Monthly Archives: October 2013

Moderating real time support chat with TheSite community

What does moderating real time support chat online for 10 – 25 young community members involve?

thesite.org

Support chat

Every other Sunday I moderate support chat on TheSite.org. TheSite runs a number of types offostress meet the moderator chat – I’ve also been an expert for their recent Mindfulness chat. I used to do moderation as part of my role as Advice and Training Manager at YouthNet – but since leaving I have continued in a volunteer capacity.

Support chat is the most common type of chat. For two hours, four evenings a week, the chat room is open for anyone to sign into. Usually it’s community members who come along (young people who are regular chat and discussion forum users) but sometimes it’s a gateway for new people to discover TheSite’s support service. Chatting in real time helps to strengthen the community who gather around the discussion forums. And sometimes regular forum users come into chat under a different name to discuss a more confidential issue.

Support chat is a group peer support space. It allows young people to chat in real time about their difficulties, get peer support from others and give people the benefit of their own experiences and suggestions. Sometimes it is a space for chat and distraction.

It’s a non judgmental and safe space. It is the role of the moderator to keep it that way – even when it gets very busy. Sometimes the chat transcripts can run to 80-100 pages when downloaded into Word. That’s a lot of support for an evening. In general there is a strong focus on managing mental health and wellbeing, although lots of other topics come up too. These can include friendships, relationships, self harm, accessing health services, school and college, online dating, bereavement, music and X Factor (to name a few!).

A moderator’s role

As a moderator I will be ensuring that everybody in the chat gets support and noone is ignored. This can involve offering suggestions and signposts or encouraging others to offer peer support. I am not there as a counsellor and would never diagnose or tell someone what they should do. Instead I am there to facilitate peer support, to give young people the space to talk and help them decide what courses of action are right for them. Continue reading

Online peer support training with Action on Postpartum Psychosis

Running a training day for volunteers working on a new online peer support service for APP

I was really pleased to be asked to help out with APP’s new online peer support programme.Action on Post Partum Psychosis logo

APP has been funded to provide peer support to women with postpartum psychosis and their partners. They have been running an online forum for over a year and are now looking to expand their offering to one to one email peer support. Women with lived experience of PP will be trained to offer email support to women who are in the early stages of recovery.

Benefits of online peer support

One of the real benefits of online peer support is the fact that people are able to find, connect and talk to people with experiences similar to theirs from all over the country, or indeed the world. It’s reassuring to find out you are not alone and helpful to hear how others coped in similar situations.

This is particularly relevant with postpartum psychosis. Many women may not know anyone else in their area that has experienced it. Often, even if there were someone, that person may not feel comfortable talking openly about it. This service will enable women to find support and reassurance from someone who knows what they are going through.

It also sounds as though many men whose partners get PP have no idea where to turn. They often try and support their partner in hospital alongside holding down their job and caring for other children. They often feel they need to be the ‘strong’ one – and disregard their own emotional needs. While the one to one support is not yet available to them; partners looking for support regularly use the forum.

Peer support in the training room

Like the Elefriends mental health community meet up, there was a lot of peer support in the training room. Unlike the Elefriends meet up, many of these women had never met someone who had experienced PP face to face before. This gave the whole day a really moving and inspirational feel. Continue reading

Organisational Healthcheck Consultancy for Time to Change

Attending the Time to Change Organisational Healthcheck training and away day

I recently attended a training and meet up day for Time To Change Organisational Healthcheck Consultants. As I mentioned when posting about the work I did on an anti stigma campaign for Richmond Borough Mind, there is still a lot of discrimination, misunderstanding and silence surrounding mental health in the workplace.

The Time to Change Healthcheck

The Time To Change Organisational Healthcheck seems to be a brilliant programme. It will often, but not always, start with organisations making a pledge to end mental health stigma in their organisation. As part of their plan to do this, they ask Time To Change to do an independent review of the current situation in their workplace. As a consultant I will look at the current policies and documents, conduct an organisation wide survey and interview employees about their experiences. I will then produce a report and recommendations for the organisation.

Some organisations choose to do this as the first step towards improving mental health in their workplace. Others will put some measures into place and then ask for the healthcheck as a way of assessing their success.

