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Stigma – ‘A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person’. Now, I think that’s harsh when considering the ‘stigma’ towards mental health. Imagine calling your friend a disgrace because they had just broken their leg. However, reading this made me curious. What is the definition of disgrace? The loss of reputation or respect as the result of a dishonourable action. Harsh! What about the definition of dishonour? A state of shame or disgrace. This is what I found really interesting. We find ourselves having gone full circle, but now we have shame to consider also. The definition of shame is ‘a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour’. So, do people with mental illness feel humiliated or distressed more than most because of a feeling that they have done, will do or are doing a wrong or foolish act? I do! I feel shame for many of the things I have done whilst unwell. I feel more humiliated and distressed as a result of these events. These feelings may even be contributing to my continued ill health through low confidence and self-esteem. I feel that shame is a far more appropriate word than disgrace. If stigma for mental health was defined as ‘A mark of shame associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person’, I would not argue it as inappropriate.

I think we need a change of narrative. We need to see the stigma towards mental health patients more as a factor of shame rather than a factor of disgrace; literally Putting Stigma to Shame. Shame is what we feel every time we are or we think we are stigmatised against. Disgraced seems so sharp and severe.

We welcome you to join the conversation below and look out for new blog entries every week.

I am going to be honest in all my writing. I cannot expect my readers to start to tell their story, honestly and from the heart until I have demonstrated that I can do the same and furthermore display I have derived some benefit from doing so. This is by far the hardest thing I have ever had to write…

The truth behind me thinking I am Jesus or not was not a consideration in my life until recently. About 3 years ago, during a hospital admission, a fellow patient turned round to me and said “Jesus is back and alive, I can see it” staring thoughtfully into my eyes. This got me thinking. My mind started to click into gear. A low one at first, but I quickly moved through them and found my thoughts racing. It all seemed to happen overnight. Such a monumental shift in my surroundings. All of a sudden I was presented with a plethora of patients who thought they were Jesus Christ. “My name is Christopher Jones” one young man said. “Don’t you see, it must be me”. As I got more unwell, my thoughts raced and, I began to create reasons why I was Jesus. I was getting, what seemed like, an awful lot of attention from other patients. Do I look like Jesus, I started to ask myself? Does my name Newson imply something about the Lords resurrection. I am not religious. I believe in a higher force but I don’t like to think of one God who presides over all creation. I found myself coming up with more reasons as to why I was Jesus as to reasons I was not. Does this mean I thought I was Jesus?

I feel as though I sometimes get special attention. It has not been uncommon place for people to bow to me. Especially patients in hospital. I ignore it. I don’t feel it is necessary even if i was to think I was Jesus.

At the end of the day, I ask myself, who would like to be a Man who died so mercilessly and so horrifyingly nailed to a cross. Let’s face it, it takes a great deal of passion and desire to live up to being the Son of God who sacrificed himself so that he could save the world on his return. So, despite my consideration in the past, I have distanced my thoughts from any belief that I am here to save the world. I have my plans. Most would call them grandiose, but I believe any one action can change the world for the better. I read a great quote recently, that I would like to leave you with –

A vision without a task is but a dream, a task without a vision is drudgery, a vision and a task is the hope of the world – UNKNOWN

This blog entry is written for those mental health patients who struggle due to thoughts about the Illuminati and for anybody else who has considered learning more about this secret organisation. As a past enthusiast and reader into the workings of The Illuminati I feel I am well versed in both the positives and negatives of pursuing a greater level of understanding of their operation and how they impact our everyday lives. Probably most famously written about in George Orwell’s 1984 and more recently in Dan Browns’ acclaimed novel Angels and Demons this supposedly secret organisation controls the world and it’s population through covert means.

There is a lot of overwhelming information on the internet. By intensely acquiring this knowledge, it is easy to become overbearing, unawares that our pursuit of knowledge is leaving us with an unbalanced perspective. As mental health patients seek to influence people around them and get validation for their newly found knowledge they can feel undermined and stigmatised against, as they are frowned upon. Their new found beliefs are considered a part of their condition even by medical professionals. One problematic area is the way reading about The Illuminati exposes issues with the Pharmaceutical Industry.

As one studies the behaviour of the public in relation to beliefs about The Illuminati’s control we are told that the general public are ‘programmed’ to keep themselves (and one another) in check. Programmed is a term used by people who expose the Illuminati online because they believe it is through Television ‘Programmes’ (as well as Celebrity Lifestyles) that make us think and believe the things we do.

When I went through my infatuation with the Illuminati back in 2011 I read as many books on the subject as I could lie my hands on. I was addicted to the subject because it seemed to give me some meaning and a goal in life. I had always known that there was something not quite right with the world and as soon as I found an explanation I wanted to learn as much on the subject as possible. I wanted to help free the world from the chains of a 9 to 5 working week and allow people the freedom that the worlds resources, if shared equally, could provide. I believed people could work towards new advances that improve life for people on Earth, and even off it! Otherwise people could choose to spend their time with recreation. I have been told by many, on many occasions, that we can all live like millionaires. There is an abundance of resources.

It took me 5 or 6 years to overcome my infatuation with The Illuminati and understand that the biggest impact I could have was by simply being myself. I am kind, caring, loving and compassionate and if I continue to be that way, without the need to pursue changing the world then my life will change and through that change give me the strength and resources to pursue my dreams. As Gandi said “Be the change you want to see in the world”.

To summarise, I think it is important to have some level of awareness about the control we are under. Commonly referred to as the 1% (although more like the 0.0001%) these people honestly think they deserve to rule over and suppress us all through the debt system they have set up, the food they provide for us to eat and the media we are inundated with. We (the 99%!) accept the fact that we have to go to a job 5 days a week that is boring and unfulfilling while we are left with rising costs and stagnant wages. We are constantly left in a place of fear as the news fills us with horrific events while any stories of compassion and love are quickly left unreported. We live with a financial system that is being artificially held up and rising debt levels are left for the poorest to service. The time where politicians support the few over the many is coming to an end. Things are going to have to change. As more people become aware that this predicament is no coincidence and learn to say ‘no, I will not conform’, then the status quo that is so preciously preserved by those in control will not be maintainable.

If you have any questions about the Illuminati or any other subjects covered in this entry please don’t hesitate to get in touch…

Whichever way you chose to look at it, stigma is an individual characteristic that can be overcome through changing your own thoughts and beliefs about yourself and others. The key to overcoming the stigma for having a mental health difficulty is taking full responsibility, and therefore control, for how you feel.

To gain a better understanding of the Science of Stigma lets take a brief look at some of the concepts within Social Psychology. This is defined as the scientific study of how peoples’ thoughts, feelings and behaviour are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_psychology).

Schemas demonstrate how good our minds are at linking concepts together. You might think about the subject of Mental Health. Schemas organise links in our minds to think up categories around that subject. When we think of mental health we might think of Doctors, Hospital, Medication, Social Worker, Stigma. These Schemas can be very helpful – e.g. Thinking of the Doctor will remind us of an important Dr’s appointment you have in the morning. However you can also have Schemas about your relationships with others and yourself and this is where Schemas can begin to play a negative role, especially within the field of Stigma. A mental health patient may begin to believe that others think you are weird which may lead to you beginning to think of yourself as weird. This is where you have to have the strength of mind to ensure you are thinking positive things about yourself.

It’s likely you have heard the term Stereotype before. By definition a Stereotype is the ‘beliefs about the attributes, characteristics and behaviours of members of various groups’. Our worry as Mental Health Patients is that we are Stereotyped as Schemas speed up the way others think and we are categorised as weird, crazy, strange etc. We must put our opinions of ourselves before the opinion of others. After all, what do others know about us, compared to what we know about ourselves.

When it comes to Schemas we use the one that is at the forefront of our minds. So, part of our job in order to get over the Stigma, and take control of our thoughts, is to shift the priority of good schemas in our minds. We can do that using something called Priming. We will discuss this more in Part 2…

Priming is the implicit memory effect in which exposure to a stimulus impacts the response to a later stimulus. It can be considered as a form of conditioning as it can be used to train a person’s mind in both positive and negative ways. We will talk about how this relates to Mental Health and Stigma later in the post.

There are several different types of Priming but I have chosen to look at Supraliminal Priming, which describes the instances where people are aware of the environmental cue, but are not aware of the influence on them. I made this decision because it leads best to my chosen topic of identity.

When people stigmatise against mental health, they are giving patients a label that is fabricated. The labeller has no idea what is on the label, in terms of a patients characteristics, beyond what they interpret as their condition. Furthermore, mental illness leads us to question who we are, as our character morphs from one pole to the other throughout the phases of illness and recovery. In essence, both the misconceptions about mental illness, and the illness itself, can prime sufferers to live with a false identity.

It is imperative that people who suffer from the stigma of having a mental health condition have a clear understanding of who they are; i.e. are aware of the impact that supraliminal priming (via stigma), and their condition, has on their authentic traits as a human being.

I know that I am a friendly, positive, loving and caring person. I know that my true fulfilment lies in making other people feel loved and special. By channelling my energy towards these traits/objectives I become a more complete version of me and therefore tackle stigma (and life’s other hurdles) head on. Don’t let anybody else use your condition to shape THE WAY YOU ARE!!

This is a great post! It’s well worth a read for anybody who suffers from low self esteem. I realise there are a lot of new concepts to understand, but they are crucial in gaining the insight towards channeling your own thoughts and behaviour towards better self esteem. If anything is unclear just comment below and I will do my best to make things clearer for you.

In Part 2 we looked at the danger of how Stigma could shape the way we think of ourselves. To maintain our self esteem, and avoid the impact of stigma, it is very useful to look at two types of Attribution Theory. Attribution Theory is used to explain behaviour. There are two types of Attribution – Internal and External. Internal Attribution is when we look within ourselves for an explanation of behaviour. A teacher whose student has performed very well in a test, may say to himself ‘I’m an excellent teacher’. Whereas if the teacher was to take an approach using external attribution, he/she might say, that student is very clever. That is attribution theory in its simplest sense.

