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On Medication

anxiety, depression, anti-depressants, stigma surrounding mental health

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I drew this when I was seventeen, when I had been suffering from depression for just over a year. It was a way of expressing my anxiety about starting medication for my illness, at a time when very few people knew about what I was going through, and I myself knew very little about my condition. I was afraid that medication would change me, dull me, that some sort of essence of the real me would be forever lost.

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Burying Heads in the Sand?

marginalisation of mental health issues

In 2014, there were as many mental health consultations in England as there were A&E attendances – 21.7 million[1]. This is according to the NHS Confederation, who also reported that the NHS spent £113 billion in total in 2014, but that funding for mental health has been decreasing.

Depression, psychosis, dementia and addiction can be life-ruining and for some, life-ending. So are the people in charge of the budgets paying enough attention to protecting and improving your mental health?

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My CBT Diary: Week 2

anxiety, depression

Last week I spoke about how I did not have the courage to talk to my family, in particular my parents, about my struggles with mental health over the past few years. As I mentioned before, CBT is all about experimentation: identifying your expectations of an event and then testing their validity. So, while I do not yet have the courage to tell my parents, I did decide to tell my aunt. Lyndsay is my mother’s sister, but there are only fifteen years between us which has meant that I’ve always felt close to her. During one particularly bad night of insomnia and anxiety about having no one to turn to, I texted Lyndsay and told her that I was coming to London, that I had been feeling blue, and asked whether would she meet me.

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Mental Education

marginalisation of mental health issues

On 28th October the charity Mind released a survey showing that the local authorities who are currently responsible for public health budget allocation) spend on average 1.4% of the total public health budget on mental health[1]. That means a total annual spending of under £40 million compared to spending on improving physical activity, anti-obesity and antismoking campaigns of £76 million, £108 million and £160 million respectively.

Unfortunately this report did not come as a surprise to me. In fact it called to mind a TV talk show, the audience of which I sat in just over a year ago, where I watched a doctor explain that the NHS does not have the resources or staffing to help prevent and detect mental health issues. The doctor suggested that the responsibility for support for mental health issues has to fall to families and communities.

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The Orchid and the Dandelion

The idea that our identities, our destinies are somehow written into us at birth has always had a powerful hold on the collective imagination. Babylonian astrologers linked the position of the stars at one’s birth to one’s personality, giving us the Zodiac system that both describes who we are and dictates what will become of us. In the same way, much modern day psychological research aims to both isolate the predeterminants of personality written into our DNA, and determine any predisposition we may have towards mental illness. Both approaches have achieved what I’d guardedly describe as limited success. Your genes, your date of birth, and a host of other factors outside your control all contribute to who you are as a person. (Did you know that those born under Pisces are most likely to suffer from schizophrenia?)[1] But both have limits on their scope that are easily overlooked in the rush to chart our destiny.

You’ve probably heard how your genetic makeup plays a role in your likelihood of suffering from mental illness.

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My CBT Diary: Week 1

anxiety, depression, mention of self-harm

For a long time, nobody knew about my depression. It wasn’t until I was 18 and in a stable and loving relationship that I felt confident enough to tell anyone. When I told my boyfriend, we kept it a secret between us, and this created a safe space for me to let out everything that I’d had pent up inside me for around five years. Finally, if I had a panic attack, there was someone who would come running. Finally, if I cut myself, there was someone to treat my wounds. Finally, on the days where I couldn’t get out of bed, there was someone who would pick me up and take me to a counsellor.

But this was not healthy.

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You are not an uneducated Victorian

stigmatisation of mental health, description of psychiatric wards (old and new)

For the placement year of my Psychology degree, I will be working in a psychiatric hospital. When this comes up, the obligatory congratulations are sometimes followed by “You’re brave”, “Don’t you find that scary?” or the more common ‘I’d-rather-you-than-me’ face. Although it will of course be challenging, I am not brave and no, I don’t find it scary.

Psychiatric hospitals and mental asylums are not synonymous. From my experience, psychiatric wards no longer resemble Randle McMurphy’s experience in 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’.

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A Fair Tale of Guilt and Empathy

Written after visiting the world’s biggest medium-secure psychiatric hospital.

They say, “Tread lightly on the Earth”,

And to be fair,

The Earth has trodden lightly on me. 

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My CBT Diary: An Introduction

anxiety

It’s not that I don’t know what I want to say, it’s that I don’t know how to say it. I wanted to write something hopeful, something practical. I wanted to give advice from my own experience. But I’ve been staring at this blank page for the last half hour. I don’t want to come across as self-involved. I don’t want you to think I’m being patronising or that I pretend to know it all. I don’t want to say something upsetting or offensive or inappropriate.

In fact, I fear that I’ll say something upsetting or offensive or inappropriate multiple times every day. This is down to social anxiety.

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psychosis, mania, negative experience with medication

“And the picture was of my brother rather than me because I saw him as my male counterpart, free and out in the real world, where his thoughts and feelings were not being medicated into submission.”

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I spent six weeks on an NHS psychiatric ward this summer for psychosis and mania, and during that time I made this pastel drawing.

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Call the Exorcist

psychosis, schizophrenia

Imagine for a moment that you’re a young adult, a student with no history of mental illness, when you start to experience the symptoms of psychosis. You have two courses of treatment open to you. Which would you choose?

  1. A referral to a psychiatrist, who diagnoses you with schizophrenia and offers you a course of the latest anti-psychotic medication, complemented by regular check-ups and talking therapy.
  2. Nothing.

For the best chances of long-term recovery, you should have chosen 2. That’s right – the most cutting-edge treatment for schizophrenia is not as effective as doing nothing. Why?

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MUM.

in the eyes of my sister

the depression sits on her like an indent

in a pillow that hasn’t yet been hit into shape


and to my father the idea? of an illness you can’t see

is as arcane as the terminology, mind

set poppycock vocabulary he learnt when he was taught

the words of another century

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