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Mental Health Focus: How to support someone with Mental Illness

By Health, Thinking4 Comments
mental-health-focus Supporting someone with mental illness can be difficult. What should you say and not say? What should you do and not do?

First educate yourself around mental illness. Mental health charities Mind and SANE both have informative websites.

You can see General Statistics for Mental Health in the UK here. You can see a A list of Famous People who have experienced Mental Illness here. You can also see 15 Lies That Depression Would Have You Believe here.

Second: You must look after yourself. You can’t support anyone else if you are not well physically, mentally or emotionally. You may find my blog post 10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Mental Health useful.

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On to the practical advice to support someone with mental illness:

  • Stay in contact with them. Ask them how they would like you to keep in contact. Some may may prefer phoning or seeing; whereas others may prefer messaging or texting.
  • Unconditional love and care. Let them know that you love them unconditionally and care for them deeply. Don’t have any expectation that they will reciprocate.
  • Listen to what they say and don’t assume anything.
  • Ensure that there are no distractions when you are with them or on the phone to them. Put your phone on silent and make sure any loud children are pets are out of the way (if you have them).
  • Offer practical support. Go shopping for them or with them, help them to clean, cook them a meal. Whatever it is that they need. They maybe resistant to the idea of practical help, so reassure them that you are happy to help and that you know they’d do it for you.
  • Remind them to take their medication or when appointments are due. People with mental illness tend to have poor short term memories.
  • Ask them about their appetite and diet. If they have an appetite but are struggling to make anything (due to lack of energy and/or motivation), find out what there favourite meal is and cook it for them.
  • Offer distracting activities. Distracting activities that you can both do together can give someone a break from their own critical inner of voice. The activities can be something as simple as a walk around the park. Make sure you are always led by the person with mental illness though. If they say that they are too unwell or tired to do the activity, don’t take it personally. And certainly don’t judge them or take offence.
  • Help them access support. This could include going with them to GP, counselling sessions or mental health service appointments. Offer to sit in appointments with them, but let them know that it’s okay if they want to be seen alone.
  • Be understanding. Someone with mental illness may cancel plans at the last minute. You may arrive at their house to find it messy and them unclean. Don’t take it personally, let them know that you understand and ask if there is anyway that you can help.
  • Be patient. Like any illness, mental illness takes the right treatment, the right support and time for them to start to feel better.
  • Limit questions and time spent with them, if you feel they are exhausted and need to rest. You’ll be able to spot if they need to rest by: pulling on their hair, forgetting what you’ve said to them, being very slow to respond, unable to think of words, dropping of their head, shuffling of feet and other body language people use when they look like they are about to drop off to sleep.
  • Be aware of your own body language and theirs. Try and display open body language and avoid mirroring.
  • Try not to give advice, as often it is unrealistic and unhelpful. For example never advise someone with depression to exercise more or have an healthier diet. This person has probably used all of their energy and motivation to get out of the bed. This single action has left them more exhausted than they have ever felt in their life. So advising them to exercise, eat an healthier diet or make big changes to their life will seem unachievable and may come across as if you are blaming them for their depression.
  • Sign-post them to useful resources. Such as: NHS Choices, Time to Change, Mental Health Foundation, Mind, SANE, Anxiety UK and Bipolar UK.

This blog post is part of a series that focuses on mental health. Other posts in the series include: Mental Health Focus: Treatment & Recovery, Mental Health Focus: A List of Common Conditions and Mental Health Focus: 5 Brilliant TED Talks About Mental Health.

You can read about my experiences of mental illness here: Life Hiatus – My Mental Health In-Patient Admission and Diagnosis of a ‘Mood Disorder’, My Health Woes: Clinical Depression, Dental Abscesses, The Lump and The Emergency Surgery, Finally…in Recovery and getting Back to Life and Mental Health Focus: I’ve Been One of the 1 in 4.

Take care,

Antony

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What’s New: Things, Candle Creation, Support & Medication

By Health, Home, LifeNo Comments

What’s new? Lots. In this blog post I’ll be telling you all about new things I’ve bought (or been treated to by others), my latest batch of homemade and handmade candles, my experience of using Bipolar UK’s eCommunity, attending my local Bipolar Support Group and dealing with a change to my medication.

