Social Media and Teenage Suicide

How Social Media and Teenage Suicide are Linked

Previously, I have written about the use of screens. My concern is how they can negatively influence the mental health of all of us, especially teenagers. Recently, it has been revealed that this is becoming a matter of life and death. More specifically, how social media and teenage suicide are being linked.

Image of a meadow on a summer's day

Alarmingly, around 200 British schoolchildren take their own lives each year. At a rate of more than one every other day, I was shocked to read this on the BBC website in this article. Another stand-out piece of information from the BBC is as follows. Due to the private nature of mobile phone use, parents are not up-to-date with the online persona of their children. As such, the type of content they are viewing is unknown. The video on the above BBC web page makes the point that disturbing self-harm or suicidal content is still freely and easily available to all.

Therefore, in some cases parents and friends of suicidal teenagers have no idea of deteriorating mental health. One cannot begin to the imagine the shock of discovering a dead child. So what can be done? How can we understand social media and teenage suicide?

Ways to Approach the Problem

To me there seem to be a number of different corners to the problem to smooth off in order make some headway. Initial thoughts might be to blame the social media companies – we live in a blame culture after all! Yes, there is definitely much they can do to improve the way in which harmful material is so readily available. As an optimist, I am sure there is plenty of work behind the scenes but it needs to be quicker and more effective. With all of today’s technology, how is it that a 14 year old can access suicidal images? Unacceptable.

However, can a teenager’s mental health deteriorate that quickly that parents and friends have no idea? Despite the confusing whirlpool of hormones that swish frequently through a young person’s body, we must regularly keep maintaining contact. By that I mean face-to-face interaction – let them know we are available to listen. Try to understand. It might appear to fall on deaf ears or is received with a grunt but on some level it will go in. Furthermore, there are always ways to connect with a teenager. As unlikely as this may seem, each personality will have a unique way in. This could be a board game, eating pizza in the car on the way home or buying an ice cream on a snowy day.

Conclusion, with Extra Awareness

Finally, by reading this article you are now hopefully a little bit more aware of the potential issue. Just this information will likely start-up your radar for signs of problems at home. Furthermore, if things seem unmanageable it is important to address issues through an open, sensitive and non-judgmental discussion with your teenager.

More help is available through the BBC Action Line, the Samaritans or personal counselling, please get in touch here.

Benefits of Sleep – and learning to sleep well

Benefits of Sleep

Many of us are familiar with the benefits of sleep. However, even as adults it can be difficult to recognise and acknowledge that sleep should be the next thing on the agenda. It becomes all too easy to squeeze in one more little task or another few minutes of TV. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that young people struggle more than adults. They will often rebel against the idea of going to bed (and sleeping). Almost as if it is seen as some kind of punishment.

A person, unable to sleep, staring at the clock. Sleep deprivation provides misery to many.

The Guardian report that, especially in adolescents, insomnia can be more damaging than lack of physical exercise, too much screen time or bullying. The article outlines how sleep lessons are becoming available to children across Britain. This situation is quoted as a ‘hidden public health crisis’. The inference is that poor behaviour or performance at schools could be put down to sleep deprivation.

A Personal Sleep Theory

Reasons aside (and there are many, including social media and obesity) it must be in everyone’s interest to promote the benefits of sleep. Furthermore, I believe it is necessary to go a level deeper and talk about how to achieve good sleep. I have written about the benefits of physical exercise on mental health and how excessive screen time can damage a person’s well being. Combining these aspects of life provides a starting point for good sleep. I have a long standing personal theory. Our minds and bodies should be equally exercised every day. Therefore an achievable level of movement and thinking should be targeted. My belief is that this provides a good starting point for settling oneself.

Some Ways to Move On

There are of course many other recommendations to achieve the benefits of sleep. The NHS provide a good starting point for more reading here. Of course, my theory of equal mental and physical tiredness is only a concept to help most of the time. In life, problems accumulate and often feel unmanageable. Whilst often perceived as harder to manage when tired, outside help can be what is needed. Counselling is one type of support to help surmount life’s obstacles or management of life events. Please get in touch to find out more.

