A new review by researchers at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) finds that pregnant women who are diagnosed with sleep disorders appear to be at risk of delivering their babies before reaching full term.
Investigators found the link was associated with conditions such as sleep apnea and insomnia.
The prevalence of preterm birth — defined as delivery before 37 weeks’ gestation — was 14.6 percent for women diagnosed with a sleep disorder during pregnancy, compared to 10.9 percent for women who were not.
The odds of early preterm birth — before 34 weeks — was more than double for women with sleep apnea and nearly double for women with insomnia.
Importantly, researchers discovered complications were more severe among early preterm births.
In contrast to the normal sleep changes that typically occur during pregnancy, the new study focused on major disruptions likely to result in impairment.
Unfortunately, the true prevalence or the number of pregnant women experiencing sleep disorders, is unknown because the sleep issue is often un-diagnosed among pregnant women.
Researchers believe treating sleep disorders during pregnancy could be a way to reduce the preterm rate, which is about 10 percent in the United States — more than most other highly developed countries.
The study is the first to examine the effects of insomnia during pregnancy. Because of a large sample size, the authors were able to examine the relationship between different types of sleep disorders and subtypes of preterm birth.
Investigators were able to examine factors associated with early vs. late preterm birth, or spontaneous preterm labor versus early deliveries that were initiated by providers due to mothers’ health issues.
Study findings appear in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.
In the case-control study, researchers were able to separate the effects of poor sleep from other factors that also contribute to a risk of preterm birth.
This involved matching 2,265 women with a sleep disorder diagnosis during pregnancy to controls who did not have such a diagnosis, but had identical maternal risk factors for preterm birth, such as a previous preterm birth, smoking during pregnancy, or hypertension.
“This gave us more confidence that our finding of an earlier delivery among women with disordered sleep was truly attributable to the sleep disorder, and not to other differences between women with and without these disorders,” said Jennifer Felder, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the UCSF Department of Psychiatry and the lead author of the study.
Investigators were surprised by how few women in the dataset — well below one percent — had a sleep disorder diagnosis, and suspect that only the most serious cases were identified.
“The women who had a diagnosis of a sleep disorder recorded in their medical record most likely had more severe presentations,” said Aric Prather, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at UCSF and senior author of the study.
“It’s likely that the prevalence would be much higher if more women were screened for sleep disorders during pregnancy.”
Researchers note that cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be effective in the general population and does not require taking medications that many pregnant women prefer to avoid.
To find out if this therapy is effective among pregnant women with insomnia, and ultimately whether it may improve birth outcomes, Felder and colleagues are recruiting participants for the UCSF Research on Expecting Moms and Sleep Therapy (REST) Study.
“What’s so exciting about this study is that a sleep disorder is a potentially modifiable risk factor,” said Felder.
New findings published in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry show that school-based mental health programs can reach large numbers of children and effectively improve mental health and related outcomes.
Approximately 13 percent of children and teens worldwide have significant mental health problems including anxiety, disruptive behavior disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and depression. If left untreated, these disorders can remain throughout adulthood and have negative effects in many aspects of life.
A large number of interventions have been designed to deliver preventive mental health services in schools, where children and teens spend so much of their time. Now a growing body of evidence shows that school-based mental health programs can be widely implemented and can lead to population-wide improvements in mental health, physical health, educational, and social outcomes.
For the review, Dr. J. Michael Murphy, EdD, of Massachusetts General Hospital and colleagues identified and analyzed school-based mental health programs that have been implemented on a large scale and have collected data on specific mental health outcomes. Their findings show that the eight largest programs have reached at least 27 million children over the last decade.
The programs vary in their focus, methods, and goals. For example, the largest intervention, called “Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports” (PBIS), focuses on positive social culture and behavioral support for all students. The second-largest program, called “FRIENDS,” aims to ease anxiety and teach skills for managing stress and emotions — not only for children, but also for parents and teachers.
