The worst feeling in the world…

I have recently been involved in a research project about attitudes towards mental health and the results were both surprising and interesting. Although there generally appears to be more awareness of mental health and more understanding it would also appear that we still have a long way to go. Too many people still feel uncomfortable talking to friends or family about their mental health or seeking professional help and support.

A general feeling that I have is that the help and support available is a bit like a postcode lottery and some will be incredibly useful whilst others will be shocking. For many people, reaching out takes a lot of courage and so when help is sort, the least we can do is offer them the best support possible.

One of the worst feelings in the world is when you feel helpless, hopeless, and completely powerless. When you can’t see the light even if you so desperately want to, when no one else appears to truly get how you are feeling and they tell you it will be ok when you don’t feel that it will and all you desperately want is for the pain and suffering to end. Those are very scary feelings and ones I hope no one ever has to experience but if they do, I only hope that those feelings fade enough to be able to see the light in order to have the opportunity for life to get better.

I can’t sit here and judge those who have those feelings and make the painstaking decision to end their life. It isn’t cowardly, a cop out or an easy decision…far from it. It makes me feel truly heartbroken and angry with society that people reach this point and see no other way out. I feel that we have let those people down, but I would also never feel that any one individual has the power to stop someone from taking their own life.

Everyone’s experience is different but, in my opinion, I would say that often people don’t truly know what is going on for that person and if they do, they may not ‘get it.’ With the best will in the world we can try and put ourselves in their position or try and understand how they are feeling but no one can ever truly know or feel the pain of that individual. Sometimes, I’m not sure that there is anything anyone can say or do to help when someone feels so much pain and suffering. For some there is also a feeling of shame and a sense that their family would be better off without them which they genuinely believe.

Despite knowing this I still believe that as a society we have a long way to go when it comes to helping improve attitudes towards mental health so that people feel able to talk more freely about how they are feeling and to be able to access support.

I know that GPs are incredibly overworked and that they no doubt see numerous people who are feeling down or depressed, but I would always hope that rather than seeing patients as yet another person feeling down that they would take the time to see patients as individuals and genuinely listen to them. Whilst I can’t blame GPs for people’s actions, I am incredibly angry and disappointed that despite someone working up the courage to see their GP and talk to them about the state of their mental health for the first time in their life that they would be fobbed off and sent away. Heartbreakingly, last week, that person took their own life.

We never know what is going on for people and on the face of it people can look happy, and their lives can look wonderful which is why I always believe in the power of smiling at people or taking the time to be kind. Yes, it may not make any difference to someone who is feeling so hopeless but equally it could make all the difference…to feel noticed, to feel like someone cares, to feel hope.

I can still picture the last time I saw my best friend’s dad and he looked happy as he played with his young son and sat around the table singing happy birthday to his granddaughters and now, he is gone.

It only takes a second to smile at someone, a few seconds to check in on someone or to give someone a hug but for that person these things could mean so much to them and make the difference between feeling hopeless or having hope.

Nobody should ever feel alone, scared, hopeless or helpless.

R.I.P Ian

Lockdown part 3….Week 12

This week has seen a lot of anticipation for tomorrow which marks when we can meet people outside including in people’s gardens and the stay-at-home rule is ending (although the government are still urging people to stay local which is confusing) and outdoor sport facilities are reopening. I’ve noticed that a lot of tourist attractions with gardens and outdoor spaces are also reopening from tomorrow. I must admit that it will be lovely to be able to drive further than 5 miles and to go to the beach or to outdoor attractions.

This week marked the one-year anniversary of the first national lockdown, and it was funny how the weather really reminded me of how the first lockdown felt. It has been the first time this year when I have been able to leave the door open to the garden and we have spent a lot of time in the garden where upon my girls have been playing with the sand, singing, dancing, chalking, gardening etc. It makes such a change…seeing the blue sky, the sun shining, spring flowers starting to bloom and hearing the birds tweeting is definitely good for the soul!

It was the last session of my counselling course before we broke up for Easter and I found the session very interesting and have reflected a lot on the topics covered. We have been learning about and discussing mental health. So much was brought up by everybody and it really highlighted how many people are struggling with their mental wellbeing. Someone talked about their experience of CAMHS and how the children using their services are just being filtered through in a very robotic way which is making the statistics look good in terms of how many children are ‘accessing mental health support’ but in fact the majority of these children are not finding the support offered of any use. They come away saying that they have been given a worksheet to do but they don’t really understand it and the adults working with them within their school see how disheartened they are.

It made me wonder if some children are struggling or have certain barriers when it comes to talking about their mental health because they are seeing the ‘support’ available and unfortunately are not seeing any benefits for those who are being referred to CAMHS. Therefore, come children may already have the attitude of ‘what’s the point?’ or feel that they are not really being heard. I find this frustrating and makes me want to do something drastic to shake up the system within the UK. However, as usual one of the main hurdles is money and budgets – if me or anyone else was to offer a service to schools they are likely to say that they don’t have the budget available or that they can refer children to CAMHS therefore they wouldn’t be interested.

I feel strongly that mental wellbeing needs to become compulsory within all schools and having a ‘mental health week’ simply is not good enough. I appreciate how much pressure schools are being put under, however, ½ of all mental health problems manifest by the age of 14, 48.5% of 5–19-year-olds with a mental health disorder have more contact with teachers than any other professional service and 1 in 8 children have a diagnosable mental health disorder (these figures don’t take into account the impact of Covid-19). Children’s mental health problems can affect their attainment and behaviour which I picture as a car needing fuel to function – we harp on about needing food in order to function but actually there is so much more we need than just food. We all know that we need to sleep, exercise, keep hydrated etc but how much emphasis is put on the need for self-care or mental wellbeing, particularly with children and young people?

I believe that if children are given tools to support their mental wellbeing from a young age that this will have a massive positive impact on their life, now and in the future and that these tools could be used throughout their life. I believe by teaching children about mental wellbeing properly, (meaning not just a one-off session) that they will be in a better position to tackle whatever life throws at them. I feel that this could prevent mental health problems or at least the severity of how children are impacted by possible mental health problems rather than trying to treat or ‘cure’ them once they are diagnosed. The other problem with treating mental health problems is that most often particularly through the NHS and CAMHS, the waiting lists are long, and support can be very limited, therefore in some cases people may be worse before they access support or may not get the support they need.

Another reason I feel passionate about children being taught about mental wellbeing is that most people (no matter what age) that have committed suicide have not shown any signs that they were suicidal and quite often these people aren’t diagnosed with mental health problems. Therefore, if GP’s or schools are only trying to tackle the mental health of those who are ‘flagged up’ then children will devastating continue to slip through the net. Those who appear to be fine or do not have a diagnosis will continue to be offered very little or no support for their mental health which is feel is so wrong. As adults, each, and every one of us has been impacted by Covid-19 and a lot of people’s mental health has suffered, therefore who’s to say that children also haven’t been impacted?

I loved reading an article in The Guardian about a primary school that put catch-up on hold and instead spent a week focusing on children’s wellbeing. The headteacher was fully aware of the importance of this and felt that unless children are in the right place to learn mentally, that things just do not go in and I couldn’t agree more.