When someone seems to be stigmatising us we can use External Attribution to make better judgements and maintain our self esteem. I will use the example of a mental health sufferer shopping and a customer saying ‘that’s weird’. Using Internal Attribution, we might attribute the customer’s opinion as being targeted at our behaviour. We may think that we are being called weird and that we are the target for stigma. In reality, the comment could, much more likely, be interpreted as being externally attributed. Isn’t it far more likely that they are calling a product, a smell or even part of their conversation weird. The problem is that we tend to internally attribute behaviour long before we come to externally attribute it. Another quick example is when someone is rude to us and we may think that they don’t like us. In reality isn’t it more likely that they are just having a bad day.

Stigma towards mental health sufferers can cause them to have low self esteem i.e. see themselves negatively. There are a few different types of self esteem, that, when understood, can help you to make better choices about how you feel about yourself.

Trait and State Self Esteem differ in regard to where you obtain your levels of self esteem. Trait Self Esteem gives you the bigger picture and is your general sense of self esteem over a longer time period. Whereas, State Self Esteem is more how your self esteem varies from moment to moment. It is worth trying to catch yourself during periods of low state self esteem. If you can, first, stop any destructive negative thought e.g. I am worthless. Then, try to avoid contradicting that thought by saying, e.g. I am not worthless. Believe it or not this only reinforces the negative thinking patterns. Instead, it is far more effective to think of a happy thought. A time when you felt good about yourself and others. By making this thought pattern a habit, you will soon find your level of self esteem improving. Let me know how you get on!

There are some states of self esteem which often go unconsidered, but have a significant impact on how you feel about yourself. You can have all the self esteem in the world, but if yourself esteem is unstable, stigma or certain behaviour by others, can cause you problems. Defensive self esteem is where your self esteem is high, but it is unstable. Here, you are likely to respond negatively to any threat, and have periods of lower self esteem as a result. Mindfulness meditation can help you stay in the present moment, build more stable levels of self esteem, and respond more positively. You can find a plethora of mindfulness meditation apps, by doing a simple search on your phone’s app store.

It is also worth considering something called the contingency of self worth. Here, self esteem can be generated by either, only a few factors (these can be family support, academic performance, self-image, for example), or by a good number of factors. Depending on how importantly you rate these domains and how much they contribute to you self worth will determine your levels of self esteem. If your level of self esteem is based on just one contingency you are more likely to suffer from low self esteem. It may be worth exploring new domains and improving your performance in them. If you would like to be more physically attractive, you could go to the gym, for example.

Stigma can have a dramatic impact on your level of self esteem. Work at understanding the concepts in this post, and take action by putting techniques in place to generate better self esteem. You will find your renewed resilience can help you put stigma to shame!

Peace and Namaste!

Research has shown (Dr Robert & Lisa Firestone 2006) that people are driven to feel hate towards themselves. Robert and Lisa’s explanation for this sense of hate is the feeling that “you are different to other people”. This could be due to mental health problems, but essentially the feeling of not fitting in with society’s ‘norms’ can make us hate ourselves. As mental health sufferers we feel alienated and then have to deal with The Stigma also. It is no wonder that we struggle to have positive thoughts about ourselves.

In Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs there is the necessity to have a sense of belonging from family, friends, colleagues etc. before you can move on to develop a sense of self esteem. The divisions in society today plays on this sense of belonging in a harmful way. Youths who commit violent crime are often trying to fit in with the gang culture. Football fans are committed to foul mouthing opposition fans which emphasises a sense of division. Income bracket, class structure, neighbourhood are all things that divide us as society and prevent us from having genuine, effective levels of self esteem.

More research investigating why we choose to support this inner critic (Kishimi & Koga 2018) describes the work of Alfred Adler, one of the giants of 20th Century Psychology alongside Freud and Jung. His work says that we can all live free from the influence of past experience, doubts as well as the expectation of others. He offers us a liberating experience allowing us the courage to change and ignore the limitations that we and others place upon us.

Adler’s work explains (Kishimi & Koga 2018), “Why do you dislike yourself? Why do you focus only on your shortcomings, and why have you decided to not start liking yourself? It’s because you are overly afraid of being disliked by other people and getting hurt in your interpersonal relationships”. By deciding to stop liking yourself you are setting a goal to stop yourself getting hurt in your relationships with other people. That way you can even have a ready made excuse for when people snub you. You’ve made it nearly impossible to get hurt in your interpersonal relationships.

How does this help us when it comes to Stigma towards people with mental health difficulties? Adler argues that we have to have the courage to change and the determination to take on that inner critic, even if it is backed up by people who stigmatise you because of your mental health condition. 

A consequence of disliking yourself is the examples of having an inferiority or superiority complex. The inferiority complex is easiest to explain but maybe harder to accept. People who dislike themselves or feel inferior can either search out and make the effort to improve their situation or make excuses for their current situation. An example may be applying for a better job, but not bothering because you lack the education. A healthy response here would be to search out ways to get back into education and study diligently. The problem is it remains much easier to adopt an inferiority complex and start complaining. You can start right there. If you want to improve your current situation, stop complaining and take action. 

A superiority complex is just as destructive. People can dislike themselves whilst boasting about past achievements. Arrogant people rarely feel good about themselves underneath their act. That is the exact reason why they feel the need to boast about their achievements. In a similar vein a superiority complex can take the form of an underachiever boasting about their misfortune. It might be their childhood, or because of their physical characteristics. Whatever it may be, they like to make themselves feel special by boasting about their misfortune. Try and support this person and you are likely to be brushed aside, with little inclination and a comment along the lines of “oh, you don’t know how I feel”. They only want to feel special and sustain the comfort extended to them through complaining and not taking action.

To overcome the sense of hate you have towards yourself you must get control of that inner critic. That voice inside your head that we have submitted to over the years that tells us we are not worthy, good enough, capable enough, beautiful enough etc. After all would you talk to a friend in the same way that you speak to yourself. Why then do you allow this inner critic to develop. By making excuses and complaining you are only feeding those inner thoughts and feelings and leave yourself little opportunity to make the realistic positive changes. By taking action you empower yourself and others to feel better, think better, believe better and ultimately be better. I wish you every ounce of success for gaining control of you inner thoughts and therefore creating the reality you desire.

REFRENCES

Firestone, R.W, Firestone, L & Catlett J. 2002. “Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice: A Revolutionary Program to Counter Negative Thoughts and Live Free From Imagined Limitations.” New Harbinger

Kishimi, I & Koga, F. 2018. “The Courage to be Disliked: How to Free Yourself, Change Your Life and Achieve Real Happiness”. Allen & Unwin

Some people are motivated by competition while others are not. We do not all feel the need to win (Robert E. Franken & Douglas J. Brown 1995). It is difficult to imagine a world where humans pursue a competitive advantage only to improve life for themselves and others.Whatever way you look at it, competition means someone must lose (Dr Sander van Der Linden 2015). The problem with the competitive nature of society today is that competition isn’t always met with cooperation. Modern day society is thwart with competition. Sports entertain the masses, political divides are competitive, economic competition means that markets are efficient and even human survival and finding love is competitive. Competition often gives us the incentive to perform better, satisfies the need to win and gives motivates people to put in greater effort in order to perform at a higher level (Robert E. Franken & Douglas J. Brown 1995).

In terms of mental health patients who take medications; which, I must say, are crucial to maintain stability and ensure patients remain out of hospital. However, they seem to be so strong that they come with unavoidable side effects that destabilise the patient’s competitiveness. Side effects include anxiety, weight gain, problems with attention, memory or speech, visual disturbances such as blurred vision, tremors and even, the one that I haven’t, obviously, yet experienced (and this is written on most of the leaflets for medications that treat mental health conditions) ‘sudden and immediate death’. Mental Health patients have less chance of competing successfully due to these side effects and often give up and accept a life that leaves them second best.

There is also the stigmatism that can give patients little opportunity to feel capable of competing. Patients are guilty of giving others’ opinions of themselves greater significance than what they think of themselves. They accept a worse version of themselves due to others influence, instead of deciding for themselves what they stand for. 

I don’t think anybody can say they don’t compete with themselves. I am talking about that inner critic I spoke about in my previous blog entry “The Science of Stigma – The Inner Critic – PART 4”. This inner voice competes alongside a more accepting and rewarding voice. You can choose either to feed your growling dog or your friendly, tail wagging, pleased to see you dog. They compete for your internal chatter and therefore your state of mind. It is important that we learn to manage this internal competition in order to gain a less dependent mind. I have said it before; we must take control of our own thoughts in order to fully establish a mind that is freer from the influence of others.

Gratitude is an extremely powerful concept that can help promote positive self-competition. There is always someone worse off than you and if you allow yourself the time to feel grateful for even the smallest things in life then you will nurture both competition and cooperation. Be consciously grateful when you pick your head off the pillow in the morning, when you eat your meals throughout the day, when you walk out your front door freely and unassisted and so on. It is also worth considering that the less we compare ourselves to others the more chance we will have to learn about ourselves.

REFERENCES

Sander van Der Linden, “The Psychology of Competition: How competitions can lead you to do the right thing for the wrong reason” (Psychology Today, June 2015)

M. Huston, “Why we Compete: A Scientific Look at People’s Obsessions with Besting their Peers” (The Atlantic, October 2015)

R.E. Franken & D.J. Brown, “Why do people like competition? The motivation for winning, putting forth effort, improving one’s performance, performing well, being instrumental, and expressing forceful/aggressive behavior” (Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 19, Issue 2, August 1995, Pages 175-184)

The definition of Assertive is ‘having or showing a confident and forceful personality’. Do not be put off by the word forceful. Assertiveness is not being bossy. It is merely an effective communication style that means you can express yourself effectively and stand up for what you feel is right. Being bossy, suggests a lack of respect for the thoughts and beliefs of others. Assertiveness is a respectful communication style (MAYO CLINIC, 2017).

