Sylvia Kenneth: If you feel you need help with mental health, seek it out

Posted on May 8, 2015

This article is about mental health issues. If you feel you need help, to find out about BSL counselling service Healthy Minds, which is run by the charity Sign Health, click here.

Next week, from 11th – 17th May, is Mental Health Awareness week .

As it is Mental Health Awareness week, it is most likely that the media will be broadcasting all kinds of information on mental health issues from all over the world.

People will appear on TV and radio, articles will be published in newspapers, magazines and journals, and discussions will be taking place across the board, all talking about mental health.

Mental health problems can affect the way you think, feel and behave.  Mental health problems are very common and affect 1 in 4 people in Britain.

There are lots of different issues around mental health problems that are diagnosed – what caused them and which treatments are effective.

The symptoms of mental health problems vary but can include; feeling sad or down;  confused thinking or reduced the ability to think or concentrate;  excessive fears or worries;  feeling guilty over little things;  mood changes of highs and lows.  Sometimes it can involve withdrawal from families and friends or even problems with sleeping.

This year, the theme of Mental Health Awareness week is ‘Mindfulness’.

So what is Mindfulness? Mindfulness is an integrative mind-body based style that helps people change the way they think and feel about their experiences – such as a stressful experience. It is recommended for treating people with mental health problems.

Exercises are used in many ways to support people to pay attention themselves in the current moment; this can be achieved using breathing exercises and yoga.

Mindfulness training helps people to be more aware of their thoughts, feelings, emotions and physical sensations, instead of being overwhelmed by unwanted feelings. It improves concentration, therefore allowing a person to focus more.

Who can be involved in Mindfulness? It can be used by all ages; children, young people and adults. There are different ways to practice mindfulness, depending on the individual’s aims and objectives.

It is recommended for people with mental ill-health, as well as useful for general mental health and wellbeing. There is plenty of information round online (here is an NHS page) for those who want to know more.

It is important for Deaf people to be aware of Mental Health issues. For many years, the stigma surrounding mental health has hugely affected people’s lives. It isolates them.

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 11.52.58I wrote a book about my experience as a family member of someone with a mental health problem. It is called ‘Unravelling the Signs – Living with a Deaf Schizophrenic Brother’.

It helps to explain more about mental health, and raise awareness. It is moving account of my family life, focusing on my brothers challenging and painful battle with Schizophrenia.

People who have mental health problems often find it difficult to tell others because they are afraid of the reaction. For example, when people first experience a mental health problem, they tend to deny it, to not seek help, and not to get in touch with any mental health services.

It means that there are many people with mental health problems who receive no treatment or care – and it doesn’t only affect your mental health, it can impact on your physical health too.

Many Deaf people with mental health problems say that the stigma around it is what prevents them from engaging in everyday activities – eg going shopping, going on holiday, going to the pub, attending an event.

They also struggle to discuss it with their family, often avoiding talking about their experience, or not telling anyone at all. All of this just means that recovery can and will be that much harder for them.

If you, or someone you know of could do with help, please seek it out.

Sylvia is now a Charge Nurse based at the National Deaf Services, Bluebell Ward, Springfield Hospital, London. She studied nursing at the University of Salford, Manchester from 2002-2005. Sylvia was the first Deaf qualified nurse to work at Rampton Hospital, which is a maximum security unit.

To find out about BSL counselling service Healthy Minds, which is run by Sign Health, click here.

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