When you are feeling low or anxious it can be upsetting and confusing, and it can sometimes feel like no-one understands.
If you are feeling low, hopeless, or suicidal it is important to seek help. The way you are feeling is much more common than you think, it is just that people struggle to talk about it. Everyone feels low sometimes but if these feelings are not going away, or they are making you want to harm yourself, it is time to talk to someone and get help. As bad as it may seem, there is always hope and people willing to offer support. With help you CAN get better.
Try to talk to someone you trust and explain to them how you feel. If this doesn’t help you in the way you need or if you are not able to talk to anyone you know, there are helplines run by suicide prevention and mental health charities where someone will be there to talk to and help you, confidentially 24 hours a day 365 days a year.
SToRMS does not run a helpline or direct support services but there are many charities offering a range of services to provide support in a way that is right for you. Brief information about some of these and links to their services are below:
- CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) is a registered charity which exists to prevent male suicide in the UK. They run a FREE helpline from 5pm to midnight, 365 days a year for men who need information or support 0800 58 58 58 or you may prefer to try Webchat.
- The Samaritans run a helpline 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 116 123 and is FREE so there is always someone there to talk to if you need to. They also provide an email address or home address so if you do not feel comfortable with talking over the phone you can still access support. Alternatively, they also provide face to face services in branches across the UK.
- Papyrus are a registered charity focusing on the prevention of young suicide. Papyrus run a FREE HOPEline on 0800 068 41 41, or you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- ChildLine is a private and confidential service for children and young people up to the age of 19. You can contact a ChildLine counsellor about anything -no problem is too big or too small. Call free on 0800 1111, have a 1-2-1 chat online or send an email.
- Mind’s online community offers peer support from others who have experienced, or are experiencing, what you are going through. A safe place to listen, share and be heard. It is completely anonymous and always available. Find out more and register here or download the Elefriends app for Android and IOS.
Alternatively you may prefer to consult your GP or consider talking to a psychiatrist or counsellor.
- It can be hard to make that first appointment with your GP but remember that they are there to help and that first conversation is the start of your journey to feeling better. It may be tempting to put it off but try to see it through if you possibly can. Docready is a very useful site to help you understand what to expect and make things as easy as possible for you, including helping you put together your own list of things to talk to the GP about.
- Remember that schools, universities (also the National Union of Students) and workplaces often have access to their own support/counselling if you are able to talk to them. There may be free or subsidised counselling available in your area but such services are often under pressure so there may be waiting lists. In Sheffield, Interchange (age 13 -25 years), Sheffield Mind and Share Psychotherapy (both age 18 years onwards) may be able to help on this basis. Informal “cafes” are also available if chatting with others in relaxed surroundings is right for you.
- Dedicated online peer support and email access to help is also available for those preferring to write rather than speak, but be careful to only use trusted sites (Links to some trusted sites are listed in these Help Sections). There is no shame in seeking help. The most important thing is that you get better. The world would NOT be a better place without you
These are quick links to Feeling Overwhelmed- Helping You Stay Safe, How to cope when life is difficult, understanding why you might be feeling suicidal and what you can do about it, Suicide prevention app and other apps for mood monitoring and anxiety (for other mental health apps also see links below in “Helping Early…” section). Stay Alive is a suicide prevention app which provides quick links to national help lines and allows you to create your own, personalised mini safety plan.
Information regarding how you may identify someone at increased risk of suicide may be useful in some cases but it is important to recognise that some people may not show any of these signs yet still be at risk. There may be many reasons why the person wants to keep their personal crisis private and so will work hard at hiding their thoughts and feelings. This short Owen Jones interview “Why do so many men die by suicide” gives one young man’s insight into the problems they face.
Helping Early Before Things Become Overwhelming
Looking after your mental health is as important as looking after your physical health. They can affect each other. Being mentally unwell can sometimes lead to physical symptoms. Being physically unwell can sometimes affect you emotionally.Things you do to keep well physically also help your mental wellbeing: eating well, getting plenty of sleep, doing some exercise and watching how much you drink.
In addition there are 5 things you can do to take care of your mental wellbeing; sort of like a mental health equivalent of the physical health “5-a-day”. These are Connect. Be Active. Take Notice. Keep Learning. and Give. The Action for Happiness Website provides an explanation of the principles behind this with its GREAT DREAM acronym.
Taking time to understand ourselves – our strengths, what we value in our lives, what makes us feel happy, how well we connect with our emotions and how we express them- is essential. This not only helps us to understand and manage our own emotional health needs but also helps us appreciate how complex and different we all are and how dangerous it can be to assume that you understand someone else’s feelings without them telling you.
