Sunday, 8 November 2015

This Week in Mental Health... 8th November

Aaaand another week is over! Next thing we know November will be over... It pains me to even think towards December and Christmas already.
This week I've been reading a lot of articles about mindfulness, the work of helpline Niteline, and Miriam Dowling's excellent take on mental health in the workplace (Number 9 in this week's articles) amongst many others.

1) The pressure to be thin is the main reason vulnerable young girls contemplate suicide – expert, Claire McCormack

Pieta House were putting emphasis on one of the main reasons young girls take their own lives - body issues. Although most associated with females, male body issues are also on the rise.

Sunday Independent, 01st November 2015;
“Pressure to be thin is the main reason vulnerable teenage girls contemplate suicide, a leading adolescent psychotherapist says. Over the last two years, Pieta House - the suicide and self-harm crisis centre - has witnessed a marked increase in the number of 13- to 17-year-old girls presenting with suicidal ideation. The most consistent issue they are presenting with is their struggle to obtain "the perfect body"... "It's about looking thin. Teenage girls are comparing themselves a lot to their peers. They're at a stage of development where confidence is quite low and in order to be acceptable to the group, they believe they need this 'ideal body'," said Ms Kiely.”

2) Helen Wood opens up on depression 'I self-harmed and pulled my hair out', Helen Wood
Former Big Brother star (No, I don't actually know who this 'famous' person is), Helen Wood had been speaking out about her battle with depression. I always feel it's very important when people in the media open up their experiences with mental illness. When you are somebody that young people look up to in the spotlight they also need to know that while you may be famous, you are not perfect.

The Daily Star, 2nd November 2015;
“I'm sure we can all relate to this topic in one way or another: mental health. It's being spoken about more than ever before, thank God, though most people (unless you’ve been a sufferer of a condition), turn a blind eye, or like now, click off this column, DON’T, don’t have one of those 'I'm fine, so sod it' kinda attitudes. If you've got a brain, you've got a mental health. Mental Health Awareness Day brought out a lot of hidden feelings I've had over the years, that I've always to be honest been too embarrassed to talk about, believing I was a freak, worried that if I did tell people I'd be judged. We shouldn't have to feel like the men in white coats are going to come for us just because we have a feeling on the flip side of 'normal' – whatever normal is.”

3) 5 myths about mindfulness, Dr Paul D’Alton

Mindfulness can be overhyped. It’s not something that’s easy to practice when you’re at your lowest; in fact it’s near impossible unless you’re already feeling mentally healthy. But the hype around the new craze means everyone’s being urged to be more ‘mindful’. Dr D’Alton takes a look at the 5 most common myths about mindfulness, and how they are doing more harm than good.

Irish Independent, 2nd November 2015;
“The problem with the rapid growth of interest in mindfulness is that we seem to have gotten it wrong. If you look at the images used to advertise mindfulness courses, they are often of a woman, perfectly proportioned, sitting lotus position on a beach, utterly calm and serene. If you ask people what mindfulness means, they usually say something like 'being calm', 'living in the moment' or being 'stress-free'. Our understanding of mindfulness tends to veer towards some zombie-like, sedated, emotionally flat human being. The truth couldn't be more different. There are five common myths about mindfulness that underpin these widespread misrepresentations and misunderstandings of mindfulness. These myths are not only misleading, but have the potential to be dangerous.”

4) Medical Matters: Should doctors prescribe a course in mindfulness?, Muiris Houston

Another piece on mindfulness. This time, Houston looks at some US studies to determine once and for all whether there are any health benefits to prescribing mindfulness to patients.

The Irish Times, 3rd November 2015;
“Is there any evidence yet for the health benefits of practising mindfulness? A recent study published in the Lancet found MBCT to be as effective as a maintenance dose of antidepressant medication for preventing depression relapse. Investigators randomly assigned all 424 participants to an intervention group receiving MBCT (while either tapering or discontinuing antidepressants) or a control group continuing to take maintenance antidepressants; they then measured relapse rates over 15 months and at two years after intervention. Of patients in the MBCT intervention group, 44 per cent relapsed over the course of the study compared with 47 per cent of patients in the control group.”

5) ‘Finding a solution for a caller feels great. But it’s not always possible’, Arlene Harris

Arlene talks to an anonymous volunteer with Dublin’s confidential call line for colleges, Niteline. She discusses what it’s like to be at the helping end of the line, ready to offer support to whoever picks up the courage to dial their number that night.

The Irish Times, 3rd November 2015;
“The amount of calls or length of each call varies and can be very unpredictable. We have very busy and very quiet nights; however, because exam seasons are usually quite stressful for students, this seems to be when call frequency is the highest... When I’m working I go to an undisclosed location where we turn phones on and get ready to take our calls. These can be very light or serious and can range in length from a few seconds to up to two hours. Although there are issues that come up more than others, we get calls about literally everything and anything, and that’s what I really love about being a Niteline volunteer. Sometimes a night on call can consist of general chats about everyday things, but other nights it can involve supporting someone through a difficult time. After a night on the phones, I don’t usually get home until after 3am, and while I try to get some sleep it’s also important for me to relax and maybe have a light chat with someone else who was on call.”

6) Is It Harmful to Use Music as a Coping Mechanism?, Lauren Cassani Davis

I don’t know about you, but I find music a great way to de-stress. I love walking to work and putting on something upbeat like Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk, or Macklemore’s Downtown. I also love listening to my favourite two bands when I get down – The Gaslight Anthem and Tegan and Sara. But there’s also a mix of classics, current pop hits, musical numbers, and punk rock on my iPod to suit my mood. I know the music I used to listen to as a teenager fuelled some of my anger and depression, but can my music taste still be harmful to me now?

