18 May 2020

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This week (18-24 May 2020) marks Mental Health Awareness week, and now it is more important than ever to start a conversation about mental health.

The outbreak of Coronavirus has led to people being away from their loved ones for a long period of time, and in some cases, have unfortunately lost those close to them to the virus - and haven't been able to mourn properly due to social distancing and isolation.

Others are affected by the general disruption to routine life caused by Coronavirus, or battling feelings of low mood for a variety of other reasons, that are not related to Coronavirus.

All these can lead to anxiety and depression.

This week we are encouraging everybody to take time out to talk to someone about mental health. Although face-to-face meetings are difficult during this period, technology has made it easier for us to reach out - you could telephone, text or video call someone, and it could really make a positive difference to someone’s life.

Sometimes talking to a professional can be helpful too. Our Talking Therapies service provides free and confidential treatment and therapy for anxiety and depression. We launched our new website last week. On the website you can:

  • Self-refer into the service within your borough and speak to a professional on video call or telephone
  • Complete a self-check questionnaire to assess your emotional wellbeing
  • Access the crisis line for urgent help
  • Access helpful FAQs and resources.

Patients who have used the service found it to be very beneficial. Here is what they had to say (names have been changed to protect identity).

Jack's story

When I felt completely 'broken' and desperately sad, with no emotional resources left I realised that I needed someone to help me change things. I was struggling to cope with anxiety and depression, resulting in having to stop doing the job I have loved for many years and taking medication prescribed by my GP.

Having previously attended a Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy course with Harrow Talking Therapies I knew that I could self-refer for further help. I hoped that I could recover and get stronger to avoid getting to the same place again.

The on-line referral was straightforward, even though I was anxious. I heard back quickly and had a telephone assessment interview with one of the therapists. We agreed that I might find Cognitive Behaviour Therapy helpful and I went on the waiting list. I was pleased to be sent a copy of the assessment by email. This helped because my memory was a bit unclear.

Having to wait was difficult because I felt desperate but the team stayed in touch and a place became available sooner than I had expected.

My therapist was welcoming and encouraging, explaining things clearly and simply and listening carefully.. We agreed together what to tackle first, helping me to feel safe to talk. Over the eleven sessions I was able tackle things I’ve struggled with for a long time, learned new strategies to cope better and now feel more optimistic about the future.

Hannah's story

My experience stemmed from suffering with severe anxiety and self esteem issues. It was a constant daily struggle dealing with the negative inner voice in my mind. It was a detriment to my own progression in life, I knew this deep down but certain triggers in life did bring such a vicious cycle that I found hard to break until now.

My anxiety was triggered from a constant trail of misfortune in the work world, I was put down, micro-managed, nearly dismissed and worst of all made redundant. I realised that I could not not settle in any job and found myself job hopping at least 12 times during the year. My mind became my worse enemy, and as soon as something in the work place made me feel uncomfortable, my inner voice would beckon me to quit! I felt like a loser and misfit in my work life which inevitably affected my financial stability.

It was until I came across the six week cognitive behavioural course with Talking Therapies in Hillingdon which turned everything around.

I was initially embarrassed and was reluctant to take the course to share my thoughts and feelings. However, the course brought other people from all walks of life, battling the same issue and I felt not alone for the first time!

This course helped massively to understand the triggers of my anxiety disorder. Each session covers a life skill and technique that you can master in your own time and to apply in your day to day life; to stop things spiralling out of control. It inspires you to not feel overwhelmed and to break life struggles into smaller tasks and to seek the right support in order to achieve your life goals.

I personally apply meditation and yoga and use a diary to organise my life goals. I take baby steps and use the diary method to set small tasks during the week to fit into my schedule. I now reward myself more for the small tasks I accomplished. This was all learnt from the course, and ultimately a game changer. It has created the healthy balance I greatly needed and now I try my best to take each day at a time with a more positive outlook. This broke the vicious cycle and now I see my light at the end of the tunnel.

Hannah ends with an important point:

If anyone is struggling with life and feeling unable to cope I would say that there is no shame in asking for help. The Talking Therapies service is confidential, free, easy to engage with and you can refer yourself.