Welcome to the blog for Free Your Mind mental health anti-stigma campaign

This is the blog for the Free Your Mind campaign which aims to battle stigma towards mental illness through the use of music, art, film, and culture.
The blog consists of informative and, hopefully, entertaining articles/posts.
Enjoy! :-)

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Happy New Year from FYM

Well, here at Free Your Mind we hope you all had a good holiday!

The Free Your Mind campaign has lots of plans for the year ahead. We will be heavily concentrating on continuing to establish ourselves in the community of Croydon, as well as continuing to bring you updates on this blog.

Recently, we had a small article about Free Your Mind published in the festive edition of the Hear Us Croydon mental health user group's newsletter. Thank you to Hear Us for that.

Until 2011,
Happy New Year! 
Nicola Edwards of FYM

Friday, 10 December 2010

Will Compulsory Treatment Orders Encourage Stigma Towards Mental Illness?

The government is discussing the use of treatment orders to force community care patients to take their medication. A CTO will mean patients released from hospitals in England and Wales could be forced back if they do not take their medication.

The central reason for the changes in the Mental Health Act is for these changes to be an extension of the powers which already allow people whose mental illness makes them a threat to themselves or others to be detained and, if necessary, forcibly treated. In this way CTOs may contribute to the stigma towards mental health problems by reinforcing the belief that a person with a mental illness is a threat.

For someone to be put on a compulsory treatment order (CTO), an application has to be submitted to a Tribunal by a mental health officer. The Tribunal itself is made up of a panel of three people:

  1. A lawyer;
  2. A psychiatrist;
  3. A person with other skills and experience, e.g. a nurse, social worker, or someone with personal experience of a mental disorder.
Critics of the compulsory treatment orders are dubious of the scheme's ethics, and are concerned because it has not been shown to work in other countries. Mental health charities say the powers are excessive, will not improve people's health and could be misused.

Simon Lawton Smith, of the Mental Health Foundation said: 

'This may help a small number of individuals... but taking away anyone's right to treatment is questionable.'

'No-one with a physical health problem is compelled to take their medication, even if not taking it might be life threatening.'

Treatment orders have also faced criticism under the claim that a large contributing factor to them being put in place is to save money on hospital beds. However, Professor Louis Appleby, the national clinical director for mental health, and the man driving the introduction of the new powers, said it was "completely untrue" to suggest they were motivated by potential financial savings.

Compulsory treatment orders have already been in effect in Scotland since October 2005.

Do you think these changes to the Mental Health Act have been thought through? Do you think they will help people and improve quality of life? Or, will it only contribute towards the stigma and discrimination?

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Inspiring Mental Health Videos

I haven't blogged in a while due to a hectic schedule - my apologies.

This post will be slightly different from usual. Free Your Mind presents to you an offering of a couple of inspiring videos found on the internet about mental health issues.
Nicola E. of Free Your Mind

"On October 2nd 2010 a quarter of Barnsley Town Center froze for 3 minutes to raise awareness of mental health discrimination."

Below is Time to Change's 'Schizo Movie' advert.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Children and Mental Illness

I have been mentally ill for as long as I can remember, and that includes as a child. Approximately 10% of children and young people aged 5-15 years old have a mental health problem and a small percentage will have a severe mental illness.

If you are worried about your child's mental health,it is important to contact your GP. The following is a list of signs which may be displayed in a child or young person with a mental illness:

  • Decline in performance at school
  • They receive poor grades despite strong efforts
  • They repeatedly refuse to go to school
  • They regularly worry or feel stressed
  • They suffer from persistent nightmares
  • Hyperactivity and fidgeting
  • Persistent disobedience and aggression
  • Frequent temper tantrums
  • Depression
  • They get sad or irritable.
You must remember that everyday stresses can cause changes in a child's behaviour, and it is not only important to recognise such behavioural changes, but also to differentiate them from signs of a mental health disorder.

Medication affects young children differently from older children or adults because their brains are in a state of very rapid development. However, if left untreated, serious mental illnesses themselves can negatively impact on brain development. At the same time, even if a young child is diagnosed with a mental illness, it does not necessarily mean medications have to be used.

As a child I showed most, if not all, of the warning signs of a mental health problem. And it is not surprising when you consider the fact that 1 in 5 children have a mental illness (which is 1 in 4 in terms of adults). So if you feel your child may be mentally ill, contact your GP as soon as possible!

Monday, 1 November 2010

Time to Change is Making Headlines

Mental health campaign Time to Change, which is also aimed at battling stigma towards mental illness, has been very busy recently.

You may have heard about Erik and Time to Change's 'Don't Get Me Wrong' video in which Erik, who has been diagnosed with severe depression, conducts a social experiment to show how people can be prejudiced towards mental illness. And you may have even pledged to help end mental health discrimination after hearing about this social experiment, many people have, including myself. If you haven't already, please do so.

Time To Change (pledge)

Time to change also entered the spotlight when three media volunteers with schizophrenia and schizo-affective disorder appeared in tabloid newspaper The Sun, whom are not know for sensitively reporting mental health problems.

And Time to Get Moving week saw supporters running hundreds of events across the country, ranging from Bollywood dancing to football tournaments, involving nearly 50,000 people.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Patients Need Quicker Access to Therapy

There is no doubt that therapy is essential in treating mental illnesses, but one in five people with mental health disorders do not get the therapy they need from doctors. The mental health charity Mind says that those waiting less than three months from assessment to treatment were almost five times more likely to report that it helped them get back to work than those waiting between one and two years.

I was assessed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) in 2005, with still no kind of therapy or "talking treatments"; I am on the waiting list, but I'm finding the wait highly frustrating! And, what is even more frustrating is that I am by no means the only one.

With all the recent government spending cutbacks the mental health sector is heavily feeling the strain, and this is sure to make therapies even more scarce. Doctors will be forced to prescribe even more medication than the are already doing so. Quality of treatment will suffer.

Access for patients to therapy is very slow, available therapies will be even harder to get hold of, and patients will continue to be pawned off with drugs, leaving their mental health to suffer as a consequence. What can we do?

