Mental Health Services
Roughly 1 in 10 young people are affected by mental health problems
Most people will be affected by mental health problems in some way during their life
When someone says that they are ill, we generally assume that they have got something wrong with their body, but being ill can also be a problem in your mind. It is just as important to get yourself well if you are mentally ill as if you were physically unwell, some would say more important.
Young people can have a lot to deal with, bullying, abuse, exam pressure are just a few of the possible stresses in kids and teenagers lives. Sometimes it can all get a bit much and you can start to feel out of control in some way, mood swings, anger, funny feelings, you might start to feel, aches and pains in your body that can sometimes be a result of these strong feelings.
It is very upsetting to feel out of control with your mind and your feelings, at any level, even if you are feeling a bit down, or are experiencing periods of anger that seems to come from nowhere. Most people do not like the label 'Mental Health Problems' either, as you feel like you are being labelled a 'looney' and this sounds scary and might put you off talking to people.The truth is mental health problems can range from mild phobias, mild depression, or social problems, to more extreme problems where you might be a danger to yourself, or other people.
It is such a complex area, and every single person is different in their reactions and in their needs.
Here is a link to the Young Minds site which explains a wide range of mental health problems which can be experienced by all sorts of different people.
If you are experiencing problems with your mental health in any form, it is best to get help sooner rather than later, as this can prevent things from getting worse. Luckily there is a lot of support and help available in this area for young people and if you don't feel able to talk to friends or family, there are always teachers, your local doctor, or organisations like Childline, or Young Minds. I have provided a number of different links for you within this article. Mental health problems are surprisingly common, and are on the increase, so if you have been worried about the health of your mind, you are not the only one.
If you are experiencing difficulties in coping with someone close to you who has mental health problems, this can be very hard, it can be good to talk to someone who understands . There is also support for you if you follow this link. www.barnardos.org.uk
There is no simple answer to this. The reason why some people encounter mental health problems is totally individual, so will be different for everyone. But there are some common contributing factors, (some of these are actually symptoms of the mental health problems). Some of these are not situations which you can control, (for instance severe emotional, physical or sexual abuse, or neglect, psychological or physical trauma, or tragedy such as loss of a loved one, or taking on too much responsibility at a young age, (as with a young carer). A hereditary biological tendency might make it a stronger possibility that difficult events could trigger a mental health disorder.)
These distressing events are pretty much unavoidable, however there are some factors that may be a result or symptom of distressing events, which can be avoided, in order to avoid or decrease any potential or existing problems.
Here's a list of some of them:
- Abuse of drugs and/or alcohol
- food/nutritional deficiencies
- Lack of exercise
- Computer time overload
- Lack of strategies to cope with daily problems and activities
- No healthy outlet for self expression
Drugs and alcohol
Drugs and alcohol are an escape.
Yes, this is true. But before you go down that route have a think, is this what I want? Is this the kind of escape/release that I want?
This is very important to consider. You have the choice whether to do these things. If you are already experiencing some kind of problems with feeling out of control in your mind, do you really want to choose to do something that will make you feel even less in control?
It's true that drugs and alchohol and cigarettes can temporarily make you feel great, give you confidence, take away feelings of anxiety and maybe make you feel that other kids will respect you for doing these things. It can seem like a great solution and if you feel like you don't have much self respect, even more so, because you can persuade yourself that you don't care about yourself anyway.
But what else can this form of escape bring you?
- Depression- Alcohol can deepen depression
- Hangover- It is a poison, so the next day you can feel pretty bad physically
- Embarrassment- Alcohol can cause you to lose control of your behaviour andas a result perhaps embarrass or shame yourself, or someone else publicly .
It doesn't sound so cool, or like much of an escape when you think about this side of it does it?
- Conk out, weed/ganja/marijuana can cause you to conk out and just collapse or go to sleep (particularly if taken after alcohol), this could be embarrassing.
- Trip out :Nowadays some marijuana grass grown with hydroponics ,can be surprisingly strong and could bre a lot more than you've bargained for causing you to actually hallucinate, (which can be very frightening),or become paranoid.
