Category Archives: Charities and Campaigns

Time To Talk Day 2019

It’s that time of year again. Yes, today, 7th February 2019, is Time to Talk day. I must admit that I have struggled to think of what to write about for this year’s Time to Talk day so where this blog post is going I have no idea. And that is OK.

Sometimes we have difficult conversations and we don’t know how the other person is going to react to what we say. This makes us hesitant to talk about the difficult things. That’s why Time to Talk day is important. It’s an ice breaker. It helps us discuss what isn’t always an easy topic; mental health.

I still struggle to talk about my mental health. I’m hesitant to say I’m struggling to those important people in my life. In fact they are sometimes the last to know what I’ve been going through. Yet I can blog about it to lots of people I barely know.

So why is it so difficult to talk to the ones we love the most? I think it has to do with how they will react. This is something out of our control and we don’t know if they will be upset, angry or any other emotion. Because of the stigma surrounding mental health still we are on edge as to whether we will face it from those we love the most. And we know that we could end up feeling worse if they don’t react how we hope they will.

So this year I think I might just share a few pointers for those who are listening to someone share about their mental illness. I don’t know if it will be helpful but I’ll give it a go.

1. Just listen: Sometimes it is simply having someone to listen without judging or making suggestions that means the most to us. If we ask for help then yes by all means try and help but we don’t always want that.

2. Be calm: It can be hard to do but staying calm will allow us to open up more as we see you are not reacting. Going straight into panic mode can make us feel guilty for talking and stop us opening up when we really need to.

3. Find an outlet: You are as important as the person with the mental illness who is talking to you. Therefore make sure you have support too. It will make you stronger for the person who is confiding in you.

4. Don’t guilt trip us: Telling us that we are making you feel bad or causing you stress will just make us stop talking. It will play into the negative thoughts we have and make us regret opening up and may even stop us from opening up to others.

5. Don’t shut the conversation down: If you say you don’t want to hear this then you can make us feel like we shouldn’t talk. If you’re finding it difficult suggest alternatives. Make sure that they know it’s OK to talk.

So those are a few tips to help you support someone who may start a conversation about mental health. Hopefully they might be useful. If you have any more ideas feel free to share in the comments or via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Advertisements

My BPD Story

I originally wrote this post for the Break The Stigma campaign that is run by Ben who works for my local Mental Health Trust, East London Foundation Trust. You can find the campaign on Facebook or Twitter. For the original post click here.

“Hello, my name is Jo and I have Borderline Personality Disorder.” These are the words that I wish it was easy to say out loud. But it’s not. The reason I don’t feel able to share my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) easily is the huge amount of stigma that the condition carries. This is something I desperately want to change.

When I was diagnosed with BPD, about six years ago, I struggled to deal with my diagnosis. I found out I had this diagnosis by reading it on my copy of the letters sent to my GP. At the time I didn’t know what BPD was and so I worked up the courage to ask my psychiatrist what this diagnosis was and how she had come to this conclusion. She was very good and went through the criteria with me. I was shocked. She then suggested I read a book written by a psychiatrist about the condition. I agreed. This was a mistake.

The book I was given went into detail about why people with BPD were difficult patients and how they were all trying to manipulate those around them. It listed a number of bad things about people with BPD. I was horrified and immediately went into denial. Even though the psychiatrist had shown how I met the criteria, I did not want to believe I had this illness. I was definitely not going to tell many people I had it either. I did not want them to think I was these bad things.

My denial went on for quite a while. I told very few people my diagnosis. Even my parents didn’t know. Then I met and talked to some other people with the same diagnosis and I realised they were none of the bad things I had heard about BPD. These people were lovely, they just struggled with certain things like I did. This led me to being more open about my diagnosis and even telling my parents.

There is still a lot of stigma out there surrounding BPD and personality disorders in general. People still think we are manipulative and all the same but we are people with an illness, just like if we had cancer or diabetes. I’ve experienced stigma even from a psychiatrist who told me I couldn’t be treated. This is untrue. Therapy is the main treatment for BPD and medication can help manage some symptoms.

