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Most people have been directly or indirectly affected by mental health problems and this is why we have set up a page specifically to show you this.
The link gives you a direct insight into the difficulties which other students at the University of Derby have experienced through their own personal journeys and experiences of mental health problems whether they relate directly to themselves or another person they know. We want you to know that there is help, treatments and support available to you and although you might find it difficult to believe at the moment, you can get through this difficult period in your life, as do many others in a similar situation.
How many people have mental health problems?
1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year.
This is the most commonly quoted statistic, and the one which has the most research evidence to support it. It came initially from a large scale study published first in 1980, then updated again 1992. This figure is further supported by the results of all three Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey.
The breakdown below gives an overview of what treatment those who experience mental health problems are likely to seek and get:
- around 300 people out of 1,000 will experience mental health problems every year in Britain
- 230 of these will visit a GP
- 102 of these will be diagnosed as having a mental health problem
- 24 of these will be referred to a specialist psychiatric service
- 6 will become inpatients in psychiatric hospitals
I don’t know who to talk to about it?
Friends and family can really help you just by talking to you. They can talk to you about your experiences and symptoms and can help and guide you towards the right support. If you don’t wish to tell any of your friends and family, then you can some and speak to a Student Advisor in your Students’ Union who will not divulge any information to a third party unless we have to.
Sometime’s having a proper catch-up with someone isn’t always possible and so picking up the phone and talking to someone is always a great alternative. Give them a call, drop them a note or chat to them online as it is really important to speak to people and keep the lines of communication open.
How can I improve my mental health?
Accept that you can change. Nobody stays the same, so you may as well change for the better. The big change that you need to make is to come to value and accept yourself. If you've spent most of your life believing that you're unacceptable and of little value, it's hard to change, because all your ideas and ways of behaving are based on that assumption.
The trick is to say to yourself, 'I don't think much of myself, but from now on I'm going to act as if I'm my own best friend. I'm going to be kind to myself, look after myself, and stop criticising myself and putting myself down.' Acting as if you're your own best friend will lead you to become that.
You need to be very aware of how you talk to yourself. Listen to the voice in your head. Write down the hurtful, critical things that voice says to you, and then think of better, kinder, more encouraging things to say to yourself. For instance, when you have to do something, if you always say to yourself, 'You're sure to fail. You always make a mess of everything you do', write that down, and then beside it put, 'You're going to do the best you possibly can. It doesn't matter if you don't get it perfectly right, because the good thing about mistakes is that you learn from them.' Practise saying encouraging things to yourself.
Question the assumptions on which you base your ideas. Is it really true that everybody in the whole world hates you, or that everything you've ever done has turned out badly? Is it really true that every unfortunate thing that happens to you is your punishment for being such a wicked person? Look at the consequences of your ideas. If you don't get close to anyone because you fear being rejected, doesn't it follow that you will always be lonely?
If you think of yourself as bad try to remember how you came to think of yourself that way. Is this what your parents or spouse always told you? Were you really bad, or were they taking their bad feelings out on you?
Writing these things down puts what you're thinking and feeling outside of yourself, and you can see it more clearly.
How does keeping active help my mental health?
Exercise releases chemicals in your brain which make you feel good. Also, regular exercise can boost your confidence and self-esteem, help you concentrate and sleep, feel and look better. By exercising you are also ensuring that you keep your organs and brain healthy!
We are not saying that you have to go to the gym every day as exercise can involve other things which you enjoy doing, such as walking in the park, gardening or even scrubbing the bathroom! It is recommended that you aim to do around 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 times per week.
Does eating healthy food really help my state of mind?
Yes, there are strong links between what we eat and how it makes us feel. For example, caffeine and sugar has an immediate effect on us and can make us feel more energetic, or in some cases more anxious. Your brain needs a wide variety of nutrients and we would suggest that you try to get the balance right by drinking plenty of water and eating:
- Lots of fruit and vegetables
- Wholegrain cereals and bread
- Nuts and seeds
- Dairy products
- Oily fish
When I drink alcohol it makes me happy, so why do I feel horrendous the day after?
People often drink alcohol to change their mood. Some drink to deal with fear or loneliness and do not realise that the effect is short-term and temporary; drinking is not a good way to deal with feelings and so we would advise against it!
