This blog has moved

New blog address!

Thank you for following ‘Let’s Talk!‘. Due to a new website, this blog has now moved and we would love for you to move with us, to keep up to date with our latest posts. Please follow us at:

http://www.the-terrace.co.uk/blog/

We have lots of new interesting and informative posts planned for the future!

Teenage time-bomb: Why are our teens struggling with their mental health?

The Terrace head in handsIt has always been tough to be a teenager – it is a rite of passage; a period when wanting to be treated as an adult combines with the vulnerabilities of childhood to make an often confusing mix of emotions. But are 21st century pressures increasing the risks of long-term health issues?

News today suggests that a Department of Education survey of pupils  aged 14 and 15 has found that more than one in three of the teenage girls report symptoms of anxiety and depression. This equates to a rise of 10% over the past ten years and as such is clearly a major concern for parents, educators and society as a whole.

Girls reported  considerably higher levels of psychological distress than the boys – 37% having three or more symptoms compared to just 15%, and in boys the percentage has fallen since 2005.

The Daily Telegraph quotes Nick Harrop, of charity YoungMinds, who believes it has much to do with the way in which 21st century life impacts on young women:

“Teenage girls today face a huge range of pressures. Stress at school, body image worries, early sexualisation, bullying on and offline and uncertainty about the future after school are all piling on the stress,” he tells me. “Social media also puts pressure on girls to live their lives in the public domain, to present a personal ‘brand’ from a young age, and to seek reassurance in the form of likes and shares.”

Certainly, the rise of Instagram, Snapchat and the other image based social media channels has created more ways to challenge a girl’s image of herself compared to her peers, and sadly, to the photoshopped images of models and celebrites. Girls report issues with eating, with concentration and with anxiety, as they are constantly made aware of the importance of appearance in the media. Too little emphasis seems to be put on successful career women, perhaps, rather than those who model or walk the red carpet.

But others, such as former mental health tsar  Natasha Devon  think it is more to do with the kind of lives young people have to lead now, as parents work longer hours and success in life appears driven by higher salaries and working harder than ever to buy  those things, such as a home, that previous generations took for granted. In addition, all those subjects that supported good mental health are squeezed in the recent changes to the curriculum – music, art, sports and drama often provided a balance to the more academic subjects in which a young person felt more pressurised. Interestingly, those from a more affluent background were more likely to feel worried about achieving less than their parents hoped for them.

But Natasha Devon thinks the only difference between the sexes is how they deal with their mental health problems. She is quoted as saying:

“At an adult level, women are three times more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression, which makes them look like primarily female issues. But men are more likely to seek help for substance abuse and are far more likely to take their own lives. It suggests to me women seek help for anxiety and depression but men self-medicate and tend to wait before they reach crisis point.”

This tends to suggest that where girls might be more ready to seek help, in the longer term it is boys who need greater support.

So what can be done? Here at The Terrace we have a number of therapists skilled in working with children and young adults, and we know how complex an issue this is. A good place to start would be in schools, where changes in behaviour can be noticed early and elements put in place during the school day to support self-confidence and self-esteem.

What do you think would be a good first step?  We would love to hear your views on what could be a proverbial ‘time bomb’, as a generation struggles to come to terms with the every-increasing and pressurised pace of 21st century life.

Thin Slices of Anxiety: Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) illustrated…

300x600An article in The Guardian struck me quite forcefully today. It highlighted the value of a book that I have come across before – its pictures representing a personal struggle against anxiety in a way that speaks to me – and to many others who have to find ways to manage the feelings associated with those generalised anxiety disorder (or GAD). The lack of confidence, indecision and sheer panic. The inability to move forward, or to see a positive future.

Thin Slices of Anxiety by Catherine Lepage is highly recommended for those with direct experience, and those working with clients who exhibit ‘symptoms’. To have GAD is not simply to feel overwhelming anxiety and panic, but to feel guilty about having those feelings. Many with GAD feel judged – their lives, on the surface, can seem enviable; ‘What have you got to be anxious about?’ the question many fear. Rebecca Slater, in her Guardian article says:

Anxiety

Illustration by Catherine LePage: the Periodic Table of the Elements of Response. Photograph: Catherine Lepage/Chronicle Books

“It’s almost impossible to explain the pervasive feeling of all things – all decisions, all possible outcomes, past, present and future – cascading through my mind, folding into themselves, forming a tighter and tighter ball until it feels as though all room to move or act or breathe has been squeezed out.

 

And on top of it all, that paralysing guilt of being anxious, being miserable and wanting, despite my privilege and comfort in life. Explaining that is hard. But somehow, through her simple words and pictures, LePage has found a way.”

Sometimes those with anxiety just need to feel the solidarity of knowing others have the same thoughts whirling through their minds, often at the worst possible times. GAD can isolate people socially, lower self esteem and confidence and put up a wall between a person and their loved ones.

Do take a look at Catherine’s book if you get the chance. Her imagery captures her own experience, and she offers the comfort that, ‘thinly sliced and illustrated, emotions are much easier to digest.’

 

5 fabulous exam tips for the final push…

Nearly there – the exam period is in full swing and all that revision should be paying off. Well, we hope so. It is a tough time for anyone finishing a school or college year; whilst others can relax and enjoy the early summer sun, there is last minute revision to be done and the inevitable nerves to deal with.

So, we thought we would share the exam tips we have been posting over the past few weeks on an ‘omnibus’ blog post, offering you the opportunity to remind yourself of all those things that are important over the coming weeks as the exams end and the results come in…

Exams1

Find a revision buddy

Exam stress is tough- Try not to compare

Eatingwellexams

This final tip is very important. It is easy to forget, when under such tremendous pressure, that the results of the exams you are sweating over will not define the rest of your life. It might be difficult, but try a little mindfulness meditation and remember, whatever happens there is still a way forward.