It is important to challenge the stigma surrounding BPD, and all mental illnesses, so that people can access the help that they need and deserve. At the moment 10% of those diagnosed with BPD will die as a result of suicide. This number is far too high. With help hopefully this can be reduced. Even one life lost is too many, and stigma feeds into these statistics. Reducing stigma will save lives and help those with mental illness to lead a better life.

Having BPD doesn’t make people scary or manipulative. They just have an illness like everyone else.”

To find out more information on Borderline Personality Disorder click here or follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

World Mental Health Day 2018

Today, 10th October, is World Mental Health Day and this year the theme is young people and mental health in a changing world. Therefore I thought I would write about mental health education and why I believe it is so important in today’s world. 

Currently in the UK there is no legal requirement to teach about mental health in schools. This seems ridiculous when we are encountering a record number of children experiencing difficulties with their mental health. Mental health is such an important topic and something people tend to any away from. We seem to forget that we all have mental health, be it good or ill, much like we all have physical health. There are of course ways we can help our mental health, such as self care, but how are we meant to know this if noone teaches us. This is why mental health education in schools is vital. Prevention is key.

Of course prevention is not always possible. Sometimes we will get mentally ill despite our best efforts but mental health education is key here too. If as a young person we know the signs that something is wrong we may feel able to access help sooner. It is known that early intervention can be key in treating mental illness and can lead to a higher recovery rate so it seems only logical to educate young people on the signs. I know that as a young person I was confused by what was happening to me and felt alone so didn’t confide my problems for a long time. This made everything much harder.

Another reason education surrounding mental health and mental illness is key to help reduce stigma. A lot of stigma comes from lack of understanding and fear. By educating young people we create a generation that is not afraid to talk about mental illness nor scared to seek help in the face of it. We empower our young people to fight stigma and stand up for those facing problems with their mental health.

Of course there are barriers in the way to mental health education. As a former teacher I know how rammed the school curriculum already is but I believe mental health education can be worked in. We make time for physical health so why can we not make time for mental health. Obviously mental health education alone will not solve the entire problem of the rise in young people with mental health problems but it is a start. We of course need more funding for children and adolescent mental health services too, to keep up with the young people that are asking for help. Hopefully we can make a difference if we keep calling for change.

To share your thoughts fee free to use the comments or TwitterFacebook or Instagram.

We All Have A Story

Today, 21st September 2018, is The Blurt Foundation’s first Big Blurtathon. The aim of The Big Blurtathon is to raise awareness of mental ill health and funds for The Blurt Foundation. The theme this year is “we all have a story”. Therefore I thought I would share some parts of mine by answering some questions.

When did you first notice your condition? 

My depression started in my early teenage years. I struggled at school with making friendships last and was bullied an awful lot of the time. This, along with some other issues, led to me feeling so low that I began to self harm at the age of thirteen. This is probably when signs of my Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) also started to develop too. My anxiety however didn’t get really bad until I was in my twenties.

When did you first get help for your condition? 

I hid my illness for a long time. There were many missed opportunities for me to get help. At school my head of year became aware of my self harm but didn’t follow it up. At sixth form college I saw a counsellor briefly and even attended the doctors to ask for help but did not get a good response so didn’t return. I eventually got taken seriously at nineteen after a suicide attempt saw me taken to the accident and emergency department by the police. This was the start of me getting help and support.

Do you take medication?

I do currently take medication. I’m on four different types for my mental illnesses; two antidepressants, an antipsychotic and a mood stabiliser. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my medication. They’re not perfect but they do help.

What do you miss out on because of your condition?

I miss out on quite a lot and can get quite bitter about it and want to punish myself for ‘allowing it’ to win. But it’s not about winning or losing. I have an illness. I currently can’t work due to my mental illnesses which causes lots of negative thoughts in my head but I just have to accept it at the moment. I also struggle with romantic relationships so am currently single. I feel I’m watching all my friends have amazing lives but I just can’t at the moment. With time though I hope to do more.

Would you get rid of your condition if you could?

My answer to this might be surprising but no I wouldn’t get rid of my condition. Don’t get me wrong it is hellish at times but it also makes me who I am. It’s shown me when I can be strong and taught me who my real friends are. I’ve also learnt a lot from it and had some great opportunities.