Things
I’ve got quite a number of new things recently. I saved up and bought-in-bulk the following Dorothy Morrison candles and oils from The Angry Cauldron:

Dorothy-Morrison-Candles-Big-Order-April-17

Photo above is of my candle collection.

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Photo above is of my oils chest. Included are Dorothy Morrison limited edition oils and other essential oils.

My old hoover started making sounds like it was going to explode and takeout half of the town with it. So I bought a new one:

new-hoover-April-17

My New Hoover bought on Amazon: VYTRONIX VTBC01 1400w Compact Cyclonic Bagless Cylinder Vacuum Cleaner HEPA Hoover

Around the same time I treated myself to three Yankee candles (large) and one Woodwick candle (large). I bought Midsummer’s Night, Turquoise Sky and Flowers in the Sun Yankee fragrances. Patchouli was the Woodwick fragrance.

My mum recently got a new sofa. She kindly gifted me her old sofa. It was really appreciated as my old sofas were knackered. To protect the leather from scratches by my cats, I bought throws and rubbed lemongrass essential oil on the sofa in places they would be tempted to scratch. Cats don’t like lemongrass essential oil or at least mine don’t. I also dug out some old cushions to match the throws.

Here are the results, a lovely sofa and chair, which are both like new:

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New sofa with brown throw and red & gold cushions.

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New sofa chair with red throw and red & gold cushion.

My birthday came and went without any real celebration. Lots of people gave me money, which I am going to save for when I go away for a night in June.

But for the May full moon I’d burned one of my Dorothy Morrison Hot Damn candles. I had a load of wax remains on my altar and then came up with an idea: What if I bought a Wax Melter and burned the remains? I saw this gorgeous Yankee Candle Wax Melter on ebay and couldn’t resist:

wax-melter

This gorgeous Yankee Candle Wax Melter was what I bought with some of the money I got for my birthday. The orange wax burning is the remains of a Dorothy Morrison Hot Damn candle (purchased from The Angry Cauldron).

A good friend of mine got married yesterday. I needed a suit for her Wedding and I picked up this stylish and absolutely bargain priced suit:

suit-for-wedding-from-ASDA

I bought this Charcoal Grey suit from ASDA for a bargain price of £50 (£35 for the jacket and £15 for the pants) for a friend’s Wedding. It looks exactly like a Next suit but was probably around one third of the price.

Candle Creation
In January I made a batch of homemade and handmade White Champagne & Strawberry candles. I couldn’t blog about them at the time because a number were reserved as gifts for people. I gave one to my mum for Mother’s Day, one to my Grandma for her 75th birthday, one to Simon and two to my friend for her Wedding. Here is a photo of one of my candles:

candle-creation-white-champagne-and-strawberry

My latest batch of handmade and homemade candles. They are White Champagne & Strawberry Candles in a 500ML mason jars.

I’ve completely run out of wax and fragrance. I’m hoping to do a batch of orange Pumpkin Spice candles and possibly repeat the red Hot Cinnamon candles.

Support
I’ve been accessing Bipolar UK’s eCommunity and attending my local Bipolar Support Group for the last few months.

The eCommunity is an active forum/message board where users (who can be people with bipolar or friends or relatives of someone with bipolar) can ask one another questions, share experiences and share helpful information. It’s free to use, open 24 hours and 7 days a week, and goes a long way to reduce isolation people with bipolar can experience.

I regularly check the forum and have posted there and replied to the posts of others. You can access Bipolar UK’s eCommunity here.

My local support group meets once a month. It took a lot for me to go along to a meeting, but I’m so glad I did. Nobody can understand bipolar or a mood disorder as much as someone who lives with it.

The facilitator and all participants of the group that I have met have been really friendly. I have found conversations there to be very useful and learned a lot just by listening and talking to others.

My group isn’t well attended and I think Community Mental Health Teams could do more to promote these local support groups (both in terms of posters/leaflets in waiting rooms and speaking to patients about them). These groups are free to access and go along way to reduce isolation. You can find your local Bipolar Support Group here.

Medication

venlafaxine-antidepressant-medication

I’ve recently started on Venlafaxine (antidepressant).