Emotional First Aid suggests simple tips to help deal with common emotional “bumps and scrapes.”
We can’t always predict or control what life throws at us but we can learn a range of skills to help us respond more flexibly, deal with challenges more effectively and bounce back more quickly as a result. Mind have a number of resources explaining how to manage stress, become more resilient, manage pressure and anger. Student Minds have good information to help deal with exam stress. mentalhealth.org.uk also have a range of downloadable brochures offering practical advice including how to sleep better. Mastering the skill of quick stress relief suggests some ways to identify things that may help you manage stress anytime, anywhere.
A number of different apps are now available to help maintain mental wellbeing. Some require registration and some have to be bought but links to a collection of free apps have been pulled together on the Brighton Mind website. The Australian Reach Out site has a Toolbox of apps for your brain and body with a quiz that helps you identify your goals.
Some people may communicate through Facebook when they can’t talk about their feelings directly. Facebook and Samaritans have put together a leaflet which gives some advice on noticing worrying posts and what to do to help your friend.
Encouraging people to talk about their feelings is an important part of maintaining mental wellbeing and helping them cope with the SToRMS of their everyday life. Gaining these skills early, and keeping in practice, may prevent problems becoming overwhelming further down the line. Helping others to do this is something we can all do and the good news is that this doesn’t need any specialist training. Just being a good friend may be all that is needed most of the time. Everyone can help by taking time out of their busy lives to #AskListenSupport if they are concerned about a change in someone’s behaviour.
Some good points to bear in mind are:
- When emotions take over it can be difficult to see any situation clearly. People need to feel listened to, understood and valued as well as cared about. By providing these you will help them to become calmer and better able to look at their problem in a different light.
- Be kind. Remind them that you are always there for them.
- If you notice a change in their behaviour, try starting the conversation yourself by telling them what you have seen. ” I can see that you are unhappy/ angry/ xxxx. What can I do to help?”. Some people struggle to start conversations about how they feel. Try to avoid “How are you?” as the conversation is often shut down by a socially acceptable response of “Fine”.
- ASK. Accept that they may not want to talk at first but tell them you will see how they feel about talking later. Don’t forget to go back and ask again. If they come to you, and are wanting to talk, try to take advantage of the opportunity but if it is not a good time for you, arrange a time that’s good for you both and stick to it.
- Give them your full attention. Put down your phone and your own issues.
- LISTEN calmly to what they say, without interrupting or judging. Perhaps just nod to show you are listening. Be aware of your body language.
- Don’t make any assumptions. Let them tell you. Ask them questions if you are unclear about something they have said. Reflecting back to them what they have said makes it clear you have heard them.
- Ask “Open” questions starting with “What” or “How” eg “How do you feel about…?”. This will help to prevent conversations getting stalled by Yes and No answers.
- ACKNOWLEDGE the way they feel “That sounds really upsetting” or “You must be feeling really confused”.
- Don’t play down or dismiss their feelings or criticise the actions that may have led to these feelings. Instead try to understand what they must be feeling, and reassure them it’s OK to feel that way. VALIDATE.
- It is OK and normal to feel angry about things. It’s how you handle that emotion, without hurting yourself or others, that is important. It is important to understand that when someone is angry it is usually as a result of another emotion such as fear, frustration, guilt, shame etc. Try not to react to the anger but instead find out what is the primary emotion and root cause, as you would do if someone were obviously sad or anxious etc.
- Don’t immediately jump in with your own solutions. By letting them talk you are giving them time to reflect on what they have said and understand it better. This may enable them to come up with their own solution. If this does not work you may feel some help is needed to get the process started. Asking “What do you want to happen?” helps you understand what they need. Followed with “What could you do to help that happen?” leaves them in control, helps them think about solutions and which option(s) they could try.
- Don’t gossip. Keep their confidence unless you are worried about their safety (see last point). You may think they should also talk to someone else they trust who may be able to help. If so, talk to them about this but make it clear you are still there for them.
- Look after yourself. Think about how listening to their problems is making YOU feel. Can you bear to listen? If not, it’s OK ,but try to recognise it so you can give them honest feedback and let them know you can be there for them in other ways but that they’ll need to find someone else to talk to on this one.
