Advice

Is social media affecting young people’s mental health?

A recent report by The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and the Youth Health Movement has revealed the social media sites which are having the most negative impact on young people’s mental health.

Like brushing your teeth or eating your lunch, social media has quickly become a part of our day to day routine.

Many of us can’t go an hour without checking our Facebook feed or snapping a picture for Instagram. This has never been more true for the younger generation in our society.

There are 400 million daily active users on Instagram, 1.15 billion on Facebook and Snapchat has now hit 200 million users with the majority aged between 18 to 29.

The report entitled #StatusofMind looks at the positive and negative effects social media has on young people’s health and wellbeing.

It is based on a survey of almost 1,500 teenagers and young people aged 14 to 24 from all across the UK. The report shows how each social media platform scored in 14 factors relating to young people’s health and wellbeing.

The factors included issues such as anxiety, depression, sleep, self-identity, bullying and body image.

Based on these ratings the survey found that Youtube was the most positive social media platform whilst Instagram was rated as the most negative.

1.) Youtube

2.) Twitter

3.) Facebook

4.) Snapchat

5.) Instagram

Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH, said: “Social media has been described as more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol, and now so entrenched in the lives of young people that it is no longer possible to ignore it when talking about young people’s mental health issues.”

She said her charity wants to promote and encourage positive aspects of networking platforms and avoid a situation that leads to social media psychosis which may blight the lives of young people.

On average, 11–18 year-olds spend over 11 hours per day exposed to electronic media (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2010).

Hannah Baron is a senior clinical psychologist with the charity Chums who offer mental health and emotional wellbeing services to children, young people, adults and families across Luton and Bedfordshire.

Hannah says: “The development of social media is very much in its own stage of adolescence and given this we do not have a vast array of research from which to draw upon. Despite this, there is growing awareness that although there are opportunities, there are also numerous risks from social media to adolescent mental health and development.

“As we have known for a long time, adolescence is a stage of many changes with a focus on identity formation, social connection and independence. Some studies have pointed to a detrimental impact on self-esteem and confidence with constant comparisons being available for the teenager to access.”

She says that despite these claims there is much more that needs to be done to fully explore the impact that social media can have on the developing brain and we need to remain mindful of supporting adolescents with their use of social media and helping them to safely navigate the networking world.

 Will this research change the way you see social media?

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Advice, Uncategorized

The Inbetweeners of Mental Health

A friend and reader, Tracey, suggested today’s blog topic.

The issue of the ‘inbetweeners’ of mental health seems to be a problem many people have experienced at one stage or another. It’s the transition stage between what the NHS class as childhood and adulthood. It is the point in which an existing or newly referred patient, over the age of 16, is moved on to adult services.

The UK’s leading charity in improving young people’s mental health services, YoungMinds, are currently campaigning to improve transition care from child and adolescent mental health services to adult services, preventing young people from getting ‘lost in the system’.

And there are many who are being left in the dark when it comes to receiving the support they need from mental health services.

Did you know that when young people reach the age of 16 or 17, they are no longer eligible for support from CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service)?

But more worrying is that they are often much too young or do not meet the strict criteria to be referred to AMHS (Adult Mental Health Services) as they may be classed as ‘not ill enough’.

So where does that leave these ‘inbetweeners’?

It puts them in a position where, ultimately, they are not able to access any of the services that could help them on their way to recovery. This is a dangerous position to be in for any young person suffering from mental illness.

So why do these issues occur exactly? And what could be done to change them?

First of all, the criteria for support through AMHS is very different to that of CAMHS. AMHS point of entry for treatment is a lot more difficult to meet than CAMHS in regards to the severity of the individual’s mental health. For example, AMHS will often only intervene when a young person has reached a crisis point or are deemed as a danger to themselves or others while those under 16 will often be referred to CAMHS before their illness advances to such stages.

As mentioned in my previous blog, this is where early intervention is key and can not only save a young person’s life but would prevent a young person from having to access more advanced mental health services (such as inpatient facilities) at a later age. If these services and resources are offered to a young person as soon as issues surface, they are able to better equip themselves with the techniques or methods they need to prevent a relapse in their mental health in the future.

