Tag Archives: Mental health

Why I encourage talking about mental health at work

This year, Mental Health Awareness Week (14-20 May) is focusing on stressNot only can stressful work environments impact on your mental health, if you don’t feel supported, it makes things even harder.

Richard worked for years in a high pressure environment which sometimes made his OCD symptoms worse, but he carried on working, until the attitudes of his managers  made it impossible. Now Richard has set up his own company where he promotes a supportive work environment. In this blog, he shares his story.

I’ve experienced symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) since childhood, and was formally diagnosed at 25 whilst working as a producer at an independent production company in London.

Talking about my OCD never seemed like an option

Looking back, I think the moment to moment existence of being a freelancer, constantly having to think about your professional reputation in an environment with high staff turnover and time pressures, made talking about my OCD never seem like an option, although sometimes it could be hard to hide from colleagues.

I never took a day off sick, and if anything I think my OCD may have increased my work productivity as losing myself in work could be a distraction from my anxiety. But there is no doubt that being in high pressure work environment could make my symptoms more distressing, which impacted on my overall well being and personal happiness.

It was during this time that my symptoms intensified , I was experiencing intrusive thoughts and my obsessive behaviour escalated to point where even simple day to day tasks such as leaving the house were taking up to an hour to complete.

It felt as if I was at a point of crisis. I reached out to some close friends and with their support and encouragement  I eventually gained the confidence to visit my GP.

Throughout this, I was still going to work, I didn’t take a day off, and was doing my job.

Unless the ‘old Rich’ came back, my job would end

I lost insight into my OCD day by day and my anxiety levels continually rose.  I didn’t receive any support from my colleagues until one day when two of my senior managers asked to speak to me.

I was taken into a meeting room and told that they wanted the ‘old Rich’ back. Still terrified to admit I was unwell, I sat through the conversation not able to say a word. The conversation resulted in me being told that unless the ‘old Rich’ came back then my job would end.

There was no sense of compassion or concern, no observation that my behaviour could have been a symptom of my mental health, or that I could of been struggling and unwell. My contract shortly ended and I didn’t work at the company again, not that I wanted to.

Creating a supportive work environment

In 2010, a few years after this experience, I set up my own production company, along with a close friend. The pressure of that can sometimes exacerbate my symptoms but the reward and freedom, and having supportive colleagues that understand the realities of OCD and its impact, has been really valuable.

I think my experience with OCD may have contributed to the kind of work we now specialise in; human interest stories of challenge and triumph.

As an employer, I encourage openness, celebrate diversity and champion difference. I genuinely believe that we are all different, we all have our struggles and creating a supportive work environment not only enriches those we work with but also benefits the work we do.

Mental Health Awareness Week is a great time to talk about mental health and reduce the causes of work-related stress. If you’d like help creating a mentally healthy workplace, have a look at the resources on Mind.

If you’re experiencing problems with your mental health, or worried about someone you know, you’re not alone. There are a range of ways to get help.

Whatever the reason you’re having a ‘blue’ day, I’ve learned that talking is one of the best things you can do

Today, 15 January, is ‘blue Monday’ – the so-called ‘most depressing day of the year’.  For Josh, feeling ‘blue’ isn’t restricted to one day a year. In this blog, he writes about accepting his mental health struggles and why talking to people is one of the best things you can do.

For me, a lot of days feel like ‘blue Monday’. I have anxiety, depression and borderline personality disorder. I haven’t been in a good place the past few months. My anxiety sometimes makes it difficult to be happy. Over the years I’ve found good coping strategies. Talking to someone was one of the best things I ever did and now I encourage others to do the same.

I first started thinking about mental health at the age of thirteen. In the beginning there was no one to help me because I was just seen as a ‘problem child’. When I told teachers that I was struggling, they didn’t take me seriously. Once, I was in an exam and I told the teacher that I was feeling sick due to anxiety. They told me to “grow up and stop being pathetic”. That sent me over the edge. I felt alone for the first time. I failed the exam and I ended up in the hospital for an emergency appointment.

A turning point

That was a turning point for me. It happened in front of 180 people at school, so not only did it impact me, but it also impacted a lot of other young people who could have been going through similar things.