The Atlantic, 2nd November 2015;
“And it often feels good to listen to Aretha Franklin to lift our spirits, or croon along with Adele to make sense of a breakup. But is it also possible to listen to music in ways that sabotage our mental health? This is the question that Emily Carlson, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Music at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland, explored in a recent study. The study asked 123 participants about their music-listening habits using a scale developed by one of the study’s co-authors. This scale assessed how much people tended to use seven different music mood-regulation strategies, based on their agreement with statements like “When I'm angry with someone, I listen to music that expresses my anger.” Of particular interest were the three strategies in which people use music to deal with negative moods: Diversion, where music is used as a distraction from negative thoughts and feelings; Solace, where music is used to search for comfort, acceptance, and understanding when feeling sad or troubled; and Discharge, where anger or sadness are released through music (think of a mosh pit in the mind).”

7) How Twitter helped me come to terms with depression, Aaron Gilles

Aaron Gilles takes a look at what it can be like to discuss and share your mental health online. I've always found the lovely mental health community on Twitter to be supportive and welcoming. And Aaron's positive experience is pretty heart warming.

The Telegraph, 3rd November 2015;
@TechnicallyRon: 'Twitter is, for all its faults, primarily a nice place'
“I found it difficult to start discussing my depression online. My social media presence was a happy, whimsical and nonsensical clusterf--k, very rarely delving into the realms of reality. But it all just felt false. I was miserable. I was trapped inside myself. I was nothing... But to my surprise people did care. People I had never met, people I would probably never meet, cared. Or at least seemed to. I used hashtags, I wrote blogs, I responded to other people’s blogs. People helped. They weren’t gaining anything from this. They were just human beings, being nice. I was not used to this at all.”

8) Don't believe the antidepressant scaremongering - my medication isn't a "dirty little habit", Mollie Goodfellow

This piece is an excellent look at how we’re scared to talk about anti-depressants. While the general discussion of mental health is definitely increasing, people often shun discussing medication in favour of holistic approaches; even to the point of discrediting anti-depressants altogether.

The Independent, 04th November 2015;
“It’s no secret that there’s a stigma against mental illness. But what is perhaps less recognised is the stigma against the medication that can help control the symptoms of mental health disorders. It’s one thing to be depressed – it seems to be another to be so depressed that you require a daily medicine... According to a study conducted by the University of Westminster, after 30 years of the use of anti-depressants being widespread, patients are still anxious that the medication was a “dirty little habit” and people feel they have to hide their use – almost like an illicit drug habit... In a perfect world I wouldn’t have to take medication to make myself feel normal. In the same perfect world mental illness wouldn't be a thing. But frankly, the world sucks and mental illness exists, so I guess I’m in a bit of a bind.”

9) ‘I had a nervous breakdown, but I was ready to come back to work. The gap on my CV was a big problem’, Miriam Dowling

In a brilliantly written piece, Miriam Dowling shares her story of trying to get back into the workplace following her mental health difficulties. It wasn’t easy, but I truly admire how Miriam has turned it into a positive.

The, 6th November 2015;
“IN FEBRUARY 2003, I had a nervous breakdown. My brain just shut down. I was numb, unable to feel emotion, all that existed was darkness. It took me some years to recover from this experience and in 2007, I readied myself to re-enter the workplace. I wanted to have a purpose, a reason to get out of bed. I wanted to contribute to society and to the household. Somewhat naively, I thought I just needed to apply for jobs, talk to people I know and see what kind of work was out there. I wasn’t looking for a high-powered executive position, my experience was in office administration. I didn’t think I’d have a problem picking up even short-term contract work, as I had been in continuous employment since leaving school and never had a problem gaining employment. I wasn’t prepared for what faced me, a lot of rejection.”

Until next week,


  1. There is so much misunderstanding out there about mental health, people thinking it's just like a few bad days and that a change in music will snap them out if it. Well done for putting the discussion out there. The CV gap is especially difficult I'd imagine

    1. I agree Linda. Really liked Miriam's story myself as it was so different from my own work and mental health experiences. x

  2. Such amazing and thought provoking stories. The mindfulness one is interesting as I do think this could be really powerful x

    1. It's an interesting perspective on Mindfulness alright. I think it's not the sole solution of mental health issues, but can help if you are already in the right frame of mind.

  3. I'm always amazed at the amount of reading you get done for every blogpost. ;-)
    I have different kinds of music for different moods. Recently I discovered reiki music, which I put on when I really want to de-stress.

  4. You are right it will be Christmas before we know it! Great selection of articles, I brought a book on mindfulness which I have every intention of reading although it was about 2 months ago... I also use music to destress and quite often have the radio on in the car full blast :) xx

    1. Haha, when I get a book to 'help' me in some way it always ends up at the bottom of my reading list so I can relate!

  5. That's an excellent point on mindfulness! I hadn't thought of it before. I have heard how helpful social media can be & bloggers as well - for raising awareness & creating a safe place to talk. x

    1. It definitely is, sometimes I think we hear too much negativity about social media x

  6. I agree mindfulness can be helpful with people suffering with mental health issues. I think sharing these stories and gaining an understanding can be an incredibly powerful tool. Great article, as always x

  7. PS I adore the name of your blog and think it is my favourite name for a blog, ever! X

    1. Haha, cutest comment I've ever received Amy :P x

  8. Its great that you are writing about this as so many people now look to bloggers for help and guides. I agree mindfulness can be helpful and hopefully people will know this too