Walk In My Shoes http://www.walkinmyshoes.ie Take a small step and make a huge difference. Wed, 18 Apr 2018 12:28:43 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.5 http://www.walkinmyshoes.ie/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/cropped-Walk-in-my-shoes-St-patricks-mhs-icon-32x32.png Walk In My Shoes http://www.walkinmyshoes.ie 32 32 WIMS Podcast Series: Anxiety Disorders http://www.walkinmyshoes.ie/wims-podcast-series-anxiety-disorders/ Wed, 18 Apr 2018 12:06:00 +0000 http://www.walkinmyshoes.ie/?p=8831 The post WIMS Podcast Series: Anxiety Disorders appeared first on Walk In My Shoes.

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Clinical Nurse Specialist on the Anxiety Disorders programme at St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, Frank Smith, shares his expertise on how anxiety can affect us, what conditions are classed as anxiety disorders and what treatments are available.

Anxiety Disorders: fight, flight and future-focused fears

by Frank Smith, clinical nurse specialist Anxiety Disorders programme | WIMS podcast series

Read the blog article on this topic on St Patrick’s Mental Health Services’ website:
Anxiety: fight, flight and future-focused fears

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Keys to unlocking a happier life on this UN International Day of Happiness http://www.walkinmyshoes.ie/keys-to-unlocking-a-happier-life-on-this-un-international-day-of-happiness/ Tue, 20 Mar 2018 16:15:16 +0000 http://www.walkinmyshoes.ie/?p=8760 Background In 2011 the UN formally recognised that quantifying progress should be about more than just charting economic growth. Increasing human happiness and well-being is also hugely important. The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution that recognised happiness as a “fundamental human goal” and called for “a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic […]

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Background

In 2011 the UN formally recognised that quantifying progress should be about more than just charting economic growth. Increasing human happiness and well-being is also hugely important. The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution that recognised happiness as a “fundamental human goal” and called for “a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes the happiness and well-being of all peoples”. The following year the first ever UN Conference on Happiness took place and the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution that would see an International Day of Happiness observed annually on 20th March. The theme of this year’s UN International Day of Happiness is Share Happiness – focusing on the importance of relationships, kindness and helping each other.

Ten Keys to Happier Living

We all live in a human community and of course it is a lovely and generous thing when we share and spread our happiness, however, we cannot spread that which we don’t feel. Happiness as a concept can feel like an elusive thing that we’re all chasing, a feeling that will come if we get the right job, go on an amazing holiday or meet the right person for example. However, as much as we often look for happiness outside of ourselves, it is something we can foster from within and sharing it only serves to help it grow.

Action For Happiness (an organisation that coordinates the UN International Day of Happiness) recognises that the path to happiness is different for everyone, however, having reviewed the latest research in the area, they have identified Ten Keys to Happier Living which are likely to positively impact everyone’s well-being.

Reflecting the importance of external and internal elements to human happiness, the first five keys are grouped as GREAT (Giving, Relating, Exercising, Awareness, Trying Out), focusing on how we interact with the world around us on a daily basis. The remaining five keys are grouped as DREAM (Direction, Resilience, Emotion, Acceptance, Meaning) and these relate to ourselves and how our inner life informs our attitudes to life generally.

GREAT

Giving

Why
Giving to others – out of pleasure as opposed to under pressure – is good for our health and happiness. The act of giving to others activates the reward centres in our brains, making us feel good and encouraging us to continue giving. The ripples from an act of kindness can reach far beyond the people directly involved, positively impacting those around us and those we give to.

How
There are so many ways to give to others. Each of us has an amount of time, talent and resources to share with others. Whether it’s minding a friend’s children for a few hours, making time to listen to a stressed colleague, or volunteering to help out a local charity or community group – each of us can play a part in spreading happiness through giving. Check out www.randomactsofkindness.org for some ideas to get you started.

Relating

Why
Human connection is core to our happiness. As social animals we have a need to bond through our shared experiences whether positive or negative, give (and receive) support in challenging times and essentially feel understood by others. It’s no surprise then that our physical and mental health is impacted by the quality and quantity of our relationships with others, whether they be family members or work colleagues.

How
Sometimes we can take those closest to us for granted. The quality of our relationships really matters to our happiness, so nurture them by investing effort. Don’t assume to know what’s going on with someone, ask them and really listen to what they have to say. Plan some one-on-one time with a friend or family member to connect away from the distractions of day-to-day life. Make memories by enjoying positive experiences together – it could be anything from a street party with your neighbours to a walk or picnic with some friends.

Exercising

Why
Our bodies and minds are connected and a sluggish body with low energy levels has a knock-on effect on our mental state. Emotions are dynamic, they have an energy and exercise offers us on opportunity to channel that energy and express it physically e.g. going for a run when angry about something or taking a walk in a beautiful place when we’re not in great form. The very act of exercising releases endorphins in the brain which help to lift our mood.

How
The good news is that you don’t have to engage in Olympic athlete levels of training to feel the impact of exercise on your mental health and happiness. Simply moving more can bring about a change, e.g. use stairs instead of lifts, get off the bus a stop or two earlier than usual, use your lunch break to go for a walk, reconnect with a sport you love or even just play chasing in the garden with the kids in your life.

Awareness

Why
Modern life can move at a fast pace causing many of us to feel as though we are hamsters on a wheel, unable to distinguish one day from the next. It is no wonder then that so many of us feel that there must be more to life, that we’re missing out on something intangible.

Living a mindful life where we intentionally take notice of the present, helps us to stop dwelling on our past or worrying about our future, allowing us to improve awareness of ourselves and the world we inhabit. This practice has been shown to reduce stress and promote happiness.

How
There are many ways to learn about and practice mindfulness e.g. apps, classes, books etc. To get us started think of mindfulness as comprised of the following two elements; being intentionally attentive and aware of what is happening in the present, being non-judgemental – we are simply accepting what it is we notice.

