…it’s not something that defines me it’s just something I am and that’s not going to change.

This year us here at Harmless & The Tomorrow Project were planning on being at Pride and it was something I was extremely excited about, but with everything that’s happened it looks like Pride isn’t going to happen this year.

One of the things I love about Pride is how inclusive it is, anyone is welcome regardless of whether or not they’re apart of the LGBT community. And no one has to justify whether or not they are.

For me personally I am part of the LGBT community, when most people find that out it’s always a huge shock for them, especially with how casual I am with it. And I haven’t had a great amount of acceptance from my family over it. My mum wasn’t and still isn’t accepting of it and a lot of family still don’t know but it’s not something that defines me it’s just something I am and that’s not going to change.

And at Pride it doesn’t matter, no one cares, everyone’s just happy to be there so it’s something I’m definitely looking forward to when it’s back.

From one of us at Harmless & TP

Food and mood – Some thoughts by Helen

Food and mood – This topic is highly emotive because after spending something like 15 years in the health and fitness industry, I have a little understanding of how our relationship with food often corresponds with good or bad phases of mental health or distress. Our eating habits are often indicators of whether all is well with us, and can be a form of subterfuge from distress, low mood, difficulties or anxiety. In our society we accept the notion of “eating for comfort” and equally accept the idea of “diet” without much thought around the impact both of these concepts have on us as individuals.

I am not averse to the idea of “breaking bread” with people we love, I love sharing a meal with friends and family, its more that the idea that food is either associated with over indulgence or deprivation, when in fact the kind of eating that enhances mood and well-being is much more about good nutritious food and relaxed regular eating. Thinking about what your body might need can be the key to the body feeling good.

Helen,

Suicide Bereavement Support Officer

Tom’s reflection on dreams working in a bereavement setting

When I was younger and first encountered dreams in an academic, psychological way, it was primarily focused on the psychodynamic Freudian theories. Frankly, my perception of it was one of scepticism. My scepticism of it came from the idea that the meaning of our dreams is subconscious and symbolic which meant it relies on someone else interpreting them. It felt wrong to rob someone’s own meaning of their dream from them. This is why when people I work with mention dreams I always use it as an opportunity to explore their dream and find their own interpretation of it.

As you can probably tell, I am not a big fan of dream interpretation coming from a position whereby I as a listener infer what the client’s dream means and represents. We are in a better position to understand our own dreams as we have our own lived experience, belief system and relationships with the things and people we dream about. Dreams can be very powerful and vivid and how a client interprets them gives me and hopefully the client as well insight into themselves.

Usually, dreams relate to what is experienced in reality,  so giving people a safe space to question, think through and express how the dream makes them feel, what it means and how it impacts on them can give them validation and understanding.

When people I have worked with in a bereavement setting talk about dreams, it often relates to the person they have lost or the circumstances of how they have died.  Sometimes the dreams are upsetting and disturbing, but often they are not.  These dreams can instil comfort, pleasure, happiness but inevitability cause sadness and longing as well. Grief is as unique as a fingerprint, and so are dreams. They are different from person to person, dream to dream.   Some people believe these dreams are messages or communications from their loved ones whilst others believe their dreams are purely memories.  I feel whatever the biological reason for dreaming is, of which there are many theories, the purpose, relationship with and value of dreams lays with us, and only us.

Dream Catcher Painting by Imanshu Jain | Saatchi Art
 “Dream Catcher,” by Imanshu Jain

Tom

Suicide Bereavement Support Officer

For the majority of my life, I have been in education

I didn’t particularly love school, in fact I couldn’t wait to leave for university, where I spent 5 years of my life doing my undergraduate degree and then starting one masters degree only to realise it wasn’t for me and then completing another masters degree the following year.

A lot of the time you can’t wait to get out of education but once I did, I got this huge I miss it feeling. I missed the ease of being in education, I missed the pushing myself to get grades better than my ‘expected grades’ but I also realised how much it taught me about life. Going to university is where I found my ‘passion’ for mental health but it’s also where I learned to ‘grow up’ and look after myself, it’s where I really ‘found’ my confidence.

I was shown the fun in learning and researching, I still don’t like writing essays but I do love thinking of what would make a great study! I became more independent and I love being independent.

