Sunday, 27 May 2018

Discharged from Mental Health Services after Six Years | NSFT

On Wednesday of last week, I got discharged from the care of my local Mental Health Team. To most people, this would be such an incredible achievement and it would be a positive milestone, an occasion to celebrate and an indicator that you're well enough to live your life without the support of the service. Saying this, my discharge was a little different and I can't help but feel a little confused and let down. 

To be entirely honest, I missed my appointment as I overslept and I had had to rearrange an appointment a couple of weeks before due to being away and I completely understand that the service is under pressure and have a huge demand but I got discharged over the phone and told that I was being handed back over to my local GP. I also got told that the paperwork wasn't going through until Monday, which I am guessing means Tuesday due to the bank holiday, so I can contact the service until then if I require any support. 

I absolutely hate missing appointments, I text my case manager to let her know that I couldn't make my appointment on Wednesday due to oversleeping and within that text, I did say that she can feel free to discharge me because I felt like I was wasting resources however, every professional that I have seen within the past six months have been hinting and offering a discharge from the service to me, doctors who I have never met before have told me that maybe I'd manage better outside of the service. I can't help but feel like within NSFT, it is out with the old and in with the new. They claim that there is nothing more they can do for me yet I had a psychology assessment and the outcome was that I am not currently ready to engage in therapy, yet I am more than ready to be left alone without any support?

In my last medication review, a couple of months ago, discharge was discussed and I expressed my concerns regarding discharge and I made it very clear that if they are going to discharge me, I will not be coming back into the service because I don't want to be in a service that no longer wants me and claims that there is nothing more that they can do. Another concern I have is that my medication is currently under review, I am reducing a certain medication that I am on, 25mg at a time in order to start on a new and more effective medication. I am already noticing some of my previous traits coming back and starting to control my life again but what am I supposed to do about it? I can either continue to reduce my medication and risk my well-being getting drastically worse or I can increase them again however, this could be a problem if the medication has already been taken off of my prescription. I have been left without any guidance at all, especially surrounding my medication. I presume that I could go to my local GP for a medication review but he knows absolutely nothing about me, he doesn't know what intentions the doctor had for reducing my medication, he doesn't know which medication I need to go on and chances are, that if I go to the GP, he'd tell me that either he hasn't received the paperwork of my discharge, or that I would have to go back  to the service for a medication review, and getting an appointment at my Doctors Surgery is like trying to find the end of a rainbow.

I am not even too annoyed over the discharge, as I know that they've been wanting to get rid of me for months, I am mostly pissed off that I got discharged over the phone, back to my GP without any advice given in regards to my medication or what to do if I am struggling. I was told that there is a three month period of re-referral so that if I feel that I need to go back into the service, I have three months to get re-referred by my GP. How about fuck off? I would much rather have to deal with my problems myself than go back into a service that abandoned me in the first place, when I needed them most. Throughout my time within the service, I have had to suffer and struggle alone the majority of the time anyway, so how much damage can it really cause?

Having said this, I feel like it is important to note, that my lack of attendance for appointments was not just my fault, it was a mix of both my worker and myself having to rearrange and I don't think workers really understand how difficult it can be to drag yourself out of bed, into clothes and then have to do an hours journey to reach the location of your appointment, when you're having a bad day. Home appointments are available, but it seems that they're only available if you say when you book the appointment that you'd like it to be at home. I have also had numerous occasions where I have had something come up, so I have text my worker asking to rearrange, days in advance to not get a response until an hour before my appointment is scheduled for, which I am sure is written down as me not turning up.

The entire service is in absolute shambles and half of me is relieved to be out of it, but I also know that I am not ready to be discharged and the thought of having to struggle on my own makes me incredibly anxious. We will just have to see how things go and hope that my mindset doesn't go downhill, because I really don't know where I would turn for professional support. 

On Wednesday of last week, I got discharged from the care of my local Mental Health Team, they gave up on me and left me without support, as though I was nothing more than a lost cause, as though I am not fixable, I'm too broken, too damaged and they don't know how to help me. Their solution was to discharge me, and hope that things don't get bad again, they also probably hope that I don't speak out about my experience of getting discharged but what more do I have to lose?

Thank-you for reading, Tay x

Sunday, 20 May 2018

The Importance of Speaking about your Struggles | MHAW18

Today is Sunday and therefore, we have reached the last day and last post for Mental Health Awareness Week 2018, I thought that I would finish on such an important topic; speaking out which can be one of the most beneficial things you do regarding your mental state.

Despite having this blog, where I openly talk about not only Mental Health, but also my struggles, this wasn't always the case. I spent years being silent, stuck inside of my own head, too afraid to speak up. I didn't even properly know myself what was going on, I just knew that I didn't want to feel this way anymore, I wanted a way out, and in my eyes, the only way out was Suicide. I was worried that if I spoke out, people would just say that it was a phase, or that I was attention seeking but the reality was, that staying silent only made things worse. I can't express enough how true the well known phrase of bottling things up, will only make it worse is, Mental Illness is difficult enough to manage as it is, with support, let alone without telling anybody else what is going on. 