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Understanding Eating Disorders

Eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia are common and are very serious mental illnesses; being dangerously underweight can be fatal. Eating disorders are common in both adults as well as teenagers. These type of mental health problems also occur in men and are becoming increasingly common.

Anorexia is termed by doctors as 'anorexia nervosa', and bulimia as 'bulimia nervosa'. Other eating disorders include Binge Eating Disorder (BED) - this is like bulimia but without the sufferer attempting to get rid of the food/weight (aka. 'purge') - and Compulsive Overeating. The difference between Binge Eating Disorder is that BED is constant, whereas Compulsive Overeating comes and goes in cycles.

The psychological signs of anorexic disorder include:

  • a distorted perception of your body shape or your body shape or weight
  • an intense fear of gaining weight
  • an obsessive interest in what others are eating
  • becoming aware of an 'inner voice' that challenges your views on eating and exercise
  • changes in your personality, as well as mood swings
  • denial of the existence of a problem
The behavioural signs of anorexic disorder include:
  • rigid or obsessive behaviour towards eating; such as cutting your food into tiny pieces and pushing your food around the plate
  • vomiting and/or taking laxatives
  • wearing big, baggy clothes
  • restlessness and hyperactivity
The psychological signs of bulimic disorder include:
  • uncontrollable urges to eat vast amounts of food
  • a distorted perception of your body weight and shape
  • an obsession with your food, or feeling 'out of control' around food
  • emotional behaviour and mood swings
  • isolation - feelings of helplessness and loneliness
  • anxiety and depression; low self-esteem, guilt and shame
The behavioural signs of bulimic disorder include:
  • food disappearing unexpectedly or being secretly hoarded
  • periods of fasting
  • binge eating and vomiting
  • disappearing to the toilet after meals in order to vomit food you've eaten
  • excessive use of laxatives, diuretics or enemas
  • excessive exercise
  • shoplifting for food; abnormal amounts of a money spent on food
  • secrecy and reluctant to socialise
The lists above are not definitive, and those with an eating disorder may not experience all of these symptoms.

Although each eating disorder results in different eating behaviours, each occurs when sufferers cannot separate their emotions from cannot separate their emotions from their eating habits. The self-esteem in those with these kinds of mental illnesses is thought to be low. Individuals with low self-esteem will often give off a beaten appearance; for example, walking with their head down. Those suffering from an eating disorder think that they are ugly. Genetics are also thought to ply a part in causing eating disorders.

Eating disorders are more common than you might think, and they are very mental illnesses; which is why understanding them is important. The two most well known eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, but there are others! And, like any mental illness, an eating disorder can affect anyone, not just young women.

Another campaign I am fond of is 'All Walks' which aims to challenge the fashion industry's view of the body beautiful, find out more here.

I hope this information was useful, and if you have anything thing to add, please do! 
Take care.
Nicola of FYM

Thursday, 14 October 2010

The Story of Titch-Films: Katie's Sectioning

This is just a quick post linking to one of my other blogs, which is film and television centred. The post is about a screenwriting project I am working on which is centred around mental illness. Feel free to let me know what you think!
Take care.
Nicola E. of FYM.

The Story of Titch-Films: My Life of Moving Images: Working Title: Katie's Sectioning: "I am currently working on a screenwriting project with the working title of 'Katie's Sectioning' The plot is centered around the female lead..."

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

What Causes Mental Illness?

Psychiatric disorders can be caused by a number of factors; and although the term mental illness can be misleading by implying that all mental health problems are solely caused by medical or biological factors, this is not the case. In fact, most mental illnesses are caused by a mixture of biological and social/psychological factors.

Biological causes can include how our individual genetic make-up (genes) might put us at more or less risk than others of developing a mental illness. For example, some people may be biologically vulnerable to experiencing depression, and may do so during stressful periods. It has also been found that those who have suffered severe head injuries can also experience changes to their personality, and in some cases may even begin to experience schizophrenia and other symptoms of psychosis.

Biological causes include the misuse of substances and their effects, such as hallucinations.

Social and environmental causes are those factors around us, such as; where we live, who we have around us and can rely on, where we work, and how and where we can relax. Stress in these areas can put a lot of pressure on our mental well-being.

Psychological factors influence your mental and emotional state, especially if, like me, you are coping with traumatic and abusive past and/or current experiences.

Like most, my mental illness results from a complex interaction of different factors. My mental health is influenced by genetics as well as past and current experiences.

It is important to understand what causes mental health problems because this information can give people the tools to reduce the risk of a mental illness becoming too severe.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Psychiatric Wards 101: What it's Really Like Being Sectioned

When many people think of psychiatric wards they think of steel doors and padded rooms, when in reality the truth tells a different story. To enter a psychiatric hospital, a mentally ill person can go in voluntary, or, more often than not, they can be sectioned. I myself have been sectioned on four separate occasions in the past four years. However, you only want to be detained in a psychiatric hospital as a last resort.

When someone with a mental illness is sectioned, they are placed under a Section, which states the terms of their stay on the hospital ward. However, one can be taken off a Section, or have it prolonged by the ward psychiatrist during their time in hospital.

For you to be sectioned three people must agree that you need to be detained in a psychiatric hospital; there are, however, exceptions made in emergency situations. These three people would usually consist of: an Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) or nearest relative, a doctor who has received special training and a registered medical practitioner.

A person can be detained for up to 28 days under a Section 2. An admission to hospital under this section is normally used when the patient has not been assessed in hospital before or when they have not been assessed in hospital for a considerable period of time.

An admission to a psychiatric hospital under a Section 3 can last for up to 6 months, but it is common for one to be discharged before this point. You can be detained under Section 3 if you are well known to the psychiatric services and there is little need for assessment.

My own experiences of psychiatric hospitals and their wards have been both negative and positive. (Note: there were no straight-jackets.) Every patient has their own room, there are communal areas, and most things are based on routine. You see the ward Doctor and have a meeting with them (known as "ward round") on the same day once-a-week, and meal times are also at the same time every day.

