Friday, 12 May 2017

Mental Health Awareness

I'm glad that this week is Mental Health Awareness week. Mental distress is horrible, and as Matt Haig writes in his memoir on depression and anxiety (Reasons To Stay Alive), 'depression is one of the deadliest diseases on the planet'.

I've had the privilege of seeing many patients over the years with mental distress and have often recommended books, in addition to counselling and medication. I thought it might be helpful to list a few of the ones I've recommended  and/or read for myself.

1. Overcoming Anxiety by Helen Kennerly.  A really good intro for learning to cope with anxiety. Its not too demanding a read and has some helpful explanation of the basics of CBT and relaxation.  It's not written by a self help guru, but a recognised authority.

2. Feeling Good by David Burns. Very helpful on understanding the negative patterns of thinking that we can fall into, such as catastrophising, jumping to conclusions etc. Ok its verbose and relatively dated but still an excellent read, again applying the principles of CBT.

3. Say goodnight to insomnia by Jacobs, and Overcoming Insomnia by Espie. Both really fine books. The first American and second British. Since disturbed sleep is so often a feature and can be a contributory cause of mental distress, it's  important to get help with this problem.

4. Manage your stress by Looker. A fabulous book that I've been recommending for over 20 years. Still the best on stress I think. Helpful before one gets too far down the spiral of distress and into more serious mental health problems.

5. Reasons too stay alive by Matt Haig. An honest and hopeful book charting the agony of mental distress and the journey out. Can be read in short bursts.

6. A darkness visible by William Styron. A classic memoir of depression.

7. Mindfulness for Health by Danny Penman. Very helpful for learning to deal with chronic pain and the stress and anxiety associated with physical illness.

There are of course many more. And some times when we are too anxious or low, its just impossible to read. So best to check them out before the darkness descends.

And yep most of us will need someone else to help us. Family and loving friends, counsellors, doctors, hairdressers (well most of them are amateur psychiatrists) etc. Don't neglect to get help. And don't forget the Samaritans.
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