‘What have you got to be depressed about?’

There are some days when I wish I had the type of depression you see in films and on tv. The kind of depression that makes you pale, interesting and oddly attractive. Of course, the upside of ‘film depression’ is that generally you can be cured by the love of your life making everything better again in the course of about an hour… I suppose that would be a much easier process. The reality of depression is perhaps a little more painful and a bit less beautiful.

Depression can also be a whole lot less exciting or dramatic. It can be functioning at a level where, on the outside, you seem pretty much fine. But on the inside, everything is coated in a bit of a sludgy fog. It’s an effort to keep up with appearances and quite exhausting at the same time. Depression can be a bit of an overused term, I remember the idea of people being ‘depressive’ being thrown about carelessly at school… almost as a bit of an insult. There was no understanding or caring of what might be making that person feel low and often it was used to describe a rubbish day rather than an ongoing feeling of hopelessness, loneliness and despair.

Like many mental health problems, there seems to be a stigma associated with depression that makes people think it’s something you can just fix and overcome. If only it were that simple. There’s often no specific reason for depression, it’s not like it can be quickly fixed with a dose of medication. The reality is a lot more complex and varies so much from person to person. The truth is, unless given the opportunity to talk about their feelings, people with depression can go largely unnoticed despite the debilitating nature of their struggles at times.

Depression at University can be such a challenge, especially with deadline stress and the ease of becoming a bit invisible within a crowded student population. Six weeks ago I was involved in a minor car accident; I was fine but my Corsa ended up a little battered. It was a stressful situation that was made worse by difficulties with my insurance company. On a daily basis I was having to battle with unknown people in offices with no personal connection to me, my claim or my car. Day after day I was left feeling more and more hopeless and at times I wanted to just give up. My depression tried to take advantage of my vulnerability and I felt more demotivated to continue to battle as the days went on. When I added the stress of writing assignments and my dissertation; it all felt a little too much. It was far to easy to slip into thought patterns of it all being my fault for just being a generally rubbish human. Of course, that wasn’t really the case but it took a lot of perseverance to push through and get out the other side (thankfully I am almost there with a shiny fixed car as a reward!!).

I hate the misconception that depression has a predictable and easily solved cause. This theme is a major component of The Blurt Foundation’s #WhatYouDontSee campaign which is part of this years depression awareness week. The campaign highlights the unseen aspects of depression, the parts that are hidden behind the mask that people with the condition put on each day. I put together my own collage of pictures for the campaign and as part of #DepressionAwarenessWeek. For me… you often don’t see the moment of complete self doubt, the tears and panics, the time spent fighting to find the motivation to get on with the day or that horrible feeling of loneliness every when you’re surrounded by wonderful people. You definitely don’t see the moment where there’s no parking space at Uni, which results in tears and panic; resulting in the decision that in fact going to a lecture is just an impossible task because of all the stress.

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Depression isn’t something to be ashamed about, it’s something that should be talked about. Perhaps we could all take a moment to offer some support to a friend or family member who we know has struggles. Reminding them they’re loved and not broken or horrible can make such a huge difference!

 

Raising Awareness for SAMH

Raising awareness of mental health causes is something that has always been really important to me. I strongly believe that improving people’s understanding of mental health difficulties and normalising discussions about these issues can have a positive impact on reducing the associated stigma enabling people to be more open about their own struggles. I was really impressed by a recent awareness campaign held for SAMH in Scotland.

On Valentine’s Day, SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) distributed love heart shaped stress balls to cinema goers at the Odeon Braehead. SAMH are Scotland’s leading mental health charity and have run numerous initiatives including anti-stigma and anti-bullying campaigns.

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The love heart shaped stress balls were provided by promotional products provider Skyrise Branding and were designed to build awareness of the great causes SAMH are involved with. The campaign – attracting cinema goers on Valentine’s day – sparked a talking point and should benefit the overall aim of getting more people to talk about mental health issues.