While some of the school-based mental health interventions target students at high risk of mental health problems, most are designed to focus on mental health promotion or primary prevention for all students in the school. Most of the programs have been implemented across school districts, while some have been introduced on the state or national level.
Evidence is “moderate to strong” that these interventions are successful in contributing to good mental health and related outcomes. For example, studies of FRIENDS have reported reductions in anxiety, while PBIS has shown improved reading scores and fewer school suspensions.
Other interventions have shown benefits in areas such as bullying and substance abuse.
“This review provides evidence that large-scale, school-based programs can be implemented in a variety of diverse cultures and educational models as well as preliminary evidence that such programs have significant, measurable positive effects on students’ emotional, behavioral, and academic outcomes,” write the researchers.
“Data sets of increasing quality and size are opening up new opportunities to assess the degree to which preventive interventions for child mental health, delivered at scale, can play a role in improving health and other life outcomes,” said Murphy and colleagues.
With ongoing data collection and new evaluation frameworks, they believe that school-based mental health programs have the potential to “improve population-wide health outcomes of the next generation.”
Source: Wolters Klewer Health
The latest episode of ‘Crazy Talk With…’ podcast is now available on iTunes & Podbean. In this episode I talk to award winning vlogger Hannah…
i am proud to share that for the second year in a row my blog was named by healthline.com as one of the best blogs on depression. healthline carefully selected these blogs because we are “…actively working to educate, inspire, and empower readers with frequent updates and high quality information.” it is truly an honor to be included on this list and each one of you helped to make this possible. i am grateful every day for the positive impact that this blog is making – both for me personally and for my readers. each conversation, each story helps me heal. and to know that my own experiences are helping others find hope and inspiration means more than i could every say (or write). mental illness isn’t easy to live with and it isn’t easy to talk about. this blog has given me a safe place to do both. so thank you – from the bottom of my heart.
check out healthline’s writeup on bluelightblue:
on blue light blue, amy marlow chronicles her experiences living with major depression, anxiety, and ptsd. At thirteen, amy lost her father to suicide, a loss that continues to inform her view on the world and her own journey living with mental illness. her posts are reflective, thoughtful, and deeply personal. check out her blog for more on living with loss and depression, as well as creative takes on how depression changes daily life.
and a little more background on why they recognize the best blogs each year:
everyone gets the blues now and then, but do your blues last for weeks at a time? if so, you may have depression, and you’re not alone. major depression is one of the most common mood disorders in the united states — about 16.1 million adults (that’s almost 7 percent) and 3 million teenagers will have at least one major depressive episode per year.
there are also multiple types of depression, including major depression,persistent depressive disorder, and bipolar disorder. postpartum depression, experienced after giving birth, affects up to 1 in 7 women in the united states.
depression can make it difficult to do everyday things, like getting out of bed or concentrating at work. depression can also be incredibly difficult to talk about. that’s why we’ve rounded up the best blogs on depression out there. these online warriors are fighting depression and inspiring others to do the same by sharing their stories.
The post i was named one of the best depression bloggers of 2017 appeared first on blue light blue.
This post is the third in a new series of guest conversations called Voices on Mental Health. I am honored to showcase inspirational people with unique and important perspectives on mental illness.
Our third conversation is with Marjorie Morrison, LFMD, LPCC. She is the founder and CEO of PsychArmor, a nonprofit that provides free education and support for all Americans to engage effectively with the military community. Marjorie spent more than a decade doing extensive work with service members as a civilian mental health provider in the San Diego area. PsychArmor Institute stemmed from her personal experience as she became familiar with the intricacies of military culture. I met her recently when we both served on the same panel at a mental health event here in Washington D.C. She is a highly creative and down-to-earth voice on how we can better support the men and women who have sacrificed to serve our country – especially when it comes to listening to and understanding their mental health needs. Marjorie is the author of the book, The Inside Battle: Our Military Mental Health Crisis, and has written numerous editorials on the field of military mental health featured in TIME, Newsweek, The Daily Beast, Huffington Post – to name a few. You can read more about her on the PsychArmor website or connect with her on Twitter.
