anxiety · depression · help · men · mental health · news · reading · stigma · suicide · support

Facts on Men & Mental Health

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When you hear the statement ‘He’s a real man!’ what is it you picture?
A man who is not only strong of body but also of mind? Someone who is emotionally tough and who doesn’t show any weakness? The provider etc… a lot to live up to eh?

This man simply does not exist and as much as a woman should not be defined by such small and limiting terms a man should not also.

A man is just like a woman and by that I mean human.

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Mental Health facts in Men

  • Just over three out of four suicides (76%) are by men and suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 35
  • 5% of men in the UK are suffering from one of the common mental health disorders
  • Men are nearly three times more likely than women to become alcohol dependent (8.7% of men are alcohol dependent compared to 3.3% of women
  • Men are more likely to use (and die from) illegal drugs
  • Men are less likely to access psychological therapies than women. Only 36% of referrals to psychological therapies are men.

What this says to me is not only are men less likely to know that they might have a mental health condition but they feel less comfortable coming forward to speak about it or seek support for their struggles.

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Here are some more facts….

  • Over three quarters of people who kill themselves are men
  • Men report significantly lower life satisfaction than women in the Government’s national well-being survey – with those aged 45 to 59 reporting the lowest levels of life satisfaction
  • 73% of adults who ‘go missing’ are men
  • 87% of rough sleepers are men
  • Men are nearly three times more likely than women to become alcohol dependent (8.7% of men are alcohol dependent compared to 3.3% of women)
  • Men are three times as likely to report frequent drug use than women (4.2% and 1.4% respectively) and more than two thirds of drug-related deaths occur in men
  • Men are nearly 50% more likely than women to be detained and treated compulsorily as psychiatric inpatients
  • Men make up 95% of the prison population, 72% of male prisoners suffer from two or more mental disorders
  • Men have measurably lower access to the social support of friends, relatives and community
  • Men commit 86% of violent crime (and are twice as likely to be victims of violent crime)
  • Boys are around three times more likely to receive a permanent or fixed period exclusion than girls
  • Boys are performing less well than girls at all levels of education. In 2013 only 55.6% of boys achieved 5 or more grade A*-C GCSEs including English and mathematics, compared to 65.7% of girls

This shows us that we need to educate others on mental health more and stop the stigma which might be stopping men from coming forwards and getting help a survey from the Samaritan’s found this out…

Personality traits – some traits can interact with factors such as deprivation, unemployment, social disconnection and triggering events, such as relationship breakdown or job loss, to increase the risk of suicide. 

Masculinity – more than women, men respond to stress by taking risks, like misusing alcohol and drugs.

Relationship breakdowns – marriage breakdown is more likely to lead men, rather than women, to suicide.

Challenges of mid-life – people currently in mid-life are experiencing more mental health problems and unhappiness compared to younger and older people.  

Emotional illiteracy – men are much less likely than women to have a positive view of counselling or therapy, and when they do use these services, it is at the point of crisis.

Socio-economic factors – unemployed people are 2-3 times more likely to die by suicide than those in work and suicide increases during economic recession.

I encourage everyone to listen to the men in their lives be it their husbands, fathers, boyfriends, friends, brothers or cousins. To be a listening ear without judgement, so men can start to ignore the lies of stigma and realise that true strength is asking for help and support to fight a battle you can’t even see!
One you shouldn’t have to fight alone, one where you’re fighting for yourself as you are worth this fight so let others help fight it with you.

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ADD · adhd · anxiety · depression · help · men · mental health · reading · stigma

What is ADHD?

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So I have ADHD… it’s new and confusing but its official I have it, but what is it exactly?

Overview
Here is a quick overview of ADHD…
ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a condition with symptoms such as inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. The symptoms differ from person to person. ADHD was formerly called ADD, or attention deficit disorder. Both children and adults can have ADHD, but the symptoms always begin in childhood.

The neurobiological basis of ADHD

What I found fascinating is ADHD is a neurologically based condition!

So a quick science lesson for you here… Image result for neurology adhd

* ADHD seems to involve impaired neurotransmitter activity in four functional regions of the brain:

Frontal cortex – This region orchestrates high-level functioning: maintaining attention, organization, and executive function. A deficiency of norepinephrine within this brain region might cause inattention, problems with organization, and/or impaired executive functioning.

Limbic system – This region, located deeper in the brain, regulates our emotions. A deficiency in this region might result in restlessness, inattention, or emotional volatility.