The definition of Anger is ‘a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure or hostility’. Anger is an emotional response. We therefore tend to react without being conscious of the impact our anger has on the receiver. Anger communicates a message in a way that is not as affective as being assertive as it dismisses the needs, feelings and opinions of others. The message, therefore, is rarely heard. 

Consider my last post: “The Science of Stigma – Human Competition – PART 5”. Anger stems from a sense of competition. It is the sense that someone else’s opinion is wrong while your opinion is right. Competitive behaviour means people are unwilling to admit they are wrong. A power struggle ensues that results in demands that the other party admits they are at fault. It is important to understand that admitting mistakes, conveying an apology and stepping down from the power struggle is not any form of defeat (Koga and Kishimi, 2018). 

I have offered a brief look at anger and compared it to assertiveness as a  communication style. However, there are two other methods of communication that are worth considering – passive and passive-aggressive behaviours. Both, also try to communicate a message, but fail to deliver it as clearly as being assertive.

Passive communicators are often shy and too easy going. They avoid conflict and often say things like, “I will do what you decide”. Being passive means you find it hard to say no, so you can be easily forced to do things that put you out – that you don’t want to do. This can result in an angry reaction towards the person who has asked you to do something, that you would otherwise would not have done, and also towards yourself for not being able to stand up for what you believe in. By being passive you give others the license to neglect your own wants and needs.

The final communication style is being passive-aggressive. Being passive-aggressive is an indirect communication style, which often results in resistance to requests and demands through procrastinating and stubbornness (Cherry, 2018). Wikipedia defines Passive-aggressive behaviour as “characterised by indirect resistance to the demands of others and an avoidance of direct confrontation.” (En.wikipedia.org, n.d.). Being passive aggressive can damage relationships and results in a lack of mutual respect which can mean it is hard for the individual to get his/her needs and goals met (MAYO CLINIC, 2017).

Being assertive can help avoid people walking all over you whilst it can also help prevent you from steamrolling others. To become more assertive you can focus on using more “I” statements. By saying things like “I disagree”, rather than “you’re wrong” you sound less accusatory. It can result in a lot more cooperative form of communication. You can also consider practicing saying no, rehearse what you want to say, use body language and keeping emotions in check.

It is worth practicing to become more assertive, because you can learn to express your needs and feeling more effectively. You will find you get more of what is rightfully yours as a result.

REFERENCES

Cherry, K. (2018). How to Understand and Identify Passive-Aggressive Behavior. [online] Verywell Mind. Available at: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-passive-aggressive-behavior-2795481 [Accessed 19 Feb. 2019].

En.wikipedia.org. (n.d.). Passive-aggressive behavior. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passive-aggressive_behavior [Accessed 18 Feb. 2019].

Koga, F. and Kishimi, I. (2018). The Courage To Be Disliked: How to Free Yourself, Change Your Life and Achieve Real Happiness. George Allen & Unwin.

MAYO CLINIC (2017). Being Assertive: Reduce Stress and Communicate Better. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/assertive/art-20044644. [Accessed 18 February 2019].

Imagine a train travelling towards a bridge, where, underneath there are 5 distracted workers working on the tracks. It is inevitable (for this research experiment’s sake) that the 5 people will get hit by the train and die. You notice a switch that means you can shift the track and get the train to miss the five workers, saving all their lives. However on the other track there is one distracted worker who will inevitably be killed due to your action of changing the switch controlling the path the train will take. Would you pull the switch?

In a similar scenario, there is a large man stood on the bridge above the tracks. It is certain that the train is going to kill the five workers. The only way to save the workers is for you to push the fat man off of the bridge and on to the tracks. The train would hit him and he will die. Would you push the fat man off the bridge to save five lives? Please share your thoughts using the comment option below (The Conversation, n.d.).

Consequentialism is an idea that says that actions can be good or bad depending on their results. The most well known version of consequentialism theory is Utilitarianism. Actions that produce more benefit than harm are considered good actions while actions that cause more harm than benefit are considered unethical (Ethics.org.au, n.d.).

To explain how you decided upon the workers and fat mans demise, you can look at the difference between our logical, rational minds and our emotional reasoning. If you decided to divert the train by using the switch you are using logic and rational to arrive at your conclusion. You intended to save a larger number of lives, creating more utility.

People, in the main, decide not to push the fat man off the bridge. This is due to the emotional reasoning that was present in your decision making process, when thinking about actually killing somebody to save five lives. Wouldn’t it be nice if this ‘emotional reasoning’ could have as significant influence on those who decide to stigmatise people with mental health difficulties.

Jeremy Bentham was born in England on 15th February 1748. When he was 12 he was sent by his father to Queen’s College, Oxford, where he spent three years completing his bachelor degree. Then at the age of 15 he went to law school. He was admitted to the Bar at age 19. Bentham chose, however never to practice law, instead devoting his life to jury proven and moral philosophy. Often considered as a social reformer he is mainly know for being the founder of modern day Utilitarianism (En.wikipedia.org, n.d.). Bentham’s work in utilitarianism suggests he’s a strong advocate for pushing the fat guy and activating the switch. Indeed Benson’s theory of utilitarianism is described as the highest form of morality is derived from:

“maximising the general wealth, or the collective happiness, or the overall balance of pleasure over pain, or in a phrase maximising utility” (YouTube, 2009).

Bentham described the way we are governed as human beings through something he termed as the ‘Line of Reasoning’. He explains the drivers to this government as being pleasure and pain. He argues that these emotions are:

“sovereign masters so our moral system has to take into account of them. How best to take account? By maximising. This leads to the principle of the greatest good for the greatest number.” (YouTube, 2009)

Bentham’s championing of Utilitarianism is not without faults, however. Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) is used by companies and governments all the time. In a nut shell CBA is a method of placing a value on the costs and benefits of a proposal. There was an interesting Case Study involving Phillip Morris, the tobacco company in the Czech Republic. Their CBA found that the Czech Government benefited from letting citizens smoke. Indeed there are some negative impacts such as increased health care cost due to smoking related diseases. On the other hand however there were positive effects, such as tax revenues the government received from smokers, health care benefits to the government when people die early, pension savings – you don’t have to pay pensions for as long and finally, savings in housing costs for the elderly. When all the costs and benefits were added up the Phillip Morris Study found that there is a net public finance gain for letting people in the Czech Republic to smoke was $147 million. Savings from premature deaths due to smoking per person in the Czech Republic added up to a whopping $1227 per person. Benson’s defence of Utilitarian Philosophy suddenly seems less appealing, as here the utility to the Czech Government and Phillip Morris places no value on life. They fail to consider the utility of the families and friends, let alone the patients who die from smoking related diseases. Some people may view this a floor in capitalism’s catalyst of greed (YouTube, 2009).

You have to look at the work of Immanuel Kant, who heavily criticised Utilitarianism, to get a more balanced view of this important philosophical theory. Kant was born in Germany on 22nd Aplril 1724 (En.wikipedia.org, n.d.). He had a very religious and strict family upbringing. However, he lived his life without any strong religious beliefs of his own. Kant believed we as humans are highly prone to corruption. The Categorical Imperative, defined as ‘act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law’ suggested like the Bible, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do to you’. Kant advocated liberty in government. 

“His idea of liberty would be, however, no freedom to do whatever you choose, but free to act only when in accordance with our own best natures.” (YouTube, 2015)

Kant said that when we are slaves when we act under the rule of our own passions or those of others. He argued that a free world is one the helps everybody become more reasonable.

In conclusion, I would say that our job as people who wish to put stigma to shame, if we consider ourselves as Utilitarian, is to encourage people to react more from their emotional reasoning brain. Encourage people to not push the fat man off the bridge. The Phillip Morris Study was proof of Kant’s philosophy that humans are highly prone to corruption. If you chose to push the fat man off the bridge then look at the Categorical Imperative and see if you can benefit from the idea of treating people as how you would like to be treated yourself. Some people gain utility/happiness from criticising and stigmatising others. This utility is only temporary, however. The Utility gained from doing good makes far more of a lasting impact. In my view Kant had it spot on. Leave the fat man be.

“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.” – Maya Angelou

REFERENCES

The Conversation. (n.d.). The trolley dilemma: would you kill one person to save five?. [online] Available at: https://theconversation.com/the-trolley-dilemma-would-you-kill-one-person-to-save-five-57111 [Accessed 21 Feb. 2019].

En.wikipedia.org. (n.d.). Jeremy Bentham. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeremy_Bentham [Accessed 21 Feb. 2019].

En.wikipedia.org. (n.d.). Immanuel Kant. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immanuel_Kant [Accessed 23 Feb. 2019].

Ethics.org.au. (n.d.). Ethics Explainer – Consequentialism. [online] Available at: http://www.ethics.org.au/on-ethics/blog/february-2016/ethics-explainer-consequentialism [Accessed 21 Feb. 2019].

YouTube. (2009). Justice: What’s The Right Thing To Do? Episode 02: “PUTTING A PRICE TAG ON LIFE”. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0O2Rq4HJBxw [Accessed 21 Feb. 2019].

YouTube. (2015). PHILOSOPHY: Immanuel Kant. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsgAsw4XGvU [Accessed 23 Feb. 2019].

My first blog entry on this site was entitled “The Journey From Stigma to Shame”. To recap, in that entry, I argued that Stigma was better defined as a mark of ‘shame’, as opposed to ‘disgrace’, towards a particular circumstance, quality or person. Certainly shame appeared to offer a better definition, but I have not yet discussed shame and its impact on how sufferers feel when suffering from stigmatisation towards mental illness.

