Tag Archives: Anti Stigma

A letter to Incognito about OCD

Hey Incognito,

screenshot-2016-09-18-11-38-21You probably haven’t thought it through – and I’m sure you don’t mean to cause offence – but I wanted to highlight some of the problems with your OCD Hand Sanitizer product and the accompanying text.

OCD is an incredibly debilitating mental health problem. So much so that the World Health Organisation ranks it in the top 10 disabling illnesses (both mental and physical) in terms of lost earnings and diminished quality of life. Yet it remains one of the most misunderstood and trivialised of conditions.

I’m so OCD” or “I’m a bit OCD about that” has become shorthand for “I like things to be clean” or “I like things in the right order”. Comedians joke about it. We’ve all seen a picture on social media of some slightly misaligned objects with the caption ‘This is sending my OCD crazy’. Products like this perpetuate those myths.

Jokes and misunderstandings trivialise OCD

OCD gives people constant negative, repetitive and intrusive thoughts, combined with an ongoing feeling of doubt or danger. These are the obsessions. Compulsions develop to try and quell the thought or quieten the anxiety. They can be things like repeatedly checking a door is locked, repeating a phrase over and over again in your head, checking how your body feels, cleaning or repeatedly asking for reassurance. The relief caused by completing a compulsion is usually short lived and before long the anxiety and mental discomfort caused by the obsessions and doubts rises again.

You can get stuck in an exhausting cycle of rituals and often choose to avoid places or people that may trigger their obsessions. Your day to day life is disrupted and relationships may be strained to breaking point.

Intrusive thoughts can be graphic, violent or scary. You may be very ashamed of these thoughts and spend a long time checking whether they might still be there and how you feel about them  (for example ‘am I still appropriately upset by them?’). You may feel the thoughts mean there is something ‘wrong’ with you as a person – and don’t feel able talk about them or ask for help for a long time.

Every time someone says “I’m a little bit OCD” , shares an OCD joke on social media or sells a product that makes light of it, they add to the impression that OCD is trivial – even a bit comical. This makes it much harder for people to seek help or even open up to their friends and family – and for research and support services to get their share of limited funding.

Imagine if you had to explain to friends and family what cancer really was, how it affected you and that it wasn’t an amusing or comical condition. Imagine how isolating it would be if they still didn’t really understand or made conscious or unconscious judgements about what it ‘really’ was based on jokes and viral pictures on social media. Imagine if shops sold joke ‘cancer hats’ which you could put over your own hair to look as if you were having chemotherapy.

Misinformation stops sufferers seeking help

It already takes an average of over 10 years for people with OCD to seek help. Often that’s because they don’t realise that they have a recognisable condition with potential treatment options. If you’ve always been led to believe that OCD is just a quirky approach to being clean and organised then you might not realise that the intrusive thoughts or crippling doubts you’re constantly fighting are also OCD.

Language is a powerful thing – even small everyday comments, ‘funny’ product descriptions and cheeky ‘likes’. Let’s use it to learn more, to support others and to fight stigma and misunderstanding rather than perpetuate it.

Please consider reading a little more about OCD and removing this product from your shelves.

Thank you,

Clare

Standing up to stigma – why I blog about work, projects & my mental health in one place

Pressing pause

Linked in

Should my LinkedIn link to my blogs too?

Every time I go to press ‘publish’ on a tricky post exploring my mental health I pause for a moment. The way my blog has developed means that my personal struggles and successes sit alongside blogs about my work and details of my skills, training and experience.

Should I keep them separate? Will employers reject me if they read that I took Citalopram for 15 years or that I use exercise to manage my anxiety?

I know stigma and discrimination around mental health in the workplace exists. I spent 2014 time to changeproviding evidence based reports on mental health policies and support in a number of organisations across a range of sectors for the Time To Change Organisational Healthcheck programme. Tom Oxley writes a good piece about how the programme worked on pages 10 and 11 of this newsletter.

I spoke to people in every workplace who said that they wouldn’t tell their manager if they were experiencing a mental health problem. Many said they would lie about taking time off.

”I’d probably say I had a migraine or something”

Those who had been honest about taking time off for a mental health problem said they felt that now they had more to prove.

Unfortunately in some cases I could understand why. Some managers said they felt people with mental health problems couldn’t ‘cope’. Others saw investment in employees’ mental and physical health as a burden rather than something that makes moral and business sense.

”You’ve got to be careful or people will just take advantage, start using ‘depression’ as an excuse.”

”We need people on top form to do this job – if you’re depressed you just won’t be able to cope.”

1 in 6 employees are currently dealing with a mental health problem. Like colds, flu, delayed trains, bereavement and accidents it’s always going to be part of a workforce. It’s how employers deal with it that counts.

My mental health is part of what makes me. It’s part of what makes a life – and in many cases it’s part of what makes me good at the work I do.

Pressing publish – every time

In the run up to Time To Change’s Time To Talk Day on Thursday I thought I’d share some of the reasons why I press publish on those tricky posts every time.

Continue reading

Running for Sane – Christie’s story

Exercise for mental health

I’ve been thinking a lot about sport, and running for mental health recently. This is partly due toChristies just giving page work – I’m involved in the development of Mind’s Get Set To Go programme through the Elefriends community. I’ve also written a number of posts for New Level on the benefits of exercise for mental health and wellbeing.

There’s a strong personal connection too. Exercise is a vital tool for managing my own depression and anxiety. Recently I’ve been struggling to balance my mental health needs against the need to rest and recover after physical injury (darn knees!).

It feels as if more and more people are running. There’s definitely more people out and about in the parks and along the canals. This spring and summer has seen thousands of running events across the UK. One of the best things about these events is that each one is full of people pushing themselves for charities that mean a lot to them.

Christie’s story

One of these runners is Christie Plumb. She’s running the British 10k for Sane after losing her Sane logoMum when she was 11. Christie told me she felt that the stigma surrounding mental health problems and a lack of support contributed to her mother’s death. The work of charities like Sane and Mind are helping to reduce that stigma and provide support to those who need it.

Fundraising has helped her to open up about her mum’s death, to talk about it and give people ways to support her.

But Christie has found that running has helped her too. She said that before her boyfriend suggested the NHS Couch to 5k she was convinced that running was “impossible, physically impossible for me”. But she stuck at it and found it was helping with her own anxiety, clearing her mind and improving her confidence.

I really identified with the way she described running her way out of very strong feelings of anxiety and panic.

“Within the first mile, my chest loosens up and I’m not shaking any more. It’s incredible…before the Couch to 5k I had never got past that first barrier. Now I always carry on and push through. In a way it’s an analogy for pushing through anxiety and depression. You just have to keep going, even if it feels like you can’t. You’ll get there in the end.”

In running she has found a way to honour the memory of her Mum, to talk openly about her loss to people around her, to support a charity that means a lot to her and to look after her own mental health. To sponsor her, take a look at her JustGiving page here. To have a go at Couch to 5k yourself, take a look at this page. Who knows where it might lead.

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.

Articles for ONEinFOUR

Screen Shot 2013-10-29 at 16.51.25

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 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