From Education

It’s Time that Mental Health was Taught on Education

I remember back at school, the thoughts continuously just appear in my head now and then. However, what I remember most was that there was little understanding or support around for mental health. This alone can be tough, imagine not being understood, let alone not getting the vital support and help that you need. This made school extremely challenging for me, particularly to the point where I left without any formal qualifications, and isolated myself away from relationships. I think this is behind what I do now, with supporting other people with mental health. I believe that everybody with mental health should have some sort of support, whether it is counselling, support groups, or even just being understood (which makes all the difference!).

Somebody once said to me, “what is the one thing you would change about mental health if you could?” I recall thinking many things, but one immediately stood out for me, getting mental health understood. To understand mental health, if you do not have it or know of anybody who has had the condition either, is to be taught it. Schools should make mental health a core focus in their education. Mental health affects 1 in 4 of us each year according to the charity, Mind which shows an urgency to take action sooner rather than later. It still amazes me how much education ignores mental health. Some schools really are trying to improve the awareness of mental health through allowing charities to visit and explain further about mental health, but in some it does seem like a subject which is ignored. This should definitely change.

When thinking back to my own time in secondary school, my depression and anxiety were not really understood, least of all from teachers. But, if they did understand, I would have probably received wider support which enabled me to feel comfortable in school, with teachers who made the difference, rather than making me feel worse. My self-esteem and confidence in myself were low, and I had no motivation throughout school. So I have been asking myself over many years, how I can make a change to contributing towards mental health awareness, and this is how my website was created back in 2012. Since then, I have written my book “Teenage Depression VS Me”, and now have a petition, which is aimed at urging the government to make mental health a core part of education. Having mental health on the curriculum, will help the 1 in 4 people with the conditions every-year be understood, especially if they are in education.  Along with helping to support those who have no idea about mental health, its symptoms, or how it can completely change a person’s life.

Mental health being taught in education will benefit adults too and not just teenagers. As adults will be able to understand and have awareness of whether they may have a mental health condition, or if somebody they know may have one too. This will enable them to understand their own mental health condition, or be able to offer assistance to supporting somebody else who may have one. This will make a big difference, just through one change that really can make a difference and save lives.

With the petition, I aim to attract 500 signatures from people who believe that mental health should be taught on the curriculum as a core subject, mental health could be adapted into a PSHE lesson or even a Science lesson where you learn pretty much everything about life, except about mental health. Now I am not sure if it is training or not understanding mental health that is an issue in schools, but I do know that this must be fixed, otherwise people will leave school and not understand mental health. Not understanding mental health from a school age will see teenagers go into employment or further education without knowledge of an important illness that can affect anyone of us. And, this will not help fix the awareness gap that is still large around mental health currently. My petition can be seen here, by clicking on the link: My Petition ,and each one of your signatures count, so I appreciate each and every one. Please do make sure you share the petition too, this will really make the difference. Thank you.

If One Thing Could Change for the New Year…Let it Be Understanding!

As the Christmas period has passed, and now the New Year celebrations have gone too, it sort of feels like reality has appeared once more. You know the reality of where things feel different, things aren’t being rushed to prepare for the big day, or people aren’t popping in-to seeing you to do the present drop, things are now slowing down. And you may be asking yourself what am I going to do different in 2016? For me, I aim to carry on coping with my depression and anxiety, however challenging they get. Christmas was good for me, but I think that’s only because I enjoy it and put on a happy face, but for some Christmas really is not a good time and they may be alone and isolate themselves. It is hard for them to even want to have people around, and even considering seeing the people they care for… it’s the New Year that should encourage a new start, a new start in the sense of this being understood that is.