‘If I can do it, anybody can’ – Fury’s message on mental health

‘If I can do it’…

If you have been reading my recent blog posts, you will have gathered that I am keen to raise awareness of good mental health. Furthermore, how important it is that people feel comfortable to reach out when they need help. As such I was full of admiration for Tyson Fury and his message during the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2018, which you can read about here.

Tyson Fury speaks out about mental health

Boxers are viewed as the hard men of sport. Tyson Fury is no exception, especially because he stands at six foot nine and eighteen stone. However, he has had the courage to speak out about his personal issues, at an important public event.

Whatever your views of boxing and sports in general, it cannot be argued that Fury makes a good point. The BBC quote him as saying that [sports] ‘people are still living in darkness and are too afraid to come out and speak about it’. However, I believe that this extends far further than sports and into the general population. Therefore, when a celebrity comments publicly about their own mental health, bravery is a word that comes to mind. For many of us, asking for help with mental health is a big and scary step to take. Tyson Fury has helped to normalise this feeling. He is evidence that improvements can be successfully be made to ones own mental health.

 

…’anybody can’

Fury goes on to say ‘no matter what you’re going through, you must always continue to get back up and keep going forward and fight back’. Clearly, he is referring to a boxing match. However, this struck me as a valid metaphor for life in general. As we live our lives, there are constant setbacks and obstacles to overcome. Our ability to deal with these and manage their successful navigation is an indication of our mental health. If the obstacles that knock us down or out become too frequent or too large, things may seem too dark, foreboding or overwhelming.

This is the when counselling can help. It is OK and normal for this to happen. It is OK to ask for help. Even the big tough guys are doing it, without shame or worry about the impact on their image.

Please get in touch if you would like to find out about counselling in Bristol or read more about me.

 

Changing Mental Health Awareness

Changing Mental Health Awareness

Yesterday the BBC wrote about changing mental health awareness – have a read here. They published a kind of ‘top ten’ chart outlining the current view of the problem. One of the headline statistics is that one in six of the population have a ‘mental health problem’. This seems to be part of the issue to me. The problem being that if we are seen to have mental health issues, we are labelled in a different category to the rest of the population. The fact of the matter is that we all have mental health. Furthermore, it varies day-by-day and even during the day. It is OK that the quality of our mental health changes. That is part of being a human being.

 

Severe Mental Health Issues on the Rise

Mental Health Awareness imageLooking at those with ‘severe’ mental health issues, it does appear that cases are on the rise over the last 20 years. However, it is acknowledged that with a greater awareness of mental health, will come a greater reporting of the problems. Nevertheless, modern life is also quoted as having a responsibility in the increase of mental health issues. It seems, young people are especially vulnerable (read my post here) and many mental health problems become well established in youth.

As I have also written about here, male suicide is a major issue. It is perhaps the culmination of many years of severe mental health issues. Astonishingly, there are 6000 suicides in the UK each year. This high number can surely be reduced by raising the importance of discussing mental health and thereby reducing the associated stigma.

 

What is the Solution?

The BBC also report that antidepressant prescriptions are higher than ever. Furthermore, people are being left on the drugs for long periods of time. Subsequently, it is extremely hard to come off even to assess how the individual is feeling. Of course, prescriptions are far cheaper than the talking therapies but what good is being done in the longer term? That remains to be seen. As I mention here, diet and lifestyle are now being touted as effective in the treatment of depression. Also, I am a great advocate of physical exercise wherever possible.

Of course, being a counsellor I genuinely believe that talking (or counselling creatively) about our problems goes a long way to feeling better about ourselves. A positive knock-on is the changing mental health awareness within the client. Counselling may not always be the easiest route but often it can be the most effective and permanent solution. One aim of counselling is to help supply the individual with a set of tools that they can apply to life. Therefore managing most things that are thrown at that person is a matter of adapting the right ‘tool’, thought or action. Many times these become so instinctive they happen even without a second thought.

