Category Archives: Mental health

Reaching my audience, owning my responsibilities and asking a favour

This blog has been on my mind for a while as I struggle to reach my intended audience; I have to consider what to write for the audience I want to reach as well as the needs of audience I actually reach.

You may, or may not know, my main aim is to raise awareness of mental health issues. Ideally, I would reach an audience totally unaware of mental illness. But of course, this is very difficult! Writing blogs and sending them off into the ether, the people who read them are, of course, people who are already interested in mental health related issues.

Sometimes I write about other things on my mind, with the hope these blogs will reach people not specifically interested in mental health and they may, then, have a little look around my site! Other than this, the only thing I can do is share my mental health blogs as far and wide as possible!

While I’d like to write hard hitting mental health blogs with the intent to shock and wake people out of their ignorant stupor, I have to consider my sensitive audience, that is, the people who are already very aware of the disturbing truths and don’t need rousing into action.

For example, I may want to get through to the MPs who aren't giving mental health services enough funding and give them graphic detail about my hospital stays that haven't gone well because there haven't been enough staff to support me to keep safe, but the people who'll actually read that will be my fellow in-patients who had equally rough stays and, may benefit to hear that they weren't alone, or relatives of fellow inpatients who may be interested in what it was like but equally may be upset by such gory details.

Of course I have a basic responsibility to keep things factually accurate. A blog about mental health often shares opinions and experiences where it’s a fine balancing act between saying “this is how it is” and “this is how I experience it”. I’m always clear to state when writing about an experience; the feedback I’ve had is that a factual blog (drawn from my professional background) peppered with experiences, is most readable.

"It felt as though the psychiatrist was deliberately provoking me to self harm" is a valid experience - it's how I felt at the time, when I was feeling paranoid; how, it's important to state that it's an experience because if people think there are psychiatrists out there who do actually deliberately provoke patients, this will prevent them from seeking support when they need it. It's important to be aware, while my experience was fact, I may not be stating the situation factually.

If I’m writing about another individual who could be identified, I always check that they’re prepared for this information to be public. A popular blog was an interview with my husband, on my to-do list is another interview, watch this space!

I also have a responsibility to myself. As someone recovering from severe mental illness, currently in therapy, I never publish something unless I’m feeling in a robust enough position to deal with any fallout. No matter how small the topic, this rule remains the same. I’ve published articles on all sorts of revealing topics in national newspapers and spoken on national TV about topics that left me feeling quite exposed. No one’s guided me through this. No one else will know when I’m ready. It’s been tough but incredibly rewarding.

Your responsibility

While I’m taking my responsibilities seriously, could I ask you to do the same? If you’re reading my blogs, am I right to assume you’re interested in mental health and therefore have an interest in reducing stigma and discrimination etc? So, what do you do with what you read? I’m incredibly grateful when I get feedback from people saying that I’ve helped them feel less alone or enabled them to understand what it’s like for their friend or relative. If you find it interesting, someone else might too.

80% people during lockdown, said their mental health deteriorated. That means 80% of the UK population could personally benefit from reading something of what I’ve written and the other 20% will know someone from the 80% therefore they could read what I’ve written and support someone who’s struggling.

Great things are happening – I cannot express my gratitude enough to the people who share my blogs. There are too many people in this world completely lacking in knowledge about mental health and I’m just trying to do my little bit towards educating them. Building this platform has led to all sorts of interviews and other work, I just hope this continues.

But if no one new shares my blogs, I'll continue writing into an echo chamber where everyone agrees, I've had some difficult experiences and I'm making some good points about things that need to change. Each year Mental Health Awareness Week comes around and the same people are aware of the same issues and nothing changes.

Analytics enable me to see a fair amount about my audience, this helps me see who is reading what and for how long but I don’t necessarily know why…?! I don’t know if people are liking it or not liking it! I get some comments – I approve all comments (except the obvious) so I’m happy if you disagree with what I’ve written or want to query something, I welcome respectful differences of opinion.