So there you have a bit of my story. If you have any more questions feel free to use the comments, TwitterFacebook or Instagram. For more on The Blurt Foundation’s Big Blurtathon click here or go to their TwitterFacebook or Instagram.

Campaigns and Charities: STOP Suicide Cambridge

This is the second post in my series looking at different campaigns and Charities linked to mental health. The aim is to showcase the good work that is going on in the mental health community. For other posts in the series look here. In this post I will be looking at the STOP Suicide Cambridge campaign and talking about what they do.

What is STOP Suicide Cambridge?

STOP Suicide Cambridge is a campaign led by two charities; Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and South Lincolnshire Mind (CPSL Mind) and Lifecraft. It is supported by the local NHS and Public Health teams. It is a suicide prevention campaign that started life as an NHS England funded pilot but is now continuing via other funding. The idea is to empower groups and individuals across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to stop suicide. However the campaign is spreading wider via social media. 

How does STOP Suicide Cambridge work?

STOP Suicide Cambridge aims to help prevent suicides by making people aware of the warning signs of suicide, getting people to ask directly about suicide and helping those who feel suicidal to stay safe. It uses people called campaign makers to spread its message and to encourage people to take the STOP Suicide pledge. 

The STOP Suicide pledge can be taken by groups or individuals and aims to get people to make a commitment to themselves and members of their community to talk more openly about suicide and help those in distress. The personal pledge can be seen below.

The campaign also aims to make people more aware of the warning signs and how subtle they can be in order to prevent suicide. Suicide in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough caused close to twice the number of deaths that are caused by road accidents in the area. The campaign wants people to ask the question “are you feeling suicidal?” if they are concerned about someone. They want people to be aware that asking the question won’t put the idea of suicide in someone’s mind but it may save their life. 

If you want to find out more about the campaign, or to become a campaign maker, or wish to take the STOP Suicide pledge you can do this on the website stopsuicidepledge.org. The campaign also has links on social media with Twitter Facebook or Instagram.

Campaigns And Charities: The OLLIE Foundation

This blog post is a different one and is, hopefully, the first in what will be a series of posts about different campaigns and charities linked to the topic of mental health. I hope to highlight some of the great work being done in mental health. The first charity I am looking at is a small charity, local to me, called The OLLIE  Foundation. I am proud to announce that I recently became an ambassador for the charity and want to tell you more about them.

What is The OLLIE Foundation? 

The OLLIE Foundation is a charity based in St. Alban’s, Hertfordshire in the UK. OLLIE stands for One Life Lost Is Enough and the idea behind this came from three parents who lost children to suicide and decided they didn’t want anyone else to go through the pain they had endured, and wanted to help prevent death from suicide.

In 2015 there were 6639 suicides recorded in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, a number that is far too high. OLLIE aims to help reduce this by providing suicide prevention and intervention training to people who are working with children and young adults. This age range they have chosen to target in particular as suicide is the leading cause of death in young people aged 20-34, in the UK, with 1659 young people dying by suicide in 2015.

What does The OLLIE Foundation offer?

The OLLIE Foundation offers two courses to parents, school staff and sports group leaders, as well as young adults themselves, to get them talking about suicide. The courses are offered at a highly reduced rate, thanks to the charity. 

The first course they offer is called safeTALK and is for half a day. It gives people the skills and confidence to have a conversation using the word “suicide”. It looks at ‘invitations’ that suicidal people may give to indicate they are vulnerable and builds up to a skin the direct question of whether someone is considering suicide.

The second course on offer is the two day ASIST course which aims to give people the skills the need to keep someone considering suicide safe. It answers the question “if you ask someone if they are suicidal and they answer yes, what do I do with that information?” ASIST teaches people how to create an intervention plan to keep those people safe.

Both courses are accredited, with all participants getting a certificate on completion. OLLIE does its best to get as many people trained as possible for the small fee of £80 (compared to £250) though they are open to discussion. 

For more information about The OLLIE Foundation you can check out their website theolliefoundation.org or Facebook and Twitter. If you have any queries about the training check out livingworks.net or email verity@theolliefoundation.org.