Mental Health

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In this section you will find information about Mental Health and the support available if you or someone you know is suffering.

What is Mental Health?

Good mental health means being generally able to think, feel and react in the ways that you need and want to live your life. But if you go through a period of poor mental health you might find the ways you’re frequently thinking, feeling or reacting become difficult, or even impossible, to cope with. This can feel just as bad as a physical illness, or even worse.

Mental health problems affect around one in four people in any given year.

Check out this video by Mind that explains what mental health problems are and how they can affect us:

There are many types of mental health problems, and some can share similar symptoms. Some of the more common types are:

  • Anxiety and Panic Attacks. It is a natural human response when we perceive that we are under threat, but it can happen unexpectedly and feel overwhelming.
  • Bipolar Disorder. Everyone feels a variety of emotions, but people with this disorder feel that their high and low moods are extreme, and that swings in their moods are distressing.
  • Depression. In its mildest form, depression can mean just being in low spirits. At its most severe, depression can be life-threatening because it can make you feel suicidal.
  • Eating Problems. This is any relationship with food that you find difficult, whether it is over-eating or under-eating. This can be dangerous to your physical health.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). This is an anxiety disorder, and can involve: unwelcome thoughts, obsessions, and the need to perform repetitive activities.
  • Phobias. It is an extreme form of fear or anxiety triggered by a particular situation (such as going outside) or object (such as spiders), even when there is no danger.
  • Schizophrenia. Some symptoms include: disconnection from your feelings, difficulty concentrating, hallucinations, delusions, and a disorganised thinking and speech.

It is important to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle; this involves your mental and physical health. If you want to know more about living a healthier lifestyle, check out our page on Staying Active.

If you want to find out more about mental health, you can check out these organisations: Mind, Childline, and time to change Wales.

Anxiety

1 in 6 young people are affected by an anxiety problem at some point in their lives. It can affect anyone – no matter what their age, background or situation.

Check out this video by Childline talking about anxiety:

Here are some tips to manage Anxiety in your day-to-day life:

  • Talk about it. If you have someone you trust, try talking to them about what makes you feel anxious. It can feel good to get it off your chest, and hopefully they can offer support. This includes going to your doctor if you are concerned.
  • Use relaxation techniques. Slow breathing is one of the best breathing techniques for anxiety and panic attacks because it slows your heart rate and your body’s fight-or-flight response.
  • Get out of the house. While it may be hard to motivate yourself, it is important for your well-being to get some fresh air and some exercise. You can go for a walk on your own or with a friend.
  • Make small steps towards a healthier lifestyle. It is important to pay attention to your physical health. You can start making changes by reducing the amount of sugar and caffeine in your diet, and eating regular meals at set times. Try to avoid drinking alcohol and taking drugs, as these are known to increase anxiety.
  • Distract yourself. Focusing your attention on something else can be beneficial. You could do a crossword puzzle, write a poem in your head, count the objects around you, recite the words to your favourite song, or count backwards from 100.
  • Pick up a new hobby. This can be a long-term objective to focus on. A great way to express yourself is through getting creative, by learning to draw, paint, or learning skills like knitting and crocheting. This can also be done through music, such as learning an instrument. You can also get your body moving by walking, running, or trying a new sport.

Watch YoungMinds’ video below that features young people talking about their experiences living with anxiety and how they manage it:

Depression

Depression is one of the most common types of mental illness. Although it’s hard to feel optimistic when you’re depressed, there is lots of support available to help you feel better.

It often develops alongside anxiety.

It affects people in many ways. Some of the symptoms of depression are:

  • Avoiding social situations, like meeting with friends.
  • Easily irritable, upset, miserable, or lonely.
  • Excessive negative thoughts.
  • Low self-confidence and self-esteem.
  • Loss of interest for things you previously enjoyed.
  • No energy, no matter how much you have rested.
  • Sleeping too much or too little.
  • Lack of appetite and losing weight, or eating too much and gaining weight.
  • Suicidal thoughts and tendencies.

You can find more information on coping with depression at Childline:

If you are worried you are displaying any of the symptoms above, you should talk to your doctor as soon as possible. If you’re scared about going on your own, you could ask someone to go with you. Your doctor will be able to find out if you have depression and talk you through the types of treatments that are available.

Self-Harm

Self-harm refers to when someone hurts themselves on purpose, usually as a way of dealing with emotional pain, anger or frustration.

There are many misconceptions about this topic, such as those who self-harm are only seeking attention or are suicidal. While these are sometimes the case, it is more common for self-harm to be an attempt at coping or expressing their emotional distress. Self-harm should be taken seriously, whatever the reason behind it.

It is possible to live without self-harm. It is important to know that you won’t always feel the way you do now.

This behaviour is most common in young people with 10% of 15-16 year olds attempting self-harm, according to the charity Young Minds. However, self-harm brings only temporary relief and is not a healthy emotional coping mechanism.

If you are self-harming, you should tell someone. It isn’t easy and you may find it difficult to talk about it, but talking with someone you trust is an important step towards recovery and feeling better.

It is important to tell someone you trust and feel comfortable with, as they can help and support you. You could talk to:

  • Friends
  • Family
  • A member of staff at school, such as a teacher or school nurse
  • Your doctor or a healthcare professional such as a counsellor or nurse
  • A youth worker
  • Charities and helplines

There are many coping methods you can try to avoid self-harm, such as:

  • Writing about the thoughts and feels that are distressing you. Then get rid of the paper somehow to let go of the thoughts.
  • Hit or throw something soft, like a pillow.
  • Try breathing exercises or meditation.
  • Go for a walk to distance yourself from whatever is triggering you.
  • Talk to someone you trust, such as a friend or family member. You don’t have to talk about self-harm, instead letting the conversation distract you.
  • Do something creative, like creating art that expresses your feelings, or try learning a new craft to make something you’ll be proud of.
  • Listen to music you like or watch your favourite films.

There is also the Five Minutes Rule. If you feel like you want to self-harm, wait five minutes before you do it, then try waiting another five minutes, and so on until eventually the feeling fades.

Just remember: don’t be too hard on yourself. And if you want help, go to your doctor and check out these helpful organisations that can offer support, advice and guidance: Dewis Cymru, Gofal, NSPCC and SelfharmUK.

Here is a list of services that can offer information, advice and support for a variety of Mental Health Issues:

Childline – Get help and advice about a wide range of issues, call us on 0800 1111, talk to a counsellor online, send Childline an email or post on the message boards.

Mind – Provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. We campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.

YoungMinds – The UK’s leading charity fighting for children and young people’s mental health.

time to change Wales – The first national campaign to end the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems.

Samaritans – Working to make sure there’s always someone there for anyone who needs someone.

Meic – Helpline service for children and young people up to the age of 25 in Wales.

Heads Above the Waves – Not-for-profit organisation that raises awareness of depression and self-harm in young people.

Hafal – Welsh mental health charity supporting those affected by serious mental illness in Wales.

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