Basal ganglia – These neural circuits regulate communication within the brain. Information from all regions of the brain enters the basal ganglia, and is then relayed to the correct sites in the brain. A deficiency in the basal ganglia can cause information to “short-circuit,” resulting in inattention or impulsivity.

Reticular activating system – This is the major relay system among the many pathways that enter and leave the brain. A deficiency in the RAS can cause inattention, impulsivity, or hyperactivity.

These four regions interact with one another, so a deficiency in one region may cause a problem in one or more of the other regions. ADHD may be the result of problems in one or more of these regions.

Symptoms

Now the science part is over let’s talk about symptoms.

I am going to focus on the symptoms of adults with ADHD and here are the basic ones.

Adult ADHD symptoms may include:Image result for adhd symptoms

  • Impulsiveness
  • Disorganization and problems prioritizing
  • Poor time management skills
  • Problems focusing on a task
  • Trouble multitasking
  • Excessive activity or restlessness
  • Poor planning
  • People pleasing
  • Depression
  • Low frustration tolerance
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Problems following through and completing tasks
  • Hot temper
  • Trouble coping with stress
  • Bad memory

    Click here for more info on ADHD symptoms.

Now almost everyone has some symptoms similar to ADHD at some point in their lives. If your difficulties are recent or occurred only occasionally in the past, you probably don’t have ADHD. ADHD is diagnosed only when symptoms are severe enough to cause ongoing problems in more than one area of your life.

ADHD can also occur with other disorders as well some of these include:

Mood disorders – Many adults with ADHD also have depression, bipolar disorder or another mood disorder. While mood problems aren’t necessarily due directly to ADHD, a repeated pattern of failures and frustrations due to ADHD can worsen depression.

Anxiety disorders – Anxiety disorders occur fairly often in adults with ADHD. Anxiety disorders may cause overwhelming worry, nervousness and other symptoms. Anxiety can be made worse by the challenges and setbacks caused by ADHD.

Other psychiatric disorders – Adults with ADHD are at increased risk of other psychiatric disorders, such as personality disorders, intermittent explosive disorder and substance abuse.

Learning disabilities – Adults with ADHD may score lower on academic testing than would be expected for their age, intelligence and education. Learning disabilities can include problems with understanding and communicating.

So there you have it a quick summary of ADHD!

I have yet to discuss my journey into this diagnosis, but here are some facts on the disorder most of which I had NO idea about! I am still learning how all this affects me personally, but that’s another story for another day. For now I hope you come away reading this with a better understanding of what ADHD is and the realisation that it’s not all just about hyperactive boys in school but something that still affects many men and women into their adult life.

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anxiety · depression · grief · men · mental health · news · paranoia · self image · suicide · support

The Human Tragedy

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Someone recently pointed out to me that scientists and research has managed to find so many ways for us to live longer, yet the cruel reality is the younger generation are turning to suicide more and more, and it’s not just the young either.

So the question I put forward is why?

My theory. We are cursed with the awareness of our own morality meaning most often one of our biggest goals is to live a happy and meaningful life. But life is no smooth ride and especially nowadays we document our lives as if it were a magazine spread, upselling our lives and displaying it proudly hoping others are envious of our achievement at having what looks like such a successful life.
Truth is it’s more often than not a visage, what power does a photograph or a Facebook account have? It is but another mask to hide the consumerism within us of always wanting more and always wanting to be more.
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So what’s the conclusion?

Honesty. I think the media needs to put on a more honest display and view of life. We can’t grow up with this fairytale idea of everything going to plan, as when we meet failure (and we will meet failure) we so often think, ‘That’s it! Life plan ruined I failed!’ So starts the self-critical voice of ‘I never get anything right’ and the comparison of ourselves to others who may have succeeded where we failed.

Education needs to start teaching us about mental health too, the midlife crisis has moved forward to our 20’s making it a quarter life crisis! What preparation do we have for exhausting our minds trying to live up to an unobtainable standard of self then crashing and burning and becoming depressed, or discovering you have a mental illness such as Bipolar? We need to talk about these things so they are no longer an ‘awkward subject’ we shouldn’t be ashamed of falling or failing as it shapes us into becoming the person who learns to stand back up again.

Yet we do need help, we need coping mechanisms, we need education, we need people to stand forward and admit that they don’t have it all together, that rolls of fat can be beautiful, that scars are not signs or failure, that money isn’t everything, that relationships do break down…. Truth, honesty, support and above all acceptance.

So here is the question I now put forward for your opinions, where are we going wrong and how can we change?

