Every 40 seconds.

*Please be aware this post talks of suicide, those needing support are encouraged to ring one of many hotlines or in immediate danger present at your local a+e.

This year the world mental health awareness day theme is suicide prevention and whilst my personal thoughts on world mental health day are inconclusive, I wanted to take a little of your time to talk about such an important issue in today’s society.

“One person every 40 seconds dies from suicide.”

Suicide. The word itself has a stigma.

You say it, look around and feel like someone will hush you.

Its a topic people are scared to talk about. Scared that by talking about it we will encourage or increase it.

This is simply not true.

Conversation, we know has the power to change lives. In this case conversation has the power to save a life. The shine a light on suicide campaign in Greater Manchester works on this motion and more. 

I recently lost one of my close friends to suicide. I knew of her struggles, of how every single day she battled poor mental health. Everyday was a fight for Faye. But I also knew of her. She was the girl who made amazing cakes. Was incredible at craft. Sang and danced. She was the one who always had the right words no matter the situation. And the one who’s smile well and truly lit up the room.She was a fighter, despite her struggles she was there no matter what. Me and Faye spent every Wednesday evening together singing at Manchester Mental Health Choir, Bee Vocal and like me Faye worked across Greater Manchester as a Mental Health advocate campaigning for change in services.

Faye is missed from mine, and others life’s greatly and I can only hope she found the peace and happiness that she deserved.

For me loosing Faye in December made it all too real. 

How suicide is stigmatised, not spoken about and creates that awkward silence in the room. Working as a mental health activist, I have always see the importance of campaigning to change the horrific suicide statistics we have today, numbers like…

 - One person every 40 seconds dies from suicide.

- The rate in suicide in the UK rose to a 16-year high this year.

- Each year an estimated 48 million people experience grief to suicide loss worldwide.

But like most things in life, until I was one of the statistics I didn’t realise quite how much needs to change. Until this statistic changed from a number on a piece of paper to my life like many I didn’t feel the full impact. When we lost Faye, I vowed to stand up and speak about this, to help make the change we need to see. I vowed to help others see that yes, these statistics are horrendous, but whats worse is the story behind each and number and statistic.

If there is one thing I can urge you to do this World Mental Health Day, I want it to be that you follow this link, and maybe one day you can save a life:

http://www.shiningalightonsuicide.org.uk

We don’t loose people to mental health one day a year. We loose people every single minute. Let’s not use this day in vain, to simply only talk. So much more than talking needs to take place. We need action. And we need it soon.

-Lauren x

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Today is World Mental Health Day.

Today is World Mental Health Day.

Today, many people will share with you messages of hope, of recovery, and that things get better.

Today, many people will urge you to seek help if you are struggling.

Today, many people will reassure you that that help is out there, and that all you need to do is ask.

But, what about tomorrow? 

Tomorrow, many people may find that moment of immense courage to ask for help.

Tomorrow, many people will be signposted to their GP.

Next week, many people may finally begin to talk.

Next week, many people will be turned away as they are not ‘ill enough’.

What about next year?

Many people will still be on a waiting list, nowhere near the top.

Many people will be deteriorating.

Many people will be trying to support their friends and families without the support they also need.

Many people will be trying to just get through the day.

Many people will be losing hope.

What about in two years? Five years? I hear you asking, this must be a joke, right? Nobody waits this long?! I’ve been told the help is out there EVERY World Mental Health Day for the past five years! Where is this help? It must be out there?

If you went to a GP or a specialist with a physical illness, they would not tell you to go away and come back only when the illness had caused so much damage it was life changing or terminal. If you had waited that long to seek help, they would recognise your pain; they would scold you for not seeking help sooner. So why is it with mental illness that the pain people are suffering is not recognised across all spectrums of severity?

People are still suffering.

Yet people are still waiting.

Year on year, people are still dying preventable deaths from mental illness.

The public, professionals and government are aware of mental illnesses. 

We do not need more days of media opportunities to advertise services which are already strained or failing.

We need action.

We need parity of esteem between physical and mental health.

We need timely, appropriate and accessible treatment for all.

I am done with talking.

Talking saves lives, but actions speak louder than words.

I feel small, unheard and helpless amongst the many other voices shouting for change.

Please join us shouting.

I hope one day we will be heard.

In the meantime, today, World Mental Health Day will pass.

Tomorrow, little will change. 

Next year, many will continue to die needlessly from the absence of treatment and support for their illness.

Nobody chooses to have a mental illness.

Hannah

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GUEST POST: 10 Breaths To Better Mental Health For Young People

If we are experiencing emotions like depression, anxiety, fear, guilt or worry, it's very easy to become stuck in our own heads. We can get stuck believing that every thought we have is who we are, and that every negative thought that pops up in our minds must be true.

