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Mental Health Issues

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Everyone has a mental health, just in the same way that everyone has a physical health. Sometimes a person’s mental health can be poor and sometimes it can be good.

There is enough research and evidence to suggest that everyone who has experienced sexual abuse, rape or sexual violation will experience various levels of poor and good mental health. Over the years, here at Survivors Manchester, we have talked with hundreds of men who have had both difficulties and found a way to manage and move forward from their mental health issues, a legacy of the impact of the sexual abuse.

We have also built a great Self Help Resource, thanks to NHS England; Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, and Jam Creative where you can download a wide range of guides dealing with a range of issues. Each guide is also accompanied by a audio version. Its an amazing resource and we want you to have access to it, which you can do by clicking here.

Click on one of the following Mental Health Impact links to open the relevant impact information:

Anxiety is something we have all experienced at some time in our lives. Like anger, anxiety is a natural human emotional response and some anxiety is extremely useful e.g. feeling anxious before a driving test or interview can make us more alert and enhance our performance. It can also keep us safe from harm. But when anxiety is overwhelming, debilitating and interferes with our daily life then it can be really distressing for the anxious sufferer, causing a whole host of problems. This is when anxiety needs to be managed.

Anxiety is important for our own survival. It can act as a mechanism to protect our body against stress or danger. Anxiety and fear trigger the release of hormones, such as adrenalin, which make the heart beat faster in order to carry blood where it’s most needed. Our breathing becomes faster to provide the extra oxygen required for energy. We sweat to prevent overheating. The mouth may feel dry; as our digestive system slows down to allow more blood to be deflected to your muscles. Our senses become heightened and the brain becomes more alert. These changes enable the body to take action and protect itself in a dangerous situation, either by running away or fighting a foe. This is known as the ‘fight or flight’ reaction and is as natural to the animal kingdom as it is to human beings. Once the danger has passed, other hormones are released, which may cause the body to shiver as the muscles start to relax. Hopefully this explains why anxiety is a useful emotional response, surely no one can argue with that?

But it’s when the body reacts in the same way when there is no obvious imminent danger… or is there?

As survivors of sexual abuse, we have suffered a major ‘distressing event’… the abuse! Often, especially if the abuse happened to us when we were children, we were unable to really deal with the emotions at that time and as our lives go on we can become anxious about encountering the same situation again, in case it stirs up the same feelings we’ve tried so hard to suppress. To everyone else around us, there may be no obvious threat of danger, but if we have perceived that there is, then our anxiety rockets.

It is the ‘perceived’ danger that is the root cause of many people’s anxiety and logically speaking, if we can work through the perception then the anxiety can be reduced.

Smells, sounds, images, words, songs, accents, the look of someone, personal space, environments, buildings, physical contact, intimacy, sex, touch, doctors, authority, power, darkness… there are a hundreds of triggers survivors have that cognitively engage the perception of a threat. But there are also many ways in which we can take back the power and take control of our anxiety.

Relaxation Techniques

1

Find a place you feel safe and comfortable, whether that’s in your house, at work, in the outdoors – just make sure that you feel like you own the space.

6

When you’ve got your breathing under control and you feel comfortable with it, begin to focus your concentration on the areas of your body that feel tense.

2

If you can, try this somewhere that there are no really bright lights, it won’t really help with concentration. Try a dimly lit room (but only if you can).

7

Really be aware of the areas that you feel the tension the most. One area at a time, take control of that area and purposefully tense it up. Now as you exhale, release the tension and really feel the release, like something heavy is lifting off that area.

3

As well as the space feeling safe and comfortable, you need to feel comfortable with what you’re wearing. Some loose fitting clothes are often comfy or pyjamas.

8

Now do this with all the areas around your body. Remember, you’re in control. If you want to, think of those words, “I’m In Control Now” slowly running across your mind.

4

Now settle down in a comfortable position, whatever that is for YOU. Some people like lying down on their back; others like sitting upright. The important thing is that whatever position you choose, your body needs to be as tension free as possible but also supported.

9

When you feel ready, relaxed and light in body, slowly open your eyes.

5

When you feel ok, close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. As you breath in your stomach will rise and as you exhale it will flatten. In your mind count to 3 as you breath in, and as you exhale count to five.

10

Stay in that position for a few minutes and enjoy that relaxed feeling. Remember, you just worked to feel this way, enjoy the fruits of your labour.