There are always staff on the wards at all times; some of whom, unfortunately, hold their own prejudices towards the patients and their mental illness.

Hospital wards often provide activities and therapies for the patients; including art therapy, occupational therapies and, even, massages.

Entering hospital for the first time can be frightening and very upsetting, but you do get used to things and you will usually find you adapt quickly.

The terms by which one can be sectioned under the mental health act are very confusing. But, as a patient, you wont usually have worry too much about it, unless you want to appeal. Being detained on a psychiatric ward can be scary, but you do get used to the routine.

I would love to hear your own experiences with psychiatric hospitals and wards.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Stigma Facing Those Diagnosed with Mental Illness

People diagnosed with mental health disorders are stigmatised and discriminated against in pretty much any area of life, even in the places where you would least expect it. For instance; my inspiration for the Free Your Mind campaign came from the stigma and discrimination I faced, because of my mental illness, from the nurses during a stay on a psychiatric ward. 

A survey carried out as part of the Time to Change campaign, which also addresses discrimination towards mental illness, the survey found that people diagnosed with a mental health problem are more likely to be turned down for a second date if they disclose of their mental illness, than those who reveal they have spent time in prison.

Many of us with mental health problems do find it hard to date. Personally, most of the dates I have been on have bombed if I reveal I am mentally ill. People become afraid and can also quite often assume my mental illness means I'm stupid, or even dangerous, but I'm not! Sometimes they do ask for a second dates but as time progresses, arguments happen, and they use your mental health diagnosis against you. (I normally break it off at that point.)

Another survey by Time to Change found that 92% of people in Britain felt their job prospects would diminish if they were to disclose of a mental illness. The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) at present does, to a degree, protect individuals who make the very brave decision to reveal to their employers they have a mental health diagnosis, but "one must prepare for a hard struggle to make use of that protection" says solicitor Kiran Daurka.

Unfortunately, the tabloids often report on mental illness in a negative, prejudice and ignorant way. Take the treatment of Britney Spears' "breakdown" and eventual sectioning. Also look at the more recent treatment of X Factor contestant Shirlena Johnson and her alleged mental health problems; however, does having a history of mental illness, or even a mental health diagnosis, mean that somebody is incapable of taking part in The X Factor, or at handling fame? No is doesn't.

When somebody is diagnosed with mental health problems and they have children, the people around them start to question whether that person is fit to be a parent, and often they can perceive behaviours in the person with the mental illness that are not actually there. Even those who understand a bit about mental health disorders can still hold prejudices, particularly when a friend or loved one with a diagnosis has others in their care.

Having a mental illness does not make someone incapable of caring for children, performing well at work, and of being of being smart and articulate. People with a mental health diagnosis are discriminated against far too often!

Read more about discrimination towards mental illness here.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Understanding Schizophrenia

Psychosis is the term Doctors give to, the widely misunderstood mental illness, schizophrenia. The first schizophrenic "attack" normally occurs when a person is in their late teens to early thirties. Despite popular belief, people who suffer from psychosis are rarely violent or homicidal; we may behave bizarrely, we may even be frightening, but we are essentially harmless.

I have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder with schizo-affective disorder. In other words I suffer from auditory and visual hallucinations, as well as paranoid delusions.

Sometimes I hear voices. There are two distinct voices; one is a female, and the other is male. The female is cheery and never tries to bring me down; the male, however, is vile and vicious. I used to experience these auditory hallucinations more in my teens, now it rarely happens.

Sometimes the hallucinations are both auditory and visual; I will imagine an entire situation, which isn't happening, but all seems very real to me. This often occurs periods of severe stress and low mood.

When I have paranoid delusions I believe I am being watched and I become suspicious of the behaviours of those around me.

Hallucinations and delusions does not necessarily make me a danger to others. I am more more likely to hurt myself rather than anyone else.

There are three recognised types of schizophrenia; paranoid, catatonic, and disorganized. Paranoid schizophrenia is what I suffer from - hallucinations or delusions about persecution or grandiosity.

Catatonic schizophrenia is a type of psychosis where the sufferer is often mute or immobile; they may, however, experience compulsive, excessive, and strange motor movements that result in bizarre postures.

A person with the disorganised form of psychosis experiences few delusions or hallucinations, but displays unpredictable behaviours, such as inappropriate affection or rambling speeches.

The following is a short non-definitive list of the early earning signs of psychosis (none of which on their own are the mental illness):

  • Severe sleep disturbances; unusual waking hours or inability to sleep
  • Deterioration of personal hygiene
  • Cutting oneself, threats to harm self and/or others
  • A severe inability to concentrate and pay attention
  • Rambling speech
It is still unclear what exactly causes psychosis, but what is clear is that there is definitely more than one answer. Schizophrenia has been attributed to a number of causes, including; inheritance, lack of dopamine (neurotransmitter) in the brain, stressful life events, family experiences and personality, and drug abuse.

Psychosis can consist of paranoia, delusions and hallucinations. And still very little is known about the mental illness. Experiencing schizophrenia can be very distressing for the sufferer. But as I said before in the previous post Creativity and Mental Illness, psychosis is linked closely to creativity. We are more likely to be imaginative and creative, than to be dangerous.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Creativity and Mental Illness

The Free Your Mind campaign has its roots in creativity as it aims to use art, music, film and culture to battle stigma towards mental illness. And it seems to me that mental illness and creativity go hand in hand. There must be a link!

Psychosis is the mental health problem in particular that is believed to spark creativity. The thought processes associated with mental illness have been proven to be an advantage; for example, anxiety at a non-clinical level has survival advantages.

My diagnosis includes psychosis, and there is no denying that I'm a creative person. My brain has a tendency to over think everything and it is very imaginative; and I have a photographic memory. I also have a terrible short-term memory; my long-term memory, however, is remarkable. Which I'm sure is all due to my mental illness.

The bizarre thinking patterns associated with psychosis are likely to be what spark creativity. Typically, a psychosis sufferer will make unusual associations and illogical connections. However, when it comes to being creative, this is a clear advantage.

