Did you know that 25% of the population in Britain suffers from some kind of mental health problem over the course of each year? With over 294,000 people living in Southwark, this means that about 73,000 people in our borough are likely to experience some sort of mental health issue this year alone. That’s a lot of people – some of them reading this post!
How do you know if you have a mental health issue?
Well, the truth is that it is not always easy to know. It could just be the case that you sometimes feel a bit down or anxious. Everyone has days when you feel that you’re not very happy or face situations where you feel really anxious, such as exams or job interviews. But low mood or a little anxiety is nothing to worry about! It’s only when it becomes a constant part of life that you could need some help.
People experience a range of different mental health issues, making it more or less difficult to live a ‘normal’ life. In the UK, we suffer most from mild depression and anxiety. You might think you don’t know anyone who’s depressed or anxious but if so many people face mental health issues each year, you are sure to know someone, whether it’s visible in their behaviour or not.
One reason you may not guess other peoples’ mental health concerns is that we’re often wary of talking about it. People can’t be sure they might get rejected, labelled or stigmatised. But the truth is that putting on a happy face or denying you are constantly feeling anxious can sometimes make things worse.
How can I help someone who has mental health issues?
If a friend confides in you that they are depressed or anxious – or have some other mental health issue – it’s a massive step for them. It’s not easy to reach out for help. Sharing their issues with you can be frightening because they just don’t know how you will react. It can be easy to laugh and brush it off as a joke but it is a sensitive issue and they need to know that you can be trusted with their confidence. They need to know they are accepted and cared for because they have mental health issues.
If your friend hasn’t already done so, recommend that they go and see their GP. The GP will offer a listening ear and where necessary can refer to other specialists or prescribe some medicines. We are often scared to have mental health problems on our medical records, but visiting the GP is an essential step to getting the right treatment. Once the issue is in the open, we often worry that our friends will treat us differently. Remember if your friend opens up, they have deep feelings about these issues and need your immediate reassurance and support. Friends and family members often struggle to find the right words or actions to help someone in distress but simply giving your time and offering any practical help you can will do the trick.
If you are worried by changes in a friend’s behaviour, do talk to someone knowledgeable about this. There are a number of links to local support services and helplines below. You should share your concerns with someone and get your friend the help they need.
What if I need to help with my own mental health?
The first thing you should do is visit your GP. Be as honest as you can about how you are feel; the more you open up, the better they will be able to assess you. Your GP can prescribe the right drug or refer you to the right NHS service at the surgery or elsewhere. Go to your GP as soon as you realise that you have a problem, as you may have to wait some time if you are referred. It’s always good to find a friend or family member to talk to. However, you can also call a helpline if you need to talk to someone outside in the meantime. The Samaritans run an excellent 24-hour helpline (08457 90 90 90). Other helplines are also available.
The SE16 Community Mental Health Team run by the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) is based at Ann Moss Way SE16. The Trust’s information line can be contacted on 0800 731 2864 24 hours a day. Out of hours it’s best to call Southwark’s Health and Social Care worker on 020 7525 5000.
In Southwark, we have a great range of support agencies that can really help when things are difficult. You can find a comprehensive directory on the MIND website for Lambeth and Southwark.
For example, if you are an adult with mental health issues, Cooltan Arts is an award-winning charity that provides free training courses and support to help you to learn how to cope with your condition through creativity. They often run walks in SE16 for anyone who wants to join in!
As well as the NHS or voluntary services, you might try private therapy. There are a number of excellent therapists who work in SE16 offering a range of treatments including counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and hypnotherapy (see below). To see a therapist privately, you can make an appointment directly; you don’t need a GP referral. Fees will vary depending on the therapy, the number of appointments needed and the therapist’s own practice. In discussing your issues, you can see if they are the right person to help you. Most private therapists are able to offer a consultation quite soon. Some therapists also accept private health insurance so if you already have a private healthcare plan, do check with your insurance provider to see which therapies are covered.
Private therapists in SE16
Finally, you may have heard on the news recently about how practising mindfulness can help with stress, anxiety and to help reduce depressive symptoms. To learn more about mindfulness and how it works, Dr May and Dr Marika are holding a free talk on Wednesday 20 May from 19:00-20:00 at the Finnish Church, 33 Albion Street, SE16 7JG. To reserve your free place, please find the event on Eventbrite here