1. First let’s do a little myth busting. What are some common misconceptions that non-military folks have about the mental health of our service men and women?
I’m so glad you asked, because PsychArmor’s cornerstone course is focused on that exact topic! We created “15 Things Veterans Want You to Know” to educate anyone who works with, lives with or cares for our military community. To create the course, we asked hundreds of Veterans what they wanted others to know about them. These comments were used to create this course, including five Questions You Should Always Ask Veterans, one Question You Should Never Ask Veterans, and 15 Facts that promote greater understanding of our Veterans. Our hope is that we’ll give people a new way of thinking about military culture – and the feedback we’ve received from those who’ve taken the course has shown that.
2. How does PsychArmor seek to bridge the civilian-military divide when it comes to mental health needs? What makes your approach unique and effective?
PsychArmor is the ONLY non-profit organization in the country exclusively dedicated to providing FREE education to all who work with, live with, or care for members of the military community. Whether you’re an employer, educator, caregiver, healthcare provider, volunteer or a community member interested in learning more about military culture, we have courses that are perfect for you.
PsychArmor is an online library where anyone can go, at any time, to get educated on a wide variety of military topics. Our educational training courses are broken up into short, self-paced modules so they fit into today’s busy schedules – and we’ve heard from so many people that spending 15-20 minutes taking one of our courses saved them hours of time in the long run. We’re also constantly responding to user feedback – we just launched a brand-new learning management system and website last week!
All PsychArmor courses are developed by nationally recognized subject matter experts, and we have several veterans and trained mental health providers on our staff. Everything we offer is evidence-based and clinically informed. We also use animation, gamification, embedded videos and simulations to make our course content immersive and engaging. We designed PsychArmor to be an intentional departure from the stuffy, plain PowerPoint presentations that too many people associate with training courses.
3. Tell us about the “1-5-15” challenge. How has this campaign helped to raise awarenessabout the lack of understanding with respect to the military community?
In the lead-up to the first Veterans Day after PsychArmor was founded, we created the 1-5- 15 challenge to encourage people to unite under ONE mission (for Americans to be competent in military and veteran culture), FIVE questions to ask veterans and FIFTEEN things veterans want you to know about them (the course I just talked about). The suggested questions to ask veterans were intended to start what we hope will be an on-going conversation between the 7 percent of Americans who’ve served and the remaining 93 percent of the population. I still recommend these questions when you’re not sure where to start:
4. What are some practical ways that we can help veterans, both in our own communities and nationwide?
I firmly believe that everybody wants to help – they just don’t always know what to do. This was true for me. I started PsychArmor because, as a private mental health provider in the San Diego area who had no military experience, I was seeing a lot of members of the military community and I didn’t know what to do. More importantly, I didn’t realize I needed to know anything different about this community – but I did, and that was never more apparent than when I had the opportunity to work on base.
We have over 40,000 nonprofits supporting veterans, but there was nothing out there to support the unaffiliated population when I wanted to develop a deeper understanding about military culture and veterans’ issues. I saw a need, and that need led me to create PsychArmor.
The first step in learning how to support veterans is taking our “15 Things Veterans Want You to Know” course. Don’t be afraid to start the conversation. Just asking the question, “Did you serve?” can make such a difference.
Remember that veterans are tough, but they have the biggest hearts and have gone through huge sacrifices and a broad spectrum of emotions many, many times. Yes, they are hardened – but many of them take pride in this.
5. Can you share a standout moment that highlights why you are so passionate about helping veterans and their families connect with effective mental health treatment?
