Mental health in the NHS – the Cinderella service?

Mental health services in the NHS will be getting an extra £2 billion per annum as a result of the recent budget But is it too little, too late? The promised funding is not due to arrive in NHS budgets until 2023 and the plan is to create a new mental health crisis service, provide mental health provision in A&E, and to prioritise mental health support to young people.

The Royal College of Nurses is dubious about the plans as they will inevitably depend on the existence of a well-trained and expert workforce of healthcare professionals. They point to the current staffing gaps in A & E departments which don’t seem likely to be filled in the near future.

As I listen to the stories many of my clients tell of the mental and emotional distress and anxiety that they suffer on a daily or even hourly basis, I frequently wonder how we have arrived at this state of affairs. The catalogue of misery that often precedes a mental health crisis is often made up of a series of events and incidents that could have been avoided. In addition, the person affected might have been able to cope better with some support and help. This is only offered when they have become ill.

A Health Service – or an Illness Service?

A National Health Service should be about wellbeing – people need to be cared for and supported whilst they are well, to stay that way. They also need help to continue to remain in the best health that they can. The NHS is waking up to this for physical conditions such as diabetes where overweight people are referred to support groups and given other help to ensure that they do not develop the disease. But our so-called ‘health’ service is anything but when it comes to emotional wellbeing. This is understandable when money is in short supply.

But we need help to learn how to relax and be mentally and emotionally resilient. That’s the only way to deal with the blows that life will deal us. Happy people are almost always emotionally and mentally well. People who are worried and have problems that seem insurmountable, feel undervalued or bullied and intimidated at work or at home, are being constantly worn down and their energies depleted. Sooner or later they will break under the strain.

My plan

I’m planning to set up a small class in my area to promote emotional and general wellbeing. This is something new for me and I’m getting excited about how to help people to become stronger, happier, and more resilient. I’m thinking of calling it the ‘Don’t Give A -” course. Some time ago worked with a very poorly person who hadn’t been out of the house for a long time. She finally managed to overcome her fear and go to her children’s sports day. When asked how she had managed it, she said: “I had hypnotherapy. After that I didn’t give a s**t!”.

Watch this space…

By |2019-02-01T15:21:53+00:00October 31st, 2018|General News, Hypnotherapy|0 Comments

Make 2018 your year to blossom!

The start of a new year is usually a time to reassess our lives and work out how we want to make changes for the better.

We often think about this in negative terms, because we perceive that we have ‘bad’ habits or our self-image is somehow unsatisfactory.

Instead of self-criticism, I encourage my clents to focus on the positives. For example, don’t beat yourself up about being fat – focus on how fantastic it would feel if you could walk up a hill fast and get to enjoy the view at the top without even thinking about being out of breath, or wear the clothes you’d really like to be able to buy.

Stressing about the negatives just brings you down even more.

Think of a plant and how it grows… It doesn’t fear the frost or worry about being attacked by predators. It pushes out new growth, and after even the coldest, darkest winter, its buds will burst into flower on the first day of sunshine.

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Why not make this year YOUR year to blossom?

By |2018-11-05T14:10:03+00:00January 6th, 2018|General News|0 Comments

“Take care” means just that.

I lose count of the number of people (especially women) who use the words “take care” automatically when signing off an email or note. It’s become an almost meaningless cliché.

But we need to start to really mean it when we say it, for our own sakes. Because we simply aren’t taking enough care at the moment –not of our friends and family members, but of ourselves.

Many people seeking help from hypnotherapists and counsellors want to lose weight, or stop smoking or deal with anxiety-related issues.  They see these problems as individual and specific issues that they are suffering from and that they want to get rid of. lonely-273629_1280

However, the cause of many of these problems is that we aren’t taking care of ourselves, in the sense that we aren’t caring properly for our physical bodies and our minds.

I said to a (very stressed client) just recently: “Would you let your car run out of fuel, never replace the oil, and overload it with heavy weights?”  No, of course not. But that’s what we’re doing to ourselves.