This current gap in young people’s mental health care is very worrying and an issue many may not be aware of unless they themselves have tried to gain access. Young people who are no longer able to access CAMHS are waiting long periods of time to reach the correct age for AMSH services, which can’t start until the individual reaches 18.

This huge gap and subsequently, further delays in referral can mean many young people ‘give up’ on transitioning to adult services and therefore never get the treatment they need, having a huge effect on their future mental wellbeing with potentially dangerous consequences. Young people are in essence ’disappearing’ from these services and falling off the radar.

There is also the added funding stress on the NHS, with services in particular areas receiving less funding in mental health services than others, meaning fewer funds for each patient and therefore a lower referral rate. There is a variation from county to county as to what age is classed as eligible for transfer to adult services also. For example, a 16-year-old may transfer to AMHS if they are no longer within full-time education. If they are still in education, they will often not be transferred until they are 18 years of age, showing a contradiction between counties within the NHS.

These young people are being passed from pillar to post. A lack of communication is also present between the two services. Neither CAMHS nor AMHS appears to be making the effort to work in line with each other. This leads to information not being passed between the two mental health services and therefore, many young people will have to undergo another assessment before entering treatment. Understandably, this can also be quite traumatic for a young person.

These services need to provide continuity and routine for already venerable young people.

Between the ages of 16 to 18, young people with mental health are probably at their most venerable. They are often making important decisions about their education. Should they stay for further education or apply for an apprenticeship?

They will often have to make more intense life decisions about relationships and friendships as well.

So why, at their most venerable, are they being turned away from the support they need more than ever?

It’s a frustrating and worrying time for both young people and parents when they are left in this limbo period, often feeling as though their concerns are not being heard or ‘don’t matter’.

The Government invested £54 million in improving young people’s mental health services between 2011 and 2015. Yet young people are still not getting access to the services they need.

Have you or your child experienced the gap in services? How do you think the NHS could improve on this?

Leave me a comment!

Resources: 

http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/children-and-young-people/

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/jul/29/chilld-and-adolescent-mental-health-service-failing-children

http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/about-us/what-are-we-doing/children-and-young-people

http://www.youngminds.org.uk/

Georgia 

Advice, Uncategorized

Mental health and young people: Is there a lack of support?

Yesterday (11th April 2016), CentreForum, the independent think-tank published a report, which revealed that nearly a quarter of children and teenagers on average are turned away by mental health services after being referred by their GP’s, teachers or others.

CentreForum found that this was due to service’s having ‘high thresholds’ for access to their services, revealed after analysis of the service’s eligibility criteria.

In the report, CentreForum stated that these high thresholds for treatment eligibility prevent one of the most effective forms of mental health treatment for young people- early intervention.

It was also found that young people were waiting for prolonged periods of time to access treatment with the average of the longest waiting times being almost 10 months between the first GP/school referral and the beginning of their treatment. This, along with a lack of funding for mental health services in certain areas of the UK shows a worrying escalation in the support offered to young people suffering from mental illness.

This report has been released in the same week that a UK bereavement charity pushed for a full investigation by the Government into the way deaths of young people in mental health units are recorded. An inquest suggested that nine young people had died as in- patients within mental health facilities since 2010.

This only solidifies that there is a considerable lack of support for young people suffering from mental illness.

Early intervention is key.

Depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses suffered by children and teenagers will often by present at a young age. Certain behaviour such as a change in sleeping patterns, irritability, loss of interest in certain activities and withdrawal from socialisation can often be clear indications of a young person who is carrying the black dog. Some people may question whether this is just the behaviour of a typical teenager. But this behaviour will often extend to prolonged periods of time with little to no change in mood.

This will often affect a young person’s school or college life, resulting in low grades, bad behaviour or low attendance. These warning signs should be a clear indication that further investigation is needed.

