This week I have been on a mental health first aid course. It was really interesting and while I had a reasonable understanding of the conditions before, I definitely know more about it now.
Having suffered with anxiety and depression before, I can empathise completely with the helplessness a person feels when afflicted and it frustrates me that there is still so much stigma around mental ill health.
So here’s some myth busting:
- You are more likely to be struck by lightening that harmed by someone with mental illness, so there is no reason to be scared.
- If you are concerned about someone being a suicide risk, just ask them. A study has shown that talking about it will not change the odds of them doing it.
- Most mental illness begins to develop in teen years and early 20s.
- For every £1 invested in mental health, there is an approximate return on investment of £9.50, eg. Take a week off when you need to rather than an entire month once you have totally burnt out, would be 3x better off.
A survey recently discovered that 30% of adults don’t know the signs of an eating disorder, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to discuss the signs and symptoms of all the different types. I am by no means a qualified psychologist and you should never try and diagnose someone without professional training, but these things are just things to look out for so you can point sufferers in the direction of appropriate help.
This is when being a bit down lasts more than two weeks. Other things to look out for include:
Loss of confidence,Feeling guilty about things that aren’t their fault, Fidgety/slower moving than usual, Trouble sleeping, Loss of appetite/comfort eating, Suicidal thoughts, Inability to make decisions
The symptoms of anxiety can be broadly divided into 3 categories; psychological, physical and behavioural. Adrenalin is a perfectly normal reaction in dangerous situations, but anxiety occurs when the brain misfires so that stress occurs even when someone is safe. Here is a simplified list, but as you can see, the body produces adrenaline reactions because it is in a very real flight/fight mode.
- Psychological- Intrusive thoughts, Excess worry, Distracted, Vivid Dreams
- Behavioural- Withdrawal (or overcompensates), Exhausted/hyper-alert, Obsessive
- Physical- flushing/pale, palpitations, sweating, hormonal changes, nausea, muscle aches, shortness of breath
These do not just affect girls. With the increase in social media, everyone feels the pressure to look a certain way.
Beat, a charity that specialises in eating disorders says the signs to watch out for are:
- changes in behaviour
- becoming obsessive about food
- having distorted beliefs about their body size
- often tired or struggling to concentrate
- disappearing to the toilet after meals
- starting to exercise excessively
Psychosis impacts on emotions, motivation and perception of the world around you. They may become suspicious and irritable or become blunt. Illnesses in this category include bipolar, hallucinations and schizophrenia.
The thing you will notice with all these is that many of the symptoms can be applied to many different conditions and different people react in different ways, so it is really important to seek professional advice before jumping to conclusions. The main thing to remember is that the feelings and thoughts that sufferers have are very real to them, so don’t ridicule, minimise or dismiss them. Much of the time they feel out of control and they can’t just snap out of it, so they may need you to be understanding while they get to the treatment that works for them.
For more information see Mind.