Tag Archives: depression

Challenging Perceptions: High Functioning Depression

Challenging Perceptions: High Functioning Depression is the first part of a new series where we will be looking at research and personal accounts which challenge popular misconceptions about mental health.

“It’s easy to put depression into a box of symptoms, and though we as a society are constantly told mental illness comes in all shapes and sizes, we are stuck with a mental health stock image in our heads that many people don’t match.”

Amanda Leventhal was a busy teenager with good grades and involvement in many extracurricular activities. She also experienced high anxiety and depression. After consulting a psychiatrist at age 16, she wrestled with the common perception of depression and her own experiences.

Depression is often seen as an obvious sadness, lethargy and inaction. This perception means that many people go under the radar as they struggle with their mental health whilst continuing successfully with studies, jobs, socialising, and general day-to-day life.

“No matter how many times we are reminded that mental illness doesn’t discriminate, we revert back to a narrow idea of how it should manifest, and that is dangerous.”

Amanda’s testimony shows that the “inner” experience of depression is something which people endure differently, with a wider variety of “outer” symptoms than is commonly perceived. Her article is an important call to normalise being able to talk abut mental health, and to break down the narrow margin which defines it.

We Cannot Continue to Overlook ‘High-Functioning’ Depression [via The Mighty]

Further Reading: Comics About Mental Health

Graphic novels, strips and comics about mental health are an accessible and unique way of understanding the conditions they present. We’ve found some of the best to read online.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Tyler Page‘s “medicated memoir” is a personal account of a lifetime of medication for what many still perceive as a childhood disorder. An extensive look into ADHD and also the medication industry, a Kickstarter for a physical release has recently been successfully funded.

Raised on Ritalin

Anorexia / Body Dysmorphia

Australian artist Khale McHurst‘s 206-part therapeutic exercise and chronicle of her realisation that, despite telling herself otherwise, she did indeed have an eating disorder is a journey which encompasses denial, depression, and acceptance in vivid, honest detail. Each strip is annotated with notes made after publication which gives further detail and insight of her continuing recovery.

I Do Not Have an Eating Disorder

Depression

“But trying to use willpower to overcome the apathetic sort of sadness that accompanies depression is like a person with no arms trying to punch themselves until their hands grow back”

US-based Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half blog entries about her sudden depression is rightly lauded for being a highly accomplished portrait of the condition in all its illogical and miserable non-glory.

Adventures in Depression

Depression Part Two

Schizophrenia

British Artist Darryl Cunningham took his experiences of his time working in a mental health institute and has compiled them into his 2011 graphic novel Psychiatric Tales: Eleven Graphic Stories About Mental Illness. You can read a selection of the chapters on his website, including this excellent chapter on the often-misunderstood Schizophrenia.

Psychiatric Tales: Schizophrenia

Anxiety

Gemma Correll’s blog is a continuing story of silliness, pugs and social anxiety. Her recent work involves taking suggestions from readers for illustrations for Mental Health America and their #MentalIllnessFeelsLike campaign.

Gemma Correll

Honourable Mention: Better, Drawn

The blog Better, Drawn hasn’t been updated in a while, but it’s still a valuable resource. Hosting short comic panels about a variety of mental health conditions, these bite-size presentations make a big impression.

Better, Drawn

Actress Kristen Bell Talks Depression

American actress Kristen Bell talks depression and anxiety in an article for Time’s Motto blog.

“When you try to keep things hidden, they fester and ultimately end up revealing themselves in a far more destructive way than if you approach them with honesty. I didn’t speak publicly about my struggles with mental health for the first 15 years of my career. But now I’m at a point where I don’t believe anything should be taboo. So here I am, talking to you about what I’ve experienced.”

Her article covers her years of experience with depression and the various ways that it has affected her life. She voices bemusement at the stigma that is still attached to mental health issues, despite nearly 20% of Americans experiencing such problems at some point in their life.

The article compliments an interview she gave in April of this year, where she said that there is “no shame” in feeling anxiety and depression. We commend her move to show that there is no shame in discussing mental health issues, either.

Kristen Bell: I’m Over Staying Silent About Depression [via Motto]

Further Reading: How to Help A Depressed Friend

A friend in need can be a difficult thing to see, and knowing how to help a depressed friend can be of great benefit during more difficult times.  As part of the Mental Health Awareness Week’s theme of relationships, we’ve found some expert advice and personal stories to give inspiration and guidance.