Learnings and good practice

We spent the day sharing good practice and key learnings from the healthchecks already completed. It sounds like in many cases there are simple, creative solutions to issues that come up. Often people are uncertain about how to manage or talk about their own mental health or that of their employees. They may need suggestions and examples of good practice from elsewhere.

Sometimes the issues are more entrenched and will take longer to rectify – but at least the organisations have taken the first step.

In all cases it sounds like employees appreciate having a confidential, non-judgemental space to talk about their own mental health and wellbeing.

I’m only just starting this project, but I’m really looking forward to getting more involved.

What exactly IS Mindfulness? Chatting with young people on TheSite.org

Earlier this month I found myself back at YouthNet Towers, this time as an expert for one of their expert chats. The Engagement and Support team at YouthNet oversee the running of a number of types of online chat. These include support chat (I also moderate support chats as a volunteer), general chat, film and book club chat, positive thinking chat and expert chat. You can read more about the different types here. Chats take place in a safe chat room space with a trained moderator present at all times.

Expert chats

For expert chats, the team invite experts in to answer questions from the community. I answered questions on Mindfulness. There’s a taster of the transcript below but for the whole chat, have a look at the chat archives. It was an interesting experience working as an expert – especially as I have moderated many expert chats in the past. Mindfulness was a difficult topic to explain quickly in a chat environment but I hope that the young people who attended at least received a taster of what it involves as well as links to places where they can explore further.

Community members have since posted threads  about Mindfulness on TheSite discussion forum which I have answered in my role as volunteer moderator.

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I’d like more mindfulness chats, I liked learning about it and want to learn more. It was the first one I’d ever been to and I loved it

– young person on TheSite.org

Articles for ONEinFOUR

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I’ve written four articles for lifestyle, health and mental wellbeing magazine ONEinFOUR.

Spring-Summer 2013 – managing depression and anxiety in relationships

The first was published in the Spring-Summer 2013 issue. It was one of the cover stories and explored managing anxiety and depression in relationships.

anxiety and dep rels

Autumn-Winter 2013

More recently I’ve written three pieces for the Autumn-Winter 2013 issue.  A piece about volunteering and mental health, an article on stigma and a longer piece on managing the festive season by avoiding making too many comparisons.

Clare uses her knowledge of mental health and previous professional experience to write good mental health and wellbeing related content that focuses on what would be useful for people to know. The results of this moves mental health away from a symptom/service defined subject and into the real textures and experiences of everyday life.

Mark Brown – One in Four Magazine and Director Social Spider CIC

Mental health information articles for 16-25 year olds

Information on recent mental health support writing for young people

logo of thesite.org

I recently completed two articles for TheSite’s new Anxiety and Depression section. Trouble getting help for mental health and Online Counselling.

Writing for young people

The aim of The Site.org content is to provide clear, straight talking and supportive information for young people. Articles respond to questions young people search for and help them to understand their situation and options.

Trouble getting help for mental health

This article helps young people who have taken steps towards accessing support but have struggled to get the help they need. This might be because their GP didn’t respond how they had hoped; they have been referred but haven’t yet heard anything; counselling didn’t work or they didn’t like their therapist.

It aims to give reassurance, emotional support and practical solutions.

Accessing your GP can be a struggle. All too often young people fall through the gaps. This was obvious every day in the work I did in YouthNet’s Engagement and Support team on overcoming barriers to support. I hope that articles like this one and services such as Doc Ready will help young people feel more able to get the help they deserve from mental health services.

I’m really really pleased with this piece. There’s a bright future in front of you. Any writer who can follow a brief is worth their weight in gold!

Holly Thompson – TheSite.org Editorial Team

Online counselling

This article gives an overview of the types of online counselling available for young people. It also gives them the information to help them decide if it is right for them. It includes information on online self-help services (both open and prescribed) and one to one counselling support online. It also looks at where and how it is accessed and how to tell if a service is reputable.

 

Mental Health Awareness Campaign Support

This summer I provided interim support for the CEO of Richmond Borough Mind in the initial Screen Shot 2013-10-29 at 15.46.20stages of organising a campaign for World Mental Health day in October 2013.

Reducing stigma around mental health

The campaign was focused on reducing stigma around mental health with an emphasis on encouraging employers to consider mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

I wrote messaging and created a design brief for leaflets and posters, liaised with printers and distributers, advertised a breakfast briefing with Zac Goldsmith at the Chamber of Commerce, recruited and supported two locum staff to help create a business database and started planning the social media presence around the campaign.