Intervening as soon as a problem is spotted can allow schools to offer the right support and advice for the affected young person as soon as possible. All too often, a young person who has suffered from mental illness will have gone throughout their school life with little to no mental wellbeing support. I know of quite a few young adults who suffer from depression or anxiety and have done from a young age, yet never had anyone listen to their issues or offer support which could have allowed them to receive the treatment they needed much earlier.

Is it the lack of funding? Or a higher demand?

The reality is that figures show funding levels for NHS mental health care in England have dropped by 2 percent in recent years. This lack of funding leads to long waiting lists and less accessibility to the services, which are desperately needed to prevent the potential suicide and self-harm of young people. It also puts a strain on charities that rely solely on donations to provide young people support such as Samaritans and Child Line.

There is also the higher demand for these services due to the rise in mental illness in young people. Statistics by YoungMinds.org.uk show that young people between the ages of 15 to 16 with depression doubled between the 1980’s and the 2000’s, showing there is a constant increase in the amount of young people being diagnosed with mental heath issues. This could be due to a lack of knowledge in previous years or maybe just the way our society has changed its views on mental health. Regardless of what has caused this higher demand for services, these resources need to be available to prevent an increase in suicide levels in adulthood as well as self-harm in young people, which is believed to affect 13 percent of children and teenagers between the ages of 11 to 16.

We shouldn’t have to lose a young person due to a lack of support and funding for life-saving services.

If you have been affected by the topics discussed in this post, please contact the following organisations for support:

Mind 

Young Minds 

Parents or teachers in Bedfordshire.

Georgia OX

 

Advice, Uncategorized

Guest Post: Kelly from ‘This is Only my Opinion’ on Surviving Grief

‘I don’t know how you do it?’

This is a phrase I hear quite often. I suppose it’s because I don’t keep Louis, Corey and Elliot a sordid secret. I speak their names as I would my living children and this then triggers curiosity and subtle questioning about what happened to these three little boys I speak so highly of.

‘I don’t know how you do it?’ makes it sound like something I’ve strived to achieve an accolade for when this path was not a choice I would willingly take. It’s the cards I’ve been dealt. Surviving the journey of stillbirth and neonatal death has been one hell of a ride!

When someone dies you pretty much expect to be upset. You expect to cry, and you expect to feel sad. But what is difficult to compute and unexpected is that sometimes these emotions don’t happen or display themselves the way we predict them to and then you start wondering ‘what’s wrong with me?’and the answer is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

The days after Elliot’s death and the run-up to his funeral, I did nothing but cry. I cried so many god damn tears I am sure my tears had tears. But then something happened and I just stopped. I didn’t cry at the funeral. I didn’t cry at all for weeks after and I would look at myself and get angry, willing myself to cry because my heart ached and I wasn’t ready to stop crying. When I am crying the world knows I am breaking, people can see my anguish and they can see from the tears that I’m crying, that I am still grieving.

The parts of grief that you don’t foresee and often don’t anticipate when your child dies is the anger, guilt, blame, bitterness, hatred, the failure, self-persecution and the time.

Grief needs to be treated with respect, and grief requires patience from the person grieving but equally from those around you. It is in times of great hardship that friendships and relationships are challenged to the brink. Those that fall short ‘unfriend’ from Facebook, ‘evict’ from your insta, and ‘abolish’ from your twitter. You need to make life easy for yourself because you have been thrown one of the ultimate tests and the deadwood will only drag you down. Don’t be scared of what they might say when they’ve realised you aren’t popping up in their news feed because believe me, they won’t say a thing because people really don’t like to confront a grieving mother, and that’s because they never know what face they’ll be greeted with. They might get ‘sobbing and bawling uncontrollably face’, or ‘knock your fecking teeth out’ face!

When my twins died in the neonatal unit, I felt the most extreme level of failure, my body had failed them. I had failed them.

They died because my body rejected them in their prematurity, blaming myself stifled any grief I felt. I was angry and bitter. This surge of anger and bitterness was ‘silently’ directed at any other woman that had children, was carrying children and if the children happened to be twins, my anger and bitterness would be elevated to levels where anxiety would take over and my breathing would be erratic. My stomach would hurt, and I would begin to panic and sweat and start looking for the nearest brown paper bag that I could breathe into to stop me passing out into a heap in the middle of the frozen isle.