Many people with depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions will be able to relate here, when I say that a happy face may be had one day, but the next isolation and darkness is had the other day. You see mental health is very much like a maze, the corners and routes are unpredictable, and each day presents a new challenge to each of us. It makes life hard, it makes planning life even harder, and unfortunately seeing people sometimes just is not at the top of the list. Some may find this odd and ask “why is my friend not bothering with me today?” They were fine the other day! Well, again this is because life with mental health isn’t as predictable as some may assume. Life with mental health is extremely challenging especially with friends and relationships. Social relationships are tough at the best of time, keeping in touch whilst living a busy lifestyle or other priorities can make some people feel ignored, however this is not always the case when having mental health. Very often we want our friends to bother with us; we may not be able to be as sociable as they want, or even as sociable as we once were, but being there for us and wanting to make that effort even if  it seems like a one-way thing is extremely important. Just because socialising is not at the top of our priorities, it certainly does not mean that we want to be ignored. Christmas should not be the only time that people see you, nor should Christmas be the only time that people are thought about. The other 364 days count as well, and these are the days where your friend or family member with a mental health illness needs your support. Your support may be in the shape of a simple phone call, or even a quick half-an-hour visit, ensuring that they are not left isolated and inside their own thoughts for a while, as the thoughts sometimes are of being left isolated and these thoughts turn to loneliness, which then turn to thinking that they are not cared about, which is not a good feeling at all.

Certainly for me, I do try to make those I care about aware of my mental health illnesses, and it does benefit me to have their understanding, understanding a friend’s mental illness will benefit both your friend and you. The awareness of why you may act or think in a certain way will be had, along with having a better understanding of why the behaviour may be different to usual. You will understand why they may not be ‘bothering with you’, or why you may feel that they are isolating themselves from almost every event or party that you and others expect them to attend. You see, the isolation sometimes seems like the best thing to do, keeping yourself away from people is easier than facing them, and the feeling of anxiousness and panic will prevail and make the concern larger than what others may even perceive this to be.  Very often, it isn’t the case that we do not want to go and have fun, it is a case that having fun sometimes is hard, especially when inside you’re not having fun at all.  Even wanting the fun can be tough, it can be a thought-process of wanting to go, but managing to talk yourself out of going. Continuous thoughts going around in your head questioning “do I go or don’t I go?”, these questions go on for hours, and can often make tiredness apparent and drag a person down, and this you may think happened over a small thing, but to many it’s huge, it is their life after all.

So when you’re making your New Year resolution and considering relationships, please make it one that considers understanding, understand why your friend or family member with a mental health condition may not communicate with you, and understand that it is usually that they feel they cannot despite wanting to do so, rather than they are ignoring and not wanting you around…because they may really want just that.

Bullying Must Be Tackled by Schools and the Government!

Bullying is definitely a big factor in Mental Health. Bullies often have been bullied themselves and it causes them pain and contributes towards their need to bully others, which of course isn’t right but unfortunately happens. I remember when I was in primary school being taught about bullying, it wasn’t such a big deal back in 2004, all of my class got on. We knew the boundaries and certainly didn’t have teachers who allowed us to over-step them. Rules had to be followed and if you didn’t follow them, well punishment occurred! I wonder if this same type of punishment still occurs now? You know the one, after-school detentions or writing the same sentences for 100 lines.

Nowadays though bullying is increasing and more and more people, particularly students are experiencing Mental Health because of the bullying they are receiving and it is all so unnecessary.

Researchers asked parents if their child had been exposed to bullying, at ages seven and 11. More than a quarter said they had been bullied occasionally and 15% bullied frequently.

These shocking statistics show us at least 15% of students aged between 7 and 11 years have been bullied and I question why this hasn’t been tackled? Schools all receive some sort of funding to invest in each student and to develop their futures well, so if this money isn’t being spent on investing on well-being, where is it being spent? I urge the government to tackle bullying by implementing more investment into schools, rather than make funding cuts to schools. They have been making funding cutbacks to schools and damaging students and their well-being.
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Children who are bullied can still experience negative effects on their physical and mental health more than 40 years later, say researchers from King’s College London.

And it isn’t just 7-11 year old that experience bullying, it continues throughout life, even into adulthood!

Mental Health, in particular depression is known to appear after somebody, be it a student or an adult experiences some sort of trauma and imagine the damage bullying does? Imagine everyday you are being bullied for being you or just to occupy somebody else’s time, it isn’t fair or needed. Bullying can be stamped out, just like the stigma that Mental Health sufferers endure. It should have been acted upon sooner. Schools have anti-bullying policies apparently, yet not all of them it seems, do anything or act on the bullying issues face on. Are staff failing students now more than previously?

Interestingly the study carried out:

“found that those who were bullied in childhood were more likely to have poorer physical and mental health and cognitive functioning at 50. Those who were bullied frequently were more likely to be depressed and have suicidal thoughts.”

