Content note: references to suicide
With the recent death of Anthony Bourdain, many people took to social media to express their grief. A high profile death can bring people together on social media, expressing support for each other while talking about individual and personal struggles with suicidal thoughts.
It’s also a good reminder to check in on our friends and family, offering to listen to any distress they are experiencing and ask how we can help, while also telling them how much we love them.
However, we need to be careful how we talk about suicide. Whether or not we consider social media to be ‘publishing’ platforms, it can be helpful to keep in mind the Samaritans guidelines on suicide reporting.
In particular, it is useful to be mindful of these points:
“Don’t brush over the complex realities of suicide and its impact on those left behind. Remember that people bereaved by suicide are often vulnerable and are more likely to take their own lives than the general population.”
“Speculation about the ‘trigger’ for a suicide, even if provided by a close family member, should be avoided.”
Although the standards of behaviour on social media can leave a lot to be desired, at times of loss and distress, maybe we can all be a bit kinder to each other…
For further support, please have a look at these websites:
I want to highlight this website resource:
Many of the people I work with are experiencing challenges around money.
Sometimes this is because of the increasing difficulties in accessing benefits, or because of a lack of paid work and/or being underpaid at work, or due to pre-existing debt. The people I meet through my work with problem-gambling often tell me that they started gambling in the hope of getting extra money to pay off debts and/or to meet a new financial challenge, liking needing to replace their car. The financial debt that problem-gambling can often create then becomes a trigger in itself to gamble more, in the hope of winning enough money to pay off the gambling debt.
All these situations can be extremely stressful and can feel shaming, so I want to draw people’s attention that there is help and advice out there and encourage people to ask for help. Please have a look at the Money and Mental Health website or Money Saving Expert guide to mental health and debt:
or ring the National Gambling Helpline: 0808 8020 133 if you are concerned about problem-gambling (yours or that of someone close to you).
I’m currently reading Jenni Murray’s book Is it me, or is it hot in here? A modern woman’s guide to the menopause (Random House, 2003). The writing is ‘light’ while taking the subject very seriously, providing personal stories, helpful tips and medical information.
I’d decided to take Murray’s book out from the library after having increasingly frequent conversations with friends about perimenopausal symptoms, some of which can be quite distressing, and about which many friends seemed slightly embarassed. It got me to thinking about what we feel we can share with friends, even friends of the same age and sex, who we might expect to be more accepting of certain ‘taboo’ subjects. It also got me thinking about how we talk about mental health, as increased levels of anxiety are a frequent event in the build up to the menopause…when does our fear and/or feelings of shame stop us from reaching out to those who we normally trust and love?
All this thinking brought me back to a conclusion (which may sound cliched) I’d reached some time ago: we need to do our best to make space for our loved ones to talk about difficult and scary topics, and also ask our loved ones to make that space for us, because most problems seem bigger and more insurmountable when we feel isolated.
I attended a great PODS training event this past weekend: Working with Dissociative Disorders in Clinical Practice.
Carolyn Spring, the founder of PODS, delivers many of the PODS training events. A survivor of childhood trauma herself, she provides a deep insight into how therapists can engage with trauma and dissociative survivors.
One of the standout moments for me was hearing Carolyn talk about shame-related behaviours: “Shame may keep us alive but it may not keep us safe.” This goes to the core of post-traumatic stress disorder – we all possess effective coping skills to get through traumatic events and the immediate after effects. However, we can then start to live with a heightened senses of threat and self-blame, which get in the way of us acknowledging when we are truly safe and truly unsafe, so we have trouble figuring out how to respond appropriately to our world.
There are many ways to manage post-traumatic stress, and reduce these heightened senses, including one-to-one therapy and practices such as mindfulness.
If you are curious about Dissociative Disorders, including support, please have a look at the PODS website: https://support.pods-online.org.uk/helpline
I was profoundly moved by the Peace Festival in Bristol this week.
Here’s a quick introduction from a University of Bristol press release:
“In August 2017, peace activists from Peru and Colombia gathered in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, to discuss the ways in which they had used art and creativity to tell stories about the history of conflict in their countries.”
The film, artwork, and speakers highlighted how important it is to be able to be able to tell our own stories after we have experienced trauma, especially in social and political situations where a dominant narrative might try to silence the survivors. Hence the term ‘memory activist’ – it can be a dangerous and ongoing battle to ensure that the memories and experiences of survivors are heard and, hopefully, justice can be achieved.
I hope to blog here on a regular basis, linking to interesting articles or useful resources, and I’d like to start with something I discovered recently:
The Blurt Foundation
Focussing on depression, Blurt are definitely fighting the battle against the stigma of talking about depression while providing useful resources for anyone living with depression. The Self Care Project book is particularly good…