Knowing the symptoms

Recognising the symptoms of depression can help pave the way towards a friend broaching the subject with you. Even if you’ve experienced depression yourself, the symptoms can vary from person to person. There is also a distinct contrast between self-care and helping others.

Link [via Help Guide]

Talking about it

There is a huge difference between approaching your friend to talk to them about concerns you may have about their mental health and your friend approaching you. Whilst the following guide is aimed at university students, the advice it gives regarding initial conversations and what to do afterwards is fantastic and comprehensive.

Link [via Student Minds]

Getting informed

Symptoms and diagnoses are easy to research, but personal experience can sometimes be overlooked. Talking about depression can be a difficult conversation to start for those who need help or support. Mental health organisations Mind and Rethink Mental Illness have put together a “Start your mental health conversation” guide, complimented by personal stories and videos.

Link [via Time to Change]

Knowing your role

Supporting someone going through depression can take its toll, and it’s important to understand the symptoms of burnout so you can support your friend in the best way possible. Sometimes all that means is doing the everyday “friend stuff”, without the pressure to have an in-depth conversation about your friend’s current state of mental health.

“€œThe best thing my friend did for me was that they just accepted me as I was.”

Link [via Mental Health]

If you require additional support or advice, a directory of mental health agencies can be found here.

Mental Health Awareness Week runs from 16-22 May 2016.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2016

Today marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week 2016. The Mental Health Foundation aims to raise awareness and spark conversations regarding mental health with a different theme each year.  Running from 16-22 May, this year’s theme is relationships, and the role the connections between friends, family, colleagues and others have to mental health.

The organisation has launched a website hosting information and resources. The campaign has highlighted some interesting messages of the importance of relationships in good mental health. It emphasises that connections between people help prolong life and reduce the risk of physical and mental health problems, and that “Investing in your relationships is as important as healthy eating, exercising and not smoking.”

The organisation is also running a “Daily relationship challenge”,  where people can sign up to daily reminders and tips, and a “Relationship resolution” pledge.

Episodes of mental health difficulties can make people feel isolated and unsure of who to turn to. This campaign’s message of the importance of relationships in good mental health is a nice reminder that nobody has to suffer alone.

Mental Health Awareness Week [via the Mental Health Foundation]

The Mental Health Benefits of Walking

As May is National Walking Month 2016, we thought we’d look at the mental health benefits of walking.

The physical benefits of walking are well known. It’s an excellent form of easy exercise that burns fat, encourages bone density, lowers the risk of heart disease and diabetes, and can benefit memory functions. Walking is also excellent for mental health in the following ways:

Walking is exercise, and exercise improves mood

Any type of exercise releases endorphins, and walking is no exception. Endorphins are a hormone which calm and boost mood. A walk of 30 minutes is recommended to start releasing this hormone, but if you can’t walk for that length of time, you can supplement it on either time with gentle exercise such as stretching or even housework.

Walking gets you out and about

Some mental health issues are exacerbated by or have symptoms of isolation, either real or perceived. It’s easy to lose days without leaving the house or going out as little as possible, and walking can help break that cycle. Coupled with the mental health benefits of walking as mentioned above, getting out and about a little bit more can be the first step in improving mental health.

Walking takes time

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the depressive, stressed or anxious thoughts which can wear down mental health. Going for even a short walk can help to interrupt these though patterns, or give you a different space and perspective to tackle them. It also gives you something positive to incorporate into your routine to maintain good mental health.

Walking is cheap and easy

All you need are decent shoes and clothes for whatever weather you’re going out in. You don’t have to invest in any specialist clothing or equipment as you would with other “entry-level” physical activities such as jogging or cycling.

Walking helps you sleep

Exercise is a tiring activity, which can help provide a better night’s sleep. Good sleep is a crucial part of good mental health, as it give you, and your brain, the chance to properly rest and repair.

Walking takes you places

Going for a walk can be a way to discover a whole new side of familiar areas where you live or work. This change in routine and observance of new things can be an excellent way to divert your brain from depressive, stressed or anxious thoughts.

If you’re wanting to use technology to log your travels or get ideas for new routes, we suggest you check out our guide to walking apps:

Walking Apps – What’s Available

National Walking Month 2016

May is National Walking Month 2016. UK Organisation Living Streets is using the official event to launch its #Try20 campaign, which is tasking people with getting out and about for at least 20 minutes a day.

The campaign is highlighting the mental and physical benefits of walking. The website even has a “Walking Bingo” card to print out and use.