To start to find a little bit of relief, there is a tool that is always available to us and yet very easy to overlook...

Your breath.

At first this might sound silly. How can my breath take me out of all of my bad feelings?

 Instead of thinking about what the result will be - what's possible and not possible, just try this little experiment.

Breathe fully, ten times. In and out counts as one time. It doesn't have to be super deep, and it's much better if you are sitting down, without anything else to do for about a minute.

10 breaths. We are always breathing, but how often do we pay attention? Usually our attention has become a slave to thoughts and attitudes that have either come from the society around us, or have come from our reaction to it. Sometimes it’s good to unplug from our minds and from the world, even if it’s only for a minute.

 

Here’s what can happen:

You breathe fully in and then relax as you let your breath out. Easy. Then you do it again. Easy. Then you do it again, and your mind will want to think about something else. Your thoughts will say something like "this is boring" or "this isn’t working" or "do something else". Or it will just feel as if your mind wants to think about something else altogether. Sometimes it's as if our active minds have become so addicted to activity, that the idea of being silenced frightens it.

But you just carry on. It's only ten breaths. You count your breathing until you reach ten, and then perhaps you do a few more breaths if you feel like it. Perhaps you do ten more. If you ever feel lightheaded or dizzy from breathing too deeply, that's a sign to slow down and not breathe too forcefully. Just breathe normally, in and out.

You might notice a little bit of space inside yourself, or around your thoughts and feelings. You might notice a little bit of ease. You might just notice a gap before your mind is reactivated with its cycle of thoughts. Or you might not notice any change at all.

This little easy practice seems insignificant, but even if you did it twice a day - once in the morning, once in the evening, all of these little practices and their micro effects would begin to swarm together, team up and build a mental health promoting effect that you may not have predicted. 

It will make you aware that as you go through your day, the dense emotional energies or thoughts inside of us are not the only things that exist. There is more to us. Our breath is a formless doorway into the realisation that while we have all of these thoughts and feelings swirling around inside of us, we are the ones that can see them. We are the awareness in which they move, and they have been claiming far more importance and truth than they really deserve.

Try it out for a week. Ten breaths in the morning while sitting. Ten breaths in the evening while sitting. If you feel no benefit after a week, then the only downside is you will have oxygenated your body a little bit more than usual, and oxygen is the most useful thing you can give your body and mind.

I hope that's useful for you. If you’d like to hear more from me, head over to my free resource for inner peace - InnerPeaceNow.com, where I have plenty more blogs, audio recordings and videos to share. Thanks for reading.

- Adam Oakley

@innerpeacenow1

#WSPD2019

There are times,

When the world throws all it has against you.

When the light switches off and your left alone in the dark.

When the voices in your head tell you,

“everyone hates you”

And hope is something you just cannot spark.


When you feel like your being thrown from one bad place to another,

You can’t confide in anyone- 

Not your neighbour, mother or brother,

You feel scared, alone, and hopeless.

Like nothing will ever lift this dark.

You feel you can’t go on, that you should maybe just give up the fight.

This thing people call life,

You just don’t fit in, right?

Well I’m here to tell you that you do,

Yes you.

I’m here to tell you you shouldn’t give up this fight,

That the light will come back on again.

That those neighbours, your mother or your brother,

They need you to learn to be again.

That the dark,

Although heavy will lift one day,

And you’ll be glad that you choose to stay.


Because without you,

Things aren’t complete,

At the kitchen table, there is always your empty seat,

Your friends,Your family, 

They’ll all miss you.


I know all this, 

Because I’ve been in your shoes- 

Both ways.

A person left by someone they love,

Forever scarred.

Suicide, 

A word we all fear, 

But suicide prevention is something we should learn to shout about loud and clear.

So today, 

Take a minute 

Reach out a hand and check your loved ones, are okay. 

-Lauren x

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You can’t pour from an empty cup...

Supporting someone with a mental illness can be extremely difficult at times and it’s important that we remember to look after ourselves.

When you care about someone with a mental illness it can be difficult and that’s okay! You’re allowed to struggle. I know that it’s incredibly easy to ignore our hurt and instead just concentrate only on the hurt of our friends but we can’t help them if we don’t help ourselves.

So, if you’re supporting someone with a mental illness, please know that you can reach out and ask for support. Talk to someone. Take time to look after you. You’re important too and I promise, your friend will understand if they care about you the way that you care about them.

- Sophie x 

Let’s talk about self harm

The scary words that no one wants to say hear or talk about. Mental health stigma might be reducing and it may be becoming spoken about more. But there is plenty of conditions, and things that are still being hidden in the shadows.

