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Always Connected?

The Cov-19 pandemic has meant that many of us have been working from home for some time. But this has been a mixed blessing. While there is more time to spend on yourself and family due to not having to commute, the line between working time and leisure time has become blurred. Take email for example. You take a long lunch because it was a nice day and the dog was really enjoying her walk. So you log back into work for an hour after the kids are in bed. There is an email from the boss, do you reply? It’s going to take more than an hour to research the answer and reply to him.

The culture of companies can have an enormous impact on the mental health of employees. Some companies have an “always on” / “always connected” culture. Meaning it is expected that you are available at all hours of the day or night. I personally believe a balanced approach to extra hours is fair and reasonable. So, there are busy times (the end of a project, month end, year end, etc.) and an employee should expect to have to work harder / longer at these times. Correspondingly, when there is less demand employers should redress the balance (added time off, leaving early, etc.). An employer that always wants you to work at 100%+ all the time will only be rewarded with high sickness levels, high staff turnover, stressed employees and burnout.

Recently, some European countries have passed “right to disconnect” laws. These laws mandate that employers must have a policy for email use after working hours. The idea is to reduce the number of employees having to use email after work and over the weekend.

Today, email is an integral part of business and is an incredibly powerful communication tool. So much so, that employees often feel pressured to check email out of work hours. According to one recent study, the average employee spends 28% of their working day on email and 45% of employees check their work email out of hours.  This means you never properly switch off from work to recharge, recover and relax. And this, in turn will impact your relationships with friends and family. As Jacqueline Leo (American magazine Editor and media Producer) said, “One look at an email can rob you of 15 minutes of focus. One call on your cell phone, one tweet, one instant message can destroy your schedule, forcing you to move meetings, or blow off really important things, like love, and friendship”.

And Jacqueline Leo’s point is supported by research. Soviet era Psychologist, Bluma Zeignarik, found that people can recall tasks that are uncomplete or were interrupted 90% better than tasks that were completed without interruption. This Zeignarik effect means that uncompleted tasks stay in our minds much longer than completed tasks. Our minds see emails as mini-tasks and so email can be on your mind 24/7. As the inbox begins to pile up, you can’t stop thinking about all of those incomplete tasks. 

So what can we do? Well here are some suggestions.

  • Learn to switch off, unplug from work and be strict with yourself.
  • Develop a non-digital hobby – physical sport, a craft or gardening.
  • Use the features of email to help you. Set an auto reply when busy or unavailable, block spam, Inbox rules (auto file some emails in folders without reading them immediately).
  • Unsubscribe from unnecessary newsletters, mailing lists, etc.
  • Allocate and block out time for email, for work, for lunch, etc.
  • Use the calendar and set reminders to do things.
  • Follow and encourage other to use good etiquette – Avoid reply all (should this be a meeting?), send emails in normal working hours, think about who you copy in, etc.

As Gretchen Rubin (American Author) said, “Technology is a good servant but a bad master”. Make technology work for you – be its master, not its slave.

Hypnotherapy can be an effective way to help you with stress, anxiety and burnout. If you feel this could be for you, then contact me.

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World Mental Health Day

The World Health Organisation recognises World Mental Health Day as 10 October every year. The objective of World Mental Health Day is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and help mobilise efforts in support of mental health. It’s also an opportunity for those working in mental health to talk about their work and the issues they face.

It’s important to realise that being mentally healthy isn’t just the absence of a mental health problem. To be truly in good mental health, you must be able to make the most of your potential, cope adequately with life and be able to play a full part in your family, workplace, community and among friends. Further, good mental health is characterised by a your ability to learn, the ability to feel, express and manage your emotions, the ability to form and maintain good relationships and, finally, the ability to cope with and manage change and uncertainty.

The theme this year was set by the World Federation for Mental Health and is ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’. As Jagmeet Singh (Canadian Politician) said, “To me poverty, mental health, and addictions don’t sound like criminal justice problems. They sound to me like a social justice problem”.

The last few years have highlighted inequalities due to race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, and the lack of respect for human rights in many countries, including for people living with mental health conditions. These inequalities have an enormous impact on people’s mental health.

It is thought that between 75% and 95% of people with mental disorders in low and middle income countries are unable to access mental health services at all. Access in high income countries is not perfect either. Lack of investment in mental health compared to the overall health budget contributes to a significant mental health treatment gap.