I explained, in that first post, that I felt a lot of shame due to how I’ve behaved while I have been unwell. I think this is a problem for a lot of sufferers. Shame and mental illness seem very closely linked as, in its most influential form, shame can prevent sufferers from admitting they have a mental health problem and, therefore, they refuse to search out the help that is available. Getting help is not a sign of weakness it is a sign of strength (Ditch the Label, 2018). From my own experience, I know that my illness has made me a more rounded and complete individual. I have been able to reflect upon, and recognise my weaknesses and created a life around those shortfalls that have made me a better, kinder, stronger, more loving and more understanding individual. With this has come a resilience to the shame and stigma that has been a part of my journey.

Metaphorically, I look at stigma towards my illness like the Coastal Erosion Barriers you find on some beaches around Britain. These barrier fences come up the beach out of the sea. They are designed to keep the beach from being picked up by the sea and dumped further down the coastline. Throughout my journey, towards an understanding of myself and my mental health, I have constructed similar barriers in my mind, that prevent people from getting in and chucking my thoughts to somewhere where they shouldn’t be. I take full responsibility for my own thoughts, and I keep them where they need to be, in order for me to understand and create healthy responses to the circumstances and people that come into my life.

I have heard shame described as the cancer of the soul. The question that comes up for me is, why do we feel so ashamed about an illness of our minds, compared with the shameless reaction we have when faced with physical illness? Society is built around the idea that we must care what other people think of us. In order to overcome stigma of our mental health we must train our minds not to search out recognition and approval of others and act from a sense of our true selves. Once you act in a selfish way; by this I don’t mean disregarding others, but instead, I mean, what can be best described as avoiding behaviour that has formulated due to ‘reward-and-punishment’ education. Here appropriate action results in praise, while any inappropriate action results in punishment. This form of education results in faulty lifestyles where people think, “If no one is going to praise me, I won’t take appropriate action and if no one is going to punish me, I’ll engage in inappropriate actions too” (Koga and Kishimi, 2018). To be truly free we must live our lives free from the feeling that we must meet other peoples’ expectations. Only then will we be able to deal with shame from a personal stand-point. Do you go around validating the expectations of others. No. So isn’t it absurd to expect others to be validating your actions. 

It is important that, by putting the expectations of others to rest, you can speak freely. If you like politics, for example, don’t be afraid to talk about it. Don’t be afraid of speaking up for what you believe in, and enjoy, even if that challenges the status quo. Putting Stigma to Shame aims to get people sharing their experiences with mental illness without any preconceived ideas that they will be stigmatised against. We operate by the premise that a problem shared is a problem halved. Don’t be afraid to voice you opinion and share your voice. You don’t get another chance at life and you may just do something miraculous for someone in the process. Speak up and help put stigma to shame!

REFERENCES

Ditch the Label. (2018). 10 Reasons Why you Should Never be Ashamed of your Mental Illness – Ditch the Label. [online] Available at: https://www.ditchthelabel.org/10-reasons-never-ashamed-mental-illness/ [Accessed 3 Mar. 2019].

Koga, F. and Kishimi, I. (2018). The Courage To Be Disliked: How to Free Yourself, Change Your Life and Achieve Real Happiness. George Allen & Unwin.

Freedom – the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants.

You might see this as a controversial post. Freedom, after all – by definition, is the choice to choose how to think, feel and exist in a way that is free from the influence of others. I, after all, by my own desire to write this blog, could be considered; not by many, as trying to persuade you to think as I do. But, you, of course, are free to think what you want. Afterall, where would we be without the view and perspectives of other people, who, of course – as we all have, have lived and experience life in their own unique and special way.

I consider myself to be very openminded. I think every person has a rich and valuable experience, which, when shared, can be of great value. If every person had the opportunity to travel and experience different cultures, then I think we would live in a very different world. There are those, of course, those who have no interest in sharing the experience of others and are more than happy to think and feel the way they do. I would say, however, that their lives are made more difficult by the fact that they are stuck with the habits and behaviours that only few people are fulfilled by. By not being free enough, as an individual, to accept and enrich ones perspectives from all opportunities, in the fashion of the experience of others, is a form of imprisonment in itself.

Freedom, by many, is considered to come with money. However, you can have little money and still have a strong sense of freedom. Money simply gives you options. Boundaries are inherent in society. Money creates boundaries. There are also boundaries created by religion and the legal system which can be healthy and necessary. However, I believe that if peoples’ needs are met – that is to say – people have what they need, then certain boundaries become less necessary.

People crave the recognition of others. No one likes being disliked by others. It is part of being human. Put simply everyone would rather be liked by others than be disliked. However, when we are reliant on others liking us in order for us to feel good about ourselves, then we are, inherently, not in control of our feelings, as we are under the influence of others and not free. When we are reliant on others to make us feel good when, having the courage to be disliked is decisive (Kishmi and Koga, 2017). It is important to recognise I am not saying we should actively seek to be disliked. I am saying we should try to feel comfortable in our own skin, free from the need to be liked.

In conclusion, freedom comes from accepting and appreciating how others can enrich our lives. The void, that comes from the lack of freedom, when we make the mistake of choosing to be prejudice when it comes to accepting the value from the unique experiences of us all can imprison us and restrict our life experience and values. Surely, freedom comes from a mind that is accepting of others, a mind that understands that all behaviour, feelings, thoughts and the influence it has comes from the valuable experience of others. Even if that characteristics are not nice to experience, we must appreciate the perspective of others, as a background of knowledge from life that adds value to our own. After all, is it not possible, that some we know and love, or even ourselves, could experience a similar turn of events in our own lives. Also, when we are free from the recognition of others we are free to choose how we feel (Kishmi and Koga, 2017). Boundaries are created by money, religion, our legal system and many other things. Some of these boundaries can become less necessary if people have what they need.

References

Koga, F. and Kishimi, I. (2018). The Courage To Be Disliked: How to Free Yourself, Change Your Life and Achieve Real Happiness. George Allen & Unwin.

I recently had a disagreement with a friend. I won’t go into the details, as I feel that might be unfair, but I will say that she didn’t feel she had my support and that I was being rude.

I was shocked that I was being called rude, because I am a very well mannered, polite and considerate individual. I felt as though I was supporting my friend, however, it was perceived by both her, and others around me, to be an unhelpful response.

I confided in another friend, who works as a life coach and she helped me to understand why I may have been seen as being rude. My communication style is direct and straightforward. My communication style would be described as ‘Director’ (Douglas, 2001). I don’t sugarcoat my words, and I take every opportunity to say with honesty and transparency what I think and feel. My friends are, on the whole, are similar communicators, and support me when I communicate like this. However, I learnt a critical lesson from this disagreement and I would like to share that lesson with you now.

The reason I was deemed to be unhelpful and rude was because I adopted my own communication style. I expected that to be appropriate, despite the fact that others, who have different communication styles, find certain types of communication unacceptable, and in this case rude. My friend may have adopted more of a Harmoniser’s style which makes her more sensitive to the feelings of others and more relationship orientated(Douglas, 2001).  

To resolve the issue, and avoid conflict in the future, it is my job to become a better communicator. Modifying your style of communicating will ensure a clearer line of communication between you and another person (Douglas, 2019). To become a more effective communicator you first need to identify what communication style your listener/recipient prefers, or is best suited to the individual or group, and then communicate in a way that is acceptable and preferable to him/her. You will then be in a position to influence and have a meaningful dialogue. Along with our words, we send out a lot of emotional information non-verbally, through our posture, facial expressions, tone of voice, eye contact, and various gestures (Pascale and Primavera, 2018).

Communication styles can be seen as behaviours and it is possible to change the way we behave in order to accommodate the wants and needs of others, avoid conflict and communicate effectively.

Do a google search and check out the resources below to find out more about how to identify communication styles. Good luck on your quest to become a better communicator!

REFERENCES

Douglas, E. (2019). How to Modify Your Communication Style. [online] Straight Talk. Available at: https://communicationstyles.org/how-to-modify-your-communication-style/ [Accessed 4 May 2019].

Douglas, E. (2001). Straight talk. Sacramento, Calif.: LRI.

Pascale, R. and Primavera, L. (2018). The Importance of an Effective Communication Style. [online] Psychology Today. Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/so-happy-together/201809/the-importance-effective-communication-style [Accessed 4 May 2019].

Surely there’s no greater pursuit in life than being happy? So why not try to make others happy, and receive the same from others? I am a very positive, friendly, kind, compassionate and caring (and HAPPY!!) person, but I often feel responsible for others’ happiness. Oh, Boy! Does that throw a spanner in the works!! 

I have been told, on countless occasions, that you cannot be responsible for other peoples’ happiness. If you try to make someone else happy; by saying something kind, for example, and they don’t respond that is not your problem. Somebody may not respond to your pursuit of their happiness for many reasons. They might have been listening to music, and not heard you – you simply hadn’t noticed their earphones. They may be, just, in a bad mood and not be feeling good about themselves – you caught them at a bad time… That has entirely, squat to do with you! I encourage you to try and make others (and therefore one another) happy, so long as you don’t drag yourself down in the process because you feel responsible for others’ happiness. 

I did a personal development course, about 10 years ago. The title of the course was “The Art of Being Brilliant”. I really enjoyed it. My friend walked out, half way through – LOL! He didn’t share my enthusiasm. However, one of the books recommended was Smile or Die (Ehrenreich, 2010). I have also recently read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**K (Manson, 2016) – what a great title – the book is worthy of it! Both books highlight the importance of attitude rather than, blindly, just thinking positively. Why, it is suggested, should we think positively all the time when life is about challenges that make us feel less happy? We want to lose weight; so we join a gym. That is our first challenge. But, when we meet our goal of joining the gym, do we attend regularly and work out effectively. Do we eat the right foods to support our pursuit of ‘happiness’ – let’s face it, that is what we ultimately seek. Challenges continue in life no matter how many problems we solve (Manson, 2016). Manson, ultimately argues that if we have a more realistic, and therefore, less generically biased positive outlook, we are better prepared for the challenges life will inevitably throw at us. 