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Sarah Nicholson, Corporate Partnerships Manager for SAMH said:

“We are very grateful to Skyrise Branding for providing us with the uniquely designed Valentine’s Day themed stress balls.

Research shows that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem and if it’s not you, it is likely to be someone you care about. Valentine’s Day is a time for showing loved ones how much we care for them, whether its family, friends or even ourselves. Stress balls are great for relieving stress and muscle tension, and if you don’t need one, then someone you know might benefit from it.

SAMH would encourage anyone to do things that have a positive impact on our mental health which includes giving, whether it’s giving a gift or even just your time to someone and staying connected with our loved ones.”

SAMH are known for using their creativity. Their recent fundraiser – “ An Evening with Sir Chris Hoy” involved inviting the cycling legend along with a panel of other sportspeople to take part in “A Sporting Question” The event raised more than £55,000 to go towards mental health campaigns and initiatives.

Hassan Rafiq, Director for Skyrise Branding shared the motivation behind supporting SAMH:

“We try to help a few organisations every year and SAMH is one we really admire. I feel mental health is often overlooked and that there is a stigma behind opening up to these issues. As such, I think everyone can be impressed by the services provided by SAMH. We are all likely to know someone who could benefit from the services provided by a mental health charity. This is why it’s great to do a little bit to raise awareness of such a great organisation”

SAMH is the leading mental health organisation in Scotland, they work to provide community treatment for young people with mental health problems, are involved in policy and campaigning and in National campaigns. In January, SAMH challenged political leaders in Scotland to raise the profile of mental health in Scotland. Their ‘Ask Once, Get Help’ manifesto looks to improve access to mental health support with better timescales… something that is so relevant across the country!

You can support SAMH here and find out more about the vital work they are doing!

 

Mental Health Research Opportunity

I’m in my final year of University doing a degree in Sociology and Social Psychology at the University of York. Now, anyone who’s read my blog will know I’m really interested in mental health and I decided to look at how social media can play a part in recovery from mental health conditions.

I’ve felt really privileged to be able to share my recovery journey with others, but I’m really interested to see what other people’s perceptions of the use of social media are and how these come together in a wonderfully sociological/social psychological way… so my dissertation research was created!

I am doing a research project on the use of social media in mental health recovery. 

The aim of my project is to explore individuals’ perceptions of the uses of social media in recovery from mental health problems. 

I am hoping to collect as many responses from individuals who do and do not use social media who have an experience of having a mental health condition. If you have a spare 15-20 minutes to complete the following questionnaire, I would be extremely grateful. Please do share this opportunity with anyone you know who might be interested in taking part.

The study questionnaire can be accessed via the following link: 

https://york.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_7aFOZsAlm2HdoB7

If you have any questions, please do get in touch via email (kae501@york.ac.uk) and please do share this opportunity far and wide to help me get as many participants as possible who have experiences of mental health problems/conditions. 

 

As we all grieve

  
This week, the world feels so very sad. With the loss of Alan Rickman, the world mourns the passing of another British icon; someone we’ve grown up with and been influenced by. The sadness I’m feeling right now feels deeper, the public outpour of emotions reminding me of my own feelings of loss and that the world can be such an unfair place. Cancer is horrendous and to see people lose thier lives to it reminds me of my own experiences with of losing someone to cancer in my close family. I’m reminded of other loses, especially those that have happened in the last year. It’s really hard.
There is something about being able to mourn as a collective, for people who have been important in your life but you don’t necessarily know directly, that is really powerful. I think we live in a society where showing are sadness is still so, almost, taboo; that being able to be sad with everyone else gives a sense of relief maybe. There is no judgement, mostly, and it’s ok to say… Oh that feels a difficult and brings up emotion for me. 

With my feelings of sadness comes even stronger feelings of gratitude and love for the people that matter so much in my life to me. It’s times like these when I want to hug them a little tighter and make sure they know I’m thinking about them and want to make sure they are ok. I recognize that the emotions I’m feeling right now are most likely being felt by them too and it makes me want to check on them and send them my love even more than usual. 

