We had a smaller group this week due to other members attending “A Sense of Belonging” -a joint strategy for improving the mental health and wellbeing of Lothian’s population. This was inspiring because there are so many amazing people out there helping others, so many incredible services, what is needed is awareness of what is available. It was very clear from so many stories that there is hope out there, it is important that these voices get heard.
Meanwhile, back at Simpson House…the rest of us were thinking about similar issues. Firstly we are hugely encouraged to see a group member who went through a very difficult time is now much better, more confident, and full of ideas, and we were tapping into these for ways to raise awareness of our group.
A couple of years ago we successfully applied for and received funding from the Scottish Recovery Consortium. The remit for receiving this funding was in order to promote the Choose Life @ Simpson House Group. We designed and had leaflets printed. With the group running low in numbers we wish to look at how we use the rest of the money in order to promote the group, whilst at the same time promoting the wellbeing of group members-as has been encouraged by the Scottish Recovery Consortium as a valid way to use the funding. So, our super plan is to book a day away for existing group members involving a nice lunch and a treat e.g. massage and to spend the day being creative about promoting the group for those who may not be aware of the service, and also to think about how to reach those not currently in contact with any services and who are isolated.
After some amazing strategic thinking we played with our new social media tool-Pinterest. As ever we acknowledge the hard times but our aim is the movement from these places, having fun is an important part of this, and an important part of wellbeing in general. We can laugh even in the darkest times. So, we also enjoyed a wee clip of comedy before bagels for lunch. Our new favourite.
Today we looked at our thought processes and realised how sometimes our thinking can go to automatic negative or worrying thoughts. We wanted to explore what our thoughts are. Are they rational and do I have any evidence to validate these thoughts.
An example is my close friend who usually phones me every Friday night, but this week has not phoned. My thoughts automatically turn to “Have I done something wrong to upset them? They must not like me, and that’s the reason they have not phoned me”. We worked on examples like this in our newly created ‘No Stinkin’ Thinkin’ card below (adapted from the ‘Change Your Stinking Thinking’ website).
We worked on how to stop negative thoughts using an interesting article from http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-16265/how-to-stop-negative-thoughts-from-getting-you-down-infographic.html
When someone is in such a desperate place of wanting to take their own life it may seem that there is no hope for them. One of the biggest aims of this group is to help people see that there is hope for them. Mutual support of group members can make a massive difference to their well-being, increasing hope and building resilience. This is all done in a supportive manner while encouraging self-responsibility. While individuals have had different life experiences they can all relate to the feelings these experiences bring. In the group people do talk about ending their lives and share experiences of times when they have tried to do so. No matter how bad the week has been people still manage to make it to the group, which shows immense courage and determination on their part. If people have tried to take their own life but not succeeded, they are able to explore their feelings about this in the safety of the group. At this point most people are glad they are still here and did not die. There was an instance where someone took an overdose but vomited the pills back up. This has been a symbolic experience for the individual as it made them realise that they aren’t able to kill themselves and so need to learn how to live. Since this incident, the individual’s mental health has improved dramatically and they are learning ways to have good self-care. Stories like this can inspire hope in others.
Today we talked about childhood, and happy times group members had while on family holidays. This led us on to discussing teenage years and how hard the transition can be from child to adult. What emerged was how experiences from our childhood/teenage years can have a big impact on us as adults.
A big part of this group is being able to have fun, so we played a few fun games. We played two truths and a lie, three items you would take with you while stranded on a desert island and who is your hero. The games brought up a few laughs especially when someone kept on saying 3 truths and forgetting to say a lie!
It’s so encouraging to see a lot of organisation doing something for Mental Health Awareness Week. If we can all work together to help raise awareness and reduce stigma around mental health others we will have a better and more tolerant society. For more information on Mental Health Awareness Week please click http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk
In light of it being Mental Health Awareness Week below are 10 ways to look after your mental health;
- Talk about your feelings
- Keep active
- Eat well
- Drink sensibly
- Keep in touch
- Ask for help
- Take a break
- Do something you’re good at
- Accept who you are
- Care for others
While group members have been finding life challenging what cannot be disputed is their levels of strength while going through these times. As human beings we can sometimes be our own harshest critics, all too readily dismissing our many talents. Members are so good at supporting each other and can easily champion the qualities in other members but find it hard to see their own strengths. Part of the group’s aims is to help people find their own qualities and build up levels of self-awareness. Going through hard times can be so emotionally draining but can ultimately lead on to feelings of liberation that you managed to “get though it”. Having build up a lot of resilience and knowledge due to hard times in life, we can be better equipped to deal with things life throws at us.
*Characteristics shared by emotionally resilient people
Emotional Awareness: They can identify what they are feeling and why they are feeling that way; i.e. “I’m not feeling sad, I’m feeling angry (the feeling) about what Jean said in class today (the event) because it hurt my feelings (the reason).
Perseverance: the motto here might be “the only way to get through it is to go through it.” Resilient people are often action oriented and don’t give up, even if they are not succeeding or doing things perfectly.
Internal Locus of Control: These people believe that they are in control of themselves most of time and that they have a choice in most situations.
Optimism: Resilient people can see or find the positive aspects in most situations and believe they will handle whatever comes along.
Support: They know the value of social support and are able to find and surround themselves with supportive friends and family.
Perspective: Resilient people are able to learn from their mistakes rather than deny them, see obstacles as challenges to be overcome or adjusted to, and find meaning in difficult situations rather than seeing themselves as a victim of uncontrollable circumstances.
Sense of humor: They are able to laugh at themselves and life’s difficulties as a way of coping with something unpleasant.
Handling troublesome emotions: They have the capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses rather than give into*
*From American Psychological Association: Help Center;*