As with anything new, practice makes perfect. You should really benefit from doing this once a day for a while. Introduce it into your routine and hone the skills. Then when that anxiety appears in a situation, you can introduce a simpler version (think of it like a maths equation)… regulating the breathing + releasing the tension = feeling calm and in control.

For further information and support, we have teamed up with Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation who have produced a range of superb self help guides covering a range of mental health issues and subjects. The publications we thought were suitable for this page include:

  • Anxiety
  • Health Anxiety
  • Shyness and Social Anxiety
  • Prisoner Anxiety

To download a copy of any of the Self Help Guides click here

Anxiety UK works to relieve and support those living with anxiety disorders by providing information, support and understanding via an extensive range of services, including 1:1 therapy.

Anxiety UK

Crisis Support

samaritans logo

You know, if you feel in crisis and need to talk to someone then you can always call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 (24hrs) or in an emergency please dial 999 for free. There is always someone at the end of the phone that can and will help and although it may feel like it, your never on your own! Pick up the phone and reach out, please don’t suffer in silence

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When people talk about depression, or feeling depressed, they can mean many different things. If we imagine depression as a scale with sadness at one end and clinical depression at the other, it helps illustrate that depression comes in many forms and degrees. But regardless of its intensity, when someone feels depressed it can be hard for them to manage life.

A depressed affect reveals itself in sadness or a feeling of dejection; depressive thoughts include seeing ourselves, others and the world in a negative way; and depressed behaviour is exhibited in lethargy, isolation and disturbed eating and sleeping patterns.

As stated earlier depression comes in many forms from feeling sad or miserable, to wanting to or attempting to end ones own life. All forms of depression can be debilitating and cause us distress.

Contrary to some people’s belief, there is no one single cause of depression – it can be a combination of things – and it varies from person to person. Its known that our past experiences can have a profound effect on how we feel about ourselves in the here and now, and if those feelings are very negative or if we have experienced something that has made us feel bad about ourselves, this can be a downward spiral to being depressed. Anyone (and research shows that that’s most of us at some point in our life) that’s ever felt sad, low, down, miserable or suffered from clinical depression will know, the last thing we want to hear is someone tell us to ‘pull our socks up’, ‘get over it’, or ‘get on with it’. Funnily enough, that never helps and in fact, it can do quite the opposite!

As survivors, depression can be a common issue in the legacy of the abuse we suffered. Something was done to us that should never have happened. Often, our youth and innocence was taken away and we were the victims of someone else’s twisted affection. Why should anyone be surprised that we can often feel depressed… ‘pulling our socks up’ might be alright for a moment, but will it really help us in the long term!

What can help is talking and most importantly, really being listened to. Counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy, and other ‘talking therapies’ can be of great help. Feeling safe, respected and treasured by a loved one or friend who listens and supports us through our difficult times can also be beneficial. Support groups, meeting others in a similar situation and just knowing your not on your own can also be an aid to lifting depression.

Exercise has been proven to be of use in the fight against depression as the body’s pleasure chemicals known as endorphins are released and help us feel better.

Recognising when we are beginning to feel low and taking appropriate action to care for our self is a good way to start working through depression.

But don’t feel that you have to suffer in silence!

If you don’t feel that you are able to work through it on your own, seek out some professional help. That’s what they are there for. Try and talk to your doctor about how your feeling and work out together what is best for you. Some people are prescribed anti-depressant medication, some people go for talking therapies, some people do both. As there is no one cause of depression then regardless of what anyone says, there cannot be just one way to work through it. YOU decide what you think is best for you. Talk it over with someone you trust… talk to us if you want to. A sounding board is always a great idea to thrash out a plan. Although we cant say we know exactly what your going through, we have a pretty damn good idea. Remember, Survivors Manchester is survivor-led, we’re survivors too!

And if you really feel that things are getting to much and it seems like
bringing your life to a swift end is the only option,
then don’t ever be afraid of going to hospital or calling 999.

For further information and support, we have teamed up with Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation who have produced a range of superb self help guides covering a range of mental health issues and subjects. The publications we thought were suitable for this page include:

  • Depression
  • Depression and Low Mood
  • Postnatal Depression
  • Prisoner Depression and Low Mood
  • Food for Thought

To download a copy of any of the Self Help Guides click here

The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) was set up to reduce the high suicide rate amongst men under 35, currently the single biggest killer of young men in the UK. It is a campaign and charity targeting young men with a helpline.

C.A.L.M

The Depression Alliance works to relieve and to prevent this treatable condition by providing information and support services.

