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Mental Health

Your mental health affects how you feel, think and act. It refers to your emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. Your mental health can change and fluctuate on a daily basis and over time, and can be affected by a range of factors. 

Just as it’s important to look after your physical health, the same is true for your mental health. Your state of wellbeing affects how you cope with stress, relate to others, make choices, and play a part in your family, community, workplace and among your friends.

Good mental health among young people

When young people have good levels of wellbeing it helps them to:

  • learn and explore the world
  • feel, express and manage positive and negative emotions
  • form and maintain good relationships with others
  • cope with, and manage, change, setbacks and uncertainty
  • develop and thrive.
  • boost their resilience
  • boost their self-esteem and confidence
  • learn to settle themselves
  • feel calm and engage positively with their education 

What affects children’s mental health?

A child’s mental health will be influenced by many things over time and, because children have different personalities, they will react and cope with challenging situations in different ways.

Children present with and will be exposed to a range of factors in their homes and communities that can affect their mental health – this is what we call “risk factors”. Some children experience multiple risks, which means their mental health is more likely to be affected.

These risks come in many forms and may be the result of:

  • the child’s individual characteristics (e.g. their temperament, communication difficulties, learning disability, etc.)
  • being exposed to traumatic experiences (e.g. abuse, domestic violence, bullying etc.)
  • changes in relationships within families or friends (e.g. divorce, separation, death and loss etc.)
  • broader society (e.g. discrimination and poverty etc.).

However, not all children who are exposed to risks will develop mental health difficulties.

There are lots of things that schools can do to help “protect” and support children so that they can cope better with any challenges that they may face.

These include important social and emotional skills to help child cope, such as being more resilient, knowing how to calm themselves, and feel confident.

At Dormers Wells High School, we ensure that we reduce school-based risk factors, such as bullying, and put in place support that helps children to feel that they belong and have positive relationships with their teachers and school staff, as well as other children.  

 

Different types of mental health issues:

Anxiety

Anxiety is a persistent feeling of worry, fear or nervousness. Many people feel anxious at times, especially when faced with stressful events and changes to our lives, it’s a natural human response when we perceive that we are in danger. However if these continuous feelings of anxiety impact your ability to carry out life as normal, you could have an anxiety disorder.

In the UK, a little over 1 in 10 of us will be living with an anxiety disorder at any one time – That’s over 8 million people. But everyone’s experience of anxiety disorders is different. Not everyone who has an anxiety disorder will experience the same symptoms.

Mental symptoms can include:

  • Racing thoughts
  • Uncontrollable over-thinking
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Feelings of dread, panic or ‘impending doom’
  • Feeling irritable
  • Heightened alertness
  • Problems with sleep
  • Changes in appetite
  • Wanting to escape from the situation you are in
  • Dissociation (feeling like you aren’t connected to your own body, watching things happen around you without feeling it.)

Physical symptoms can include:

  • Sweating
  • Heavy and fast breathing
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Hot flushes or blushing
  • Dry mouth
  • Shaking
  • Hair loss
  • Extreme tiredness or lack of energy
  • Headaches, dizziness and fainting
  • Stomach aches, nausea and sickness

Anxiety can also make it difficult to carry out daily aspects of life such as:

  • Looking after yourself
  • Holding down a job
  • Maintaining relationships
  • Trying new things
  • Enjoying activities you used to enjoy

Anxiety might be becoming a problem if:

  • Your feelings of anxiousness last for a long time
  • The feelings of worry are out of proportion to the situation
  • You avoid situations which may cause you to feel anxious
  • You feel distressed and unable to control these feelings
  • You regularly experience symptoms of anxiety such as panic attacks
  • It’s becoming difficult to enjoy and live your life in the way you want to

Use the Every Mind Matters wesbite to receive a personal mind plan and for more information on how to combat anxiety.

borderline personality disorder

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is an illness that can make emotions difficult to cope with. It will often affect your relationships with other people. Around 1 in 100 people have BPD. It is believed to affect men and women equally, though women are more likely to be given this diagnosis.

