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Mental health awareness week

It’s mental health awareness week.

I have no formal expertise in this subject.  However, I have lived long enough to have encountered mental illness and to have formed some opinions about it.

The statistics for people becoming mentally ill indicate that any one of us (or our families and friends) is likely to suffer at some time.

There is still a lot of ignorance about mental illness.  It can affect children, young people, adults of any age and depression is not unusual among elderly people

There are many different forms of mental illness.  Unlike specific physical illnesses, which usually lead to the same symptoms in many sufferers, a named mental illness may appear differently in individuals.

The emphasis this week is on mindfulness.

I’d like to throw in a few more suggestions for recovery from mental illness, which is often stress-related.

Sometimes it can be useful to do something creative, which keeps one’s hands occupied.  Knitting, crochet, art, colouring, rug-making, puzzles of various kinds, embroidery and basket-making are examples.  Not everyone will be helped by the same activity.

Basket-making is rather an iconic form of therapy in this context.  I once heard that people were only discharged from old-fashioned mental hospitals, when they had succeeded in making a basket.  There is an expression used to describe someone, who may be mentally ill: a basket case.  The derivation is obvious.  Basket-making requires a certain amount of patience, dexterity, the ability to follow a pattern and strength.  It is not something that everyone is able to do, however well they may be.

As I understand it, mindfulness involves being in the present moment.  Anxiety and other stress-related conditions may respond to this.

We can only live in the present moment.  It is encouraging that God’s name is “I am”.  Present tense.  Jesus said, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:20

Mindfulness seems to be helpful.  What I’d like to say is that prayer and trust in God are even better.

I am not saying that those with faith in God are immune to mental illness.  We are not.  Many suffer at various times from depression, anxiety, panic attacks and long term mental health problems.

Neither am I saying that people with mental health problems are to blame for their condition.

Many people with these problems are also lonely, partly because of the stigma associated with having a mental illness.

There are many blogs and other articles online about mental illness.  Some are attached to “official” websites such as the one I linked above and Time to change.

Some are by individuals experiencing problems in their lives, which they are brave enough to share with others for mutual support.

In my view some of the stigma arises out of fear of the unknown.  The media highlight cases where a tragedy has arisen due to the mental instability of an individual.  There are many forms of mental illness, which do not result in these sorts of tragedies.  It could be argued that with more understanding and acceptance, more people might be helped and suicides, murders and other tragedies prevented.

There are courses in first aid and in resuscitation, for example.  Perhaps it is time that the public should be educated about the causes, symptoms and treatment of mental illness.  The health service seems to be stretched to its limit.  Of course it is important to know when to seek professional help, but with better understanding and support from family and friends, escalation of a mental health problem to critical might be avoided.

I am publishing this post towards the end of Mental Health Awareness week.  At the beginning of the week I found this site, where Christianity and mindfulness are connected.  I also found this post about writing,which gives useful insights.  This one is a blogger’s personal account of dealing with a diagnosis.

Have you found mindfulness helpful?  What do you think about the early signs of mental health issues?

Blogging news

Blog Action Day involved thousands of bloggers from over one hundred countries.  It was the second time I had taken part.  My post was the result of a great deal of thought and a certain amount of writing and editing over at least two months.

I was nervous about writing about the topic I had chosen.  There is still stigma attached to mental health, although as I wrote in my post, there are campaigns to reduce this.

My post stimulated some interest.  I had encouraging comments from new readers.  These were some of the best comments I have ever received.  I also gained two new followers.  I hope they will not be disappointed by my future posts.  The number of 5-star votes will ensure that this post is easily accessible for some time.

I was so excited by the quality of the comments that I tweeted about them and Blog Action Day featured my tweet on their rebel-mouse (new to me!)

WordPress used the Blog Action Day topic (inequality) for their Daily Prompt, so once that was published I linked to it for extra exposure.  (They expect posts to be written as a response, but more than once their prompt has coincided with something I had already planned.)  The Daily Prompt is a good means of attracting readers.  It is a good idea to use the category “Daily Prompt” and to link to the page where it was published.  In most cases, copying the text of the prompt gives context to a response.

Recently I have been interacting with bloggers and writers on Facebook and Twitter.  Some of these are new to blogging and are learning as they blog (just as I did when I started my first blog in July 2012).  For their benefit, I’d like to point out a few ways of improving blogs and pitfalls to avoid.  Categories and tags help people find what they are interested in.  Copyright is a tricky issue.  There was recently some discussion on Facebook about it.  Both words and pictures are protected.  It is a good idea to check what is permitted.

If pictures are included in blogs, formatting posts so that the text appears around the pictures is pleasing to the eye.  The first time I took part in Blogging from A to Z in April I suspect one reader did not scroll down to find my text.  There was a complaint that my blog was not loading properly.