At our second annual Bridging the Gap Gala on April 6 in San Diego, we debuted a video that shared the benefit of PsychArmor’s courses. One of the women featured, Roxana Delgado, is a caregiver for her husband, SFC (Ret.) Victor Medina, an OIF/OEF Veteran and Purple Heart Recipient, after he suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) back in 2009. She talks about her realization that her life would have been so much easier in such a difficult time if only PsychArmor had existed back when they were first adjusting to her husband’s TBI. At first, Roxana didn’t even realize she was a caregiver, let alone know where to go for support and trusted information.
Their story is one of many reasons why I’m so passionate about this work. If we can educate people about all aspects of the military experience, then they’ll be equipped and empowered to connect with effective mental health treatment; with employers who truly understand the return on investment for hiring and supporting veterans; with volunteer organizations who are eager to work with veterans. This is about even more than mental health. This is about overall quality of life.
6. What is your message (in a nutshell) to the average American about mental health needs among our service members?
Veterans experience unacceptable rates of unemployment, homelessness, and suicide. So often as a nation we attempt to fix these symptoms and tragic results, but fail to address the underlying mental health issues that led to them in the first place.
Members of the armed forces deserve our respect, and the absolute best care available. We need to support research to better understand the science of conditions including traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress (PTS) and other brain illnesses. Many of the mental health needs of service members are more similar than you might think to the mental health needs of the wider community. I believe this is one area where we can really support each other.
But remember – one of the “15 things” is that not all veterans are living with PTS. It’s important that we don’t fall into the stereotypes or assumptions that can surround veterans’ mental health. Even more importantly, we must stand firm against the stigma that surrounds the discussion of mental health needs across society, but especially within the military community. We must do our part to start the conversation and show with our words and our actions that it’s okay – in fact, it’s critical – to ask for help and support.
Research on an animal models shows that being bullied can lead to sleep disorders and a variety of stress-related mental illnesses.
Neuroscientists determined that being bullied produces long-lasting, depression-like sleep dysfunction and can lead to circadian rhythm-related issues. This disruption of daily biological rhythms can lead to clinical depression and stress-related disorders.
The researchers, however, also found that it may be possible to mitigate these effects with the use of an experimental class of drugs that can block stress.
“While our study found that some stress-related effects on circadian rhythms are short-lived, others are long-lasting,” said William Carlezon, Ph.D., senior author of the study.
“Identifying these changes and understanding their meaning is an important step in developing methods to counter the long-lasting effects of traumatic experiences on mental health.”
Stress is known to trigger psychiatric illnesses, including depression and PTSD, and sleep is frequently affected in these conditions. Some people with stress disorders sleep less than normal, while others sleep more than normal or have more frequent bouts of sleep and wakefulness.
To demonstrate the effects of bullying, the researchers used an animal model simulating the physical and emotional stressors involved in human bullying — chronic social defeat stress.
For this procedure, a smaller, younger mouse is paired with a larger, older, and more aggressive mouse. When the smaller mouse is placed into the home cage of the larger mouse, the larger mouse instinctively acts to protect its territory.
In a typical interaction lasting several minutes, the larger mouse chases the smaller mouse, displaying aggressive behavior and emitting warning calls. The interaction ends when the larger mouse pins the smaller mouse to the floor or against a cage wall, establishing dominance by the larger mouse and submission by the smaller mouse.
The mice are then separated and a barrier is placed between them, dividing the home cage in half. A clear and perforated barrier is used, enabling the mice to see, smell, and hear each other, but preventing physical interactions. The mice remain in this arrangement, with the smaller mouse living under threat from the larger mouse, for the rest of the day. This process is repeated for 10 consecutive days, with a new aggressor mouse introduced each day.
To collect data continuously and accurately, researchers outfitted the smaller mice with micro-transmitters that are akin to activity trackers used by people to monitor their exercise, heart rate, and sleep.