Exam tip 5

And after those exams are over, read our post on dealing with those post-exam feelings that can be surprisingly difficult to cope with.

Good luck – we have everything crossed for you!

 

Depression Awareness Week -keep the campaigns going

whatyoudontsee-768x768Darker than grief, an implosion of the self, a sheet of ice: no matter how you describe it, this is a terrifying state to be trapped in Tim Lott, The Guardian Tuesday 19th April 2016.

This week is Depression Awareness Week. Perhaps, when there are so many ‘awareness’ days, weeks and now months, we start to take less notice of individual campaigns? ‘Compassion fatigue’ is described by some as a willingness to be supportive, but with so many causes to support it becomes more difficult. It is hard to focus on one campaign without feeling guilty about all the others you cannot give your time, and often money, to.

It is vital that we resist that fatigue when it comes to our mental health, however. For many years, the stigma attached to depression, anxiety and other mental health issues was such that no-one felt able to discuss their issues openly. There is still a long way to go before that stigma has entirely disappeared, but here at the Terrace we are definitely noticing that many more people feel able to open up and take steps to address their, often lifelong, needs. From childhood trauma, to PTSD and relationship problems and across the whole mental health spectrum there is an increased willingness to seek help.

Our mental health impacts directly on our physical health, so an holistic, whole body approach to some physical illnesses can work wonders; yet the NHS struggles to bring together services that could, in the end, save money. It seems a vicious circle.

Depression is particularly damaging because it is largely invisible. Often people mask their symptoms, at great cost. It can be exhausting to hide your true feelings. This is why campaigns such as the #whatyoudontsee social media campaign run by the fabulous Blurt Foundation this week are so important. Depression can literally hit anyone, at any time. Young or old, regardless of gender and personal life – the number of sports stars, television celebrities and film stars opening up prove that even wealth and fame are not protective factors.

So seek help. Join in the online campaigns. Approach your GP, or contact us here at The Terrace (we have great counsellors and psychotherapists, as well as mindfulness and complementary therapists), and most importantly talk about the issues you are experiencing.

In a fast-paced consumer-driven society we are all searching for meaning in a life we know in our heart to be finite.

 

 

Mental health in rural communities: A farmer’s life

Farmer depressedLast week, officials from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) agreed to pursue the development of a mental health strategy for the farming industry, prompted by David Simpson MP, who demanded government intervention to deal with the specific mental strains that farmers face.

Despite appearances – the rolling fields, animals peacefully grazing and fields of crops lighting up the landscape, farming is a very high-pressure job, with few days off, round the clock working and the pressures of the market.We have seen in Somerset the additional pressures placed on those who are largely responsible for managing our landscape. Flooding on the levels devastated many and TB in cattle is an ongoing concern.

Most farmers are male, and as we have written about on this web site, men are far less likely to discuss their personal problems and are statistically much more likely to commit suicide than women.  Hours alone in the fields, isolation both physical and mental and the additional burden of running a business in tough times  can exacerbate mental health problems and the social isolation can mean that others fail to notice the symptoms until it is too late. There are particular difficulties in accessing support in counties such as Somerset, where stretched services are concentrated in urban areas, but there are some organisations that are devoted to working specifically with the farming community. These include:

The Farming Community Network  which can take calls between 7am and 11pm, with those answering having specific knowledge of rural issues..

The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (R.A.B.I.), which helps farmers and farmworkers of any age if financial issues are causing strain.

And of course there are mental health charities such as Young Minds, Mind, Sane and Time to Change which can offer support for those experiencing depression and anxiety and many other mental health issues.

The BBC Countryfile magazine website has a particularly good article HERE

So if you or anyone you know works in the agricultural industry, it is a good idea to be specially alert to the symptoms of depression and take care of emotional as well as physical well-being. Do get in touch with us here at The Terrace if you think we can help. We are always happy to talk through the options available.

 

More poetry as therapy- Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

3092578816_c06da0d13f_b

Image: Joe Ism (see below)

In therapy, many counsellors work with clients who perhaps feel ‘stuck’ in a pattern of recurring behaviours that prevent them from fulfilling dreams, pursuing healthy relationships, or coping with challenges and developing resilience. Reading inspirational quotes on social media highlights how many famous sayings there are on the subject of living a mindful life, of noticing and recognising the world around you and working to free yourself from a past that can hold you back, or a future you are fearful of.

However, there is one poem that seems to sum up this process in a way that perhaps only poetry can, in its ability to distil feelings to the minimum number of words necessary to express them. We have written quite a few ‘poetry for mindfulness pieces on ‘let’s talk’ – do take a look as you may find another that suits your mindfulness practice perfectly – but this popular piece, by Portia Nelson is one that requires little explanation.

Portia_Nelson

Portia nelson

Nelson was a popular singer, songwriter, actress, and author; a cancer survivor who  wrote a very popular  book called There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery, which she later turned into a musical that played off Broadway. From it comes this poem, Autobiography in Five Short Chapters, which has been adopted by many as a as a self-help text. Its clear message is one of learning to take notice, recognise when you are repeating harmful behaviour and learn to move forward on to new paths of discovery…

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters by Portia Nelson

Chapter I
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

Chapter II
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter IV
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter V
I walk down another street.

We would love to know of any poetry that you find particularly inspirational, or especially helpful when you are practising mindfulness. Get in touch!

Image: Joe Ism on Flickr  Open Manhole Cover