I wish more than anything that I spoke up sooner, that I did more research and that I recognised how I felt, for how serious it was. If I had spoken up, I would have been able to start moving forward when I first became ill, instead of my illness escalating and spiraling out of control. If I had spoke sooner and gotten the support that I needed early on, I may be in a complete different place to what I am today, my life could be so different. However, the reality is that like many other individuals struggling, I didn't speak up and I'm not sure if I would have, if I didn't get to a point where I was forced to explain myself because after all, landing yourself in hospital for trying to kill yourself, isn't normal, and there is clearly something wrong.

There is so much awareness for Mental Health problems nowadays, there is so much encouragement to speak up, yet there is still so much silence and fear, but I promise you, that speaking up is so worth it in the long run, when you share a problem with somebody else, it is a problem halved and it is such a weight off of your shoulders. It gives you the opportunity to access services, to see a specialist regularly, to engage in different therapies and to start working towards a better life. It improves your relationships with the people around you and you'll soon realise that more people understand you than you even thought was possible, you'll realise that you're not alone in your struggles and that a future without illness is so possible, that happiness is something that can be achieved and that life is worth living, it just takes time. Time is one of the most frustrating things because no matter how quickly the weeks, months and years go by, it feels as though your mindset is taking an eternity to improve, but keep plodding along, because you'll get to a point where you're making so many little steps, that you'll look back and realise how far you really have come. 

Speaking up is not only important for yourself, it is important for your family and friends to be able to support you, it helps to tackle the stigma surrounding mental illness and it gives you the opportunity to make a change, to yourself and to the world. There is no shame in speaking out, there is no shame of being in therapy, and there is absolutely no shame in suffering from a Mental Health Condition.

Thank-you for reading, Tay x

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Reacting to the CQC Report of the Inpatient Unit I was admitted to | MHAW18

I thought that today, I would do something quite different and react to the latest CQC report of the Adolescent Mental Health Inpatient Unit that I was in, back in 2014. I'm not going to disclose the name of the unit because I don't see the need, I just thought it would be quite interesting to look at. Overall, the Child & Adolescent Mental Health Wards got a rating of Good and the service was last inspected in 2015. I will write my response in italic font, just to avoid any confusion.

Are Services Safe? - Requires Improvement

The two wards inspected were rated as requiring improvement because there was;
  • A number of potential high risk ligature points around both wards
  • The adolescent unit did not have a seclusion room however, the staff were using an Intensive Nursing Area (INA), we were told by staff that they did not seclude patients but the description staff gave of how the INA was used constituted seclusion.
  • Core staffing levels had been set by the trust.
  • The adolescent ward provided clear line of sights when patients were in the main ward area and bedroom corridors.
  • There was two separate corridors which were male and female identified areas and there were gender designated facilities.
  • The ward was clean and there were dedicated cleaners employed. The furnishings were clean and in good repair. 
  • We saw the clinic rooms were well equipped with resuscitation equipment, emergency drugs, a fridge and tools to monitor physical health.
  • There were alarms available to staff and visitors with a call system so staff on the ward could react in an emergency, in the adolescent unit, alarms were not placed in the bedrooms.
  • Staff reported that there were good systems in place to share learning from incidents across the Trust. Staff told us that they knew how to report incidents and were supported after incidents had occurred on the wards.
It has been four years since I was an Inpatient at this particular unit and I can remember off the top of my head at least two ligature points across the parts of the unit that the patients had everyday access to, without a member of staff. I am curious to know if these things have actually been changed since the inspection in May 2015. As an inpatient, we were always told that the INA was essentially seclusion and in the time that I spent there, I only saw few patients with incidents that resulted in them being secluded in the INA. I am surprised that they've been able to get away with not having an actual seclusion area but patients not being secluded is not true because I have witnessed patients myself being secluded in the INA, despite it not being for long periods of time. The unit did have a Girls' corridor and a Boys' corridor with a separate corridor that could alternate between girls and boys, depending on the admissions. We were not allowed down the boys corridor unless it was to go to the INA or to go to Room 16, which is where our belongings were locked away if required. The main areas of the unit were mixed sex and rooms were often unsupervised by staff. The clinic room was out of bounds to patients unless you got called in for observations. Even when inside, the medications and harmful substances were thrown away but I do remember there being a sharps bin which was easily accessible whilst inside the room, which could have lead to incidences. The corridors themselves were visible to staff from the main living area but patients were allowed inside their bedrooms with their doors closed unsupervised and there were many blind points on the unit, where patients couldn't obviously be seen. I will admit, there were cleaners in every day throughout the week, I don't remember if they worked on a weekend or not but they weren't very thorough and there was many places that often got missed or skipped out completely. I remember having to buy baby wipes to clean the furniture within our rooms ourselves. The CQC reported that "parents and patients told us the wards had a homely feel to them" which I wouldn't exactly agree with. The bedrooms were homely, but only because we were able to stick posters and photos on the walls. The furniture was very mismatching and some was quite dated. To me, it looked more like an adult nursery than being homely. The alarms not being in bedrooms seem quite silly to me to be honest, considering that a large percentage of any incidents happened in bedrooms and out of sight of other patients. 