Self harm being one.

Self harm is defined as deliberate injury and covers anything done to oneself to cause hurt, pain or injury. This includes skipping meals, over exercising and the more known physical injury.

Self harm is so common, yet people just don’t want to talk about it. And I get why, it’s a scary subject, it’s not something anyone is particularly well educated on, and let’s face it, we shy away from things we don’t understand.

Yet, 1 in 5 females and 1 in 7 males engage in self harm according to the newest statistics. That’s at least one person that everyone knows. You might not know about it, it’s something that is often very hidden but isn’t that all the more reason we should educate ourselves on the topic.

Someone might harm themselves for many reason; abuse, mental illness or other life stresses, being just a few examples.

Self harm is often very secretive, which makes the stigma of it being for attention so much more ridiculous. For people engaging in self harm they usually can’t find another way to cope.

So this mental health awareness week take some time to educate yourself on this, I don’t recommend just googling it, as the internet can have some nasty sites but here’s a few educational resources you can use, and share with your family and friends:

https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/mental-health/problems-disorders/self-harm

https://youngminds.org.uk/find-help/feelings-and-symptoms/self-harm/

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/self-harm/#.XN7XNRbTWEc

I hope this post helps raise awareness and educate a little. And if you yourself are struggling reach out and ask for help. It’s scary but I promise it will help. A big scary step, but one in a very positive direction.


Stay strong x

Bums and Tums

It’s nearly summer and we all know that means. Holidays! Barbeques! Ice cream! We love allllll of those things, but I think the thing we don’t like the most is bikini shopping. Going in the shop, looking for a bikini and taking it into the fitting room to try it on. We are the BIGGEST critics of ourselves and we can be so judgemental of who we are and what we look like. However other external factors can contribute to that.

For example: What’s your type?? Big boobs? Wide hips? Slim? Six pack? Veiny muscles?

Everyone is not the same. We are all our own person with our own strengths, weaknesses and insecurities. Trying to work vigorously at the gym to tick a box that goes into the society’s agenda of ‘the dream boy/girl’ isn’t really going to help anyone in the long run because people should like you, for you!!! Not because you have a specific bra size, specific dress size, whatever!!! To be a girl, a TEENAGE girl at that, is actually reallyyyy difficult. And you may be thinking ‘you literally have nothing to worry about though, you have your whole life ahead of you’ and you are 100% entitled to your opinion!! But with the growing development of technology and with various amounts of social media it is pretty tricky NOT to compare yourself to other girls. ‘Why don’t I have that figure?’ ‘I wish I was her’ trust me- we’re all guilty of it!! Including myself! Scrolling through your feed to see such beautiful, amazing girls but why don’t you check your own feed once in a while? Name something good about your body!!! I’ll give you one about mine: my legs are my favourite thing about my body. They have a nice shape and they are super long (Thank you dance, I owe you big time ;))

Also, BIG IS BEAUTIFUL!!! There are soooo many people who overlook teenage girls for not being a specific weight and that’s where the pressure comes in to be like others. But then we would end up being the same and we are all not the same. Plus size is beautiful and others should acknowledge it just as that. Be confident in yourself because no one should put you down for who you are.

Boys too. Teenage boys are also trying to be a ‘macho man’ who trying to develop ‘hegemonic masculinity’ to become more of a ‘man’. First of all. Sorry for the sociological terms, I study sociology and I thought it would be relevant. Secondly, boys reading this? Let your guard down. If you are not those who you are trying to be on Instagram, Snapchat, whatever it is okay. You be who you are now and the others will follow.

Well that’s all from me!! Be bold and beautiful and just be you. Because you are one in a million.

 

 -Atlanta, 17

My anxiety;a journey.

This is a creative writing piece I wrote for my English Language class but I would be lying if I said I didn’t take lots of inspiration from my life and a little from others around me. I hope it conveys the important message that I want it to for Mental Health Awareness Week!

This was my journey and it was not an easy one.

It began when my heart started to pound, the voices in my head screaming at me, my anxiety trying to swallow me up and wanting to become invisible to everyone else. I was running, sprinting away from all my problems by submerging myself in worries. The normal classroom noises sounded like the screams from a natural disaster.

This is when I knew I needed help and I was ready to do anything within my power to get it. When every doctor told me there was nothing they could do I was knocked further down from this mountain I had to climb. Every time I was rejected by professionals my jaw dropped and I was incredulous at their ignorance; I was not going to let them stop me.

As my bad habits became bigger than bumps in the road but walls in my journey my struggle with getting out of bed everyday became like learning a language in a day: impossible.