- If you are worried they may harm themselves ask them if they are considering taking their own life. This will not encourage them to do so. It is likely to be a relief for them to be able to talk to someone about these feelings. PAPYRUS provide advice on how to start this difficult conversation with a young person. If you do not feel able to ask them about possible suicide, be honest with them. Let them know you are concerned and that you will help them to access support.
Reach Out and Epic Friends give more information about what we can do to communicate more effectively with our friends. Student Minds have a good resource covering most aspects of helping a friend, with general advice applicable from school age onwards. It also includes specific advice for university students from coping with Freshers week to leaving and looking for jobs. Plenty of information around helping friends with specific diagnoses. The Mix also provide excellent advice and support for issues affecting young people. Samaritans provide good information on how to prepare for these conversations (from providing a safe environment through to recognising your own needs) and some good example questions for checking out if they know how to get help.
Supporting Someone Who Has (Or Has Had) Suicidal Thoughts
If you are concerned for any reason about someone you know please take them seriously, offer them support and give them the opportunity to talk with no judgement. Often you don’t have to make a grand gesture, just the offer of a film or takeaway or even just a hug. It is crucial that the person at risk realises he/she is loved, supported, and valued. Sometimes this may not be enough, and in that case please contact any of the helplines listed above or encourage the person to go to their GP. If you feel that a suicide attempt is imminent, please do not hesitate to call 999 or take him/her to A&E.
Supporting someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts can be challenging. Even if they are receiving help from Mental Health services they will still need your support. The suicide prevention charities listed above provide information to help you if you are worried about someone.
Specific information for parents about childrens’ mental health and resilience
Many parents feel that raising their family is one of the most important and rewarding parts of their lives. It can also be a source of anxiety, confusion and frustration when things aren’t running smoothly. Often parents put their own needs to one side to concentrate on their children but it is important to look after their own mental wellbeing too. Not only are their children more likely to pick up these good habits but it will also make it easier for the family to manage difficulties that arise.
The widely held belief that “you just know” how to be a good parent means that early signs of problems may go unrecognised and information is often sought only when things become unmanageable. There is a lot to be said for adopting a more proactive approach, whether to confirm you are doing all the right things or to identify and avoid the common pitfalls that may impact your children now or later in life.
Talking and listening to your child, encouraging them to understand and express their emotions from an early age is crucial to their future health and wellbeing. 10 minutes a day, where you are there just for that child doing an activity with them that they have chosen and enjoy, creates the security and space for proper communication to happen. It can be difficult to get this “us time” with teenagers but this is when they are likely to need it most. Look for innovative ways to keep communicating.
Parents now have access to more information that ever before but navigating the often conflicting advice in books, newspapers and online can add to the confusion. MindEd resources, developed by Department of Education in partnership with Health Education England, provide reliable and evidence based information to help parents understand and cope with a range of issues in all age groups. The approach is quite formal and there is a prompt to log in to the site but it is possible to progress through the sessions without this.
For a more informal approach, some suggestions are:
- Educating For Happiness and Resilience: Dr. Ilona Boniwell . This video gives an accessible, basic insight into the importance of resilience and happiness and how to start building these in children.
- The Aha!Parenting and The Child Development Institute (US) websites aim to promote positive parent child relationships and provide user friendly advice for age groups from birth to teens.
- This leaflet from Canadian organisation Beststart helps parents to understand resilience and how to start building it in young children.
- The American Psychological Association provides further information for parents on how to foster resilience in children at various stages of their lives.
The Young Minds website has reliable information for parents and carers about common mental health and behaviour concerns in children and young people aged 0-25. Find out about symptoms, possible causes and what you can do to help, with links to further information, resources and other organisations you can contact for support.
Sheffield Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAHMS) in association with Sheffield Childrens Hospital have put together the Epic Friends website in response to the fact that “12% of Sheffield secondary pupils say they feel very sad or depressed most days”. The Epic Friends website provides mental health information in a way that young people are likely to understand and relate to and may provide a good starting point.
Interchange Sheffield is a local charity supporting the emotional wellbeing of young people up to age 25 in Sheffield. Their website has useful information about mental health, local support and counseling services.
Bereaved By Suicide?
For those bereaved by suicide there are organisations such as SOBS (Survivors Of Bereavement by Suicide) who offer telephone or email support and have a number of support groups nationwide. In addition this website offers practical guidance on coping in the immediate aftermath, explains how suicide affects those bereaved and others, and how you may help. For those preferring online support forums, the Alliance of Hope website hosts a moderated Support Forum where you can search by key word and read posts without having to sign up. Questions can be asked of the forum after signing up and agreeing to the guidelines.