Green Ribbon Campaign

Tuesday, May 1st marked the beginning of the See Change Green Ribbon campaign.

The Green Ribbon campaign is all about starting a conversation about mental health and stomping out stigma.

Collins Dictionary describes stigma as follows – ‘If something has a stigma attached to it, people think it is something to be ashamed of.’  Historically this has been the case with mental health and mental illness but thankfully people like those at See Change are working hard to change this! The Green Ribbon campaign is urging people to talk to change minds about mental health one conversation at a time.

If you’re not used to speaking about mental health it can be daunting but as See Change say ‘You don’t have to be an expert to talk about mental health.’ If you pick up a free Green Ribbon you’ll see some tips on the back of the packet:

  • Talk, but listen too.
  • Keep in touch, remind them you care
  • Be patient
  • don’t just talk about mental health, talk about other things too. 

see-change-green-ribbon

I’d like to share my own Green Ribbon story with you.

I began experiencing mental health difficulties as a child. Eventually I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety, Panic Disorder and Depression*. My mam was supportive in that she went to my appointments with me and she would sit with me if I was upset but conversation around mental health didn’t really happen, everything was a bit hush-hush.

Now, I know that she thought she was protecting me. My mam feared that by speaking out about my own experiences I would be bullied. She also found mental health difficult to talk about because of the stigma attached to it that she experienced growing up – talking about mental health difficulties just wasn’t something that was done.

Then, one day she came home with a green ribbon on her coat. That little ribbon changed so much. It opened up conversation between us, it allowed us to talk about things we had never spoken about before yet desperately needed to. It wasn’t always easy and sometimes there were tears involved but it was so, so worth it.

Now, every year we not only make a point of getting green ribbons to wear ourselves but also one or two extra for anyone who we cross paths with who is interested. As I mentioned in a previous post we now speak about our mental health in the same way we speak about our physical health. Saying “I’m struggling today, I need to take some time out.” is no different than saying “I have a migraine, I need to go lie down for a while”. That little green ribbon changed a whole lot and I’ll be forever grateful for it.

 

If you’d like to get involved you’ll find Green Ribbons in all Boots stores and Irish Rail stations nationwide free of charge.  There are loads of other ways to support the campaign too – to find out more visit the See Change site, visit them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram

You can join the conversation using #greenribbonirl and take part in #TimeToTalk Day on May 4th across social media.

 

*Not everyone experiencing a mental health difficulty will be diagnosed with a mental illness.

For help, advice and information click here.

How I Care For Myself In Crisis

Crisis situations aren’t very common for me these days but once upon a time this was a regular occurrence. The most important thing I learned during that time is that I need a plan, I need to know what to do when crisis does strike. These are the things I do to try get back to myself during those times.

Tell someone – when shit has hit the fan, when Anxiety Brain is in control the worst thing I can do is keep it to myself. Sometimes, having someone who can think logically in that moment, on my side is enough and even when it’s not at least someone knows and can keep an eye on me.

Listen to something that calms me down – I like music whether I’m in crisis or not and I listen to music every day but there are particular songs that are helpful when I’m in crisis. A lot of these are from the record Vessel by Twenty One Pilots such as Trees, Holding on to You and Car Radio.

stepphhsays-holding-on-to-you-twenty-one-pilots

Remind myself that I will be back in control eventually – If I am in crisis Anxiety Brain is in control, not me. There are several phrases I repeat to myself to remind myself that I will be in control again: ‘This feeling won’t last forever’, ‘I own this’, etc. After all, no matter how bad it’s gotten in the past I made it through, I am proof that it will end eventually.

Attempt to watch tv or read a book – Something light and fluffy here, no horrors or thrillers. This is an attempt at distraction. I might read the same page twelve times or watch an entire show without being very aware of what just happened in it but it doesn’t matter. The goal here is to get out of my head for a bit, to break the cycle of unhelpful thoughts. 

Tell someone! – This is important enough to be stated twice. For me this really is the best thing I can do and if I can’t find someone I can speak to IRL then I’ll head online to find a friend or a community to talk to and help me feel less alone. As far as the internet goes, I’ve found Reddit, Instagram and Twitter to be the best places to find support and like minded people at any time of the day or night but be careful with the amount of personal information you share!

