As average statistics go, there are just over 6,000 suicides in the UK each year. When you start to think about how many individuals that is per day, it's a sobering thought. Most of us have known of somebody somewhere, who has sadly ended their life. Regardless of how or why it happens, it is an incredibly shocking and devastating thing... perhaps the worst part being that it's rarely inevitable.
But what can we do?
It is hard understand if one has never contemplated it, but for the people that do contemplate it, you have to assume they must be experiencing unimaginable pain. Perhaps they've been suffering from mental ill-health, maybe their self-esteem is at rock bottom or it could be that they've got themselves into seemingly inescapable difficulties. Whatever the root of it, too many people feel ashamed and this often one of the biggest things that prevents them from asking for help.
I believe that we shouldn't let this subject be a taboo. As the #talkingsuicide campaign suggests, "Talking about suicide doesn't make suicide more likely to happen - but not talking about it does."
If you're on Twitter, you can tweet your support using that hashtag, or follow journalist Bryony Gordon (@bryony_gordon) who is a fantastic supporter of all things mental health.
So as one of the main keys for making a difference is listening to people, I want to encourage you to do that because it could save a life. The Samaritans are a FANTASTIC charity and if you want to grab a few ideas for listening well, check out their tips! It's always worth raising awareness about The Samaritans or supporting them in any way you can. A free 24 hour helpline is available for anybody who needs to talk - whether it's the sufferer themselves, or if you are worried about someone else. Another great charity for suicide prevention is CLASP (Counselling Life Advice Suicide Prevention). You can view the website here.
Finally, if you'd like any staff training in your organisation about suicide prevention or related topics, you know where we are.
Thanks for reading!
We've had a wonderful year running training events around the UK. Several of them have been in-house sessions (held on client sites) and others have been public events designed for individuals to attend. As ever our presenters have excelled themselves and shared a great deal of inspiration... Our favourite part of all was meeting and hearing from the wonderful variety of people who chose to attend. These our some of our best bits!
Sometimes it's useful to be reminded that as simple as it sounds, talking can be incredibly helpful and therapeutic for all of us. Open communication builds trust and it's essential for healthy relationships whether that's with colleagues, family, friends or partners. Not only that - it's brilliant for mental health too!
Recently we heard an experience from somebody who had struggled with addiction in their past. Coping alone was the worst thing about it; resulting in insomnia, increased shame and anxious thoughts among other things. When they finally opened up and told somebody they trusted, the sense of freedom was greater than they could have imagined... Talking about it was that crucial first step to recovery.
For most people who suffer with a mental health condition, talking is an essential element to recovery. For some people, being able to talk about their experiences almost becomes the cure itself... So, talk to the people around you! There might be somebody suffering with a mental health condition, a bereavement or perhaps going through a low patch in their life. BE that person who is willing to give them the time of day; help them talk, and then listen.
Sometimes you need to be intentional with the kind of questions you ask. In particular, open questions cause a responder to reflect and reveal a bit more about themselves. Whatever your reason for starting a conversation, here are some handy openers that you could try:
“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky
So next time you think of it - put down your newspaper, turn off your TV or gadget... and start a conversation. Who knows what may come of it.
So.. what's new? We recently ran a practical training workshop in London; 'Building Resilience in Young People.'
It was a fantastic day together and - as ever - it was wonderful to meet such a dedicated collective of teaching staff and school nurses. Apart from the obvious benefits of gaining knowledge and training, it was a great opportunity for encouragement and replenishment.
Anybody working in a school will know how much effort and sacrifice it takes to persevere, especially in increasingly tough conditions... Many staff choose to continue in the profession out of genuine care for children and young people - and this isn't something that should be overlooked! It's so important to be valued and appreciated, and for many reasons that we could list, this just isn't happening enough.
For those of you that can, make it a priority to take a day out and attend some quality training. Let us look after you, enjoy networking with like-minded colleagues and feel enthused as you return equipped with new ideas.
Strategies for building resilience can be applied to people of all ages. We'd like to share a couple of useful tips from the training workshop which you can implement as part of your practice:
If you notice that yourself or the person you're working with has an intrusive/ distressing thought, is reacting to an image/ memory or trigger, try STOPP.
S = STOP
T = Take a breath
O = Observe - describe the feelings, sensations, thoughts etc
P = Pull back or Perspective - what's the bigger picture? Is this fact/ opinion? Is there another way of viewing this?
P = Practice what works - what is the best thing to do right now? For me, others, the situation
Our Building Resilience training workshop is also available as an in-house event. Get in touch if you'd like to know more!
The 14th - 20th May 2018 is National Mental Health Awareness week.
Even for those of us who can only spare a few moments of time, this week provides is a great opportunity to raise awareness about mental health. Whether you choose to do this via social media or through daily conversations with those around you, it's something everybody can make an effort to do (however small)!
In this article we'd specifically like to draw attention to our young people, who are facing a notoriously stressful and pressured time of year. Examinations season isn't easy, and this in turn increases the demand on both parents and staff to provide adequate support. Our expert Zoe is on hand to offer some helpful strategies...
As always, remember to take care of yourself too! It's good to talk.