This just proves why there is a greater need for investment from the government into schools, especially in regard to the mental well-being of students. Bullying can take years to get over, I have just got over being bullied constantly at secondary school for having Mental Health, and people laughed at me, called me “mad” and liked to know they were getting to me. It made my experiences of secondary school a living ‘hell’ and I wouldn’t want anybody to experience the terror I had at secondary school, ever! Schools also need to get tougher again with their anti-bullying policies, they soon bring them out when Ofsted appear, yet fail to do so any other time, why is this? Don’t get me wrong, some schools are great at having top anti-bullying policies and understanding Mental Health, but many do not and its time they did. Staff should be educated with the anti-bullying policies and detecting Mental Health.

“Prof Louise Arseneault, senior study author, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, said: “We need to move away from any perception that bullying is just an inevitable part of growing up. Teachers, parents and policy-makers should be aware that what happens in the school playground can have long-term repercussions for children.”

By cracking down on bullying, these students may not experience Mental Health and certainly will not have all the years of trauma and depression. Bullying can be tackled with the right policies and understanding, so now is the time to get back to those policies, make them firmer and be stricter when disciplining students or children, also understanding those who bully is a need for improvement, they might be being bullied at home and be calling out for help through bullying others.

There is a lot of work to do to reduce bullying, but I believe it is achievable if parents, schools and the government work together and make investment in improving staff education and training all staff to understand Mental Health, after-all Mental Health is a bigger part of our community today, than it ever was before. It should be understood! One big improvement though that should be made well-known immediately is the anti-bullying policies.

Pupils Failed Again Due to Lack of ‘Mental Health’ Understanding

When I think back to my life at secondary school, I think of failed friendships, bullying, hatred, confidence issues and the beginning of my Mental Health. I remember not receiving enough support from ‘friends’ or tutors and was certainly left to cope alone… I ‘acted up’ and was branded a ‘problem’; even the head-teacher did not have time for me and wanted to exclude me for some ‘acting up’ I had done, even though I was standing up for myself against bullying. I was bullied ever so badly in secondary school, I was attacked by one student, talked about and called ‘mad’ on many occasions, and it hurt me deep down even if I didn’t show it. Despite the school knowing I was being bullied, it was me that was in the wrong (according to them, anyway) and I never did get their support, but instead was left to fail. The ‘problem child’ was just left and that was that, I didn’t get my GCSES in secondary school, they didn’t care for me, nor did they fully understand Mental Health. I strongly feel it should be taught on all school curriculum and after reading an article today, I continue to support this vision.

The article I read, I felt a great deal of empathy and understanding towards.

“The Department for Education has launched guidance to help schools in England spot mental health issues.”

 I was here around five years ago now, it wasn’t easy and those who had Mental Health during school-years may also understand the article well. The article is named ‘Pupils in poor Mental Health not troublemakers’; this was exactly how I was seen by many staff at my former school, instead of being understood they just didn’t want to bother.

What I want to question is though, why the government has just started wanting to help mental health in schools? They have had years to do so, even by providing teachers better training with Mental Health awareness and understanding or making Mental Health a compulsory unit in Science or ECM, yet they have failed to do anything until recently. Many have been failed by schools and the blame isn’t those with Mental Health, it’s the schools who fail to accept and understand what Mental Health can do to those who suffer with it.

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“Too many young people with unmet mental health needs are unfairly labelled as troublemakers, says the Education Minister, Elizabeth Truss.” This is an accurate statement, yet shows the failure of many staff in schools, why should Mental Health be branded as a trouble? Support and understanding should have been had years ago.

“Up a quarter of five- to 16-year olds may have, or be at risk of, mental health problems, says the DfE.” This shows that there is a huge need for better resources in schools, so why are they failing to see this? Are the cutbacks to blame?

“Teachers are not therapists but they play a vital role in the lives of their pupils,” said Ms Truss. Yes fair point, but teachers need to understand the condition a lot more and better, why shouldn’t they know about Mental Health but know about students?

So this seems like a good step in the right direction, launching guidance to help schools identify and spot Mental Health issues in students is great, but is this for all schools or just a select few? And are teachers going to be made to fully understand and appreciate Mental Health as well as other students? Or will it be a fly-by guide that isn’t understood? I really do hope that this guidance serves its purpose of stopping Mental Health be seen as a ‘trouble-maker’ problem and show that it’s something those who have it, have to live with and the stigma isn’t needed!