What not to do:

For me there are a couple of things that definitely don’t help when I’m in crisis – not telling someone, being entirely alone, forcing myself in to doing something that is causing me major anxiety at that particular moment, drinking alcohol, staying up all night. For me, these things will make my anxiety worse and it’s just as important to be able to recognise that, as it is to be able to recognise the things that help.

How do you deal with crisis? Do you have any tips or things that are best avoided? Let me know!

Need help? Want information? Click here

Mental Health or Mental Illness

​Are mental illnesses real? Is there a difference between mental health and mental illness? Does it have to be one or the other? Do we ‘suffer’ with mental health?

I’ve seen some discussion around this in recent months and I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit. There seem to be two main views when it comes to this argument. The first is that mental illness doesn’t actually exist but rather we’re all on a spectrum of mental health throughout our lives and should be treated as such. The second view that I’ve seen quite a lot of is that mental illness is very real, it should be treated with medication and if other people are saying they are having difficulties without a diagnoses they are being dramatic/they need to just get on with things/they should just man up.

I can only ever speak from the point of view as a service user, patient and someone with an interest in mental health so please don’t take my view as gospel, it’s just my personal opinion. I don’t fall in to either of the above camps. However, I think they both have some valid points. I agree that we are all on a spectrum of mental health but I think that mental illness is very much part of that spectrum and I agree that medication is often needed to treat mental illness but I don’t think it should be the only treatment.

There is a lot of stigma surrounding conversation about mental health and illness. We’ve gotten much better at speaking in statistics but we’re not so great at talking about the reality of either. Often times those who are struggling will carry that in silence for many reasons – fear of being treated differently, fear of a label, shame that they’re not doing better, etc. I think if we were more open to the idea of mental health as a spectrum this wouldn’t be such a big issue.

Here’s the thing – WE ALL HAVE MENTAL HEALTH. 

we-all-have-mental-health

We all have mental health and we all have it for the entirety of our lives, not just when times are difficult. I often hear people saying ‘I suffer with mental health’, is that the right way to phrase that? If we’re always saying we’re ‘suffering’ with mental health then mental health becomes something negative. It may seem like a trivial thing but when that’s all we’re seeing it becomes ingrained and before anyone has realised we’ve subconsciously associated mental health with something ‘bad’. 

I try to stay away from saying that I am ‘suffering with mental health.’ I chat will simply say that I’m not well in the exact same at that I would if I had a cough or cold. A majority of the time the person I’m conversing with will ask me in what way I feel unwell and I have no problem telling them ‘I’ve been feeling down lately/I’m really burnt out/I’m overwhelmed with anxiety right now.’ Was it a bit odd to answer so plainly initially? You bet it was! There were a couple of times that the person I was speaking to seemed taken aback and maybe a little unsure about how they should respond but now it’s become normal for myself, my friends & my family. It’s important to challenge the way we speak about mental health and illness. Now, we speak about mental health in the same way we speak about physical health. It’s the equivalent of saying ‘I have a headache’. 

And that makes much more sense, right?

Mental health is not something that is inherently bad or good, it simply is. We all have physical health that is on a spectrum and we do things to take care of it – go for check ups, eat well, exercise. We all have mental health, shouldn’t we treat it in the same way? The reality is that the majority of us don’t, we ignore it until there is a crisis.

Maybe if we had a shift in attitude towards our mental health we would then treat mental illness and crisis differently? Mental illnesses are very real and they need treatment just like any other illness needs treatment. To say that mental illnesses don’t exist undermines the work of thousands. It takes away the relief felt by a patient when they finally get a diagnoses and treatment plan. Maybe if we treated mental health like physical health we would view a person with depression/anxiety/bipolar/etc in the same way we view a person with cancer/epilepsy/heart disease – with empathy and compassion, not fear, judgement and mistrust.

To me, it seems like we need to overhaul our attitudes. We need to recognise that everyone goes through tough times, that they may need emotional support but not necessarily require medication. We need to see that a majority of these people will not receive a clinical diagnoses but that doesn’t invalidate their experience. We also need to recognise that some people do have an illness, that they will receive a clinical diagnoses, that they need a treatment plan that is right for them and their experience is valid too.

It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

What are your thoughts? Do you think mental illnesses are real? Do you think mental health is a spectrum? Do you ltreat your mental health in the same way as your physical health? 