Try and take some time today, even just five minutes, to sit with both feet on the floor and take note … your breathing, the feeling of the floor beneath your feet, your body in the chair, the sounds you can hear around you, how you feel in yourself etc. Take some time to be aware and attentive every day and notice the benefits.

Trying Out

Why
Learning and trying out something new is great for our brains and by extension our happiness. By engaging with new ideas, we stay curious and interested in the world around us. Giving something new a ‘go’ also fills us with a sense of achievement, boosting our self-confidence and developing our resilience as we try to get better.

How
Of course we can learn Italian or take an art class, but there are also plenty of things to try out in our day to day lives that will boost our overall feeling of well-being e.g. learn how to do one new thing on the phone, try some new food, look-up a word you don’t really understand and then use it before the day is out, the options are endless!

DREAM

Direction

Why
Feeling good about the future is important for our happiness. We all need goals to motivate us and choosing ambitious but realistic goals gives our lives direction, followed by a sense of accomplishment when we achieve them.

Whether short term or long term, goals are a means of turning our values and dreams into reality. Happiness doesn’t just happen – it comes from thinking, planning and pursuing things that are important to us. Scientific research shows that setting and working towards goals can contribute to happiness as much as achieving the end result.

How
Set yourself a goal and take a step towards it, perhaps that means making a phone call, filling in a form or getting your runners on. The road to every goal is made up of smaller short term goals linked together. Once you set your long term goal, break it down into smaller daily or weekly goals that will help you get there. Try to ensure that your goal is challenging but achievable, as trying to accomplish the impossible is simply setting yourself up for failure.

Resilience

Why
It’s unrealistic to expect that we can all be happy all of the time, and if we were we would miss out on developing some vital life skills. Chief among these is resilience. The word comes from the Latin resilio which means ‘to jump back’ and it can help to think of resilience as our ability to bounce back from stress or trauma. Times of stress or disappointment often happen to us and are not of our choosing, however, we can choose how we react and what our attitude to adversity will be – this response has a significant impact on our well-being.

People often think resilience is something we either have or we don’t, but research shows that it can be learned, just like many other life skills. This is often easier said than done, but coping through a difficult time can give us the strength to be more open and take on new things as we learn that we can bounce back.

How
Think back to some times of adversity in your life and reflect on how you coped. See if you can identify a pattern or tactics you employed to help you manage and think about which strategies worked better than others. Try to recognise elements of the situation that were within your control and assess how much of your effort was focussed on those, versus things you had no control over. Doing this exercise should help to inform your response to the next stress or disappointment you’re faced with.

It is important to acknowledge that sometimes resilience is about seeking support, not just battling on regardless. As you reflect on how you coped with tough times in the past, ask yourself if you could have sought help or support sooner/at any time.

Emotion

Why
Regularly experiencing positive emotions – such as joy, gratitude, inspiration and pride – creates an ‘upward spiral’, helping to build our resources. There’s also evidence that positive emotions are contagious and when we feel good it can have a knock on effect on those around us. By doing things that make us feel good, we can do others good too. It’s important to make the distinction that this isn’t just ‘having fun’ or being spontaneous, we need a healthy balance between enjoying the moment and doing things that bring meaning and fulfilment in the longer term.

Our emotions affect our long term well-being and research shows that experiencing positive emotions in a 3-to-1 ratio with negative ones enables us to become more resilient.

How
There are lots of ways to foster positive emotions and many of them are very simple. Start by doing something you know you love, that brings you joy e.g. listen to your favourite music, spend time with your friends, go for a run in your favourite place.

Make an effort to look for the good in people and situations – this might mean that you stop yourself from criticising someone and make an effort to notice something you like about them instead. Focus on all the good in your life by keeping a notebook where you jot down the things you’re grateful for at the start and/or end of each day – if you’re ever struggling to retain an optimistic outlook, you can refer back to this and remind yourself of the positives in your life.

Acceptance

Why
None of us are perfect, but dwelling on our flaws makes it much harder to be happy. Turning down the volume on our inner critic and ramping up compassion towards ourselves, increases our enjoyment of life, our resilience and our well-being. It also helps us accept others as they are.

Accepting ourselves ‘warts and all’ means that we are familiar with our strengths and weaknesses, but that we work with rather than against ourselves to arrive at a place where we feel good about ourselves and our worth, while being aware of our limitations.

How
Be aware of how you talk to yourself – would you speak to someone else like that? Replace negative self-talk with a more compassionate, understanding voice. List the things about yourself that you like. If you’re struggling with this, ask a trusted friend or colleague what they perceive as your strengths and this should give you a good platform to build on. Make an effort to notice the things you do well, however small and try to love you for you – don’t compare your insides with other people’s outsides.

Meaning

Why
You may have heard the phrase, ‘the meaning of life is a life with meaning’ and certainly research backs this up. There is a very human need in all of us to connect to something bigger than ourselves and people who have meaning or purpose in their lives are happier and experience less stress and anxiety.

Meaning in our lives is a completely individual thing and as such is different for each person. If you’re struggling to identify what it is that gives your life meaning, ask yourself “why am I here?” and see what comes up. For some people meaning may involve a religious or spiritual belief, for others it may be parenting their children, or caring for nature and the world around them – whatever it is, having meaning is key to happiness and well-being.

How
If you’re not sure what your ‘meaning’ is, it can feel a little overwhelming to undertake a quest to find it, so instead try doing some small things and see where they take you e.g. take some time to consciously think about which activities, people and beliefs bring you the strongest sense of purpose and passion. These are things to prioritise in life and are most likely the things which give your life a sense of meaning.

Spread happiness

As a child you may have heard the saying that happiness is like jam; it’s hard to spread it around without some sticking to yourself. So on this UN International Day of Happiness why not get stuck in; spread some happiness around and feel the joy that brings to you and those around you. Share these 10 keys to happiness with your family, friends or work colleagues and see what you can do to make the most of what you can control to improve your happiness and well-being.