Mental health in the workplace

Richmond Council were particularly interested in an anti stigma campaign because of some recent issues they had had surrounding sheltered housing in the borough. However one of the things I found most interesting were the responses to some of the calls we made to local businesses. We were hoping to speak to them about the ways that Richmond Mind could help them improve the wellbeing of their staff. The resources or training offered were completely free and at this stage all they needed to do was express an interest.

Some of the replies we received as soon as Mind – the mental health charity – was mentioned were quite telling. I particularly remember: “Oh we’re all fine here” and “Are you sure you’ve called the right place? We’re a marketing agency?

Because of course marketeers don’t get stress, anxiety or depression?!

It’s attitudes to mental health in the workplace like these that make me feel very glad that I will soon be starting work with Time To Change as a workplace health consultant. Despite the excellent work of local and national anti stigma campaigns there is still a lot of misunderstanding, fear, stigma and embarrassment about  mental health out there.

Clare was a joy to work with. She worked through ideas for our campaign, formed a project plan and acted on it very effectively. She is professional and tenacious and I would highly recommend her.

Val Farmer – CEO Richmond Borough Mind

Online consultation with Mind’s Elefriends community

I first came across the Elefriends community after attending their online peer support training.Screen Shot 2013-10-29 at 15.21.24 I was interested in online peer support for adults and wanted to find out more about the impact of providing community members with peer support training. How does this affect their experience? I wrote about this training here.

Online community consultation

I really enjoyed working with both the community and the digital team at Mind so I was really pleased to be asked to do some consultancy work for them. At the time, Elefriends was moving from a Facebook page to a new platform. The team were looking to consult with the community both on and offline. This was to ensure that as many community members as possible got a say in the changes.

I attended the offline consultation days and then based on my discussions with community members I:

– Designed a three day online consultation to gather community members’ views on how the site should be managed
– Used interactive tools to keep the group engaged, and provided support to participants throughout the exercise

Recommendations, moderation guide and evaluation

I summarised the findings, to produce recommendations and draft guide for community managers

I also helped the team design an evaluation survey for their funders, which looked at how community members used the site to better manage their mental health.

At times, the consultation touched on sensitive issues, including the expression of thoughts of self-harm and suicide. Clare’s understanding of mental health, empathy and respectful approach has been a real asset to this project and I look forward to working with her again.

Eve Critchley – Senior Digital Officer at Mind

Why ‘Depression Island’?

A 2016 update

trainers and pillsHello! Just wanted to pop in and add some notes to this post. It’s 3 years since I wrote it and since then my mental health has fluctuated and changed quite a lot. I still manage depression but trying to come off my antidepressants really increased my anxiety for a while. And a complex combination of this and the pressures of getting married led to a significant relapse into disordered eating and an exercise addiction.

These experiences have changed my perspectives, helped me move forward with my recovery and improved my relationship with my medication. I’m getting there. I intend to keep writing but my blog should more accurately be called ‘From depression, anxiety and muddled eating island’. That’s not a very snappy title though. So I’ve changed the title to ‘Writing my mind’ until I can think of something better.

And here’s what you came here for – a bit more about what the whole island thing was about in the first place.

Where the metaphor of ‘depression island’ comes from and what it means to me.

Mental trickery
http://www.flickr.com/photos/funtik/

I find that knowing and understanding how my thought processes work and what influences my mood is one of the best ways to manage my mental health.

One of the hardest elements of depression and anxiety is that it encourages types of thinking which can go on making it worse. Things like reverse motivation and discounting the future (read more about these here). For me recognising and responding to these tricks is key to recovery.

Part of what I wanted to capture was the sense that when you are unwell you can’t imagine that you will ever feel better. And not just that; you can’t imagine that anything you might do to try and improve your mood could possibly ever work.

Whenever I feel better, I feel better in a way that I couldn’t have possibly imagined when I was feeling low.

I find metaphor a helpful way of trying to get a grip on my own experiences of mental health and communicate them to others( if you’re interested, have a look at my post on metaphor, mental health and online support).

I was searching for a metaphor that might help me and others better understand this phenomenon and I came up with the idea of two islands.

The islands

It’s as if my depressed, anxious mind and my healthy mind are two totally different islands. Continue reading