However, this was not the end. I struggled with this illness so that I could advocate for others: I saw doctors, I worked on myself, I started conversations and I attempted to erase stigma. The system was against me the whole time, as was the constant weight of the entire world’s problems on my shoulders.

When it felt as if my family and friends misunderstood and there was a complete lack of communication I had to be my own beacon of hope; I had to have faith, not in a God, but in myself. As my mind and body recovered each time from the effects of abnormal stress, I pushed on with school and the grinding daily schedule of meetings and things that once inspired me. Each time a panic attack occurred or I couldn’t clamber out of bed I thought I had fallen again to the bottom of this colossal peak.

Then I looked behind me. I observed how far I’d risen, how far I’d come on my own, and I was ready to continue my journey of counselling appointments, medication, GP’s and tears. These walls I had built around myself where each brick was an anxiety of my own were not only caging me in but keeping others out. My journey was not mine, I no longer wanted it to be just me so that I could protect the ones I loved, I wanted them to join me because I knew that would cause less pain and suffering all around.

“You wouldn’t climb a mountain on your own, so why do you have to face your mental illness in solitude,” I exclaim proudly as I step down from the podium.

A sea of stunned faces look back at me, each young person realising that they have a mountain of their own to climb, a journey that they need to go on. Their journey may never end and that is okay because mine hasn’t and it never will. However it will get easier as I develop my skills and work on myself and I have realised that part of my journey is helping people with their’s.

 

-Lucy x

What came first; the chicken or the egg?

Well, the same question could be asked about eating disorders and body image!

Eating disorders are perceived to be all about vanity and how you look but in realityits just so much more than that.

So…what does come first then?

My personal experience of body image has been a very blurred journey and one which is ever changing. In 2011 I started to swim and exercise as I believed ‘I’ll be happier when I’m more toned’. Only, the thing is, I had no idea where this path would lead and it was only once anorexia took hold of me that the ‘bad body image’ became more of an issue than I ever imagined possible. No matter how much weight I kept losing, I hated what I saw! There has never been a time, whilst in the grip of anorexia, that I have looked in the mirror and been comfortable with my reflection.

Recovery, round 1, was so confusing and a difficult road to walk as the more I gained, the more complicated the body image became. I was gaining weight and getting my life back and I finally had the energy to live! Yet there was always a niggle in my mind that I still wasn’t comfortable with how my body was looking and I missed my skinny body. I missed seeing the bones that I once hated seeing! How could this be happening to me, I asked myself numerous times a day.

Anorexia is a very clever and deceitful little voice that is constantly telling you that you are never good enough or worthy enough unless you listen to that voice. It is a very cruel and hurtful voice and yet one that can give you an immense sense of achievement even though everyone around you is telling you the opposite of the voice as they are worried for you. An eating disorder stems from a very deep personal issue and its surprisingly not usually about what is stereotyped! They come in all shapes and sizes and quite literally no one size fits all when it comes down to it.

As I progressed to fully recover I learnt how to accept the weight gain because gaining my freedom again meant so much more to me than being stuck in the cycle of restriction. This freedom lasted a fantastic 5 years and I can honestly say I was living life free of the voice and free of anorexia. I even joined a gym after being terrified of stepping foot back in one in case I relapsed! I was so so proud of myself for how far I had come, but little did I know that Orthorexia was waiting to take hold of me!

I have only recently learned this of myself as in 2018 I was possibly the happiest I had been for a very long time and I loved what I saw in the mirror. But the numbers crept in and my desire for the body fat percentage to be as low as possible took over as I believed that this would make me even more in love with my reflection! Becoming aware of how unhealthy this obsession was, I took it upon myself to quit the gym and will only return when I feel ready to in the future.

Now, with nothing to focus my mind on; along came anorexia again as I was back to needing to feel in control of something. Control is such a big part of eating disorders and this is where the lack of understanding comes from as many people can understand the desire to feel in control yet can’t understand how it can be projected onto a life necessity such as food!

Here I am writing this during my recovery journey round 2 and this time I am learning how to accept my body for whatever shape it may become and be thankful to my body for everything it does for me on a daily basis. All bodies are supposed to be different shapes and sizes and that it was makes each person beautifully unique!

So, what comes first; body image or the eating disorder? 

 - Hayley x 

You are enough.

 ‘Mental illness doesn’t discriminate’ is a pretty well known phrase now. It means people of all ages, sizes, races etc can get a mental illness. And this is true, and a great statement to help reduce the stigma of mental illness and allow people to reach out for help, no matter who they are or what they are struggling with. But I think it’s also important to talk about the TYPE of person who gets mental illnesses.

