Tag Archives: Schizoaffective Disorder

Suicide On The Rise

This post discusses suicide so please be aware content may be triggering. No methods will be discussed.

So the stats are in for 2018 and for the first time in ten years the rate of suicide in the UK has gone up. And it’s not a small increase. The rate has increased by 11.8%. So why suddenly are we having an about turn, with suicide once again on the rise?

There are obviously many theories to the increase and of course we can never be a hundred per cent sure why more people are dying by suicide, but here are a few things I feel may be contributing to the increase. Of course I’m not an expert and this is just my opinion.

One of the groups most effected by the increase in suicides was the under 25s. The rate of suicide for this age group increased by 23.7%. Why is there such an increase in this age group? Obviously the big thing that people will say is that it’s down to social media and I understand this in that if young people are bullied it’s constant and doesn’t go away when they get home. But it’s not the full answer. There is a lot of pressure on young people to achieve in exams and go to university and get a high powered job as well as living a wonderful lifestyle. That’s not going to help. If you feel like you’re failing it’s going to impact on your mental health. The main reason though, that I feel is to blame, is the lack of funding in mental health services for children. Yes we are identifying mental illnesses in children and young people more than ever before but what good is that when we can’t support them with it. Being told something is wrong with you but you’re not ill enough to get help hurts. It can cause further drops in your health and make you feel worthless. It’s all very well encouraging people to talk but what happens when there is noone there to listen?

With every age group there are problems with access to mental health care. We simply have more need than resources can meet. People are slipping through the net. And even if you do get to see a mental health professional they are so busy that they can not always give the care that is needed. More money and more access to talking therapies would be a great start to helping reduce the suicide rate.

Men are again the most likely group to die by suicide. This hasn’t changed. This is worrying considering the amount of effort that has been put into trying to help men seek help. This can only mean there is more to do. We still keep hearing the phrase “man up” a lot and men being put down for talking about their feelings. Why is such a bad thing for a man to feel something and discuss it? At the end of the day they are human too. Humans need support. It is not a bad thing. It does not make you weaker than anyone else, in fact it is a strong thing to admit you need help.

This leads to another big issue that surely cannot be helping the suicide rate and that is stigma. Yes it still exists and not just with the general population but within mental health services too. Yes, we seem to have a greater understanding of depression and anxiety but other mental illnesses are overlooked. My personal experience with a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder is that because my mental illness is different it isn’t always understood, even by mental health professionals. This leads to stigma. Stigma grows in lack of knowledge. Therefore maybe we need to be educating people more in the different mental illnesses so they are understood and people are able to offer help before it’s too late.

Overall we need to look at many different aspects to get the suicide rate going down again. It is an issue for the whole of society. We all have a part to play. For more information on the suicide rate statistics check out the Samaritans website. They can also offer support if you are feeling suicidal. You can also check out the crisis lines in the menu at the top. Feel free to comment your thoughts here or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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They’re Not All Bad

I realise I’m quite often pretty scathing about mental health professionals but some of them are OK. Some do an amazing job and are let down by their colleagues. Quite often our bad experiences overshadow the good and we get into a negative view of all professionals, which is understandable.

I’ve had a few good experiences with different professionals. The negatives with these professionals only come when they are let down by the system they work within, otherwise they are amazing and make all the difference. When someone is caring and takes time with you it makes you feel valued and has a positive effect.

The first professional I found that was great was my art therapist. This was the first major mental health professional I worked with. At the time she was part of the young person’s service which was part of CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) and worked with those aged 16-25. I was 20 when I started working with her. She treated me on a level with her. I was training to be a teacher and she treated me like a professional as well as a patient. She didn’t patronise me and went at my pace. Her main work was to get me to communicate and she did well with this but at my pace. She made herself available between sessions if I needed to leave a message or write a letter to help with the next session. She’d talk me through situations. She tried to teach me it wasn’t all my fault and at times I almost believed her. The main thing that sticks with me though is that the young person’s service was disbanded so all over 18 were to be taken on by adult services meaning I’d lose my therapy. However she fought for me and told them it ws totally the wrong time to take it away from me and that she needed to continue her work with me. This led to me having a further 18 months with her. Leaving her was hard and I miss her a lot. I still have the card she gave me at the end of therapy.

Another mental health professional that gave a good impression was a psychiatrist I had in adult services. She is the one that diagnosed me with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder). She always valued my opinion and explained things when asked. She wasn’t perfect in that she didn’t discuss my diagnosis with me before it appeared on my notes but she was happy to go through it after. She was also a consistent presence for nearly a year before she moved on. This makes a difference.