Education really teaches you so much more than just reading from a book, it gives you life skills that will stick with you forever. For a while I wanted to go back and do a PhD but then I found a great job that I love and that pushes me to learn more everyday and I don’t think I’d have been able to do that without the education I already had.

Sofia,

Suicide Bereavement Support Officer

Plans on hold – learning, educating and keeping your brain engaged 

Currently the whole world feels like it’s on pause and if anyone is like me they’re a little anxious about things they can’t complete or plans they had that they now have no idea when are going to happen. For example education, courses and for me moving so that I no longer have to house share.

It’s easy to focus on all the things that won’t get done or not knowing where you stand in a situation. But one thing I’ve been telling my clients is to focus on what can be done, for example bonding with family, starting up that hobby you’ve always wanted to, catching up on shows or books or even assignments that you can.

I have been in a similar situation, not quite on this level but feeling on pause. When I was in education I started a masters in finance and accounting and realised that it wasn’t what I wanted to do. So I dropped out and had to wait for the next year to come round to start the course I really wanted to. But in that time I really researched into what I wanted to do, I volunteered and really gave myself time to listen to what I really wanted so that when I finally started my masters I knew it was right for me and I did really well. Take time to breathe and get to know yourself better. If before you were in a situation that you weren’t happy with, take time now to find out what will make you happy and what you can do to make that happen in future.

 

Sofia,

Suicide Bereavement Support Officer

 

Resilience

When I consider the idea of young people and mental health, and how resilience can be such a powerful coping strategy, I wonder what resilience really means in terms of wellbeing for a generation of young people bombarded by not only internal factors (the things directly inside their unique world and experiencing) but the effects of all the external factors such as social media and the associated access to the wider world.

How do we create resilience in our young people, the kind of resilience that might protect and develop an internal valuing system that provides a shield and a defence to what can often be perceived as an overload in terms of stimulus to a developing and often fragile self-concept? This is also reflected in the messages that are relayed around mental health,  the message for young people is to seek help, talk to someone, get some support. However, the reality is that young people who do seek help are viewed in a certain way, there is a loss of credibility, a stigma that might or might not follow them into adulthood. For young people that do seek help the message is often mixed, for our young people in crisis who do seek help, the message can be confusing, they are not “in sufficient crisis” to receive immediate help or support, and the kind of help that is available is oversubscribed with long waiting lists. This is a constant source of frustration for those working with young people who are looking for immediate help or support, in order that the emotional wellbeing of the young person is addressed before it spirals out of control.

Strange as it might seem, my view is not a pessimistic one. I have seen young people who engage with the appropriate help, change flourish and grow. The kind of environment that celebrates difference and diversity. The kind of spaces that promote individual thinking and understands the kind of pain and isolation that can be experienced when a young person does not identify with their peers or the status quo. A society that encourages an individual to grow and develop in their own unique and individual way, a society that does not view kindness and acceptance as bohemian behaviour and not behaviour that is encouraged in “real business” where in order to be successful one needs to be “brutal and inflexible”.  I believe that if this kind of growth and change is to happen in any kind of meaningful way for our young people, there needs to be consensus, people singing from the same song sheet. All of the organisations that touch a young person’s life to have an understanding and expectation around what their service or contact might give to a child emotionally, rather than the constant assessing and compartmentalising of our young people into intellectual and emotional boxes that individuals may spend years of their lives trying to shed or escape from. If we as a society have consensus around the elements that create resilience and are steadfast in providing the kind of environment that is capable of implementing strategies towards achieving resilience in young people, we will be promoting the wellbeing of a generation of young people.

Helen,

Suicide Bereavement Support Officer

Some of my favourite things

This week’s theme at Harmless is Positive escapism and coping mechanisms, so I thought I’d talk about the things that I find help me. The things that provide a welcome distraction and a chance to get out of your head and ‘thinking’ mode and get lost in an experience – to be in the moment.

It’s important to try and recognise when your thoughts start racing, with worries and anxieties popping up, to try and find that ‘space’ or ‘distance’ from them, to give your mind a little reprieve, a little respite.