I dealt with losing my twin boys by getting pregnant as quickly as possible. There are no hard fast rules about when to have another baby after loss. You just have to trust your body and do what is best for you. Hindsight tells me now that maybe it was a little too soon because upon reflection I can now see that all I did was metaphorically cover my grief with a plaster, and a plaster doesn’t stay stuck forever.

The plaster came unstuck when in 2012 I found out Elliot had grown his wings at 38 weeks gestation. My world crashed into 1000 pieces. Elliot had exposed an old wound and their names were Louis and Corey. Not only was I grieving for my stillborn son but for my premature twins that had passed 7 years before. I had no idea what was ahead of me, but I knew I had to be strong for my other children and for my husband. But by being strong and maintaining a stoic stance I masked my own grief.

It took months of people telling me I needed some help, that I might benefit from counselling. Sadly I am one of those people that find it very hard to listen to other people telling me what to do, this trait has followed me since school to my detriment.

Everything had finally snowballed and I was treading water and slowly drowning in a sea of grief.

I had denied myself grief; I had hidden my emotions and suppressed my feelings because I wanted to be strong for everyone else.

I hated myself and I loathed every part of my person, I did not feel worthy to have my husband or my living children. I thought they would be happier without me. I believed that I was a tainted and if people got close to me bad things would happen. Only now I am accepting of my grief and I understand and respect that grief is part of me now. I also realise how utterly absurd it was to think my children would be better off without me, they are my kids and I am their mum, and as nutty, crazy and broken I am they love me, and I love them, warts and all and that includes my ever so slightly grumpy, kind, sometimes funny husband! There is no replacement for ME to them. (Even if Rachel Weisz came along singing nursery rhymes by day and wearing a ‘sexy nurse maids’ outfit by night ….I HOPE!)

My husband is such an important part of my story and every time we lost and buried a child I felt completely and utterly responsible for his pain and my failure to yet provide him with another son and this manifested itself in blame. I would blame him for loving me, blame him for marrying me and blame him for choosing me to have children with, because if none of that happened, he wouldn’t have a life filled with grief and disappointment because his wife failed to do the most natural thing in the world. If he didn’t choose me maybe I would have been liberated from this feeling of failure and self-loathing too.  His grief displayed itself the polar opposite to mine and his continual effort to tell me he loved me and needed me, and that he doesn’t blame me just suffocated me.

We were like two magnets trying to be together but repelling against each other’s energy.

My grief engulfed me and it affected my marriage, my children, my family and my life. I almost lost everything!

So my message for surviving grief after a loss is to not fight against it. Let it do its job, be led by grief and feel the emotions as they come because resistance is futile and detrimental to the survival of bereavement.

I have accessed a great deal of counselling to get where I am today and one of the most helpful things I ever did as part of my therapy was writing. It’s helped me in so many ways. One day I wrote a letter to my guilt because guilt was draining my soul. This letter encompasses everything I felt.

Like me, want to read more, or share my opinions, follow me here : This Is Only My Opinion

Advice

Top 5 Apps for Managing Anxiety

Calm

Free

This mindfulness meditation app is a great introduction for beginners of meditation techniques. It’s a popular app, which allows for guided meditation programs alongside peaceful background noise of your choosing.

Its features include:

A personal profile.

This includes a calendar to track your recent meditation sessions and compare your progression.

Customisable scenes for your background noise.

There are a few that come as default on the app, but you can download more depending on what you find most relaxing. All are free. This is a newer update, which was added so that you can whittle down your favourite scenes, and access them easily from your home page without flicking through a number of scenes before you find the one that works best for you.

Guided Meditation

If you choose to use the guided meditation you can pick a specific program. The default one is called 7 days of Calm. Using the app for seven consecutive days will allow you to see any changes in your mood and find out if this app works for you.

There are also two default-guided meditations for the app. These are Calm and Body Scan. If you pay for Calm Pro, either monthly or annually, you can access meditation for specific issues or areas of your life you wish to improve. These include problems with sleep, concentration, commuting and confidence.