The CQC were told by five members of staff that home visits always go ahead as planned but occasionally local leave and sessions were postponed due to staff shortages. I cannot explain how frustrating it is to be told that you're going on leave with members of staff, for it to then be cancelled due to there not being enough members of staff. We also had a group, every Friday afternoon called Out & About group and you could only go if you have had no incidents in the week, or are making good improvements. Out and About group was often such a motivation, especially if you would be going to somewhere that you really wanted to go and there was a few occasions where many patients had worked so hard throughout the week, for the group to be cancelled due to a shortage of staff, not only because it felt like the hard work had been for nothing, but also because it meant that there wasn't a possibility of getting off of the ward. Training may have been in date but some members of staff really didn't seem to have a clue on how to deal or support a distressed patient which can be so frustrating when you're in a negative mindset. Apparently, according to the CQC report, there were notices on the fire doors within the unit for informal patients who wish to leave and that patients and their families were free to leave at will. This is not true in the slightest, we had two locked doors that couldn't be opened at the same time preventing us from being able to leave, we had to ask permission from our consultant for our families to be able to take us out, which sometimes was denied. We even had to request, wait and sometimes be denied access to the courtyard or garden despite not being detained under the Mental Health Act. Again, according to the CQC report, patients were observed every 30 to 60 minutes depending on their risk, when I was there, the observations went from 1:1, 5 minute checks, 15 minute checks to 30 minute checks but checks were often missed out and at one point, whilst on 5 minute observations, I was left for 35 minutes without an observation, which could have been life-threatening.

Are Services Effective? - Outstanding
The rating given for the Effectiveness of the Service was given outstanding because;
  • All care plans were comprehensive, up to date and reviewed weekly at the ward round or after an incident. They included patient views with a full range of problems and needs. Patients had copies of care plans.
  • Physical health care checks were carried out on admission and reviewed which was evident on all care plans.
  • There was always an experienced member of staff on duty and there was a good skill mix of staff.
  • All staff said how they had attended induction and that specialist training was available as part of the continuous professional development. Clinical supervision was offered and staff attended regularly.
  • Staff were trained in and had good understanding of the Mental Health Act, the Code of Practice and the guiding principles. 
Whilst I was there and after, according to the CQC report, the unit was always short staffed, sometimes more than others but there was almost always at least two qualified nurses on each shift. I can remember a few incidents were there was only one and the ward became extremely unsettled but overall, there was usually two. In April of 2015, there was 76 shift requests filled by 59% bank staff, 24% agency and 18% remained unfilled. Bank staff was my idea of a nightmare, not because of the staff members themselves, but because although some of them regularly did shifts at the unit, many of them we didn't know which made it extremely difficult to be able to talk to a trusted member of staff for support. It also made the ward quite unsettled as there were sometimes two or three strangers walking around the unit at the same time, leaving only a couple of permanent staff members on shift. Despite all training apparently being up to date, staff members told the CQC that it was difficult at times to be released from the ward to attend specialist training, available to them.

Are Services Caring? - Good
Both units were rating as Good for caring because;
  • Patients told us staff treated them with dignity and respect and felt that staff were approachable. We observed interactions with staff, patients and families. We found that staff communicated in a calm and professional way. Staff showed an understanding of individual needs of the patient.
  • Patients were actively involved and participated in their care planning. Patients and families had copies of the care plan.
  • Patients gave feedback on the service they received on monthly patient/parent feedback forms.
I must admit, parents were always full involved in the care of their child, but I felt that sometimes they were too involved. Confidential conversations with therapists and members of staff were kept confidential, but were usually recapped in each weekly ward round, which got sent to our parents. However, it was found that staff members were always available when the patients needed to talk to them which wasn't the case, they'd be busy spells where it was impossible to speak to a staff member or where staff members would say how they'd come to speak to you, and they never did. One issue that did arise on a comment card was that patients were discharged too early, resulting in them having to be readmitted and I thought that this was so accurate. There were so many other patients being discharged whilst I was an inpatient, far too early and many did end up readmitted. I was told that I was being discharged but that I would probably be facing another admission within the next couple of months. Thankfully, that didn't happen but I feel that many people, come out worse than what they went in as. I disagree with the apparent fact that patients were actively involved with their care planning, I think that I was asked once what I thought my triggers and risks were and after that, my care plan was never updated alongside me. Having said all of this, on a feedback service, the unit only scored 64% for staff supporting patients to feel safe on the ward.

Are Services Responsive to people's needs? - Good
The units were rated as good for being responsiveness because;
  • There was a full range of rooms and equipment to support treatment and care on the ward and in the classroom. There were quiet areas on the wards. The outside space was used. Patients were involved in choosing the colours of the walls and art work.
  • We found examples of how staff supported patients to raise complaints. Staff told us they had access to interpreters and translation services as and when this service was required.
  • We found a wide range of information leaflets were available to patients and families.
  • Patients told us that cook chill food was of poor quality and tasted bland.
Before I start, I firstly must confirm that Cook Chill, or Cook Kill as we called it, was absolutely disgusting. It was delivered to the unit, pre-made and just had to be heated up in a machine before being served. The food was mushy, bad quality and did not taste nice. Thank-god that we had a cook for lunch time and weekends because I think that I ate cook chill maybe three times within my whole admission, it was so bad that instead of eating it, we'd go to tesco with staff members and buy our own food. On a survey, only 44% of patients said that they liked the food, and I am guessing that when they said they liked the food, they meant the cook's food. We were allowed access to our mobile phones which I am so thankful for as it meant that we didn't lose complete touch with the real world. There was internet available on the ward but only through the computers set up, we had to be a bit sneaky and steal the password code from the Eating Disorder Unit next door to have wifi on our phones, which one patient got off a friend in the neighboring unit.