In the Book, The Courage to Be Disliked: How to Free Yourself, Change Your Life and Achieve Real Happiness, (Koga and Kishimi, 2018) there is an expressed belief, following Adlerian Philosophy (the work of Alfred Adler) that all problems are interpersonal problems. The author explains, with support of Adlerian Theory that when he was faced with the problem of his father hitting him, under a Freudian aetiological way of thinking: he hit me that time, and that is why our relationship went bad. However, Adlerian Philosophy, says that (given the idea that all problems are interpersonal ones) the memory of me being hit was bought out, because I don’t want my relationship with my Father to get any better (Koga and Kishimi, 2018). It is as though (under Adlerian Philosophy) that people use interpersonal problems as an excuse to justify the shortfalls in their own lives and, almost, as a reason to continue to be unhappy. 

Under this understanding, it is almost as though, some people look for excuses to be unhappy. People then, to validate their unhappiness, seek to make others unhappy. This is the battle we face with the Stigma of Mental Health. I think, some people have been unloved and therefore seek to push their unhappy feelings of dislike (even hate) on to others, to validate their position. Love is the way to make us happy. Only love and collaboration will make this world an even better place, than it is already, for everyone. The human races’ natural feeling and drive is one of improvement and making the world a better place for all. Take hate and ego out of the equation and we are already well on our way to a world of collaboration and love, and, ultimately, a much happier existence for all.

  • What shortfalls, if any, do you think positive thinking has?
  • Do you agree with Alder’s Interpersonal Relationship Theory?
  • Do you think people give up on happiness, because they are unloved?
  • Do you think feelings of hate and dislike are genetic or learned traits?

REFERENCES

Ehrenreich, B. (2010). Smile or die. London: Granta.

Koga, F. and Kishimi, I. (2018). The Courage To Be Disliked: How to Free Yourself, Change Your Life and Achieve Real Happiness. George Allen & Unwin.

Manson, M. (2016). The subtle art of not giving a f**k : a counterintuitive approach to living a good life. 1st ed. Harper Collins.

UPDATE: Celebrating Mental Health Month 2019

Things have been really busy at Putting Stigma to Shame recently. Here’s your latest update on the special plans we have for you:

We did some special updates to the site for Mental Health Month 2019 (we don’t miss an opportunity for an extended celebration with our American cousins!), and we have some big plans to improve the site going forward. We are in the process of organising an affiliation with a very talented and ethical web designer. It is a very exciting time for The Putting Stigma to Shame family. We are so appreciative of all the lovely comments we have received from our family of readers and we would just like to say a big THANK YOU! for your amazing support. 🙂

Andy, our Founder, recently attended an Easyway to Control Alcohol course in Birmingham. He liked to have the odd drink, but decided that for his mental health, wallet and physical health, he would benefit from a change. Andy would like to extend great appreciation and thanks to Chris Hay, Senior Therapist at Allen Car’s Easyway Clinic, for the way in which he conducted such an amazing day.

We would also like to welcome Feel Alive Drama Group as our first Friends affiliation. They are a great group, and we look forward to working with them to extend awareness around all aspects of both mental and physical health! They are planning to address mental health issues through a performance on the 18th February 2020. Look out for updates!

The clinic has inspired Andy to do a series of blog entries on addiction. Look out for these starting soon!

Once again a personal big thank you, to you, from us all. 

Love, namaste and Happy Mental Health Awareness Month where ever you are!


The Putting Stigma to Shame Team 🙂

COMING SOON: A VERY SPECIAL GUEST WRITER!!

Dear Readers,

Putting Stigma to Shame is excited to bring you this amazing bit of news….

We have a very special announcement here at Putting Stigma to Change. A great guest will be writing an article on The Putting Stigma to Shame Blog. We cannot give you too many details at present, but look out for what will undoubtably be a brilliant and insightful bit of writing.

Warm wishes and namaste to you all,


The Putting Stigma to Shame Team 🙂

ALLEN CARR’S EASYWAY, ADDICTION AND MENTAL HEALTH – JOHN DICEY (GLOBAL CEO) – DISCOUNT CODE: NOSTIGMA

What an absolute pleasure to be asked to pen a few lines for the ‘Putting Stigma to Shame’ website. There are some simple reasons that explain why I was so enthusiastic to do so.

Firstly, there is no doubt that, although much progress has been made in the general public’s perception of ‘Mental Health Issues’, there remains a significant and sizeable minority of people who have little understanding of, or empathy for, those living with a mental health condition. Perhaps I’m wrong and in fact it’s a small majority of people who still lack understanding and empathy, either way – there’s certainly a way to go before the ‘Putting Stigma to Shame’ team can rest comfortably on their laurels.

Secondly, and this is partly linked to my belief that our understanding of mental health issues is growing, sadly mental health issues have experienced an alarming period of growth over the past 20-30 years. More and more people’s lives are being touched by mental health issues, and along with that, so (hopefully) understanding is nurtured. Can anyone really say that they don’t know anyone living with, or effected by, mental health issues? Whether it’s our parents, our siblings, our children, or our wider family or friendship group or colleagues, knowing someone living with these conditions certainly focuses our minds on what is involved…and sadly it appears that more and more of us know more people directly touched by mental health issues.

So, what’s behind this apparent increase in the number of people living with mental health conditions? Aside from (thankfully) more efficient diagnosis it’s clear that the world that was promised to Baby Boomers, and Generation X (of which I am a fully paid up member) never actually materialised. 

Instead of Generation Y and Millennials being born into families where work was virtually abolished by the development of labour saving devices, computerisation, and the tech/digital revolutions of the 80s, 90s, noughties, and the teenies, they were born to parents working harder, working longer, and enjoying less recreation time than ever before. It hasn’t been quite as grim as I may have painted it – in spite of the demands of work – this generation of parents (and kids) also learned to party harder and party longer than any generation before it. It wasn’t all about Sex, and Drugs, and Rock’n’Roll, but in amongst all that partying was a heady cocktail of cigarettes, booze, weed, pills, cocaine, and so on…

Put that all together and you pretty much have a recipe for dramatically increasing mental health issues across the population as it ages – it’s been a perfect storm, spread over several decades.

So how closely linked are mental health issues to addiction? I don’t think it’s too controversial to say that addiction can certainly cause and/or exacerbate mental health conditions. Of course – all sorts of things can do that; bad relationships, challenging childhoods, learning difficulties, being a victim of violence, bereavement, the list is endless. 

Unpleasant, negative, uncomfortable experiences are a challenge to our mental health. Bearing all that in mind it’s clear to see how addiction preys on those people living with mental health challenges. From birth we’re brainwashed into believing that booze, smoking, and drugs can help us relax, relieve stress, enjoy life, and get us through difficult times.

The effect of Hollywood in all this is more than a little sinister as it’s succeeded in glamorising a succession of addictive substances and behaviours – more often than not whilst being on the payroll of the cigarette and booze companies that benefit from the association.

It’s this brainwashing that tends to funnel people towards addiction. 

The more stressed they are – the more susceptible they are to the brainwashing that implies that cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs might help them cope. This is the primary reason that often it’s strong-willed highfliers, first responders, and caring professions (who lead extremely stressful lives) and people living with mental health issues (who also lead extremely stressful lives) who appear particularly drawn towards addictive substances and behaviours. Of course, there are plenty of people in those high-stress roles in life who also live with mental health issues – it’s like a double-whammy. The great news – is that as long as the right method is used – it can be easy for anyone to escape from the addiction trap – regardless of how convinced they’ve become that the addictive drug or behaviour has helped them to cope. 

Does it make a difference if the addict takes medication intended to assist their mental health? Not at all. Depending on the medication – it might or might not help the person deal with their mental health issue (that’s a huge subject that I’ll sidestep at this point) the fact is that often they mistakenly credit the drug or behaviour to which they’re addicted for any benefit that might be provided by the medication, or for that matter, by any other support that they might receive (counselling, friendship groups, exercise etc).

The determination of Allen Carr, and myself, over the past 20-35 years to apply the Easyway method to as many addictions and issues as possible is obvious when one ticks off our achievements to date. But we have a long way to go.

Escaping from addiction won’t necessarily cure anyone’s mental health condition but it will certainly help tremendously. The beauty of Allen Carr’s method is that rather than pitting the addict’s willpower vs the drug, which inevitably leads to either failure or some kind of miserable, deprived version of freedom (often followed by a return to the addiction), it simply removes the compulsion to take the drug or engage in the behaviour.

Once an addict understands the beautiful truth, that the only feeling of pleasure or relief that they obtain from a drug is the ending of the dissatisfied feeling (of withdrawal) that was caused by the very first shot of the drug – they generally find it easy to quit. No pain. No suffering. Just a feeling of sweet release. 

Of course, the method covers with great efficiency the psychological side of the addiction or behaviour, which, after all, is the main problem with escaping addiction. It normally takes just a few hours for an addict to be set free. The terrific sense of freedom and empowerment experienced can have an exceptionally positive impact on the mental health of the former addict – quite the opposite effect to that experienced by those hardy souls who attempt to quit using mere willpower (which is always tough).

We’re often asked by prospective clients thinking about attending our live seminars, online video programmes, or reading our books, if the method is effective for those with mental health conditions. In spite of that broadest of brushes, the question clearly covers everything from the mildest of conditions to the most severe, we can always happily answer to the affirmative. Addiction IS a mental health issue and it impacts negatively on other mental health conditions, every one of which can be helped by escaping the clutches of addiction.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish Andrew Newson and ‘Putting Stigma to Shame’ the very best of luck in achieving it’s brief in the most widespread and effective fashion possible. It’s a fabulous thing that you’re doing.

Allen Carr’s Easyway method has been applied to smoking, vaping, alcohol, “other drugs”, weight issues, sugar addiction, gambling, spending addiction, mindfulness, and tech/digital addiction. For details see www.allencarr.com

Use code “NoStigma” to obtain a £50 discount at our live seminars (offer expires 30th September 2019).