- Loss of ambition or drive: Taking Marajuana regularly can contribute to a general feeling of laziness, of not wanting to bother with activities that you used to enjoy and can leave you really stuck in a rut, in a dazed heap, which doesn't sound like much fun.
Remember, just because your friend hasn't experienced and nasty problems with taking any of these drugs, it doesn't mean that you will nescessarily be okay, people can react differently to the same drug, some drugs especially 'hard' class A drugs like Ecstasy, Methadone, LSD (acid), Heroine (diamorphine) and magic mushrooms. All of these and especially sniffing glue have the potential to kill you the instant you take them.
Look after yourself and look after your friends, if they are talking about drugs or already taking them, make sure they understand the dangers, it's really NOT worth the risk!
If you are worried about alchohol or drug issues there is a good website with a helpline, here is a link ,Frank
The dark side
Ecstasy and LSD/Acid may also at first seem like a fun idea, or good escape/way to relax and take your mind of your problems. But you will find that they too have a very dark side, particularly if you already are experiencing mental health problems. All of these drugs (cigarettes are not mind altering, just very bad for your bodily health) are mind altering and it would be bad news to take any of them, if you have are at all worried about your mental health in any way. All of these drugs are illegal in the UK, it is legal to drink alcohol if you are over 18 years old, or to smoke if you are 16 years old. There is a reason for this, it is for your protection!
Taking any of these drugs can also lead to long term physical addiction.
Food is what we are made of and it affects our mood. Not getting the right food that our bodies need can cause hormonal imbalances and contribute to mental instability. Eating a good balance of the food we need for our bodies and mind to function well, will help you feel much calmer more energised and better generally. If you want to know more about this subject, take a look at my writing under the heading of 'Nutrition and obesity'.
Lack of exercise
When we exercise our body produces hormones that make us feel good. It also brings a good supply of oxygen to every part of our bodies, including our brain, oxygen enables us to repair problems get rid of toxins which might accumulate in the body and function better all round. Also activities such as Yoga, or swimming can be very calming and soothing. For more information on this subject, read my section on exercise.
Computer/TV time overload
Computer games and social networks can be highly addictive and it's easy to find yourself sucked in at every available minute. If you don't keep track of how much time you're spending on the computer or ipad, you might not be aware of how it dominates your world. The same goes for television and you might find that you are spending most of your free time on either the computer or watching TV. This is a common problem nowdays and studies show that it has contributed to obesity, social problems and depression in the western world.
It can make you feel irritable if you are doing either of these things for any length of time. It can also be used as an escape from the world, (if you're not happy) and people can develop obsessions with certain computer games or social networks, which is not healthy for your mind. Social networks can also leave you open to abuse and cyber-bullying, which could be extremely damaging especially if you are already feeling vulnerable.
Try to keep a sensible limit on your computer and TV time, so that it doesn't dominate your world.
If you want more information, read my articles 'cyber-bullying and sexting' and 'Stuck on the ipad'.
Strategies to cope with daily problems and activities
Dealing with changing life circumstances whether it's something severe like the death of a loved one or going into care, or something like changing school, these things are all hard to cope with in their own way. Discover your own personal coping strategies that can get you through hard times. Here are a few ideas.
- Quiet time Try to create some quiet time to yourself when you can, preferably once a day, but if this isn't always possible just whrenever you can. This means time to yourself not on the computer or watching TV, but sitting something you enjoy such as reading, walking in nature, drawing, listening to relaxing music, whatever it is that you enjoy.
- Meditation Studies have shown that meditation is beneficial to mental health and can calm the mind. There are various types of meditation you can try and it might be a while before you find the right one for you. Generally people who have been suffering from mental health problems, or have had some kind of severe trauma in their lives do better starting with meditation that is linked to something physical, like walking meditation, also the more clear cut guided type of meditations such as breathing exercises, or guided visualisations. If you feel uncomfortable at any time during meditation just stop, it's something that should be enjoyable and relaxing, but may not always be appropriate, depending on your state of mind. More than 100 studies have shown changes in brain wave activity during meditation and researchers have found that areas of the brain linked to emotional regulation are larger in people who have meditated regularly for five years. you don't need to meditate for five years for it to have an effect, you will feel different for just trying it once, but like anything, the more you do it, the better you get, or the more of an effect it has on your well-being. To find out more on this subject have a look at my section on 'Mindfulness meditation'.
