Mind your mental health

With St. Patrick’s weekend and the Easter holidays looming, HSE West has issued some timely advice on avoiding stress during the holiday season.  Mary O’Sullivan, Resource Officer for Suicide Prevention, HSE West, says that long weekends and holiday periods can be a time when people feel more vulnerable and alone, and it’s at these times in particular that people should take more care of their mental health. She says there are a number of steps that people can take to look after themselves and protect themselves from unhealthy influences. Ms. O’Sullivan gives us the following tips to help us get through the upcoming holiday period in a healthier and happier frame of mind: Accept yourself We’re all different, but the one thing we have in common is that none of us is perfect. Many different things, including our background, race, gender, religion and sexuality, make us who we are. Everyone has something to offer and everyone is entitled to respect, including you. Try not to be too hard on yourself. Stay in touch with friends You don’t have to ‘be strong’ and struggle on alone. Friends are important, especially at difficult times, so it is good to keep up contact with them. Don’t binge drink Drinking alcohol to deal with problems will only make things worse. It is best to drink in moderation and avoid binge-drinking. Overdoing it can damage your health and won’t help you to deal with the cause of your worries. Talk about it Many of us can feel isolated and overwhelmed by problems sometimes. Talking about how you feel will help. Confide in someone you trust and if you feel there is nobody to talk to, call a helpline such as the one run by the Samaritans – 1850 60 90 90. Ask for help If you were feeling physically sick you would see a doctor, so don’t be embarrassed about getting help for your mental health. Everyone needs help from time to time and there is nothing wrong with asking for it. In fact, asking for help is a sign of personal strength. Look out for others Problems with friends or family, work or school as well as normal everyday stress can make you over-sensitive, irritable, lazy, withdrawn or rebellious. These feelings are normal and will usually pass, but if they don’t go away they can be the symptoms of a mental health problem.   According to Mary O’Sullivan, there are a number of signs that might indicate a mental health problem.  She advises us to look out for the following signs in ourselves, family members or friends: Withdrawal from friends, family, school, work, sports or other things that are usually enjoyable A major change in mood or inappropriate responses to certain situations Disturbed sleep – either not getting enough or sleeping too much Disturbed eating patterns – either eating less than normal or over-eating Pre-occupation and obsession about a particular issue Lack of care for personal appearance or personal responsibilities A drop in performance at work or school or in hobbies Doing things that don’t make sense to others or hearing or seeing things that nobody else can hear or see If you think that someone you know might be having problems, look out for these signs and symptoms and talk to them about it. Most people will turn to a friend for support during tough times, so being there for your friends can really help. Remember, it is important to look after your own mental health, so don’t take on more than you feel comfortable with. Talk to someone about your concerns. You are not responsible for everyone else, but you can offer support. Problems with alcohol or drugs During difficult times in life, people sometimes turn to alcohol or other drugs. Alcohol and drug misuse can damage your mental health. Signs that alcohol or drugs are becoming a serious problem include: becoming dependent and needing alcohol or drugs to function; and letting alcohol or drugs begin to affect your relationships, work or family life. If you are concerned about your alcohol or drug use or someone else’s, talk to your doctor. Text messaging Information on where to go for help in a crisis is now available through your mobile phone. Text the word HeadsUp to 50424. The HeadsUp text service is run by RehabCare and sponsored by Meteor.