Read the full article here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-27869623

Let me know your views. @mattcliffy25 or leave a comment, thank you.

The Sad Truth Behind Robin William’s Suicide

It still saddens me to hear about the sad, sad loss of a much loved actor, Robin Williams. Robin contributed much effort and passion towards acting, Mrs. Doubtfire is a perfect example to show that, he brought comedy and showed us how to appreciate family much more in this show. It really shocked me and many others I am sure, that Robin had been fighting depression for many years and it wasn’t until his suicide, that this was really made public knowledge. Of course, sometimes, not going public with an illness is for the best, but I wish he had got the help and support he may have so badly needed. I am not saying that his family were not supportive, I imagine they were terrific, but maybe if he got access to counselling much quicker, he may still be around today? Depression is such a hard topic to understand, I have depression and some people understand and appreciate the challenges it can contribute in my life, whereas others don’t care for it and in turn, don’t bother with me. I guess that’s their problem, rather than mine. You see, everyone with depression has different effects, some may be sad and have trouble socialising, whereas others may act that they are happy but deep down, they are not; they are hurting badly.

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Robin Williams takes on the role of the legend, Mrs.Doubtfire

Challenges that depression contribute make it ever so hard to deal with the world. People can seem like problems, depression can affect a way a person trusts and socialises, because they would rather be alone and have their own company than others. So when I read that Robin Williams was being slated by certain press, I was disgusted and shocked at their little understanding and knowledge of depression and Mental Health as a whole. The Sun’s coverage of Robin’s suicide was horrific, where was the respect in that? They certainly did not show compassion or support to his thousands of fans or to Robin for battling an illness for many years secretly. How is this supporting those with depression and thinking about suicide? We are being branded by press unfairly and Robin’s memory certainly doesn’t deserve to be treated like this. Illnesses affect many of us, some of us have disabilities, some have short-term to long-term illnesses and some of us have mental health for our lives, so why criticise and devalue anyone with an illness? They shouldn’t be allowed to do this, tougher regulations are needed to stop the press being so cold.

I found this interesting piece, with also shows why what the press did was distressing and wrong.

Robin Williams’ death was a tragedy that saddened millions including myself. The fact that he committed suicide adds poignancy to the loss suffered by his family and his viewers and fans. The flagging up by the media of his perceived problems including depression, past addictions and present money issues could conceivably be helpful if they led to a discussion of how such issues – common to a much wider community than only the rich and famous – might be overcome. This would be reporting news, but with a social purpose also in mind, and newspapers exercising some social responsibility.

However, the details of how he carried out his suicide reported in a lurid manner – sometimes in bulletpoint headlines – by papers such as the Sun, the Mirror, and the Mail are of no positive benefit to anyone. They also run the risk of bringing about copycat actions by individuals who perhaps may feel seriously depressed or have mental health issues. At worst this might bring them to act in a similar way in the belief that this could bring about a personal association with their former on-screen hero.

The disappointing fact is that there do exist very clear guidelines produced by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), and even by the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) which outline acceptable ways of covering suicide in the press. According to the NUJ: “Reporting suicide carries a responsibility for writers and editors in regard to the most vulnerable and exposed members of society. It is essential to understand the serious implications that the language we use can have on those affected.” The PCC says: “When reporting suicide, care should be taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used.” The PCC even goes on to state that exceptions should be made only if it can be shown that matters of overriding ‘public interest’ are at stake.

Depression affects many of us during different stages in our lives, be it childhood -adulthood, often depression doesn’t just go away and many people who contact me through my website, have experience depression for years and it isn’t as simple as “just going away” like some many say. This lack of understanding should be fixed, the understanding is needed, schools should teach about Mental Health, people should bother to understand it more, it isn’t our way of living, it’s an illness and one so many of us have to live with.

The facts and figures around Mental Health in the UK are alarming.