- Breathing Breathing exercises can be a part of meditation, but breathing can also be a tool which you can pick up and use at any time, to calm you down and clear your head. Even just a few long smooth breaths will sooth you and nobody needs to know that you are doing this, they probably won't even notice.
- Punching a pillow It might seem silly, but this can be a great safe way to let out some angry feelings, let your sounds come out too, 'Raaaah!' Go for it!
- Helping other people/ joining a group Studies have shown that putting energy into helping other people, or the environment can make you feel significantly happier and more fulfilled. Being part of some sort of group, of people that share your interest can feel good, like a kind of support,(providing that it is a nice bunch of people and you feel comfortable doing this). Giving makes you feel good about yourself.
You are who you are and whilst we are who we are on this earth, it is very satisfying to express who we are and how we feel, in fact it is vitally important to our health and well-being. Sometimes circumstances or other people can prevent us, or make us feel unable to express ourselves in a way that would do us good. For instance, someone telling us that we are rubbish at drawing, can make us stop drawing, even though this statement might not be true, (it is only an opinion!). If severe trauma can make people dumb (not able to speak) for years sometimes, then it can certainly inhibit how we feel about expressing ourselves in other ways too.
It is important to experiment (if you don't already know) with what feels comfortable for you as a way to express yourself. It could be anything, singing in a choir, or singing in the bath, performance poetry, or secret writing in your diary, cooking,or creating a collage . It could be something active, like dance,or, or something more to do with the mind like complex mechanical inventions, or drawings of inventions, or simply just doodling, scribbling on paper, this can be hugely therapeutic. See if you can think of your own way to express the uniqueness of who you are and see how good it feels.
Having mental health problems is really just your mind communicating to you that you need to stop for a while and take notice of what's going on inside, sometimes strong feelings can get pushed deep inside to a place inside yourself, that's hard to reach, you might not want to reach them, but these feelings need to be dealt with because ignoring them will only cause worse problems.
Self Harm is a form of self expression, that people sometimes use when they have no other outlet to express their feelings. Sometimes when they have been so hurt that they have blocked out and disconnected from their feelings and self harming becomes a way to feel. If you are self harming, or feel an urge to self harm, it is really important that you talk to someone about how you are feeling, so that you can express your feelings in a better, more productive way and begin the process of healing. It is also very important for you to find a healthy way to express you feelings in your own unique way, remember, you don't need to show anybody what you have created, it can be totally private.
Here is a link to some helpful advice about self harm from Childline
If you feel suicidal, or scared in anyway because of 'out of control' feelings in your mind, it is important to get help as soon as you can, talk to someone, phone a helpline, or chat online at one of the special websites, for which I have provided a link. There are people who will listen to you and who will be able to help you deal with these feelings, so that you are not alone.
A helping hand/ guidance
In the dark, we can imagine all sorts of monsters, but if we shine some light by bringing our attention to these feelings, in a way that is kind and gentle to ourselves, we might begin to feel stronger and more in control of our lives and our feelings.
There are lots of places you can go for help and support to shine a light to help get you through a difficult period with your mental health.
Youth Access Tel: 020 8772 9900 (from 9.30 to 1, and 2 to 5.30)
Imagine a wonderful shining sunshine pouring down from the sky into the top of your head, it makes you feel so relaxed and happy. Breath in deeply the sunshine and feel it filling your heart so that your heart becomes full of light. Spend a few minutes just breathing in this light so that it fills your heart and any worries or fears just dissolve in this wonderful feeling of light and love that is filling you, so that there is no room any more for fears and worries, there is only light and there is only love. When your heart has breathed in so much light that it can no longer contain it, let the light burst out from your heart, pouring out into the world in a growing, expanding circle of light radiating out from you and with this release and expansion of light comes a feeling of great happiness, calm happiness,you know that you can fill yourself with this light when ever you feel in a dark place emotionally and it will bring you a feeling of calm.
All SMART Coaching(Stress Management And Relaxation Techniques) are designed to provide excellent and relevant quality well-being and mindfulness training, mindfulness training in schoolsor with young minds and intuition, insight mindfulness training across all sectors.