*World Health Organisation 

Need help? Want information? Click here

Mental Health & Illness Charities/Support – Ireland & UK

Need help? Want more information?

The following are Irish Mental Health or Illness charities/support services.

Don’t be afraid to contact someone or do some research – it’s why they’re there.

IRELAND

Mental Health Ireland – ‘MHI’s aim is to promote positive mental health and wellbeing to all individuals and communities in Ireland.’ A fantastic site for information, MHI even provide training to the public. MHI have Mental Health Associations around the country that you can contact for info or volunteer with.

Aware – ‘Aware undertakes to create a society where people affected by stress, depression, bipolar and mood disorders are understood, supported, free from stigma, and are encouraged to access appropriate therapies.’ Aware’s services include Support Mail, Support Groups & Support Line as well as online courses, group education and school based courses. All of these services are free.

Samaritans – ‘We offer a safe place for you to talk any time you like, in your own way – about whatever’s getting to you. You don’t have to be suicidal.’  Samaritans offers a phone support line for anyone who needs to talk. This a non judgmental space, the volunteer you speak to won’t impose their beliefs on you and they’re available every day, no matter the time.

Jigsaw – ‘The National Centre for Youth Mental Health. There to ensure that no young person (age 12-25) feels alone, isolated and disconnected from others around them’ Jigsaw has ‘hubs’ or drop in centres around the country. Here, young people can access support from trained staff, short term counselling, advice and information about other support services that may be of help to them. To find your local centre click the link!

Your Mental Health – ‘YourMentalHealth.ie is a place to learn about mental health in Ireland, and how to support yourself and the people you love.’ This HSE website provides a list of services, real life stories and a wealth of information. Your Mental Health are the folks behind the prominent #littlethings campaign.

See Change – ‘See Change is Ireland’s national programme working to change minds about mental health problems in Ireland…working to create a disruptive, community driven social movement to reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with mental health problems.’ See Change brings together 70+ organisations to work towards a common goal. On the site you’ll find sections the Green Ribbon Campaign, blogs from See Change Ambassadors and Mental Health in the workplace and lots more.

Pieta House – ‘We support people and communities in crisis by providing freely accessible, professional services to all.’ Pieta House have 12 centres around the country where service users can access support for issues around suicide and self harm. A doctor referral is not needed and the service is free. There is also a Freephone helpline and text service available. Pieta House are the folks behind ‘Darkness Into Light’ one of Ireland’s biggest mental health fundraisers that takes place every year.

A Lust For Life ‘A Lust For Life is…an Irish wellbeing movement created to transform how we talk about and treat mental health.’ ALFL aims to get us talking about our mental health and encourages mental fitness. This site is great for tips, articles and research around both mental and physical health. ALFL along with Pieta House are the folks behind #SoundEffect & The Little Book Of Sound.

UK

Centre For Mental Health – ‘We change the lives of people with mental health problems by using research to bring about better services and fairer policies.’  A fantastic site for information.

Mental Health Foundation – ‘Dedicated to finding and addressing the sources of mental health problems.’  Lots of information presented in a very user friendly way, clear guides and explanations.

Together‘We believe that people experiencing mental distress can direct their own journey towards improved mental health and to living independent, fulfilling lives. Our role is to give people the tools and the support to achieve this.’ Here you’ll find community, acommodation and criminal justice support along with along with research & guides.

Rethink Mental Illness – ‘We believe a better life is possible for millions of people affected by mental illness.’ Rethink can provide accredited advice & information to anyone affected by mental health problems. They also provide support groups and services and they campaign nationally for policy change.

Mind – ‘We won’t give up until everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets support and respect.’ Mind campaign to raise awareness, promote understanding and improve services. They also provide advice and support to anyone who needs it.

I Own It

* At the bottom of this post you will find a link to a list of Mental Health & Illness charities/support services should you need help or information.

‘Mental illness’ is not a slur, an insult or a derogatory comment if you don’t let it be those things. It is simply fact. A state of being. 

I have a mental illness, she has a broken arm, he has asthma.

Mental illness is part of me, not my entirety, but definitely part of me. When I first started blogging about my experience of mental illness someone told me that I should not define myself by it. I ignored them then and I ignore that advice now. There are many ways in which I define myself – brunette, introverted, sarcastic and yes, a person with a mental illness. After all, if I live the reality of Social Anxiety Disorder and Depression every day then why wouldn’t I describe myself as a person with those illnesses? I won’t run from it or hide or try to pretend otherwise. I have been endlessly comforted by reading about other’s experiences with ill mental health and now, I hope I can provide that same comfort for someone else.