It is called ‘borderline’ because doctors previously thought that it was on the border between two different disorders: neurosis and psychosis. But these terms are no longer used to describe mental illness. It is sometimes called emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD).

Everyone’s experiences of BPD are different, but some symptoms are:

  • Extreme reactions to feeling abandoned
  • Unstable relationships
  • Confused feelings about who you are
  • Being impulsive in ways that could be damaging, for example, spending money, substance abuse and reckless driving
  • Self-harm, suicidal thoughts and behaviours
  • Long-lasting feelings of emptiness and feeling abandoned
  • Difficulty controlling emotions and anger
  • Overwhelming mood swings and intense emotions
  • Paranoid thoughts when you’re stressed

You only need to experience 5 symptoms to get a diagnosis of BPD, which often makes it a very broad diagnosis.

Some people feel that the name of the condition labels or insults them. However, doctors do not use this term to make you feel judged or to suggest the illness if your fault. It only describes the way the illness develops.

Turning point Works with people who have problems with drug and alcohol use, mental health and learning disabilities.

Phone: 020 7481 7600 (Information line, not emotional support)
Email: www.turning-point.co.uk/contact-us.aspx
Website: www.turning-point.co.uk

depression

Everyone experiences times when they feel low, but usually these feelings pass. If these feelings don’t go after a few weeks, if they keep coming back or are interfering with your life it could be a sign of depression. Depression is not something you can ‘snap out of’ quickly, however it can be treated. Depression is common, around 1 in 10 of us will experience it, and anyone can get it at any age.

Experiences of depression are different, not everyone who has depression will experience the same symptoms. It can have both mental and physical symptoms. You only need a few of these symptoms to be diagnosed with depression:

  • Low mood, feeling sad, irritable or angry
  • Feeling bad about yourself, guilty or worthless
  • Low energy, feeling less able to do things
  • Physical aches and pains with no obvious cause
  • Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy and avoiding social events
  • Losing interest in sex
  • Loss of concentration, finding it difficult to make decisions
  • Sleeping less or more, feeling tired all the time
  • Eating less or more
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide

People with moderate or severe depression can also develop:

  • Delusions, such as paranoia
  • Hallucinations, such as hearing voices

But this is less common.

Mood Swings Network This service provides a range of services for people affected by a mood disorder such as depression, including their family and friends.

Phone: 0161 832 3736 (10am – 4pm, Monday to Friday)
Email: info@moodswings.org.uk
Website: www.moodswings.org.uk

eating disorders

There are many different types of eating disorder, this section covers the most common types.

Anorexia nervosa

If you have anorexia you do not eat enough food to get the energy you need to stay healthy. Anorexia is about more than dieting or being thin, it’s often connected to low self-esteem and negative self-image. Some symptoms include:

  • Strict dieting leading to less energy and strength
  • Being secretive and hiding what you eat
  • Cutting food into tiny pieces to hide what you’ve not eaten
  • Over-exercising
  • Difficulty concentrating or feeling dizzy
  • Hair falling out, or growing soft fine hair on your body and face
  • Low blood pressure
  • Feeling cold
  • Sleeping problems
  • Feeling irritable and moody
  • Irregular or no menstrual cycle in women

Bulimia nervosa

You may eat a lot of food (binge) and then take action to prevent you from gaining weight, such as taking laxatives or making yourself vomit (purge). You may have average body weight, meaning other people may not notice that you have an eating disorder. Some symptoms include:

  • Feeling guilty or ashamed after bingeing or purging
  • Feeling obsessed with food
  • Feel unable to control your eating
  • Have a distorted view of your body
  • Being secretive about your bingeing and purging
  • Calluses on the back of your hand from forcing yourself to be sick
  • Feel anxious and tense
  • Disappearing soon after eating
  • Stomach pain, bloating and constipation
  • Having no energy and feeling tired
  • Irregular or no menstrual cycle in women
  • Frequent weight changes