I recently overcame my addiction for alcohol and nicotine. I attended two Easyway Clinics in a week, and I have no impulse to touch either alcohol or cigarettes again. But just how did these fine folk at Alan Carr’s Easyway bend my thinking towards lacking any urge to touch these horrible drugs again. Not only that, but how did they make me feel pity for people who were going out to get hammered on a Friday/Saturday night, and for those that have to spark up once an hour to feed that craving nicotine monster…

I would recommend the clinics to anyone who wants to get control of their addictions. (be sure to use promotional code: NOSTIGMA to receive £50 off). It is wonderful to be free from having to feed that addictive part of me.

I would like a clinic that deals with the addiction to seek others approval and validation. That would free people from the feeling of being stigmatised against because of their mental illness. I would imagine such a clinic to discuss making any mental illness part of who you are and accepting that seeking help and understanding from others starts with that exact same search for help and understanding from yourself. Your illness is part of who you are, your identity. Since I’ve realised this, I have been able to accept fully who I am and continue the life long journey of discovering who it is that I am. My illness is partly my light and guide. I embrace it… 

The point is that all addiction to drugs like nicotine and alcohol are a spell to create addiction, not one to prevent you from stopping. Hollywood glamourises drink and cigarettes as a cool thing to do and kids are told that it is cool to smoke and drink. Think back to that first beer or cigarette that you tried. It was disgusting, right? However, that is the one that got you hooked.

I won’t divulge the secrets of how Easyway untangles the spell created to keep you craving, but I will once again endorse their method.

There was an interesting comparison made to one of my favourite movies – The Shawshank Redemption. The two main characters in this film are Red, played by Morgan Freeman and Andy Dufresne, played by Tim Robbins. 

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – SEPTEMBER 23, 2004: Morgan Freeman at the 10th Anniversary Screening of ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ held at the AMPAS in Beverly Hills, USA on September 23, 2004.

In the film Red has a significant fear of being on the outside. He has the equivalent of a fear of drinking. Andy, however, has a fear of the inside. Like an alcoholic, he fears what will happen if he can’t have a drink. 

It relates to the relentless advertising campaigns the alcohol companies have around the world. These campaigns fill us with the idea that we are incomplete and then once we’re convinced we are missing something they tell us what to fill it with. Frosty cold beer on an advertising board as we drive past tells us that we’re incomplete without something cold on a hot day and we can fill that void with a cold beer. What a load of nonsense. But don’t be fooled… it is nonsense that works!!

The battle we face with addiction as human beings is the contention we have with our reptilian or beast brain. This part of your brain cannot tell the difference between physical needs, like food and oxygen and physical withdrawal. The beast brain looks for immediate reward in the form of a hit of dopamine for the brain (First Steps Recovery, n.d.). This is good if we are in a burning desert and want to get to water but it can hijack our healthy intention as, as explained, the beast brain fails to recognise the difference between physical needs and physical withdrawal. We, therefore, lie vulnerable to addiction if we cannot learn to recognise our addictive voice and realise that we don’t have to trust it. 

But, why do I want to get control of addictions?

The Marshmallow Test was an experiment on self-control. Children were given one marshmallow and given the option as to whether they wanted to eat it right away or wait up to 20 minutes on their own (with just a single marshmallow for company) and be given another marshmallow for waiting and saving the first one.

The test was one of self-control and showed how readily we could control that addictive part of us.

The interesting results from the experiment showed that children who went the longest in waiting for the delayed gratification of an extra marshmallow went on to do better in their SATs scored, have better social and cognitive function in adolescence. Furthermore:

“At age 27-32, those who had waited longer during the Marshmallow Test in preschool had a lower body mass index and a better sense of self-worth, pursued their goals more effectively, and coped more adaptively with frustration and stress. At midlife, those who could consistently wait (“high delay”), versus those who couldn’t (“low delay”), were characterized by distinctively different brain scans in areas linked to addictions and obesity.” (Mischel, 2014).

The video below shows the same experiment, later conducted on adults.

It begs the question, can willpower and self-control be taught? The research shows that it can, and it also shows that it is extremely worthwhile. 

The intelligent want self-control; children want candy. – Rumi

“I believe the best way to improve your self-control is to see how and why you lose control” (McGonigal, 2013). Distraction is a key point. People who are distracted are more likely to lose willpower and self control. It is important, therefore, to have boundaries. Don’t allow your phone to bleep at you every other second with email, text, app alerts that do little but distract you from your goals.

Science is also discovering that willpower is a matter of physiology, not psychology. Willpower is a temporary state of mind that gives you the strength and calm to override your impulses. (McGonigal, 2013).

If you wish to learn how to harness your willpower and gain more self-control, we fully endorse THE WILLPOWER INSTINCT, by Kelly McGonigal. It’s an easy read and is structured like a university course, where you can read each chapter (equivalent to a lecture) one step at a time.

The Putting Stigma to Shame team wish you well in your pursuit of a greater willpower and self-control. We hope that you can give the addict the boot!! 🙂

REFERENCES

First Steps Recovery. (n.d.). The Lizard Brain and Addiction – First Steps Recovery. [online] Available at: https://www.firststepsrecovery.com/lizard-brain-addiction/ [Accessed 16 Jun. 2019]. 

Lesley, K. (2014). The Triune or “Lizard” Brain and Addiction. [online] HealthyPlace. Available at: https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/debunkingaddiction/2014/10/the-triune-brain-and-addiction [Accessed 16 Jun. 2019]. 

McGonigal, K. (2013). The willpower instinct. New York: Avery.

Mischel, W. (2014). The Marshmallow Test: Mastering self-control. New York, NY, US: Little, Brown and Co.

Troncale, J. (2014). Your Lizard Brain. [online] Psychology Today. Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/where-addiction-meets-your-brain/201404/your-lizard-brain [Accessed 16 Jun. 2019].

Sleeping is no mean art: for its sake one must stay awake all day – Friedrich Nietzsche

Studies have proven that there is a strong link between good quality, 7-9 hour of sleep per night and good mental health. In this article we are going to explore the problem of sleep deprivation when considering our mental health, what you can do to get a good night’s sleep and how sleep helps to keep us healthy.

Unfortunately, there is somewhat of a snowball effect when we explore the impact of worry and sleep. That is to say that, when we worry we sleep less and when we sleep less we worry. We need to discover a way to deal with the anxiety and worry as well as find a solution to our sleeping problems. Only then will we be able to sleep soundly and worry less (Mind.org.uk, 2016).

Sleep impacts your mental health in many ways. There are two categories of sleep which usually occur in approximate 90 minute cycles. These categories are quiet sleep and REM (Rapid Eye Movement). During quiet sleep you body goes through physical changes as it repairs both the body and the mind. Your body temperature drops, muscles relax and your breathing and heart rate decrease (Harvard Publishing, 2019). Good quality, deep, quiet sleep involves physiological changes that help boost the immune system. 

REM is the period of sleep where we dream. Physiological characteristics match those of when you are awake, and this REM sleep has been shown to increase brain function, improve memory and learning, and makes an important contribution towards emotional health (Harvard Publishing, 2019). 

Sleep deprivation is a key cause of psychological disorders, as levels of stress hormones and neurotransmitters become the ultimate concern

There are over 70 different types of sleep disorders. The most common being insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, various movement syndromes and narcolepsy.

Insomnia – habitual sleeplessness; inability to sleep.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea – a sleep-related breathing disorder that involves a decrease or complete halt in airflow despite an ongoing effort to breathe. 

Movement Syndromes – clinical syndromes with either an excess of movement or a paucity of voluntary and involuntary movements, unrelated to weakness or spasticity.

Narcolepsy – a condition characterized by an extreme tendency to fall asleep whenever in relaxing surroundings.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org

It is evident that some 90% of people with depression suffer from insomnia. While bipolar sufferers experience a 69-90% increase in the level of insomnia during manic episodes, some 23-78% of bipolar patients suffer excessive sleep during depressive episodes. Sleep deprivation can result in manic episodes (Harvard Publishing, 2019).

Sleep problems affect more than 50% of people who have a generalised anxiety disorder. One study found that children with anxiety had both problems falling asleep and achieving a satisfactory quality of sleep.

Various sleep disorders impact 25-50% of children who suffer from ADHD. There is such a great correlation between ADHD symptoms and lack of sleep that it is difficult to separate them. 

So, what can we do when the quality of our sleep deteriorates? You can make changes to your lifestyle, physical activities, sleep hygiene, adopt relaxation techniques and consider doing some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

Lifestyle changes – most people know that caffein should be avoided before sleep, but it is also alcohol and nicotine that you need to circumvent if you want a good nights sleep. Alcohol depresses the nervous system, which initially aids in getting us to sleep, but the effect wears off after a couple of hours and the quality of our sleep deteriorates. Nicotine stimulates both your heart rate and your thinking. While abstaining completely is best, when you want to improve your sleep, cutting down you intake of caffein, alcohol and nicotine in the hours before sleep is essential. 

Physical activity – This helps improve the quality of sleep, makes it easier to get to sleep and helps alleviate symptoms of awakening during sleep

Sleep hygiene – It has been suggested that people learn insomnia and therefore can learn good sleep hygiene. I have got into a sleep routine. I have one cold and a hot drink that aid sleep. I will use lavender drops on my pillow if I have especial trouble getting to sleep, but my drinks as well as my supplements Gaba and Mentat (Please note: I am not a Doctor and you should discuss things with your doctor before taking any supplements) are normally enough to give me a good nights sleep. 

Relaxation techniques – meditation and deep breathing exercises are an absolute winner when it comes to sleep. Going through the muscles in you body and systematically tensing and relaxing muscles can help relieve racing thoughts symptoms and anxiety.