I have written before about the stigma and discrimination experienced by people who experience mental ill health. It not only affects a person’s physical and mental health, stigma also affects their educational opportunities, current and future earning and job prospects, and also affects their families and loved ones.

The 2021 World Mental Health Day campaign ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’ will enable us to focus on the issues that perpetuate mental health inequality, both locally and globally.

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health and you think they could benefit from hypnotherapy then contact me.

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Uncertain times

It seems we are living in uncertain times. I try to remain positive and not worry too much, but worrying is an aspect of who I am. I have had some moments of pause and reflection on the world as it is now. Winter is on the way, COVID is still with us, the NHS is near breaking point, there are fuel shortages, potential food shortages and a spike in energy prices.

While these problems are real and should not be downplayed, I realised I was experiencing a period of anxiety. And this is understandable, normal and nothing to worry about in itself. But having a great deal of uncertainty about what the future holds is a challenge to our mental health and can lead to anxiety and depression. This is all the more so for those already dealing with issues as the fear of being out of control and unable to deal with uncertainty are common characteristics of many anxiety disorders. As Rosie Weatherley from MIND (UK mental health charity) said, “A lot of anxiety is rooted in worrying about the unknown and waiting for something to happen”.

So at times like this it’s good to remind ourselves how to protect our mental health and look out for others who may not be coping as well as we are. Firstly, make sure you have access to high quality, truthful information. If you are going to worry about something make sure it’s real.

Consider when you want to consume information. Checking the news first thing in the morning and again in the evening is probably better than being constantly bombarded all day long. Also, try to avoid things that trigger your anxiety. There are some media outlets that seem obsessed with alarming people and are always trying to predict the next big crisis.

Stay connected to people you care about and people who care about you. Limit your time with those who are very pessimistic or negative. Also, having a routine can be good to remind you that life, day to day, goes on.

Anxiety UK (UK charity for those with anxiety) suggests practising the “APPLE” technique to deal with anxiety and worries.

• Acknowledge. Notice and acknowledge the uncertainty when it comes to mind.
• Pause: Try not to react as you normally. Pause and breathe.
• Pull back. Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are not statements or facts, they are just thoughts or feelings. Remind yourself this is just the worry talking. The seeming need for certainty is not necessary.
• Let go. Let go of the thought or feeling. You don’t have to respond to them. They will pass. You can perhaps imagine them floating away in a bubble or cloud.
• Explore: Explore the present moment, because right now, in this moment, all is well. Practise mindfulness – notice your breathing, the sensations of your breathing, notice the ground beneath you. Look around and talk in what you see, what you hear, what you can touch, what you can smell. Once you have centred yourself, shift your focus of attention to something else. Focus on what you need to do now, on what you were doing before you noticed the worry.

Hypnotherapy can be a powerful tool to help with anxiety and other disorders. If you feel that hypnotherapy can help you then contact me.

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Stopober

Stopober is the UK annual quit smoking campaign organised by Public Health England. It encourages smokers to make an attempt to stop starting on 1 October. It runs for the whole month because research shows that if you can stop smoking for at least 28 days you are five times more likely to stop permanently.

The campaign provides inspiration and resources to help you stop smoking. This year is all the more special as it the tenth anniversary of the campaign being launched. It’s thought that more than two million smokers have used the campaign to make an attempt to quit. So, if you are thinking about quitting, perhaps now is the time to give it a go.

Quitting smoking is probably the best thing you can do to improve your health and those around you. Even if you’ve smoked for a long time, quitting will reduce your risk of many heart and circulatory diseases. Reducing the number of smokers will help the NHS as well. As David Byrne (Scottish Musician) said, “The true face of smoking is disease, death and horror – not the glamour and sophistication the pushers in the tobacco industry try to portray”. It’s never too late to quit and you will start to see the benefits almost immediately. And it’s not just your health that will improve, your finances will too.

Smoking also effects those around you. Second-hand smoke, or passive smoking, is when you breathe in someone else’s cigarette smoke. Passive smoking increases your chance of getting heart and circulatory diseases, cancer and breathing problems. Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of second-hand smoke as their bodies are still developing.

Once you start smoking it’s hard to stop because nicotine is so addictive. Consequently, stopping smoking is, put simply, very difficult. It’s thought only about 1% of all people who try to quit without any support will be successful. But, remember you are not alone. Make sure to enlist the encouragement of friends, family and colleagues. The NHS has a number of ways to help and support you. The Stoptober mobile phone app is available on the App Store and Google Play. It shows you how much money you’re saving, and sends you a daily email to boost your motivation. You can also join a community of fellow stop smokers and receive more personal support.

