whilst this hasn’t had a huge impact an online paper did write an article on the subject and quoted my tweet in their article.  This made me sit up and think and remind me that we do have a voice even when others seem to do what they can to destroy this. 

So today I have talked to others about suicidal thoughts, explained what this is like for me and let more people in to some quite difficult experiences from my past.  In return I have felt comforted by the responses I received and buoyed by people’s understanding and in some cases a change of view point.  

It also made me realise that the simplest of acts can sometimes have the biggest impact – just like the stranger on that bridge……

My latest campaign – why do Mental Health consultants change diagnosis without telling the patient?

Just to clarify this obviously doesn’t apply to all psychiatrists as I know there are some excellent patient focused professionals out there but this has happened to me twice and I am hearing more and more stories where this is occurring.
In my experience I have only found out about the change in diagnosis by receiving a copy of a letter which was being sent to my GP. Each time I have battled to get the diagnosis reversed and been successful but I shouldn’t have to do this and neither should anyone else.
I realise that sometimes patients may be distressed and therefore in my opinion it is even more important to ensure this sort of subject matter is communicated at the right time and if necessary while the patient has appropriate support.
The most common occurrence of this seems to be in patients who have a bipolar diagnosis and then suddenly with no warning they find themselves with a personality disorder diagnosis. In some cases this might be correct but in quite a few this isn’t and I have felt in the past that I was given a new diagnosis as an excuse for being discharged from the system.
As I said I was able to get my diagnosis changed back but others aren’t so lucky and therefore people can be left without vital treatment and support during really difficult episodes.
The other alarming factor in this is that people who are bipolar and able to argue their case or stand up for themselves are seen to be obstructive and unnecessarily angry and this can be what a new diagnosis is primarily based on. This in my opinion is very short sighted and in some cases dangerous.
I would like to hear from people who have experienced this and also from professionals so that awareness of this can be raised.
Lets fight to ensure high levels of patient communication within mental health.

Part of response from @Newsshopper regarding inappropiate picture

I am afraid that we do not remove or amend stories purely on the basis that a reader has requested us to do so.

As with all editorial decisions, a great deal of discussion and consideration goes into deciding which details we should include and omit from our articles.

Based on the fact the lady in question could not be identified in the photo and that the story had a positive conclusion, we felt the decision to include a photo was the right one. 

The image helps paint a picture of an event which caused a huge amount of interest, inconvenience and indeed concern for thousands of readers in the local area. If we did not cover such an event in a such a comprehensive manner we would be failing in our role as journalists.

With regards to your reference to the Samaritans’ code of conduct for journalists, editor Andrew Parkes has been in ongoing discussions with the charity about this code.

Would love to meet those who gave me a hard time when I first became ill…

Today I was feeling nostalgic! I went somewhere that I hadn’t been for a good many years and when my life was completely different. This made me feel so many different emotions. Firstly I thought of how far I had come, how lucky I am and that the friends I have now are true friends who support me 100% and I certainly don’t need to worry about any stigma when I am with them. This has come about because of many factors including increased awareness of mental health in the UK as a whole, people often knowing more people who experience mental health problems because of increased disclosure and probably in my own friendship groups people have realised that sticking by me isn’t all bad news!
Today also made me think of the ‘friends’ I lost, the friends that visited me once in hospital and then run away, the friends that didn’t believe I had anything wrong with me and the friends who even said I had lied about my childhood experiences. I am sad as I would of liked to have longer friendships with more of my friends from school, I am sad as I am sure some may have experienced mental health problems themselves or within their families and I would liked to have supported them and I am sad because I can now for the first time in years say I am a good friend to people and I really value my friendships and my friends.
So yes I would love to meet some of my friends from school, not to give anyone a hard time but to continue to make people aware of mental health illnesses and keep the conversation going.