Tag Archive | community

Depression Awareness Week

Some people may not know that this week is Depression Awareness Week, and while I have always been a few days late to the parties for mental health awareness scheduled events because I am in a state of constant vigilance (hats off to Alastor Moody!), it’s important to mark this one.

I’ve been having a rough time where pain is at a constant eight and every day I wonder what’s the point of getting out of bed when the duvet just seems too heavy to even bother.  My dissertation and pressing exam revision are not helping this any…but that’s beside the point.  The point is that the more people that are aware of depression and willing to put a stop to the stigma surrounding mental health afflictions and treatments, the more people will be open to caring about those who suffer from those diseases and the less people like me will feel ostracised and isolated because their pain never ebbs away from an eight.

So, I guess, I realise why there isn’t a greetings card that wishes people a Happy Depression Awareness Week but there should be, because it’s a time when depressed and other mentally ill people feel like the world gives a shit and is at least attempting to understand the fog of rubbish that percolates in our broken brains.  This is why I’ve designed my own card and am sharing it with all of you, with my best wishes and hope for the summer of 2k15.

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LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

24-04-2015

Help from a Housemate

I just wanted to share with you all another bit of kindness and love that someone gave to me yesterday.  My house-daughter and flatmate, Katie, came back from a weekend in Totnes and brought me back this postcard just to help me not be depressed and feel as lonely as I ever do.  I am always mildly surprised by the way my flatmates put up with my nonexistence and ornery presence in our home, but this a lovely thing to do that she didn’t have to, which makes it all the more special.  So today, after the success of Jack’s article about talking openly about mental health and helping people just because you can – and you know you can – I want to say thank you to someone who has helped me just by being their usual kind and lovely self. I’ll be sure to bring you something special back from the Game of Thrones Exhibition today.
10978631_10153549406676521_6646300915097484906_nLaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

10-02-2015

Time to Change & Time to Talk Day

For those of you who do not know, Time to Talk Day was four days ago and I missed it!  However, as someone who keeps a blog on mental health and is extremely open about her own problems in that area, I feel I have given more than a year’s worth of five minutes talking about my depression, anxiety disorder and mythomania.  So, it gives me great pleasure – and I thank him very much for opting to give his five minutes to LaBellaBorgia Speaks – to introduce you to the writing of Jack again, who has written very well and to great effect here previously.

P. Mistry-Norman


You may remember me, I wrote here previously about my experiences with Borderline Personality Disorder (https://labellaborgia.wordpress.com/2014/11/08/living-with-borderline-personality-disorder/). For those, however, who do not, my name is Jack Jeffreys. I am twenty three. I live with Borderline Personality Disorder and Rapid Cycling Mood Disorder (Bipolar).

Today I want to talk about Time To Change, a charity aiming to reduce and eradicate mental health stigma. Today, 5th February, is Time To Talk Day. The idea is that you take five minutes to discuss mental health – so get a cup of tea because I’m taking my five minutes with you all now. However, I do not really want to talk about my mental health. I want to talk about the work Time To Change do, and why I think it is vital. Vital in the present, and vital in the future. In our generation and for generations to come.

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I work with Time To Change through the Advocacy Project based in St. Charles Square, Ladbroke Grove. I do not get to spend a huge amount of time with them because of work, but I give them as many days off as I can afford. We go to public areas, and set up cafes. People can never turn down free tea and cake, and in return we discuss mental health with them. This always starts very one sided, but by the end it completely flips and I am left listening to the random member of the public. This is because so many people have a lived experience of mental health.

One in four people in the UK suffer from mental health “issues”. You have to remember mental health is a sliding scale from suffering from stress, through anxiety and depression, up to addiction, personality, obsessive, psychiatric, neurotic, eating, or mood disorders. When you think of it like this one in four does not sound so extreme.

At Time To Change we aim to challenge people’s views on mental health, and bring them into the twenty first century. We discuss statistics: one in six people in work in the UK have a mental health condition, and roughly 11% of the population is on anti-depressants. We discuss people like Stephen Fry and Winston Churchill, who suffer/suffered with Bipolar; Jim Carrey, who suffers with depression; Heath Ledger, who suffered with drug abuse; and John Prescott, who suffered with Bulimia. We aim to make mental health something that everyone can relate to. We aim to make mental health less scary.

Once we get into a discussion with people, they often start asking questions about mental health. There are some very common mental health myths.