Also, the NHS Stop Smoking Services are free, friendly and can massively increase your chances of quitting for good. Your GP, Asthma Nurse or Pharmacist can advise you, talk to yours about treatments and aids, such as Champix or nicotine patches.

Hypnotherapy can be an effective way to help you stop smoking. If you feel this could be for you, then contact me.

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Are You Sabotaging Yourself?

“If you don’t believe in yourself, somewhere or another, you sabotage yourself.” Jason Day (Australian Golfer)

So, what is self-sabotage? Some say it’s Self destructive behaviour, such as smoking or drinking excessively. And while that can be the case, that’s not quite what I am talking about here. I am thinking more of self-limiting beliefs and behaviours, such as “I have no will power” or “I am unlucky in love”.

As with any problem or concern it’s important to not let it define you and explore the root cause of it. Often these self-sabotaging behaviours stem from a lack of self-love, lack of self-worth (self-esteem) or a lack of self-belief / confidence. Another way to express this is the thought that ‘you are not enough’, not deserving (of love, success, etc.) or I am lucky to have got where I am now and that’s enough for me. All these are self-sabotaging thoughts. Hypnotherapy has a range of techniques to help explore the reasons for these thoughts and address the resulting unwanted behaviours.

Despite what you may think this is not your mind playing tricks or trying to damage or harm you. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Your subconscious tries to keep you safe, happy and away from pain. Your conscious mind would pull your hand away from a flame without a thought. And your subconscious does the same with physiological pain. But often this is not a conscious process. So, for example, perhaps you want to stop smoking, but you feel you have no will power. Well, to spare you the embarrassment, anxiety or shame of failing to stop smoking, your subconscious tells you it not possible because of your lack of will power. It doesn’t realise that you want and perhaps really need to stop smoking for health reasons.

Another strategy the subconscious uses to protect you is to bury unhappy or unpleasant memories and traumas. And while this can be a good thing in the short term, having unresolved problems or buried traumas can bring different problems in the long term. Not least because, your subconscious will analyse the buried memories and draw conclusions and learn lessons from them. All this without your conscious mind knowing. These lessons and conclusions may not be correct or are contrary to what conscious mind it trying to achieve.

For example, one aspect of self-sabotaging behaviour is the inability to deal with and process the stress stemming from your lack of self-confidence. So, in a relationship you might wonder, how can they love someone like me? Self-sabotaging people tend to lack healthy coping strategies. So, they may feel that showing they are incompetent or unworthy is a way to untangle themselves from emotional, personal or work demands.

Even successful individuals may have self-destructively or sabotaging urges. This may stem from a feeling of anxiety, unworthiness or from an impulse to repeat the process that made them successful. As Mitski (Japanese Musician) said, “I always have strong urges to sabotage myself. Whenever someone says they like something about my music, I tend to not want to do that anymore. It’s not even that I don’t like it anymore: it’s that I keep trying to find ways for people to dislike me”.

Hypnotherapy can be a powerful tool to speak directly to the subconscious and ask it to change and support the changes you want to make in your life. If you feel that hypnotherapy can help you then contact me.

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Grief Awareness Day

30 August is National Grief Awareness Day. If you have not experienced grief yet in your life you have been very fortunate, but it’s highly likely you will at some point. This day is about examining grief and raising awareness both of how to cope with grief yourself and how to help others.

Grief is a complex response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone you loved. Although usually less extreme is can be a response to the loss of something else, such as a large amount of money, a job or a cherished pet. Grief is usually thought of as an emotional response but it can have physical, cognitive, behavioural, social, cultural and philosophical dimensions as well.

Many believe in the five stages of grief and this is a good way to describe the process. The stages are;
• Denial. The first reaction is disbelief. Some sort of mistake must have happened. It is natural to cling to some hope no matter how unrealistic it might be.
• Anger. When denial has run its course then frustration and anger at the situation is common. Responses such as ‘Why has this happened?’, ‘Who is responsible?’, ‘Why me?’.
• Bargaining. This involves the hope that the crisis can somehow be avoided. This may include negotiation with god to have time to achieve something, perhaps attend an important event, in exchange for a lifestyle change.
• Depression. You despair at the reality of the situation. In this stage you may become withdrawn, sullen and mournful.
• Acceptance. You embraces the reality of the situation and the inevitability of the outcome. In the case of people who are dying, this acceptance often is reached before the loved ones around them.