Depression Alliance

Mind produce an assortment of information, certified by the Information Standard.

Mind

Crisis Support

samaritans logo

You know, if you feel in crisis and need to talk to someone then you can always call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 (24hrs) or in an emergency please dial 999 for free. There is always someone at the end of the phone that can and will help and although it may feel like it, your never on your own! Pick up the phone and reach out, please don’t suffer in silence

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Dissociation is an often misunderstood, frightening and sometimes complex disorder to recognise and diagnose. Thankfully, in recent years Dissociative Identity Disorder (commonly known as DID) has been increasingly recognised by mental health professionals. Once it has been correctly identified and the appropiate treatment is prescribed, a vast majority of those who live with a dissociative disorder can make huge progress taking back control of their lives, some people have even reported they have made a ‘full recovery’.

When your thoughts and feelings, perceptions and memories become ‘disconnected’ from your own sense of identity and reality, it changes who you feel you are and the way you see things. This is the basics of what happens during dissociation.

Don’t get me wrong here, at times we all feel disconnected, that’s natural and usually happens without us realising, e.g. everyday we take the bus, train or drive to work down the same route, yet often don’t really have any recollection of the journey itself. But when it happens on a regular basis it can be scary, confusing and traumatic.

Dissociation can be seen as a defence mechanism helping people to survive traumatic experiences. Experts state that it is generally regarded as being caused almost exclusively by chronic and extreme abuse, mainly sexual abuse, and often at the hands of caregivers.

Research suggests that approximately 20% of DID survivors are male. However this is arguably not necessarily an accurate picture. Men often feel under greater pressure to hide their struggle due to society’s demand on them to be ‘strong’, and they are more reluctant to seek help due to the increased stigma of being a sexual abuse survivor. Therefore are less willing to seek help and so a diagnosis isn’t given.

Men also are more likely to ‘act out’ their emotional pain, and so many unfortunately end up in the Criminal Justice System, as opposed to women, who are more likely to end up in the Mental Health System. There is thought to be a high proportion of men in prison who suffer from a dissociative disorder, but it is often misdiagnosed as schizophrenia or a personality disorder. It is no surprise that many of them have been sexually abused as children.

With DID, people experience shifts of identity as separate personalities. Each identity can assume control of the body, behaviour and thoughts at different times. Each has a distinctive pattern of thinking and relating to the world. Severe amnesia means that one identity may have no awareness of what happens when another identity is in control. The amnesia can be one-way or two-way. Identity confusion is usually moderate to severe. It also includes severe depersonalisation and derealisation.

The aim of treatment and self-help for DID is to bring about increased connection between feelings, thoughts, perceptions and memories, and to foster a sense of empowerment. This creates a greater sense of wholeness and internal order, and less disruption in work, social and home life.

The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation provide guidelines for the treatment of DID; our colleagues over at First Person Plural offer support and information to DID survivors of sexual abuse; and our friends over at PODS (Supporters of Dissociative Survivors) offer support to partners or family members of people who suffer from a Dissociative Disorder.

For further information, click on the links below.

ISSTD seeks to advance clinical,
scientific, and societal
understanding about the
prevalence and consequences of
chronic trauma and dissociation.

ISST-D

First Person Plural is a small UK-wide membership charity led by volunteers who
have lived-experience of dissociative identity disorder (previously known as
‘multiple personality disorder’) or other childhood-trauma-related complex
dissociative condition with a similar presentation (e.g. type 1 dissociative disorder
not otherwise specified).

First Person Plural

The mental health charity, MIND, produce some fantastic booklet’s on various issues and subjects, certified by the Information Standard. Why not have a look at this one on Dissociative Disorders

Mind

pods logo

This page has been checked and approved by our friends and colleagues at PODS (Positive Outcomes for Dissociative Survivors) who work hard to make recovery from dissociative disorders a reality through training, informing and supporting.

PODS provides:

  • information and awareness training days/workshops to inform and educate about the reality of living with and recovering from dissociation, trauma and sexual abuse, suitable both for dissociative survivors, their supporters and professionals such as counsellors and psychotherapists
  • opportunities for survivors, partners and supporters to meet together and provide mutual support
  • a weekly telephone helpline
  • ongoing e-mail support
  • resources such as an e-magazine, Information Booklets and Emergency DID Information cards
  • signposting to other organisations

Check out PODS fantastic website at www.pods-online.org.uk.

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