It’s #timetotalk about mental health at Liberal Democrat Voice

Time to talk dayLiberal Democrat Voice is always “Our place to talk” but today, we are talking about mental health. Time to Change is having a national #timetotalk day. Why?

Thursday 6 February is the first ever Time to Talk Day: 24 hours in which to start conversations about mental health, raise awareness and share the message that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, neither is talking about it.

Sometimes it’s the little things we do that make a big difference – like having a chat over a cuppa, sending a text or inviting someone out. And on Time to Talk Day we’re encouraging people to do just that. In fact, we’re hoping to spark a million conversations, and we want your help to do that.

I have suffered from Depression on and off throughout my life. It’s debilitating enough without the added stigma attached to it. When I was growing up there was no help available and you just didn’t talk about it for fear for of what people might say.  The sense of isolation, feelings of worthlessness, that it was somehow your fault, that you were deficient as a person just compounded the effects of the illness. But 1 in 4 of us will suffer from poor mental health at some point.

I’ve always taken that view that most things are made easier by talking about them. Sharing ideas, experiences and awareness always lightens the load. And, slowly, the stigma attached to mental health is being lifted. It’s only in the last couple of years that MPs have felt able to be open about their own mental health conditions, and their contributions will do much to show that it is possible to still be successful and hold down a good job while living with them. And if the condition is so severe that you aren’t able to work, then you should be treated with compassion, as valued members of society and looked after without the added misery of stigma.

There are two things I’d like to share, an experience and an idea. For me, what helps when Depression strikes is the confidence that, horrible and all-consuming it may feel, it will pass. It’s happened often enough to know that it will and it helps me manage it.

The idea is that one thing that we know helps with Depression is to get those endorphins flowing with exercise. This is also the last thing you feel like doing when you have a great big black dog sitting on your chest. Perhaps it would help if GPs had another option to prescribe in the varied toolkit of what works – exercise. I don’t mean discounted gym membership or anything like that. An actual series of appointments with an instructor who will help you find the exercise that’s right for you and help you stick to it. If you have an actual appointment to attend, you are more likely to do it than head off to the gym. What do you think?

Feel free to share your ideas and experiences in the comments. Or, if you want, you can send us a brief article and we’ll put it up separately. But let’s make use of this day to make the world better and easier for that 1 in 4 affected by mental health problems.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • How I would love to exercise at the moment. I know it will help but I am injured. Instead I have to take a barrage of medication to help me deal with my illness at the moment. An illness mainly caused (this time) by stress. It is time we started to talk more openly about these issues.

  • Exercise is also really good treatment for a broken leg. And I’ve never met a jogger with a broken leg! FACT.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 6th Feb '14 - 10:54am

    Christine, that’s really frustrating for you. Of course, exercise is not going to be appropriate for everyone in every circumstance, but I just think it’s an option that GPs should have in the toolbox. There is a huge range of things that work in varying combinations and it’s about getting the right therapy for each person. Medication has its place, as do talking therapies, diet, exercise. It’s about giving GPs a much better toolbox.

    Jade, I’ve never heard of anyone being prescribed exercise for a broken leg outside of the physio once it’s healed. Like I say, it’s about giving the medical team that range of things so they can put together the right care for their patients.

  • I wrote an article back in October 2013 for LDV

    Sadly I have not seen any changes at all.

    Despite being armed and having a Psychological report that was funded privately, where the Psychologist said that I should undergo Intensive CAT and CBT therapy over a period of 18 months to try and alleviate the severity of my clinical depression and PTSD. I am yet to receive any treatment from the NHS.

    I still have to fund my weekly CBT therapy privately out of my benefits, to keep me going and keep me safe.

    My GP sent the Psychologists report to mental health services back in August 2013, who took until November 2013 to assess me with a Psychiatric Nurse. The result of that assessment was that i needed to be reassessed by a Psychologist within the NHS. I had to wait until January 2014 to get this assessment. The Psychologist then decided that I should undergo a course of (EMDR) Eye movement desensitization reprocessing. However I was then told I will have to wait {at least} 3 months before anyone can see me.
    The NHS are not going to give me the 18 month CBT/CAT therapy that was suggested in the report and have said that I need to continue doing that “privately” at my own expense.

    It makes me feel like I am pretty worthless when the NHS has had a very detailed Psychological report provided to them, which they have had for 6 months now and I have to wait at least another 3 months before {any} treatment will begin. And even then I have to continue paying privately for the CBT.
    {There is no doubt in my mind that if it was not for my weekly CBT. I would be dead} So I have to continue doing this

    If I had a leg that was full of gangrene would the NHS be making me walk around with this useless limb that could kill me? Obviously not.

    This coalition talks tough about improving NHS Mental health care, but my experience on the ground is that it is all just that, talk….

  • Sorry Caron.

    Great article and I applaud you for what you are doing.

    When I have calmed down a bit I will try and engage in the discussion more positively on the topics you suggested.