Are Services well-lead? - Good
The services were rated good for being well-lead because;
  • Managers had access to trust data and used this to gauge the performance of the team and compare against others.
  • Staff reported good morale and being supported by their colleagues.
  • A range of audits took place to assess the quality of the service.
According to the CQC detailed report, Staff members were aware of the executive team but were unsure of the organisation's values, which isn't very promising. There was a high staff turnover in the unit, which could be so stressful, especially if you were to become attached to a staff member. According to the CQC, this was due to the fact that many staff members were newly qualified and wanted to move on, to gain further experience. Overall, staff members said how they enjoyed their job despite it sometimes being stressful. I think that most of the staff members that I knew, did act like they liked their jobs but there were the odd few who obviously felt otherwise. I felt that when an incident or issue was raised by a patient, the staff members communicated well and all relevant information was documented. 

Overall, there is so much that I could say about this unit, both good and bad, I feel that there were some quite big issues with the unit that weren't inspected by the CQC but I will leave it at that for today.

Thank-you for reading, Tay x

Friday, 18 May 2018

The Temporary Closure of The Phoenix Centre Eating Disorder Unit | MHAW18

Eating disorders aren't something that I have touched on within my posts simply because I don't have much experience surrounding Eating Disorders and I feel like sometimes it is best to stick to what you know however, Eating Disorders are a very common and serious Mental Health Condition and within the UK, it is believed that 1.25 million people suffers from an Eating Disorder and it is estimated that only 11% of them are male. One of the most common Eating Disorders is Anorexia Nervosa which has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder.

Over the past couple of years, I have seen many Psychiatric Inpatient Units being closed down but the Phoenix Centre in Cambridge really hit home. I know many different people who have been an inpatient at the Eating Disorder Unit, I have been inside to visit friends and it was also right next door to the Psychiatric Unit that I was an inpatient in.

The Phoenix Centre is based on the Ida Darwin hospital site in Cambridge which provides 14 Inpatient beds as well as day-patient and outreach specialist treatment for young people aged between 13-18 years old with complex Eating Disorders.

What shocked me the most about the closure of this unit is that the reason was due to a lack of qualified staff. According to Cambridgeshire & Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust and NHS England's Specialised Commissioning Team, the unit has had to shut as it would have problems providing 'a safe staffing level'.

The unit is only temporarily closed with the "intention to reopen in October when newly qualified staff will be available but in the mean time, teenagers with Eating Disorders who may have qualified for specialist help will have to be treated at home," according to Cambridge News. I understand how there is a safety concern surrounding a lack of workers but what about the poor individuals who are suffering from Eating Disorders but who now can't go into hospital where they'd get the treatment they require? What hope does that leave them? Especially considering that many admissions to hospital are of people who struggle to manage their illness at home and in the community.

At the time the decision was made to close the unit, there were only three young people on the unit, two were discharged and one was transferred to another unit. Were the two young people who got discharged actually ready to be discharged or was it due to lack of beds? Being transferred to another unit can be daunting to anybody, but when you're unwell and have gotten used to your surroundings, change can be even more difficult because in some aspects, you have to start again with meeting new people and getting used to your environment.

Like any Psychiatric or Eating Disorder based Inpatient Units, I have heard very mixed reviews of the Phoenix Centre, but I feel that this unit in particular has quite a high reputation. When CQC Inspected CPFT Eating Disorder Services in October 2015, they did not give an Overall rating as they only inspected part of the service. According to the CQC Inspection summery, they found that within the Phoenix Centre;

  • Parts of the ward couple not easily be seen. However, staff tried to mitigate and manage this by ensuring they were well positioned, enabling them to monitor and observe patients.
  • Most staff confirmed that they had received mandatory training and 24 of the 28 Staff members were up to date with their training.
  • Medicines were stored appropriately in the clinic room on both wards. Both clinic rooms were well stocked, clean and well equipped with resuscitation equipment and emergency drugs.
  • Physical health checks were completed at the point of admission and were comprehensive. Risk assessment and care plans were very detailed. They had been updated and reviewed. Care assessments had been completed and uploaded onto the electronic system.
  • All eating disorder services had good links with Addenbrooke’s Hospital for physical healthcare, including access to paediatrics for young people at the Phoenix Centre.
  • Patients told us that staff were kind, caring and supportive when they were experiencing difficulties. Patients were involved in their care and treatment and attended meetings to discuss decisions about their treatment and dietary plans. Patients told us that their families were involved too. On admission to the wards patients and families were given an admission pack which had information on treatments, patient rights and how to complain.
  • The Phoenix Centre had difficulty when using bank or agency staff because of the special needs of the patients and the support required at meal times.
  • The Phoenix Centre only had two staff on duty at night and there was no evidence of a patient acuity tool being used to plan staffing levels.
  • At the Phoenix Centre we saw that capacity and consent had not been assessed and recorded on admission in line with the code of practice.
  • In order to maintain patients’ safety the Phoenix Centre, as a temporary measure, only admitted one patient per week. This was because of the staffing levels and the acuity of patients.
In regards to safe staffing, CQC "were provided with data that showed that the Phoenix Centre from November 2014 to April 2015 requested 133 shifts for registered nurses to be covered, 85% were covered by bank and 5% were covered by agency; 10% were unfilled. There were 142 requests for unregistered nurses; 84% were covered by bank, 5% were covered by agency and 11% were unfilled."