After that incident, everybody started treating me a bit differently and understanding me more. I realised that I was never going to get better if I didn’t talk to people about it. That was when I really started coming to terms with myself, my own needs and my own mental health.

Smiiffy, a young disabled man, smiles by a microphone

Destigmatising mental health

I’m very open on social media. I talk about mental health in a way that destigmatises it. I make people laugh, at the same time as showing that it’s a serious thing.

I wish people were less afraid of honesty. Even in music, a lot of things about mental health are censored. YouTube won’t promote my music because I’ve mentioned that I’ve felt suicidal or depressed, and Facebook won’t promote it. It really frustrates me. Especially when you see these platforms marketing things that you don’t need. And yet I can’t promote something with a positive message.

I often feel isolated. Sometimes I just prefer to be alone. I constantly feel alone in a crowd, even if I’m surrounded by good friends. I feel like I don’t fit in, which is really difficult sometimes. I posted that on social media. I wanted to start accepting my mental health and raising awareness, letting people know that it’s okay to talk about it and that there’s help out there.

Josh sits alone in a busy pub

Talking to people can help

In most families, there’s at least one person who will understand. The same goes for friends. I try to surround myself with good people. It might be difficult at first, but I’ve learned that talking will help in the long run. People will try to find a way to help you through hard times.

If you’re still not ready or not sure if people will understand, talking on social media can help things improve. You can be anonymous and sometimes that makes it easier to talk about the fact that you’re struggling, because you know that nobody will know who you are. It can also help you find like-minded people.

Letting people know that they’re not alone, and that there are other people there who are wanting to listen to them is incredible. I know from my own experience that it can be hard at first to talk to people around you, so I always say that people can talk to me. I’m very open on social media and lots of people do reach out.

Over the years, thousands of people have messaged me and said positive things and told me that I’ve helped them open up about their own mental health, which is incredible. For people who struggle to talk or feel like they’re not going to be heard, I want you to know that you will be heard, and that speaking out about what you’re going through can really help.

If you’re having a difficult time with your mental health, you can speak to your GP or contact organisations like Mind for support.

If you’d like to share your own experiences, get in touch with the stories team.

Connect with Josh on Twitter: @JoshSmiiffy 

Smiiffy’s 7 tips for coping with isolation

Josh, popularly known as “Smiiffy”, is a rapper from Birmingham who is looking to challenge attitudes and raise awareness of mental health and disability. He did an Instagram Stories takeover for Scope on Friday, where he shared “What I Need To Say” posts throughout the day, and even wrote a special verse.

I have anxiety, depression and borderline personality disorder. I haven’t been in a good place in the past few months. My anxiety sometimes makes it difficult to be happy, even around my own family. It also means that it’s quite difficult to know what mood I’m going to be in for Christmas.

Josh sitting on a pub bench, looking into the camera

There are a lot of times I do feel isolated. I often find that I do it to myself because I prefer to be alone. I constantly feel alone in a crowd. Even if I’m surrounded by good friends, I feel alone. I sit alone for a while and think that I don’t fit in here. And I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere, which is really difficult sometimes.

Scope’s What I Want To Say campaign is important to me because I feel like Scope’s giving people the opportunity to have a voice and let me say what I genuinely need to say. Letting people know that they’re not alone, and that there are other people there who are wanting to listen to them is incredible.

As part of this campaign, I took over Scope’s Instagram on Friday 8 December, and am sharing my top tips for reducing isolation:

Smile

Whether it’s someone I know well, or a stranger in the street, one of my favourite things to do is just smile. I feel like if someone’s having the worst day, at least I’ve acknowledged them. Plus, it always makes me feel much better too!

A hug always helps

Hugs always make me feel good. Be it a friend, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a cousin, a family member or whoever, it helps you forget about the loneliness, depression and anxiety you might be feeling for a while.

Social Media

Josh taking a selfie in front of a mirrorI always thought that I’d be lonely and I posted that on social media. That was the first time that I accepted my own mental health. Telling people how you feel on social media can help things improve.

I use it positively, to raise awareness and let people know that there is help out there. You can also be anonymous on social media and that can make it easier to talk about the fact that you’re struggling.

Find someone to talk to

For people that are lonely, there are a few community clubs and centres out there that are open for people on Christmas day. If people are alone, that’s definitely one thing that could help.