  • Caron – I have set up an awards system to reinforce the positive aspects of my day. I have a jar by the TV into which I place a pound every time I do something positive. Last night I got a pound for feeding my family, this morning a pound for getting out of bed before 9 am and in a minute a pound for getting dressed and putting my laptop down.

    I could do it with a star chart but it helps that the jar sits in front of the TV where I can see it in the evening when all are in bed and the house is silent and I am alone. And when I am feeling broke the pound becomes a penny.

    Stress and anxiety can cause depression and you lose the value of yourself as a person. This is just a way I try to remind myself I have a value.

  • Sorry about my first post but I needed to get that off my chest.

    I do think that some form of physical activity is vital for people suffering from depression. But I also know just how difficult that can be. Especially if you’re mental health keeps you housebound most of the time due to high levels of anxiety.
    Secondary associated illnesses for me have been weight gain and very High Blood Pressure.
    It is not possible for me to take up jogging/walking or joining a Gym as I cannot bare to be around people.

    I do think however with today’s technology which is relatively cheap, there are things that the NHS could do.
    Now I am not suggesting for one moment that the NHS should prescribe a games console to people. However, I do think the concept of a Kinect console like that used for the Xbox machine, which gets people up and out of the chair and moving around is a good idea. The NHS could develop their own console with a fitness program. This would be a standard fitness program (Not games console} aimed at reducing weight and improving activity levels. The progress could then be downloaded and monitored directly by the patients GP showing progress in activity, weight loss, reduction in BMI etc.
    I am sure this would be relatively cheap to do; it would have various health benefits for the patient and in the long run could save massive amounts of money which is spent on weight related Illnesses, weight loss surgery, type 2 diabetes, High Blood Pressure etc.
    The console could be provided on loan, just like any other machine that the NHS currently provides like Blood Pressure Machines and other devices.
    People with mental health problems and weight issues seriously lack self-esteem. For many the idea of going to the Gym and engaging in exercise where your vulnerabilities are exposed is just far too traumatic. What we need is an alternative where people can start the process within the safety of their own home so they are able to start improving their confidence and endurance levels so they don’t feel like a laughing stock.
    The only problem is the right wing media would probably be filled with headlines like. Tax payers, paying for idle layabouts to stay at home and play games console.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 6th Feb '14 - 1:06pm

    Matt, that is a seriously interesting suggestion. Thanks. That would certainly be another way of doing it.

  • Louise Bloom 6th Feb '14 - 1:36pm

    I have worked in mental health for many years and also have close family members with long term issues. The Black Dog visits me sometimes too. Treatments have been mentioned and CBT is generally now widely available on the NHS so I’m not sure where Matt lives but it does sounds to me like your local Trust has not been at all helpful. Is there an IAPT ( Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) service in your area? IAPTs have been a big success story in recent years with increased funding, but they don’t suit everyone. As for what helps? For me it is always my girl friends ( sorry boys!) a nice cuppa and cake! So if you do have a friend you know is feeling low, text, phone, email or go and knock on their door!

  • @Louise Bloom

    “Treatments have been mentioned and CBT is generally now widely available on the NHS so I’m not sure where Matt lives but it does sounds to me like your local Trust has not been at all helpful. Is there an IAPT ( Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) service in your area?”

    The current problem with access to CBT and mental health therapy is that the NHS has a one cap fits all approach.
    Due to such a high demands and limited resources, in general you are only allocated 10-12 sessions of therapy. This is not adequate for some people with complex and deep rooted depression.
    I exhausted all NHS funded CBT which is why I ended up having to pay privately.
    I have been with my current private therapist for 6 years now having weekly sessions. These sessions keep me alive and help me manage my depression.
    The NHS will simply not fund that level of therapy.
    I do not want to really hijack this thread with my personal circumstances as I d not believe that is appropriate or for what this excellent article was intended, my experiences with mental health access and services within the NHS are well covered in the article I linked to previously.

    I hope this article encourages a good discussion on possible complimentary therapies which could be offered alongside the conventional forms of talking therapies to address people’s low self-esteem and secondary associated illnesses that tend to manifest in people with depressive disorders.

  • I really do think that the first thing we should be doing is ensuring people can meet their living costs so that they can regain and keep their health.
    The J.R.F. have done a great study into the minimum income standard needed, and we must ensure people meet this very basic standard. At the moment this is not the case, and so we see much more avoidable health problems. It makes people sick.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 8th Feb '14 - 2:06am

    Caron, you have my utmost respect for your candour. You are truly a role model.

    Many of us at some time or other in our lives will unfortunately suffer from mental health issues and due to the stigma that is attached suffer in silence, and the negative impact of this affects not only our loved ones, but everyone around us.

    Although such things as CBT have their uses, one on one counselling is hugely beneficial but sadly this is often not offered by the NHS, so only those of us who can personally fund such therapy can benefit.

    Caron, thanks again for being so courageous!

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