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A Brave New World: How technology could transform mental health treatment

woman experiments with VR technology

Technology and mental health may initially appear at odds. The fast-paced, 24/7 lifestyle that has stemmed from an increasingly interconnected world has often been reported to add to our stress levels and hinder our happiness.

However, a pioneering wave of new research has started to capture how technological advancements may enhance mental health treatment in the UK. While digital can never replace the relationship between a person and a therapist, it may have a real role to play through additional help alongside traditional face-to-face therapy

While most of these technologies are not ready to be used yet and require more research, the following treatments are what could be on the horizon.

ClinTouch Mobile App

Great Manchester NHS Trust recently piloted a mobile app for people recovering from psychosis, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. ClinTouch asks users how they feel a few times a day, generating an alert if a relapse looks likely. As people typically only see a care co-ordinator once a month, the app has the potential to bridge some of the gaps in their care provision. The value of this additional support is significant, especially when symptoms of a relapse can appear within days.

Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual Reality (VR) is an immersive experience that blocks out the physical world and transports the user into a digitally enhanced environment.

VR has been making waves as an effective treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress disorder for a while now. However, it is only in recent years that VR has been trialled as a potential vehicle to aid exposure therapy – when a person is exposed to anxiety inducing stimuli in a safe and controlled environment.

A new project that took place recently involved a computer-generated avatar guiding a user through cognitive treatment programme for fear of heights. The project randomised 100 people with a significant fear of heights to either their VR application or no treatment. Participants had lived with their fear for, on average 30 years. After four or five 30 minute VR sessions, their fear had reduced on average by two-thirds.

VR has also provided a useful environment to teach patients experiencing emotional distress how to restore an equilibrium in their mood. It is hoped that the patient will then be able to transfer these coping mechanisms into the physical world.

Augmented Reality (AR)

Augmented reality (AR) blends the virtual and physical world through an overlay. AR allows the user to access additional information through AR glasses. Initial research suggests that this perceptually enriched experience may present an opportunity to provide realtime feedback to people in non-clinical environments as part of their therapy intervention. Personalised treatment is achieved through the customisation of the virtual world a patient will inhabit.

Modernising Monitoring

Many digital companies are exploring tech’s ability to improve mental health diagnoses. New programmes may be able to analyse:

  • a person’s voice
  • the language of written messages and the content of social media pages
  • how fast a person swipes on a mobile device.

 

Mental health diagnosis frameworks have historically relied on paper questionnaires and people’s memories, so it is hoped that this new form of technology could aid and improve the prediction and monitoring of mental health illnesses.

This story was originally published in the Autumn 2019 Community Living Well magazine. It has been edited for website purposes. Subscribe today to receive mental health and wellbeing tips straight to your inbox, four times a year!

Refer to the Community Living Well service here.


Author: Michelle Jackson
Category: Community Living Well, Primary Care Liaison Nurses
Posted on: 18th December 2019


Support during the holidays

support over the holiday period

Christmas can be an exciting time of the year for many, but it can also be a challenging time, especially for those living with a mental health problem.

For those of you who might be struggling, or who are supporting someone who is struggling, we’ve put together a document with useful contacts over the holiday period. It also contains information on activities happening over the holiday period and where you can volunteer if you’d like to give back over the festive period.

To attend the Peer Support group you must be registered with Peer Support. To refer yourself please complete this quick online form or call 020 3317 4200.

Find out more about Peer Support.

Refer to the Community Living Well service here.


Author: Michelle Jackson
Category: Community Living Well
Posted on: 16th December 2019


Bridging the generational gap

Family bridging the gap between generations

A generational gap can conjure memories of painful family conflicts. While it may be experienced in any family, differing cultural views and practices that can exist within an immigrant family can create additional conflict. Whilst immigrant families from the Middle East, North Africa and Asia may place emphasis on family obligations and social harmony, mainstream British culture tends to celebrate independence, self-sufficiency, and individuality.

As an immigrant adult living in the UK, you may wish to continue your native practices in your new country. However, this may feel at odds with your children who are learning new practices of their own or attempting to cast off the ways of life passed down to them. Balancing this tension with the preferences of your children and the expectations of your community can lead to generational rifts within the family.

