World Mental Health Day and me
Updated: May 5
Today is #WorldMentalHealthDay - our #threegoodthings facebook group is all about #mentalheatlh and #wellbeing by noticing big and small things to be #grateful for, including showing #gratitude to others.
At Full Frame Coach, I regularly have coaching conversations about #resilience, #selfcare #authenticity and #mentalhealthatwork. It's something that I am extremely passionate about because of two reasons:
1. my own history of #depression and having to manage it every single day of my life;
2. friends, colleagues and family members who also live with mental health difficulties, including the impact that has on work life.
In 2009 I realised just how unhappy I was and, following a very gentle intervention by a trusted colleague, I decided to start private psychotherapy every week. About 16 months later, I had a proper breakdown – I had severe sciatica and prolapsed discs as well as deep, clinical depression. On the day after the August Bank Holiday, I started crying uncontrollably because I couldn’t dry my toes after a shower. Of course it wasn’t just that, but it was that moment that broke me. My thinking was chronically “black and white” – I didn’t think I had choices about work, everything was awful, no-one understood how much I was hurting. I was overwhelmed by the volume and burden of work but couldn’t prioritise what I needed to do. I had no tolerance (and very little skills) for navigating the challenging relationships that existed around me.
My GP was fantastic and started me on anti-depressants with weekly appointments so we could check in with how I was feeling. I continued the private psychotherapy for 4.5 years and I don’t ever regret the personal and financial investment I made in me. It has paid me dividends and will do for the rest of my life. I know I was fortunate to be able to afford it– so many people in the UK, Australia and right across the world do not have the same privilege of access to professional support.
Twelve years on, I know my warning signs and have lots of tactics to manage my mental health. They have been invaluable during COVID. Here is a wee summary of some of what I have learnt so far:
Self care is not bubble baths and pedicures – when you are that low, it’s really boring every day stuff like eating three, healthy meals a day; not bingeing on carb heavy treats; daily showering and brushing your teeth; going for regular walks and doing pilates; drinking lots of water and having limited amounts of caffeine; having a regular bed time and wake up time, even on non-work days. Fortunately alcohol isn’t a ‘go to’ for me but I know it is for many.
Reading is my barometer – I love reading and it is vital to my mental health, literally. I notice when I’m struggling to read literary fiction (my favourite ‘genre’) and so I dial down on my reading choices accordingly. This might mean putting a book back on the shelf for another time or putting it aside for a week or two. The point for me is to never stop reading, so instead I will pick up a lighter novel or perhaps a magazine so I keep reading every day.
Keeping to a 15min walking radius of my flat is not a good sign – I have several friends that live locally and the office (when we’re not working from home!) is also local. I can reach a stage where I decline/avoid social events if it means I can’t walk there in 15 mins. When that thinking pattern starts, I make the effort to make plans with my local friends to do things together a bit further afield. Or I meet up with other friends nearer to where they live. It forces me to go beyond that comfort zone, but in a safe way. Meeting them in the park is always a good thing!
Duvet days are also good a thing; but not when they are consecutive days in a row – this is another warning sign that things are not so great. I have learnt that two days is okay but anything more than that needs some self talk to get me out of the funk. If I let myself go for longer, it is even harder to bring myself back from moping around the flat.
“Three good things” is one of my most valuable tactics – some people use this gratitude practice every day. For me, it becomes a daily practice when I’m not doing so well. It’s hard to feel low for a long time when you can find “basic” things to be genuinely grateful for – sometimes it is clean drinking water, my own home and living in a democratic society. At the start of 2021, I decided to set up a facebook group called threegoodthings so that we could all share gratitude and have a safe space during COVID-19 and beyond. Come and check it out for yourself.
Do you know what your warning signs are? What is your barometer of your own mental health? What strategies do you employ when you know things are not so good?
Facts from the WHO on mental health - did you know?
Close to one billion people have a mental disorder and anyone, anywhere, can be affected.
Depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. Globally, it is estimated that 5% of adults suffer from depression.
Globally, one in seven 10-19-year-olds experience a mental disorder. Half of all such disorders start by age 14 years but most are undetected and untreated.
People with severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia tend to die 10-20 years earlier than the general population.
One in every 100 deaths is by suicide. It is the fourth leading cause of death for young people aged 15-29 years.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a considerable impact on people’s mental health.
The care gap
Despite the universal nature and the magnitude of mental ill health, the gap between demand for mental health services and supply remains substantial.
Relatively few people around the world have access to quality mental health services.
The serious gaps that still exist in mental health care are a result of chronic under-investment over many decades in mental health promotion, prevention and care.
Stigma, discrimination and human rights abuses of people with mental health conditions remain widespread.
The economic cost
The lost productivity resulting from depression and anxiety, two of the most common mental disorders, costs the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year.
The investment deficit
On average, countries spend just 2% of their national health budgets on mental health. This has changed little in recent years.
Despite an increase of development assistance for mental health in recent years, it has never exceeded 1% of development assistance for health.
The good news
Some of the most common mental health conditions, depression and anxiety, can be treated with talking therapies, medication, or a combination of these.
For every US$ 1 invested in scaled-up treatment for depression and anxiety, there is a return of US$ 5.
For every US$ 1 invested in evidence-based treatment for drug dependence, there is a return of up to US$ 7 in reduced crime and criminal justice costs.
Generalist health workers can be trained to diagnose and treat mental health conditions.
Regular health checks of people with severe mental disorders can prevent premature death.
The quality of life of people living with conditions such as autism and dementia can be greatly improved when their caregivers receive appropriate training.
The rights of people living with mental health conditions can be protected and promoted through mental health legislation, policy, development of affordable, quality community-based mental health services and the involvement of people with lived experience.