If you’ve got family around you but you’re still struggling, just trying to talk to people can help. In most families, there’s at least one person that understands, so if you can speak to that one person, then things can get easier. Just expressing your needs to somebody else will help in the long run, because they will find a way to help you through it.

Speak to organisations that can help

Josh (Smiiffy) wearing a Scope T-shirt

Scope have helped me massively. They’ve helped a lot of friends too. I’ve never really told anyone that I have Bilateral Perthes’ disease but through working with Scope and seeing the work they do, it made me feel confident enough to tweet about it. I feel motivated by Scope to raise awareness of invisible impairments, like mental health.

Do something you love

I think that a hobby, something you’re good at or enjoy, can help. When I started music, I wanted money, fame, popularity but then I released a song about when I was struggling called “Air I Breathe”. When I realised how many people it had impacted, I knew that was my calling.

Music has been hard because I don’t like the attention but I fought off my fears. If you have a talent and use it to create good things for yourself and inspire thousands of others, it can be life changing. I also like giving back to charity because as well as music, charity saved my life.

Smiiffy, a young disabled man, smiles by a microphone

Help raise awareness

Over the years thousands of people have messaged me and said positive things like “I love your music, you’ve saved my life” or “you’ve made me open up about my own mental health” which is incredible.

I want people to let people know that, if they’re struggling to talk or feel like they’re not going to be heard, speaking out about what you’re going through can really help.

Too often disabled people struggle to access the right emotional support, advice and information. As a result they feel like no one truly understands, leaving them disconnected and isolated from those around them. This is particularly heart-breaking at Christmas.

Please help us this Christmas by getting involved with our What I Need To Say campaign. Share the message, tell us your stories, and donate to Scope so we can be there for people who have nowhere else to turn.

Instead of venting my anger towards people, I’ve put it into a song – Smiiffy the rapper

Smiiffy is a 21-year-old rapper from Birmingham who is looking to challenge attitudes and raise awareness of mental health and disability.

For 30 Under 30, he spoke with us about how he is using his music to spread awareness of mental health and what he hopes his music will achieve.

It’s really important to be open about impairments as it can help break down barriers and end stigma.

I have Bilateral Perthes’ disease which means my cartilage is degenerating. It’s quite painful now and again but I’ve learnt to live with it. I’ve had around 15 operations and probably a lot more to come in the future.

I also have depression, anxiety, memory loss and probably a long list of everything else!

I’ve been quite open about it, however I haven’t always been confident in talking about it. I always had the fear of being rejected by people if I told them. Lately, I’ve become a lot more comfortable from support online and have opened up a lot more.

Smiiffy, a young disabled man, smiles by a microphone

I find comfort through using humour and writing music. My music is all about my experiences but I sometimes also write songs about experiences of people I’ve met.

Knowing that there are people listening to the lyrics and finding them relatable is brilliant.

You wouldn’t believe I have anxiety when I perform on the stage, everything just kind of goes away. I’m in my element and absolutely love what I do.

An exclusive rap for 30 Under 30

It’s time I show some clarity

I face facts and reality

Every single person is perfect the way that you are

Don’t let any physical or mental issue break who you really are

I’ve had shackles on my wrists and I’ve been scared to speak

I’ve had times where I’ve let tears take over my cheek

But now I’m stronger than that, that’s what you call unity

And when I feel this strong there’s nothing that anything can actually do to me

You can see more from Smiiffy on his YouTube channel and by following him on Twitter.

Smiiffy is sharing his story as part of 30 Under 30. Throughout June, we have been sharing one story a day from disabled people who are doing extraordinary things. Visit our website to see all of the stories in the campaign.

Blue Monday? Pah!

Blue Monday is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year. But we’d rather look on the bright side of life instead! 