The next professional who I had a good relationship was a care coordinator of mine, L. L was very proactive in my care and worked hard to get things sorted for me, not only with my mental health but my physical health too, even spending ages on the phone to a hospital trying to sort an appointment for me. She didn’t make me feel like our time was limited, it was always as long as I needed to talk. She took an active role. It was sad when she moved on.

My current care coordinator is also great. She’s not been involved in my care for long but has already shown me how great she is in that she gave me direct contact details for her and allows me to text rather than talk on the phone. She doesn’t mind me messaging between sessions and is quick to reply even if it is to tell me she’ll get back to me properly later. She’s also always on time or early for appointments which makes all the difference. I’ve kind of thrown her in at the deep end with my crisis but she hasn’t made me feel bad about it. I hope we can work together for a while.

Unfortunately these professionals are the exception rather than the rule. It shows as these are four out of many professionals that I have encountered. Hopefully things will improve and we will get more professionals that want to help rather than make us feel like an inconvenience or stigmatise us more. If we can be part of the education of professionals I think it would help them to be more empathetic and understand us more.

Have you had any good experiences? Feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Shut Up

This is my response to some comments I’ve had and seen other people have. It is my personal opinion. Please be aware some content may be triggering.

“Shut up!” are the words I wanted to say. Someone tried to tell me what I could do even when I expressed how difficult it would be. They totally invalidated my feelings. They totally disregarded my illness. It was like they thought I had a choice over how I felt.

The thing is this is common for people with mental illnesses (and I’m aware it’s the same for those with chronic physical illnesses, especially if they’re invisible, but I don’t really have much experience of this so would not like to comment further on this). People seem to think you are just being difficult. They seem to think it’s a choice. They can’t see how much of a battle these so called “simple” things are to do.

Mental illness can create barriers to doing certain tasks. Getting through these barriers takes a lot of work. Just because you put it in simple terms does not make it any easier. It does not take away the mental, and sometimes physical, blocks. It does not change my feelings. It does not take away my anxiety (or depression, BPD, bipolar, schizophrenia, etc). All it does is frustrate me as I feel misunderstood.

What can be worse is when it is someone who has experienced their own mental illness. You kind of expect some understanding (and most are) but instead you are met with their own standards of what you “should” be able to do with a mental illness. This is so wrong. Everyone with a mental illness is different. It effects people in different ways. What might be an easy task for me, might be the hardest thing for someone else and vice versa. Please don’t hold us all to the same standards.

In short before you voice that someone can do something (and not in a “you’ve got this” way but in a “you will do this as you are capable” forceful way) think. Why are they saying they can’t do it? What can you do that is a practical way to help? Are they ready to tackle this right now? Maybe ask them these questions. Please don’t invalidate what they are feeling.

If you’ve got any thoughts on this feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Murder Not Mental Illness

I wouldn’t normally comment on things that happen in America as it is not my country. But this is an issue that comes up again and again with regards to mass shootings in America. The common rhetoric is to claim the perpetrator is mentally ill. Now it is possible that they do have a mental illness but for the number of mass shootings that happen each year in America, that is a lot of mentally ill people with access to guns.

The truth is that these mass shootings are murder. Even terrorism. Often racism is at the core. This isn’t mental illness. Racism isn’t a mental illness. It’s a societal issue. Also America is not the only place where people are mentally ill, yet the number of mass shootings that occur there is disproportionately high. Surely this points to a deeper issue (*coughs* gun laws).

Here is the reality. People with a mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. I only have access to British statistics but this paragraph from Time to Change’s website shows the rate of murder caused by someone acting as part of their mental illness:

“According to the British Crime Survey, almost half (47 per cent) of the victims of violent crimes believed that their offender was under the influence of alcohol and about 17 per cent believed that the offender was under the influence of drugs. Another survey suggested that about 30 per cent of victims believed that the offender attacked them because they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In contrast, only 1 per cent of victims believed that the violent incident happened because the offender had a mental illness.” Time to Change (Accessed August 2019).

It shows that while mental illness can cause someone to become violent, the chances are you’re more likely to be killed by someone drinking or on drugs. Yet this is never given as a possible explanation to those carrying out mass shootings. They also forget to mention that those with a mental illness are more of a risk to themselves than others.

It’s too easy to blame mental illness. To take something that people already fear and stigmatise against and use it to “explain” something so scary. People don’t want to think that someone who is a neurotypical person can be capable of causing so much death and destruction. But that is the case. Their brain may have been warped but it is not by mental illness, it is by racist ideologies (most of the time).