University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson says, "The normal person classifies an object, and then forgets about it, even though that object is much more complex and interesting than he or she thinks. The creative person, by contrast, is always open to new possibilities." This is also how the minds of those diagnosed with mental health disorders, such as psychosis and bipolar disorder, work.

Mental illness is nothing new. It has been around for thousands of years. Therefore; evolutionary theory suggests that in order for them to still be here they must have some kind of survival advantage. Admittedly, my mental illness has hindered me a lot, getting me sectioned and in trouble with the police, but at the same time it really get the creative juices flowing and that has been a real life-line for me.

Along with writing blogs (I have three in total; one on Myspace, one on the subject of film, television and my career - Titch Films - and this one), my creativity also comes out in the forms of screenwriting and poetry writing.

Relatively little is known about mental illnesses, even now, but I am certain that time and research will show a definite link between creativity and mental health disorders. What do you think?

Monday, 6 September 2010

Sleep Disorders

I haven't posted in a while because I was unsure of what to write about. But then I came across a post on the Internet about sleep disorders. Before I talk about that, though, I wanted to just fill in regular readers on the progress of the Free Your Mind campaign. As you may already know Free Your Mind is a campaign which aims to battle stigma towards mental illness through the use of art, music, film and culture; and, as you may not necessarily know, the last blog post was the first of many posts which will be centered around the campaign's core aims. So, with this post I am in danger of going back on myself but this was something I felt needed to be aired.

For a long time now my CPN and psychiatrist has been telling me that my rocky sleeping pattern is all my own doing and absolutely nothing to do with my mental illness.

I have trouble falling asleep and when I do I sleep for a long time. Along with that, I am told I move about a lot (night tremors) and I have very disturbing dreams that stay with me all day. The following is the research I found on sleep disorders.

The symptoms of sleep disorders often go unnoticed by the person concerned. These symptoms can express themselves as snoring, nocturnal sleepwalking and gnashing of the teeth. (I gnash my teeth all the time.) Nocturnal sweating and urination also impairs your sleep when suffering from a sleep disorder (Yep.), and this can sometimes result in bed-wetting.

The research I found says that most sleep disorders are caused by anxiety and stress. And to beat sleep disorders you can meditate, stay positive and keep a balanced nutrition. Which I completely agree with. But, at the same time, surely the state that my sleep problems are in should be ringing alarm bells in someone's ears, and not just mine! Or maybe my CPN's right and this is something I have to sort out by myself?!?

Monday, 23 August 2010

How Art Can Calm the Mind

Art is an expression of thoughts and feelings, as well as an outlet for creativity. It is well known that mental illness fuels creativity, and being artistic can be a great therapy. The arts can be used as a natural way of calming the mind, and can contribute towards improving the state of your mental health.

As I've said, your mental illness can fuel your creativity; many famous artists and writers alike, are reported to have experienced mental health disorders. I'm not saying being mentally ill mean you will be able to make a living out of being an artist - obviously, if your skilled and passionate, go for it - but art is for us amateurs too.

Being creative can be an outlet for anger and frustration. This seems an obvious one, but think about how you feel after a good moan to a friend about the stress of life; this is how it can feel after expressing these emotions artistically. Indulging your creative side can also help with mental health problems such as anxiety; being artistic provides a successful distraction.

When choosing which method you will use to express yourself creatively, its up to you, but my advice for you would be:

  • choose a method of artistic expression familiar to you (e.g. oils, watercolors, poetry, playing an instrument), or, alternatively, choose a couple of new creative outlets to try
  • choose a method of creativity easily accessible to you
  • don't worry about getting it perfect and, importantly, enjoy yourself!
Admiration of art can also contribute towards calming the undesirable symptoms of a mental illness. From watching a decent film, to reading a book of poetry, or a great work of literature, you can provide yourself with a healthy distraction from negative thoughts and emotions. Going to an art gallery can be both inspiring and uplifting. Visiting an art exhibition at a gallery has two major benefits for those of us diagnosed with a mental illness, especially those with an anxiety disorder; we leave the house and are provided with another healthy distraction. Many art exhibitions and galleries are free to enter - the Internet can be used to find out about free galleries or exhibitions near you - so don't let budget be your excuse not to go.

Expressing yourself through art, in any of its forms, can be a great outlet for unwanted thoughts and feeling, along with being a distraction from them. And, being a spectator of the arts can be extremely motivating.

I'd love to know what your thoughts are on what I have written and how the arts can help with mental health problems.

Monday, 9 August 2010

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline personality disorder (BDP) is the mental illness I personally have been diagnosed with when I was 18 (this is the age from which one can be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder). Before doing research for this blog post I was unsure of quite exactly what my diagnosis meant. In my last post (read here) I wrote about the importance of understanding mental illness, and Free Your Mind is all about enlightening yourself to help in the battle against stigma towards mental health disorders, so I would be contradicting myself anyway if I did not learn more about my own diagnosis.

This is what I found.

The primary feature of borderline personality disorder is an extensive pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image and emotions. Those diagnosed with BPD are also prone to being very impulsive. This disorder is one that occurs in most by the time they reach early adulthood.

Impulsive behaviours are highlighted, in what I have found, as a main feature of borderline personality disorder. As I investigate further I will explain how I relate to these behaviours.

Someone diagnosed with this disorder will also have most of the following symptoms:
  • Frantically trying to avoid real or imagined abandonment
  • A pattern of unstable and interpersonal relationships; which is characterised by alternating between extremes of idealising the situation and devaluing it, and feeling unworthy of love
  • Significant and persistent unstable self-image or sense of self
  • Impulsivity; normally in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., sex, substance abuse, spending, binge eating).
I just want to stop listing symptoms for a moment to talk about my experiences with borderline personality disorder and the impulsive behaviours related to it. The two areas I experience impulsive behaviours in most are sex and substance abuse. A few years ago I was in a relationship with a drug addict who also used to sell the stuff, he got me into taking crack and cocaine - which with my impulsive behaviour wasn't hard - and I am not proud to say this but that soon became my main reason for being with him. (However, I did finally pick up my self-respect and ditch him.) My impulses led me to stay in a destructive relationship where I devalued myself to stay with someone for shallow reasons, although he was no saint either, he was abusive and manipulative, which just adds to show the danger the impulsive behaviours of BPD have gotten me into.