We put a shout out on Facebook and our online community for positive stories. We wanted to know what great things disability has brought into people’s lives, the little everyday things that make them smile, and barriers that have been overcome. Here are just a small selection of what came back…

…from Facebook:

“I’m 23 and have cerebral palsy. When I was little, splints only came in plain white plastic. My Mum wanted to make them fun for me and she would put all sorts of pretty stickers on them :)” – Caitlin

“Waking up every day to my very smiley little girl makes every day a happy one for me even the rainy ones. She has CP and is the most determined little lady I’ve ever met. She has made me appreciate so much more in life and has taught me patience. She is my best friend and I love her more than words could describe.” – Elena

“I work with adults with learning difficulties and it’s such Young disabled man jogging with womana rewarding job. I couldn’t think of anywhere else I’d like to work. I go home every night smiling :-))” – Racheal

“Since our daughters diagnosis we have made some wonderful new friends. Also seeing my gorgeous daughters smile.x” – Lesley

“My lovely son and I running together makes me :)” – Michelle

…from our online community:

“Earlier this year I decided that it was about time I stopped worrying and started working towards my dream. So in September 2014 I started my own blog about living positively with Cerebral Palsy and mental health issues, since starting my blog I’ve had so much support and my confidence has increased so much. One thing that has made me incredibly happy is knowing that I am helping others so my ultimate dream is to set up my own business raising awarenessMotivational quote that reads: The Greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do and letting others know that a disability doesn’t have to stop you enjoying life :)”  – ChelleM

“When I was first diagnosed with CP, they said that I’d never be able to walk, talk or even think for myself but 20 years on and I’m a right chatterbox, I’ve got an awesome penguin walk and I’m able to live an independent life :)” – Dizzydingbat

“Having a disability, perhaps has taught me, to try not to be too hard on others, and not to be judgmental, and maybe a little more understanding, although I’m learning all the time!” – Noah

“My beautiful eldest son will be 21 on 19th January, he is on the autism spectrum and he makes me proud every day! He has achieved so many positive things, and overcome many challenges. I am grateful he is in my life ❤” – Vickey

 

I was 21, a new mum, and terrified about the future: #100days100stories

We first shared Dionne’s story and film in August 2014. We’re republishing it here as part of Scope’s 100 Days, 100 Stories project. 

Dionne was in her first year at university in London when she became pregnant with Jayden, now aged seven. He has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and global development delays and isn’t able to walk, talk or sit up.

“I had no problems during the pregnancy, the problems started during labour,” Dionne says. “Jayden stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated at birth. He had seizures when he was just a day old and ended up in the special care unit. Doctors had no idea what was wrong with him.”

“I just had to get on with it”

Dionne had planned to go back to university to finish her degree, but Jayden’s care needs and many hospital appointments ma de that impossible.

She also faced a huge struggle getting any support for Jayden. He was born in one London borough but the family lived in a different one, so neither council wanted to take responsibility – and in any case, services were overstretched. Dionne and Jayden were living alone in a mother and baby unit, with no outside support.

“For the first three years of Jayden’s life we had nothing. No equipment at home, no physiotherapy other than a sheet of paper with instructions, and no real support. Everyone was talking but most people were not doing. I had so much hope in care services but time after time I was let down.

“I was 21, terrified about the future and extremely depressed. There were days when Jayden cried endlessly and didn’t sleep at all. We were both exhausted. I was always on standby for something to go wrong with my son and I hated feeling helpless. I was very critical of myself, and so were the people around me.”

“I go back time and time again”

Dionne originally contacted the Scope Helpline for advice about physiotherapy. She was put in touch with Vasu, a Scope regional response worker, who visited her at home to discuss the kind of support she needed.

Since then, they have worked together to tackle a huge range of issues relating to Jayden’s care, health and education. Vasu wrote to social services pushing them to take notice of Dionne’s case, and this led to Jayden finally being offered a physiotherapist.

Dionne says: “Vasu has sent me so much information about sources of funding and the latest treatments for cerebral palsy. He emails me application forms and sends them in the post as well just to make sure I receive them! He rings me unprompted to give me advice and see how I am. He’s even offered to send job opportunities my way.”

RS3249_DSC_0014Vasu also introduced Dionne to a solicitor to pursue a successful negligence
case against the hospital where Jayden was born, which will be a huge help in providing for his needs in the future.

“Out of all the organisations I’ve been to, Scope’s the only one that’s stuck,” Dionne says. “It’s an organisation I go to time and time again because things actually get done.

“Jayden is so aware and so intelligent. No matter what he goes through, even a seizure, he still has a smile for me. He just needs decent support so he can gain the independence he craves. I want Jayden to enjoy being a child, without restrictions, and I want to enjoy being a mum.”

Today is Time to Talk Day, which asks everyone to take five minutes to talk about mental health.