Binge eating disorder (BED)

You will eat a lot of food in a short period of time on a regular basis if you have BED. As with bulimia, you won’t feel in control of your eating, and it’s likely to cause you distress. You may feel disconnected and struggle to remember what you have eaten. Some symptoms include:

  • Eating faster than normal during a binge
  • Eating when you’re not hungry and until you’re uncomfortably full
  • Eating alone or secretly
  • Feeling guilty, ashamed or disgusted after a binge
  • Low self-esteem, depression or anxiety
  • Being overweight
  • Tiredness and difficulty sleeping
  • Constipation or bloating

Other eating disorders and eating problems

Other specified feeding and eating disorder (OFSED)

OFSED means you have symptoms of an eating disorder, but you don’t fit into the current diagnostic categories for anorexia, bulimia or BED. You could have a mixture of symptoms from different eating disorders. This does not mean that your illness is less serious.

Emotional overeating

You turn to food when you have negative feelings if you are an emotional overeater. These can be feelings like anxiety or sadness. Eating food may help you to feel comforted.

Lots of people use food to help manage feelings, this is normal. But it may become a problem if this is the only management technique that you have, or you are beginning to feel out of control. Emotional overeating can cause feelings of guilt and shame.

Pica

With pica, you eat non-food objects such as chalk, paint, stones and clothing. There is no nutritional benefit from eating these items and some can be harmful. Pica can lead to further health concerns such as dental and stomach problems.

Rumination disorder

You will chew and spit out food without swallowing it if you have rumination disorder. You may do this over and over again.

Selective eating disorder (SED)

You will only eat certain foods and may refuse to try other foods if you have SED. This is common in young children. But the problem can continue into adulthood.

Beat

A national UK charity that gives information, help and support for people affected by eating disorders. They have online support groups, peer support, message boards, and helplines. They also have a search facility for support groups and eating disorder services. This is called Helpfinder.

Adult helpline: 0808 801 0677 (3pm – 10pm, 365 days a year)
Youthline: 0808 801 0711 (3pm – 10pm, 365 days a year)
Adult email: help@beateatingdisorders.org.uk (over 18)
Youthline email: fyp@beateatingdisorders.org.uk (under 18)
Helpfinder: https://helpfinder.beateatingdisorders.org.uk
Website: www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk

personality disorder

Our personalities are made up of our thoughts, feelings and behaviours. They shape the way we view the world, ourselves and the way we relate to others. Everyone is different and it’s our personality which helps to make us who we are.

Everybody has feelings of jealousy or wanting to be loved, but when these emotions become difficult to manage it can cause problems. When personality traits start to cause long-lasting problems in your life, it could mean you have a personality disorder.

Personality disorders affect how you cope with life, relationships and emotions. Your belief system or way of dealing with day-to-day life may be different to others, and you may find it difficult to change patterns of negative behaviour. Emotions can be confusing, tiring and hard to control which can be distressing for you and those around you.

Personality disorders are more common than you might think. Around 1 in 20 people live with some form of personality disorder. But a lot of people learn to manage their symptoms well. Because personality disorders can be distressing, they can also lead to other mental health problems like anxiety or depression.

We all have parts of our personalities which are difficult to manage. If you have a personality disorder it doesn’t mean you’re different from other people, you may just need extra help in managing emotions and behaviours.

You may be given a diagnosis of personality disorder if you have all 3 of these symptoms:

  • The way you think, feel or behave causes you and those around you problems in day-to-day life
  • The way you think, feel or behave causes problems across different areas of your life. For example keeping a job may be difficult if you can’t get along with colleagues. You may find it difficult to keep out of trouble
  • These problems have been going on for a long time

BPD World

An organisation committed to raising awareness and reducing the stigma of mental health with a focus on borderline personality disorder (BPD). It provides online information, advice and support and has an online forum.

Website: www.bpdworld.org

psychosis

Psychosis is the medical term used to describe someone hearing, seeing or believing things that other people do not. It’s used to describe an experience rather than a mental illness. Some people describe it as a ‘break from reality’. People experiencing psychosis may not be aware of this and believe their experiences are real.