Added to the above, my experiences with impulsive behaviours include getting into other kinds of trouble. Unfortunately, at the end of last year, I was raped due to leaving my keys in my front door whilst asleep at night; how this links to impulsivity is that it was from these behaviours that this situation transpired. Almost a whole year before this incident, I had been drinking alcohol (I no longer drink) and decided to go shopping at night, I walked to the bus stop and got talking to two men I met there.I stupidly asked them to come back to my flat, where I decided I liked one but not the other. The one I wasn't interested in left, and I don't think I need to go into detail about what happened next. Almost a year later, the man I had turned down tuned up at my flat, demanding to be let in, I said no and called the police. The next time he came by, I was asleep in bed and had left my keys in the front door.

I'm sharing my experience with you purely to show how I relate to my research. If you do choose to form a negative opinion of me, that's fine, you're perfectly entitled to your own opinion. I just prefer being open and honest.

Back to the list:
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness
  • Recurrent suicidal behaviour, gestures, or threats, or self-harming behaviour
  • Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling temper
  • Transient, stress-related paranoid thoughts or sever dissociative symptoms
  • Emotional instability, which is due to significant reactivity of mood (e.g., irritability, anxiety, or intense episodic dysphoria, which usually lasts a few hours and very rarely a few days).
Personally, I can relate to all of the symptoms listed above. I know how frustrating it is to be in a constant flux of emotions My disorder has hindered me from doing things when I wan to do them, such as university and furthering my career, due to hospitalisation, etc. But I'm determined not to give up.

Of course, I have barely scratched the tip of the iceberg in this post, but as I delved into my research I wanted  to at least write about how I relate to what I had found about the main symptoms of borderline personality disorder. I hope to explore this particular mental illness further in future posts.

As always, your comments are more than welcome. If you have anything to add to what I have said and/or an opinion on it, please do share!

New Posts! April 2012 - posted new blog posts on the subject of borderline personality disorder and other personality disorders.

Friday, 6 August 2010

The Importance of Understanding Mental Illness

Mental illness is difficult to understand which can lead to prejudice and discrimination. Misperceptions surround mental illness and people get confused about the different mental disorders. I strongly believe, therefore, it is important to try to understand mental illness.

The importance of understanding mental illness is mainly down to the fact that this is the most effective way of battling stigma towards those who have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. It is also important due to the commonality of mental illness. 1 in 4 people are diagnosed with a mental disorder, this means that you or someone you love will be affected by mental illness.

Improving your understanding of mental illness is for everyone whether you have been diagnosed with a disorder or not. Learning about mental illness benefits those that have been diagnosed because demystifying your illness may calm any fears you have about it, as well as giving you the tools to manage it. Those with friends or family that have been diagnosed with mental illnesses benefit because it helps them understand suitable ways of helping them. Improving your understanding of psychiatric disorders also helps in the battle of defeating prejudice and discrimination towards mental illness.

Obviously, it would be foolish for me to suggest you find out everything there is to know about mental illnesses, even experts are nowhere near that point. However, a bit of knowledge and compassion can go a long way.

Essentially, understanding mental illness comes down to basic human compassion and empathisation. To understand diagnosed with a mental illness, listening to them and being there for them when they need you is probably the best thing you can do for them. This means you need to know how they are feeling and person is one of the best ways to find these things out.

Learning about specific mental disorders is also a very good idea, and it  doesn't have to be an expensive process either. There are several trusted resources and sources of information on the Internet (see the Links in my sidebar), or, alternatively, you could take trip to your local library.

Expanding on your understanding of mental illness will improve your relationships with other people. If you learn more about your illness and how to handle it, you will find your self-esteem will improve and you will be able to communicate your needs better. Learning about others' illnesses will help you be their for an ill friend or relative when they need you.

So, as you can see, in my opinion there are many reasons for improving your understanding of mental illness, whether you have been diagnosed with one or not. genuinely do believe that removing yourself from ignorance can help make the world a better place.

I would love to know how you think improving your understanding mental illness can help individuals and society.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Alcohol Addiction as Mental Illness (renamed post)

What leads to alcohol addiction? A number of reasons can lead to alcohol abuse; mental illness (although alcoholism is a mental disorder in itself), or a long stressful period, or distressing traumatic event. Alcoholism is a habitual disease, meaning that one gets into drinking as a habit which can be triggered for some reason and the person uses alcohol to feel better and eventually they become reliant on drink. Remember, alcoholism is a mental illness.

Alcohol is a legal drug, so it is easy to get hold of, which means it is more likely for someone to misuse this substance. Alcohol is a downer and, contrary to popular belief, it does not make you happy and giggly - in fact, quite the opposite. Admittedly, it may have this effect at the beginning, but alcohol is also well-known for bringing people down, making them angry or cry.

Believe me my intention is not to lecture anyone! I just hope to answer questions you or anyone may have about alcohol abuse.

I believe, from my observation, is that there appear to be two main types of alcoholics: "functioning alcoholics" and  "full-time alcoholics." Functioning alcoholics are called so because they appear to function well, they can work without drinking and perform many other important daily activities in which they cannot drink without drinking. However, when they do drink, which will still be every day, normally at least 4 or 5 times of the amount of their Guideline Daily Amount. Full-time alcoholics are called so because they will drink from the moment they wake-up to the moment they go to sleep. These people will often suffer from alcoholic fits if they go without a drink for a much longer time than usual.

Dealing with alcoholism is hard on both the sufferer and the people around them. Alcohol addiction is a mental illness, but it is one you can come back from. Help can be obtained from a number of places, including your GP, and as a friend or relative of someone suffering from alcohol addiction you  can help by trying to understand them, and being there for them letting them know how much you care.