Get involved and learn more at International Day of Happiness and Action For Happiness

Mental Health Support & Information Service

St Patrick’s Mental Health Services’ Support & Information Service is a confidential telephone and email service staffed by experienced mental health nurses 9am-5pm Monday to Friday with an answering and call-back facility outside hours. You can contact the Support & Information Service by calling 01 249 3333, or email info@stpatsmail.com

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Join Ireland’s stars and share your #MindYourSelfie this March! http://www.walkinmyshoes.ie/join-irelands-stars-and-share-your-mindyourselfie-this-march/ Tue, 13 Mar 2018 16:20:49 +0000 http://www.walkinmyshoes.ie/?p=8750 Ahead of U2’s eagerly awaited Dublin gigs later this year, Adam Clayton has joined forces with RTÉ presenter Blathnaid Treacy to help launch #MindYourSelfie Day 2018. Now in its third year, the mental health campaign is asking the public to post a selfie to their social media accounts this Friday 16th March, using the hashtag […]

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Ahead of U2’s eagerly awaited Dublin gigs later this year, Adam Clayton has joined forces with RTÉ presenter Blathnaid Treacy to help launch #MindYourSelfie Day 2018.

Now in its third year, the mental health campaign is asking the public to post a selfie to their social media accounts this Friday 16th March, using the hashtag #MindYourSelfie.

The campaign is trying to raise awareness for the #MindYourSelfie School Resource Packs, which were designed by Walk in My Shoes – a mental health awareness initiative by St Patrick’s Mental Health Services.

These activity packs are available to download on the Walk in My Shoes website and offer free classroom resources for Primary and Secondary schools. Resources include Mindfulness Audio Clips, a Selfie ‘Steem activity, a brand-new Wellness Activity calendar and much more.

Paul Gilligan, CEO of St Patrick’s Mental Services, said: “For the past two years, many of Ireland’s top celebrities got behind this campaign, helping us spread the message of positive mental health in the classroom. The #MindYourSelfie resource packs have proved to be popular, as they are both fun and informative for teachers and students alike and they have been downloaded over 70, 000 times since they were first launched.

“The key message of the campaign is to encourage people to take responsibility for their own mental wellness by trying to live mentally healthy and by taking action when they need support.”

U2’s Adam Clayton echoed this sentiment: “#MindYourSelfie is a campaign I am delighted to support, because it encourages young people to engage with their wellbeing and mental health from an early age. This is a conversation which needs to be part of all our lives, and it is important to give children the opportunity to participate in an informed, supportive – and fun – environment alongside their peers.”

For the last two years, #MindYourSelfie was all over Irish social media, with the likes of Hozier, Steve Garrigan of Kodaline, Keith Barry, Bressie and Dancing With The Stars and camogie star, Anna Geary, all taking part.

TV host Blathnaid Treacy discussed this, stating: “#MindYourSelfie really caught the imagination of the social media world for the last two years, which was fantastic as it’s a really worthwhile campaign. I am delighted to be an ambassador for Walk in My Shoes and help raise awareness for these packs that bring so much conversation and knowledge about mental health to the classroom.”

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WIMS Podcast Series: Eating Disorders: Causes, Characteristics and Common Misconceptions http://www.walkinmyshoes.ie/wims-podcast-series-eating-disorders/ Fri, 02 Mar 2018 09:34:37 +0000 http://www.walkinmyshoes.ie/?p=8683 It’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and in the first episode of our new Walk in My Shoes podcast series, Dr Clare O’Toole, Consultant Psychiatrist with responsibility for the Adult Eating Disorder Service at St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, shares her expertise on the causes of eating disorder, the treatments available and how best to support someone living with a disorder.

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It’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and in the first episode of our new Walk in My Shoes podcast series, Dr Clare O’Toole, Consultant Psychiatrist with responsibility for the Adult Eating Disorder Service at St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, shares her expertise on the causes of eating disorders, the treatments available and how best to support someone living with a disorder.

Eating Disorders: Causes, Characteristics and Common Misconceptions

by Clare O'Toole | WIMS Podcast Series

Read the blog article on this topic on St Patrick’s Mental Health Services’ website:
Eating Disorders: Causes, Characteristics and Common misconceptions

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The Importance of Falling In Love With Yourself on Valentine’s Day http://www.walkinmyshoes.ie/importance-falling-love-valentines-day/ Wed, 14 Feb 2018 11:25:55 +0000 http://www.walkinmyshoes.ie/?p=8659 Roses, chocolates and red hearts are winking at us from every shop window, champagne corks pop into every ad break and romcoms flutter onto every channel – irrespective of our relationship status, none of us can escape the fact that it’s Valentine’s Day. Whether you view the day as a money-making racket pedalled by the […]

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Roses, chocolates and red hearts are winking at us from every shop window, champagne corks pop into every ad break and romcoms flutter onto every channel – irrespective of our relationship status, none of us can escape the fact that it’s Valentine’s Day.

Whether you view the day as a money-making racket pedalled by the advertising industry, or you look forward to it as a warm respite from winter winds, one thing is certain, Valentine’s Day can be a challenging time for many.

Be your own Valentine

By focusing almost exclusively on a fairytale style of romantic love, we can feel somehow ‘less than’ if that doesn’t match with our reality. We may be single, in an unhappy relationship or in a contented one where big gestures and candlelit dinners just don’t suit.

Whatever your individual circumstances, Valentine’s Day presents an opportunity to reframe the narrative and use it as a chance to rekindle your love for yourself.

Why is self-love important?

We’ve all heard – or maybe even said – “yer man/one loves him/herself”, a sentiment that makes us think of loving ourselves as something narcissistic or self-obsessed. It is neither of these things. If we can’t learn to love and accept ourselves, it makes it very difficult to accept the love of others. If we neglect to love ourselves it can, over time, create in us a sense that we are unlovable or even worse, unworthy of love. Recognising and acknowledging our own, individual worth is key to human happiness.

Each of us is enough. Just as we are. Cultivating this belief and feeding it with love, can help to foster confidence and resilience when faced with tough times.

How do I re-connect with self-love?

It wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without someone popping the question. Pop the following three questions to yourself and the answers should help you on your way.

