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 

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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

 

Lifestyle, Uncategorized

5 small things that make me happy

*Image taken by myself in Cornwall. Ask for use.

Catching up with an old friend over a cuppa.

There is nothing I love more then a good ol’ chinwag and some gossip. Friends will often come in and out of your life, especially as you get older. But the special friendships will last a lifetime. It makes me to happy when I get to chill with a friend and reminisce of a simpler time, like when Busted breaking up was your biggest stress. If you haven’t spoken to a friend in a while, drop them a message and arrange to meet somewhere for lunch or invite them over to your place. It could brighten your day.

Hot chocolate.

The elixir of love (not really but it’s blooming good stuff.) It’s a bit like a warm hug isn’t it? I can count of hot chocolate to bring a smile to face when I’m feeling a bit under the whether.

A Netflix binge.

There’s always a gripping box set to catch on Netflix. Whether you’re obsessed with real crime shows (waves hand up in the air) or more of a drama addict, you’ll be sure to find a binge worthy watch. I watched Making a Murderer in two days before Christmas (10 hours worth of show)… #truelifestorybro.

My other suggestions include Scream; Orange is the New Black and the first series of The Killing. There is nothing better then losing yourself in a good story.

The sea and/or a beach

The sound of waves, the sand between your toes and the breeze in your hair are just a few of the reasons I would quite happily live by the sea. I’m a bit like a frantic puppy when I see a beach. Although it has a calming effect on me, it also makes me super giddy like I’m at Disneyland. Maybe I was a dolphin in a previous life, who knows?

My dog running about like a loon.

I let me dog off the lead in the park the other day and he literally ran about for 20 minutes like he’d never seen grass before. He makes me smile so much when he bounces about with excitement. What did human beings do to deserve such wonderful creatures?

 

What are five small things that make you happy?

If you’re feeling a bit down, go and do one of the small things on your list. Whether it’s a certain food, a walk in the park or a book you haven’t read in a while, go and give it ago! You might find it gives you a reason to smile this week.

Have a great weekend, G

 

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

The Facts About GAD

When you wake up every morning, you feel sick to the very pit of your stomach.

Your appetite is dwindled, with even your favourite foods no longer attracting you.

When you stand you feel dizzy. Your head often feels heavy and your legs like jelly, barely holding you up.

You cry all the time and constantly feel as though you are in one of those haunted house attractions, waiting for an actor dressed as some grizzly creature to jump out at you from behind the next wall.

You are living on the edge but you aren’t any racing fast cars. This adrenaline is certainly not the same as when you’re queuing for the biggest roller coaster at Alton Towers either. It’s always there. And you don’t really know why.

This is Generalized Anxiety Disorder, also known as GAD.

GAD is a physiological disorder that is often diagnosed in people who suffer from an excessive or unreasonable anxiety within everyday life. This level of ‘extreme worry’ can be extremely debilitating and disruptive to an individual’s life.

Everybody at one stage in their lives will suffer from Anxiety about certain aspects of their life. This can include worries about school or a job, a relationship and finances. But when that worry consumes a person to the point of causing them ill health and prevents them from living a healthy, happy life, it is often Generalised Anxiety Disorder that is orchestrating it.

You may just think you are ill or stressed out.

When I was diagnosed with GAD a few years back I just thought I had the flu but anxiety can make you feel like you are unwell.

So I thought some bite size information on GAD might help a few people looking for information.

 So, what causes GAD?

 Abnormal neurotransmitter levels within our brain are the reason for many anxiety disorders. They cause the brain to behave inappropriately as they control the nervous system. Neurotransmitters affect our mood, our concentration as well as our sleep and weight and when their levels are unbalanced, they can cause the number of anxiety related symptoms.

When it all boils down to it, our Brain Chemistry is the prime reason for Anxiety and Stress related illness.

But of course, Anxiety can be triggered or caused by a number of different factors. These can include:

Trauma

Stress

Side effects of certain medications

Genetics

Medical Conditions (This is why you should always have your GP diagnose Anxiety rather then assume that is what you have, just to make sure you are not suffering from a medical illness)

What are the symptoms of GAD?

There are a number of mental symptoms, which will lead to the diagnosis of GAD.

These, of course, will include excessive worry and anxious thoughts.

But many people find themselves confused by the other symptoms of Generalised Anxiety Disorder.

Here I’ll explain the science behind the most common GAD symptoms.

Headaches

An anxiety headache will most likely be caused by muscle tension. We have a number of different muscles not only in our head but our neck that we tense when anxious or under stress. This muscle tension can lead to muscle fatigue and aches. Your headache may also be caused by dehydration, as when we are suffering from anxiety, we tend to forget to stay hydrated and healthy.

High levels of stress and anxiety can also cause migraines. Remember to take the time to look after your health and keep hydrated! You can also use techniques such as mindfulness meditation to relax yourself, relieving headaches caused by tension and stress.

Nausea/Digestive Upsets (includes Acid Reflux, IBS etc)

High stress biology will cause the production of extra stomach acid as well as tension within the stomach muscles, which can throw your digestive system out of check and balance.

You can deal with this by eating little and often. You could also try taking a pro-biotic to maintain healthy bacteria within your digestive system.

Dizziness and Shaking

These symptoms are often caused by hyperventilation. People with anxiety will commonly over breath which means they will take in to much oxygen. This is also common with panic attacks. The best way to deal with this is to take deep, slow breaths in through the nose and slowly breath out through pursed lips as though you are blowing a dandelion. This will regulate your breaths and help you to calm down, therefore stopping you over breathing.

Depersonalization

This is often described as being in a dream like state. People with GAD will often feel detached from their own thoughts and wonder if they are going insane. This is purely because of anxiety causing an erratic nervous system. Using breathing techniques and grounding (I’ll do a blog post all about this) will really help you to relax and have a calmer mindset.

