From Understanding

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.

Stop Putting Vulnerable People’s Health at Risk!

When reading what the government proposes when it comes to Mental Health, I immediately am concerned as none of it makes sense. Constantly they are always cutting back services and support that is available to those with mental health, particularly depression and anxiety, and this is all to save money to many radical reforms that they are currently doing. So when I read an article on The Telegraph, titled ‘Tories Discuss Stripping Benefits Claimants who refuse treatment for depression” I was appalled and disgusted for those who receive the Employment Support Allowance benefit.

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The reason or reasons why this is so shocking and unjustified, is because those with depression all are different and will have different feelings, attitudes and understanding of living with depression, nobody with depression is the same, just like somebody without depression, everyone is different. Therefore, this senseless idea of forcing depression sufferers into getting counselling or not get any support from the welfare is not understood by the Tories. The Tories believe that “rules should be reviewed in order to reduce the “huge” numbers of people who are declared unfit for work due to mental health problems.” Yet did the Tories at the same time as thinking this, realise that many depression and other mental health sufferers are restricted to the services from the NHS? Waiting lists are at an all-time high, with most sufferers having to wait longer than 6 months just for a counselling session! Can they not see, that when those with depression need help it isn’t around for them? Mental Health is a very vulnerable subject, but when those who have it ask for help, it’s kind of a big thing because they are letting other people in, something that is often a very big thing. Yet, this proposal will force those with depression to let people in and when they’re told to let them in, it all takes time, you cannot rush or just get better with depression…sometimes depression will be with you for your lifetime, not just like a light-bulb off and on!

“The first moves towards potential reform are expected in a series of pilot schemes to be launched within weeks.
The trials, jointly designed by the Department of Health and the Department for Work and Pensions, will test ways of combining treatment for mental health problems with support to find work.”

However it is great to know that Normal Lamb, the Lib Dem Health Minister disagrees with the Conservatives ideas…

“Norman Lamb, the Lib Dem health minister, said mandating mental health treatment for benefit claimants would not work and was “not a sensible idea”.
The idea that you frogmarch someone into therapy with the threat of a loss of benefits simply won’t work,” he said. “It is not a question of whether tough love is a good concept. You actually need someone to go into therapy willingly.”

Perhaps the conservatives will soon realise that the increase in depression in children, teenagers and adults is something that needs addressing and the support through NHS counselling should be in place, rather than forcing the support, it should be offered without long, unnecessary waiting lists. Another great concern is that this treatment will and is more than likely to make those with depression a lot worse, yes it may save the tax-payer money, however is health really worth more than money? Depression isn’t asked to be had, people get it and it isn’t easy to shift, so being threatened and demanded to take help is only going to make the mood a lot worse and the person could become more depressed which wouldn’t help them at all.

What are your thoughts on the Tories’ ideas? Do you have Mental Health and receive support and are concerned or have experienced the long waiting lists for counselling? Get in touch. @mattcliffy25

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!