I feel like there’s this stereotype- that to be depressed you must have had a bad childhood for some reason or another, to have an eating disorder you must have been bullied when you were younger and been told you were ‘fat’ or ‘ugly’ and these things will have messed with your self esteem. Yes, this is probably true with a lot of people. A lot of people’s mental illness may be brought to a head after a significant life event etc but it doesn’t have to be the case.

Me? I had an amazing childhood. I’m so fortunate to be able to say I’ve never been bullied, in fact I’ve never really had anyone be unkind to me at all. No one has ever told me that I’m fat or ugly, in all honestly when I was growing up people often complimented me on my looks. My family life has always been good, I have an amazing family - i’m super close to all my siblings and have a loving mum and dad. And yet, for the last couple of years I’ve been plagued by anorexia, depression and anxiety. People may not understand why and I don’t really understand myself either. But mental illness doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t just not go to people who are busy living their normal lives. There is a real lack of understanding that mental illness really can hit anyone and people often ask me why I feel so down and what’s happened to make me feel this way- and when I say nothing or I don’t know people just end up more confused. And I think that adds to the stigma in a way, as it makes people feel less worthy of help. It makes it harder to talk about as no one can understand why you feel that way, and it’s harder to get support when you don’t know what’s wrong in the first place. So I just wanted to say, mental illness really can happen to anyone, and EVERYONE is always valid and worthy of help. You are always ill enough and you don’t need to have a mental illness for a specific ‘reason’ as such to get help.

So if there is one thing I can remind you this mhaw it’s that: 

You are you and you are enough.

-Lulu x

You aren’t alone in your grief.

Grief defined in the dictionary as “intense sorrow, especially caused by someone’s death”.

And boy is the intense part right. Grieving is the uninvited family member at the party, popping up when you least expect them, and reminding you just how desperately you wish they weren’t there.

It hits when your quiet and alone, when your singing a song, driving to uni or eating your breakfast. Sometimes it hits when your running or reading or doing something desperately to turn your brain off.

Grief comes in many forms, sadness, anger and laughter to name a few. You find yourself laughing over the stupid thing you did and how much they would be laughing at you, or crying when there favourite song plays on the radio. You find yourself wanting to scream at the world because they are continuing as if nothing ever happened.

There’s no way to make it easier, to turn it off. But each time it hits you, you find yourself learning to deal with it a little better. You might not see it but you are.

Grieving is complicated. It’s painful. And it sucks, and if I told you any different I would be lying.

But there are people, places and methods to support you. No matter who you are, or who you have lost. There is always someone willing to hold your hand.

So I guess whilst I can’t tell you how to “fix” this, all I can say is reach out your hand and let people guide and support you.

You are not alone.

 -Lauren x 

The Girl with the Smile.

Her mouth stretches from ear to ear for she smiles with all her teeth.

She isn’t someone who would have ever known grief

I look and I see someone so successful, I see the girl with the smile.

She is perfect in every way; she wears such cool clothes and pulls them off with such style.

She seems to have her life completely put together.

For her smile, it goes on forever and ever

Her hair falls down her back in this beautiful brown tone.

Surrounded by people who love her she is never alone

She is the type of girl that takes care of herself, knows what’s going on in life.

The type of girl that will never know strife

She gets her test paper back and it is a sea of ticks, of smiley faces and A’s.

That has her whole life ahead of her all the years months and days

She is the girl with the smile. Her eyes are bright, for she is ready for this life, full of life.

She goes to festivals, concerts and already would make the perfect wife

Her life is perfect, she is perfect and her life is great

All is love, never knowing hate

And yet the girl with the smile

Seems to have gone away for a while

Her summer concerts and cool style are now long gone

She doesn’t know where exactly she has gone wrong

She struggles each morning to even get dressed

Her brain is whirring, she gets no rest

She gets her test paper back and its full of x’s and a U

If I only I knew she was suffering too

She had her whole life ahead of her

Now that life is simply a blur

She didn’t want cool clothes because she had style,

She wore clothes that covered the parts of her body she thought were vile

Her eyes were bright because they were full of tears

Her pain too deep to express over the years

Too young her life was snatched away

Because of a collection of dark awful days

She was indeed the girl with the smile

But I won’t see her now for too long a while

No one asked her if she wanted to talk

So to death she did walk

The girl with the smile

Could be living right next door

With all that pain all that sore

The girl with the smile

They say you judge someone within the first few seconds of meeting them, before they have even opened their mouth you have mind up your mind about them. I think the same goes for social media, you see one flawless Instagram post and your mind is made up.

