This month we discuss Suicide around national mental health awareness week. We have supported an alarming number of people who have reported attempting to take their own life. We also support the families on how to cope afterwards. Prevention is key and early intervention to help those before it occurs is of great importance, take a look at our information for this month.
Often the key to recognising mental ill health is to notice a change in appearance, behaviour or work.
- Headaches, stomach upsets
- Run down, frequent illness
- Exhausted, tearful
- Weight change
- Irritable, impatient, argumentative
- Change in sociability
- Less confident, disinterested in life
- Unusually energetic and high
- More caffeine, alcohol or cigarettes
- Poor performance or time-keeping
- Taking on too much, first in/last out
- Moody and uncommunicative
- Avoiding tasks
- Increased sickness absence
We all have physical and mental health, and both have a 5-a-day. Your 5 Ways to Wellbeing are:
- How do I feel, where am I on the continuum,
is my thinking helpful or not?
- Am I managing mine and my team’s stress? – use HSE checklist
- If not, should I ask for professional development or more support?
Anyone can have mental health problems. Most people get over them or learn to live with them, especially if they get help early on. 1 in 4 people are diagnosed with a disorder. Commonly diagnosed conditions are anxiety disorders, mood disorders (depression, bipolar), psychotic disorders and eating disorders.
Supporting staff experiencing a mental health problem
- Make time, find an appropriate place with no distractions.
- Listen non-judgementally and carefully. You don’t have to agree, show respect and that you’ve heard.
- Use sensitive phrases www.time-to-change.org.uk/media-centre/ responsible-reporting/mind-your-language.
- Offer information and help in seeking support: details of your helpline, the Mates in Mind site for staff, help in seeing a GP. Be honest and clear about how work can help.
- Know your limits! You don’t have to be an expert to talk about mental health, but you do to be a counsellor.
Crisis risk of self-harm or suicide
- Ensure your own personal safety.
- Ensure the person is not left alone.
- Seek immediate help: 999 if danger looks imminent.
- Encourage a conversation but don’t promise confidentiality.
- Ask who they’d like called: a friend, a First Aider, the helpline, their GP or other health care worker.
- Contact HR, OHS or the helpline (according to your company policy) to let them know the situation.
- When professional help arrives, ask if they want you or someone else to stay with them.
Afterwards, get support for yourself. Don’t underestimate the impact. Whatever happens, know you are not responsible for other people’s choices. Look out for yourself. Pursue your 5 Ways to Wellbeing!
Mental health problems prompt thousands of people to take their own lives
In fact, there are about 6,000 suicides in the UK each year and it's the biggest killer of men up to the age of 49. Men account for three-quarters of the total figure.
Mental health problems tend to start early
As already mentioned, mental health problems are particularly common in the young in the UK. In fact, most mental health problems develop in childhood or when a person is a young adult. Three-quarters of problems are established by the age of 24.
"OCD is a term that many are familiar with on a passing level, but few understand the consequences that sufferers contend with.
What is OCD?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder. It has two main parts: obsessions and compulsions.
Obsessions are unwelcome thoughts, images, urges, worries or doubts that repeatedly appear in your mind. They can make you feel very anxious (although some people describe it as 'mental discomfort' rather than anxiety).
Compulsions are repetitive activities that you do to reduce the anxiety caused by the obsession. It could be something like repeatedly checking a door is locked, repeating a specific phrase in your head or checking how your body feels. You can read more about compulsions here.
You might find that sometimes your obsessions and compulsions are manageable and other times they are impossible to live with. They may be more severe when you are stressed about other things like work, university or relationships.
What's it like to live with OCD?
Although many people experience minor obsessions (such as worrying about leaving the gas on, or if the door is locked) and compulsions (such as avoiding the cracks in the pavement), these don’t significantly interfere with daily life, or are short-lived.
If you experience OCD, it's likely that your obsessions and compulsions will have a big impact on how you live your life:
- Disruption to your day-to-day life. Repeating compulsions can take up a lot of time, and you might avoid certain situations that trigger your OCD. This can mean that you're not able to go to work, see family and friends, eat out or even go outside. Obsessive thoughts can make it hard to concentrate and can leave you feeling exhausted.
- Impact on your relationships. You may feel that you have to hide your OCD from people close to you – or your doubts and anxieties about the relationship may make it too difficult to continue it.
- Feeling ashamed or lonely. You may feel ashamed of your obsessive thoughts, or as if they are a permanent part of you and can't be treated. You might feel that you can't talk about this part of yourself with others. This can make you feel very isolated. If you find it hard to be around people or go outside, then you may feel lonely.
- Impact on your physical health. Anxiety caused by obsessions can affect your physical health.
Experiences of facing stigma
Lots of people have misconceptions about OCD. Some people think it just means you wash your hands a lot or you like things to be tidy. They might even make jokes about it.
This can be frustrating and upsetting, especially if people who think this are friends or family, colleagues or even healthcare professionals.
Stigma can make OCD feel difficult to talk about but it's important to remember you are not alone. Show people this information to help them understand more about what your diagnosis really means.