Living Streets has also teamed up with Westfield Health to run a #WHWalkingLunch challenge, which encourages workers to “reclaim their lunchbreak, get active and try to walk for twenty minutes in the middle of the day.”

National Walking Month 2016 [via Living Streets]

Walking Lunch Campaign [via Westfield Health]

If you’re wanting to use technology to log your travels or get ideas for new routes, we suggest you check out our guide to walking apps:

Walking Apps – What’s Available

One Man’s Experience of Video Games and Mental Health

Video games and mental health have a surprisingly long history. There has been much written about the moral panic of violent video games, to the cognitive benefits of play. One aspect that has been overlooked is how video games and mental health relate to each other, especially in terms of depressive and stressful situations.

In a detailed and personal long read, one gamer has laid out his journey with video games and mental health, and how playing games gave him hope for the future. Whilst not a magic cure, video games were a beneficial activity to turn to: “In my case at least, changing my lifestyle and accessing treatment in the real world was what mainly improved my mental health, but gaming provided a useful outlet during the worst times.”

The article also focuses on how games can be inspiration for change, highlighting their ability to: “tell interactive stories about the future that can provide an inspiration for the kind of real world political and social change that would ensure people don’t end up feeling depressed in the first place.”

The author compares the best types of video game story to speculative fiction, where imaginative concepts can be explored in detail. “Utopian stories have been a source of political and social inspiration for hundreds, if not thousands of years, they illuminate problems in our present while also modelling solutions for our future.”

The article advocates the role of video games to be part of an “avenue to explore and spread ideas for use in our everyday lives”, which can help lead to a more positive future, or at least give hope for one.

Gaming, Mental Health and Seeing the Future [via The Leveller]

One Woman’s Confrontation of Her Own Worst Enemy

Are you your own worst enemy? A common symptom of poor mental health is a stream of negative thoughts, voices which berate and belittle. These thoughts can wear people down over time, to the point where they become normal and believable.

Lotte Lane, a woman who has lived with these thoughts for as long as she can remember, has recently written about how starting therapy helped her confront her internal criticism, and how doing so improved her mental health.

“Those thoughts – the horrible, soul-crushing messages pinging around in my brain – were just thoughts. Not reality. Not truth. Not God-given fact.”

Lotte continued therapy, and one day, decided to “confront the bully in my brain”. She made a list of all the things her “shitty committee” said about her and filmed herself reading the list out. The almost 5-minute video is emotional in ways, and Lotte cites this moment as being a real turning point in her mental health taking a turn for the better: “Confronting my shitty committee was my first wobbly step towards learning to like myself.”

You can read the full article and watch Lotte’s video through the link below.

I’m My Own Worst Enemy [via Blurt]

Busting the Myth of Blue Monday

January the 18th this year is supposedly the “most depressing day of the year, but the myth of Blue Monday seriously needs to be busted.

“Blue Monday” is the name given to a Monday in January, typically the third or fourth Monday of the month. The term has become popular through the years, but the truth is that the supposed science for calculating the most depressing day of the year is completely invalid.

Blue Monday Origin

The modern myth of Blue Monday was started and popularised as part of a marketing campaign for travel company Sky Travel in a 2005 press release.  The company claimed to have taken various factors into consideration to achieve their results. A formula using debt, time since Christmas, weather and other aspects deemed to be “depressing” were put through a pseudoscientific formula to result in the Blue Monday date. Physician and Bad Science expert Ben Goldacre has said that the formula rules: “fail even to make mathematical sense on their own terms.”

Since the first press release, the concept of Blue Monday has been an easy sell to journalists looking for space to fill in newspapers and blogs. Goldacre labels this: “churnalism”, and voices alarm in official organisations such as The Samaritans and the Mental Health Foundation using it to promote mental health issues.

Blue Monday Dangers

The real dangers of “Blue Monday” isn’t the day itself; it’s the idea that one day can be more depressing than others, and that it can affect the general population en masse. Goldacre’s mythbusting research of statistics across the world finds examples of higher suicide rates in summer and antidepressants being prescribed more in the spring.

Anybody who has experienced from depression can testify of its power to descend for a variety of reasons, on any day. Depression can be predictable or take people completely by surprise . Perpetuating the myth of Blue Monday does more harm to understanding mental health issues as it simplifies and distorts them. Understanding and tackling depression is not as easy as creating a completely false formula, created for a travel company’s marketing campaign. If only it was.

“Blue Monday” is churnalism, beware any journalist who puffs it [via Bad Science]