Other information that came from the CQC report includes how 'the Phoenix Centre reported difficulty when using bank staff due to the specialised needs of patients. The manager told us that if the bank or agency staff did not know how to support meal times the patients would not eat and this increased the risk to the patients. Staffing sickness figures for the Phoenix Centre showed that there were 3.9% and 3.3 days lost per month, staff shared sickness records that highlighted that four staff nurses were off on long term sick leave. It was discussed how the Phoenix Centre was running on two staff at night and breaks were not being taken. In the last six months, there had been 26 incidents of restraint at the Phoenix Centre, of which none were prone. It was noted on the files that the practice of 'safe holds' had been used to move patients when distressed or to reinsert feeding tubes and to 'hold a patient down' if required whilst their feed was completed. We were told this could be for up to 30 minutes. Staff said how they were only trained in safe holds and not full restraint. The Phoenix Centre had bed occupancy of more than 85% and over the past six months, the highest occupancy was 96% and the lowest was 82%. Records showed that there were a total of eight complaints made in the last 12 months across the Eating Disorder service. Two for the Phoenix Centre were still under investigation. Young people at the Phoenix Centre said they had raised complaints and felt that staff listened to them and their issues were resolved.'

Overall, it sounds that the care received within the Phoenix Centre was to a high standard with very few mistakes. It is such a shame that there is a shortage of staff and that the unit has been closed for the safety of its patients, because it appears that this particular unit was a very promising and beneficial service for young people struggling with an eating disorder. 

I have spoken to a few people that I know who have previously been an inpatient at the Phoenix Centre to see what they have had to say, Stacey, who has her own blog which can be found here explained how "I'm a bit heartbroken that it's come to the temporary closure. This unit saved my life on two occasions. The staff and support I got there was second to none and I met some of the greatest people in there. It's hard, not only because of what that place means to me, but to the others who are in need of a bed. I have no doubt in my mind that when they reopen again in October, that the care and service they provide will continue to be incredible. It just really hits home when it's something close to your heart."

Sophie says how "I was in the Phoenix in 2012 for six months, it really helped me being in there, and the fact that it was so close to home made it easier for me to recover because I knew my family were close and now it's closing despite being the only eating disorder unit within miles which can be so detrimental to young people's lives and can effect their recovery. That place saved my life and it is so sad to see it close."

"That place was amazing when I was there, it taught me so much and although it took a lot more time and professionals to recover, it definitely helped me. I'm worried for the people who need a bed as that is one of the few specialised eating disorder units for adolescents and it angers me that the government decides to close everywhere. I'm scared that people aren't getting the help they need and the situation is getting worse. Now that I work in services, I have seen it from both sides and neither is pretty, the whole system is in shambles and things like this just further reduce my hope that mental health is being taking seriously by commissioners, the Phoenix will always hold a special place for me, I have lots of memories with lots of people there" says Chloe, a former inpatient.

Another former patient Sky explained how "I am not sure whether they are closing down permanently or whether it's just for refurbishment but to be honest I don't think they really know either as it was on such short notice! I was supposed to do a family day this summer and now they won't even be open! I feel awful for all of the people who needs those beds and all the staff who need those jobs! Honestly I don't believe I would have learned to manage as fast as I have, had I gone to another unit! It's one of the best."

It seems that many people, especially former patients are devastated about the closure, but hopefully the unit will reopen in October when newly qualified staff are available, what are your thoughts?

Thank-you for reading, Tay x

BEAT Eating Disorder Statistics
CPFT - The Phoenix Centre
Cambridge News Article
CQC Inspection Summery - CPFT Eating Disorder Services
CQC Inspection Report - CPFT Eating Disorder Service Findings

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Being Suicidal as a Young Adult | MHAW18

Disclosure: This post talks heavily about Suicide and feeling Suicidal, please don't read if this content is going to trigger you. I am not promoting Suicide, nor do I agree or disagree with Suicide, this post is purely aimed to educate others.

As a Mental Health Blogger, I feel that no matter how much we want to raise awareness, there is one topic in particular that gets stuck on the tips of our tongues every time we try to address it, the topic that nobody really wants to discuss and that many people don't understand; being Suicidal, and Suicide as a whole. There is still a ridiculous amount of stigma surrounding Suicide but living whilst Suicidal is something that isn't spoken about quite as much.

People seem to think that if you're suicidal, you are going to end your life, which isn't necessarily true. People think that being suicidal is hating your life or wanting a new life, which again isn't necessarily true. Being suicidal is genuinely believing that you will feel better and at peace, if you didn't exist, being suicidal is believing that dying will be less painful than the pain you feel constantly on a daily basis. Being suicidal is wanting to end the pain, not always ending your life, but ending the pain and if it means ending your life, then so be it. To many people, Suicide is an escape from daily torture inside of your own head and although it can be seen as selfish to those around you, wouldn't it be selfish to force an individual who is going through more pain than you could even imagine to live and to continue their life?

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to encourage Suicide because everyone preaches how things can get better but what if they don't? What if this is just how your life is going to be? What if your mindset doesn't improve and you continue to wake up every single day wishing you hadn't?

