Wellbeing Group Blog: September 2018

28th Nov, 18

Wellbeing Group Blog: September 2018

Whilst working as a cognitive-behavioural therapist (CBT) in a secondary school for one day each week, I set up a wellbeing group for pupils experiencing difficulties with their mental health. This group met up with each other for an hour each week and makes use of CBT as a way of improving the mental health and wellbeing for this group of pupils.

CBT is very much a collaborative approach which requires pupils to be committed to engaging in the tasks I set each week. I often gave the pupils homework which allows them to practise what has been discussed between group sessions. This enabled them to learn ways to cope during challenging times and understand how to positively manage their own mental health. This group of pupils quickly recognised the value of CBT and how the principles behind it can be continuously applied to their lives in order to maintain positive mental health. However, what we determined after running the group was how much pupils benefitted from being around others who understand how they were feeling, which led to pupils providing support to one another, in addition to the support provided in group sessions.

Many different peer support models exist and more schools and developing peer-led support programmes to help to meet the emotional needs of their pupils. Examples of existing models available include: school-based one-to-one support, school-based group support (whereby group sessions can be delivered to a group of pupils by older pupils), training-based projects whereby pupils are trained to be peer mentors or champions within school, as well as online peer support projects.

Although the evidence indicates that the different models have had varied levels of success, it does suggest that peer support programmes can potentially result in a range of positive outcomes for young people. Numerous studies have reported positive self-reported outcomes in relation to increased happiness or wellbeing, improved self-esteem and confidence, and improved social skills or school behaviour.

It is essential to obtain young people’s experiences and views on their mental health, as they are the experts on themselves. Whilst facilitating the wellbeing group, and throughout my many years working in children and young people’s mental health, I have met some amazing young people. They have taught me a great deal and continue to do so daily. Here are some of the comments they’ve made to encourage others to talk about their mental health just like they did …

Don’t struggle in silence

“Struggling with mental health is hard and it can make you feel like you’re the only one in the world with that problem, when in reality thousands of people struggle with mental health issues every day. It’s okay to feel the way you do and it’s okay to talk about your mental health. My personal experience is that I struggled in silence for a long time and telling someone has definitely lifted a weight off my shoulders. Speaking to someone can help massively as people are there to understand and listen to you”.

It’s okay not to feel okay

“My experience is that my sister has severe depression and is in a psychiatric inpatient unit. It affects me and my family mentally and talking to people really helps- it can help for you too! Remember it is okay to feel the way you do and it is okay not to feel okay”.

It’s important to speak out about your mental health

“Speaking to someone is the best thing to do. The sooner you can talk to someone you can get help. I have been through a lot of tough times in my life and the way I got through it is by telling someone as soon as I started to feel anxious. I now feel more confident because of the help I got and the people who stuck by me along the way”.

Talk to your friends as it really does help

“Speaking out about mental health is important especially when you are struggling. You might think that talking about it won’t help but it will. If you are anxious about talking to your parents or teachers, then talk to your friends instead as it really does help”.

“Speak to someone that you trust, like a friend, as they might be going through the same as you or know where you can get help”.

Please don’t feel like you are the only one suffering

“Many people who are going through a difficult time feel alone and like they are the only person who is suffering. However, this is not the case and there are lots of people who struggle with their mental health or have a diagnosis of a mental health condition who you may not know about. Please don’t feel like you are the only one suffering!”.

“You may feel like you are the only one going through the things you are, but you are wrong. Most people around you everyday are going through the same struggles as you are”. 

Mental health is just as important as your physical health

“Your physical health is something which everyone thinks about whereas nobody really thinks about the mental health part of it. It is just as important to look after both- the misconceptions of mental health are big”.

Others will understand even though you might think that they won’t

“Speaking out about my mental health was the scariest yet bravest thing I have ever done. Because of the support I received from my friends they helped me open up to my parents. Despite thinking that others wouldn’t understand, especially my mum and dad, they have been trying to help me. Although it may seem that those around you do not understand, 9 times out of 10 they will try their upmost to help”.

Counselling taught me techniques to help me, along with mindfulness techniques

I have been suffering from anxiety and panic disorder for over a year now and I have seen a massive change in myself from my first counselling appointment to my most recent. My panic attacks have decreased from 4 a day to around once a month. Counselling taught me techniques to help me, along with mindfulness techniques. Although my anxiety still has big effects on me I am being taught little ways to increase my confidence during social situations”.

Why are there not many popular mental health videos or books out there?

“Although mental health is invisible it is always there, plus mental health is just as important as your physical health. People try to be healthier physical through diet and exercise but some people are not mentally healthy, or more so they don’t know how to be. Mindfulness is a great example of how to be mentally healthy. Just focusing on a particular situation or activity rather than a past event or worrying about what may happen in the future can be so useful and healthy for the mind. There are tons of workout videos for the physical body so why are there not many popular mental health videos or books out there?”.

Writing down my feelings help

“For me writing down my feelings helps me to focus on them. I also think it important to talk to someone about how you are feeling rather than dismissing it”.

I use a breathing technique

“I find scribbling or doodling helpful for me when I am feeling down. I write down how I am feeling and what is happening for two reasons: firstly, because it helps me to get things off my chest and secondly because when I read it the next day I can see that it was not as bas as I thought. I use a breathing technique of breathing in for 4 seconds, holding it then breathing out for 4 seconds. This calms my breathing down during demanding situations. I also find talking to others (as well as myself!) helpful as it allows me to see the problem through a fresh set of eyes”.

I find cutting myself off from people makes me feel worse

“I always seem to make myself feel worse as I cut myself off from people for no reason when I am feeling down or anxious about something. I often find cutting myself off from people actually makes me feel worse as I feel very lonely. Even though I know it makes me feel worse I still continue to do it and I find it very hard to stop”.

I love beaches and the sounds of the sea really help to calm me

“I love beaches and the sounds of the sea really help to calm me. It reminds me that the world is much bigger than me and my problems”.

‘The hardest battle to fight is the one in your own head’

“Most of the time I, and many others, actually use ourselves as our biggest enemy. I once saw something which said, ‘the hardest battle to fight is the one in your own head’. I think this applies to not just myself but many others out there as we always over-think things and constantly doubt ourselves”.

You are not to blame for feeling the way that you do

“Things which have been helpful for me … understanding that I am not alone and that other people experience the same thing as me, knowing that it is fine to not always feel fine, understanding myself and my mind, letting myself feel all my emotions, stopping worrying about how my mental health problems annoy other people, recognising that my mental health is just as important as my physical health and understanding that it is not my fault that I struggle with these things. Although it is really hard to do these things it really does help to know that you are not to blame for all that you are dealing with”.

Although it may not feel like it now, I promise you that things can and will get better

“Don’t try to mask or ignore your feelings, instead face them and try to understand why you are feeling like this. It is okay to feel the way you are, and you will get through this. Although it may not feel like it now, I promise you that things can and will get better. You are not alone. Please don’t bottle things up inside you and talk to someone about how you are feeling- there is nothing wrong with you for feeling the way you are. Remember you and your feelings matter and you will become a stronger person by facing up to things, learning how to deal with your emotions and any challenging situations. It is not about the thoughts we have but it’s about how we react to these thoughts”.

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