As you try to juggle the old with the new, differences may multiply and moments of mutual understanding may become rare. This may leave you feeling frustrated, distressed and trigger symptoms commonly associated with anxiety or depression. You might find yourself worrying a lot or imagining the worst-case scenario. This may disrupt your sleep pattern and make it difficult to relax at home.

There are several steps you can take to defuse the tension, build bridges and achieve conflict resolution.

Communicate openly

Make healthy and honest conversations a part of everyday life at home. Share details about your day with your children, so that they feel comfortable doing the same with you. Listening to your children’s perspectives can help you gain valuable insight into their lives which can strengthen your relationship with them.

Practice acceptance

Accept that your children may have interests, hobbies and attitudes that differ from yours. Treat a clash not as a power struggle, but as an opportunity to use discussion to improve communication and understanding. Try to be accepting of the different opinions and viewpoints your child may hold.

Engage in mutual activities

Demonstrate an interest in your children’s activities and their lifestyle choices. Don’t let your differences divide you – frame them as a positive instead and use them to develop a system of mutual learning. For instance, when you share your culturally significant traditions with your children, let them teach you about an interest that is close to their heart. You can also share companionship by doing mutually enjoyable activities together – even if it’s a hobby as simple as watching a TV show.

Don’t hesitate to ask for help

If you’re finding it hard to reach a common understanding, have a chat with someone outside the family. They might be able to give you a fresh perspective on the situation. Seeking support from friends with similar experiences may help the stress caused by the conflict. You can also make an appointment with a counsellor to talk things through.

Little problems and anxieties can build up and make us feel low without realising. Therefore having someone you can use as a sounding board for your thoughts is helpful. The counselling offered through Community Living Well is a talking therapy in which you can explore difficult, confusing or painful experiences with the help of a clinician. Through this process it is possible to gain insight and find new ways of relating to yourself and others. You can make a referral online at communitylivingwell. co.uk.

This story was originally published in the Autumn 2019 Community Living Well magazine. It has been edited for website purposes. Subscribe today to receive mental health and wellbeing tips straight to your inbox, four times a year!

Refer to the Community Living Well service here.


Author: Michelle Jackson
Category: Community Living Well, Talking Therapies
Posted on: 10th December 2019


Prevent burnout by pressing pause

prevent burnout at work

Everyone should be able to access and enjoy a fulfilling and rewarding career. When a healthy work to life balance is achieved, work can foster a range of health and wellbeing benefits. These can include personal enrichment, mental stimulation and a sense of purpose. However, when this balance is compromised, it can lead to stress. While stress can increase motivation and productivity, if left unmonitored, it can build up resulting in exhaustion or burnout.

What is Burnout? 

  • Burnout is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed and emotionally drained and therefore unable to cope with the demands of life. 
  • Many employees push themselves to the limit and end up putting their health at risk in the process. 

How does it affect us? 

  • Research shows that 51% of UK workers experience burnout. 
  • If left unaddressed, it can make it difficult for you to function and live well in your everyday life. 

Signs and symptoms

Burnout is a gradual and incremental process. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it can spring up on you. The signs and symptoms are subtle at first, but progressively become worse as time goes on. Think of the early symptoms as red flags that are notifying you that something is wrong. Remember that prevention is better than the cure. For instance, if you pay attention and actively reduce your stress, you can prevent burnout.

Behavioural symptoms

  • Alienation from work-related activities 
  • Reduced performance – concentration levels dip and procrastination increases. As a result, work and everyday tasks start to take longer and feel more labour-intensive.   
  • Withdrawing from responsibilities or social situations 
  • Reduced ability to engage in pleasurable activities and relationships 

Physical symptoms

  • Headaches, nausea and muscle pain 
  • Disrupted sleep patterns 
  • Change in diet or appetite  
  • Feeling frequently lethargic and tired  

Emotional symptoms

  • Emotional exhaustion – irritability, low mood 
  • Feelings of ineffectivenessinadequacy and lack of accomplishment 
  • Lowered self-esteem – increased sense of failure and self-doubt  
  • Loss of motivation that is caused from feeling undervalued 

It is important to emphasise that burnout is different to stress. For instance, stress in small doses is fine but when we are continually exposed to stress and anxiety, it can turn into burnout. 

