Trauma and Psychological First Aid (World Mental Health Day)

With a large cup of coffee I’m sat downstairs in my house, waiting for 9am so I can get in my car and drive to work without having to sit through anxiety inducing, stressful traffic that comes as an added extra when you live in a city. Traffic – annoying for everyone, provokes my anxiety so much that I’ve often sat in my car at a standstill, with what feels like the world crashing down on me. It can feel as though there’s not enough oxygen; traffic triggers and agitates me so much that I’m often left battling with myself to not cry – I don’t cry that often, so this makes me hate traffic even more. The thought of sitting in traffic this morning is pretty intimidating, more so as I’ve had a rough night’s sleep.

When I woke up at 5am, after falling asleep a few hours before my mind was spinning with ideas for projects, there was no off switch. Before I fell asleep my mind was a whirling, overloaded mess, my mood was awful and my thoughts certainly weren’t on my side. But what I am fighting to remember this morning is that the past few months have been incredibly difficult. I struggle to reflect, or make sense of things, and often I just go full speed ahead, rather than pausing and processing thoughts, feelings and events.

I woke up incredibly upset and frustrated at myself, my dreams had been continuously reminding me all night of everything that sucks in my life, so by the time I woke up I was exhausted. I’m exhausted after a stressful few months, I’m exhausted after an awful night of sleep, and I’m exhausted because of lots of upcoming, and very present stuff that’s happening in my life at the moment. I don’t have time to reflect, or to recover, I don’t have the energy to focus on my mental health. For some reason I’m fighting all the efforts my mind is making to force me to deal with things, I’m blocking everything out and I don’t know how to move forward. I don’t know how to ask for help when I don’t know what help I need. At the moment I don’t know how to turn to others for support.

Today is World Mental Health Day, with the theme set by the World Federation for Mental Health,’Dignity in Mental Health-Psychological & Mental Health First Aid for All.’

“Every 40 seconds somebody somewhere in the world dies by suicide, and the young are disproportionately affected. Providing more people with basic Psychological and Mental Health First Aid skills will help to decrease the rate of suicide. Psychological and mental distress can happen anywhere — in our homes, in our schools, in the workplace, on the transport system, in the supermarket, in public spaces, in the military and in hospital. Psychological and Mental Health First Aid is a potentially lifesaving skill that we all need to have.” 

– World Federation for Mental Health.

(Professor Gabriel Ivbijaro MBE JP President World Federation for Mental Health)

For me, raising awareness of mental health and being able to signpost others to support is a huge part of my life, while I may not be trained in delivering psychological support or mental health first aid I do know how difficult and intimidating it can be trying to ask for help. It took me years to finally reach out, and I do at times still really struggle to ask for support, so I strive to help others as best I can. This year’s World Mental Health Day theme hits home a little harder, with some of the focus on trauma and how this can impact our mental health.

world-mental-health-day

With World Mental Health Day focusing on psychological first aid and the support people can provide to those in distress I am encouraged to reflect on my own experiences. The past few months have confused me in terms of my mental health – in the past I have been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Anxiety and Depression. However, they have all come from different doctors. When I was in hospital my diagnosis was different to that of the Home Treatment Team’s diagnosis (though this may be normal?) Either way, one thing I do know is that there’s been some events in my life that I definitely consider to be ‘traumatic’ – events that, as much as I don’t want to them to still affect me, really do impact my daily life. I get very embarrassed and ashamed when I speak to others about how these events still impact me; I wish that it was easier for me to accept that I’ve lived through trauma, and that I’m still struggling with this.

For me the impact of trauma is sleepless nights, nights filled with horrible dreams, anxiety and incredible frustration to myself. Slight things can trigger me, whether that’s rain, the mention of certain places and people, and even things in the media. The media has certainly developed (in a positive way) the portrayal of mental health, and traumatic events, however it can still be very difficult for me to consume. When I’m really tired I find it very difficult to block things out of my mind, and I find myself struggling to push back memories, and even the thoughts of “what could have been,” “it’s all my fault” and so forth. Even though the traumatic events I have experienced are in the past they are still (annoyingly for me) very much in the present. With the support of others things have become more manageable, however I still do really struggle at times. Which is why I fully support the advocacy and discussions that start through occasions such as World Mental Health Day. 

 

There are events taking place all around the UK (and the World) today, you may stumble across some, most universities and organisations are taking part in raising awareness. You can find information on events by simply searching World Mental Health day online or using the hashtags: #WMHD16 #WorldMentalHealthDay on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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World Mental Health Day
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9 comments

  1. Reblogged this on Take It Easy and commented:
    I was thinking of posting to mark the fact that today is World Mental Health Day but, having read this post by Ella, she has said it all for me! Please take some time to read her post – she is a great writer – and get to know a little bit about what today is marking.

    Thank you 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Ella – brilliant post.

    I can particularly relate to the sleepless nights and difficulties accepting the past. Do you find yourself having panic attacks whilst trying to fall asleep, or wake up having them? This is something which I experience at least a couple of times a week, and I think I end up panicking about sleeping because of it, which in turn makes it worst! My dreams are also very vivd, often nightmares that I can’t stop thinking about the following day. I think my medication contributes to an extent, but a lot of them occur if I have been trying to block out unpleasant thoughts or experiences during the day.

    Have you tried the Jacobson’s relaxation technique before? This is something I was taught recently in group therapy. There are lots of videos and websites that can talk you through it. It does require a lot of discipline to allow yourself to relax, but I found it more doable than other techniques like imagining a tranquil setting. I still need to practice, but if you take 5 minutes to have a listen to it, then it might be something you find useful. I try and use the technique when I am going to sleep. If that fails, I play the alphabet game to keep my mind occupied! (Think of a topic, i.e. girls names, and think of a name for each letter of the alphabet). I tend to dose off now around the L/M mark!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi 🙂 I get very anxious and jumpy before I fall asleep, and tend to wake up far too anxious to fall back to sleep. I can relate to the vivid dreams, I hate my dreams, but can’t remember a life without them ha! I’ve not tried Jacobson’s relaxation before, I may have a look online about it! (I need something to help me cope!!) also, I’m so glad you explained the alphabet game, because my tires mind was confused for a second haha! 🙂 wishing you well xx

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s so horrible when all you want to do is sleep but your body is overwhelmed with anxiety. Are you able to lucid dream? I do a lot of flying away from people, taking off but falling back to the ground and almost getting caught, and then flying higher and having to squeeze through tiny windows to get away. My therapist suggested that instead of it being just me flying and doing all the work, I should try and imagine a hero who will catch me and fly with me (in my case, it has to be Peter Pan!). I have not managed to get it to work yet, but still persevering! Yeah, the alphabet game does sound a bit strange at first lol, but it does work I find! Take care xx

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think sometimes I lucid dream, but I’ve not figured out how to change things yet ha! I’m gunna try the alphabet thing tonight if I have trouble sleeping! When I was younger I used to recite my times table which always did the trick! Haha xx

        Like

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