People experience different results from hypnotherapy, as with all therapies, and some clearly derive more benefit than others. But hopefully all of them will exit a course of therapy understanding that they need to care for themselves better in the future. They will also have some techniques and strategies that help them to do this. Because many of them haven’t been looking after themselves  properly for quite a long time.

A recent analysis by Cancer Research concluded that cancer rates will increase nearly six times faster in women than in men over the next 20 years, with obesity al least partly to blame. Other factors are smoking, drinking and lack of exercise.  So why are women increasingly more at risk?

I suspect one reason is that women themselves are often the care-givers – they care for their partners, their children, their elderly parents and perhaps their neighbours too. Sometimes they are providing emotional support for colleagues or even working as volunteers.  This inevitably takes its toll, and the person giving the care may be the one neglecting to care for herself.

Caring for ourselves is crucial. If we are strong, healthy and resilient, we have a better quality of life and we also are better at looking after others.

So if you’re one of those people who sign off by saying “take care”, how about focusing on yourself for a change?

By |2018-11-05T14:10:12+00:00February 3rd, 2017|General News|0 Comments

Anxiety and male deaths from cancer

Anxiety is bad fordespair-513530_640 us: we know that. But it is a killer – or can it save our lives?

A large-scale study has found that men over 40 who suffer from significant levels of anxiety are twice as likely to die from cancer than their female counterparts. Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is a common mental health problem that is associated with an increased risk of suicide and other mental health problems. It affects about 5% of the population. But the male sufferers studied in the research were found to be at greater risk of dying from cancer than the females – or from other men who did not suffer from GAD.

Was this because the men worried about their symptoms in silence?  Did women react differently, worrying more about theirs and consequently taking steps to gain reassurance from their doctors? Were there other differences caused by gender-related issues? Or did the anxiety itself cause cancers to develop more frequently in men, and not in women for some reason?

Much more research needs to be undertaken to find out the answers. What is certain is that anxiety, like stress, is bad for our physical health as well as for our emotional and mental wellbeing.

For more details on the study, go to

http://www.clinicalpsychiatrynews.com/specialty-focus/anxiety-disorders/single-article-page/gad-tied-to-twice-the-risk-of-cancer-mortality-in-men/6824470a2410bb60736b00f74b661560.html

 

By |2016-09-23T16:02:25+00:00September 23rd, 2016|General News|0 Comments

Young girls feel the pressure to be perfect

girl-470690_640Girls are increasingly worried about their appearance and the pressure to be perfect, according to this year’s annual report from the Children’s Society, produced with researchers from the University of York.

Among the sample of 10 to 15-year-old girls surveyed, the researchers found that 14% are unhappy with their lives as a whole, and 34% with their appearance. This is an increase on the previous year, when 11% said they were unhappy with their lives and 30% with their appearance.

Some respondents cited social media as a particular influence, with girls more active than boys on sites like Facebook and other platform. But the rise of the popularity of ‘celebrities’ and their newsworthiness was also mentioned by girls, who felt they could not attain the “perfect” looks of females featuring in many TV shows and in magazines.

The proportion for boys remained the same, with 11% saying they were unhappy with their lives as a whole and 20% with their appearance.

The report highlighted other differences between boys and girls.  Boys aged 10 and 11 were less happy than girls with their school work and more likely to demonstrate conduct and attention/hyperactivity problems. Girls experienced anxiety and depression significantly more than the boys and became increasingly unhappy with their appearance as they got older. This also fits with the idea that girls tend to internalise feelings and not communicate them easily.

It’s a pretty staggering situation when a fifth of boys below the age of 16 are unhappy with the way they look, but when more than a third of the girls are troubled by this, it’s something we need to take very seriously.

The mental health and emotional wellbeing of young people, and especially girls, is already a cause for concern, as highlighted by another recent report.  But now those working with very young girls – in nurseries and children’s centres – are reporting that these children are more conscious of the way they look than ever before, and are showing signs of anxiety in this regard.

It’s all too easy to remark on how pretty a little girl looks, especially if she’s dressed up in a special outfit . But does constantly mentioning this reinforce a belief that appearance is more important that ability, kindness or intelligence?

