Lifestyle, News

Beating The Blues and Alternative Highs

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1By Joshua Lee

“Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world,” remarked Tim Bradshaw, mental health nurse and guest speaker at the Beating the Blues and Alternative Highs event, organised by Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU)’s  ‘Time to Change’ society, held in order to discuss the issue of mental health, as well as to provide information on how help can be accessed for anyone whom may benefit from it. For, as anyone who has ever been affected by mental health before will know, MH does not discriminate; regardless of ethnicity, class, or creed, mental health can affect anybody. As Tim Bradshaw stated over the course of his talk, MH illness affects at least 1 in 10 adults (possibly more), yet it is only in the last fifteen years that services across the country have improved to become more accommodating, and understanding, of the various MH problems marring the lives of millions of people. This is why societies like ‘Time to Change’ are established, and why the efforts of people like Tim Bradshaw, and Leanne Chisnall, are so crucial – because a MH problem is not a figment of the imagination, but something relative and damaging to the quality of life of any individual – but is enough being done?

2During the course of his talk, Tim Bradshaw went through the various traditional forms of support, such as face-to-face therapy with a counsellor, therapist or a psychiatrist as well as the use of medication. How a person is medicated is entirely down to their condition, and whilst medication has proven to be useful in many cases, for others the use of medication does not come without its horror stories. With Olanzapine, for example, some patients have reported feeling lethargic and weight gain has been observed. It can be argued that due to the side effects of the some medications, patients have looked for alternative non-medicated therapies. Some also see the use of prescription drugs as a mask of the symptoms of their mental health condition rather than resolving the underlying cause. This is even more reason that these issues can be tackled through the support and advancement of the various non-medicated therapies stated above.

Whilst professional care is advancing, Dr. Bradshaw did say he believes that the representations of mental health in the media have been less than helpful (proving hinder some in reducing social stigma), and couldn’t be further from the reality. Because the subject of mental health is far too often trivialised in newspapers and on TV, with the vulnerability of affected people being crassly exploited on TV reality shows and grossly exaggerated for effect on soap operas. One other mention of the media came from second guest speaker Leanne Chisnall who is currently working with ‘Self-help Services’, a group of Manchester-based centres focused on improving the well-being of people for whom MH is an issue. Leanne observed how the tragic recent death of actor Robin Williams was treated like a feeding frenzy by the press, who shamelessly scavenged for the crudest of details, thus turning the issue of depression into frivolous sensationalism.

However, it isn’t all doom and gloom, as Leanne pointed out, there is a variety of support on hand. Self-help services offers a string of online programmes, designed to aid people into recovery, whether it be for anxiety, depression, or phobias. Support is the main aim with Self-help services and the online programmes range from ‘Stress-busters’- a self-help guide for young people – to ‘Sleepio,’ a programme clinically proven to help users overcome negative sleeping patterns. ‘Breaking Free’ is a programme designed for recovering drug or alcohol users but whatever the programme, Leanne was quick to stress how patients should not feel ‘fobbed off’ with being directed to an online package. Instead, online programmes are designed to be a more convenient way for patients to get the support that fits in with their day-to-day lives, because why let MH dictate your day? Overall there has been a 58% success rate of people moving into recovery with the online programmes, as well as 100% patient satisfaction all round.

3Fortunately, the future of MH support looks brighter than in the past. With 285 MH posts in the north west alone, mental health should no longer be seen as something to feel ashamed about. Unfortunately, however, social stigma is still present. Many people go years in a state of silent suffering without ever trying to get help, and there is a naive notion prevalent among some that mental health is just a state of mind, that people suffering should simply ‘pull themselves together’ or ‘get over it’ – if only it were that easy.

The event was followed by an exhibition involving MMU Students for Sensible Drug Policy, MMU Sport and the MMU Gaming society. Who presented alternate ways to manage mental health as well as new research concerning ‘illicit substances’ and the treatment of mental health. The event was made possible by collaborations between the societies, and their volunteers.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article and feel you need to talk to someone please contact the MMU Counselling, Health & Wellbeing Service

Joshua Lee writes, for some reason, and is currently in his 1st year of study at MMU.

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