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bpd · depression · grief · help · men · mental health · PTSD · stigma · suicide · support

The Breakdown

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For all of those who don’t know what happens when you are seeking professional help after struggling with mental health let me paint you a picture…

Recently though not easy to admit a pattern has formed in my life where I noticed my mind was getting the better of me, things were spiralling out of my control. No matter how much I created positive distractions or looked after myself my mind quite simply kept crushing me and only when I had two weeks worth of anti-depressant pills in my hand and a bottle of water did I realise it was time to get fighting again, but I need help.

So the process… crisis line as in 111 was called, protocol questions are asked, then you are passed on to someone else who will call you back within the next hour otherwise an ambulance is sent to your location.  However in my case I got a call back, again questions which are hard to answer have to be asked such as, ‘Are others in danger?’, ‘What has happened recently to bring this on?’ 1
I mean if only I had a nail sticking out my leg those questions would be much easier to answer when in my situation from the outside nothing is visibly that wrong.  Eventually the conclusion was an emergency doctor’s appointment the next day was to be made and the crisis line would fax over what information they could to help the doctor who would be seeing me.

The next day comes, doctor appointment arranged, sat in waiting room, name called, walk in and sit down. How can I help you today? My initial reaction to the question is ok don’t think he has received the fax details from crisis line… the next thought being how do I even begin to answer this question?
I started by focusing on my plan, aim and concern at wanting to take my life and attempting to do so. He then asks what again may have ‘brought this on’ and I am aware besides a recent tragedy in my life I have nothing to complain about besides well a truck load of emotions with no logical reason behind them and a mind which sends all my senses into overload and makes me do and say things far from my character.

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So the usual answers are given and a reference to my past involvement with mental health services is mentioned, ultimately again this has to be passed on to the mental health team which I have previously  been involved with.

 

But before the next step or ‘plan of action’ is mentioned not so helpful statements are made such as ‘Your life is your responsibility ultimately’, an obvious and slightly unsupportive statement. Also to mentioning a tragedy of losing someone I knew and cared for the response being ‘That’s life’, again an obvious  statement of which I assume might seem cold to many none the least someone with an emotional unstable disorder.
So without even considering replacing my medication I am told a letter will be written with no indication to when the mental health team will be in touch and a simple ‘hang in there’ in the meantime (easier said than done!) 7e486d93357beedf78dc7960b2e10819

Now I won’t slate the NHS as that is not my aim, I won’t even slate the doctor who’s unwanted and unneeded opinions were hurtful and unhelpful as I know many might abuse the system. But I want to bring to light that physical and mental conditions are treated completely differently, for example you wouldn’t tell a cancer patient that their life is their responsibility as they never asked for such a tragic disease to happen to them in the first place. Neither would you rush someone into A&E after a tragic life threatening accident and then just tell them ‘that’s life’ send a letter to another healthcare team and ask for them to ‘hang in there’ until contacted to start a whole other waiting game.
Extreme examples I know but I only hope to highlight changes need to be made here!

Eventually the question was also put to me ‘Did you really want to take your life?’ Well yes I wanted to and still think about taking my life a lot and I won’t lie to some extent I don’t care how that makes others feel because after a lifetime of burying myself in guilt considering each and every way my illness might make others feel I ask myself, do you know how it makes me feel?

charity · depression · help · men · mental health · stigma · suicide · support

Self-Harm

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This is a hard subject to approach and a hard one to write about… there is a lot of stigma behind this topic and also confusion. What exactly is self-harm?

For me I would sum it up as taking anything surrounding you good or bad and turning it against yourself to cause physical or emotional harm. Sometimes taking pleasure from the pain it brings, other times doing it as a form of self-punishment believing that it’s what you deserve.
It can often become an addiction and a coping mechanism for very difficult feelings.

For those who don’t understand why someone would turn to self-harm here are just a few reasons why it might appeal to someone or become a last resort…

  • express something that is hard to put into words
  • turn invisible thoughts or feelings into something visible
  • change emotional pain into physical pain
  • reduce overwhelming emotional feelings or thoughts
  • have a sense of being in control
  • escape traumatic memories
  • have something in life that they can rely on
  • punish yourself for your feelings and experiences
  • stop feeling numb, disconnected or dissociated
  • create a reason to physically care for themselves
  • express suicidal feelingsand thoughts without taking their own life.