Timer

Allows you to have control over how long your meditation sessions last. They can last from 1 minute up to 240 minutes. You also have the option to change the sound that plays when your session has ended (so don’t pick anything that sounds like an alarm bell or it may wake you abruptly!)

Panic Attack Aid (P.A.A)

£2.99

A helpful app for anyone who suffers from Panic Attack Disorder or frequent panic attacks with his or her anxiety. This app features a number of activities to ease symptoms during a panic attack and calm the mind.

These include:

A Breathing Exercise

This uses the movement of a circle to regulate and slow breathing. We often over breath during a panic attack which causes hyperventilation. This exercise allows you to relax your breathing and also gives positive, calming mantras to read and repeat to yourself.

Reassurance

This part of the app includes explanations for symptoms of panic attacks, helping to reassure your racing mind and calm your thoughts. The reassuring explanations are also tailored to your location.

Distraction Exercises

This is my favourite section of the app. This section features exercises and games, which should allow you to focus your mind and therefore, be distracted from your panic attack.

MindShift

Free

This app gives some great insight into anxiety and is laid out like a journal.

This app includes strategies for most anxiety disorders (including Social Anxiety) but would also be helpful for those looking for tools to manage:

  • Test Anxiety (Driving test or exams)
  • Performance Anxiety
  • General Worry and Panic
  • Dealing with Conflict

Its features include:

Anxiety 101

These are clear explanations to why we suffer from anxiety and why it makes us react the way we do (for example, it explains what the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism is as well as where our anxiety comes from)

This feature is helpful for anyone who wants more insight into anxiety and may not have had the chance to do his or her own research yet. It is easily explained and to the point.

Situations

This allows you to address situations you would like help with such as ‘taking charge of panic’.

Check Yourself

Allows you to recognise what issues you may have with your anxiety and how it can affect you.

Thinking Right

Allows you to identify more positive and helpful thoughts, which you can favourite, making them more easily accessible from the main page.

Chill Out Tools which include:

Relaxation Exercises (Calm Breathing and ‘Tense and Release’ for tension caused by Anxiety)

Visualization (Mental Vacation)

Mindfulness strategies (Body Scan and Mindful Breathing)

Active Steps

Gives you strategies you can use in everyday life to overcome your anxiety or panic attacks. These include exposure and coping techniques.

The app also has an inspiration section, which gives you a selection of positive quotes to reflect upon and read when needed.

Anxiety UK

Free

The charity, which helps to support people with Anxiety Disorders, has a very helpful app for those looking for advice from other people diagnosed with anxiety.

It allows you to take a questionnaire to better understand what may be causing your anxiety. I do recommend that people visit their GP before self-diagnosing though to make sure they are not suffering from other medical issues.

You can hear helpful tips from other members of the Anxiety UK community as well as professionals in the mental health sector as well as create your own tips for other users.

This app also includes some links for more information on all anxiety disorders as well as personal experiences from members of the charity.

Pacifica

Free

This app allows you to track your mood as well as your health. This is a helpful way to check how your daily activities may be affecting your mental health such as your diet, water intake and exercise.

You can also check your progress through a graph to check how your mood changes according to changes in your daily activities and using the apps features.

Each day you can update the app with your mood. The app will then give you access to a selection of activates which could improve your mood and help you manage your stress or anxiety.

These include:

  • Meditations
  • Relaxation Techniques
  • Daily Challenges (Small, achievable goals for that day)
  • Thoughts Journal
  • Community (discussions by other app users)

*Not SPR

Advice

Topshop: STOP glamorising self-harm!

TRIGGER WARNING

Self-harm is a serious symptom of mental health issues and low self-esteem.

It is not a fashion statement.

So why is Topshop currently selling temporary metallic tattoos that appear to depict self-mutilation as if they are the ‘next big fashion trend’.

