Mind matters - Health

We don't feel guilty about popping a pill for pain relief. We seek advice for an injury or unknown illness. So when it comes to the health of our minds, why are we a nation suffering in silence? Laura Foulds investigates.

You may be shocked to discover that one in four of us suffer from a mental health issue during the course of a year alone, but how many of us get the help we need? Mental Illness is highly stigmatised and there is a lack of understanding surrounding the finer details of mental health. Confusion about the different types of therapy available and the lack of statutory regulation of therapists has made it easy for fraudsters to pose as therapists.

Who cares?

Psychiatrist Dr Sally Cubbin gives us a clearer definition of the professionals we may find ourselves sitting in front of. “A Psychiatrist,” she says, “is a medical doctor, who went to university to study medicine and has specialised in mental health”. “In contrast a psychologist will have gained a psychology degree at university, and aims to reduce psychological distress and to enhance and promote psychological well-being using one to one or group therapy”. Probably the most well known type of therapy is counselling, and we can thank American culture for making it more socially acceptable to be ‘in therapy’ for one reason or another. The role of a counsellor is to listen to their client attentively, without judgment, and without giving advice or helping them to make choices or influence them in any way. The sessions are led by the client, and will allow exploration of feelings and emotions. During counselling, as with psychotherapy, the client may take part in a variety of therapies, dependent on what is suitable. Amongst these include group therapy, reflective therapy and the Cognitive therapies, which aim to empower the client by changing thought processes.

Tough talk

Dr David Iles explains that medication is not the first and only option given to patients, as is often assumed. “We don’t dictate to the patient which therapy choice they should have, we tell the patient about the outcomes of each treatment, and suggest in certain cases what we think would be more appropriate. For instance, in young people under the age of 20 we are very reluctant to give conventional anti-depressants, as they can have adverse side effects, we tend to go for other treatments like counselling or CBT.” Geoff Boutle offers counselling from Worting House in Basingstoke after training for seven years. He explains that people who come in for counselling come from many walks of life: “Usually people come into the counselling room because they have become aware that something in their lives needs to change and they need some professional support to help bring that change about. There may be something causing emotional distress such as depression, dealing with change or bereavement – or it may be trying to find a way to change aspects of your personal life”. Geoff understands how difficult it is to confront emotional demons head on. “I usually find that once people have actually taken that brave first step and walked into the room, any embarrassment quickly fades. Both client and counsellor are focused on trying to assist the client to both understand their situation and bring about change – and that determination to make progress helps to banish any embarrassment.”

Real life

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Rehanon Mackenzie found herself sitting in front of a counsellor, after seven years of moving home, and intensive studying left her feeling robbed of the life she once knew. “I really felt apathetic to life and had none of the usual sense of positivity that I pride myself on; but I just carried on with my everyday life. I think that in my mind I thought it was just due to turning 30 and all the questions that brings.” Despite having a large circle of close friends, she felt there was nobody she could confide in. “I knew this wasn’t right,” she explains. “The next day I contacted one of my close friends. She was really supportive and put me in touch with Mind and also spoke to me about going to see my GP”. Rehanon shared a common concern when she first visited her GP. She was determined not to go down the medication route, and was relieved when counselling was suggested. After weeks of 50 minute sessions with her counsellor, Rehanon feels her journey is nearly at an end. “My counselling experience has been fantastic and I can only say I wish I had gone sooner because I feel so much more at peace with who I am and where I am going. It’s given me back my sense of self, which I now realise had been adrift for a very long time.”

Warning signs to watch out for Dr Iles advises that it’s time to visit your GP if you have the following symptoms: Sleep disturbances, wakefulness, appetite changes, and mood swings. However, you may also find yourself with other feelings including anxiety, paranoia, the feeling that thoughts and actions are out of your control, tearfulness, dreading the day, lack of self worth, tiredness and wakefulness, addiction, self destructive behaviour, self harm or eating disorders.

How to get the help you need: • MIND – www.mind.org – for help and advice regarding mental health issues.• Check that your therapist is accredited with one of the main professional bodies such as British Association of Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP) – www.bacp.co.uk or British• Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) –www.babcp.com. Association for Cognitive Analytic Therapy – www.acat.me.uk

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