 

Types of self-harm

I almost don’t want to list any as sometimes I feel like I’m listing to myself the only options I used to feel I had. I also feel reserved doing so as these are by no means good options and any release they bring I can guarantee they hold a lot more pain and hardship for you in the long run.
However here are just a few I can think of:

  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Cutting yourself or causing harm to oneself by punching/pinching etc.
  • Refusing to eat (starvation)
  • Burning yourself
  • Self-sabotage in friendships and relationships (on purposely pushing others away)
  • Promiscuous behaviour (with intent to replace other forms of self-harm or as a form of escape)

 

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Besides the obvious reasons self-harm is bad for you there is also a high risk of addiction, as these things may bring temporary release it’s something people can come to rely on so when in desperate need or in emotional turmoil they turn straight to self harm as some relief can be better than none. It’s almost like a distorted comfort blanket but any comfort self-harm brings you is a lie and only pushes you to devalue yourself and your life more and more.

 

Myths and facts about cutting and self-harm
Because cutting and other means of self-harm tend to be taboo subjects, the people around you—and possibly even you—may harbor serious misunderstandings about your motivations and state of mind. Don’t let these myths get in the way of getting help or helping someone you care about.
Myth: People who cut and self-injure are trying to get attention.

Fact: The painful truth is that people who self-harm generally harm themselves in secret. They aren’t trying to manipulate others or draw attention to themselves. In fact, shame and fear can make it very difficult to come forward and ask for help.

Myth: People who self-injure are crazy and/or dangerous.

Fact: It is true that many people who self-harm suffer from anxiety, depression, or a previous trauma—just like millions of others in the general population, but that doesn’t make them crazy or dangerous. Self-injury is how they cope. Sticking a label like “crazy” or “dangerous” on a person isn’t accurate or helpful.

Myth: People who self-injure want to die.

Fact: People who self-injure usually do not want to die. When they self-harm, they are not trying to kill themselves—they are trying to cope with their problems and pain. In fact, self-injury may be a way of helping themselves go on living. However, in the long-term, people who self-injure have a much higher risk of suicide, which is why it’s so important to seek help.

Myth: If the wounds aren’t bad, it’s not that serious.

Fact: The severity of a person’s wounds has very little to do with how much he or she may be suffering. Don’t assume that because the wounds or injuries are minor, there’s nothing to worry about.

Personal Experience and Recovery

Self-harm can enter peoples lives in a manner of different ways. For me I was a somewhat usual hyper child, however I do remember I could get carried away with my feelings and sometimes it would get me into trouble. One time I got told off for my behaviour and I suddenly felt this internal pain which was sharp and made it hard for me to breathe, by no means had I been yelled at or scolded but it felt like I might as well have been! Once I got home this feeling didn’t leave and I simply remember wondering if physical pain would counteract this strange overwhelming feeling, then without any real intent to harm myself I took a paper clip and one cut was all it took, the worse part of all it worked.

I do not want to overindulge in where it took me further into teenage years etc. but safe to say that self-harm (cutting myself) became an addiction of which caused temporary relief to what was a constant emotional roller-coaster. At roughly 16 I do remember stopping for a few years, but it soon came back as it was all I knew that helped, and with little concern for my body or well-being it branched out into many other forms of self harm into my early 20’s.
I stopped cutting again temporarily but turned to things such as drinking too much and other self destructive behaviour. With no value for myself or my life I wasn’t really bothered by the consequences, but my actions not only harmed myself but sometimes others also. Which in turn lead me down a whole other path of guilt and self-punishment pushing me ever so closer and closer to the edge.
In short self-harm simply gets you no where positive fast, if anything it pushes you further and further back into the darkness.

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Recovery
I am no authority on this whatsoever, and I wont lie professional help was at times often quite scarce but recovery started within (as cheesy as that sounds!) but choosing not to self-harm simply because it harmed my body and doing things like pampering myself and attempting to paint my nails or having a healthy dinner were acts of self-love which slowly rippled into my sense of well-being. Telling myself ‘I am worth more than the temporary release of self-harm’ or ‘I matter as a person’ and ‘This is not your fault’ became challenges I would daily try to repeat to myself in an attempt that if I continued to say then maybe eventually I would believe them?
Communication with others was a massive and scary step! The idea or dealing with rejection made me feel like I may be pushed over the edge and I was scared at times of what I might do if reacted to negatively.
Ultimately recovery is different for everyone though, some really need professional help, others the support of friends and family can be a life changer, but for me the final step or the big PUSH was a follow up sort of ‘damage control’ appointment after being hospitalised after an ‘episode’. It was only meant to be 30 mins but it carried on for over an hour and by the end of the session they turned around to me and said ‘thank you’, they mentioned my insight into my condition and self-awareness was incredibly eye opening and I was doing better than I thought. They even mentioned I could go on to help and educate others, this set alight something in me and by no means did I go home and suddenly get better but I was determined to work out how to tell people and help support others who felt the same as I did.