Easily tired/Insomnia

With anxiety, our brain is always on high alert and acts inappropriately to everyday worries. The best way to describe it is watching Horror films constantly. Your brain and nerves are on edge like some crazed, masked man called Mike Myers is going to jump out and chase you down the street. Because of this, people will anxiety disorders like GAD will feel emotionally exhausted. They may also find it hard to keep a regular sleep pattern or ‘wind down’, in turn leading to Insomnia.

Check my blog post on Insomnia to learn more about this and how to better deal with sleep disorders.

Other symptoms of GAD can include;

General Tension

Difficulty concentrating

Irritability

Being easily startled.

These are all caused by high stress biology.

If you or someone you know is suffering from GAD, share this post and encourage them to see their GP for a general health check and a proper diagnosis. This will also allow you to access various services, which could help you to deal with the disorder.

I really hope this blog post has helped anyone looking for more information and insight on GAD or anxiety in general.

Advice

5 Useful Ways to Deal with Anxiety Based Insomnia

When you have insomnia, you’re never really asleep… and you’re never really awake.

Fight Club

Anyone who has ever suffered from Insomnia, either short term or long term, will know how frustrating it can be.

Like staying hydrated and eating nutritious foods, a healthy sleep routine is pretty essential to maintaining a positive lifestyle.

But what if you can’t seem to get the sleep you need?

What if, no matter how much you toss and turn you just can’t seem to get comfortable?

You’ve tried counting sheep and those wooly bastards are just driving you two stops away from insanity road.

You’ve tried a spot of reading, but not even 50 shades of Grey can send you into a plentiful slumber.

You are at a complete loss.

Insomnia is most commonly caused by stress and anxiety but can be a symptom of other mental illnesses such as depression and bipolar.

When we think of insomnia, we often think of a lack of sleep. But insomnia is also characterized by not obtaining a restful enough sleep, which in scientific terms, means you are not gaining enough rest within the REM stage (the deepest stage of sleep). You may believe you are sleeping well but will often have the typical symptoms of an Insomniac.

These symptoms can include:

  • Tiredness and sleepiness during the daytime
  • Irritability and feelings of anxiousness
  • Difficulty holding your concentration or attention to tasks
  • Forgetfulness
  • Increased errors within work/educational environments
  • Tension headaches
  • Digestive problems
  • Increased worry about sleep

If you are suffering from insomnia, you’ve probably been told a million times how you should be getting seven to eight hours of sleep. And if anything, it’s just raising your anxiety even higher.

So I’ll be speaking about 5 helpful tips that I’ve found can alleviate Insomnia both short term and long term.

(However, before you take up any of these tips, please remember to see your GP if you are finding it very difficult to function during the day with Insomnia. Your GP can do a health check to make sure you have no medical issues and can refer you for help either with a sleeping disorder or anxiety/depression.)

Download Calm App by Calm.com

This genius little app is an amazing find that I downloaded last year when my anxiety was keeping me up. I found it while researching mindfulness meditation.

You don’t need any silver balls or crossed legs to use this app so don’t let the word ‘meditation’ put you off.

It’s completely free to use, but you can purchase a monthly subscription, which allows you to access meditations specifically for certain problems (such as lack of confidence or sleep disorders)

But the free features are amazing by themselves and allow you to free your mind from current worries by creating a calm mindset in the present time. You can also change the time setting for your meditation session. A calm mindset will allow you to sleep better.

Set up a Sleep Routine

Set up a scheduled routine to commit to each night. This can include relaxing an hour or two before sleeping, making sure you turn off all electronically devices, drinking a hot drink and going to bed at a decent time (which is not necessarily your definition of a ‘decent time’)

You can write it up somewhere public so whoever you live with can encourage you to stick to it and you’ll also remember each stage until it becomes a force of habit.

Eat more Melatonin Foods

Melatonin is the hormone that helps us to sleep at night and regulates the time that we awake from our slumber. This hormone is like our own personal alarm clock, regulating our sleep naturally. Foods high in vitamin B6 allow our bodies to make Melatonin and Serotonin.

These foods include:

  • Bananas (also contains important amino acids and magnesium) *But watch out for spiders…
  • Oats
  • Tomatoes
  • Cherries
  • Pineapple
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Brown Rice

And many more! Check this website for the full list.

You can mix some of these foods together for a healthy and delicious meal or snack (I recommend you don’t mix sweet potato with the banana and oats though…)

Go on a Digital Detox

Try and cut out computer and phone time before bed or even consider not using certain digital services (such as Facebook) for a longer period of time.

Our digital life’s can often lead us to distraction and cause unnecessary worry. It can also keep us switched on. You need to be able to be able to relax before sleep. Turning off your gadgets will also allow you to calm the constant activity in your brain. Added bonus, you don’t have to see what Julie from next door had for dinner the 4th time this week!

Don’t get your PJ’s in a twist!

If you can’t sleep, don’t toss and turn with worry for hours on end waiting for your alarm to go off. Get out of bed and do something. Read a book, draw a picture or knock on the neighbors walls because if you can’t sleep, no one else should be able to!!!

If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, insomnia can lead to anxiety surrounding sleep. You don’t want your negative perception of sleep to create the assumption that every time you try to sleep you won’t be able to, so the key here is positive reinforcement.

Think ‘I will be able to sleep’ rather than ‘I can’t sleep’.

It’s easier said than done and most people who suffer from insomnia get themselves into a mad circle they can’t seem to get out of. But there is hope!

Helpful links:

http://sleepfoundation.org

http://www.bupa.co.uk/health-information/directory/i/insomnia

G