I know there will be many who won’t accept that mental illness is not to blame in the majority of cases. The thing is, even if a person is mentally ill, there are many other things that contribute to these situations. You need to look at your treatment of those with mental illnesses. You need to look at the ease of access to guns. It is not simply “this person was mentally ill and so there was nothing we could do”. Even when a person with a mental illness is violent, there are things that can be done to reduce this risk as there are often signs that this may happen.

So there we have it. Think before you say that a perpetrator is/was mentally ill. You are adding to the stigma. Maybe think what could be changed to prevent this ever happening again. What could of prevented it. What was the real motive. It is more than likely much deeper than “they were mentally ill”. Think. Yes, I’m looking at you Mr. President.

If you have any thoughts feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Self Harm Etiquette For The Medical Profession

This is a blog post for anyone working in the medical profession. This includes Doctors, GPs, Nurses, Healthcare Assistants, Paramedics, Support Workers, Psychiatrists, Care Coordinators, Psychologists, Pharmacists, Admin staff and Receptionists. Basically anyone who comes into contact with a person who may have self harmed (therefore could also be useful for police officers too).

It has come to my attention that some of the people we want to help us deal with self harm can be some of the least useful with their comments and actions regarding dealing with self harm. Therefore I thought I’d put some tips together specifically for them and any professional that needs to help with self harm.

1. Don’t comment on it in front of other patients

This may sound really obvious. Patient confidentiality is key. Bringing it up in front of other patients without permission is wrong and can cause harm to the person who is self harming, the relationship between patient and professional and possibly even the other patient/s who could hear about it. You never know where this information will go. Unfortunately I know it happens. I’ve seen it happen.

2. Don’t guilt trip us

I’ve had this happen with a former GP. I was told I obviously didn’t love my parents over my self harm. It was awful. I didn’t return for treatment until two years later after a suicide attempt. This isn’t the only impact it can have. Self harm is not a selfish act. It’s a way of trying to keep going. It’s a way of coping. Most people who self harm probably already think about the perceived damage they do to others. To be guilt tripped by a professional is more likely to make the situation worse and even cause the patient to withdraw from seeking help, maybe until it is too late.

3. Don’t mimick self harm behaviour

Again this is something I have encountered and not just with one professional but many. It seems some can’t bear to say the words “self harm” and so use actions like using their hand to mimick cutting across an arm. Not only is this not clear communication, it can be triggering. It is a difficult topic but it is one that needs to be dealt with sensitively and professionally. Yes you do need to ask, but please use words rather than miming actions.

4. Be careful with what you say

Most professionals are careful with what they say. They think before they speak and take into account the individuals situation. That’s great if they know the patient. However without continuity of care, which is heavily missing in places, you may not know details or you may just be someone that only encounters someone briefly so has no background information to draw on. This means being careful with what you say. I’ve heard things that concern me. They may be useful for some but I can also see them as potentially inflammatory to the wrong person. I’ve heard “you’re scars look cool”, “just use your faith” and “what would your family think?” as common phrases among others. Let’s work backwards, the last comment can easily be seen as a possible guilt trip but it can also cause some negative emotions to surface, particularly if there is friction within the family. The middle comment is also dangerous as some people don’t have a faith and this may be because of trauma or abuse. It can also suggest unless you have a relationship with a god, you can’t be helped. The first statement may be the most troubling though. You’re reinforcing the behaviour. Yes self harm shouldn’t be something people feel ashamed of, but it shouldn’t be highly celebrated either.

5. Don’t judge or use stereotypes

Some professionals have a preexisting picture of what a person who self harms is. They may see them as frustrating and a drain on resources. They may see it as attention seeking. These stereotypes tend to grow over time within a staff member. I can see how hard it must be to treat someone who seems to be causing their own suffering. But it is a symptom of an illness. It is like an addiction. It is hard once you have started to stop. It can feel like all you have in the world at that time. It is a sign of distress. Being compassionate, non judgemental and just kind to the patient goes a long way. It can help the person to keep accessing help. Doing the opposite could push people away and leave them in dangerous situations.

6. Don’t compare us to other patients who have self harmed

Every person is going through their own unique experience with mental illness and self harm. Self harm is self harm. So it may not be as deep or as “bad” as someone else you have treated, but to that person the pain they feel inside is probably just as intense and unbearable. Hearing that we aren’t as serious as someone else because it doesn’t reach a certain level is heartbreaking and can have a negative impact. It can cause us to try and do more damage. It makes us think we aren’t good enough or that we don’t deserve help. Everyone, whatever level of self harm they present with, deserves support and compassion.

7. Don’t use the terms “superficial” or “attention seeking”

I hate the term superficial when it’s used to describe my self harm. It makes me feel like a rubbish self harmer and that I need to harm worse or more. It can encourage the behaviour and make things worse. The same can be said about the term attention seeking as it can drive the behaviour underground and prevent people getting help.