I’ll admit I make mistakes, not every blog is spot on and I struggle to produce regular content, I live with chronic illness, it’s not an excuse, it’s a reason. But I’d really love it if I kept up my side of the bargain, I’ll produce responsible content:

If you don’t like it, please comment – tell me why

If you do like it, (you can comment if you like but) please share it – I’d love it if you shared the link on social media but even if you just sent the link to one person in a text or an email, you never know what a difference this could make to them and this would seriously make my day!

The online world

While many may be revelling in being more connected than ever through Facebook, Instagram, WhatApp, TikTok, email, Zoom, text, Hangouts or Slack. I’m reflecting on how it must feel if this is a hostile world for you.

No escape

Bullying used to be a thing that only happened in the playground, the streets or the work-place, as wrong as these types of bullying are, at least the victim can go home and retreat to a place of safety. As our world gradually shutdown we turned to the online world to keep our society going. What if you’re a victim of cyber-bullying, there’s no escape, you bully follows you around in your pocket.

A report in 2017 showed, of young people who experienced cyber-bullying:

  • 23% turned to self harming behaviours such as cutting
  • 24% had suicidal thoughts
  • 10% attempted to take their own lives

Just imagine being a victim of cyber-bullying, being told to stay at home. The only way to connect with your friends or colleagues is via technology but this is how the bullies reach you. There’s no escape, so how do you build a support network?

Multiple connections

The online world, for some people, is a daunting one. Being connected 24/7 isn’t comfortable for everyone. How many apps do we have connecting us? These notifications pinging multiple times a day! Is this really a positive thing? If you’re an introvert, a little energy is sapped with every app notification, this can be exhausting!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly grateful that I’m more in contact with the people that matter to me but do I really need to be a member of 9 WhatApp groups? The fact there are multiple people asking questions online such as “how do I see a message without marking it as “read”?” should make us realise many people are anxious or at least ambivalent about being connected!

A barrier can make you confident

Having a screen as a barrier can make some people feel more confident and they may say things they wouldn’t ordinarily say face-to-face; this could be used for good, perhaps online counselling has worked positively for some people – I’ve certainly found it easier than I thought I would!

However, recently my mental health has been knocked by how I was treated on a Zoom call. Perhaps the screen helped the other person feel more confident, whereas the screen exaggerated my discomfort and I felt I could’t stand up for myself. I wondered if I’d over reacted but the facts speak for themselves, I suffered online harassment. Now I question the safety of this space.

THINK before you post

When you post something on social media do you always stop and THINK about why you’re doing it? Is it to share something that’s:

  • True
  • Helpful
  • Inspiring
  • Necessary
  • Kind

Although I make sure the things I post fit these categories, I’m not going to deny, “likes” give me a bit of a buzz! But it’s important, we don’t translate that “like” into “that means someone likes me“, because it therefore means, if no one likes your post, no one likes you and this simply isn’t true, it’s all about the social media algorithm! We cannot use the online world to boost our self esteem or self confidence!

Remember if you post anything, it will be there forever, no matter if you make it private or delete it later, it’s still there, if someone wants to find it, they will.

Accessibility

People have been asking for the work place to be made accessible for years. In March, when the governments asked for everyone to work from home, IT departments across the world worked day and night to make this happen and it did! Now, people with various disabilities can work remotely and access the work place like never before, this is fantastic! Why did is take a global pandemic for this to happen?!

Use the right technology

We do need to be careful that we’re not just using technology for the sake of it. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean we have to! There’s so much choice, it’s sometimes a case of using what’s right! For example, WhatApp is a communication tool, for chatting and sharing snaps, nothing else. Equally Facebook is not the place to go for accurate news. Share photos and catch up with your friends on social media, gather accurate up to the minute news from trusted media outlets such as the BBC or directly from the World Health Organisation.

I’ve loved being involved in a couple of virtual orchestras, putting together my own multi-track musical arrangements and seeing other people doing all sorts of combined musical extravaganzas – it’s simply remarkable the time, effort and expertise that’s gone into these wonderful creations!!