These mice micro-transmitters collected sleep, muscle activity, and body temperature data, which revealed that the smaller mice experienced progressive changes in sleep patterns, with all phases of the sleep-wake cycle being affected. The largest effect was on the number of times the mice went in and out of a sleep phase called paradoxical sleep, which resembles REM (rapid eye movement) sleep in humans, when dreams occur and memories are strengthened.
Bullied mice showed many more bouts of paradoxical sleep, resembling the type of sleep disruptions often seen in people with depression. Bullied mice also showed a flattening of body temperature fluctuations, which is also an effect seen in people with depression.
“Both the sleep and body temperature changes persisted in the smaller mice after they were removed from the physically and emotionally threatening environment, suggesting that they had developed symptoms that look very much like those seen in people with long-term depression,” said Carlezon.
“These effects were reduced, however, in terms of both intensity and duration, if the mice had been treated with a kappa-opioid receptor antagonist, a drug that blocks the activity of one of the brain’s own opioid systems.”
Carlezon explained that these findings not only reveal what traumatic experiences can do to individuals who experience them, but also that we may someday be able to do something to reduce the severity of their effects.
“This study exemplifies how measuring the same types of endpoints in laboratory animals and humans might hasten the pace of advances in psychiatry research. If we can knock out stress with new treatments, we might be able to prevent some forms of mental illness.”
Source: Mclean Hospital
last weekend i drove down a road i hadn’t traveled in a long time. it’s funny how driving down a long stretch of highway can take you back to another time in your life. as i looked out the window and stopped and started in the never-ending northern virginia traffic, my mind went back. back down to the time when i took that road every day.
it was a bleak, desolate time in my life. in some ways, it was even worse than the time after my dad’s suicide. mentally, physically and emotionally i was out of hope and running on empty. i had completed two hospital stays and nearly six months in partial hospitalization. i knew my discharge from the program was coming, and i was scared to death. i had just resigned from my job, accepting the reality that the crawling pace of my recovery made it impossible for me to work. without work i felt like my life had no meaning. and without partial my days had no structure. i was truly, madly, deeply hopeless.
the dreaded discharge took place and i needed something to fill my days. i enrolled in a few art classes at the local community college. so for six months i made the drive from reston to sterling, from sterling to reston. up reston parkway, left on route seven and all the way down to the school.
my days went exactly like this.
i would wake up at 8:00am. my alarm would go off and i began to cry almost immediately. it took literally everything i had to get myself out of bed. some days i would take a shower but most days i just didn’t care. i cried as i went to the bathroom, brushed my teeth, got dressed. i would wear the same sweatpants and t-shirts day in and day out. i never looked in the mirror – it was too sad to see my depressed, desperate reflection staring back at me.
i didn’t eat breakfast because i didn’t have an appetite. i would walk my dog, winston, then take my seven medications and gather my things for class. i would get in the car, start the engine and cry. really, really hard. i would think, “i can’t do this.” and then i would think, “yes you can.” like a robot i would make myself go to school. i would tell myself to back the car out of the driveway and drive up the street. i had a rule – by the time i reached a certain road i had to have eaten the granola bar i packed. i didn’t feel hunger but i knew i had to eat. i didn’t listen to music on the radio. any type of music somehow underscored the sadness i felt. the only thing i could handle was the news. dry. emotionless. impersonal.
right before i would turn onto route seven i drove by a beautiful pond. it was surrounded with leafy trees, flowering bushes and often had ducks and geese swimming on its surface. every time i drove by it, twice a day, i thought that it looked like the perfect place to end my life. i would think, “you don’t have to keep doing this. just pull over. make it stop.” but somehow i held on. i never pulled over. like a robot i kept driving.
as i got closer to the community college my anxiety would rise. i would begin to physically shake. i doubted my ability to make it through the class. i felt that i was terrible, the worst, at whatever we were learning each day. and i was sure that the professor and all of the students knew that i was mentally ill. totally unstable. different. damaged. broken.