I’ve been in a depressive episode since at least last November. So I’m currently in the process of cross tapering, off Mirtazapine and on to Venlafaxine (NHS). So far the side effects of Venlafaxine have been quite severe. My side effects have included:

  • Dilated (large) pupils.
  • Daily headaches.
  • Being tired but wired.
  • Waves of nausea & dizziness.
  • Decreased appetite (not always a bad side effect).
  • Huge yawns.

Apparently Venlafaxine withdrawal is very severe. So I have two hopes for this medication. One that it improves my mood. Two that it is several years before my brain develops a tolerance and I have to be weaned off it and on to something else.

Blog soon,

Antony

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Mental Health Focus: A List of Common Conditions

By HealthNo Comments

I’ve wrote a series of Mental Health Focus blog posts to help to #EndTheStigma around mental health and to encourage others to talk openly and honestly about their own mental health. In this post I’ll give some information around common mental health conditions.


To find information about a condition quickly, by clicking the link: Addiction, Anxiety, Bipolar, Bereavement, Depression, Eating Disorders, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), Schizophrenia & Stress. EMERGENCY HELP!


Addiction – Alcohol, Drugs, Sex, Gambling, etc.

Addiction is a strong, uncontrollable need to take drugs, drink alcohol or carry out a particular activity such as gambling.

It becomes the most important thing in your life and leads to problems at home, work and school.
There’s no single reason why addictions develop. Regularly drinking alcohol or using other substances, or spending time gambling or on the internet (including porn sites), may be pleasurable or relaxing. Some people experience these feelings particularly intensely and have a strong desire to repeat them more often.

You’re more at risk of developing an addiction if:
– other members of your family have addiction problems
– you experienced stress or abuse while growing up
– you have mental health problems

(From: NHS Choices, Last Accessed on 28th December 2014)

For more information visit: Talk to Frank, DrugScope, Drink Aware & Gamblers Anonymous.

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Anxiety

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe.
Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life. For example, you may feel worried and anxious about sitting an exam or having a medical test or job interview. During times like these, feeling anxious can be perfectly normal.

However, some people find it hard to control their worries. Their feelings of anxiety are more constant and can often affect their daily life.

Anxiety is the main symptom of several conditions, including panic disorder, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety disorder (social phobia).

(From: NHS Choices, Last Accessed on 28th December 2014)

For more information visit: Anxiety UK & No Panic.

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Bipolar

Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, is a condition that affects your moods, which can swing from one extreme to another.

If you have bipolar disorder, you will have periods or episodes of:
– depression – where you feel very low and lethargic
– mania – where you feel very high and overactive (less severe mania is known as hypomania)

Symptoms of bipolar disorder depend on which mood you are experiencing. Unlike simple mood swings, each extreme episode of bipolar disorder can last for several weeks (or even longer), and some people may not experience a “normal” mood very often.

(From: NHS Choices, Last Accessed on 28th December 2014)

For more information visit: Bipolar UK.

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Bereavement

The death of someone close can be shattering. Everyone experiences grief differently; there is no ‘normal’ or ‘right’ way to grieve. How we react will be influenced by many different things, including our age and personality, our cultural background and religious beliefs, our previous experiences of
bereavement, our circumstances and how we cope with loss.

After a death you may initially feel shocked, numb, guilty, angry, afraid and full of pain. These feelings may change to feelings of longing, sadness, loneliness − even hopelessness and fear about the future.

These feelings are not unnatural, or wrong. They are all ‘normal’ reactions to what may be the most difficult experience of your life. Over time these feelings should lessen.

Every person’s experience of grief is unique…

(From: Cruse Bereavement Care – Has someone died? Restoring Hope, Last Accessed on 28th December 2014)

For more information visit: NHS Choices – Bereavement & Cruse Bereavement Care.

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Depression

Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days.

We all go through spells of feeling down, but when you’re depressed you feel persistently sad for weeks or months, rather than just a few days.

Some people still think that depression is trivial and not a genuine health condition. They’re wrong. Depression is a real illness with real symptoms, and it’s not a sign of weakness or something you can “snap out of” by “pulling yourself together”…

Depression affects people in different ways and can cause a wide variety of symptoms.