There is a certain empowerment that comes from saying “Here I am in all my parts, illness included!” .

None of us are JUST our illness but to take ownership of it is a powerful thing. 

When I was a teenager only close friends knew that I was unwell and they, being so young and uneducated about mental health in general, were also ill equipped to deal with it. I was afraid to tell anyone else, to speak out, to tell someone how I was struggling. I felt ashamed and abnormal. I had parents and siblings who loved me but I kept everything a secret from them. In those days the illness was in control. I was no longer in the driving seat of my life, Anxiety Brain & Depression Brain were winning.

I’m not saying that everything was suddenly sunshine and rainbows when my family eventually did find out. It took years of tears, therapy and trying different medications for me to begin to feel like I was in control and in the end what has actually worked for me is developing my own plan – medication if I can’t function in my daily life along with talk therapy, writing, mindfulness and meditation.

Sure, there are still moments when Anxiety Brain kicks in and I have a meltdown, maybe throughout the course of my life there will always be those moments, but a majority of the time I am well. My illness is part of me, I am not part of it. I am stronger than my illness. I own it. My name is Stephanie. I have a mental illness. I am okay. 

I’m not sure I’ve written the words  ‘mental illness’ enough times…so just in case – mental illness, mental illness, mental illness 😉

For me, a massive change was owning my illness and sharing that experience.

If you have an illness, any illness, has there been a standout moment where things changed for the better?

Share some positivity!

Click Here for help/info

‘You’re pathetic.’

* At the bottom of this post you will find a link to a list of Mental Health & Illness charities/support services should you need help or information.

(These type of posts are published in retrospect when I’ve had time to care for myself and I’m in a better place, there’s no need for anyone to be concerned for me but thank you all the same!)

This isn’t a post with a life lesson. It’s not a post intended to inspire. 

It is a post to say that today, I am not okay.

I haven’t washed or dressed. I haven’t done any of the things I had planned on doing. I don’t have any energy. I am in pain.

Depression, anxiety, labral tear, an unknown.

Exhausted.

‘Why did you bother taking photos? They thought they were shit. They are shit.

‘You can’t even read a map. You’re stupid. Everyone knows you’re stupid.’

‘Why are you even looking at job posts? You wouldn’t be able to do any of them.

‘You’re making plans for later in the week but you shouldn’t; people are going to ask you how you are and what you’ve been up to and you know you’ve nothing to tell them. They’ll think your pathetic. YOU ARE PATHETIC

Fighting. Fighting. Fighting.

Exhausted.

Shootings, police brutality, death.

‘You don’t have real problems. You’ve nothing to feel sad about. Stop being so fucking stupid.

Lying in a room doing nothing. I want to do something but it feels like too much effort right now. I want someone to talk to but I don’t know what to say. I need to do something with my life but everything feels so far out of reach.

Is it in my head? Am I crazy? Will everyone leave me?

Exhausted.

 

Click here for help/info

 

And so it begins…

So, you might be wondering why this blog is only going live now considering I have a background in eBusiness and a love for all things social. The truth is, this isn’t my first blog. In fact, I have had several blogs and social media channels which have been deleted shortly after publishing them or before they’d even been viewed by the public.

To be fearful of creating a blog might sound ridiculous but for me it has been a big deal. I have Social Anxiety Disorder, I worry how I will be perceived by other people, excessively so (more on that later!) I was afraid that someone, anyone, would read this and think ‘She doesn’t know what she’s doing.’, ‘Her blog is shit!’, ‘Look at her thinking she’s something special.’, you get the idea. I was also a bit apprehensive because I’ve spent months reading other blogs, seeing how well developed they are, feeling intimidated or like I need to conform to what is popular right now and God forbid I should make a grammatical error (*gasp*).

Ultimately I decided to forge ahead – this blog might not fit a particular aesthetic or niche, it will probably be a bit scattered and it will never be perfect but that pretty much describes me!

I hope that in sharing my thoughts and experiences I make you laugh, question and maybe realise that you’re not alone when times get tough.

Don’t be afraid to say hello!

Steph.