Prevent burnout using our tips 

  • Be kind to yourself – Relax some of your rigid self-expectations. In other words, it may not be possible to have a busy social life, deliver on a big project and meet all your personal fitness goals all at once. Therefore, prioritise; narrow your focus and don’t demand too much of yourself.   
  • Speak to your employer – If your workload feels unmanageable or there is a lack of clarity around what your role involves then speak to your employer to see if any adjustments can be made.  
  • Set yourself a ‘going home’ deadline once or twice during the working week – book a gym class or schedule a meet up with a friend. If you schedule downtime into your diary you will be more likely to find time for it. 
  • Learn to say no and don’t try to please everyone– Drawing boundaries is critical. In other words, assuming new responsibilities without taking stock of the ones you already have can lead to further exhaustion.  
  • Fight off imposter syndrome – Remind yourself why you deserve to be in your position and celebrate your professional and personal victories – no matter how big or small.  
  • Take time out – Integrating relaxation and self-care techniques into your life will allow you to unwind and recharge your batteries after a stressful period. Thus, helping you prevent burnout. Our self-care services can link you up with support in the community. 

This story was originally published in the Autumn 2019 Community Living Well magazine. Subscribe today to receive mental health and wellbeing tips straight to your inbox, four times a year!

Refer to the Community Living Well service here.


Author: Michelle Jackson
Category: Community Living Well, Employment, Self-Care
Posted on: 3rd December 2019


December Peer Support Calendar

Welcome to the December Peer Support Calendar!

We have a wide range of activities and groups on offer this month for our members. Highlights include a visit to the Royal Albert Hall to watch Peer Support favourite Guy Barker and a weekend trip to one of London’s hidden gems, Banqueting House. All our groups are underpinned by the Five Ways to Wellbeing: Active, Connect, Give, Learn and Notice.

Download the Peer Support December Calendar.

New Members

Are you new to Peer Support and looking for company this winter? Join a friendly Peer Support group and connect with like-minded individuals in an enriching and positive wellbeing environment.

If you are just starting to find your feet in the service, we understanding that joining new people at our groups can feel daunting. To help joining be less stressful and reduce your worries, we can offer you a one-to-one introductory meeting on a Monday Afternoon at the Community Hub at St. Peter’s Church, Kensington Park Road, W11 2PN.

Afterwards, you will also have the opportunity to experience our weekly hub. This Monday group is a place for laughter, music, companionship, light snacks and a warming cuppa. If having a slot with a Peer Support coordinator could help you to try out our service, please email us at [email protected].

We hope you enjoy our December Peer Support Calendar. To attend a Peer Support group or book a one-to-one introductory meeting you must be registered with Peer Support. To refer yourself please complete this quick online form or call 020 3317 4200.

Find out more about Peer Support.

 


Author: Michelle Jackson
Category: Community Living Well, Peer Support
Posted on: 26th November 2019


Supporting someone with a mental health problem

Mental Health Support

It can be distressing and upsetting to see someone we love experiencing a mental health problem. Despite your good intentions and desires to help, you may be left feeling powerless and ill-equipped to provide mental health support. Remember that for this person, even having someone check in on them may make a vast difference. It will help them feel less alone, as they are reminded of the fact that people care about how they are feeling.

What symptoms might they have?

Anxiety and depression are not one-size-fits-all disorders. In fact, the symptoms can vary drastically from person to person. Some of the physical signs you can look out for are:

  • Lack of energy or feeling tired all the time
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Poor appetite or overeating
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep or sleeping too much

Emotional signs may be harder to spot if the person isn’t very forthcoming or communicative about their emotional state and their distress is not visible.

  • Changes in behaviour and demeanour
  • Low self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Seeming sad and in low spirits
  • Saying that they feel helpless or hopeless
  • Withdrawal from social situations
  • A lack of interest in activities that were previously pleasurable
  • A decrease in concentration levels
  • Being more irritable and impatient than usual
  • Finding day-to-day life difficult e.g. household chores
  • Trouble relaxing and symptoms associated with restlessness

Top Tips for Providing Mental Health Support

Find a way to get time with them – Let you know you are there for a chat.

