An Illuminating and at times sobering talk on Mental Health

Aug 21, 2017

Karen Janas - President

This month our president Karen Janas, who works as a mental health counsellor and psychotherapist, gave us an illuminating and at times sobering talk on mental health.

It was shocking to learn how common anxiety and depression is in our society, especially amongst young people, one in ten having a diagnosable mental health condition at some point. The wait for treatment can be from 9 to 18 months and then only half of those with a diagnosed condition receive the help they need.

We were reminded that some anxiety is normal and is essential for our survival as human beings – the ‘fight or flight’ response we learned about at school. However, an excess of anxiety in our lives can lead to such disorders as phobias, panic disorders, obsessive compulsive and post-traumatic stress disorders.

Self-help strategies to counter worry and anxiety were explained. These include deep breathing, also known as nature’s tranquiliser, accepting imperfection and planning a response to a stressful situation.

Depression is closely linked to anxiety and may follow on from it. A sufferer described it as ‘living in a body that fights to survive with a mind that wants to die’. Winston Churchill, a lifelong sufferer, called it “the black dog”. Karen explained the neuroscience and outlined warning signs such as feelings of hopelessness, guilt, irregular sleep and difficulty in making decisions.

Of course, drug and talking therapy plays an important part in its treatment but help can be obtained by having active fun, talking to family and friends, developing good sleep hygiene and, interestingly, cold water immersion can be beneficial.

Learning how to be mindful is an important skill and to this end we were all given a raisin to hold, examine and smell before eating one half then the other and fully appreciating it with all our senses before swallowing it. This mindful eating can help sufferers of anxiety and depression who sometimes cope with their condition by overeating.

During members’ time, some of us were busy labelling and decorating pots of homemade jam for our stall at Wellington Flower Show, and we were all encouraged to enter a class or classes in the show! Cakes and volunteers were requested for the World Wellington Boot Championship, where our jams and pickles will also be on sale.

We were delighted to hear that a poem written by one of our members is one of those chosen to represent Somerset Federation in the Lady Denman Cup competition, so fingers crossed for that. We were also reminded to keep knitting and crocheting poppies for the planned displays around the town for Remembrance Sunday.

Our next meeting is on Thursday 21 September, 7.00 for 7.30 at The Beambridge Inn, Wellington, Somerset. Our speaker will tell us about her work with elephants in Africa. Visitors are most welcome to come along.

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