Misuse of alcohol can lead to dependency, especially if you already suffer from a mental illness. Trying to understand someone with alcoholism can be difficult, particularly if that person is drunk and angry. But, if you care for that person, your help and support is what they need to beat their addiction.

The above is based on my own experiences and observations of alcoholism. I would love to know what you thought about what I've written in my post and I would also love to know what you think about alcoholism as a mental illness.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

What Does Their Diagnosis Mean for You?

You may have recently have had a loved one diagnosed with a mental illness, and everyone talking about what the diagnosis means for that person, but not what it means for you. This can be frustrating, particularly if you are taking on the role of carer.

I won't lie, things will be hard, but there are services in your local community that can help. However, I will warn you, they can be hard to source; personally, my first stop would be the NHS, as well as Mind and Rethink, along with similar organisations.

Consult and liaise with your loved one's doctor, psychiatrist, and/or team as much as possible; not only about them, but about how you are feeling a well. To help your loved one feel their best, you need to feel your best too. Also, learning about their particular diagnosis, and how to help them, will improve your relationship with them and make life a whole lot easier.

The most important thing you can do for your loved one is be there for them and try to understand them. And, remember, the more relaxed you are, the better things will be.

Related Free Your Mind \Posts:

What is Mental Illness?

What's My Diagnosis?

What's My Diagnosis?

It is common for a person's mental health diagnosis to change on more than one occasion; it is also common for there to be a dual-diagnosis. This is because diagnoses overlap one another, making, it hard to pin-point the mental illness. My diagnosis has changed on a number of occasions.

The effect this has on the person, particularly long-term sufferers of mental illness, is that the medication will change throughout their treatment. This is often due to the undesirable side-effects some medications have, or it could be a case of just finding the right balance to keep that person stable.

It can also be distressing for the person as it can be confusing. Howvere, the label is more there for the psychiatrists - a person is more than their mental illness.

As I have mentioned before, mental illness is hard to define. A lot of people don't tell people their diagnosis out of fear of being labelled or judged, they may not even understand it themselves and feel others won't either. This is espcially true when the diagnosis changes!

Diagnoses do and will change; it is just something we have to live with The important thing to remember is that our diagnosis does not define who we are as a person. If you do feel the burden of your diagnosis, try to leave it at the doctor/psychiatrist's door.

Related Free Your Mind Posts:

What is Mental Illness?

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

How to Deal With Someone Having a Panic Attack

Panic attacks are common with sufferers of mental illness. Panic attacks are unfortunately one of the many symptoms of a mental health disorder. However, this is one factor of mental illness that can be controlled to some degree.

Seeing someone having a panic attack can be distressing, but the important thing to remember, a the other person, is to remain calm. I hope I can advise you how.

Look the person in the eyes and tell them to focus on you, and retain eye contact; chances are they are feeling alone right now and doing this will help bring them back.

Tell them to take deep breathes - in through the nose, out through the mouth - do this with them and this will calm you too. Reassure them and tell them how important they are to you.

Do this until they are calm.

It may be best to follow this with some thoughts to what triggered the panic attack and how to avoid the same thing in the future.

It's all in the calmness and breathing.

Related Free Your Mind Posts:

Coping With a Mentally Ill Friend or Relative

Inducing Calmness

Inducing Calmness

Stress affects all of us, but especially those whom suffer from a mental illness. To function in the "outside world" people expect us to be calm rational individuals. But how is this possible when you have a mental illness? How do you combat stress?

Well... if you've got the money I suppose you could have a day trip to the spa. Otherwise, if you're on a budget, like me, there are cheaper alternatives.

The following relaxation techniques can help with emotions such as anxiety, or anger. I use most of these techniques as often as possible.

Technique #1: Music, candles and incense. This is a personal favourite of mine. Of course, just listening to music, or lighting candles, or incense, by themselves can be extremely relaxing; but I recommend a combination of all three. If you're in a bad mood, I nrecommend steering clear of the heavy metal, or trance, and putting something mellow on.

Technique #2: Bath or shower. I know, it sounds simple, but honestly, it works. Let the water wash away your troubles of the day. Immerse yourself in the water to get that truly refreshed feeling when you get out.

Technique #3: Be creative. Let your emotions fuel your creativity. Why not relax by doing a painting, or writing poetry, or a story, or playing an instrument. You don't have to be skilled, just embrace your creative side.

Technique #4: Dancing. This isn't necessarily relaxing, but dancing does release endorphins which make you eel elated, and this in itself can be calming.

There are, of course, many other relaxation techniques (feel free to add to my list). But the ones I have listed here are basic and simple, and can be used by anyone. Find what works best for you and soon you will feel calmer.
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Diet and Mental Health

Diet and Mental Health

Diet is not only related to your physical health but also your mental health.

We are all suffering from mental ill-health, whether we have been diagnosed as mentally ill or not. The reasons that are believed to be the cause of mental illness are a combination of factors, including genetics, age and environmental factors. However, nutrition is also believed to play a large part.

It is believed that oily fish, rich in omega 3, can help reduce depression, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), bipolar disorder and dementia. Trout  and sardines (tinned or fresh) are the best sources of omega 3.

Juice can be used to heighten your mood well as provide a healthy, refreshing drink. According to Nish Joshi; whom is qualified in osteopathy and Ayurvedic treatment; carrot juice alone can be used to induce calmness, improve concentration, as well as, be a depression beater.

Believe it or not, but exercise can really boost your mood and I will personally attest to that. You don't have to join a gym! I have bought an exercise ball, skipping rope and a couple of exercise DVDs. Of course you can go further than that and find exercises that suit you better, but you can also use what I do as a starting point. I also advise getting an exercise mat. The important thing is that you choose what works best for you. Exercising releases endorphins which give you that feeling of elation. Whatever type of exercise you decide to do, try starting with three 20 minute sessions a week.

Choosing a sensible diet and exercise plan can improve your mental health, as well as your physical health. You can do this on a budget and you don't have to join. Finding out what works best for you is the most valuable advice I can give you on the subject.