Sleep is the best meditation – Dalai Lama

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – therapy can help to combat the mental side of sleep disorder symptoms. You can start to think more positively about your capability to fall asleep, and therapy can also help you with the idea that you have to suffer, and blame a lack of sleep for your suffering during waking hours. 

A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctors book – Irish Proverb

Humans are not supposed to be awake at night. People who do regular night shifts and are regularly awake at night are thought to be more prone to cancer and heart disease 

(Sleep Matters – The Impact of Sleep on Health and Wellbeing, 2019).

Good quality sleep improves your mood, gives you the energy you need to live healthily, improves cognitive and immune system function and should be considered as important as good diet and exercise. Until sleep deprivation is considered as a mainstream health problem then we can do little to change things. 

Putting Stigma to Shame encourages our readers to make more people aware of the problems that poor quality and/or quantity of sleep has on the public at large. It can only contribute to a greater level of understanding and decrease in the amount of suffering for those who have, or live with someone who suffers from, a form of sleep deprivation. 

We encourage you to sign up our Allies Page and start the conversation about mental health and sleep. 

Until next time, sleep well!

The Putting Stigma to Shame Team 🙂

REFERENCES

Mind.org.uk. (2016). Sleep problems | Mind, the mental health charity – help for mental health problems. [online] Available at: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/sleep-problems/#.XRiTiS2ZMWo [Accessed 30 Jun. 2019].

Harvard Publishing (2019). Sleep and mental health – Harvard Health. [online] Harvard Health. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sleep-and-mental-health [Accessed 30 Jun. 2019].

Sleepfoundation.org. (2019). The Complex Relationship Between Sleep, Depression & Anxiety | National Sleep Foundation. [online] Available at: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/excessive-sleepiness/health-impact/complex-relationship-between-sleep-depression-anxiety [Accessed 30 Jun. 2019].

Sleep Matters – The Impact of Sleep on Health and Wellbeing. (2019). Mental Health Foundation.

I have had to be very assertive when it has come to ensuring I am not made out to be violent and dangerous due to my mental health. In my notes at hospital, and with my medical team out of hospital, I have had to frequently justify myself as angry not violent. I have been sectioned and forced to stay in hospital about 15 times (I have lost count exactly how many) since 2006. Having your freedom taken away from you, while you are convinced that there is nothing wrong with you (that is part of my illness), is extremely frustrating. I have on every occasion got very angry and annoyed. However, not once has losing my temper resulted in harm to anyone else. I have been on the receiving end of violence, during hospital admissions, from both staff and other patients, but I can confidently say that not once have I ever harmed or tried to harm anyone else. That would be completely against my nature. So, why… why do so many people think mental health patients are a danger to society?

The way in which the news is reported, through all forms of media, has a lot to answer for. We learn, not only through direct experience, but also through observation. Without the opportunity to meet and create opinions about mental illness from actual sufferers, people rely on the media, in particular television, to form their views. Unfortunately, the media portrays people with mental illness as violent, murderous and unpredictable. This is a gross exaggeration and an unfair interpretation of the reality of living with a mental health condition (Srivastava et al., 2018). The result of generating views about mental health from the television is a feeling that sufferers are dangerous and people that need to be feared. Studies have shown that negative perceptions of mental illness is directly proportionate to the amount of screen time people acquire. 

In truth, mental health patients are vulnerable and scared. Stigma only compounds the alienation felt, and leaves patients exposed to risks of self harm and suicide that the media choose to largely ignore. Over 90% of people who commit suicide in the UK are experiencing some form of mental distress. According to the British Crime Survey only 1% of victims of violent crime believed that it happened due to mental health, while nearly half (47%) believed that violent crime happened due to the influence of alcohol (Time To Change, 2019). If you wish to get control of your dependence on alcohol, I refer you to the work of our friend, John Dicey at EasyWay. (Obtain a £50 discount with referral code: NoStigma):

It is worth considering how stigma towards mental health is impacted by the incessant media portrayal of sufferers as, unfairly, a danger to society. Putting Stigma to Shame is hoping to get people talking about mental health. We are seeking to get sufferers to engage, by joining the platform and give non-sufferers the opportunity to learn and understand how life really is as a mental health sufferer. We have already established that you, as somebody who suffers from mental health, are less likely to be a risk to the public. But, you already knew that! Help us put stigma to shame by joining as an Allie and talking to people that have views on mental health formed by the misleading, unfair portrayal voiced by our media. The Putting Stigma to Shame Team are ‘In Pursuit of Understanding Minds’, but that can only work out if sufferers are willing to engage and create a new wave of understanding, created by just, fair and true perspectives…

We hope this post inspires you to join us on our quest. In the mean time, peace and namaste to you all!


The Putting Stigma to Shame Team

REFERENCES

Mentalhealth.gov. (2017). Mental Health Myths and Facts | MentalHealth.gov. [online] Available at: https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/mental-health-myths-facts [Accessed 6 Jul. 2019].

Mental Health Foundation. (2019). Stigma and discrimination. [online] Available at: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/stigma-and-discrimination [Accessed 6 Jul. 2019].

Srivastava, K., Chaudhury, S., Bhat, P. and Mujawar, S. (2018). Media and mental health. Industrial Psychiatry Journal, 27(1), p.1. 

Time To Change. (2019). Violence & mental health. [online] Available at: https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/media-centre/responsible-reporting/violence-mental-health-problems [Accessed 6 Jul. 2019].

Varshney, M., Mahapatra, A., Krishnan, V., Gupta, R. and Deb, K. (2015). Violence and mental illness: what is the true story?.

Special Guest Writer Coming Soon! – Richard Enion: Diet and Mental Health

I can’t think of anyone better qualified to speak about diet and mental health. Richard Enion’s virtue and enthusiasm means he stands out, as a friend, founder at Enrichd Superfoods (https://puttingstigmatoshame.com/amigos), and Enrichd (http://www.enrichd.org), speaker (http://www.atlanticspeakerbureau.com/richard-enion/speaker), and drummer (https://www.drummingteambuilding.co.uk).

Richard came to prominence on Dragon’s Den (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vh071fRBspQ) back in 2009 and has since made it his mission to travel the world to discover, and share, all there is to know about living a healthy lifestyle, through diet and exercise.

To find out more look out for Richard’s special contribution coming to Putting Stigma to Shame soon. In the mean time we welcome you to find out more, about his infectious passion and commitment for living a better life, by checking out his YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/RichardEnion).

Peace and Namaste,

Rich and The Putting Stigma to Shame Team

An ENRICHD Mind

Intro-ing You know, I’ve been thinking about this almighty article for a few weeks now and I often find that my way of beingworks so well to last minute deadlines. Andy gave me generous date, 30 or so days in advance now, and here I am right up to the deadline with what I believe to be a highly useful read for you 😉
We are all so similar yet so different. Your commitments, your food choices, your work, your levels of joy towards the things you choose to spend you time on….
And so what? Well, I’m going to tell you a few stories and share some little insights into some of my personal experience so far during this existence and how I enrich mine…
Mind, the observer and drumming Isn’t it interesting being a human being? Our limbs, hands, fingers, eyes… how an intention can activate them, move them. Try it now, you have the intention and it happens. Go deeper, your digestive system – it just does what it does, the heart – beating away, doing its thing, the body breathing – even when we sleep… and of course the mind – seemingly having its own little party based on past and future events.
Have you ever considered what you are. If it’s your body. What are you? If my body hurts or my body feels good right now – what are you? The observer?
The first time I really felt the observer is probably when I was a feisty 12 year old, learning to play the drums. I could read the drum beat on the music, I could mouth it (sing it) but my physical body was unable to perform the task that was in my mind’s eye. Now more than 2 decades of drumming later “watching” my body play the drums while I – the observer – observes the physical in action. It’s one of my greatest fascinations. 
What is that which is watching? Watching myself drumming, noticing the texture of the keys as I type these very words? That which is able to observe myself as delight or anger comes over me. Is it life itself? Soul? Source energy… who’s knows.
Meditation During a 10 day silent retreat of a meditation practice called Vipassana (my first experience of actual meditation) I experienced a couple of life changing moments. 
It was my first time meditating and I had dived in at the deep end with 10 days of silence, no eye contact, no exercising (I LOVE to exercise/train/move), no phones, computers… simply meditate, eat, walk a little and sleep. Repeat. (You can find a link to a 7 minute taster meditation here or at the bottom of this article).
On day 5 of the 10 days I cried continuously for around 20 minutes. It began after the first meditation as I was walking into breakfast. I could feel the emotion building so I walked off to find a quiet place to cry it out. For an onlooker watching me trying to find a private place to cry, it probably looked like a comedy fast-silent-walk-stride… 
I remember trying to walk as fast as I could and as far away without disturbing anyone, because the other 50 or so gents in breakfast sure didn’t need to hear me cry a big snotty cry. 
When I was far away enough, wow, it was a full on deep soul cleansing blubbering, and it felt SO good! Not during the crying so much as that bit felt quite upsetting, though afterwards, the relief was incredible…. 
Then, that night during the evening meditation something miraculous happened. As I got deeper into the meditation, not craving pleasure, or trying to avoid pain (which is a key part of the meditation), “I” kind of disappeared into my leg where it began to feel REALLY GOOD.
Note: I’m well aware after telling this story a number of times at talks that “disappearing into ones leg” might sound a bit odd, but it happened – roll with it). 
I was in there. It was like nothing I’d felt before… a buzzing, a blissful vibrating, almost the greatest pleasure on Earth, deep inside my left leg! 
When that meditation finished I remember walking around with an inane smile for about 2 hours. It was uncontrollable joy beaming from my face. Extraordinary.
Often we speak of skill sets and abilities, well, I believe one my most useful achievements so far (and something I strive to share and deepen through mindfulness and meditation like Vipassana and tea meditation) has been being able to observe “reactions” rather than simply acting out the reaction. 
Observing the sensations expressed through the body, noticing my heartbeat rise and blood flow to my limbs, signs that the nervous system has entered the sympathetic part, and then noticing that there is no physical threat, nothing outside of me (unless there actually is a physical threat right there and then), simply seeing that it is an emotional reaction based on thought.
Meditation, especially Vipassana – try it – maybe 😉