There are millions of people with the exact same story, struggling and drowning, hoping and praying that someone will care. So this mental health awareness week take that time to have a conversation, accept what you are feeling too. Have the courage to ask for help and accept that help.

You can’t go back and change the beginning but you can start where you are and change the ending.

Remember the amount of courage it takes to live our lives is immeasurable, it is indescribable. Every day you are asked to have courage, to get on with it. To go to school, college or work and expected to be fine. In itself you have all achieved so much by being here, by overcoming challenges and having courage.

Life is so ironic, it takes sadness to know what happiness is, it takes noise to appreciate silence and absence to appreciate presence

Take what you have learnt in your life so far, take what you are learning and find a greater meaning for the pain you are feeling.

A strong person is not someone who doesn’t cry.

A strong person is the one who cries and sheds tears for a moment then gets up and fights again. The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart. Have courage and be kind and the girl that smiles the most is sometimes the one going through enormous hardship.

The girl with the smile.

 

Written by member Jess. 

Check out her blog here:  https://littlepoete.wordpress.com/

Your not broken, your human.

We are all a little broken,

In one way or another,

We hide the cracks behind smiles

We keep it under cover.

 

For we are taught as children,

That being strong is the aim

But they don’t tell you that strength

Is about learning to deal with pain.


For life is a series

Of ups and downs.

Life is full of excitement and love,

But also some sadness and downs.


Mental health affects us all,

In one way or another.

It could be you, your cousin,

Your dad or even your brother.


So this week,

Let’s remember, all those who struggle

And reach out a hand,

And be there for one another.

 

-Lauren x

How important is mental health awareness?

At a time where the importance of mental health is published across almost all media outlets, is this seemingly increasing awareness actually having an impact on improving people’s mental health?

From the amount of media attention that the topic is given, you may already be aware that in any given year, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health condition. Mental health conditions range in severity and duration between person to person, and everyone’s struggles are unique to them as an individual. That does not make any one persons’ struggles more or less valid, as all cause pain and suffering; otherwise they would not be called an illness.

The two mental illnesses mainly covered in the media are anxiety and depression. However, mental illnesses cover a much wider range of issues which are not well covered in the media. So, what about when you do not fit neatly into the box of a diagnosis of anxiety or depression, and those preached self-care and mindfulness techniques are not helping to treat the real problem?

What many people do not understand is that many mental illnesses are not preventable. For some, their illness is chronic and one that they will have to learn to manage for the rest of their lives. They can be alleviated in certain aspects by medication and therapy, but the illness will always be there as something that could flare up even when managed the best that that person can.

These are the areas where more awareness is needed. More coverage of illnesses such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Psychosis, Schizophrenia, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Eating Disorders, Personality Disorders, Bipolar and all of their sub-types need more coverage. There is still so so much stigma associated with so many of these disorders within both the public and professional viewpoints, and this is almost ultimately down to a lack of understanding. Did you know that OCD is not just cleaning, organising and repeating actions? Did you know that personality disorders are not just people over-reacting to situations? Did you know that Bipolar is not just someone’s mood flipping from happy to sad? Did you know that most people with eating disorders are not underweight, and that weight is not even a symptom of most eating disorders? These are the kind of generalised and in most parts, incorrect views of many of the lesser talked about mental illnesses. So how do we start to extend the conversation around mental health to encompass these issues?

We are now beginning educating an entire generation about the signs, symptoms and importance of mental health and personal wellbeing both directly and indirectly (through the media). The inclusion of lessons on mental health, wellbeing and mindfulness in schools is a more direct approach at increasing awareness. Ten years ago, I did not have any of this form of education. I am now 24, but it took 10 years of suffering with poor mental health for me to realise that what I was going through was a mental health problem, and a further three years from reaching out to my friend and GP, to actually figure out what those problems are. I believe that if this awareness and active engagement with pupils to teach healthy coping mechanisms had been in place when I was younger that; 1. I would have been able to recognise some of the symptoms, and 2. Some of the issues could have been prevented or managed to a better degree by myself.

This is such a positive move forwards, and by helping to raise a more aware generation of people will encourage more open mindedness and support towards those who are suffering with mental illnesses. So whilst awareness cannot prevent the issues that someone is currently facing, in future it hopefully will help reduce the stigma to the extent that it would be as stigma free to go and get checked by your GP if you’re not mentally feeling right, as you would if you were not physically feeling right.

Awareness is important. But more is needed. We need to talk and listen more often, openly, honestly and without judgement. Only by doing so can we continue to move forwards in such a positive way that those struggling will be able to navigate towards the support that they need.

-Hannah x  

2 years old!