Please contact me if you would like to find out about having counselling sessions in Fishponds, Bristol.

Considering Moving Back Home?

A young person looking unhappy to be living back home with parents.Considering Moving Back Home?

The Independent newspaper reports here that young adults considering moving back home to live with their parents are likely to suffer from depression. The page refers to recent research that looks at the reasons a person might make this move. Furthermore, an investigation into lesser known information such as the affect on mental health has been carried out. As a counsellor I know how critical it is for a young person to transition into an independent adult. A successful early adulthood relies on this independence. Major signs of success come from financial, social and residential security.

Therefore, if these parts of a person’s life come under scrutiny or fail altogether, the results could be overwhelming. Potential examples are the loss of a job, breakdown of a significant relationship or loss of accommodation. Considering these in greater detail reveals that the individual may or may not have been able to influence the outcome. In other words, it may be that the loss of a job is due to redundancy. Alternatively, behaviour at work may not have been acceptable. People deal with different events in their own personal way. Our upbringing can heavily influence these reactions. 

 

The Importance of Being Independent as a Young Adult

Either way, at this key stage of developing independence, the expectations on a young person are very high. Young adults desire to be accepted by society, which goes some way to explain why this type of life event can have such a large impact. Nevertheless, I find that young adults are incredibly resilient and determined. Counselling can provide the opportunity to reconnect with these attributes. Importantly, it can be a time in which the young adult can feel what it is like to exist without the pressure and expectations of society. Learning to feel like this in sessions is the first step towards being able to apply these sensations to life outside the counselling room.

If you are or know someone struggling in this way or considering moving back home, please get in touch for a free consultation.

 

Counselling Social Anxiety

Counselling Social Anxiety

Counselling Social Anxiety and Awareness

Social anxiety is a serious condition that I am passionate about helping clients to manage. The news and society frequently pay no regard. My experience counselling social anxiety has shown that the talking therapies can be very successful. Counselling aims to raise awareness of oneself and empower the client to choose change. Awareness is so important to us as human beings. Without it, we can find ourselves meandering through life wondering why we don’t seem to have much control. However, once we are able to start noticing how we are feeling or checking that what we are about to do/say is what we want – then we have choice.

 

Choose Change

With choice, we can choose a different course of action. In the case of social anxiety this can take time. Generally, I find that clients need to build up to choosing change at their own pace. They need to feel sufficiently fed up with living within the constraints of social anxiety that change becomes the favourable option.

At this stage of counselling, there will be great trust in the relationship with the counsellor. It will be feeling safe enough to discuss things that have not felt possible until now. The openness and ease of sharing these parts of one’s life is where the understanding and potential change lies. This is the time, as hard as it may feel, to become fully committed. Supported by your counsellor, you have the opportunity to explore unreached parts of yourself. The opportunity to break free and become the person you would like to be. 

 

Read More in My Article on the Counselling Directory Website

My article, published on the Counselling Directory website can be read here. In it, I discuss counselling social anxiety in more detail with the hope that more people may be inspired to conquer this major mental health condition.

Please contact me directly if you would like to discuss any aspect of counselling social anxiety.

 

 

World Mental Health Day – 10th October 2018

Half of all Mental Illness Begins at 14

Yesterday (10th October), the World Health Organisation (WHO) recognised World Mental Health Day 2018. This year the focus gave special consideration to young people in a changing world. Their page here makes interesting reading, with a headline being that ‘half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14’. Surely this puts parents and caregivers in a position of great responsibility.

Phone use on World Mental Health Day 2018

Helping a young person manage mental illness can be very challenging. However, having an awareness of the child’s mental health and taking some steps to help are a must. The WHO go on to comment that a young person’s online presence adds a burden to their existence. Unlike a couple of decades ago when social interactions between groups of teenagers stop for the day when school finishes, online activity takes place 24 hours a day.

Nevertheless, should we switch off the internet at night? This would surely increase conflict. There must be many solutions involving guidance and a good listening ear.