Whilst you grieve for the loss of influential people, remember to take a moment to check in with yourself and think about your own experiences. Speak to those around you who might be feeling emotions that have been brought up about other events and people who are missing in their lives. And most of all, look after yourself; appreciate all you have to be thankful for and hold on to it tight. 
Lots of love xx
  

I’m in the running for the UK Blog Awards 2016 which are now open for voting! I would really appreciate it if you could just take a moment to vote for me by Clicking on this link. You can vote twice per day… so the more votes the better… I will be eternally grateful!

Safe Journey Stardust

12376210_10153431360168869_2326014685564590211_n.pngToday the world lost one of it’s greatest musicians. David Bowie shared with the world pure creative genius which touched and shaped the lives of a whole multitude of people spanning years and generations. His music has a way of reaching inside of your, drawing you in and hooking you up to his very spirit. The New York Times paid a much greater tribute to a wonderful man than I would be able to do; but I wanted to share my feelings of gratitude.

Bowie represented the misfits, the weirdness of the world and perhaps spoke out for those who just didn’t fit in. His morphing personas encompassed all of life and shouted that it was ok to be who or whatever you were destined to be. He gave so much to music and popular culture in such a non-conformist kind of way and the world will continue to be a better place with his legacy as he lives on through all that he has created.

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Photo courtesy of the V&A

I was lucky enough to visit the ‘David Bowie Is…’ retrospective exhibition at the V&A. It was an insight into Bowie’s life that really opened my eyes to his journey as a performer. There were such power in the battles he had faced throughout the years and the impact they had on his various personas. It seemed to make sense that he was indeed such a creative master; his mind full of so much turmoil as well as magic.

 

As the world mourns the loss of one of the greats, his legacy will last on through the way he has opened our eyes to differences in fame, fashion, music and gender. Hopefully the world will continue to grow more accepting of the weird and wonderful, of those who are outside of the norm.

Safe travels to the stars Stardust.

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Flooding in York

  
Watching the news and it feels like the end of the festive season has come with a bit of a crash to those affected by flooding. I have great empathy for those who are suffering the aftermath of horrible amounts of water. When we were on holiday in France one year, we returned from a day out to a burst water pipe. A house full of clean water was horrible enough. But it was rectified and we were given somewhere else to stay. But it gave me more of an idea of the damage water in the wrong place can do.

Watching the news becomes even more poignant when the areas at risk and those affected are where you live. I’ve suddenly found myself feeling a very long way from York, watching helplessly as the river floods and our house is right on the edge of a red severe flooding warning. I found myself trying to work out what might be at risk in my room, which is on the ground floor, and seeing if it would be feasible to go to York to move things when it may not happen.

For now I sit and wait to see if anything comes from the warnings for our area but at the same time watch the devastating flooding spreading through roads and streets that I know so well and regularly frequent. It’s horrible to just watch something happening with seemingly little to be done to help the situation. 

It reminds me to be grateful that the most important things around me are my family and friends who are all safe. It’s also made me think I really ought to be enough of a grown up to have insurance by now. 

Thinking of everyone who has been affected by flooding. Please all stay safe and don’t make any risky decisions. I really hope the water stops rising soon. 
Click here for up to date flood warnings.

#PrayForParis

  
I’m deeply saddened by the recent events in Paris. I’m sad that there is such tragedy and terror in the world and I hate seeing unnecessary loss of life. 

However the hope I take from this situation is that we are all struck by how awful and terrible it is. Thankfully we haven’t reached a point where acts of terror and atrocity are routine and we’re desensitised to it. We are still struck  by how unnecessary this kind of violence is. 

I am so thankful that there is humanity, kindness and the possibility for peace in the world. Right now, we have an opportunity to react in a responsible and appropriate way. This is the act of a specific group of people… Not a Nation or religion as a whole.

I am grateful to live in a safe environment where I am generally not at great risk. I do not have to fear for my life daily and I hope to stay in a society where that is the case.