Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Stop the stigma of Mental Health in young adults

Today's post is very close to my heart. The stigma of mental health conditions in young adults (aged 18-30). Many people think a mental health condition is just depression or anxiety but there are many more conditions that fall under mental health including: 

  • Stress and Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Psychosis 
  • Self harm
  • Eating disorders
  • PTSD - (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
  • OCD - (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
  • GAD -(Generalised Anxiety Disorder)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia 
One in every four people are affected by mental health in any one year according to the charity Mind ( Mental health problems- an introduction,2017) 

In January 2017 I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety which i knew I was suffering with for a long time before i addressed the symptoms and went to see my Gp. Everybody's symptoms can be different when diagnosed with a mental health condition. At first, i chose to ignore the symptoms I had an put it down to tiredness and been run down from Christmas and the new year season, also I put it down to an ongoing health condition with my kidneys. It was not until the end of January when I realised that I was feeling worse and not any better, that is when I plucked up the courage to speak to my Dr. She was really helpful and referred me to the local depression and anxiety service who seen me for my initial appointment within a week of referral.At the first appointment, I was asked to fill out a questionnaire regarding my symptoms ( ill put these below), my anxiety level, then some general questions about employment and my living conditions. Even at that first appointment, I was told that medication would be the best step forward alongside some cognitive behaviour therapy ( which again I will talk about below). After the first appointment, the therapist told me she was going to ring my Dr to get a prescription sorted for some anti-depressants. It was decided that the best course of treatment to start on was 75mg of sertraline once a day as this was the safest medication to use with my ongoing kidney problem. My current dose is now 200mg a day and I can definitely tell the difference being on the highest dose.

My Symptoms
When I first went to the Dr's surgery I had a huge list of symptoms and these were some of the following:

  • Feeling anxious all the time
  • Not wanting to be around anybody for social events, nights out, going to work, spending time with my friends, family and boyfriend
  • Having sleep deprivation from having so many thoughts going through my head
  • Being emotional all the time, I could be happy one minute, crying the next, then angry and back to happy
  • feeling like I had the sense of heaviness in my body all the time
  • Worried I was letting down particularly my boyfriend and family
  • Worried that something bad was going to happen if I left the house on my own
  • Pushing people away when i know they were trying to help me. 
Case Studies

My first case study is from a lovely young lady called Miss R- this is her story.
I was diagnosed with severe anxiety and moderate depression in 2012. My episodes come and go. I have had two long episodes (over 6 months) since 2012, the second in 2015 in the middle of my second year. I use CBT and talking therapy to help me, and I have never used medication. Firstly, because I am a very forgetful person (lol) and secondly for me personally, I want to fix the problems I have and I know that if I started taking medication I would rely on it too heavily to make me better. That is just my take on my own health, not anyone elses. Medication is right for so many people, not just me.
So, treating myself with CBT, sometimes it took a while before I would get on top of it. Shall I start with the cons of mental health and training? Firstly, it can be exhausting. Doing placements, university, essays, preping for interviews, keeping in touch with family and friends all the while fighting the battle of my head that keeps me up late into the night and sometimes, stops me getting out of bed on my days off. The self doubt became crippling. Although there was no reason to believe it, I constantly worried (during my bad times) that I would fail all the essays I had to write, so much so that I would procrastinate worrying and would go days without writing anything. This then fed back into the anxiety and became a cycle. I often thought about giving up the course, telling myself everything would be easier if I was less tired and stressed. And baring in mind that midwifery is the best thing I have ever done, and my dream job, my head constantly telling me to give up the thing I loved made me feel ever so low. 
There are positives I have found having a mental health illness whilst training. I found I had a new level of empathy for anxious women in labour. I know what a panic attack feels like, I know how your brain can trick you into thinking the most bizzare stupid things about yourself or your wellbeing. I also decided that my university would benefit from more support for students from older students, so I put a structure inplace so that everone on my course (210 student) could connect with one another. 
My advise to people would be: 
Firstly, own it. There is no reason to hide mental health. And the more we try desperately to conceal it, the more it can harm us. A simple “I am feeling a bit anxious today, so I am sorry if I ask questions that we both know I probably know” to your mentor at the beginning of a shift, is not going to result in an alarm going off and everyone chanting “FIRE HER FIRE HER” (yes, this is what I thought would happen). I had some negative comments from some uneducated individuals when I talked about my health, but they were in the minority and their inablility to understand is not a reflection on my honesty, but their ignorance. Next, hold your loved ones near and don’t push them away. My partner and my family got me all the way through. I would not have been a midwife without their support. Suprisingly to me, when I struggled on an assignment or I cried after a hard shift, they didn’t say “well you will be an awful midwife” they cheered me up, hugged me close and told me all the good things I had done. Finally, get help. Anxiety and depression are not indestructable, but nothing will ever change if you do nothing. The mentality “it will always be like this, there is nothing that will change it” is a hard feeling to get away from, and everyone copes with their feelings in different ways. My point is, whether you want to take medication, attend group sessions, go to one to one meetings or complete courses on line, there are so many ways that you can start to challenge your negative thoughts. My moto to myself is that you have ONE LIFE. Only one. Live it to its full. Do everything you want to do and have no regrets. 

My Second case study is from another young lady called Miss S
I am 22,  I suffered with depression while I was at university which was quite bad and I ended up dropping out of uni just 4 months into my course. I tried to contact the uni helpline specially dealing with depression, and my 'emergency' appointment was 4 weeks later. Useless! I found help once I went home. However I am never free from it as people with depression don't just 'lighten up' do they 😊Mental illness runs in my family. My sister 
Miss C who is 24 has bipolar when she's had since she was 19. Her doctor says it was due to severe upset from failing her A levels and not being able to study medicine, and shortly after our grandad, grandma, and cousin dying all within 3 months of each other. It's been a rollercoaster for our family, she's run up thousands of pounds worth of debt because she feels on a high when she spends, she has bought a Rolex on card and let it bounce because she was in her high state. But she has awful lows. Her ex girlfriend has borderline personality disorder, which saw her be sectioned twice this past year, she is also 24.My cousin, Mr J has schizophrenia, he is 23. He has been suicidal many times. 

These two case studies were particularly important to.get into this post. Below is some contact details to agencies who can help.

MIND Helpline 0300 123 3393
Samaritans helpline 116 123
Childline for under 18s 0800 1111

Many thanks for taking the time to read this post.

Lauren xox

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