tumblr_static_self-loveIn group therapy I got a chance to meet others who did feel and think very similar to myself and that was the final straw! I refused to let myself and these wonderful people suffer in silence, condemned by our own thoughts, often house bound and sometimes criticised by others who had no idea of the daily battle within our minds.
So though I am still recovering in many ways on this journey when I say you are not alone I am not throwing a comfort blanket over your pain, I’m saying I see your pain, I hear your pain and I am telling you that you are NOT alone and you are worth far more than you can even comprehend. We all have fight in us just choose to fight for the right people and the right causes and most of all fight for yourself.

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anxiety · charity · depression · help · men · mental health · news · reading · stigma · support

Man up Man Down

When I started reading about this I got SO excited, I have mentioned previously in my blog the importance and sometimes the neglect that is involved in men’s mental health due to stigma or possibly more of a difficulty to come forward. So discovering due to a chance meeting of tow young Bristol campaigners has led to the creation of a new men’s mental health support community is fantastic!

The founders of this community are Kate Mabbett and James Willetts, who were inspired to set up the site after they both  experienced first-hand the effects of men’s mental health problems.

The website they have created is really interactive encouraging men to speak by sharing their stories and experiences, it also includes podcasts and further advice and contacts.

Kate states, “We want to break down the barrier of men feeling that they can’t talk about their emotional health – we believe that there are certain aspects of our society that hold men back from talking about emotions and we think the first step is talking and we’d like to create a community for men to talk about their mental health,”

Check out their website and learn more about this campaign at Man Up Man Down

anorexia · bulimia · depression · eating disorder · men · mental health · self image · stigma

Eating Disorders

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Eating disorders are something I was always more aware of when growing up, I have been lucky enough to never suffer from one myself but knew people who did.
From studying photography I was very aware of the medias influence on men and women who would often try to reach an unrealistic high expectation of ‘beauty’ and how their bodies should look, this occasionally would lead to a controlling persona where they would obsess over weight and how they looked.

Eating disorders are characterised by an abnormal attitude towards food that causes someone to change their eating habits and behaviour.

A person with an eating disorder may focus excessively on their weight and shape, leading them to make unhealthy choices about food with damaging results to their health.

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The most common eating disorders are:

  • anorexia nervosa – when a person tries to keep their weight as low as possible; for example, by starving themselves or exercising excessively
  • bulimia – when a person goes through periods of binge eating and is then deliberately sick or uses laxatives (medication to help empty the bowels) to try to control their weight
  • binge eating disorder (BED) – when a person feels compelled to overeat large amounts of food in a short space of time

Eating disorders are often blamed on the social pressure to be thin, as young people in particular feel they should look a certain way. However, the causes are usually more complex…

Risk factors that can increase the likelihood of a person having an eating disorder include:

  • having a family history of eating disorders, depression or substance misuse
  • being criticised for their eating habits, body shape or weight
  • being overly concerned with being slim, particularly if combined with pressure to be slim from society or for a job – for example, ballet dancers, models or athletes
  • certain underlying characteristics – for example, having an obsessive personality, an anxiety disorder, low self-esteem or being a perfectionist
  • particular experiences, such as sexual or emotional abuse or the death of someone special
  • difficult relationships with family members or friends
  • stressful situations – for example, problems at work, school or university

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Who is effected by eating disorders?

Around 1 in 250 women and 1 in 2,000 men will experience anorexia nervosa at some point. The condition usually develops around the age of 16 or 17.

Bulimia is around two to three times more common than anorexia nervosa, and 90% of people with the condition are female. It usually develops around the age of 18 or 19.

Binge eating affects males and females equally and usually appears later in life, between the ages of 30 and 40. As it’s difficult to precisely define binge eating, it’s not clear how widespread it is, but it’s estimated to affect around 5% of the adult population.

Read here about Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay’s own struggle with an eating disorder.

Seeking help for yourself or another…

If you suffer from an eating disorder or suspect that someone you know does do not be ashamed to ask for help or speak out. There is help out there, take a look at this site called beat which deal specifically with eating disorders, or speak to a loved one you can trust and look into getting a GP appointment so that you can start reclaiming your life and start the journey to recovery with help and support.

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