The media is surrounding us with images of physical female perfection and telling us this should be the norm.

This needs to be debunked and countered by parents, teachers and young people themselves. Not only do we need more realistic visual role models (as opposed to super models) but we need to value the really important attributes of our fellow human beings and not the superficial and often artificially-enhanced ones. And we need to encourage children and young people to value themselves for these attributes and build their confidence and self-esteem for what is within them, not what is on the outside.

The story as covered by the BBC is here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-37223063

The whole report can be requested here http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/what-we-do/resources-and-publications/download-the-good-childhood-report-2016

By |2016-09-02T17:18:13+00:00September 2nd, 2016|General News|0 Comments

Girls aren’t finding life a bed of roses…

Exam results are over – but now it’s almost time for the new school year to start.

This can be a stressful time for all students. But new research shows that girls are increasingly suffering higher levels of emotional and psychological distress than boys, according to a study by the Department of Health on Year 10 students in schools in England.

A previous survey was undertaken in 2005 and the results of that have been compared with the most recent one. This year’s findings showed that 37% of girls were identified as “psychologically distressed” compared with 15% of boys – and the average levels of distress were more severe for girls, at four points higher. Back in 2005, girls were also displaying higher levels of psychological distress but the differences were less pronounced, and the percentage affected was lower.

teen-954378_640In the latest survey, more of them reported feelings of worthlessness, unhappiness and an inability to enjoy day to day activities, as well as trouble sleeping, and other indicators of distress.

Mental health and wellbeing are now recognised as important issues for all of us, affecting our own lives and the lives of those around us.  Years ago people appeared to assume that children led happy, carefree lives, and that mental health and emotional problems began with the pressures of adult life. Now Department of Health research surveys are measuring the health and wellbeing of young people and the results will hopefully inform government policy.

The discovery that there is a marked increase in psychological suffering experienced by girls is worrying. More needs to be done to find out why so many girls are feeling like this and why, so that help can be offered.

Whilst there is no definitive explanation at present, we do know that there are many factors which may contribute to the discrepancy between boys and girls in this respect.

For example, girls engage in less physical exercise than boys and exercise is beneficial not just for physical wellbeing but for psychological health as well. Neurotransmitters in our brains seem to react to exercise and produce feelings of wellbeing and even euphoria. Serotonin is one of these neurotransmitters and exercise has been linked to the production of higher levels of it in our bodies. Research indicates that low levels of serotonin are linked to depression.

Another reason why girls may be more distressed psychologically is that they tend to internalise issues – and the things we keep inside us are not usually the ones we feel good about. Girls are often more critical – and self-critical – than boys, especially about their physical appearance.  A word of criticism will be remembered long after paeans of praise have been forgotten.  Repeating negative thoughts inside your head is not going to do much for your self-esteem, or your confidence.

So there are many complex issues involved here and the upward trend is not easily explained.

But one area where there is an improvement on is in terms of recognition of the problem – at least now we are willing to acknowledge that children and young people are not simply skipping down a yellow brick road of happiness.

Unhappy thoughts and worries thrive in darkness and isolation.  Bringing matters into the open and shining a light on them can only be a good thing.

Helping young people to become more positive about their perceptions of themselves is one way in which hypnotherapy can support emotional wellbeing. Changing a negative self-image for something more positive and realistic, and improving self-esteem, can make an enormous difference.  This can’t be done in an instant, but a process can be started which will gain in momentum and hopefully create the foundation for a happier and more resilient adult.

The life of a 15 year old girl in the 21st century may not be a bed of roses – but at least we can try to remove some of the more obvious thorns.

By |2016-08-30T11:01:17+00:00August 30th, 2016|General News|0 Comments

Teachers get stressed too!

GCSE results are out tomorrow and there are a lot of anxious students and parent currently holding their collective breath. But exam results time is not just nerve-racking for students – their teachers get anxious too. A recent article appeared in The Guardian written by a headteacher “sick with worry” over what the GCSE results would mean for her and her school.