The golden scar tattoos were created in conjunction with a new range of accessories the popular retail store have created to encourage and celebrate loving ones self. The temp tattoos, which have become a popular accessories for the summer festivalgoer for the last few years, were designed in collaboration with a jewellery design student from Central State Martins and currently retail at £8.50 a pack. The packaging also shows the slogan ‘Scars worth fighting for’.

Topshop Tattoos Gold

But rather then being met with the positive and empowering response the fashion brand had hoped for, the tattoos have been met with distain and disgust by many people across the net.

This isn’t the first time Topshop have come under fire for their ‘distasteful’ and inappropriate use of mental health issues to promote fashion.

Last year the British retailers were selling clutch bags with the slogan ‘Stressed, depressed but well dressed’ which they soon pulled from their stories after receiving backlash.

Using mental health problems to create ‘fashion statements’ seems to be a worrying and ever popular technique of selling clothes and accessories for a number of high street stores. One of the most high profile being Urban Outfitters, who have produced various garments in the last few years which openly glamorize mental health issues, such as their ‘Eat Less’ t-shirt and the ‘Depression’ crop top.

So let me jump straight into it. There is no doubt in my mind that the products I’ve just mentioned were created and sold to cause offense and upset. Unless you are a child under the age of eight who can’t use their own initiative or intelligence to understand that a t-shirt that read’s ‘Eat less’ is most definitely glamorizing anorexia, then there is no excuse to produce clothing which has such a message.

But I could, in some way, understand where Topshop might have been coming from with these metallic temporary tattoos. Celebrating our flaws and our ‘scars’ rather than being ashamed of our personal struggles is an ideology our society should aspire to and any public figure that encourages this is doing right in my book. Yet, there is no doubt that Topshop have gone about this in the completely wrong way.

The official target market for Topshop is currently 15 to 30 years old.

When I was a youngster, wearing Topshop clothing was something to aspire to. Although pricey, young people are drawn to the shop for its catwalk inspired couture and on-trend statement pieces. The popular vloggers are all wearing it, so why shouldn’t they?

And this is exactly why these temporary tattoos, regardless of the innocent intention of their creation, need to be taken down from Topshop shelves.

Just like the current trend of denim dungarees, there is always the concern that these fashionable accessories could become of ‘aspiration’ to young people who may see the stick-on scars as a ‘fashionable craze’ they should all join.

It all links into the misconception self-harm is often tainted with; that harming one’s self is a form of ‘attention seeking’ or a ‘teenage craze’.

Mental health charities and ambassadors are still finding they come across this misunderstanding in today’s society.

They have spent much time trying to raise awareness and educate people on the truth about self-harm yet actions such as the one’s taken by Topshop completely undermine their efforts.

Fashion and self-harm should never have to be in the same sentence.

The seriousness of self-harm has been completely misjudged by Topshop.

Over half of people who die due to suicide will have previously self-harmed. 1 in 5 young people will suffer from mental health issues.

These statistics are often forgotten by retailers who create such products purely for profit, a profit which even when argued ‘holds a positive message’ will not go towards charities or organisations which work to help the very people who have to ‘fight their flaws’.

Stop glamorizing self-harm. No amount of gold metallic paint will cover the pain and darkness that hides within self-harm. A transferable sticker isn’t going to raise awareness of mental health. If anything it will belittle the many people who struggle with it day in, day out. It’s not a trend and it certainly isn’t a fashion statement that should be encouraged in young, impressionable people.

Education is key and the misuse of an issue as serious as mental health for brand promotion is both wrong and exploitative.

If you know someone who self-harms or you personally have been affected by this story, please seek help and professional guidance. There are a number of organisations out there that can help and support young people and adults struggling with mental health issues.

If you are looking to help a friend who is self-harming, remember that it’s important to listen and leave judgement at the door. When someone is struggling with mental health issues as well as self-harm, they will feel alone and isolated. They may not want to speak to anyone about it.

Self-harm and mental illness should NEVER be seen as shameful as many people suffer alone when they shouldn’t have to.

You can visit these sites to get more information and advice;

http://www.nshn.co.uk/

http://www.harmless.org.uk/

http://www.mind.org.uk/

G