Create a compassionate space – Be kind, curious and patient; show your interest in helping.

Ask twice – Often we aren’t prepared to give a full answer when someone asks us how we are. Therefore, it is important to go beyond a passing comment and get to the bottom of how the person is feeling.

Reserve judgement – By fostering a warm and non-judgemental space, the person may feel more able to confide in you.

Ask open questions – Those that invite them to explain more how they are doing. For example – How are you feeling? Do you want to talk about it?

Active listening – Repeat back what they said to ensure you have understood it and pay attention to your body language, eye contact and facial expression.

Display empathy – Validate how they are feeling by reassuring them that you understand or sharing any similar experiences you may have. But try not to make the conversation about you though – always relate your experience to what they are going through.

Don’t try to diagnose – Or second guess their feelings or jump to conclusions.

Let them go at their own pace – Don’t fire too many questions at them and give them enough time to answer.

Respect privacy – Let them lead the discussion so that they can share as much or as little as they want to. Respect that the conversation may be nerve-wracking for them and don’t add to the pressure they may be experiencing.

Offer them help in seeking professional support – By offering to go to their GP with them for instance,  or helping them talk to a family member or fill out a referral form.

Know your limits – Signpost to a mental health support service such as Community Living Well if necessary. However, if you believe they are in immediate danger, then always call 999.

This story was originally published in the Autumn 2019 Community Living Well magazine. Subscribe today to receive mental health and wellbeing tips straight to your inbox, four times a year!

Refer to the Community Living Well service here.


Author: Tamsin Cogan
Category: Community Living Well, Employment, Navigator, Primary Care Liaison Nurses, Self-Care
Posted on: 19th November 2019


World Kindness Day

World Kindness Day

Today is World Kindness day!

Have you ever heard of the phrase kindness makes the world go round? Well it turns out that beyond the warm glow and increase in wellbeing, spreading kindness may even help us live longer! To find out more, read the World Kindness Day BBC article that explores new scientific research into the benefits of kinder living. Are you interested in giving back to your community? Keep reading to find out how you can get involved with our Peer Support Giving programme.

Get involved with Peer Support Giving

Participation in social and community life has attracted a lot of attention in the field of wellbeing research. As a result, anecdotal evidence has found that individuals who report a greater interest in helping others are more likely to rate themselves as happy. In addition, research into actions for promoting happiness has shown that committing an act of kindness can result in improved feelings of wellbeing.`

There are plenty of ways to give back to others in need through the Peer Support programme. For instance, you can give the gift of hope and companionship to people that have walked a similar path to you at one of our Anxiety and Depression Support groups. By sharing your lived experience of anxiety and depression, as well as any coping mechanisms and tools that you have learnt along the way, you will be able to help someone in need. The groups are based on a shared journey of support within which people help each other as equals, share their personal stories, teach, learn and grow together. Therefore, you will also have the opportunity to connect with and feel encouraged by people who know what its like to feel the way you do.

Refer to the Peer Support service here 


Author: Tamsin Cogan
Category: Peer Support
Posted on: 13th November 2019


Talking to your GP about your mental health

Talking to your GP about your mental health
For most of us, our local GP practice is the first place we should go when we are feeling unwell. Here at Community Living Well, we understand that it can be daunting to have a first conversation with your GP about your mental health. It can be particularly difficult to talk about your personal feelings to someone you hardly know – especially when you’re not feeling well. However, always remember that you are not a burden and it is okay to ask for help. Your problem won’t be considered insignificant or unimportant – everyone deserves help and your GP is there to support you. If you are experiencing anxiety, depression or a combination of both, it is possible that you may not have noticed the signs. Symptoms can build gradually over time, making it harder to spot when your mental health has deteriorated.

Why might I speak to my GP about my health?

If you’re…

  • Noticing changes in the way you are thinking or feeling over the past few weeks or months that concern you and cause you distress. You may find these thoughts or feelings too difficult to cope with as they impact on your day-to-day life.
  • Feeling nervous, anxious or on edge and unable to stop or control worrying
  • Experiencing a lot of stress and find that it is having a knock-on effect on your health.
  • Feeling down, depressed or hopeless.
  • Finding it hard to enjoy life and have little interest or pleasure in doing things you previously enjoyed.