For new bloggers on WordPress there are support documents and forums containing lots of useful information.  I am a bit of a techie and enjoy reading about problems and solutions, but many people just want to write and publish their posts.  Presentation is important.  I do not often use photos, but many readers are attracted by them.  Setting out paragraphs with enough white space matters to me.  I sometimes use colour for particular purposes and bold or italic print.  For poetry I use single spacing, which is not the default.  (Shift and enter is required.)  Uploading files from Word, I find that I have to use Control +V to paste the content in the New Post box.  A poem then has to be reformatted.

It is not a bad idea to look through all the headings on the WordPress dashboard (or its equivalent on other platforms) and find out what they do.  There are lots of ways that we bloggers can choose how we interact with others.  The appearance of a blog is something I looked at in my post 20 widgets explained.

 

If you are a new blogger, what have you found most difficult in getting started and in attracting readers?

And if you read blogs, do you know how to find older/newer posts?  I have a page explaining how to find posts on this blog.

 

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Blog Action Day 2014 Mental vs. Physical Health

Bloggers from over 111 countries are taking part in Blog Action Day 2014.  The theme for Blog Action Day (October 16) this year is Inequality.

Blog Action Day 2014

Blog Action Day 2014

There are many inequalities, which simply have to be accepted.  Inequalities of height, strength, natural ability and so on are outside human control.

There are other inequalities, which can be lessened through education and action.  One such inequality is the difference in attitude world-wide to people suffering from mental illnesses or disabilities compared with those enduring physical illnesses or disabilities.

Physical problems are mostly visible (although deafness is not).  Mental health problems are not immediately obvious.  This difference may be part of the reason for the difference in attitudes, both from people in general and from healthcare providers, to patients suffering from mental ill-health compared with those suffering from physical problems.

The association of mental health problems with madness/craziness does not help.  While some mentally ill people may do crazy and even violent or dangerous things, the majority do not.

Earlier this year Manchester Airport, UK was brought to a standstill by a passenger on an international flight, who was considered to pose a risk to that flight.  The following day it was announced that he had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act.  While it is more than likely that this was the correct action, this sort of publicity does nothing to help the majority of mentally ill people, who are no threat to anyone.

There is very little publicity for ordinary people, who suddenly find that they are unable to do everyday tasks due to such conditions as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.  Other mental health problems include obsessive compulsive disorder and all kinds of phobias, panic attacks, eating disorders and addictions to various substances.

Even in countries in North America and Europe sufferers from these conditions tend to be neglected in favour of those with physical problems, where the treatment and length of time to recover are more predictable.  From what I have read, in many other parts of the world the stigma associated with mental illness makes life far worse for sufferers.

Mental health and emotional problems affect different people in different ways.  The available treatments include talking therapies and drugs.  It is often easier to prescribe a drug and leave the patient to administer it (perhaps by taking tablets for months or years) than to find the resources for the talking therapies, which may help to address the cause of the problem or investigate coping strategies and help the patient lead a normal life.  Treating the symptoms, without dealing with the underlying problem is like wallpapering over the cracks.  Some treatments are not proven to be effective and have irreversible results.  One such treatment is electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) – also known as electric shock treatment.  This is used to treat patients with depression, who may not be in a fit state to know what they are consenting to.  I wonder how many of the people prescribing it would agree to having it themselves or for their nearest and dearest.  There is a campaign to have it banned.

It is very important to treat people rather than symptoms.

When families are unable to manage a mentally-ill person at home, the person may be admitted to hospital.  For anyone finding themselves in a psychiatric ward for the first time, this may be frightening and confusing.

One problem is that they might believe that as they are diagnosed as crazy, they have no hope of living outside hospital again.  This will only make their illness worse.

It is important that everyone is taught about mental health issues and how to treat people affected by them.  Everyone should know that people who have suffered mental illness can lead “normal” productive lives.

There is a great deal of misunderstanding about mental illness.  In the UK the Time to Change campaign is doing a wonderful job raising awareness of the issues.  Sufferers of mental ill-health and the general public are being encouraged to talk about these issues.  Greater understanding should lead to earlier support before the illness would cause admission to hospital.  People are also being encouraged not to ignore their friends at times of mental infirmity.  It may not be much fun to be in the company of a depressed friend, but your friendship would mean a lot.

There is also a campaign to make mental health a core subject in the National Curriculum in the United Kingdom.  Children and young people may be affected by mental illness and it is important that everybody is taught to look for the signs and to give support where it is needed.

People with physical disabilities campaigned years ago.  They used the slogan, “Does he take sugar?”  to remind people that most disabled people can answer for themselves.

An artist, who decided to explain about her bipolar disorder through art, was featured by the BBC.

It’s Time to Change and It’s Time to Talk are the phrases being used for the mental health awareness scheme in the UK.  Are you ready to talk?  Then we can bring about change for the better.

Linking with the WordPress Daily Prompt.