If you didn’t already know, April is Stress Awareness Month and it’s actually been taking place since 1992. We see this as a great opportunity for raising awareness as well as considering what triggers it and what steps can be taken to relieve it.
Most people will experience stress at some point in their life, however if it’s continuous or severe, the effects can be detrimental for both the mind and body. Stress can be caused by a sudden traumatic event or even just the expectations of daily life. We speak to one of our expert trainers and psychotherapists, Esther and here’s what she had to say...
"April is stress awareness month, although my view is that we should be kind enough to ourselves all year! Being kind to ourselves means beginning to train our minds to notice the signs that tell us that stress is on the horizon, so we can take action to manage it before it engulfs us. Below I offer a couple of tips that can help.
Easier said than done I know, especially during a busy working day! However, it’s important to periodically pause and check in with yourself. I have a discreet noise on my phone that can randomly sound (with a gentle bell every couple of hours) to encourage me to stop, breathe and take stock of how I am doing and whether my thoughts are taking me away from what actually is going on. This need only take a nanosecond and can get me back on track.
What is that (I think I hear you saying...)?! It is an incredibly useful acronym that can be used in the classroom, office, in staff meetings, out loud or as your inner voice. It stands for Feet On Floor Bottom On Chair. When my thoughts take me away from what it is I’m supposed to be doing (which is often down an unhelpful path), just feeling the ground beneath my feet and the solidity of the chair beneath my bottom grounds me and brings my mind back. Clients and patients of mine have been helped tremendously by using this acronym. Successful examples include during exams, interviews, tricky meetings and social occasions when anxiety looms.
And finally, a word about a positive side of stress. Some stress is not only necessary but can be useful – it can show that we care about something and can propel us forward. However, we need to be in control of it rather than the other way around."
If you'd like a session on Stress Management delivered to your staff, let us know!
Check out this quote by writer Anne Lamott... Personally, I find it amusing and also surprisingly true!
There is more of a buzz around self-care lately and it's something I've been thinking about for quite a few months now. When I first heard about it, I thought that the phrase sounded rather self-centred and narcissistic. After all, surely we should be outward looking rather than inward looking?
Upon reflection, I changed my mind. When I look back on recent years and my previous job, I was pretty stressed for a long time. Feeling stressed for a significant amount of time completely de-sensitised me and it just became a way of life. The pressures of targets, expectations and responsibility all weighed down on me and I found it difficult to let go. I smiled less, laughed less and I'm not ashamed to say my family and friends noticed it as well.
Sometimes it's worth a complete change of direction, however not everybody can escape their circumstances. This is where self-care and resilience become so vitally important. Take steps to preserve your wellbeing; whether that's exercise, planning a break, taking a bath, fun with your family... It's ok to prioritise time for your own refreshment. In fact, it's necessary! From my experience, it's difficult to make a positive impact on the world or in other people's lives if you're not in a good or healthy place. If you look after yourself, you're likely to be more productive too... that's win-win!
Several of our experts regularly promote self-care and we've even got a lovely workshop full of practical techniques which will help you and your staff. If you are planning your next INSET day, or you've got some time where you can gather staff together - give us a shout! I promise you it will be worth it.
It's not often that we have the pleasure of meeting with our experts face-to-face. They are so busy in their day jobs, not to mention travelling around the UK presenting workshops and briefings for Olive Branch Consultancy. Esther and Mandy are two incredibly experienced psychotherapists with a huge amount to offer. They are able to deliver on several topics within the field of mental health and pastoral care, and many past participants have greatly enjoyed their training. But why is that? Check out the video to find out more.
'January Blues'... We have all heard the phrase before, but for many people January is a cold, stark reality and it goes without saying it's the most depressing month of the year (when you're in the UK anyway).
So - here we are, it's the middle of January! Now what?
It's very easy to feel down when you start focussing on all the things that are beyond your control or on the current hardships in your life. Whether that's money worries, relationship struggles, health issues or feelings of inadequacy. When you add in a cold, dark month and not a lot else, it's hardly a cocktail of joy! In a way it's similar with a person. Pick somebody close to you and start thinking of all the things you find annoying or disappointing - it doesn't take long for negative feelings to bed in. Yet in contrast, if you start focussing on positive memories, what you appreciate about them and other wondrous attributes then suddenly it's a bit of a game-changer.
Sadly for a large proportion of the population, feeling low is part of an illness and has nothing to do with the time of year. In fact, it's very likely that you know somebody who is suffering or perhaps you're in that position yourself. There are various ways to get help and if you think it might be you, please be encouraged to take the first step.... talk to somebody you really trust.
Wherever you are on the happy scale, the season may be bleak, but will you let your outlook be bleak? Some of the best advice out there is to exercise self-care. However much you might be drowning in workload or worries, purposefully take time out just to pause. Can you find a moment in the day to just be? What makes you happy? For me, it is to venture outdoors (even if for a short while) and find something beautiful. I find it always lifts my spirits, however small the moment. The photo above was taken on a bleak, grey day in mid-winter yet there was still beauty to be discovered.
What will you do in your moment of just 'being'?
I'm Jemima, founder of Olive Branch Consultancy and passionate about delivering excellence with sensitivity and care.