What these steps don’t convey is that the stages are not always sequential. A grieving person may not always go through them once and you can bounce between them for minutes, hours, days or even months. For example, when my Partner’s father died, he was extremely busy with work. He dealt with practical aspects, arranged the funeral, etc., but did not really grieve. It was the first anniversary of the death that triggered a grieving process. Each person is different, as is their methods of grief and coping.

Grief is a normal reaction to a loss and in most cases will lessen over time and not cause any lasting problems. The amount of time spent grieving and in each stage of the process can vary from person to person and depend on the nature of the loss. But, some people find it difficult to move on and this can cause problems that may need some additional help. Hypnotherapy can help to:
• Reduce the symptoms of grief
• Organise their grief so that you can grieve but not all the time
• Find a way to grieve that doesn’t overwhelm you
• Change your perception of the loss
• Deal with feelings of (survivors) guilty or regret
• Reconnect to memories of the person, without painful feelings or distress
• Allow you to access feelings of calm and strength
• Assist you to socialise and reintegrate into society
• Empower you to achieve necessary goals and tasks

When someone has experienced a loss it can be hard to know what to do or say. I know when I have lost close relatives, some of friends withdrew not knowing what to do or say and not wanting to make things worse. But in fact, a helping hand, a laugh and a joke or a comforting presence can go a long way. So, offer that helping hand, lend an ear or a thoughtful message and be there for them. Help, how and when you can, and if they are struggling then encourage them to seek expert help. If you or someone you know could benefit from hypnotherapy then contact me.

And finally, remember, as George Elliot (British Author) said, “Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them”.

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Just for laughs

16 August is national Tell a Joke Day. So here goes. What’s the best thing about Switzerland? I don’t know, but the flag is a big plus.

It’s nice to share a good laugh, but did you know it can actually improve your health? It brings people together in a way that triggers healthy physical and emotional changes. Laughter also helps to strengthen your immune system, boosts mood, diminishes pain and protects you from the damaging effects of stress. Best of all, this priceless medicine is fun, free, and easy to use.

When we are children we laugh all the time but as adults life tends to be more serious and laughter less frequent. But by seeking out opportunities for humour and laughter, you can improve your emotional health, strengthen your relationships, find greater happiness and perhaps add years to your life. As Jasper Carrot (British Comedian) said, “Laughter is the best medicine. Unless you’re diabetic, then insulin comes pretty high on the list.”

So, how does it work? Well, the benefits of laughter are many. It relaxes the whole body. A good laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes. This also decreases the production of stress hormones and increases immune cells and antibodies.

Laughter not only burns calories but triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain. It also improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular issues.

Nothing diffuses anger and conflict faster than a shared laugh. Looking at the funny side can put problems into perspective and enable you to move on from confrontations without bitterness or resentment. It can also help you shift perspective and allow you to see situations in a more realistic, less troubling light. A humourous perspective creates psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and so diffuse conflict.

Laughter draws you closer to others, which can have a profound effect on all aspects of your mental and emotional health. Also, a study in Norway found that people with a strong sense of humour outlived those who don’t laugh as much. The difference was particularly notable for those battling cancer.

Humour can also aid creativity. As David Ogilvy (British Businessman) said, “The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible”. So, perhaps you are brainstorming ideas and someone says something funny and everyone laughs. But what if we could change this or that, perhaps it becomes a great idea.

In truly dark times, laughter can gives you the courage and strength to find new sources of meaning and hope. Even in the most difficult of times, a laugh, or even simply a smile, can go a long way toward making you feel better.

Here are some ways to start:
• Smiling is the beginning of laughter, and like laughter, it’s contagious. Recall something pleasant or fulfilling and smile.
• Count your blessings (You could literally make a list). The simple act of considering the positive aspects of your life will distance you from negative thoughts that may block humour and laughter.
• When you hear laughter, move toward it. When you hear laughter, seek it out and ask, “What’s funny?”
• Spend time with fun, playful people and people who laugh easily, both at themselves and at life’s absurdities, and who routinely find the humour in everyday events.
• Try to bring humour into conversations by making humorous observations or telling funny stories.