Psychosis is not a mental illness in itself, it is a symptom of some mental health problems. The most common symptoms of psychosis are hallucinations (seeing, hearing and feeling things that aren’t actually there) and delusions (believing things that aren’t true).

Different people experience psychosis differently. Some people have it only for a short time, whereas others have episodes throughout their lives, or live with it most of the time. About 1 in every 100 people will experience a psychotic episode in their lifetime.

Not everyone finds psychosis distressing. They may hear comforting voices, or feel that it makes them understand the world better. However, other people find the symptoms disrupt daily life and make them feel tired, scared or overwhelmed.

Typical examples of psychosis include hallucinations, when you see, hear or feel things which are not actually there, for example:

  • Hearing voices
  • Seeing things which other people do not see
  • Feeling someone touching you who is not there
  • Smelling things which other people cannot

Delusions (these are beliefs that are not true and may seem irrational to others), for example you may believe:

  • You are being followed by secret agents or members of the public
  • People are out to get you or trying to kill you. This can be strangers or family members
  • Something has been planted in your brain to monitor your thoughts
  • You have special powers, are on a special mission or in some cases that you are a God

You may not always find these experience distressing, although some people do. You may be able to stay in work and function at a high level in your life, even if you have these experiences.

Cognitive experiences are ones that relate to mental action; such as learning, remembering and functioning. Some cognitive experiences associated with psychosis are:

  • Being unable to concentrate
  • Memory problems
  • Unable to take on information
  • Poor decision making

The Royal College of Psychiatrists

This is an organisation with a website that has information about a variety of mental illnesses that are associated with psychotic symptoms.

Phone: 020 7235 2351
Email: reception@rcpsych.ac.uk
Website: www.rcpsych.ac.uk

schizophrenia

Schizophrenia affects the way you think and cope with daily life. Someone experiencing schizophrenia may have hallucinations, delusions, disorganised thinking and lack motivation for daily activities. Schizophrenia does not mean someone has a split personality.

Around 1 in 100 people will develop schizophrenia. It usually starts during young adulthood. The early stage of the illness is called ‘the prodromal phase’. During this phase, your sleep, emotions, motivation, communication and ability to think clearly may change.

If you become unwell, this is called an ‘acute episode’. You may feel panic, anger or depression. Your first acute episode can be a shocking experience because you are not expecting it or prepared for it.

Schizophrenia does not cause someone to be violent. People with a diagnosis of schizophrenia are more likely to be a danger to themselves than to other people. Research shows that only a small number of people with the illness may become violent, much in the same way a small minority of the general public may become violent.

Schizophrenia is sometimes described as having ‘positive symptoms’ and ‘negative symptoms’. Positive symptoms are experienced in addition to reality whereas negative symptoms affect your ability to function.

POSITIVE SYMPTOMS OF SCHIZOPHRENIA

  • Hallucinations – Seeing, feeling and hearing things that aren’t there. Hearing voices is the most common type of hallucination
  • Delusions – Believing things that others don’t
  • Disorganised thinking – The things you say might not make sense to other people. You may switch topics without any obvious link

NEGATIVE SYMPTOMS OF SCHIZOPHRENIA

  • Lack of motivation
  • Slow movement
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Poor grooming or hygiene
  • Reduced range of emotions
  • Becoming withdrawn – Not saying much, change in body language, less interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Low sex drive
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Poor memory
  • Poor decision making

A diagnosis of schizophrenia does not mean that you will have all these symptoms. The way that your illness affects you will depend on the type of schizophrenia that you have. The negative symptoms can vary in length of time you experience them and the severity.

 

THE HEARING VOICES NETWORK

This service gives support and understanding for those who hear voices or experience other types of hallucination.

Phone: 0114 271 8210
Email: nhvn@hotmail.co.uk
Website: www.hearing-voices.org

mental health in secondary school

every mind matters