Being Suicidal isn't easy, it is exhausting and draining, it is your head giving you constant reminders that you'd be better off dead, that things can't hurt this much when you're dead, that you'll have peace and be nothing, there will be silence, you will be gone and nothing will hurt anymore. Being suicidal isn't a choice, you quite literally wake up one day with thoughts that you don't know where they came from in your head, making you believe that the only way to feel better is to be dead. You can be Suicidal and still be able to do everyday things, you have your good days and bad days, some days you'll only think once or twice about ending your life and others, the thought doesn't really leave your head. Some days you waste rotting away in bed because you don't want to risk getting up, doing something self-destructive and disappointing those who love you. Another thing that I have learned, is that the fear of failing Suicide is sometimes enough to stop you attempting Suicide. For me, after many Suicide Attempts, it got to the point where waking up in a hospital bed, hooked to a drip and machines was the worst feeling in the world, I thought that I was going to be gone, I thought it would work and I thought i'd be free at last, but instead, I was laying in a hospital bed feeling even worse than what I did before I engaged in the behaviour and overflowing with guilt because I'd let the people I loved down once again.

Being Suicidal isn't something that just goes away, I have spent years growing up, trying to work out what I want to do with my life, when all I could see myself as in the future was dead. I am still Suicidal, but I am not acting on my thoughts and I am the stablest I have been regarding Suicide Attempts, I do not have plans to end my life, but I don't particularly want this to be my life either. Being Suicidal is something that I have gotten used to, it is something that I have had to grow around and live my life around but it can go away and things can change and for all we know, feeling Suicidal could only be temporary so what is the point in finding a permanent solution to a temporary feeling?

Thank-you for reading, Tay x

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

34 Things to Help You De-Stress | MHAW18

Today for Mental Health Awareness Week, I thought that I would continue with this years theme of Stress, and share with you a whole bunch of ways and coping mechanisms that you can use to de-stress. It is so important that we are able to recognise when we are feeling stressed and just as essential that we are able to find relaxing things to do, in order to reduce our stress levels. I know that sometimes it can be hard to think of things that are able to make you feel less stressed as well as finding time to do the activities that bring your stress down.

When feeling stressed, it is important to find the cause of the stress in order to feel better, there are a whole range of things that could lead you to being stressed but as an example, you could feel stressed within the workplace. If you're feeling stressed, the worst and most unhelpful things that you could do is turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as smoking or drinking. There are so many different things that can be done to overcome stress, and I can't list them all,, some of them may even contradict each other but it is all about finding something that works for you. Without further ado, let's get in..

  1. Go for a walk, even if it is just for ten minutes. It'll give you some time to clear your head as well as boosting endorphins and doing some mild exercise.
  2. Try some breathing exercises, or just breath deeply which can help to reduce tension and relieve stress due to the extra oxygen going into your body.
  3. Practice Mindfulness Meditation which is defined as 'a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment, whilst calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations'. Mindfulness can be practiced through normal, everyday activities. You can practice it with all of your senses and some examples can be whilst eating, exercising, breathing, visualising/imagining, washing, driving, the list goes on.
  4. Read a book.
  5. Take some time away from screens, whether it be a computer screen, a phone, a television or even a tablet, screens have been proven to increase the levels of stress, especially when they are being used for a long period of time without a break.
  6. Drink water, the NHS Eatwell Guide suggests that we should drink 6-8 glasses of fluid per day which includes water, lower fat milk and sugar-free drinks including tea and coffee. Drinking water can really benefit all aspects of your health including your mental health.
  7. Listen to Music, Classical music is said to relax your body and brain but in reality, any music that you enjoy is most likely going to help to relax you and will fill your brain with feel-good neurochemicals.
  8. Eat a Banana, I am not entirely sure how reliable this suggestion is and I presume would only work if you're only feeling slightly stressed but Banana's contain Potassium which helps to regulate blood pressure, which often rises in times of feeling stressed.
  9. Connect with people, especially people close to you because being around people can not only help to calm or distract you from the issue that is causing you to feel stressed, but activities done with friends, work colleagues or our families can help you to relax and laugh, which alone is good for stress.
  10. Have some time to yourself, often people don't want to spend some time on their own when feeling stressed out of worry that it could make the stress worse but in reality, having some time with yourself, where you can do all of the things that you love can be really beneficial. 
  11. Exercise regularly, I know that to a lot of us, there is nothing worse than thinking about exercising but exercising can really improve stress levels and your mental state as a whole, so it is important to do a little bit regularly.
  12. Get some restful sleep, when feeling stressed, it can be especially difficult to sleep but you could take a number of steps to try and improve your sleep, you could turn off your phone, change your environment, get out of bed in the mornings if you can't sleep instead of just lying there and dwelling on how stressed you feel.
  13. Use a Face Mask, face masks are one of my favourite things to do when I am feeling stressed and need to relax, they are relaxing and soothing for both your skin and mind and most face masks only require to be left on for around ten minutes so you can always find time for them.
  14. Have a long, hot bath, I understand that not everybody has time within their day to have a bath, especially a long one but after a long, stressful day the first thing I want to do when I get home is have a bath. It relaxes your body and gives you some time to yourself.
  15. Organise your time & leave the least important tasks to last. I can't express enough how important this is, especially if you're feeling stressed over a busy day coming up. Organising your time and day is such a good way to ensure that you stay motivated to get everything done. Likewise, if you have a list longer than your arm of things to do then prioritise the most important ones first, so that if you don't make it to the end of your list, the important things are already complete.
  16. Make a list of things that you have to do, so you know exactly what needs doing and so you can tick off tasks as you go. Having a visual list ensures that you don't miss anything and you can see the progress being made.
  17. Accept the things that you can't change. We can often get ourselves worked up and stressed out over things that are out of our control and although it may seem difficult, accepting that there are things beyond your control can really help you spend your time more productively.
  18. Talk to somebody about how you're feeling. When you're feeling stressed it is essential that you talk to somebody about it to avoid it building up and you getting even more distressed. Chances are that the person you talk to will be supportive and may even have some advice to give you.
  19. Try to remain positive, we have all been there where we have a mildly stressful day but we end up getting so worked up that we drop a penny on the floor and cry about it. If we try to remain positive throughout the day and look for the positives instead of the negatives, we might actually feel better and less stressed by the end of the day.
  20. Write down how you're feeling, it could be in a diary or just jotted on a piece of paper that you will put in the bin, but sometimes if you even just write down what is going on, it can feel like a weight has been lifted off of your shoulders.
  21. Do some crafts, making crafty things can be such a good way to de-stress and can also be very relaxing. Craft isn't for everyone, but I can guarantee that if you look into it, there would be one small project that suits you. It is a good distraction and gives you something else to focus on.
  22. Watch a film, or start a TV Series. Despite this contradicting a point I made earlier, sometimes watching a film is a good opportunity to relax, unwind and to push your worries away for a while. It is really important to ensure that we can have periods in our day where we can escape our worries.
  23. Do some cleaning, especially if you're stressed over things that need to be done. If you're trying to get work done in a messy environment, you aren't going to work as well as you would in a clean one. Take five or ten minutes out just to tidy and clean your surroundings, it'll make you feel much better and probably a little less stressed.
  24. Try to do some Yoga, Yoga is amazing for the body and mind and really does allow you to unwind and de-stress.
  25. Learn to self-soothe by painting your nails or take part in an activity that you enjoy, it'll help you to relax.
  26. Do a word search, Sudoku or crossword as games that work your brain can distract and relax you from any stress that you may be feeling.
  27. Go for a drive and try to take in the scenery and surroundings.
  28. People watch in a public place.
  29. Learn something new, whether it be on the internet, in education or just a random fact.
  30. Write positive things down to help you think positively in stressful situations.
  31. Write down your goals which will remind you of where you want to be, what you're trying to achieve and to get motivated to do the things that you've always wanted to.
  32. Don't compare situations to the past or worry about the future, it won't get you anywhere and could even set you back, try to live in the present.
  33. Do something nice for somebody else every day, whether it be buying someone a coffee, talking to somebody who you haven't in some time, helping someone carry their shopping, or even just holding a door open. There are so many things that you can do to put a smile on somebody else's face and you'll feel much better for it.
  34. Remember to smile, smiling is much better than frowning.
I hope that among this list there was at least one thing that could help or benefit you, what are your favourite things to do to unwind and de-stress? If you have any other suggestions then feel free to leave them below.

