Listening to people in need has enabled me to process my own emotions and appreciate the complexity of life
A ghostly, grey rubbery screen bulges with indistinct, yet recognisably human, shapes: a hand here, a face there. An unsettling hum underlies eerie, dislocated sounds. An icy voice half sings: “Is there anybody out there?” There is a harrowing howl, then a moment of respite: the word “yes” appears, followed by: “The Samaritans”.
These 55 seconds of existential desperation followed by five seconds of hope were shown on ITV in 1986, when I was seven. This advert had an effect on me. It was as if I had suddenly become aware of the extent to which humans could suffer. I had no idea what the Samaritans did, just that they were there.
It’s not just about erections – from body confidence to chronic pain, people worry about sex for many reasons
This piece appears in ‘The ultimate guide to sex and intimacy’, free with the Guardian in the UK on Saturday
Sexual performance anxiety is a phrase often associated with men, conjuring images of ailing erections. But it’s a struggle common to many.
For me, as a chronically single people-pleaser with anxiety, sex with virtual strangers is the only way I get to have it. But this makes it even harder for me to say what I really want. This hit home recently when I found myself having terrible sex on an uninspiring mattress without a bed frame, with someone I’d met through a dating app, too anxious to say that this really wasn’t working for me.
I was absolutely terrified the first time I slept with another woman, because I was afraid I’d be awful
Having concerns about how you look is not in itself a mental illness, but can trigger a range of problems
Like it or not, most of us are aware of how we look. We have all had a bad hair day, or worried whether we are wearing the right clothes for a particular event.
The traditional stereotype is that young women are more concerned about their appearance than young men. Societal pressures, media images, and doting relatives saying how pretty a female child looks all have an impact.
BMJ findings reveal sleep problems, burnout and drink dependency due to heavy workloads
Doctors are turning to drink, binge-eating and prescribed drugs to cope with the mounting stresses of their jobs, research reveals.
Large numbers of doctors are troubled by sleeping problems, fatigue and headaches because workloads have become so heavy. And more than half of all medics (55%) are suffering from burnout, from the emotional exhaustion of their jobs.
Breathwork is little understood, but over a 90-minute session I release my anxiety in gulping sobs. It should be called Catharsis R Us
I had a panic attack once in the bathroom of a Wimpy. It is a long story involving a motorway, a vicarage and, oddly enough, a pig – although not in the David Cameron sense. But the relevant portion involved me sitting on the floor of the burger joint’s bathroom, hyperventilating, which felt like I couldn’t breathe, while being aware that too much oxygen was entering my body. It was a horrible, confusing sensation, and I didn’t want fries with that. I try not to think about it as my breathing coach explains that, for the next hour, I will be doing something akin to this, in the interest of therapy.
London-based Breathpod (breathpod.me; £150 for up to two hours) offers group or one-to-one breathing workshops. This sounds about as necessary as going on YouTube to learn the difference between left and right. I feel more intrigued when I meet my coach, Stuart Sandeman, who looks genuinely beatific, a Scottish Zac Efron – perhaps because I have been seeing posters everywhere for Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, the film in which Efron plays, er, the serial killer Ted Bundy.
It wasn’t until I had a back injury that I realised how extreme my gym habit had become – and admitted that I needed help
The first time I went for a run as an adult, I was at university and had been deeply depressed for several months. I managed a minute before I had to walk, but, I told myself, a minute was a start. I went every day and, as the weeks passed, I ran further, for longer. The impact was immediate – even after that first jog I felt a rush of achievement, of hope. And it was cumulative: every run that followed made me feel stronger, physically and emotionally. Then, one day, many months later, I realised I was not depressed any more.
As the years passed, I gradually branched out from short jogs into runs of more than two hours. I went to circuit classes and step classes, interval training and personal training, core sessions and legs, bums and tums sessions. I dropped two dress sizes and developed stomach muscles.
Mental health charity Mind welcomes chart-topping star’s scheme to provide support workers, gig buddies and an ‘escape room’
The musician Lewis Capaldi has announced that he is to provide provisions for fans at risk of anxiety and panic attacks on his upcoming UK arena tour. Capaldi, whose single Someone You Loved has been No 1 for seven weeks, is adding a compulsory 50p charge to his ticket prices to cover the costs of a scheme he has named LiveLive.
Fans will be able to access support from a qualified team at each venue before and during Capaldi’s arena shows, which take place in 2020. There will also be designated help points for anyone struggling emotionally, an “escape room” for anyone who needs time out, and a gig buddy system for fans travelling alone.
Large events like pop concerts can be huge fun … but loud noises and busy crowds are a given
Anxiety, self-harm and suicide are rising, finds survey of school leaders and teachers in England
More than eight out of 10 teachers say mental health among pupils in England has deteriorated in the past two years – with rising reports of anxiety, self-harm and even cases of suicide – against a backdrop of inadequate support in schools.
In a survey of 8,600 school leaders, teachers and support workers, 83% said they had witnessed an increase in the number of children in their care with poor mental health, rising to 90% among students in colleges.
There are wide disparities in spending per child in different parts of England with more than a third of areas seeing a real-terms fall in spending on these services. This is despite soaring demand and increased government funding for children’s mental health nationally, the study by the children’s commissioner for England found.
Loneliness is sometimes presented as the main reason for older people’s mental ill-health, but that’s not the case
After years languishing in the dark, mental illness is finally getting its moment in the spotlight. Frustrating political football it may be, but one thing can’t be denied – it’s making headlines more than ever. Focus, largely, has been on young people – crises in child and adolescent mental healthcare and in student populations have been both persistent and significant. But mental illness doesn’t end with reaching adulthood – often, in fact, it doesn’t end at all.
New research from the British Journal of Psychiatry into self-harm in older people puts this into stark perspective. A meta-analysis of 40 studies found that yearly self-harm rates were about 65 per 100,000 people, with risk of repetition and of suicide also higher than average. Self-harm is still seen as a problem among younger demographics; and while that remains true, this data proves that the issue is even more complex and diffuse than we thought.