Other common symptoms to look out for or mention

  • Irritability
  • Trouble falling, or staying asleep or sleeping too much
  • Feeling tired or having little energy
  • Poor appetite or overeating
  • Trouble concentrating on things
  • Trouble relaxing, unwinding or switching off from your worries
  • Feeling so restless that it is hard to sit still
  • Finding day-to-day life difficult e.g. household chores

What should I say to my GP?

  • Be honest and open and try not to worry about being judged
  • Focus on how you feel but also mention how it is impacting other areas of your life
  • Try to explain how you’ve been feeling over the past few months or weeks, and anything that has changed. A mood diary, for instance, may help you to keep track of the fluctuations in your mood. Mental health is fluid and can change on a daily, weekly and monthly basis so it can be useful to map out regular changes to your mental landscape.
  • Use language that feels natural to you. Don’t worry about trying to fit neatly into a common diagnosis. Mental health is unique to each individual and there is no one size fits all model of support.

How can I prepare?

  • Ask for a longer (double) appointment so that you have time to get everything you want to say off your chest.
  • Write down what you want to say in advance. This can help you structure your thoughts, as well as ensuring that you are able to get all your points across during the appointment.
  • Give yourself enough time to get to your appointment so that you don’t feel rushed
  • Think about taking someone with you to support you, like a close friend or family member. They can back you up or provide a reminder if you forget to mention any of your symptoms
  • Highlight or print out any information you’ve found that helps you explain how you are feeling

How can my GP help me?

Your GP may:

  • Refer you to a service. The Community Living Well service offers talking therapies, peer support groups, self-care projects, help with employment or housing issues and specialist, structured advice from primary care liaison workers.
  • Make a diagnosis
  • Write a prescription for an antidepressant or anxiety medication

There is no right or wrong way to tell someone how you are feeling. Most people find that speaking to their GP and the help they receive as a result of the chat make a huge difference to their lives. Book an appointment today so you can talk through your options and get the support you deserve.

This story was originally published in the Autumn 2019 Community Living Well magazine. It has been edited for website purposes. Subscribe today to receive mental health and wellbeing tips straight to your inbox, four times a year!

Refer to the Community Living Well service here.


Author: Tamsin Cogan
Category: Community Living Well
Posted on: 11th November 2019


Bonfire Night Preparations

While many will enjoy the Bonfire Night celebrations tonight, the sights, smells and sounds may revive traumatic and frightening memories for some people. Central North West London NHS Trust (CNWL)  have published guidelines for those impacted or affected by Grenfell on how to prepare for this evening’s fireworks displays which can be found here.


Author: Tamsin Cogan
Category: Community Living Well
Posted on: 5th November 2019


November Peer Support Calendar

November Peer Support Calendar

Welcome to the November Peer Support Calendar

We have a wide range of activities and groups on offer this month for our members. Highlights include a trip to Winter Wonderland and a weekend visit to Kensington Palace. All our groups are underpinned by the Five Ways to Wellbeing: Active, Connect, Give, Learn and Notice.

New Members

Are you new to Peer Support and looking for company this winter? Join a friendly Peer Support group and connect with like-minded individuals in an enriching and positive wellbeing environment.

If you are just starting to find your feet in the service, we understanding that joining new people at our groups can feel daunting. To help joining be less stressful and reduce your worries, we can offer you a one-to-one introductory meeting on a Monday Afternoon at the Community Hub at St. Peter’s Church, Kensington Park Road, W11 2PN. Afterwards, you will also have the opportunity to experience our weekly hub. This Monday group is a place for laughter, music, companionship, light snacks and a warming cuppa. If having a slot with a Peer Support coordinator could help you to try out our service, please email us at [email protected]

We hope you enjoy our November Peer Support Calendar. To attend a Peer Support group or book a one-to-one introductory meeting you must be registered with Peer Support. To refer yourself please complete this quick online form or call 020 3317 4200.

Find out more about Peer Support

 


Author: Tamsin Cogan
Category: Peer Support
Posted on: 1st November 2019


SMART St Mary Abbots Rehabilitation and Training