Stress: Being Masculine About It Doesn’t Really Help

stress

Michael Maitland is the author of Out Of The Madhouse and is an ambassador for the teen mental health charity, Stem 4. He has struggled with mental ill-health over the years. Here he writes about stress and how it can have a lot of negative side effects if you don’t talk about it. 

As a young man I suffered from stress, anxiety and depression and ended up in hospital and the Priory for the best part of six months. I’m feeling better now but, looking back, I can see that much of my mental ill-health came from feeling stressed and trying to be ‘a man’ about it; i.e. bottling it all up.

The NHS defines stress as, ‘The feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure. Pressure turns into stress when you feel unable to cope.’ That sums it up well as does, ‘Stress can affect how you feel, think, behave and how your body works. You may feel anxious, irritable or low in self-esteem.’

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Can reading improve your mental health?

reading

James Withey, author of The Recovery Letters, has written an article about the power of reading and how it can make a huge difference in a time of need. James was diagnosed with clinical depression, attempted suicide and spent time in psychiatric hospital and crisis services where he developed the idea for The Recovery Letters.

In my notebook where I record all the books I’ve read, 2011 has thirty books listed. I’ve scored them and listen my top 5 favourites. Sarah Walter’s ‘Nightwatch’ came in at number one, if you’re interested. Then turn the page to 2012 and it’s blank. Nothing. Not one book.

This was the year my depression truly hit, and I couldn’t read at all. Not one sentence. It was a massive loss. My life was built around reading. I went to reading groups, haunted musty second-hand book shops at the weekend, read on my way to work meetings (when I should have been looking at the previous minutes), and read by the river each lunchtime delaying the time when I would have to go back to my desk.

Depression is all about loss. Loss of concentration, loss of vitality, loss of happiness, loss of meaning and loss of hope. Depression takes away all your coping mechanisms just when you need them to fight the illness; that’s how cruel it is.

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Talking to Sabrina Symington, author of First Year Out – the first graphic novel to explore transition for trans women

Sabrina Symington is an illustrator, graphic novelist and blogger from Vancouver, working to normalise transgender issues. First Year Out is based on her own personal experiences and those of her friends. The graphic novel follows Lily, a trans woman, as she navigates the ups and downs of transition. From laser hair removal to dating and gender reassignment surgery, the comic tackles difficult issues with honesty and intimacy. We talked to Sabrina about her reasons for creating First Year Out. 

What made you decide to explore the process of transition in graphic novel form?

I initially started drawing autobiographical webcomics as a way of working through the rollercoaster of emotions I had in the early days of my transition. But as I progressed in my transition, I realized how much misinformation there is out there about trans people. Since I believe in the power of narrative to change people’s views on controversial subjects, I felt what was needed was a humanizing trans story – most importantly one written by a transgender author, as opposed to a cis author translating their view of trans experiences through their own lens. I wanted to not only present accurate information about trans people’s lives and experiences, but also to present trans people as real people, rather than the stereotypes that we are usually portrayed as. One thing I will say is that I changed and grew immensely over the course of writing First Year Out. Transition is an ongoing process. It doesn’t “end” when you get a surgery. It goes much deeper than that and can last a lifetime. And while much of the story reflects my views and experiences during my own first year out as a trans woman, if I were to write “Second Year Out”, the story and Lily’s character would be *very* different. For I, too, am a completely different woman now.

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The Importance of Talking to Kids About Mental Health

health

Helen Bashford, author of Perry Panda, has experience working in the mental health field, most recently as Carers Lead for a Mental Health Trust, providing support for families. In this article, Helen discusses the need to talk to children about mental health, and the benefits of drip feeding them information. 

We have all heard it by now, that 1 in 4 people will experience mental illness at some point in their life.  This statistic means that every child – every single one – will know someone experiencing mental ill health, if not now then in the future.  There’s also a 25% chance they will become ill themselves.  In families where a parent or sibling is ill, children have to live with the disruption mental illness can cause, and childhood is rife with issues such as bullying that can leave children vulnerable.  Research now shows that half of all mental health problems are established by the age of 14, and 75% by the age of 24 (Mental Health Foundation).  So, when we think about how to prevent mental illness we probably need to think about childhood.

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Looking after the Mental Health of Girls with Autism

A Guide to Mental Health Issues in Girls and Young Women on the Autism Spectrum: Diagnosis, Intervention and Family Support is the first book to look specifically at how mental health issues relate to girls and young women with autism, covering theory, research and tailored interventions for support.

In this extract, taken from Chapter 6 on Anxiety and Depression, author Dr Judy Eaton explores the results of a number of studies into anxious behaviour in girls and young women on the autistic spectrum. 