Changes to examination organisation means that she feels unable to predict the results, despite teachers  doing everything they can to support their students.

She writes: “I’ve been suffering from anxiety since October. I’ve been lying awake in the small hours trying to figure out what else we could do. When I wake up it is often the first thing I think about. My stress-related psoriasis and irritable bowel syndrome have never been worse and I’ve had more migraines in the past 12 months than in the past 10 years.”

The full story can be read here:

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/aug/23/secret-headteacher-gcse-results-students-exams-worry

As someone who used to teach, and who still spends a lot of time visiting schools, colleges and universities wearing a different work hat, I can understand how teachers feel.

Stressed teachers are not in the best position to support their students, especially as the latter are often suffering themselves.

I sympathise with them to the extent that I now plan to offer a special stress-management service to teachers and lecturers  in Leeds, Harrogate and surrounding areas, at discounted rates. So if you feel that you would like to be able to relax more easily, de-stress and gain more control over anxiety and the pressures in your life, contact me for a free initial consultation.

By |2016-08-24T09:32:47+00:00August 24th, 2016|General News|0 Comments

What are you frightened of? Itsy-bitsy spiders…and other phobias.

Arachnophobia is common – even here in the UK where spiders are harmless.  The terror that sufferers feel is nothing to do with actual danger.  It is an irrational fear, like almost all phobias.spider-web-with-water-beads-921039_640

Next month Bristol Zoo have teamed up again with a local hypnotherapist to offer a four-hour course in ‘Living with Spiders’. They did this last year and found that the course was very effective, with a considerable reduction in anxiety levels for participants, 75% of whom graded the course 8 out of 10.

Read more about their course here: http://www.bristolzoo.org.uk/whats-on/living-with-spiders

Of course, part of the experience they offer is actually handling “friendly” spiders in the Zoo’s collection. In a standard hypnotherapy session, we don’t usually lay on a selection of tarantulas or even house spiders as a spider-petting opportunity.

But then, many people suffering from this phobia don’t even need to see a spider – it’s enough to just imagine that it might be there.

I have a friend who goes with her children and husband to stay with another family they have known for years. But this family live in an old house, surrounded by countryside – and before the visit, the house has to be spider-cleansed. This takes a couple of days and my friend is reassured by a report on how many spiders have been collected during the exercise.

I haven’t the heart to point out that there must be hundreds more in residence.  Even a picture of a spider is enough to send shivers down her spine.

Hypnotherapy has been shown to be effective in helping people deal with phobias – all kinds of phobias, and not just a fear of spiders.  Some people find that their fear or aversion disappears,  others find it has reduced to manageable proportions and the anxiety and stress associated with their phobias often diminishes or can be easily controlled by stress-reduction techniques.

So if you’re one of those people who’ve been suffering for years, why not do something about it now?

 

By |2016-08-22T16:27:20+00:00August 22nd, 2016|General News|0 Comments

The sugar tax – taken with a pinch of salt?

Angry criticism today from the medical profession at the Government’s perceived watering-down of the “sugar tax” promised by George Osborne, and intended to combat childhood obesity.

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Well over a third of British children now leave primary school overweight or obese.

The latest figures, for 2014/15, show that 19.1% of children in Year 6 (aged 10-11) were obese and a further 14.2% were overweight. Of children in Reception (aged 4-5), 9.1% were obese and another 12.8% were overweight. This means a third of 10-11 year olds and over a fifth of 4-5 year olds were overweight or obese. (Source: Public Health England.)

Parents who are obese themselves are twelve times more likely to have children who are overweight.  And Britain has the highest rates of obesity in Western Europe, according to NHS choices http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/loseweight/Pages/statistics-and-causes-of-the-obesity-epidemic-in-the-UK.aspx

The finger is being pointed at the diet of British children, who are also now less physically active than they have ever been. Sugar is seen as the main culprit.

This is  borne out to some extent by other evidence. The 2013 survey of children’s dental health (published in 2015) found that 31% of five-year-olds had signs of tooth decay – and a fifth of those eligible for free school meals had severe or extensive tooth decay.