1. What do I love about myself?

If you’re not used to looking at yourself from a place of love, start by recognising something simple that you like about yourself, then build on it gradually, e.g. I make a great cup of tea. I love that I share my passion for baking with others by making them things. I love that I try to be a compassionate person. I love how committed I am to my family etc. Whatever it is, take the time this Valentine’s Day to acknowledge and be grateful for the things you love about yourself. If you can, try to do this regularly and you’ll be head over heels about yourself in no time.

2. How can I show myself love?

The good news is that there are many, many ways, to show yourself some love. If you’re out of practice, a simple trick is to be your own best friend. If you’re feeling down, stressed or overwhelmed, think of how you might respond if you were being a best friend. Tune in to what you need and try to meet that need if you can. Perhaps you need a walk in the countryside, some time with a book, a catch-up phone call with a friend or a warm, comforting meal. These are all positive things you can do for you.

While caring for yourself is an important way to show love, so is being compassionate when it comes to the things you struggle to accept about yourself. Everyone can be self-critical from time to time. Be mindful of doing this and, where possible, change your tone to something kinder and more compassionate. If you’ve gotten into the habit of being your own worse critic, this can be tough at first. A good way to start is to imagine how you might talk to your friend if they did something you’re being critical with yourself about, e.g. “my presentation was awful, I’m so stupid” might become “I find presentations really difficult, I’m proud of myself for stepping up to do it and getting through despite my nerves”.

It’s not always easy to change the record, but turning the volume down on your inner critic lets you hum along to a more compassionate tune.

3. How can I show love and compassion to others?

It may seem counter-intuitive that in order to love yourself more, you should extend love to others, but studies show that practicing love and compassion for others, boosts our capacity to show ourselves that same kindness.

These don’t need to be huge declarations of love, simply take the time and space to connect with a loved one, a work colleague or even a stranger. If a loved one gives amazing hugs when they greet you, share with them how much those hugs mean to you and how great they make you feel. If a colleague at work is upset about something, offer to sit down with them and listen to their concerns. If you’re in line to use the ticket machine at a LUAS stop and see someone struggling to make sense of it, offer to help them. If your barista makes your coffee just right, thank them for always getting your day off to a great start.

These are all small things, but in being mindful of showing love and kindness to others in a range of circumstances, you will be more sensitive to how you treat yourself.

Three little words

While many live in hope or expectation of hearing three little words on Valentine’s Day, you can hear words of love and acceptance every day … I am enough. I love me. Warts and all. Be inspired by all the love that’s in the air on Valentine’s Day and rekindle some for yourself.

Mental Health Support & Information Service

St Patrick’s Mental Health Services’ Support & Information Service is a confidential telephone and email service staffed by experienced mental health nurses 9am-5pm Monday to Friday with an answering and call-back facility outside hours. You can contact the Support & Information Service by calling 01 249 3333, or email info@stpatsmail.com

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Your school’s mission starts here! http://www.walkinmyshoes.ie/your-schools-mission-starts-here/ Fri, 12 Jan 2018 13:35:04 +0000 http://www.walkinmyshoes.ie/?p=8585 We are delighted to announce the return of the Mission Possible: School Achievement Awards; an initiative dedicated to celebrating and acknowledging the work being carried out by schools to promote positive mental health. The awards recognise schools from all over the country for their efforts in tackling mental health stigma, both in the classroom and […]

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We are delighted to announce the return of the Mission Possible: School Achievement Awards; an initiative dedicated to celebrating and acknowledging the work being carried out by schools to promote positive mental health.

The awards recognise schools from all over the country for their efforts in tackling mental health stigma, both in the classroom and in the wider community. Entry is open to all schools.

Last year’s award ceremony saw six primary and secondary schools from all over Ireland win fantastic prizes for their contributions in educating, empowering and promoting positive mental health to their students.

St. Patrick’s CEO, Paul Gilligan, said:

“Children spend on average six hours per day in school and so it is important that schools embrace their vital role in encouraging students to have open discussions and conversations around mental health.”

“Schools can be a great setting for building life skills and resilience. Teachers can provide a supportive environment where educating our young people on mental health is a priority.”

Tamara Nolan, Communications Manager at St Patricks, said:

“When we launched Mission Possible last year, we were encouraged by the fantastic efforts being made to raise mental health awareness in primary and secondary schools all around the country.”

“This year we have made the application process more focussed; schools are asked to submit a two page word document outlining their plans, aims, objectives and results in terms of promoting positive mental health in their school. We’re really excited to receive this year’s entries!”

The closing date for entries is 23rd March 2018.

Entry details and for further information View the gallery of entries to the 2017 Mission Possible School Achievement Awards

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My Anxiety and Me – Darragh, 37 http://www.walkinmyshoes.ie/my-anxiety-and-me/ Tue, 09 Jan 2018 11:15:43 +0000 http://www.walkinmyshoes.ie/?p=8524 My heart races, thoughts are rampant coming at me from all directions, tense shoulders, on edge, my breathe is faster, my fists tighter, looking for the exit, will I bolt now, breathe Darragh, for the love of God relax, no good, drink a pint, no eye contact, drink another pint, easing… This would be a […]

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My heart races, thoughts are rampant coming at me from all directions, tense shoulders, on edge, my breathe is faster, my fists tighter, looking for the exit, will I bolt now, breathe Darragh, for the love of God relax, no good, drink a pint, no eye contact, drink another pint, easing…

This would be a typical night out for me for the past 20 years as I have coped with the crippling effects anxiety has had on me. I am a 37 year old guy from the Wilds of Mayo, living in Dublin for around 15 years. From the outside I look confident, having a great time, great job, friends, family etc but no one can see what is going on inside.

I have lived with anxiety from when I can remember, even at a young age but not to the extent this monster grew from my teens onwards. I was a pretty shy kid, always felt different from the other lads. Wasn’t big into the GAA, got red when being at the centre of attention, had a slight speech impediment that made me stumble over my words and made me even more embarrassed.

