Preventive healthcare is for the mind, too
TOMORROW I S World Mental Health Day, an annual global celebration of mental health e d u c a t i o n , awareness and advocacy. So it is a good opportunity to step back and take a look at our own mental health and to remember that spotting the signs of mental ill health is as important as being aware of the symptoms of physical illness.
The pressures of the modern age are having a huge impact on our collective stress levels and all-round wellbeing. Study and work pressures, social and family lives are all struggling for our attention and we’re finding it harder than ever to switch off. The phone buzzing, computer light blinking and the 24/7 work culture is putting huge burdens on our lives.
Philippa Carr, Jami’s recovery education manager, says: “It’s so important for us all to know the signs that our bodies are telling us to slow down. These include an increase in mood swings, broken sleep patterns, eating more or less than usual and an increase in alcohol consumption. If we’re noticing a couple of these things about ourselves, maybe it’s time to think about our life balance.”
Sam had just moved to Nottingham for his first year at university when his grandfather died. Being in a new place and trying to manage his feelings of loss, Sam unexpectedly found his first term extremely difficult. He had been looking forward to meeting new people, revelling in his course and his free dom. Instead, he did not want to leave his room and felt homesick — though he didn’t want to admit it. When Sam came home for a weekend break, his parents were shocked to find that their usually confident, chatty son was withdrawn and unable to tell them anything about his first weeks at university. They slowly discovered that he was already behind with coursework and was finding his time away really tough. After visiting his GP and receiving a diagnosis of depression with anxiety, Sam got in touch with Jami. An occupational therapist at Jami began practical work with Sam to help him establish a new routine now that he was away from home; they also encouraged him to contact the welfare service on his campus. He continues to touch base with Jami whenever he visits home and finds it reassuring to know that help is available if he needs it.
Sam’s story is far from isolated. But he was able to regain his former self and life thanks to the swift thinking of his family. Philippa says: “As well as being able to look after our own mental wellbeing, it’s important to help our nearest and dearest. If you notice that a friend or family member isn’t quite themselves, ask them if they’re okay. Often, acknowledging that there’s an issue can be the first step in getting back our own sense of wellbeing.
“If you try to bottle up your stress, the stress will be fed even more. As with a shaken bottle of pop, it’s better to let out the stress gently than to let the pressure build. If we were all happier to admit to and own our stress, we’d find it much easier to deal with it. Discussing our stress with family or close friends is probably the first step in helping to ease the situation.”
Things we can do to help our own stress levels include taking some time for ourselves, for example going for a walk, having a bath, seeing friends or pottering in the garden — all things that can help us relax. Mindfulness is also extremely effective in helping people get rid of their stresses, so learning that as a new technique can help.
Jami is offering courses to help us to manage the pressure points in modern life. Its Introduction to Mindfulness course will run in early 2016 and a Stress, Bad-hair Days and Getting Your Mojo Back course is in the pipeline. For the full range of Jami courses and to book: jamiuk.org or call 020 8458 2223
Discussing our stresses with family or friends is a first step to easing it