Considering these children have only had their teeth for a relatively short time, this is pretty staggering. They have to make the next lot last for a lifetime, so establishing some good habits is crucial, not just in terms of dental care but in reducing consumption of sugary food and drink.

Many medical experts and dieticians are clear that sugar is addictive.  Research has shown that we are born with a sweet tooth – newborn babies had a preference for sweet flavours over others in a study carried out at Washington University.

A recent Australian study found that excessive sugar consumption increased dopamine levels in the same way as cocaine.  And the more sugar people consumed, the more they needed to maintain the dopamine ‘hit’.  So Professor Selena Bartlett, a neuroscientist from the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation at Queensland University of Technology has no doubt that sugar is addictive.  And like other addictive substances, it can have serious long-term effects.

She says: “We have also found that as well as an increased risk of weight gain, animals that maintain high sugar consumption and binge eating into adulthood may also face neurological and psychiatric consequences affecting mood and motivation.”

The combination of sugar and fat is more potent still, as scientist Dr Paul Kenny found when he offered his lab rats cheesecake.

In nature, sugar and fat hardly ever occur in combination. But human beings have combined them with delicious – and for some, disastrous – results. The laboratory rats found the cheesecake they were offered irresistible. They gorged on it and couldn’t stop.  Even when they were full, they continued to nibble…and nibble.  And when a healthy alternative was put in front of them they refused to eat it. “They completely reject that food. The animals would rather starve themselves”, says Kenny.

This shows how difficult it is for people – including children – to break the habit of eating ‘addictive’ foods that actually give us very little in terms of nutritional value. Willpower alone often just isn’t enough to cut it. And who would expect children to exert willpower anyway, when faced with an ice-cream or a bar of milk chocolate (both high in fat and sugar).

No wonder that people who are overweight often turn to hypnotherapy for help.  Some of them simply want to bolster their own motivation, others may even want to go so far as to create an antipathy to certain foods, like chocolate, so that they feel disgust at the thought of eating them.

Cheesecake – the new ‘legal high’?  Roland and his mates think so, anyway.

By |2016-08-18T12:28:09+00:00August 18th, 2016|General News|0 Comments

Gaining on the opposition?

The Olympics have provided a fascinating insight into the strategies and preparation of the competing athletes and their teams.  The term “marginal gains” in particular is now common currency amongst games-watchers and features frequently in media coverage.

The idea isn’t new, and followers of professional cycling will know that Team Sky’s Dave Brailsford is a fan. When he was Performance Director of British Cycling, he set about trying to achieve a 1% improvement in a number of areas on the basis that these would all add up to a significant improvement overall.

Athletes themselves are always incredibly keen to improve their performance by however tiny a margin.  Some of the strategies used are described in this BBC article:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-34247629

The US Olympic swimming team members have caused a stir by their use of ‘cupping’, and the marks left by the modern version of this ancient practice have been clearly visible as proof.

Does cupping work?

Does it matter, if athletes feel they benefit?

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Regardless of the procedure itself, having to relax totally during a complementary therapy session means that a busy, hard-working athlete is finally thinking about something completely different from the pressure of the sport. Believing that something beneficial has occurred that is special for your team (and that gives you the edge on others) can only be another marginal gain – and it may not be so marginal.

We already know that the placebo effect can be as powerful for some people in drug trials as the medicine being tested. The mind has an extremely powerful role in healing the body. It can also have a significant effect on confidence, resilience, and hence sports performance.

Physical fitness, the best equipment and a strict nutritionally-balanced diet is only part of what makes an athlete a winner. The deciding factor is the will to win. Research tells us that confidence and self-belief are crucial for sportsmen and women. To this end, many of them have used hypnotherapy either to strengthen resilience or to deal with a crisis in confidence.

Some of the Olympians we are watching on our TVs have done so, and that is a certainty. But most of them will keep that knowledge to themselves. And definitely from the opposition…

 

By |2016-08-11T12:30:05+00:00August 11th, 2016|General News|0 Comments