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Introspective Hypnosis

If I can inspire one spark of awareness or get a spark of introspection or reflection about someone else’s life, that’s a beautiful thing, in my opinion. – Noah Centineo (American Actor)

As you may know, one of my passions is past life regression. But I am also a qualified practitioner of Introspective Hypnosis. So what is Introspective Hypnosis? Well it was originally created by Aurelio Mejia and has been adapted and taught by Antonio Sangio and Alba Weinman. It’s a collection of overlapping and complimentary Hypnotherapy techniques that help you to explore and heal the body, mind and soul. These include Hypnosis, Forgiveness Therapy, Role Change, Past Life Regression, Spirit Assistance (aka Spirit Releasement), Soul Fragmentation and Recovery and Entrapment of the Soul.

Now that may sound a little complicated, but in practice it means getting access to a person’s subconscious and look for the origin of psychological problems or psychosomatic symptoms such as fears, phobias, addictions. Often these are caused by a past event in this life or in a previous one. Other techniques within the Introspective Hypnosis family are then used to deal with these problems and bring relief.

Yes, I did just say that the root of a problem may be in a previous life. Deep in the mind we have traces of past experiences that it is not convenient to remember. Past-life recall comes from long-term memory stored in your subconscious. The soul’s history is stored in the Akashic Records which you are able to contact through your unconscious mind. Exploring your past lives can reveal a new understanding of your personality. This can explain why you are drawn to certain places, types of people or have a particular interest in something.

So, knowing the source of a problem is a key step towards solving it. Introspective hypnosis is used to release emotional conflicts and look for the origin of psychosomatic diseases in order to find and remove the triggering emotion from the problem. Regression therapy is a technique in which hypnosis is used so that a patient safely remembers the moment at the root of their phobias, fears, sadness, anguish, eating disorder, low self-esteem, insecurity, pain, obesity, obsessions, allergies, addictions, etc. Other techniques, such as Forgiveness Therapy or Soul Fragmentation, are then used to understand the reason for a condition, forgive, accept and reprogram their mind to generate a healing effect.

This is a very powerful, but gentle, technique and experience over many therapies has shown me that, in most cases, one session is enough to provide relief if not a full cure. If you feel this is something that can help you, then contact me.

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Burnout

Feeling helpless, disillusioned, and completely exhausted? Then you may be on the road to burnout. Feeling like this for short periods is not a concern, but if you feel like this most of the time you may be burned out.

Burnout is a gradual process, it doesn’t happen overnight, but it can creep up on you. It’s a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.

Burnout may be the result of constant stress, but it isn’t the same as stress. Stress usually involves too much – too many demands, too much to cope with physically or mentally. However, stressed people feel that if they can just get on top things, get everything under control, they’ll feel better. Burnout, on the other hand, is characterised by not enough. Burned out people feel empty and mentally exhausted, devoid of motivation and beyond caring. People with burnout usually don’t see any hope of an improvement to their situation.

Susceptibility to burnout can be influenced by three main factors – work, lifestyle and personality. Work related causes include feeling like you have little or no control over your work, lack of recognition or reward, unclear or overly demanding job expectations, monotonous or unchallenging work and a chaotic or high-pressure environment. Lifestyle factors include working too much without enough time for socialise and relax, lack of close, supportive relationships, taking on too many responsibilities and not getting enough sleep. Personality traits can also contribute including being a perfectionist, having a pessimistic view of yourself or your environment, the need to be in control and a reluctance to delegate to others.

Turning to others and socialising is a powerful antidote to burnout. Enjoyable time spent with friends and loved ones can have a positive impact on mood and outlook. Correspondingly time spent with negative and aggrieved people will have the opposite effect. Where possible limit contact with these people.

Most of us spend a large part of our lives at work. Being happy there is important. So, developing friendships with people you work with can help. Having friends to chat and joke with during the day can help relieve stress and make the day more enjoyable.

Everyone must find some value in what we do. So, even if your job is mundane you can often focus on how your role helps others by provides a product or service, either for external or internal customers. Focus on aspects of the job that you do enjoy, even if it’s only chatting with your co-workers at break time.

If you truly hate your job, then looking for meaning and satisfaction elsewhere in your life might by helpful. Perhaps in your family, friends, hobbies or voluntary work. Remember focus on the parts of your life that bring you joy.

Your lifestyle and habits can be a good way to address burnout. Things like taking a break from technology, making time for relaxation and ensuring you get plenty of sleep are a good place to start. Learning to set boundaries and limiting responsibilities will allow you to feel more in control. Also, nourishing your creative side is a good reliever or stress. Perhaps something new, start a fun project, or resume a favourite hobby.