However, it is best that you follow any care-plan you may have along with the advice I have given above. Don't see my advice as an alternative.
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Related Free Your Mind Posts:

What is Mental Illness?

Inducing Calmness

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Following Free Your Mind Campaign

Following the Free Your Mind mental health campaign could not be easier! Well... maybe it could, but we'll get there.

I launched the Free Your Mind campaign last month on the Internet and now have an official FYM Twitter account as well as an FYM Facebook page. I can also be personally followed on my own Twitter account Titch Bitch (this account shows more or less the same updates as the Free Your Mind Twitter account, but the FYM account is prone to spam being sent to my followers and unfortunately I have not worked out a way to stop this).

I also have another blog on Myspace which mainly consists of poetry and random thoughts. It was sort of a practice blog before starting a proper one here on Blogger. If you would like to take a look around, my Myspace page can be found here. It is not updated THAT regularly, but it is every now and again - mostly with poetry. So, if you like poetry it could be the one for you?..

I think that is my Internet presence covered. I'll be back soon with more mental health related posts.

Fashion and Free Your Mind

I would like to take a bit of time to thank fashion designer, Michael Williamson, whom is a huge supporter of the Free Your Mind campaign, as well as one of my closest friends.
Not only is he a highly talented designer, he has been a great friend and huge inspiration to me. Michael has worked on the campaign All-Walks: Beyond the Catwalk, which aims to challenge how the fashion industry (and the public) perceives the body beautiful; addressing issues such as eating disorders in both men and women.

Michael's first fashion collection was shown on the catwalk at Graduate Fashion Week, and it was entitled "Love Letters From Hell". The collection was based on Jack the Ripper and Victorian London. Michael also hopes to produce a collection based around mental illness at some point in his career and Free Your Mind would support him all the way.

So; thank you Michael Williamson for your continuing support. You've shown me beauty is for everyone.

copyright © 2009 Christopher Moore Limited

copyright © 2009 Christopher Moore Limited
ABOVE: Love Letters From Hell
Michael Williamson has his own blog: Safety Pin Charm.

Related Free Your Mind Posts:

What is the Free Your Mind Campaign About?

What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a treatment available from NHS, with the referral from a psychiatric service. There is, however, a long waiting list and it can be hard to get on that list. You can of course choose to see a private therapist instead. CBT is a therapy that is in high demand.

So, how does CBT work? CBT works on the premise that when we have a negative reaction to a situation it is because the meaning we have attached to it causes an automatic conditioned response.

We may behave in an irrational way to a problem and behave in the same way to a similar problem. We don't appear to have learnt from our previous experience, and thus is due to faulty thinking, caused by past experiences, and this is what leads to the automatic response; such as, anger, fear and anxiety.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy identifies faulty thinking, what causes it and addresses it. CBT aims to help you interrupt unhelpful patterns and challenge your thoughts to produce more helpful and rational thinking.

I'm not an expert in CBT; so I will offer up other places you can get information:
Be prepared; CBT is an intensive therapy and aftercare is essential. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is not easy to come by due to long waiting lists; so, I wish you all the best of luck!

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Related Free Your Mind Posts:

What is Mental Illness?

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Saturday, 17 July 2010

What is the Free Your Mind Campaign About?

Free Your Mind is a campaign founded by me, Nicola Edwards. The aim of the campaign is to combat stigma towards mental illness through the use of art, music, film and culture. I came up with the idea for the campaign after suffering discrimination towards my mental illness for many years. And it was during a stay on a psychiatric ward, after suffering abuse at the hands of the staff, that felt something more needed to be done.

I am in my twenties and was first diagnosed with a mental illness when I was fourteen. However, I experienced ill-mental health before that point. My diagnosis currently stands at "Borderline Personality Disorder, with Schizoaffective Disorder."

I would like to share with you some of my poetry.

The poetry I have to offer you is all written by me ans was written whilst I was in hospital. At the time I was very angry as I felt I was being treated unfairly by the staff.


Don't call me crazy
for I'm not mad,
these words mean nothing to me.

Cruel ignorance
displayed by fools
whose judgement means nothing to me.

'Psycho person'
'Mental freak'
'Crazy' means nothing to me.

Who are you to judge
my mental state?
Your opinions mean nothing to me.

You might hear me scream.
You might see me cry.
Tears mean nothing to me.

Don't call me crazy,
for I don't judge you!
Your words mean nothing to me.


Burning red
my anger bubbles
inside my loins
a tirade of screaming.
So loud. I cannot hear
the calm I've
myself with.
So angry
leaving me
almost deaf,
unable to breathe.
Surrounding me
with red noise,
red water,
red boiling blood;
cold to the skin
Burning red
my anger boils.

My Mind

My mind is right
My mind may be wrong
My mind is frazzled
and my thoughts are long.

My mind is pretty messy
My mind is hard to tidy
My mind is described as crazy
and my thoughts are pretty hazy.

My mind is me
My mind cannot be changed
My mind breaks down
and my thoughts are rearranged.

My mind is trapped
My mind wants to be free
My mind engages my mouth
and my thoughts tend to flee.

Life according to me

Believe it you can
do whatever you want
and be anything you want to be.

Life can be a bitch,
so go on and grab it by the leash.

Obviously Different

I'm obviously different
from person A
and person B.

But don't get me wrong
it's not my mental disorder that makes me be;

because that is just a small fraction
of what makes my personality.

They locked me up because
my mind was going crazed,

Upon one look
they said I'm obviously different
and threw away the key.

My campaign differs from the hugely successful Time to Change campaign, and other similar campaigns, in my approach to tackling the issue of discrimination towards mental illness. I am utilizing arts and culture to raise awareness.

 Find out about my experiences with mental illness here.

Related Free Your Mind Posts:

Talking about stigma towards mental illness


Fashion and Free Your Mind

Following Free Your Mind Campaign

Friday, 16 July 2010

Coping With a Mentally Ill Friend or Relative

Dealing with a mentally ill friend or relative can be difficult, but you can help them by listening and being supportive. Being able to understand them better will also help you by giving you the information you need to cope.