Thank-you for reading, Tay x

Google - Mindfulness
Mental Health Foundation - How To Manage Stress

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

I am more than 1 in 4 - The Statistics | MHAW18

Approximately 1 in 4 people within the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. In England alone, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health condition such as depression or anxiety in any given week. There is still a tonne of stigma surrounding Mental Health problems and these statistics are published with the hope to reduce the stigma, to make people realise that Mental Health is not only a very important topic, but that Mental Health conditions are far more common than you may think. However, what if I don't want to be the 1 in 4 people? Not only because 1 in 4 is far too many people to be suffering with a Mental Health condition but also because I am more than my illness, I am a person and I won't let my illness define who I am as a person.

Every seven years, a survey is done in England by the NHS called the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey which focuses on Mental Health and Wellbeing. The last survey was done in 2016 and the results are quite worrying. The results showed how 39 per cent of adults aged 16-74 with conditions such as Depression and Anxiety were accessing Mental Health treatment in 2014 which has increased from 24 per cent when the last survey was carried out in 2007. It has now been four years since 2014, so I dread to think what the statistics are looking like today.

It also showed how around 1 in 6, or 17 per cent of individuals surveyed met the criteria for a common mental disorder. Women were more likely than met to report a common mental disorder symptoms. 1 in 5 women or 19 per cent had reported symptoms of a common mental disorder as an oppose to 1 in 8 men (12 per cent). Women were also more likely than men to report severe symptoms of common mental disorders with 10 per cent of women surveyed reporting severe symptoms compared to 6 per cent of men.

In the survey, it also explored precisely how many individuals experienced specific common mental health conditions which resulted in;
  • 5.9 in 100 people diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder
  • 3.3 in 100 people diagnosed with Depression
  • 2.4 in 100 people diagnosed with Phobias
  • 1.3 in 100 people diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • 0.6 in 100 people diagnosed with Panic Disorder
  • 4.4 in 100 people diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • 7.8 in 100 people diagnosed with mixed Anxiety and Depression
The survey also measured estimates for Bipolar Disorder, Psychotic Disorder and Personality Disorders but according to MIND, these disorders are usually measured over a person's lifetime instead of each year and estimates for the number of people suffering from these disorders can vary a lot. However, the latest survey found that;
  • 0.2 in 100 people diagnosed with Psychotic Disorder. This statistic was measured over the past year.
  • 2.0 in 100 people diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder
  • 3.3 in 100 people diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder
  • 2.4 in 100 people diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder
The survey also measured the amount of people who have had suicidal thoughts, made suicide attempts or self-harmed over their lifetime. The results are as followed;
  • 20.6 in 100 people have had Suicidal Thoughts
  • 6.7 in 100 people have made a Suicide Attempt
  • 7.3 in 100 people have Self-Harmed
However, although these statistics seem quite high already, they "have been taken from studies that have surveyed people living in private housing. They exclude the number of people experiencing mental health problems in Hospitals, Prisons, Sheltered Housing or people who are Homeless."