When you are hungover, your body is experiencing withdrawal from alcohol and your brain is dehydrated. If you are already experiencing mental health problems, then this is not going to help you and the danger is that you may become addicted to the feeling that alcohol gives you.
We don’t want to preach to you though and know that you may like to go out and enjoy a night on the town with friends. If you do then please bare in mind the following:
- Men should try to drink no more that 3-4 units of alcohol per day
- Women should try to drink no more than 2-3 units of alcohol per day
What if I'm worried about myself?
If you experience mental distress, it can be frightening and you may feel alone. If this is a new experience, you may not know what is happening. If you have experienced similar symptoms before then you will know what does and does not help you in such circumstances. There are a number of actions you can take:
- Visit a General Practitioner (GP), if you can, to be referred to suitable treatment
- Talk to someone you trust, saying what has helped you in the past, if appropriate
- Draw up a crisis card, which is a plan of action for people to follow if you start to show signs that indicate that you need help
How can I approach someone displaying signs of mental distress?
Someone who is experiencing acute mental distress will often be feeling extremely anxious and frightened and may be agitated. It can be frightening to see someone behaving strangely, but there are a number of things you can do to help:
- Approach gently and quietly
- Provide reassurance that you want to help and do not pose any threat
- Remain calm yourself by focusing on how you want to support the person
- Ask how you can help - often the person will know what does and doesn't help in a given situation
People who are experiencing mental health distress are far more likely to pose a risk to themselves than to other people, but there are occasions when they may be violent. If you have reason to think that the person may hurt themselves or others, do not approach, but call for professional help. There are sections of the Mental Health Act which enable professionals to go into someone's house or to take charge of a situation in a public place.
How can I help if my friend or relative is displaying signs of mental distress?
It can be difficult when a friend or relative suffers from mental distress. It can be painful to see them suffering and may disrupt life if you find yourself in a caring role you did not choose. However it can also bring people together giving them a chance to express love and affection in a way that has not been possible before. Ways in which you can help include:
- supporting them and letting them know you are there to help
- talking to them about what they feel would help, if they have experienced symptoms before they will know what does and does not help
- offering practical help such as making a telephone call to a key worker or other person, or by going with the person to their General Practitioner (GP) or mental health centre
- keeping yourself and the person focused on positive things and day to day realities rather than allowing yourself to get caught up in their distress
What can I do if a friend or relative will not seek help?
Some people, even when experiencing severe mental distress may not ask for help and even reject any suggestion of help. Although you may be concerned, pressing them may make matters worse. You may need to make the decision to contact professionals, especially if you think that the person may be a danger to themselves or someone else. You can contact local social services to ask for a Mental Health Act assessment, which would involve two doctors and an approved mental health professional. An assessment may result in a person being taken to hospital against their will.
What can I do if it is an emergency?
If you or someone you know is suffering from an acute mental health crisis there are several things that you can do. You may need an emergency mental health assessment.
There are three main ways of having an emergency mental health assessment:
- you can go to accident and emergency
- phone the emergency number at the social services department at Derbyshire County Council on 08 456 058 058
- if the police take you to a place of safety it may also be possible to get an emergency appointment with your General Practitioner (GP)
- community mental health teams who provide mental health care in the community
- crisis resolution teams who can provide rapid response following referral and intensive support afterwards
The assessment is carried out by three people, two doctors and one approved mental health professional. If you are refusing treatment it may lead to being admitted to hospital against your will or being 'sectioned'.
There are some alternatives to hospitalisation which are community based. These include:
- Alternative Thoughts and Action Sheet
- Anxiety Information
- Dealing with Negative Emotions
- Depression Quick Reference Sheet
- Hearing Voices?
- Sleeping – Self-Help
- Mindful Breathing Techniques
- Paranoia Worksheet
- Samaritans - Feeling Low leaflet
- Suicidal Thoughts Safety Plan
- Unhelpful Thinking Habits helpsheet
- Get Self Help
- Student Counselling
- NHS Student Mental Health
- University of Derby Mental Health & Wellbeing
- Mind – The Mental Health Charity
- Suicide Precention Links (Europe)