Evidence suggests that an estimated 40 per cent of individuals on the autism spectrum will suffer from high levels of anxiety (Van Steensel, Bögels and Perrin 2011). Clinical experience would suggest that this figure is likely to be higher, particularly amongst those with the pathological (or extreme) demand avoidance profile. In an earlier version of the DSM, DSM-III (APA 1980), ‘sudden excessive anxiety’ and ‘unexplained panic attacks’ were included amongst the core criteria for a diagnosis of autism. However, subsequent versions of the DSM (IV and V) do not include this. The reason for this is not entirely clear. Hallett et al. (2013) cite the meta-analysis by White et al. (2009) which found that between 11 per cent and 84 per cent of children with a diagnosis of autism display anxiety. Of the 31 studies analysed 30 per cent were diagnosed with specific phobias, 17 per cent had obsessive compulsive disorder, 17 per cent had social anxiety and 15 per cent reported features of ‘generalised’ anxiety. Their results suggested that children with autism were twice as likely to develop anxiety disorders compared with their neuro-typical peers. High levels of anxiety have a negative impact upon education, social relationships and social participation and on other members of the immediate family group (Reaven 2011). There is also an increased likelihood that these anxiety disorders will persist into adulthood.

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JKP Author Honored as Book Award Finalist

JKP Author Dr. Lee A. Wilkinson was recently honored as an Award-Winning Finalist in the “Psychology/Mental Health” category of the 13th Annual Best Book Awards for his book, Overcoming Anxiety on the Autism Spectrum: A Self-Help Guide Using CBT. Selected from more than 2,000 entries from traditional and independent publishers, 400 winners and finalists were announced in over 100 categories. This is the second award for Dr. Wilkinson whose JKP book, A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Schools was selected as the winner in the Educational/Academic category of the Next Generation Indie Book awards.

About Overcoming Anxiety and Depression on the Autism Spectrum

Dr. Lee A. Wilkinson’s award-winning book presents strategies derived from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), adapted specifically for adults on the higher end of the autism spectrum, to help them overcome anxiety and depression, and improve their psychological well-being. The author takes the best of CBT therapeutic techniques to facilitate greater self-understanding, self-advocacy, and better decision-making in life-span activities such as employment and interpersonal relationships.

Accessible and easy-to-read, this self-help guide provides evidence-based tools that can be used to learn new self-fulfilling ways of thinking, feeling, and doing. It includes questionnaires, forms, worksheets, and exercises to help the reader:

  • Evaluate his or her autistic traits and discover their cognitive style.
  • Identify and modify the thoughts and beliefs that underlie and maintain the cycles of anxiety, depression, and anger.
  • Apply therapeutic techniques such as mindfulness, positive self-talk, guided imagery, and problem-solving.
  • Accept the past and achieve unconditional self-acceptance.
  • Deal effectively with perfectionism and low frustration tolerance.
  • Avoid procrastination and learn to maintain the positive changes to their progress.

Used alone or in combination with therapy, Overcoming Anxiety and Depression on the Autism Spectrum: A Self-Help Guide Using CBT is an essential self-help book for adults on the higher end of the spectrum looking for ways to understand and cope with their emotional challenges and improve their psychological well-being. It is also appropriate for adults who recognize their autistic traits, even though they may not have experienced major social difficulties and clinical impairment, but who want to improve their emotional well-being. Family members, friends, and others touched by autism will find this self-help book a valuable resource as well.

About the Author

Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD, is a scientist, researcher, and practitioner. He is a licensed and nationally certified school psychologist, chartered educational psychologist, registered psychologist, and certified cognitive-behavioral therapist. He is also a university educator and trainer, and has published widely on the topic of autism spectrum disorders both in the US and internationally. Dr. Wilkinson is author of the award-winning book, A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Schools, also published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers and editor of a best-selling text in the American Psychological Association (APA) School Psychology Book Series, Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children and Adolescents: Evidence-Based Assessment and Intervention in Schools. His latest book from JKP is A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorder in Schools (2nd Edition).

The Recovery Letters: Addressed to People Experiencing Depression

James Withey, a trained counsellor who worked in social care for 20 years, was diagnosed with clinical depression, attempted suicide and spent time in psychiatric hospital and crisis services where he developed the idea for The Recovery Letters. He met Olivia Sagan, Head of Psychology & Sociology at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, and a chartered psychologist and former counsellor, when she contacted him directly as she had seen The Recovery Letters website. Both keen to work together to do the book, and with the mix of academic backgrounds and personal experiences in mental health, it was a great match. 

In 2012, The Recovery Letters was launched to host a series of letters online written by people recovering from depression, addressed to those currently affected by a mental health condition. Addressed to ‘Dear You’, the inspirational and heartfelt letters provided hope and support to those experiencing depression and were testament that recovery was possible.

Below are two letters from the book:

Read letter one here

Read letter two here

 


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Emotions of Suicide Loss

Reaching out to fellow Aspies, Lisa Morgan proffers her insight and advice to ensure that others on the autism spectrum don’t have to face suicide loss alone. Her book, Living Through Suicide Loss with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD): An Insider Guide for Individuals, Family, Friends, and Professional Responders is an honest look at the immediate aftermath of suicide loss, how emergency responders can help, and the long-term implications of living with suicide loss for individuals on the autism spectrum.

“A suicide loss can elicit such intense emotions that a person with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) can be quickly overwhelmed and flooded with out of control feelings.  The complicated grief, possible trauma, and relationship difficulties are some of the reasons for the emotional flooding a person with AS might experience.  I have experienced emotional flooding many times since my husband completed suicide in 2015.  I am going to share with you the coping skills that worked for me as I continue to understand and gain control over my troublesome emotions.”