once i got to the parking lot i would give myself five more minutes to cry. i would lay my head on the steering wheel and sob, my body shaking and my hands gripping the wheel. when my time i was up i would say “ok, ok, ok, it’s ok, you can do this, it’s ok.” i would collect my things and get out of the car. i never made eye contact with any of the other students. i never said “hi” or “how are you” or “wow it sure is hot out today.” i was too busy surviving. telling myself that i could walk up the stairs, get in the elevator, walk down the hall, find a seat. it took literally every ounce of willpower to push myself forward.
i would look around the class and think to myself, “you are a failure. you are a mentally ill unemployed disabled 31 year old failure.” i felt totally out of place. i was older than everyone and i was consumed with self doubt. i didn’t know what to say when people make small talk, asking how i was or why i was taking this particular class. i had to keep talking to myself as the instructor began the lecture. my mind ran on two tracks – listening and trying to hold myself together at the same time. “keep trying. keep breathing. ok, ok, ok, ok, you can do this.” every 20 to 30 minutes i would slink out the back and run to the bathroom, making it just in time to cry, cry, cry. i would kneel down in the stall and sob into the toilet – careful not to make a sound. nobody could know. during the long break between classes i would force myself to eat a snack, methodically chewing and swallowing without tasting or enjoying.
somehow i would make it though my classes, faced with the daunting process of surviving the next seven hours before the only time of day that i liked – bedtime. i did it like a robot. i drove home. i ate lunch. i went to the grocery. i did homework. i made dinner. i just made myself do it all. i cried the whole time. the whole fucking awful time. i called my mom and cried. i called my husband and cried. i called my sister and cried. and if nobody was home i cried by myself. finally, blissfully, i took my meds and fell asleep. the only break i got from the haunting depression, the gut-wrenching anxiety and the terrifying ptsd.
and then, at 8:00am the next day, i would wake up. and do it all again. and again. and again and again. it was one long day and one long night. one long drive and one long class. one long crisis and somehow i survived. day by day, minute by minute, second by second. like a robot i kept driving and like a human i kept living. i thank god that i was programmed to survive. that when everything about me seemed broken my default setting was to try again. and again.
ok, ok, ok, ok, it’s ok, you can do this, it’s ok.
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week 2017, so I thought it would be a neat idea to tell you about my favourite things that I use to manage my mental health. Some I use for my anxiety, some for my depression and a fair few of them for both.
Sometimes my mental health is worsened when I feel out of control, it’s as if my life is unravelling and I have no idea how to cling on or how to keep it all together. Setting myself a schedule that’s completely manageable, helps me all the time but especially on days where my depression and anxiety is at its worst.
If I don’t set a schedule, my mind turns into jelly and it wobbles ALL OVER the place. I imagine a massive list of things that I can’t get done in a single day and then I don’t want to do anything. So I schedule one to two important tasks a day (this is crucial for me as I also work from home but it also works for housework, self-care, anything you want to get done) and it’s easier for me to do them and when I tick them off it’s a huge achievement.
I think having a routine in place also helps my mental health in more ways than one, it helps me get a better sleep at night and ensures that I eat proper meals and I make time for me!
Spotify is my best friend. I couldn’t live without it. I listen to music first thing in the morning, it helps me get out of bed. Preferably uplifting music that makes me dance my way into the shower and gets me in a good mood. Music is also there for me when I’m anxious, as it can calm me down but I also listen to music when I’m cooking, doing housework, editing my photos, exercising or walking outdoors.
Reading other success stories, tips and even just things I can relate to, often helps me with my own mental health. I love to read blogs and self-help books – here’s a few of my faves at the moment:
The Anxiety Solution: A Quieter Mind, a Calmer You
Life gets a bit much sometimes and having a lot on my plate can be stressful on my mental health, especially if I have a lot to be anxious about. Being a Wedding Photographer means that Summer can be extremely stressful on my anxiety, I get anxious before every wedding, so having lots of them to photograph in a short period of time is draining mentally. It’s times like that, that self-care is majorly important.