Foods and the mind…When I think of foods and the mind I think of hormone balance and gut health (as well mushrooms like Lions Mane and Reishi).
There are foods we can choose that naturally support gut health and those which may hinder the gut microbiome. 
The most basic way I’ve found to improve my gut health is by choosing foods that feelgood. Sounds so simplistic. And it kind of is though know that I’m not talking about instant gratification junk foods that may feel good to you in the moment. 
Note: For me, junk food actually disappeared as a “food option” about 15 years ago. Friends often say I will “break” or give in at some point which is rather amusing because junk food as you probably know it is akin to eating a bag of washing up liquid with seasoned toilet paper inside it. It’s just not food.
To continue… When I say feel goodI mean foods I eat that feel good in the moment, shortly after, and that seem to support the body in feeling good for days after that too. 
Sounds a bit far fetched? Sure most people have eaten a food at some point that made them feel bloated or farty. That’s an example of a food that doesn’t feel particularly good. Take onions for example, onions, especially when raw, they make me bloated – so I just choose other foods instead. It might take a bit of time at first to tune in but you will quickly start to notice some of more gross sensations that can fairly easily be replaced with more desirable sensations.
That’s not to say foods that currently bloat me are off the menu forever, simply during a particular phase of digestive ability. 
Maybe a few weeks or months later my digestive strength will be greater or the season will have changed and those foods will seamlessly take their journey. 
I consider my digestive health like I do my physical strength and flexibility – I’m often working to support and develop it, and it has become very apparent that the health of the gut may be directly connected to emotional balance.
Interestingly, gut health is directly linked to the immune system, some suggesting that up to 80% of the immune system, is dependent on the health of the gut, others saying that up to 80% of the immune system is actually IN the gut. 
The connection is powerful and when we tune in and tune up these areas of our physical being, life just seems to feel better.

Sleeping it up!Of course as well as all of those delightfully esoteric (and very real) experiences there is a simply magnificent way to find greater balance, and that is through sleep. 
We all know how a number of disturbed nights sleep can affect us, well what if unwittingly we hadn’t been getting much “proper sleep” at all. Not duration, but depth and quality. 
Now, there are buckets of online resources for digging into sleep and I’ve noticed there are a few environmental changes that make a huge impact for me.
Lights, phones, temperature, pets, stimulants too late, bed, bedding, pillows, position, eating too late are some of the things that can disturb restorative sleep. 
My own personal experience has been to fine tune the art of sleeping over time, experimenting making the room cooler room, phone off, all lights off, LED’s off or covered, pets out of the room (or at least not on the bed), enjoying my last tea around 4 or 5pm (to limit late night stimulants), natural non-synthetic bedding, sleeping on my left side, and giving myself 3 to 4 hours between my last meal and sleep. Of course I’m flexible with all of that and feel and listen to my body, so if I fancy a late night 1980’s Shou Puerh tea then I may indulge 😉
Good sleep affects and can support the awesomeness of everything. Perhaps experiment a little to see where you can upgrade your sleep. One of the changes above might lead to a greatly enhanced physical experience.

To Conclude…To conclude that little journey you’ve just been on while reading this article is one of the most logical steps that I have found leads to a more flowing life: Free yourself from arguing for your own limitations, and support those around you in being free from arguing for their own. Think about it for a moment then try it.
Satisfied and eager for more.
Rich
EnrichdSuperfoods.comEnrichd.org
Meditation Link and reference:Link to the 7 minute Enrichd meditation:https://www.instagram.com/p/B0Tn_x3B0DC/
Role of the Microbiota in Immunity and inflammationhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4056765/

Model: Richard Enion Photographer: Jevgenija Kuznecova Make up/Retouch: Demi De

TACKLING STIGMA HEAD(HIGH) ON!

A week ago today, my very good friend, Raj, and I attended the Fundamental mental health event, in Derby, organised by Head High. Special thanks to Raj for his support. We had an amazing day and met some wonderfully gifted, driven people, some of who we hope will feature on the blog soon. 

Look out for updates and if you are suffering/have suffered with mental health in anyway, please reach out. Your voice and story is the key to Putting Stigma to Shame.

Warm wishes and namaste,

Andy & The Putting Stigma to Shame Team

Mental Health and Employment – Andy’s Story and Help Finding Work – (https://www.towardswork.org.uk)

While I was still at school, prior to any mental health problem, I managed to hold down jobs as a barman, receptionist, waiter, factory worker and chef. I used to get up at 4.30am before school and go and cook breakfast for the hotel guests in a nearby village. Both, getting and keeping a job was never a problem.

When I went to Australia for my gap year in October, 2000 I worked on a golf course as a green keeper and in a restaurant as a kitchen hand. I worked hard, often working 17 hours a day, to earn my money to travel. There was never any problem with work. In fact I was valued as a good team member, who worked very hard and lead by example. Although I was never management material (I was always too worried about what other people thought about me, to be in a position to manage – https://puttingstigmatoshame.com/should-you-try-to-make-other-people-happy/), I enjoyed the challenge of pleasing my boss and creating productive working relationships with my co-workers. 

I never had a problem finding work, even after I had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. It was staying well and holding on to positions that was the problem. In June 2005, after graduating I went to live in Bali. I earned my money through risk free, arbitrage betting. A loophole I found on the internet that allowed me to earn an average of £100 a day. More than enough to afford a lavish existence in the tropics. Earning my own money and being independent allowed me to flourish. I was not on any medication, I felt good about me – I was well. A car accident ensued (in which I was free from blame), however, meaning I went from a utopian existence to a convicted criminal, wound up in one of the most corrupt justice systems in the world. My work and my self-worth deteriorated, quickly followed by my health. It wasn’t long before I found my self incarcerated in a Balinese Psychiatric Hospital with a court case over my head. I returned from Bali, after a long legal battle, in August 2006, and I went to live with my Dad, hoping to find work and repair the damage to my delicate mental state. 

My Father has always motivated me to work. He values the rewarding nature of a good days work and he encouraged me to find a job as soon as I returned to the UK. I joined an employment agency and soon found work as a trainee insolvency practitioner at a local practice. I spent the days filing and responding to telephone calls. Despite being told I was going to have a sales role with the company – out on the road drumming up new business, I never felt part of the team. I describe my time there as though I was playing golf in the dark, as I never had a defined role and objective. 

I handled the stresses of working in an office with about 8 other people ok at first, but I soon started to struggle with my mental health. I remember joining my boss in a client meeting and being confronted by two middle aged gentlemen, wearing bright coloured golfing attire – long socks, bright caps, knee length checkered shorts and bright polo shirts. They were taking very little seriously. Their financial problems all seemed like a game. Well, I thought that these men were dressed up on my behalf. I started to feel like the lightbulb in the world of moths again – every word said and person in my vicinity focused on my every move. It was all a huge conspiracy with colleagues, clients, friends, family members, even the drivers in front and behind me, on the way home, entangled in the Andy Newson Saga. It didn’t take long for me to start to feel people were against me. My working relationships, quality of work and even my ability to hold a coherent conversation soon dwindled. I started to feel alone, despite the need for constant attention and recognition as the star of my latest episode. I wouldn’t sleep as racing thoughts would dominate my mind. Engrossed with feelings of grandeur and elation without any recognition that my whole world was falling apart around me.

This is what I was confronted with for many years. I also found roles as a stockbroker and as a Junior Financial Advisor. On both occasions, my employment was terminated due to ill health, with the same symptoms and problems persisting. Perhaps, with assistance I would have been more conservative with my expectations for work. I have always been, and received encouragement to be, very ambitious when it comes to work. I cannot say that my employers were not sympathetic, but I was in need of rest and recuperation, not the stresses of trying to perform well at work. 

I think that, in order to hold down a job with mental health difficulties, you need to make employers aware of the challenges you face. That is why Putting Stigma to Shame has teamed up with Towards Work to bring readers, who may be struggling to find work, the opportunity to succeed in the workplace.

Towards Work (https://www.towardswork.org.uk) is a project run by Groundwork Greater Nottingham, covering Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, Derby and Derbyshire.  It is part of a national Building Better Opportunities Program which is jointly funded by The National Lottery Community Fund and D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership’s European Social Fund allocations. Towards Work help people in their first steps of getting employment, education or training and specialise in overcoming barriers that individuals may face. The journey to employment or education with Towards Work starts with an individual needs assessment. A work coach and job broker will then work with you, in a personalised approach, to identifying the specific employability and skills training required for you to start your journey moving towards the workplace. For those who secure a job, Towards Work’s In Work Support will continue for up to 3 months, to ensure a successful transition back into the workplace.  

The great thing I found about Towards Work when they came and introduced themselves to me, was that they encouraged me to seek employment in the field I preferred. My Job Broker was ready to find work in a field that would sustain and ensure that my work was both enjoyable and engaging.

For myself, I have identified certain requirements I have in the workplace. For example, I need regular breaks to ensure I am present and stress free. I need one person only in charge of me who can brief me, in a one to one, each morning, and who can be turned to in time of trouble. Colleagues need to be informed and understand that I may struggle. If colleagues are informed they may be more empathetic and understanding to my situation. I require a gentle introduction to the work required so that I gradually get used to, and cope with, the stresses of work.

Towards Work help to ensure a successful introduction to the workplace by understanding the individual barriers and circumstances each individual may be facing, and helping them to remove these barriers, whilst also working with employers to encourage inclusive recruitment and reasonable adjustments which may help with this transition. Towards Work recognise that every person’s journey is different and a person centred approach is paramount to helping them succeed.