Find out more about 100 Days, 100 Stories, and read the rest of the stories so far.

 

A question of confidence

A guest blog from a volunteer at Scope’s Our Generation project. 

After two bouts of illness earlier in the year, I found I had lost my confidence and was struggling with anxiety and depression. The Health and Wellbeing visitor called and referred me to Our Generation Mentoring and Befriending Service. I hadn’t heard of the service and to be honest, I didn’t know what mentoring was. The Scope Co-ordinator called and explained everything. They matched me with my Mentor and we met at the office, which felt safe for our first meeting.

The meeting went very well and my Mentor really made me feel at ease. One of the things which we discussed was that I should like help to become more computer literate as my daughter is living overseas and it would help us to keep in touch. I made such good progress I surprised myself and have even bought an i-pad! My confidence in using it increases with each meeting. I have found that this increased confidence has permeated other areas of my life and I am now able to meet my Mentor in town.

Every two years I visit my daughter. I am due to go next year but the anxiety and depression I have experienced has made the lone journey seem incredibly daunting. However, since working with the Our Generation Mentor I can feel my confidence returning and I’m beginning to really look forward to this years visit.

I recently attended the Our Generation Xmas party which I thoroughly enjoyed. Just a few weeks ago I wouldn’t have believed that I could have the confidence to go along on my own.

The Co-ordinator has suggested I attend the Mentoring Skills Training Course at the office as my next challenge and I surprised myself by saying that I’ll think about it!

Behind the barriers of disability

The game changers

lee

Lee Adams is an activist and author of the blog, Touching Elephants.

Campaigns have the power to change the thoughts and feelings of individuals and nations alike but the subject of disability within them is, through no fault of its own, becoming a barrier to itself. My own personal challenge with disability is not unique but finding myself behind the barriers of disability is. There has been some fantastic work done to highlight the challenges of disability and more importantly the stigma that disabled people face, but there is much more to be done. Disability is becoming a buzzword without any real understanding attached to it and, in my experience, it is left to social media to provide a better understanding of it and a space in which individuals are considered, understood and valued.

Perceptions of disability

Personally, I have really enjoyed the media coverage surrounding mental health and disability, but its objective is not demonstrated in everyday life. We use many terms and words associated with disability and partially due to the 2012 London Paralympics, we have seen a major shift in how society acknowledges disability and in particular mental health. I have started to see debates about depression and illness, about the term disability and about who is considered disabled. It has stopped being about the individual which for disabled people, charities, organisations and campaigns has become a huge barrier towards eradicating the stigma that such interpretation causes. Discussions on disability shouldn’t be focused on what we can’t do, but on what we can do as individuals. Campaigns that achieve this will ensure disabled people have a voice and deserved sense of belonging in society.

‘Live Aid’ for disability

We need to think carefully about our perception of disability and the words we use to describe it. The more we negate a true understanding of disability, the more challenges charities will face in their quest to reduce the stigma surrounding it. I remember watching ‘Live Aid’as a teenager. Looking back, we couldn’t have envisaged the longevity and success that such a campaign has had in increasing our awareness of the challenges and suffering that third world countries face. It is somewhat confusing then, that we are not able to apply this shift in attitudes towards other areas of society and in particular, towards disability. Stigma is a barrier that comes from a lack of understanding and is arguably more debilitating than disability itself. It isolates people and creates an unrealistic society with no appreciation for individuals.

Disability in the media

Areas of the media sometimes create or add to this stigma. We often find ourselves watching a programme featuring topics that rely on an impactful headline without giving any real substance to the story. This leaves the audience to come to their own conclusions and may lead to a misguided view of a very serious problem. Even with the availability of communication outlets such as TV, radio, written media and social media, campaigns and organisations still face a huge battle to communicate the awareness and acceptance of disability. The term disability should not be a buzz word; it is a term that represents a part of society. All it takes is some knowledge and understanding to remove these huge barriers and to make progress. Let’s embrace the motivation of campaigns and allow individuals to enjoy their lives without judgement or stigma.

Have a great campaign and above all have some fun!

Right now, we’re creating plans for an ambitious new campaign. It’s a game-changing long-term campaign that aims to influence the next government, raise living standards for disabled people in Britain and change attitudes. We need you to help us shape it.