Category Archives: Mental health & emotional wellbeing

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

What do we need to get help from our GP for mental health? Reassurance, realistic expectations and a plan.

Helping you get help from your GP

NHS services think that they are a series of entrances – but actually they are a series of barriers

Yesterday, I went down to Brighton for the launch of Doc Ready – a new digital tool (a website and soon to be app) that helps young people get the most out of a visit to their GP about mental health. Have a look. It’s got clear and practical information about what young people should expect from a visit. It enables them to search for a GP and create a checklist of things to remember in the appointment.

The above quote – which I am sure many of us can relate to – was something a young person said during one of the engagement workshops run by Right Here in Brighton during the development of the product.

But what struck me was that this young person seems further along the process of understanding, evaluating and therefore being able to access effective support than many. Maybe this is a result of being given a chance to reflect on their experiences in the workshops or perhaps they have just come to this realisation having faced and overcome many barriers. Either way this young person is in a position to evaluate their experience and recognise that getting support for mental health isn’t always easy. They know that many, if not all, of the barriers are not their ‘fault’. Continue reading

Happiness – an emotion, a mood, a goal or a way of life?

What would we describe as a ‘happy life’?

“The idea that humans can capture a mere mood – ‘happiness’ – and somehow preserve it seems absurd. As an aim for life it is not only doomed but infantile.”

Sebastian Faulks – A Possible Life

The idea of ‘happiness’ seems to have been popping up everywhere recently. The 20th March happywas the International Day of Happiness. This was established by the United Nations General Assembly who said in doing so that they were ‘conscious that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal‘.

Later that same week I attended the launch of a new information app for young people in London called WellHappy. The twitter hashtag conversation for the event was ‘what makes you #wellhappy?. In attendance at this event was CALM (Campaign Against Living Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 18.52.32Miserably) and Mindapples (five a day for your mind) – both of whom aim to promote action against misery and towards wellbeing. One of the (very impressive) creators of WellHappy Kat McCormack ended her speech with the wish ‘that all young people would be well happy’. Her app, a directory of mental and sexual health resources in London, was described as a step in that direction. But what would any of the people there, charity representatives and young people alike, have described as a ‘happy life’?

Continue reading

Managing depression and anxiety in relationships; early days and long term.

Tips and suggestions for managing depression and anxiety within relationships.

A version of this article was published in the Summer 2013 edition of ONEinFOUR magazine.

Managing mental health when meeting someone new; the early days of uncertainty and strong emotions.

Four years ago I was pretty happy. I felt I was finally managing to keep all life’s balls in the air. depression and anxietyIn meeting someone new, another ball was introduced. This ball brought strong emotions with it: uncertainty, interdependence and allowing someone else to influence my feelings. Fitting this ball into the show without dropping the rest proved difficult.

In the early weeks the obsessive, over thinking part of my mind – the part that makes me ill – stirred and breathed its negative fog over everything. It was poked awake by the healthy but strong emotions associated with falling in love. And then it distorted them horribly.

Liking someone brings vulnerability, uncertainty and risk of rejection. Could I keep this experience separate from the part of my mind that worries over things until it’s wrung out every negative conclusion? Could I stop myself seeing every uncertain incident as an example of my inability to conduct relationships?

Recognising and distinguishing between the emotions that come with the territory of falling in love and those made worse by my depression helped me to focus on the former and disregard the latter. I’m very glad I did. I wrote a little more about how I worked through some of these emotions in my post ‘Writing my mind – writing in the immediacy of the moment’.

Managing depression and anxiety in a committed relationship

That was the early days. And despite the uncertainties being countered by excitement and the rushes of dopamine and norepinephrine, I’m glad they’re over. But how do you manage when depression or anxiety are part of a committed relationship? It isn’t easy. Depression and anxiety can magnify and distort emotions. You need to be on your guard. When looking through their unnatural or distorting lens you can start to feel that there is a problem with the relationship itself – or with one person within it.

When you have to manage mental health in a relationship you need to ensure that that your safety net is strong and maintained by you both to avoid regularly hitting crisis point. So what can work? Continue reading