This year’s International Women’s day focused on “An equal world is an enabled world”.
I was delighted to be invited to speak about Anxiety and Recovery at Manchester’s Cross Government International Women’s day event on 6th March which focussed on health and wellbeing. It was a privilege and an honour to hear from so many inspirational women. These included Daisy Smith, Head of Performance Analysis and Modelling at Highways England, Alison McKenzie-Folan CEO of Wigan Council, Tessa Lewis, GP and NICE fellow and Rachel Copley, Health Transformation Team Leader at DWP.
Thank you to all the amazing women who attended the event and to everyone including Daisy for your feedback, it has given me the courage to write my next blog… so here goes
Learning to dance in the rain
13.9% of the population will experience an anxiety disorder at any given time, Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders than men (Mental Health First Aid England).
However, recovery from mental illness is possible and very likely. Recovery means different things to different people. Nigel Henderson, President of Mental Health Europe’s notion of recovery personally resonated with me “It isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s learning to dance in the rain”. Recovery is much more than the absence of symptoms.
The mental health continuum can help us to understand this notion. Initially, people described the state of mental health as being on a continuum from mentally healthy to mental illness (medical language). The favoured approach is to now think of two continua on a different axis. The second axis (social language) can be described as minimum mental wellbeing/fitness to maximum mental wellbeing/fitness.
This model allows for people who have a diagnosable mental illness and who are coping well with the illness (for example they may have good coping strategies, a good medication regime, supportive friends etc) to have positive mental health. They have “learned to dance in the rain”.
There are many factors that can influence the recovery journey including:
- Availability and access to treatments such as medication or psychological interventions
- Having supportive social networks (colleagues, family, friends)
- Playing a meaningful role in society (for example through education or employment opportunities)
- Lifestyle (including eating well, exercise and sleep)
- Stability (including home and financial)
- Acceptance and control (focussing on what you can do)
Some other important features of the recovery journey can be described by the acronym CHIME (connectedness, hope and optimism, identity, meaning and purpose and empowerment).
I like to think of my own recovery as a journey because it isn’t for me a linear process, I have had setbacks and I honestly don’t know when and if I will reach a destination. However, through increasing my knowledge of mental health and wellbeing and understanding of myself I too have “learned to dance in the rain”. This has involved many of the factors listed above including:
- Professional support – my GP has been amazing; she has given me choice and control over my treatments acting as a professional partner in my recovery journey.
- A caring network of family and friends – who have increased their own awareness and understanding of mental health and walked beside me on my journey. They have helped me to set new goals and aspirations and pursue them.
- Redefining my goals and aspirations which includes writing and talking about mental health and wellbeing which has given me a purpose and a new drive and passion
- Lifestyle changes – including exercise and eating healthier and growing new skills to support my wellbeing
- Control – which has been fundamental to my recovery. Control over my treatment, control over finding ways to help myself and my wellbeing (CBT has been instrumental) and control over how and when I choose to work which enables me to cope with the symptoms of anxiety.
However other factors can impact on a person’s recovery journey. Nearly 9 out of 10 people with mental health problems say that stigma and discrimination have a negative effect on their lives. People don’t recover in isolation, social inclusion (i.e. being involved with society) is key and through increased understanding and discussion of mental health, we can help to reduce the inequalities experienced by those who have a mental illness.
So, let’s make mental health everyone’s business and take personal responsibility to look after our own as well as the mental health of others #eachforequal
Want to find out more about anxiety, ideas around how to look after your own mental wellbeing, or how to raise awareness of mental health within your organisation here are some suggested links below to help you get started or to share with others:
Information about anxiety:
Your Mental wellbeing:
- Recognize your stressors
- Look after your mental health
- Wellbeing approaches
Workplace Mental Health and useful Resources to raise awareness:
Image courtesy of http://www.togethertolive.ca/mental-health-continuum