Addiction spreads to every kind of pleasurable behaviour: drinking, surfing (wave and internet), sex, food, and so on. Some activities or substances can generate a feeling that is so powerful that life without that feeling may never seem worthwhile again. For example, many gamblers have a big win early in their career and then spend the rest of their life chasing that buzz.
Why do addictions seem so hard to beat?
So, what is it that makes addictions so easy to acquire and so difficult for most people to shake off? The answer lies in the chemical reward mechanisms that the human brain uses to motivate itself to act and learn.
The excitement we get when we are keen to do something is produced by dopamine, a natural brain chemical, very like cocaine in its effect, that raises our emotional level, so we want to act. And the warm feelings of satisfaction we get after doing something — eating, laughing, having sex, or achieving some new understanding or skill — are produced by endorphin, another natural substance (which is similar to heroin). Working together these chemicals keep us interested in doing the biological functions that preserve the species and stretch each one of us to learn and achieve.
In a well-balanced life, a reasonable amount of natural reward is felt by the human every day, but in a life where essential emotional needs are not met and abilities are not stretched, the rewards do not come, and life feels flat and meaningless.
This kind of life is rich territory for addictions to target, as every addictive substance or behaviour either stimulates a reward mechanism or provides a chemical reward directly. Dangerous activities stimulate production of dopamine, generating a feeling of exhilaration; injecting heroin gives a warm, cosy feeling like the natural feelings of satisfaction you might get after fulfilling any biologically necessary function.
There is scientific evidence that the addictive substances and behaviours share a key neurobiological feature—they intensely activate brain pathways of reward and reinforcement.
Both substance use disorders and gambling behaviours have an increased likelihood of being accompanied by mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety or other pre-existing problems. Substance use and gambling disorders not only engage many of the same brain mechanisms of compulsivity, they respond to many of the same approaches to treatment.
Complex conditions that affect reward, reinforcement, motivation, and memory systems of the brain, substance use and gambling disorders are characterized by impaired control over usage; social impairment, involving disruption of everyday activities and relationships; and may involve craving.
Continuing use is typically harmful to relationships and work or school obligations. Another distinguishing feature is that individuals may continue the activity despite physical or psychological harm incurred or exacerbated by use. And typically, tolerance to the substance increases, as the body adapts to its presence.
Because addiction affects the brain’s executive functions, individuals who develop an addiction may not be aware that their behaviour is causing problems for themselves and others. Over time, pursuit of the pleasurable effects of the substance or behaviour may dominate an individual’s activities.
Love addicts often have the best intentions. They desire to have happy, healthy relationships. However, underneath these good intentions lie a covert struggle with intimacy. With sex and love addiction, there is always a hidden agenda to get needs met that are based in feelings of insecurity.
Dealing with Drug or Alcohol Addiction and Co-Occurring Mental Health Problems
When you have both a substance abuse problem and a mental health issue such as depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety, it is called a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis. Dealing with substance abuse, alcoholism, or drug addiction is never easy, and it’s even more difficult when you’re also struggling with mental health problems. But there is hope. There are plenty of treatments and steps you can take to help you on the road to recovery. With the right support, self-help, and treatment, you can overcome a co-occurring disorder, reclaim your sense of self, and get your life back on track.
What is the link between substance abuse and mental health?
In co-occurring disorders, both the mental health issue and the drug or alcohol addiction have their own unique symptoms that may get in the way of your ability to function at work or school, maintain a stable home life, handle life’s difficulties, and relate to others.
To make the situation more complicated, the co-occurring disorders also affect each other. When a mental health problem goes untreated, the substance abuse problem usually gets worse. And when alcohol or drug abuse increases, mental health problems usually increase too. But you’re not alone. Co-occurring substance abuse problems and mental health issues are more common than many people realize.
According to reports published in the Journal of the American Medical Association:
While substance abuse problems and mental health issues don’t get better when they’re ignored—in fact, they are likely to get much worse—it’s important to know that you don’t have to feel this way. There are things you can do to conquer your demons, repair your relationships, and start enjoying life again.
If you’re wondering whether you have a substance abuse problem, the following questions may help. The more “yes” answers, the more likely your drinking or drug use is a problem.
- Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking or drug use?
- Have you tried to cut back, but couldn’t?
- Do you ever lie about how much or how often you drink or use drugs?
- Are you going through prescription medication at a faster-than-expected rate?
- Have your friends or family members expressed concern about your alcohol or drug use?
- On more than one occasion, have you done or said something while drunk or high that you later regretted?
- Have you ever blacked out from drinking or drug use?
- Has your alcohol or drug use caused problems in your relationships?
- Has your alcohol or drug use gotten you into trouble at work or with the law?
Drinking more than usual? Losing your temper too easily? Answer these 10 questions to work out how well you’re managing your stress.
It’s completely normal to have some days that are better than others, but it’s also vital to notice how you’re feeling and to “check in” with your emotions every few weeks to keep yourself as mentally and emotionally well as possible. Self-awareness is key for ensuring overall good health. This quiz is to serve as a self-awareness guide, not a diagnosis. You might like to share the answers with a trusted family member or friend, or perhaps your GP if you would like some further advice, support and help.
Answer the following statements about how you’ve been feeling over the last two weeks as honestly as possible. Don’t think about the answer for too long – allow your first instinct to take over.