It might be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re burned out but physical activity is a powerful antidote to stress and burnout. It’s also something you can do immediately and easily to boost your mood.
Diet is also an important area. Try to minimize sugar and refined carbohydrate foods as these can affect your mood and energy levels. Other areas include using caffeine, nicotine and alcohol in moderation or not at all if possible. 

Hypnotherapy can help relieved a wide range of symptoms of burnout and help you to make the changes to avoid it in the future. These include relaxation, boosting confidence / positive affirmation, meditation, progression muscle relaxation and stress reduction. Also it can help you to deal with sleeplessness, smoking, alcohol use or weight gain, Furthermore it can help with better diet – eating disorders, sugar addiction, comfort eating and any other unwanted or problematic habits. So if you think I can help then contact me.

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IT’S OK TO NOT BE OK – Part 2

“Despite being commonplace, too many people with mental health problems still face stigma, prejudice and discrimination”. Luciana Berger (Former MP for Liverpool Wavertree, UK).

A few weeks ago I wrote about the importance of seeking help early on when you are struggling with mental health, and indeed physical and emotional health. I struggled to write that post as I had so much that I wanted to say on the subject. I found a way through it by splitting what I have to say into more than one post. This time I want to focus on stigma and discrimination around mental health.

Stigma and discrimination can contribute to worsening symptoms and reduced likelihood of getting treatment. This can, in turn, leads to a range of symptoms including reduced hope, isolation, lower self-esteem, increased psychiatric symptoms, difficulties with social relationships, reduced likelihood of staying with treatment and difficulties with family and work.

This can be all the more common in men. As Mauro Ranallo (Canadian Sports Announcer) said, “I believe the biggest stigma right now, with mental health, is that a lot of men are not talking about it”. Typically, men are slower or less likely to seek medical help with physical and mental health issues.

Mind (UK mental health charity) provide support for those with mental illness or those caring for them. Meanwhile, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (a US based group) has some useful suggestions about what we can all do to help reduce the stigma of mental illness. These include:
* Talk openly about mental health. It’s not something to be ashamed of.
* Help to educate others. Challenge misperceptions or negative comments by sharing facts and experiences.
* Be aware of language used. Words matter. Avoid and challenge the use of derogatory, judgemental or stigmatising language.
* Promote equality and parity between physical and mental illness. For example, draw comparisons to how someone with cancer or diabetes is treated.
* Show compassion and care for those with mental illness.
* Be honest about treatment. Normalise mental health treatments, just like other health care treatments.

One further, very powerful, approach is to choose empowerment over shame – “I fight stigma by choosing to live an empowered life. To me, that means owning my life and my story and refusing to allow others to dictate how I view myself or how I feel about myself.” Val Fletcher (Deputy Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health).

If you, or someone you know, is feeling stigmatised, here are some ways you can deal with it. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, get the treatment you need. Try not to let the fear of being labelled with a mental illness stop you from getting the help you need. Sadly, mental health issues are rarely something you can deal with on your own.

Do not believe the hype. When you hear or experience something often enough, you start to believe it. Do not let other people’s ignorance influence the way you feel about yourself. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of and is not a sign of weakness. Talking about your mental health issues with healthcare professionals will help you on your road to recovery or management. Even understanding what the issue is, that it’s not unique to you, and that there are well used treatment options can help to reduce anxiety and isolation.

Many people with mental illness choose to isolate themselves from the world. This can be a block to getting the help they need. Reaching out to people you trust, such as family, friends or religious leaders, will mean you get the support you need. Some companies offer confidential help and advice to their employees. Connecting with others can be very valuable. Doing so, either online or in person, can help you deal with feelings of isolation and make you realise that you are not alone in your feelings and experiences.

Remember, your illness does not define you. You wouldn’t say, ‘I am cancerous’. This simply change to the way you talk about your illness can be very powerful. So, instead of saying ‘I’m a schizophrenic’, say ‘I have schizophrenia’. It’s a condition, it happens, it’s not what I am. There is real power in language.
Don’t give up on people who seem judgemental or insensitive. It’s rarely personal. Their language or judgements often come from a lack of understanding or information rather than anything else. If you feel able, then education and inform them. Importantly, do not believe that their views have anything to do with you personally.

So, as Mark Twain (American Writer) said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started”. Reach out, talk to someone and get the help you need.