Admittedly, not every day can be about their problems, so always remember to take time to look after yourself, this will put you in a better position to help your friend or relative when they need you.

When a loved one becomes mentally unwell, to the point where they may need sectioning, it can be upsetting for those around them. The unwell friend or relative may say or do hurtful things, but what must be remembered is that in all likelihood they probably didn't mean it. This is an important point to be remembered because your forgiveness and continuing support will help them pull through.

If you happen to be a carer, there are services out there than can help you. Joining a carer's group gives you the forum to share your experiences and listen to other carers in similar situations. Joining a group would also give you a support network to fall back on when your friend or relative becomes unwell.

Caring for a mentally ill loved one is difficult and can leave you not knowing what to do. Learning more about their particular diagnosis will help you help them. However, bear in mind when researching disorders that even those with the same diagnosis will behave differently; everyone is an individual.

Further Information Links:
Rethink -  "The leading national mental health membership charity, works to help everyone affected by severe mental illness recover a better quality of life." This links to Rethink's support group search page. My own parents have found Rethink's carer support groups very useful.
Carers4pd - A forum for supporting personality disorder carers. This is a direct link to their carers support page.
Mind - "The leading mental health charity for England and Wales."
Susan Kramms' Blog - Susan is a peer counseller and Advocate for the mentally ill - and I just love her blog. Her posts are both interesting and informative. 
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Related Free Your Mind Posts:

What is Mental Illness?

What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

Inducing Calmness

Wednesday, 14 July 2010


As with many others, I have faced discrimination because of my mental illness; for example, at school, from those around me, the police , and even within the psychiatric system. The level of ignorance scares me. Acceptance of others' differences seems so hard to come by.

Discrimination comes from prejudice, ignorance and fear, and doesn't come from open-minded, empathetic, caring people. People discriminate against what they cannot understand and mental illness definitely fits the hard to understand category. However this does not mean anyone has to stand for it!

My own experiences with discrimination because of my mental illness were what led me to start this campaign. In my opinion, mental illness is not talked about enough, and I believe that by getting tongues wagging we can beat discrimination. If people were more aware then the fear would be gone.

No-one deserves to be discriminated against for any reason, including their diagnosis. We are all human, and we all have the right to be treated equally.

Related Free Your Mind Posts:

Talking About Stigma Towards Mental Illness

What is the Free Your Mind Campaign About?

"Talking About Stigma Towards Mental Illness.."

'Crazy', 'mad', 'psycho' are all words that get bandied around willy-nilly. But having a mental illness does not make you any of these things. There are a lot of myths surrounding mental illness, leading people to make ill-informed comments.

Fear of mental illness is born out of prejudice and ignorance. People fear what they cant understand, especially something they cannot physically see. An open mind is needed when dealing with mentally ill-health.

Just because someone has a mental illness, this does not necessarily make them dangerous. The dangerous sufferers are usually under some sort of intensive care. Most of us have no intentions of hurting anyone.

Schizophrenia (psychosis) is largely misunderstood. As with most disorders, psychosis differs from person-to-person. I seldom hear voices, whereas others may hear them all the time. When hearing these voices it is hard to distinguish these as internal "thoughts" and they seem external. Auditory hallucinations can be accompanied with visual hallucinations. However, and it must be stated, psychosis does not necessarily make a person dangerous.

Psychosis can also be accompanied by paranoid thoughts; such as, the person believes they are being watched, or are an experiment, or delusions that they are a spy, or have special powers. To the person suffering symptoms it can all seem very real and they my be scared. Calling someone in this state 'crazy', or, a schizo, is thoughtless and cruel.

Mental illness can be understood if we are empathetic and open-minded. Watching what we say and what words we choose to use can make a huge difference, especially as mental illness is not commonly discussed - you don't know every one's situation or background.

Related Free Your Mind posts:


What is the Free Your Mind Campaign About?

Sunday, 11 July 2010

What is Bipolar Disorder?

As with all diagnoses, bipolar disorder can mean different things for different people. Bipolar sufferers experience bouts of mania (when they feel on top of the world) and bouts of depression (when they feel that can no longer cope). But this can differ from person to person.

Sometimes bipolar is accompanied by psychosis (but not always!). This can manifest itself in a number of ways - paranoia, delusional thinking, and visual or auditory hallucinations. Therefore, in all likelihood it the psychosis sufferer whom is more afraid of their experience than anyone else should be.

Bipolar disorder and many other mental disorders are more common than you might think. If you have more than eight friends, I can garauntee you know at least two people with mental illnesses.

It's always important to remember that people are more than their mental illness - a person's disorder is not their personality. And; as people are all different, so differs the way in which bipolar manifest itself - some people experience more bouts of mania; whereas, others experience more bouts of manic depression.

If you suspect you have bipolar disorder, consult a doctor right away! As with all disorders, it can be difficult to manage. But, it can be managed!

What is Mental Illness?

Sunday, 4 July 2010

What is Mental Illness?

What is mental illness? That's a tough one. It means different things to different people. And although it is difficult to understand, mental illness should not be feared.

We don't all need to be experts to understand someone diagnosed with a mental disorder. We can understand on a basic empathetic level, we all experience emotional problems at one time or another.

There are too many diagnoses to explain in this short blog entry. However, we only need to know one thing, having a mental illness does not makes someone abnormal If anyhting it makes them all the more interesting!

Just because someone has been diagnosed as being mentally ill doesnt mean they aren't an intelligent, kind and caring person. A person is not defned by thier mental illness.

Mental illness cannot be defined and therefore it is hard to understand. But if we open our minds and push out ignorance and fear, we can get to know the person, and their mental illness becomes nothing more than just one of the many facets of their personality.

Related Articles from Free Your Mind:

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Coping With a Mentally Ill Friend or Relative

"Talking About Stigma Towards Mental Illness"

What is the Free Your Mind Campaign About?