  • Complicated Grief

“Complicated grief is grief that is coupled with anger, rejection, and feelings of guilt to name a few. Anger is the lion of my emotions. It’s wild, ferocious, and can maul my heart before I even know what is happening. I have learned to let it out slowly in small, manageable bits.  There are different ways this can be done. The easy way is to recognize when you are feeling angry and go with it while still maintaining control. Hit a pillow, punch the couch, or the mattress on the bed until you are spent and have no energy left. Go for a brisk walk or a run. For me, the coping skill is to do something physical. I have found emotions caused by rejection and feelings of guilt can be reasoned away somewhat by logic. Accepting that the decision to complete suicide was not up to you, but was responsibility of the person who died by suicide is the first logical step. I worked at accepting my husband’s decision and releasing myself from feeling any rejection and guilt.  There were uncomfortable emotions I had to sort out, but the comfortable logic of reason helped very much. It doesn’t happen overnight. Healing from complicated grief is a process that will take time. It’s an investment in a future of hope, happiness, and health.”

  • Possible Trauma

“There is possible trauma involved in losing a loved one to suicide. There are people who witness the suicide, find their loved one after the suicide, or who reach their loved one in time to try to save them, only to have their loved one still not make it. The trauma added to the complicated grief can bring out confusing emotions and flood an adult with AS. When I experience emotional flooding I shut down. My senses are extremely hyper-sensitive. I can’t control my anxiety which leads to lots of crying, and all I want to do is to withdraw inside of myself. When my emotions flood, I try to reach out to someone who can ground me and help me to regain control. It’s usually very helpful to have someone repeat truths until I can feel that my emotions are calming down. If I can’t find someone to reach out to, I can stay emotionally flooded for a long time. Instead, I try to draw, write, listen to music, take walks, and use the coping skills I know have worked before until I feel better. It can be difficult to actually start using the coping skills, but with determination it can be done.   One thing that I have learned with all the emotional flooding I’ve experienced is it will dissipate eventually. The more coping skills I use, the faster I have felt better.”

  • Relationship Difficulties

“I have yet to completely understand how some relationships disintegrate for the survivor of suicide loss at a time when those relationships are needed more than ever before. It’s a painful absence for sure. I had friends tell me they would stay with me no matter what I was going through and then- leave soon after the worst experience of my life. As an adult with AS, trust is extremely important, yet dreadfully hard to do because of my early school years where I learned to not trust anyone. The reason I can still trust after some relationships died with my husband, is because I still have some friends that were true to their word and stayed with me the whole time even until now. The emotions of losing the relationships I did—were painful, confusing, and left a big hole of emptiness in me.  The pain that comes with relational loss is deep. I thought those friends would be my friends for life. Acceptance is the key to coping with lost relationships. Remembering that the friends who left decided to go and there’s nothing I could do about it. Is it difficult to accept? Yes! Is it impossible to accept? No.”

“Nothing that has happened since the loss of my husband to suicide has been easy. Knowing that the aftermath of suicide loss is terribly hard has helped me to take up the challenge to succeed, to thrive, and to move forward. I’m worth it, you’re worth it, and we all matter.”

To learn more about Lisa Morgan’s book or to purchase a copy, click here.

Living Through Suicide Loss is a valuable addition to suicide grief literature. Morgan’s account of the challenges she faced, following her husband’s death, will resonate deeply with all suicide loss survivors.  The special challenges she documented as someone with Asperger’s syndrome, will sensitize and empower all involved in such tragedies.”

—Ronnie Susan Walker MS, LCPC, Founder: Alliance of Hope for Suicide Loss Survivors

“The excellent and much-needed book deals with the specific issues—emotional and practical—faced by people on the autism spectrum when a loved one completes suicide. Written from a personal, lived experience perspective, this sensitive and valuable book validates the experience of readers and helps them to manage what is essentially unmanageable.

—Jeanette Purks, autism self-advocate and author of
The Guide to Good Mental Health on the Autism Spectrum

 

Emma Bacon discusses eating disorders, her books and building a healthy relationship with food

RelationshipEmma Bacon, author of Rebalance Your Relationship with Food and co-author of Eating Disorder Recovery Handbook, is the founder of BalancED MK, an eating disorder support service, which she set up after her own recovery from anorexia nervosa. She also offers mentoring and facilitates a self-support group for sufferers and carers, with the aim of spreading awareness and understanding about eating disorders. We caught up with her and asked her a few questions about her book, her inspiration and what keeps her motivated. 

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Creative coping strategies to help young people manage stress, anxiety and other big feelings

Age range:

Ages 8 – 14

Description:

A colouring book and journal filled with uplifting quotes and poems that encourages children experiencing stress, anxiety and other big feelings to manage their emotions. With a range of activities that introduce mindfulness and encourage relaxation, the workbook is designed to prepare young people for future difficult situations.

Click here to download the resource

This extract is taken from Pooky Knightsmith’s The Health Coping Colouring Book and Journal, which is designed to help young people manage difficult thoughts, feelings and emotions such as anger and anxiety.