The First Time

I remember the first time I felt this wave of anxiety come over me, I was sitting in class, top of the class and the teacher made a point that I must never play rounder’s with the girls again, that I was sissy and go play with the boys. I was around 10 and I just wanted the floor to swallow me up. All eyes were on me and they were judging me negatively, laughing at me and I never felt so alone.

Little did I know that this was just mild as to what I was going to endure in the coming years! Secondary school, I was fed to the lions. I was the oldest in my family, the shy but happy go lucky kid, bit different, full of energy, ray of light coming from somewhere was said, but different. When I started Secondary school my differences were magnified, they were highlighted, ridiculed, despised.

The Bullying

The bullying started small, copying my talking, how I didn’t like football, I was pretty awkward when puberty began so spots, very slim, tall so these were picked on also but then I started to hear the word gay, queer, puff….. I knew I was different and I knew I started to have feelings for other boys but I thought I was hiding this side of me.
I couldn’t fight back, I said nothing, how could I, they were right, I was gay, I hated football, I was spotty and awkward, I agreed with what they were saying to me so how could I fight back. I lost my voice, my strength, my courage, so I just put my head down and for years took the abuse. I wished they had just hit me as the words that were coming at me went right into my soul, my heart. Every single word stayed with me, these words were bringing me to my knees.

This is when my anxiety was getting higher, stronger and more frequent. As I look back and the work I have done on myself I can now see that my anxiety was social, other people made me anxious. After school I went to college, the bullying stopped by my peers but I kept this up instead and boy did I do an even worse job than the bully’s. I crucified myself, I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror, I couldn’t walk down the street without getting panic attacks, shops or supermarkets were like a war zone, I felt under attack ready to run at any given moment.
I couldn’t look at people, I wore a cap to hide my face, no one needed to look at me, I was nothing, a waste of space. Then pubs and nightclubs, my hell. I just drank and drank to numb the anxiety, I would get this small glimmer of freedom from the negativity, from the anxiety but this was all false and only lasted for moments.

My turning point

The anxiety and pain lasted for years, until one day when I was around 22 I went home to Mayo with my cap covering my face, my head down, my energy so so low. My family knew something was wrong but I just brushed it off. To this day I can still remember in the kitchen, myself and Mum. Mum sitting on stool by the table and she asked me was I OK? I think at that moment I had reached my limit, my heart and soul couldn’t take this, I had kept this inside of me for so long that I needed to let something out and I just broke down in front of her.

I wept, wept, my heart was broke and I just needed someone, anyone to hold me and help me. That day was the turning point of my life, I opened up, told mum I hated myself, hated Dublin, that I was slowly killing myself. She put her arms around me, rang a GP and brought me straight to him. I needed help as I couldn’t cope on my own anymore.

The crazy thing though is that I didn’t know I was suffering from massive anxiety, extreme low self-worth and depression but I thought it was my skin. I was told in school how ugly and spotty I was that I thought once my skin was clear all these thoughts and feelings would disappear, even to the doctor just give me tablets to clear my skin and I’ll be fine. My skin was clear, I just couldn’t cope with the self-hatred that I put all my energy and thoughts into something external, unable to cope with the internal turmoil.

As I said, this was a turning point. I got help, spoke to a therapist, CBT and he helped me retrain my mind. The cap went, my confidence grew, I came out, no one disowned me, slowly and slowly I started to heal inside and start accepting myself, flaws and all. This took years and to be honest I am still healing to this day.

Anxiety is in us all, we need it in case someone jumps up behind us and wants to harm us, but when the anxiety holds you hostage, brings you to your knees then you need a hand to get out of that hole. My anxiety is not as severe as to what it was all those years ago but he is still with me. I do get a slight panic when I go into bars, walk down streets, go on a date because for me it is the judgments I presume people are negatively making of me but now I am able to control these more. I am now able to feel the emotions that come up from these thoughts and instead of following the thought process I breathe, let the thoughts flow in and out and feel the uncomfortable feelings. Then the anxiety will lose its power and the anxiety subsides.

Meditation

This is a habit I have incorporated into my daily life. I meditate, I just started over a year ago and this has changed my life also. I was on anti-depressants for a couple of years and wanted off these, they were numbing me and I knew to fully heal I needed to feel the emotions inside. I started Japa mediation on the recommendation of a friend and I haven’t looked back. By mediating this has helped me heal the pain, helped me feel more comfortable within my own skin, to fully accept myself and love myself.

Who would have a thought a culchie from the wilds of Mayo who have his life turned around by sitting in a room of people, speaking mantras out loud and meditating, but for me this has worked.
The only advice I can give anyone who is suffering from anxiety, depression, low self-worth, suicidal thoughts is to please reach out to someone anyone and tell them how you are feeling. You are not alone, you are an exceptional human being with so many gifts and your life is so important. Ask for help, this is not a weakness but such an unbelievable act of courage to have the strength to ask for a helping hand.

You do not need to go through this alone, there is so much help out there so today please go and talk to someone even send me an email just reach out. This is the first step of letting some of the pain inside of you go and start fully healing.
You are not alone, you will overcome this and you are such a unique and phenomenal person, your life is going to be amazing.

You can follow Darragh O’Boyle on Instagram

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Shake it Off http://www.walkinmyshoes.ie/shake-it-off/ Mon, 18 Dec 2017 21:16:03 +0000 http://www.walkinmyshoes.ie/?p=8511 Many of us who look in the mirror don’t like what looks back at us. We moan we have too many wrinkles, too many grey hairs, we are too short or too tall, the list goes on and on. We are often highly critical of ourselves both physically and mentally. Instead of being positive and […]

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Many of us who look in the mirror don’t like what looks back at us. We moan we have too many wrinkles, too many grey hairs, we are too short or too tall, the list goes on and on. We are often highly critical of ourselves both physically and mentally. Instead of being positive and self-affirming of what others see we experience a range of negative emotions when we look at ourselves. Instead of seeing all the unique qualities and abilities we have as individuals we see fault, failure and inadequacy. The big question is why? Is it conditioning? Is it culture or is it something far deeper? We do this when we are doing okay so imagine what it must be like when things are not okay and experiencing mental health difficulties.