Although it is difficult to reduce the number of people developing Mental Health conditions, especially in a short amount of time, there have been some campaigns created to help tackle the stigma.

Back in 2017, BBC created a campaign called Minds Matter: #1in4 where they aim to break though the stigma associated with Mental Health as well as making it easier for individuals to speak about their mental health. The campaign was backed up by actors, singers and comedians to really get the word and the number out there.

Towards the end of 2016, a lady decided to create a post on Facebook with nine photos and a message about how she wanted to fight the stigma surrounding Mental Health, as she decided that 1 in 5 was too many people. Her post blew up and she has now created a Facebook page named End The Stigma/@endthestigmabadges where she creates photos that other people can share on all social media platforms, to help tackle the stigma and to show others that they're not alone. The campaign is now no longer solely about Mental Health Issues but has branched out to support other issues too, including STI's and Neurodiversity problems.

I am all for people promoting the numbers and the statistics to help raise awareness, I just don't like to dwell on the fact that I am the 1 in 4, I class as the one with the Mental Health problems, as someone receiving Mental Health treatment, I am always told to remember that I am more than my illness and that I shouldn't let my illness define or shape my life, which can be quite tricky when statistics are being thrown back in your face. I feel like there is a very fine line between reducing stigma by promoting statistics and causing more damage to yourself and it is very difficult to find the balance. It is important for people to know the statistics, but it is also even more important to ensure that we don't dwell on them, that we don't let us being that 1 get us down or hinder our journeys. 1 in 4 people within the UK will suffer from a Mental Health condition in any given year and despite me being the 1 out of 4, I am also so much more.

Thank-you for reading, Tay x

Mental Health Statistics - MIND
Survey Of Mental Health & Wellbeing in England - NHS Digital
BBC Mind Matters 1in4 - BBC
End The Stigma Badges 

Monday, 14 May 2018

Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 & What is Stress? | MHAW18

Mental Health Awareness Week UK is annually hosted by the Mental Health Foundation and occurs for a week within May. This year it will be running from the 14th-20th May 2018 with the theme of Stress; particularly within the workplace. Throughout this week, I will be uploading once a day where I talk about not only stress, but all things mental health. According to the Mental Health Foundation, "research shows that two thirds of us experience a Mental Health problem in our lifetime, and stress is a key factor in this".
"Work-related stress, depression or anxiety is defined as a harmful reaction people have to undue pressures and demands placed on them at work".
Stress is everywhere, it is something that can't be avoided, no matter how hard we try. In today's society, life is full of stress, we are told that we need to do well, we need to get the best grades within school, we need to go to university and we need to have a job that we love and that can support us throughout our lives, no matter how much pressure and stress we have to tackle on the way. Stress is mostly made up of two parts; situations or events that put pressure on us which includes times where we have a lot to do, or think about or situations where we don't have much control over what happens and our reaction to being placed under pressure which includes feelings and emotions that we may experience when we have demands placed on us that we find difficult to deal with.

There isn't a medical definition of stress and therefore, many health professionals have different opinions on whether stress is the cause of problems or the result of them, in my personal opinion, it can be both, depending on the individual. Stress isn't a psychiatric diagnosis but according to MIND, can be closely linked to your mental health in two different ways; stress can cause mental health problems and make existing problems worse whereas on the other hand, mental health problems can cause stress.

Despite it not being classed as a mental health problem, Stress can affect our everyday lives and just like mental health problems, it is important to seek help before it gets worse and possibly develop into a mental health condition. The main signs of stress include;

  • Emotional changes - Stress can cause individuals to experience many different emotions, especially negative emotions including anxiety, fear, sadness, anger and frustration. 
  • Behavioural changes - When someone is stressed, it can lead to them behaving differently to usual, commonly individuals can become withdrawn, indecisive, they may struggle to sleep or feel tearful and irritable. Stress can also lead to changes in an individuals sexual habits as well as affecting the way they interact with the people close to them.
  • Bodily changes - When feeling stressed, some individuals can get physical symptoms such as headaches and nausea as well as breathing more quickly, experiencing palpitations or suffer from various aches and pains. However, if the thing causing you to be stressed only occurs for a short period of time, most people will return back to normal with no lasting adverse effects.
Everyone is affected by stress at some or multiple points throughout their lives, but some people are more affected by stress than others and some individuals are able to cope with stress better than others. 

Thank-you for reading, Tay x

Sources & Useful Links:
Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 - Mental Health Foundation 
Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 - MIND 
Work Related Stress, Depression or Anxiety Statistics - Health & Safety Executive
Work Related Stress Statistics in Great Britain PDF - Health & Safety Executive
Stress - MIND
Stress - Mental Health Foundation
Stress, Depression & Anxiety - NHS Moodzone
How to deal with Stress - NHS Moodzone
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