Let’s Talk Mental Health (Theo Richards Tiffin School)
Mental health has always been a very taboo conversation and we often don’t get enough of it. We can ask those around us “how are you” every now and then, but most of us will say “ok thanks” without even thinking for a second and it’s time to deepen the conversation and really check it out. how are our friends and family doing. The stigma surrounding mental health remains high and poor mental health is becoming more prevalent among young people. It is important that we educate ourselves, that we are aware of our deep emotions and that we feel able to ask for help when we need it.
I had the pleasure and privilege of speaking to Dr Nihara Krause, Clinical Psychologist and Founder of Stem4 Mental Health Charity, Supporting Our Friends, Maintaining Positive Wellbeing, Destigmatization mental health program and discuss the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. had on youth mental health across the country. Dr Krause founded Stem4 in 2011 after a teenage girl at a school where she lives and works lost her life due to an eating disorder and she got involved in researching how the whole school community could be supported and to provide useful information and advice. The charity is very versatile and covers a wide range of work such as providing face-to-face work on mental health education to a diverse audience, while also creating digital apps (3 for youth and one for those supporting a youngster) with a one-fifth for eating disorders en route. Stem4 also helps advise schools and educate the government to help them make policy decisions. The charity emphasizes early intervention and being alert for warning signs to access help when needed. Please visit their website https://stem4.org.uk to learn more about their work and how to find the apps.
My interview with her can be found below:
1. How can we support our friends with their mental health issues?
Our relationships are the most important thing for anyone. Being there for a friend, maybe noticing that they are going through a difficult time, and offering them the opportunity to do something because they may not want to chat right away. Friends change when they are going through a difficult time, it is important to try not to be upset or hurt by this as they can be more withdrawn. Also try to take care of your own sanity, be careful not to extend your friendship too much so that you start to become almost like their counselor. The next step might be to help them access support and refer them to help, but more importantly to just be there for a friend.
2. How can we help break down the stigma surrounding mental health?
Already, there is change because people are much more open to discussing mental health. We need more communication, more awareness and more education in schools and more involvement of parents. We need to have a national focus, where mental health has the same degree of parity as physical health. I also think we should see mental health as something that we all experience, we all have mental health so we can all also have poor mental health in the same way that we can have poor physical health. There has been a bad education for a long time now where people consider that mental illness is not coping well or that it is weak in some way or another, when about 70% of mental illnesses are genetically encoded. We shouldn’t treat it as a personal vulnerability or a weakness issue because it isn’t. Opening up discussions as a family is key to fighting stigma, and while it can be uncomfortable at first, starting with light conversations can help normalize talking about your feelings more often.
3. How do you think the pandemic has affected adolescent mental health?
We won’t fully know the impact of the pandemic for at least the next five years or more, but some of the numbers we have indicate that mental illness among young people has increased. Before the pandemic, figures showed that one in nine young people aged 5 to 19 had mental health problems, the two main ones being anxiety and depression. That number of 1 in 9 has grown to 1 in 6 since the start of the pandemic, with depression and anxiety also being the two highest of those numbers. Depression is of great concern as it was escalating in the world before Covid and now there is great concern as to how this is going to affect the general population as we are seeing a strong correlation between clinical depression and suicide, which has also increased during the pandemic. Eating disorders have also increased massively and this could be due to the fact that those who needed treatment could not access it and also that good follow-up from school or peers decreased. Thus, all mental health problems have increased to our knowledge.
4. What strategies can we adopt to take care of our daily mental health?
All the kinds of good things you really hear in school. It goes without saying that if we take care of our physical health, it will also help our mental health. Eat well and regularly, have a good sleep routine, rest is an important part of your physical health, and in general you know your body. If you think it’s not working exactly the way it should, go get a checkup. It is important to maintain a certain level of activity, exercise helps improve mental health in different ways: be it sports, art, drama or even mindfulness. Anything that helps you deal with stress better is good on a daily basis and also helps you manage your workload to try and spread it out as procrastination can lead to unnecessary stress. Connecting with friends is crucial and listening to music is also proven to help you relax. I am a real advocate for knowing your emotions and how to deal with them. Our emotions can lead to overdoing or triggering poor mental health and trying to understand you and determine the root cause of our feelings can be a key strategy we can adopt. It helps to determine if this is a circumstantial, temporary feeling, or if it is the expression of something deeper that you don’t know how to express or deal with.
5. Is there anything we can do more to help combat the more common winter seasonal lows?
Yes, I think that’s a very good question. Some of us seem to be more vulnerable to a condition called SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and this has to do with the amount of light received through our retina and the breakdown of certain chemicals. If this is you or if you generally feel lower in the winter, I recommend trying to make the most of the daylight hours, so you may need to try getting up earlier. Also, for a lot of people, winter can be a real lonely time where a lot of people don’t want to go out or there is less going on, so maybe see if you can go online and log in from one place. different way. And another thing that I obviously think is that we need to eat better in the winter because we lose more energy, so just watch how well you maintain yourself.
6. If you had a message for our readers, what would it be?
Tackling mental health issues early is extremely helpful, and the sooner you tackle something, the faster you can change it. There are some great treatment strategies out there and there is no reason for this mental illness to follow you for the rest of your life. But get there early, get support, and get back on track.