10th October 2021 was world mental health day and this year’s theme was “Mental health in an unequal world”. Most people with mental health disorders face discrimination, stigma, limited access to housing, welfare and social support and work. Now add in the current COVID-19 climate and boom.
Mental health services are so stretched that constant staff shortages and tight budgets have made it hard for services to maintain a lot of programmes, particularly during COVID 19 which saw many services temporarily close down or disappear as well as job losses. It has also affected elderly people living alone, front line workers, students, children and those suffering from mental health disorders, causing many to relapse and increased drug and alcohol abuse. It’s important to be kind to each other! Instagram and snapchat filters are not a reflection of what’s happening internally or off camera and doesn’t mean anything, we are all holding a struggle.
To navigate the added impact that COVID-19 has had on all our mental health we need to work even harder together as a community to support our mental health. Make an active commitment to support those around us facing challenges with their mental health.
Things you can do to help others this month:
- Help the elderly neighbour with their grocery shopping
- Be a listening ear
- A birthday coming up, why not ask for a list of what they would like you to buy or do for them i.e. babysit the kids for an evening. Not all gifts are monetary.
- Help with job searches
- Check in, a phone call/text to a person you haven’t heard from in a while never know.
- Have a spare laptop/tablet etc. or getting a new one?, why not give it to local school/charity/initiatives working with young people and families help them access online learning
These are just a few suggestions, I’m sure you can think of a few more to help our friends, family and local vulnerable communities.
As we are entering the colder months it’s important to look after ourselves and warm up. Black women don’t often recognise when they are experiencing depression and anxiety, they often interpret it as “failing” not doing enough/being “enough”, which often continues the cycle. There are many forms of depression but today let’s talk about Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s noted that many people suffer from a type of depression disorder called Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Seasonal Affective disorder (SAD) also referred to as “winter depression” due to symptoms being more visible and severe during the winter. It’s a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern usually during the winter months, some start to notice the shift in mood from and often affects people from around Autumn/Winter and improves during the sunnier months i.e. spring.
Symptoms include and are not entirely restricted to increased irritability, persistent having low moods and sometimes aren’t triggered by anything in particular that are hard to shift, finding yourself losing pleasure or interest in your day to day activities that you loved doing. Sleeping more and feeling lethargic during the day. Difficulties waking up in the morning. Overwhelming feelings of worthlessness, despair and tearfulness. Your self-esteem lowers and you avoid social events and people more during these seasons and it’s not just because it’s colder but because of the above symptoms. You find it difficult to manage stress and increase in anxieties. There is a reduction in your libido. You tend to also eat more carbohydrates which then causes weight increase.
Some examples of what you can do to help reduce symptoms.
- Eat more colourful fruit, bright colours help lighten mood, more root vegetables as they are great sources of vitamin A/B/C and other essential nutrients. It’s noted that low levels of vitamins in our body can contribute to fatigue and low mood, taking supplements helps support healthy brain functioning and don’t forget to take your ginger shots as a healthy gut is a healthy mind.
- Take your vitamin D, decrease in sunlight can lead to serotonin reduction, vitamin D may help improve your mood and any SAD related symptoms.
- Try to wake up earlier, even 15 minutes before and have a morning routine. Sleep hygiene is important as it can affect your functioning for the rest of the day. I’ve often found that when I haven’t slept well I am less focused, more anxious and irritable.
- Move your body regularly via exercise. It doesn’t have to be cardio or hitting the gym although this can also be used as a source of mental health boost. I often use the gym to distress after a very long week and many people have reported the gym helping to improve their mood. In general even 10 minute yoga and stretch can help, YouTube has a source of mindfulness/yoga/relation and stretch videos. Regular exercise can boost your serotonin and endorphins as well as other mood boosting brain hormones. Do it with friends and family. Back in August I did a 14 day skipping rope challenge with my sister in-law via video call every morning. I had so much fun, it really made a difference to doing it on my own. That hobby that you like doing, make time for it, be intentional about it.
- Take your lunch time break, use it to take a walk outside fresh air and natural sunlight
- Journaling is a great way to put your thoughts and feelings down and helps with reflection, add a gratitude section on what you’re grateful for the day and put down an action you would like to complete for the next day.
- Going for walks, fresh air and sunlight can help clear your mind.
- Keep your home and work environment lit and airy if possible, try to use natural sunlight.
Everyone is affected differently and severity and intensity differs, the above examples of things to do are there to help however as noted please speak to a professional when you are unable to manage or continue feeling the above symptoms. Have you spoken to your GP about your symptoms? As they can support you in accessing the right treatment for you. Therapy is good in treating seasonal depression, provides you with treatment and methods to cope with symptoms of depression triggered by the change in season. Light therapy is also recommended, a special lamp that mimics sunlight exposure. As well as talking therapies such as counselling and CBT. There are also medications available to help called antidepressants which work by balancing neurotransmitters in your brain, which is a brain chemical improving your mood, concentration and sleep. It’s important to consult a professional in the first instance before commencing on any treatment as everyone is different.
I hope this blog helps or enlightens you and adds some knowledge to help others who may be less inclined to seek support.
Personal book recommendations:
- Soothe Your Nerves, the black women’s guide to understanding and overcoming anxiety, panic and fear by Dr Angela Neal-Barnett
- Black Women’s Mental Health: Balancing Strength and Vulnerability Kindle Editionby Stephanie Y. Evans
If you know of anyone who may be in immediate distress, suicidal thoughts or self-harm thoughts please share the following contacts to help them access support.
Telephone: 116 123 (24 hours a day, free to call)
Provides confidential, non-judgemental emotional support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those that could lead to suicide.
Telephone: 0300 123 3393 (9am-6pm Monday to Friday) or text 86463
Mind provides confidential mental health information services.
Mind works in partnership with around 140 local Minds providing local mental health services.
Rethink Mental Illness Advice Line
Telephone: 0300 5000 927 (9.30am – 4pm Monday to Friday)
Provides expert advice and information to people with mental health problems and those who care for them, as well as giving help to health professionals, employers and staff. Rethink also runs Rethink services and groups across England.
Telephone: 0808 808 4994 (11am-11pm, free to call)
Email: Helpline email form
Crisis Support: Text ‘THEMIX’ to 85258.
The Mix provides judgement-free information and support to young people aged 13-25 on a range of issues including mental health problems. Young people can access the The Mix’s support via phone, email, webchat, peer to peer and counselling services.
Shout is the UK’s first 24/7 text service, free on all major mobile networks, for anyone in crisis anytime, anywhere. It’s a place to go if you’re struggling to cope and you need immediate help.
NHS England IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies)
If you’re based in England, you can use webpage to find and refer yourself to mental health services in your area.Website: https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-psychological-therapies-service/