• 1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year
• Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain
• Women are more likely to have been treated for a mental health problem than men
• About 10% of children have a mental health problem at any one time
• Depression affects 1 in 5 older people
• Suicides rates show that British men are three times as likely to die by suicide than British women
• Self-harm statistics for the UK show one of the highest rates in Europe: 400 per 100,000 population
• Only 1 in 10 prisoners has no mental disorder

I for one will miss Robin Williams, what he contributed towards our televisions and our lives was great, how many people can say they made a difference? He certainly did and it was just sad that the only way out he saw was suicide, may he Rest in Peace and be remembered for what he did, rather than what his sad suicide.

References:

http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/help-information/mental-health-statistics/

http://www.thedrum.com/opinion/2014/08/13/newspapers-got-it-wrong-their-reporting-robin-williams-death

Ever Had A Bad Day?

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Ever felt like you have had a bad day? I am sure you have had more than one, maybe you had a head-ache or perhaps a sickness bug? Well imagine if throughout your day/week or however long you had it, you were constantly told “just to get better or get over it” …can’t imagine that saying being supportive or understanding? Well imagine how that sounds to a person suffering from Mental Health, be it depression, anxiety, bipolar, eating disorders or OCD. The message here is simple, do not try and assume to know somebody else’s circumstances or situation, you may believe they appear fine on the outside, which they may do, however on the inside they could be full of hurt, anger or loneliness which isn’t always made obvious or shown.

Many times, I have seen a big stigma against Mental Health sufferers, sometimes it is so bad I wonder how these people even dare to post what they do. Just getting better isn’t as easy as it sounds for those with Mental Health, it can be challenging and harder for some than others. Some may have a bad few days, some a few weeks whereas others may display and experience different symptoms, such as: isolation, withdrawal, negative thinking, unsociable, loss of appetite, self-harm, loss of hobbies and many other symptoms and these can last a lifetime; not every person who suffers from a Mental Health condition gets 100% better, it is very true that the illness can last a life-time, this is why not judging but instead trying to understand is better.

Witnessing the stigma around Mental Health isn’t easy, you get great people who help support Mental Health and encourage awareness and understanding and then you get those who bully, mock and try to victimize the people suffering from the illnesses, why does this happen? It certainly is not needed and often makes it a lot worse. Interestingly despite 1 in 4 of us suffering from depression or another Mental Health condition during our lifetimes, there is still a big worry about people being open about their illness, they fear that their friends will not be their friends any-more or that they will be laughed and joked about in their working/social life. Sometimes it is easier not to say anything, but then not saying anything can be worse as any possible understanding of the illness will not be around, that’s if there was any to begin with. And why shouldn’t Mental Health be openly discussed? It is nothing to be ashamed about, it should be understood. Surely the shame of Mental Health, should be the stigma around it? That is the real problem and the real reason why many with it feel they cannot speak up and get help, they feel alone and it should not be like that.

After building my website, beatdepressiontogether.webeden.co.uk back in 2012, I decided to write and share my moving journey with depression and anxiety in my new, debut book, Teenage Depression Versus Me. #teenagedepressionversusme it annoyed me to see that there wasn’t enough support for teenagers and young adults in the shape of understanding, support and guidance. I was bullied and verbally attacked because of my Mental Health and it did hurt, still now I think about the unnecessary abuse I received for not being the same as the others, I felt alone and isolated myself. It isn’t easy coping with depression and anxiety, so I can relate to this. My book offers a support guide to teenagers and young adults experiencing depression and anxiety and shares the many downs I had during my teenage years, I include my years of being bullied, my attempts of suicide, the isolation I had, the friends I lost because of my Mental Health, the way I changed because of my illnesses and much, much more! If you know somebody who may benefit from Teenage Depression Versus Me, here’s the link to purchase it:

Buy Teenage Depression Versus Me

Educating others on Mental Health should be a top priority for our local councils, schools and education environments, employers shouldn’t be allowed to discriminate against their employees with Mental Health either, but be made to accept them just as much as they do other employees. Schools should be fighting to get Mental Health taught on curriculum all over the country and the government/council should be making this happen; especially as Mental Health, particularly depression is on the rise in young teenagers who are getting little or no support at all.

I strongly urge you to consider what you say to someone experiencing Mental Health, be there for them by all means, but don’t expect any immediate change from your help. It can take years to feel understood and part of reality sometimes, remember those with illnesses never ask for them but instead they are given to us. You didn’t ask to be sick and we didn’t ask for Mental Health, so just remember that when you try to ask someone with the condition to “get better or just change”, it’s not that easy!