When someone experiences mental health difficulties this self-criticism is multiplied, transformed and becomes something which others struggle to recognise. Questions and self-accusations such as Why did this happen? What did I do wrong? what did I do to deserve this? all run amok during times of distress and ill health. This type of self-blame is destructive, overwhelming and can become even more difficult than the illness itself to manage. Regardless of the starting point for someone’s mental ill health self-stigma creeps in like a black cloud and without warning consumes and takes over one’s self esteem. Recovering from the loss of self-esteem, of self-worth, of believing that you are loved and have a place in the world can be a long and difficult journey. With the right care and treatment people can and do recover from their mental health difficulties but the lasting scars of self-stigma are often far more difficult to heal.

And then we move on to societal stigma around mental illness and how it can impact one’s recovery. This type of stigma presents its own difficulties. The realm of societal stigma is changing as more and more people are coming forward and speak openly and honestly about their mental health difficulties. However, mental illness is still a taboo subject for many. Stigma has its roots in fear and misunderstanding, a fear that has been driven in part by history. For many, psychiatric services were, and still are places to be feared, despite the old name of asylum which means a place of refuge and safety. This fear often translated into the local psychiatric service being used as a threat and whether or not we agree those fears don’t leave us. In times of ill-health those negative connotations of psychiatric services are at the forefront of people’s minds. There is still a plethora of half-truths and wrong information about mental ill health, myths from darker days and these fears and mis-information stop people coming forward and seeking appropriate help at an early stage in their illness.

Self-doubt about how we will be perceived, will people still like us, will they avoid us, what should we stay all run through our minds when considering disclosure. We now live in an ever-changing instantaneous society where everything is available at the flick of a switch, a swipe of the smartphone or a quick search of google. We are instagrammed, snap-chatted, what’s app’d, and facetimed. We know an awful lot about each other through the medium of social media but we often don’t have a clue about what is really going on. We post, share, retweet lots of information, our likes, dislikes, pictures of good times and events but, how often do we have an honest and open conversation about mental and emotional health? We have the technology and the mechanisms to communicate instantaneously yet a significant number would not disclose a mental health difficulty to others. For some, they value their privacy and just don’t talk but for others they often feel too ashamed, too worried and too frightened to admit that everything is not okay and the smiling picture online is not a representation of where things are really at. All these doubts and fears hold on tight and are difficult to shake.

As someone who engages with, and meets service users every day I see brave and courageous individuals who have come forward to seek help with their mental health difficulties. They have placed their trust in our service to help them on their journey to recovery. I see people, not diagnoses. Yes, I see suffering and struggles but I also see individuals who are doing their best to get well. I see the impact of stigma, particularly self-stigma far too often. So, I encourage anyone who is experiencing difficulties, and, everyone else to look in the mirror, to look beyond the physical façade and remind themselves how strong, brave and courageous they are! It is not easy, I know from personal experience because I look at my own grey hair, crows feet and tired eyes far too often! We all need to remind ourselves we are unique talented individuals with lots of abilities, skills and talents. Ask the mirror, who is the fairest of them all and tell it that it is you! Remind yourself recovery is possible, even if right in that moment you are struggling to believe it! Try not to stigmatise yourself, your journey may well be difficult but the added burden of self-stigma can often slow down recovery.

As Taylor Swift so aptly puts it: “Shake it off”. Easier said than done of course but when that burden of self-stigma has been lifted it can have a very positive impact on recovery. Self- stigma is stubborn so it may take a lot of shaking! Shake off self-stigma and give yourself the best chance of recovery possible.

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Still Just Me – Mental Health Stigma http://www.walkinmyshoes.ie/still-just-mental-health-stigma/ Mon, 18 Dec 2017 11:09:51 +0000 http://www.walkinmyshoes.ie/?p=8495 Stigma is a double-headed beast, existing in two forms as public and self-stigma. Engagement with negative attitudes (prejudice) and/or adverse behaviour (discrimination) is known as public stigma. Self-stigma is how the individual sees their own mental health from a warped perspective. It was self-stigma that affected me most. Self-stigma is a gaseous thing – it’s […]

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Stigma is a double-headed beast, existing in two forms as public and self-stigma. Engagement with negative attitudes (prejudice) and/or adverse behaviour (discrimination) is known as public stigma. Self-stigma is how the individual sees their own mental health from a warped perspective. It was self-stigma that affected me most.

Self-stigma is a gaseous thing – it’s odourless and colourless with the canny ability to seep into our souls through our pores, unseen. It crept up on me so silently that for a long time I didn’t even realise it was happening. In fact, I was the last one to acknowledge it.

As an IT Project Manager, I worked in a sector where pressure and deadlines were the norm and stress was a constant companion. I ran projects with teams of up to 200 million-dollar budgets and over-expectant customers. As a sensitive extrovert, I took on the angst of both the teams and customers without any way of releasing pent-up emotions or being able to recharge. Regular sleep, exercise and healthy eating were not conducive to international assignments, living out of a suitcase; a perfect storm was being created.

Before long, I was self-medicating with alcohol, becoming a ‘functional drinker’. As the single point of contact for both customers and management, I was truly visible. Any requests for a lighter workload or additional support were just not an option, professionally or personally. Professionally, other project managers who had returned after burn-out were seen as lesser shades of themselves. Personally, my ingrained work ethic just told me to work harder and harder and harder – despite my growing mountain of self-doubt and anxiety, I just had to be invincible.

Soon after, my first depressive episode occurred and I was signed-off sick. What I understood about mental illness was limited and I rejected being prescribed anti-depressants as well as desperately begging my doctor not to put down ‘depression’ on the forms. There could be no outward evidence of my situation whatsoever. This was a classic case of self-stigma, I had judged myself and found myself to be lacking against what I thought society expected. Pills were for others not me. I would not be trusted with any responsibility at work if I required pills to keep going. I had seen others returning after similar situations who weren’t handled compassionately, assigned routine work with nothing else but retirement or resignation to look forward to. Unconsciously, I had entered a self-destructive cycle of hiding the truth.