Receiving the email that I have successfully got into Youth Mental Health Matters, that’s when I knew we could make change.

First of all, happy birthday Youth Mental Health Matters!!! You’re 2 and I hope you are proud of what you have achieved and how far you have come. As as a charity, you are making change and you are truly amazing!

Secondly, I think the journey has only just begun. From the first “let’s start the conversation” conference to being on ITV Granada i believe the charity can only go up from here. I am so proud and honoured to be apart of such a incredible charity that strives for making a change. This can be to one, two, three people, teachers and/or schools. Making everyone aware of the issue of mental health and what we can do as people to try and tackle the issue and eradicate the stigma is vital as well as amazing. Youth Mental Health Matters has brilliant advocates! What is amazing to see and read is the advocates talking about their own experiences with mental health issues and sharing that to a wider society to let others know that they are not alone in this what it seems a never ending battle. As young people we believe that it is vital for us to express ourselves and what we believe in. And I believe that it is only going to go up for the charity from here.

Raise awareness. Campaign. Fundraise. Educate.

Happy birthday YMHM!!

University and My Mental Health

During the summer break of my second year at university I developed Anorexia Nervosa and it felt like the worst timing possible but I guess an eating disorder doesn’t care about that! 

I felt so confused at this crossroad I seemed to be at as there are so many options available to you; push through and struggle, take an academic break and return the following year, move back home and transfer to a different university or drop out completely and figure it out another time. Which do you chose? Which is the best option? You have come so far why give it up now? You need to look after your health so you ought to really think about what is right for you? All these questions are ones I asked myself and other people asked me…did I know the answer? No! Did I do nothing and just continue what I was doing? No! 

I reached out for support from my tutors, joined the student counselling programme, really committed to therapy and most importantly; I was open and I was honest with people around me. What a weight lifted it was! A problem shared really can be a problem halved!  

There is a lot to be said for reaching out and there is absolutely no shame in recognising that you can’t continue to do what you are doing so reaching out for help is a sign of true strength and real maturity. 

It might seem the most scary, terrifying, vulnerable option but you know what? Everyone around you wants to support you through this time and they will try and do everything they are capable of to enable you to recover and get back on track. My tutors really surprised me with the help and guidance I received and yours will too! They want you to succeed so they will work with you if you let them but you must let people in and communicate with them; they aren’t mind readers! 

If I can do it, you can do it!

Much love

Hayley x

The lies about "being in shape"

*This blog talks about eating disorders, please be aware of potential triggers.

Three weeks ago I was in the “best shape” I have ever been in…

But in reality I was losing control of my life and everything in it. My grasp on what were healthy habits and what were dangerous habits was slowly slipping away from me and that was quite scary. To feel my body deteriorating but hearing people around me commending me for being healthy when actually I was being restrictive. When pictures of me  made it look like I was just going to the gym more than usual but that came with only eating one meal a day and feeling awful when I ate more. I want us to be able to look out for our friends and loved ones and be able to pick up on when these things just aren’t right, when the habits aren’t healthy and the mentality behind it is impacting their mental health. I am so guilty of encouraging bad habits in other people by going along with jokes but the amount of people that are suffering without knowing it is very discouraging to see. 

My disordered habits come along with other mental health problems and thankfully I have people to encourage me to seek the help I need, so this blog isn’t about me. This blog is about the thousands of people out there who hide their eating disorders and restrictive habits behind “diet culture” and “cleansing their bodies” when in fact we should be encouraging them to open up about what is really going on. These problems might seem small now but they can spiral which I hope can be prevented. 

Here are a few tips that could be helpful when spotting signs in your friends:       

  1. Do all their jokes come along with a comment about hating their body? I would just talk to them about this, and if it really is just a joke then this conversation will assure you of that but if there is something more concerning going on then this gives them a time to talk about it.

  2. Is exercise something they do because they want to or because they think they need to lose weight? If their opinion about their body is making them overwork themselves then it could be helpful for you to try to make them realise this. Alternatively if you feel that is not your place then you could try to make sure your friend is nourishing themselves enough to cope with that amount of exercise.

  3. Is your friend lying about skipping meals and how much they are eating? Don’t get upset about it or talk to them in an accusatory way because that will make them defensive and you have to remember, this is hurting them and it isn’t a thing that they can just choose to do or not to do. You may want to lead them to some help that they can get or discuss their options with them but if they are very opposed to facing the idea of needing help, you could talk to someone in school (if you go to school or college) who will be able to intervene.

  4. Someone’s weight or appearance does not judge whether they are suffering with an eating disorder or not. In no way can you tell that someone does not have an eating disorder because of the way they look and you should not brush aside the worrying habits or comments from friends that you do not deem the “right body shape to have an eating disorder”.