But in our race to survive and stay “connected” and we shouldn’t forget the history we’re laying down. For example, YouTube provides us with extensive public library that could be studied in generations to come. Just imagine the assignment for teenagers in 2030 “Compare and contrast Jewish and Christian Services posted on YouTube May-June 2020”. They’re all there for everyone to see! (I’m not saying don’t do it, just saying, take time to do it well.)

It’s ok to say “no”

Fear-of-missing-out (FOMO) can be a real anxiety, I’ve been caught out. I go along with the crowd, even though I know it’s not good for me or things aren’t being done as well as they could be but I struggle to speak up. Sometimes, however, it’s best just to have a break. Turning off our devises, turning off notifications or muting the apps can bring a sense of relief. By managing the time spent with our devises we’re managing our well-being.

I’m only scratching the surface of this massive topic as everyone’s experience is different. I’ve just been aware we’re using technology because it’s been invented rather than technology being invented because we need it. Just because the latest apps are available, doesn’t mean you need to use them! I love technology, don’t get me wrong but we need to think about how we use it in order to manage our mental health.

Kindness

Mental Health Awareness Week (18th-24th May) this year (2020) is themed “kindness”, simple but effective – the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate.

During this global pandemic, communities have pulled together and shown kindness to one-another, through the most difficult of times it has given people hope. For the first time, mental health has been on the daily agenda – let’s keep this going!

Being kind to others lets them know that they’re not alone. Even the smallest act of kindness can have a big effect, perhaps and text, a phone call or a plate a cookies left on the doors step, these things say “I’m thinking of you and I care”.

My first blog this week asked you to say to someone “how are you, really?” – have you tried it? Did you listen to the answer? How did it go? The conversation doesn’t have to be incredibly deep and heavy, just meaningful and meant with kindness. It’s a way of connecting and could have a profound impact on that person.

This pandemic crisis is putting a lot of strain on relationships because spending enforced time together can be incredibly difficult! If relationships are frayed, I’ve heard some people say it helps to stand back and think “what’s best for the relationship?”. It might be hard, in the moment, but showing the relationship some kindness could save it in the long run. If, however, you’re living with an abuser, this is entirely different, I sincerely hope you can find support to leave.

If you receive kindness you feel good but an act of kindness, boosts the mental health of the person who gives it as well! Thinking of someone else can lower stress and improve mood!

Being kind to ourselves is important too. Most of us can think of ways of being kind to other people but when it comes to being kind to ourselves, we’re stumped! At this time, you may have had things taken away from you that you usually enjoy, it might be hard to find new things to treat yourself. Try these things to show kindness to yourself:

  • Female reading in bath full of bubblesPlan a period of time that’s just about self care for you – reading books, watching TV, having a bath, playing music, doing things that you really like
  • Try a new creative hobby – perhaps drawing or painting
  • Get an early night – take time to prepare yourself and the bedroom, perhaps listen to a audiobook or podcast. Make sure the bedroom is dark and not too hot or too cold.
  • Write down your feelings in a journal – if you don’t know what to write, just start writing anything and see what happens.
  • Join a support group (online) to get ideas from other people about how they’re kind to themselves
  • Act opposite – have a pyjama day if you’ve never it! Or, if you’ve not got dressed for a few days, find some lovely fresh clothes and get dressed.
  • Note down 3 things each day that have gone well and reflect back at the end of the week/month
  • Call a mental health helpline to speak to someone about how you’re feeling

Sometimes we need to turn away from unhelpful habits that may be harming us in order to show kindness to ourselves. Drinking too much, talking harshly to ourselves, eating too much or too little, going to bed late, stifling emotions or many other forms of self harm. As we grow up we set ourselves some core values that come to define our character; step back for a second and consider if these are benefiting you or harming you? It won’t be easy but could you let go of some of these a little to give yourself a break?

I challenge you this Mental Health Awareness Week, you can choose, being kind to others or being kind to yourself (or both if you like!). Whichever you choose, do 1 act of kindness each day, if you think you need accountability, keep a journal and write down the 1 thing you did each day when you’ve done it. After a month, look back and reflect on the difference it’s made in your life.