So, when I returned to work, I lied. I said I was better and took on even more difficult projects to prove to them and myself that this was the case. I didn’t use the Employee Assistance Programme or the Occupational Nurse who may well have provided some coping skills, I just pressed on. However, it soon became evident to me that something had shifted, changed. My potential and passion were gone and the assignments seemed more arduous than ever. With hindsight this was because I had not recharged and just continued ‘running on empty’.

A few years later and I had got myself sober, recognising that I was either drinking because I was depressed or depressed because I was drinking and that action needed to be taken. Although this gave me some respite, it unfortunately masked the true underlying condition. Once again I took validation in the fact that I had “fixed myself”, which surely really sick people couldn’t do. I was in complete denial.

Inevitably, my bouts of depression and my inability to recharge finally overwhelmed me and I had a nervous breakdown requiring medication and hospitalisation. Now the cat was out of the bag! But my self-stigma tenaciously clung on, I saw and set myself apart from many of the others on the ward. I participated to the full, even when I just wanted to stay under the covers and fade away. As with everything else in my people-pleasing driven life, I was going to be the best whatever anyone had ever seen. I was discharged from hospital full of theory and exercises but not committed, I still felt shame and guilt at admitting to not being well.

Things continued as before, and guess what? Fast forward several years and being in an abusive environment caused another, more debilitating breakdown. This time it was different, I couldn’t put my previous episodes down to life distress or a one-off never to be repeated circumstance. I was ill.

For the first time ever, I availed of one-to-one counselling. Previously my job had made it impractical and as I didn’t believe I needed it, I never fought to find an alternative solution. I was finally able to understand that my drive to succeed was no longer helping me and began to seek alternative perspectives. Most significantly, I began to talk to others around me about what was and had happened. This is still part of my recovery today, in fact, I now need to watch that I don’t over share and listen more than I talk!

I had put myself on a bumpy road while all along there was an easier way, but I wasn’t ready. I’m just grateful I got there in the end.

Nicola Hampson, Mental Health Advocate

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The journey of transformation to a recovery, human rights-based, international leader in mental health care delivery http://www.walkinmyshoes.ie/st-patricks-mental-health-services-2/ Mon, 18 Dec 2017 10:23:10 +0000 http://www.walkinmyshoes.ie/?p=8483 Ill mental health is the greatest health challenge the world faces. At any given time, 10% of the adult population across the world experience a mental or behavioural problem. Globally, more than 300 million people suffer from depression – the leading cause of disability – with many of these people also suffering from symptoms of […]

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Ill mental health is the greatest health challenge the world faces. At any given time, 10% of the adult population across the world experience a mental or behavioural problem. Globally, more than 300 million people suffer from depression – the leading cause of disability – with many of these people also suffering from symptoms of anxiety. Some 264 million people are living with an anxiety disorder. Schizophrenia affects about 21 million people and bipolar disorder affects about 60 million people worldwide. Approximately 47.5 million people have dementia worldwide.

10-20% of children and adolescents experience mental disorders. Neuropsychiatric conditions are the leading cause of disability in young people in all regions. Worldwide about 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have just given birth experience a mental disorder; primarily depression. In developing countries this percentage is even higher.

In Ireland, it is estimated that one in two experience a mental health difficulty. A recent WHO-led study estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year in lost productivity. In Ireland the loss to GDP is estimated to be €3 billion. Health systems across the world are not adequately responding to the burden of mental health difficulties. As a consequence, the gap between the need for treatment and its provision is wide. In low and middle income countries, between 76% and 85% of people with mental health difficulties receive no treatment. In high-income countries, between 35% and 50% of people with mental health difficulties are in the same situation.

There are three main obstacles to tackling the problem; deep stigma engrained in every society regarding mental health difficulties, a lack of understanding of what treatments actually work and a lack of investment.

Mental health awareness

Over the last number of years, awareness regarding mental health and mental health difficulties has grown substantially in most societies. This has been driven by education, a growth in personal awareness and declarations by high profile individuals. In Ireland, there is now a component of the school curriculum dedicated to building awareness of mental health. Information regarding mental wellbeing is easily available to everyone on the Internet and high profile people such as rock stars and sports personalities have publicly declared their personal stories regarding mental health difficulties.

Yet negative and inaccurate attitudes to mental health difficulties and those who experience them remain deeply engrained within Irish culture. Recent research carried out by St Patrick’s Mental Health Services indicates that despite the fact that 28% of respondents had previously been treated for a mental health difficulty themselves and 44% reported having a family member who had been previously treated, 25%, would tell no one if they were experiencing suicidal thoughts, 38% would not tell their partner if they were taking anti-depressants and 36% would not tell their partner if their child was being treated for depression.

There is still an inaccurate belief that those with mental health difficulties are likely to be more untrustworthy or more likely to commit violent acts. In Ireland, 44% of people would not trust someone who experienced postnatal depression to babysit, 23% would not willingly marry someone previously hospitalised with depression, 19% said they would not be

entirely comfortable living next door to someone who is bipolar and 29% do not think someone who experiences panic attacks could be head of a company. Across the world when people engage in horrific unexplainable acts, like murder of their own children or deliberately crashing a plane, we attribute their behaviour to mental health difficulties, yet people with mental health difficulties are no more likely to be violent than others and indeed are more likely to hurt themselves than to hurt others.

Stigma

Stigma is best understood through the following model:

Gilligan Stigma Model

Gilligan Stigma Model

The greatest impact of stigma is that it prevents people from seeking help. The research indicates that the majority of people who experience mental health difficulties still do not seek help. In Ireland the research indicates that 64% of people believe that being treated for a mental health difficulty is seen as a sign of personal failure while 25% of people would tell no one if they had previously been an inpatient for a mental health difficulty. Only just over half (55%) would tell a partner. In most countries historically, we have dealt with people experiencing mental health difficulties by locking them in asylums or in prisons causing most families to hide away their loved ones who needed help, or to feel shame and guilt.