My favourite things to do when practising self-care are having a nice hot bath, relaxing to music, eating copious amounts of Dairy Milk Giant Buttons and watching a good box-set under my duvet.
When my mental health is in a bad way or I feel myself slipping back into anxious/negative thoughts, I like to gently remind myself of the things I have managed to accomplish despite all the obstacles that have been in my way. Reflecting on positive things that I’ve done helps to establish a belief that I can do it again, or I can get through anything.
I use a mixture of supplements to give me energy and often improve my mood if need be. My favourite supplement is the Life Extension – Vitamin D3, 1000IU, 250 capsules as I work mostly from home, which means I don’t get a lot of exposure to the sun and, well, living in the UK means I don’t get much of that when I’m out of the house either! Vitamin D supplements just give me that boost of energy that I need to help both my mental health and my chronic illness.
I’ve also recently started taking 5-HTP for my mood and that’s been a really big help, I could feel myself slipping back into a depression and these really helped me crawl back out of it.
When I’m having an anxiety attack or feeling close to one, it’s important to me to have those alternative thoughts ready to counteract any horribly shit thoughts I’m having. Like turning “oh shit, I’m gonna fuck everything up” into “It will be okay, you’ve managed to get through situations like this before, you can do this!” or turning “everyone is staring at me” into “no one is concerned about you, people aren’t looking at you”.
I have a list of goals that I like to tick off, I don’t always set a date for them and bigger goals I like to break down into smaller pieces so they’re easier to achieve. I feel like having something to work towards makes me more productive, gives my life a bit more purpose and stops me from feeling out of control and lost. It also helps me to push through my anxiety in situations that involve reaching my goals.
I have them listed on a Word document, I simply put a strike-through the text when I’ve completed the goal.
Talking about my mental health has helped me in ways I never thought it could. I don’t just mean talking to my friends and family and people who know me in real life but also talking to strangers on the internet, like you lovely sods! It’s been incredible to find a network of people who understand what I’m going through but also it’s been comforting and also eye-opening to hear other people’s perspectives on their mental health.
I definitely recommend talking to people about your mental health. Here’s some resources of mine that may help:
My Facebook Group for people with Anxiety – It’s a closed group so no one outside the group can see your posts.
How To Explain Social Anxiety To Someone Who Doesn’t Have It – My most requested post and now one of my most popular posts.
Walking in the forest, the smell of pine trees, the sounds of the birds, watching the sun dance on the lake, hearing the waves crash… all of those things improve my mental health greatly. It’s amazing how different I feel just spending even a few minutes in nature. I also love stargazing and often take my camera out to capture the stars, that definitely makes me feel something that books, supplements and self-care can’t. My fears feel so much smaller when I look up at the sky and see all of those stars.
Sometimes it’s good to just have a good cry and punch a fucking pillow. The worst thing I’ve ever done for my mental health is bottle everything up and keep it all inside. I ended up worse off than I was before, because it all built up and I ended up having a breakdown. Just get it out. Cry about it, think about it for a bit, tell someone how you feel, anything to get it out there before it becomes a burden you can’t bear.
It’s important to acknowledge what you’re feeling, rather than sweeping it under the carpet.
Photography saved my life in a way. I’d just been diagnosed with a Social Anxiety Disorder, just dropped out of school, couldn’t ever leave the house but photography helped me do things I was too anxious to do before. Slowly, it helped me leave the house, it helped me meet new people and learn conversational skills, it helped put me on the spot and learn how to cope with that, it gave me a job when I had no qualifications. It was my biggest passion and I think that passion gave me enough drive to get through the worst of things.
Not only has my creativity with photography helped me with accomplishing things in life despite my social anxiety, my creativity in general helps me to focus on something I enjoy. I love writing, crafting things for my photo shoots and I also do a little horror photography on the side of my photo business to keep my creative spark alive.