Those are just a few helpful hints for medical professionals. It might not be a regular thing you encounter but it is always useful to know how to help someone who self harms.

If you have any tips you wish professionals knew then feel free to use the comments or Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Summer Self Care

As I write this it is the hottest day of the year. The temperature is close to 37°C and I’m melting, the dog is melting, the cats are melting, everyone is melting. So I thought I’d put together some ideas for summer self care.

1. Sunscreen

With the sun boiling us, it is important we make sure to use sunscreen. Sounds obvious I know but it is something I often forget. This can be catastrophic for me as the medications I’m on mean I’m sensitive to sunlight and burn easier. It is quite common with medication for mental illness and we’re not always told about it. And if you’re hopping outside then maybe add a hat and some cool shades 😎. (Yes I’m aware I sound like an old person trying to be cool, look what turning 30 does to you).

2. Keep hydrated

Again sounds obvious but is another one I fail massively on. I’ve never been good at drinking plenty and I’ve paid for it with kidney problems. It’s something my mum nags me about regularly. Drinking will help our head too. It means we can concentrate better and feel better in ourselves. Obviously water is the best thing to drink but really as long as you’re putting fluid on your body it doesn’t matter. An ice lolly is also a great way to hydrate.

3. Staying inside

OK, bear with me on this. I know I advocate getting out as much as possible but when it’s super hot it can be safer to stay inside. So don’t feel you have to go out in the sunshine. If it’s safer stay inside with the fan on.

4. Get outside

Yep I know I just said stay inside but I want to cover the whole summer not just the hottest day of the year. When the weather allows try and get some time outside. Being among nature especially can be beneficial. Or going for a walk is great self care too. Obviously it’s all about being sensible. Also if it’s summer rain soak up the smell after, it’s one of my favourite smells.

5. Read

If you’ve got the concentration, reading can be great self care. In the summer it is nice if you can find somewhere to chill with a book, be it the garden, park or beach. And if going outside isn’t your thing then it’s the perfect activity to do indoors.

6. Get out the pool

Having a puppy has revolutionised summer. We now have a paddling pool “for the dog” but it’s also lovely to dip your toes in. So why wait for the excuse of having a dog or child to put a pool out and have a paddle. Also if you’re feeling particularly energetic (so not me) then why not go swimming (obviously in a swimming pool rather than a paddling pool).

7. Gardening

I’m not the greatest fan of plants. Having hayfever seems to of turned me against them. But this year at the group I attend we planted flowers and tomato plants and I’ve really enjoyed watching them grow. It’s also given me a sense of achievement. There are many studies exploring the impact of gardening on mental health, all positive. My favourite are sunflowers🌻.

8. Take a shower

In the heat there is nothing better than getting under the shower. It is a really good bit of self care too. Even a wash is good. And you’ll be surprised how much better you feel.

9. Do the little things

Finally, while it’s hot it can be hard to get the motivation to do things but if we can keep doing the little things like taking our medication then that is what’s important. Break down tasks into smaller bits to make them more manageable. Little steps lead to bigger things.

Those are just a few ideas for summer self care. If you have your own feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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An Open Letter To Instagram

Dear Instagram

I have recently been made aware that you are hiding the recent posts with mental health hashtags. I feel this is totally unacceptable on many levels.

I understand that you have done this in the name of safety, but in actual fact you are making things a lot less safe for those with these conditions. Social media by its nature is made to connect people and by eliminating these hashtags you are removing people’s ability to connect with others who have the same condition or who are going through the same thing. This creates a feeling that people are alone in their struggles and can’t see how other people deal with the condition. This could lead to more feelings of suicide and self harm as they try to cope alone.

Another issue I have with you removing these hashtags is that you are eliminating the chance of people sharing positivity among the mental health community. Many people who use these hashtags share uplifting quotes, ways they cope and general support and awareness. By stopping this you are leaving people with the negativity of the illnesses they endure.

Furthermore on researching this I found that it was still possible to use hashtags for physical illnesses. This shows blatant stigma towards those of us with a mental illness. Yes, mental illness sees people who have a symptom of suicidal ideation, but this can also be caused by people experiencing a physical illness. Mental health is important and equal to physical health.

If you want a truly safe community then your aim should be to moderate posts better rather than a blanket bam on mental health hashtags. Yes there may be individual posts that are damaging to those in a vulnerable state but your aim should be to target these posts and leave the useful and positive posts attached to the hashtag. This could help those who are unwell.

I hope you take this on board. You can contact me via the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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