There is still significant disagreement and uncertainty regarding our understanding of mental health difficulties and how best to treat them. The debate between the biological and social causes – the medical versus the talk therapy treatment approach – rages on, leaving in its wake the people experiencing difficulties. Yet the evidence indicates that mental health difficulties are most often caused by a combination of biological, social and personal factors and that treatment at all of these levels is the most effective. This view has now been encapsulated into the ‘recovery model’ which seeks to address difficulties in a holistic manner through empowering the person experiencing the difficulties.

Central to this approach is ensuring that treatments and services are grounded in a human rights approach, giving the person control and choice over their own life and treatment decisions.

Stigma and uncertainty lead to a lack of investment and funding of the services. Who will fund prevention and treatment approaches if they are not convinced they will be effective, or if they have deeply held beliefs that nothing can be done to help those experiencing mental health difficulties and that they are in some way different from the rest of society? Across the world, there is a concern that we are spending too much money on healthcare and that there is substantial waste in the system. Mental healthcare has been the largest victim of this belief. Most countries spend less than is required on mental healthcare and prevention.
Ireland spends between 6-7% of the National Mental Health Budget. The estimated necessary spend is 12%. Of course we need to spend wisely, applying the value principle outlined by the Michael Porter, ensuring we measure outcomes per euro spent.

St Patrick’s Mental Health Services’ role in treating mental health difficulties

St Patrick’s Mental Health Services is the largest and oldest independent provider of mental healthcare in Ireland. Since its founding through the legacy of Jonathan Swift over 250 years ago, the Organisation has sought to protect and care for those who experience mental health difficulties. In the last 10 years this journey has brought the Organisation to the realisation that it must strive to create a Society in which all citizens are given the opportunity to live mentally healthy lives. We aspire to provide the highest quality mental healthcare, to promote awareness and understanding about mental health and to advocate for the rights of those experiencing mental health difficulties.

Our journey and challenges in the last 10 years are not unlike those faced by many other organisations in many other countries who are leaving behind their histories of placing those who experience mental health difficulties in institutions and asylums towards a more community-based model of care. Many countries now have mental health strategies underpinned by legislation. Obtaining good committed staff is problematic across the world as working in mental health is not seen as attractive. Trust in health services is at an all-time low. Improving standards alongside controlling costs is a challenge. Reaching out to those needing help and helping them to overcome the prejudice and stigma is a core component of this journey.

In the last 10 years St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, has been grounded in the human rights values of believing in and promoting people’s rights to be treated with dignity and respect, believing in and promoting people’s rights to be protected against discrimination, seeking to provide the least restrictive, least intrusive treatment, seeking to promote independence and personal autonomy, giving people the opportunity to make decisions about their own care, seeking to empower recovery by fostering positive coping and management skills, providing individual care plans grounded in evidence-based best practice and believing in and promoting the full inclusion and equal opportunities for those experiencing mental health difficulties has focused on four key essential and complimentary areas of activity; service delivery, advocacy and awareness raising, service user engagement and research and training. We believe that a modern, progressive mental health service must entail each of these activities.

Advocacy

For 10 years we have sought to establish and provide the highest quality mental health care through in-patient, day care and community-based clinics, providing a complete care pathway. The interventions we provide are multidisciplinary, recovery and evidence-based and we produce outcome measures on a programmatic and organisational and financial basis.

We have transformed an asylum/institution into a therapeutic campus of excellence, supported by a day service providing the most contemporary and modern group interventions and enhanced by a network of community clinics. We employ a full range of nurses, doctors and allied health professionals, ensuring we can provide
individual care plans with the most suitable treatment packages. Our services are consistently assessed by the Mental Health Commission as being of the highest standard. Public perceptions of our work are positive as are referrers.

We have introduced major advocacy and awareness raising campaigns. During 2017, our #StillJustMe campaign, through a series of short films and blog articles written by mental health experts and those with lived experience, has aimed to shine a spotlight on some of the most poorly understood and stigmatised mental health problems in Ireland today.

We focus on lobbying for peoples’ rights to receive high-quality mental health-care and for services to be compliant with the Mental Health Commission’s (MHC) standards and regulations, making submissions on Capacity Legislation and reform of the Mental Health Act, seeking full ratification and compliance with the UNCRPD and European Social Charter and running public and school-based mental health awareness raising campaigns. Our flagship preventive, awareness raising and anti-stigma campaign, Walk In My Shoes, has had tremendous success and is recognised by the majority of the Irish population.

We have been at the forefront of developing service user participation initiatives. We have a service user advisory council, a service user representative on our Board of Governors and service users participate in all interviews for staff and all project teams. Reports and policy documents produced by our Service User and Supporters Council are acted upon as a priority. We have also established the first advocacy service for adolescents in the care of approved centres in Ireland.

Underpinning all of this is a continued commitment to research and training. We are a University Hospital affiliated to one of the oldest and best universities in the country, Trinity College Dublin. We are one of the largest trainers of mental healthcare professionals in Ireland, providing professional training for doctors, nurses, and all allied health professionals.

Children’s mental health is one of the greatest challenges facing Irish society in the last number of years. Research indicates that Irish children experience higher rates of mental health difficulties than their European counterparts. St. Patrick’s Mental Health Services recognises that alongside providing a full range of adolescent mental healthcare services, including in-patient, day service and community-based care, the Organisation must work to prevent mental health difficulties arising for children and to support them to seek support earlier.

The Organisation has focused its efforts in this regard on building young people’s awareness and working with schools and parents. One of our most successful campaigns has been the #MindYourSelfie Campaign which utilises the internet and mobile phones to promote mental health awareness. Working to prevent and treat child and adolescent mental health difficulties is recognised as a key part of our work. We appreciate that tackling childhood mental health difficulties will reduce the likelihood of adult difficulties and will help change societies’ attitudes towards mental health. More importantly, it will ensure children challenged by mental health difficulties will have a happy fulfilling childhood.

Paul Gilligan, Clinical Psychologist and Chief Executive of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services

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