I’ve only just started getting back into this since my recent surgery for Endometriosis but exercise has always been amazing for my mental health. I used to love running in the forest or by the river and now that I live in Somerset, there are lots of country walks for me to go on. It’s not just the natural endorphins that are released when you exercise that I find good for my mental health but also the feeling of being strong and feeling of accomplishment as well.
Social media fucks with my head so much that when I’m particularly delicate, I need to cut down. I have to step away from my phone for a while and just be present, or I end up feeling incredibly low and incredibly anxious. There are lots of reasons why social media makes me feel this way and perhaps you can relate but these are the main reasons for me:
Of course this had to be on the list! Writing my blog has opened up a whole new world for me, in a sense that I get therapeutic value from writing about my mental health on a frequent basis but I also get to talk to lots of people who are going through the same thing. It’s also opened up other doors such as being on the radio for BBC Radio 5 Live, which was a massive challenge for my social anxiety disorder.
For more of the tools I use for my mental health, check out my resources page. Let me know what helps you in the comments!
This post is the fourth in a new series of guest conversations called Voices on Mental Health. I am honored to showcase inspirational people with unique and important perspectives on mental illness.
Our fourth piece in this series features the perspective of Maura Keaney, a survivor of suicide loss who lives with depression. Maura has been part of my life for a long, long time. She was my middle school English teacher the year that my dad died by suicide. She was the one I wanted by my side on that very first, most awful day, and she has been my mentor and friend ever since. (She also taught me how to write so we can all thank her for my stellar grammar skills!) When I was in the midst of my severe episode a few years ago, I talked to Maura almost every day. Her sincere, uncritical acceptance was a lifeline for me. Maura helped me see that my fight with depression, anxiety and PTSD was heroic. That I had a legitimate, medical illness – not a personal flaw or failing. It’s hard to express what her support has meant to me over the years – and still means to me today.
Yesterday she posted the below statement on her Facebook page in response to the death of Chris Cornell, lead singer of Soundgarden, who died by suicide – and I want to share it with you. She captured my thoughts exactly. Every time we lose a celebrity to suicide I am so triggered – not by the death itself, but by the insensitive way that the media and the general public talk about it. We don’t ask people whose loved one died of cancer why we didn’t do more to save them. Severe, suicidal depression is no different. As Maura says, “If love could cure it, then none of us who have lost someone to suicide would have lost our loved ones. Suicide doesn’t make Chris a bad person – it makes depression a really bad disease.”
Chris Cornell’s death from depression by suicide is heartbreaking, and some of the reactions to it are infuriating. I’m reading a lot of recrimination of him even among my own friends and their friends, implying that he is a horrible person because his family should have been reason enough to live, or that with all of his money, he should have been able to get himself lifesaving treatment.
The story here is that all the fame in the world, all of the talent, all of the success, all of the money, and the love of devoted family are not in themselves vaccines against lethal depression. Depression is not a deficiency of love, success, or money. It is a brain illness. Money in itself can’t cure it any more than Steve Jobs could cure his pancreatic cancer with half of the wealth of the Western Hemisphere at his disposal. If love could cure it, none of us who have loved ones who have died by suicide would have lost our loved ones. If love were a cure, I could have cured my mom’s depression when I was a preschooler, and I’d have plenty of medicine for my own.
I do not mean to imply that it is hopeless. Deaths by suicide are preventable. But there is no perfect medical cure for depression. There is no guaranteed path that makes everyone better or a magic pill that always works. We don’t know how hard he tried to save his own life. We don’t know what lies his brain was telling him yesterday. All we know is that he had every reason to live but that depression killed him anyway. Suicide doesn’t make him a bad person. It makes depression a really bad disease.
If you’re feeling suicidal thoughts, you are not a bad person. You are not selfish. You deserve to live. Many, many people want to help keep you alive.
I am one of them.