They range from lasting feelings of sadness and hopelessness, to losing interest in the things you used to enjoy and feeling very tearful. Many people with depression also have symptoms of anxiety.

There can be physical symptoms too, such as feeling constantly tired, sleeping badly, having no appetite or sex drive, and complaining of various aches and pains.

The severity of the symptoms can vary. At its mildest, you may simply feel persistently low in spirit, while at its most severe depression can make you feel suicidal and that life is no longer worth living.

(From: NHS Choices, Last Accessed on 28th December 2014)

For more information visit: Depression Alliance.

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Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are characterised by an abnormal attitude towards food that causes someone to change their eating habits and behaviour.

A person with an eating disorder may focus excessively on their weight and shape, leading them to make unhealthy choices about food with damaging results to their health.

Types of eating disorders
Eating disorders include a range of conditions that can affect someone physically, psychologically and socially. The most common eating disorders are:
– anorexia nervosa – when someone tries to keep their weight as low as possible, for example by starving themselves or exercising excessively
– bulimia – when someone tries to control their weight by binge eating and then deliberately being sick or using laxatives (medication to help empty their bowels)
– binge eating – when someone feels compelled to overeat

Some people, particularly young people, may be diagnosed with an eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS). This is means you have some, but not all, of the typical signs of eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.

(From: NHS Choices, Last Accessed on 28th December 2014)

For more information visit: beat.

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OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition where a person has obsessive thoughts and compulsive activity.

An obsession is an unwanted and unpleasant thought, image or urge that repeatedly enters a person’s mind, causing feelings of anxiety, disgust or unease.

A compulsion is a repetitive behaviour or mental act that someone feels they need to carry out to try to temporarily relieve the unpleasant feelings brought on by the obsessive thought.

For example, someone with a fear of their house being burgled may feel they need to check all the windows and doors are locked several times before they can leave the house.

OCD symptoms can range from mild to severe. Some people with OCD may spend an hour or so a day engaged in obsessive-compulsive thinking and behaviour, but for others the condition can completely take over their life.

(From: NHS Choices, Last Accessed on 28th December 2014)

For more information visit: OCD Action & Mind – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

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Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a long-term mental health condition that causes a range of different psychological symptoms, including:
– hallucinations – hearing or seeing things that do not exist
– delusions – unusual beliefs not based on reality which often contradict the evidence
– muddled thoughts based on the hallucinations or delusions
– changes in behaviour

Doctors often describe schizophrenia as a psychotic illness. This means sometimes a person may not be able to distinguish their own thoughts and ideas from reality.

(From: NHS Choices, Last Accessed on 28th December 2014)

For more information visit: Rethink: Schizophrenia.

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Stress

Stress is the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure.

Pressure turns into stress when you feel unable to cope. People have different ways of reacting to stress, so a situation that feels stressful to one person may be motivating to someone else.

Many of life’s demands can cause stress, particularly work, relationships and money problems. And, when you feel stressed, it can get in the way of sorting out these demands, or can even affect everything you do.

Stress can affect how you feel, think, behave and how your body works. In fact, common signs of stress include sleeping problems, sweating, loss of appetite and difficulty concentrating.

You may feel anxious, irritable or low in self esteem, and you may have racing thoughts, worry constantly or go over things in your head. You may notice that you lose your temper more easily, drink more or act unreasonably.

You may also experience headaches, muscle tension or pain, or dizziness.

Stress causes a surge of hormones in your body. These stress hormones are released to enable you to deal with pressures or threats – the so-called “fight or flight” response.

Once the pressure or threat has passed, your stress hormone levels will usually return to normal. However, if you’re constantly under stress, these hormones will remain in your body, leading to the symptoms of stress.

(From: NHS Choices, Last Accessed on 28th December 2014)

For more information visit: Mind – How to manage stress & Mental Health Foundation – Stress.

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Emergency Help!
If you are experiencing an episode of poor mental health, two useful websites are: Mind and SANE. If you are feeling suicidal please visit your nearest A&E Department for crisis support. Back To Top

How do you manage your own mental and emotional health? Leave a comment below.

Write soon,

Antony

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I aim for posts on this blog to be informative, educational and entertaining. If you have found this post useful or enjoyable, please consider making a contribution by Paypal:


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