 

One Possible Solution

Find out what really matters to the young person. Try to empathise with how important the social interactions are. Also, peers see the young person as involved and up-to-date. Considering how important physical health is to the well being of adults (see my post here), surely the same can be said for young people. However, taking this further makes me wonder why mental and physical health are still viewed independently. Maybe some day, in the not too distant future, we will just consider a person’s health – mental, physical and spiritual – as a combined entity. However, I applaud the WHO for raising this important subject in World Mental Health Day 2018.

If you have enjoyed reading this post, please have a look at my home page and the rest of my blog. I offer counselling sessions, based in Fishponds (BS16) and central Bristol (BS2), at a pace that feels comfortable and safe.

Can Diet Help With Depression?

Is it all ‘old wives tales’?

A person’s health is strongly influenced by their diet. Slogans such as ‘you are what you eat’ help emphasise the importance of thinking about our food. Furthermore, where it comes from. For generations our ancestors have used the saying ‘everything in moderation’. Unfortunately, many ignore the ‘old wives tales’. However, these phrases originate from someone’s experience. They tend to have a significant element of truth. Sometimes we only need to think about the words to realise what they mean.  Consider the moderation example.  Maybe it is common sense that an excess of anything could be damaging to our health. However, can diet help with depression?

Beautifully ripe tomatoes, part of a Mediterranean diet. However, can diet help with depression?

One aspect of the age of research in which we are currently living is that more often than not these phrases, suspicions or best guesses of our ancestors are being proven empirically. As written here, by The Independent newspaper, the Mediterranean diet is now being linked with prevention of depression. Whilst the exact ‘old wives tale’ relating depression and extra virgin olive oil escapes me, I remember since my childhood much talk about this diet ‘being good’ but no-one really knowing why.

 

Or can evidence prove what people have known for centuries?

As evidence for a particular diet goes, this is a fairly small scale study. There is a long way to go before we are adopting the Mediterranean way of life, however it is a start. In the meantime, maybe we should all check in with some of those phrases we remember and wonder what truth they may hold for us today. For the time being, it appears that the answer to ‘can diet help with depression?’ is a tentative ‘yes!’.

If you have enjoyed reading this post, please have a look at my home page and the rest of my blog. I offer counselling sessions, based in Fishponds (BS16) and central Bristol (BS2), at a pace that feels comfortable and safe.

Male Suicide Rates Falling

Unfortunately, there are many suicides around the world. Nearly three quarters of all suicides in the UK are from males, especially those in their late forties. However, whilst every death is ‘one too many’, the BBC report here that numbers are at their lowest since 1981. Male suicide rates are falling – this good news is very welcome. However, as a population more work is required to raise awareness of male mental health. In the past, society has dictated that men should ‘put a brave face on’ and ‘bottle-up’ strong feelings. Challenging this belief is a starting point to reduce male suicide.

If you are struggling, the Samaritans can be contacted 24/7 on 116 123 (UK and Ireland), jo@samaritans.org or their website.

If you have benefited from reading this post, please have a look at my home page and my blog. I offer counselling sessions, based in Fishponds (BS16) and central Bristol (BS2), at a pace that feels comfortable and safe.

Exercise and Mental Health

Recently, a study published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) observed that about one fifth of the world’s population are not getting enough exercise. Notably, in the UK this figure rises to one third! Click here to find out more from The Independent. Importantly, the benefits to physical health are manifold and outlined very well in the article. However, there is no comment on the benefit of exercise and mental health.

Exercise and mental health. It is easy to see why this bike ride to a remote lake could be beneficial.

It is worth bearing in mind that there is plenty of evidence supporting the link between physical activity and mental health. The NHS give some great pointers here. From personal experience, I would also recommend activity that is appealing and within your abilities. Activity can be a great way to mentally reset yourself and help to put things into perspective.

If you have enjoyed reading this post, please have a look at my home page and the rest of my blog. I offer counselling sessions, based in Fishponds (BS16) and central Bristol (BS2), at a pace that feels comfortable and safe.