  5. Some people are really good at hiding it and are really great (a bit of an ironic word in this context) at hiding their insecurities. Just because someone seems very confident to you and doesn’t fit the stereotype of a person with a mental health problem or even a person struggling, doesn’t mean they are not. In some ways these people need you to reach out the most when it seems like no one else is noticing them.

Also, just because you know people who are struggling more than you doesn’t mean you don’t deserve help too. It doesn’t mean that your problem is invalid and (this may sound weird so bare with me) it is never too early to get help. I say this because I found myself several times saying that “it wasn’t bad enough yet” or “I’m not light enough to get help” or even more concerningly “I’m not actually underweight yet so no one will give me help”. These all came from a place of feeling like my problems were worth less than everyone else’s. But as one of my friends said, these are the thoughts that get you to a place that could have been prevented if you had gotten help earlier. In no way am I saying getting help is easy because it is one of the hardest things I have ever done to have to go back again and again trying to find a way to make me better, but it is so worth it. By building a support network around you and trying to rid yourself of the toxic culture that perpetuates these habits and makes them seem ok, you can help yourself so much more than you think.

-Lucy, 16.

Overshadowed

*This blog talks about eating disorders, please be aware of potential triggers.

On the night of the 24th February I watched “overshadowed” on Iplayer and this story is based on true events about a girl who slowly begins to get “overshadowed” by the “demon” I call it inside of her, which is metaphorically the voice in her head that tells her she’s is fat, she needs to do excruciating exercises to lose weight, skip meals, to slowly deteriorate.

At first, I thought the “demon” was a normal character in the television programme, that was just a bully, you know telling her to lose weight etc. But I guess that is the beauty of how the TV programme portrayed “the demon”. As a character that is innate in the protagonists life, so vivid that the protagonist believes that she is real. Or even she is turning into “the demon”.

This show touched me in so many way it was surreal. I sat there in silence, curling up into a little ball just fixated on the girl and “the demon” and how the girl suddenly came to a breaking point. Because I know how she felt, I know how how that breaking point feels like. Having experience with problems with body image and eating, it felt like she was portraying my life at me, like she was telling me the damage, the hurt I was doing to myself and what I could do to others.

I never knew (and I still am quite unsure) what caused this but when I was little (so about 6 maybe 7 years old) I always threw up my food after lunchtime. I didn’t like the noise, the people around me, I felt so suffocated that it all just came rushing out. Sometimes even before I went into the canteen, I was already sick. My teachers tried everything: having everyone sit in silence and eat their lunch, making me eat my lunch in a separate room, sending me home to eat my lunch, but nothing worked. I just never ate lunch and still to this present day, I very rarely eat lunch. And if I do, it is usually just a banana. Or breakfast biscuits because those are really yummy :)

My body insecurity occurred around Year 11. I notice that I didn’t like how my body was, I always pointed out everything that I hated about it and always tried to find ways to improve my body. I worked out at the gym vigorously, doing yoga and dancing. But I still didn’t like how my body was. Exams were approaching and the stress got to me as well as my insecurity and I guess I was overshadowed by the voices in my head saying that I wasn’t good enough, I was fat and I must be a particular weight.

And I hit breaking point. I deliberately skipped meals such as breakfast (the most important meal of the day), lunch and I only would eat dinner. I went to the gym on an empty stomach and didn’t eat until 5pm. Bearing in mind I went to the gym around 6am in the morning. I noticed that I began to feel more tired as usual and I was always feeling dizzy and that I had to maintain this horrible, sick routine due to “the demon” because I was being overshadowed.

I began to count calories in Summer 2018. I began to do that because I thought me tracking how much calories I ate meant that I could still lose weight as well as have the accurate amount of calories I am supposed to have. But this wasn’t the case, it began to become a vicious cycle

of me always being conscious of what I was eating and checking the back of boxes and cartons and check how many calories were in everything. And I began to avoid mirrors because I felt sick at the sight of my body, felt sick at looking at the fat on my body and I began to feel frustrated. Because I was doing everything by the books. Gym? Check. Counting calories? Check. But what about my mental health? Did I really check how that was doing?

I have always avoided getting help because I feel like I don’t need it or that I am afraid of my family of knowing my body insecurity. I never really like talking about what is going on inside my head because I feel like my problems are miniscule compared to the plethora of issues in this society so I hide behind the voices overshadowing me.

But this TV show has made me see that what I am experiencing now isn’t okay. And what I need is to fight this “demon” and conquer this daily battle I am going through. I am trying. And I will win.

~ Atlanta Montague, 17 member of YMHM