There’s a few ways I do this, without realising I did until I thought about it!  A connection to nature has always been food for my soul.  The sound of the wind, the blue skies, the trees, shrubs and flowers, the birds, the butterflies, and how it feels to be outside. Yesterday I had a walk at Highfields and stopped to watch a Swan and her 5 grey fluffy babies paddling away behind her. One decided to hop onto Mum’s back and then all 5 squeezed on with their little heads poking up riding along, and it was just so lovely to see, it filled me with joy, and for that moment nothing else mattered.

Reading is definitely a great way to relax, a compelling book will absorb your focus and get lost in your imagination. My other half is really into audio books and has Charles Dickens Great Expectations on the go with Matt Lucas narrating, which is great as he does all the different voices!

One thing I’ve loved during lockdown is Netflix, I’ve finally done Season 8 of Game of Thrones and been engrossed in so many great dramas. Everyone has their favourite ‘feel good’ film they connect with on a personal level.

There’s exercise, which can come in many forms, be it competitive sports to swimming, kicking a football around to yoga, it’s finding the one that you enjoy most.

Hobbies and interests, fishing, DIY, painting, making or restoring things, cooking or baking.

Embrace your spiritual side and expand your mind, take some time to reflect on your life, what is important to you and what can you let go, use mindfulness or maybe start journaling. Not easy at the moment but holidays and new experiences broaden the mind. Just getting a change of

scene or doing something you’ve never done before will give your brain a rest from ruminating.

I hope you can identify with some of these and that you find your own ways of finding some positive escapism for yourself. Take care.

Stacey

Suicide Bereavement Support Officer

Grief, lockdown and coping mechanisms – a few words from one of our clients.

Since I lost my husband to suicide last October, after 52 years of marriage, it was really hard to imagine life without him after being such a big part of my life. Regular support from the Tomorrow Project has been a big help and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

Life since lockdown had been difficult at first but I have discovered ways of coping through doing different projects.  I started gardening, painting the garden fence and shed, pressure washing the drive and paths and writing long overdue letters to distant friends and family, which helped me get back on track.  I have also spent time improving the Arbour in my garden.  I have added lights and other touches and is now a peaceful place I can remember and reflect on the life me and my husband had together. Being in lockdown is difficult after a loss, especially as I have a heart condition and other health issues which makes me high risk to Coronavirus, which has meant I was not able to see my family face-to-face for weeks. However, keeping focus on the positive things such as speaking to them on the phone or by video call has helped.  We have also started doing a family Zoom quiz which is fun and gets all the family together.  I have also just started re-painting the garden gnomes in my garden and painting a metal butterfly at the side of my house.  Hopefully, these positives activities will see me through the rest of lockdown.

Positive escapism and coping mechanisms 

For a while now it seems like everything is about COVID-19. It’s still the main topic in the news and the thing everyone is talking about. So it’s very easy to be so focused on COVID-19 and worrying for our loved ones physical health and our own physical health, that we may not be focusing on our mental health or our loved ones mental health.

 

The truth is that this virus is having a large impact on our mental health, we no longer get to socialise like we did before, were left feeling isolated and trapped and it’s a horrible feeling. A feeling that some people have known from before this.

 

Think about the people who felt like that before this virus, and imagine how much worse they must be feeling now. Please check up on your loved ones who struggle with their mental health during this pandemic, but also after. Remember how you felt in this moment and how you coped with feelings of isolation and anxiety and show understanding and compassion.

 

We need that human connection and so a lot of people are coping by FaceTiming family members or friends or even stopping by their houses from a distance on their daily exercise or helping out those who are vulnerable, and I hope we can carry that on after all this. If you look at this pandemic from afar you can see it has brought out a kindness in people, stronger communities and more family bonding. I hope that those are things we can carry on after all this, and that we will have more appreciation for one another. These ways of coping may be temporary for some people but for others they’ll still need those coping mechanisms after the pandemic has passed.

 

Sofia,

Suicide Bereavement Support Officer

Creativity and parenting

Collective creativity has been flourishing locally.

The outside fencing of the primary school has been transformed into a lovely sea of colour.

We have been making pom poms and rainbows at home to add to the collection (when on our daily exercise walk!).  

Symbolising hope and connectedness which is much needed at the moment. Beautiful in its simplicity.

Rachel,

Suicide Bereavement Support Officer