Myth: If you suffer from a mental health condition you can be violent and unpredictable.

Fact: Suffering from a mental health condition makes you no more violent than anyone else. Only 3-5% of violent attacks are attributed to mental health, and when you consider that 25% of people suffer with some form of mental health, the myth does not really add up. In fact, it actually works the other way. In the US, you are ten times more likely to be a victim of violent crime if you suffer from mental health.

Myth: If you suffer from mental health problem you can snap out of it if you try hard enough.

Fact: Suffering from a mental health conditions has very little to do with being a weak person, it often requires help, in some form, to get better. Different forms of therapy help different conditions, generally. Mindfulness is the real mental health buzz word/therapy at the moment. Many factors attribute to mental health problems, such as biological factors (genetics or injury) or life experience (trauma and abuse). Many people recover from mental health conditions, but you cannot put time on this. There is no rule for how long it takes to get better; it is not the same as a broken leg.

Myth: YOU cannot help someone with a mental health condition.

Fact: I know a lot of people with mental health conditions. The little things mean the most. Friends telling them they are there to help or helping them access mental health services. Treating them with respect, just like anyone else. Generally being a friend or family member, just how you were, before mental health became an issue. Refusing to allow someone to be defined by diagnosis – I am bipolar but I do not have to act that way. And making it a ‘normal’ thing.

Myth: All you need to do is take tablets.

Fact: This works for some people. But for lots of people this is not the whole answer. A combination of therapy and medication is important. In some cases medication is not even required. I believe anti-depressants are drastically over prescribed by the NHS. This is because of an ever reducing mental health budget.

Myth: Children do not experience mental health problems.

Fact: Half of all mental health disorders show first signs by the age of fourteen, and three quarters of mental health disorders begin before the age of twenty four.

There are many more than this, but these are the most common myths we hear.

The important thing about Time To Change is the attempt to normalize mental health. Mental health is not going to disappear. In the high stress world that many people live in, it will only become more prevalent. And without wanting to make this political, under the current government, treatment is becoming less available. Therefore it is vital we are in a position to help each other.

I guess I am urging you to avoid awkward conversations, and to be that person who talks openly about mental health. Go and do research. Find out the truth. Do not shy away from it. If you have a friend or a family member who suffers with any form of mental health, break down the invisible barriers that exist in society, and talk about it. Mental health is not something to be scared or threatened by.

To conclude, I make no apology for not talking about my mental health. If you know me, or have read what I written previously, you will know I am very open and will discuss anything you want to know about me. Today is not about my mental health. It is about building a foundation for our generation, and generations to come. A foundation that allows our friends and family to feel comfortable speaking out and seeking help. Start talking about mental health. Go and have another cup of tea. Go and talk about it over dinner. I’ve taken my five minutes today. Now go and take yours.

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

J. Jeffreys

09-02-2015

Learning and Students

Hello again, just as a humorous/helpful note.  This was in one of my lectures on teaching yesterday and I found it rather amusing, especially as I want to ‘specialise’ in mental health in teaching and education.  Just see which of the students (and maybe the teacher?) are exhibiting or potentially have a mental health condition in the classroom.  As my mental health problems were missed at school, just take a moment to look and hopefully, this might help people look more at the people in their offices and classrooms and generic workplaces and see what they’re missing because it has not got a neon flashing Las Vegas light above it screaming “I’m depressed” or “I suffer from Bipolar Disorder”.  Physical ailments are easy to notice (a pair of crutches, a bandage, a limp, a wince?) but try your hand at mental ailments and you might find you help someone and yourself in the process.

GroeningCartoonLaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

02-12-2014

What I Have Known

So, I’ve got a new article for you.  It was written by an acquaintance of mine who I do not know well enough to comment on his life and all the things he’s obviously been through on account of mental health and depression, but I will say that on a day when I myself have been feeling pretty low and worthless, reading what Daniel has written made me feel a lot better.  I hope it will have the same effect on you too!

P. Mistry-Norman


It’s a fact that 1 in 4 people have a mental illness…sometimes it’s said to be 1 in 3 people. When you think about it, that is a pretty staggering number and as I ponder this thought which is screwing with my head, as well as the fact that I may have had some alcohol to drink and a few pills, I have decided to write an article for this page. It should be hopefully an easy read.

So what does depression feel like? What does it make you do? Well, sadly depression has such a huge spectrum of reactions. Some sufferers feel lethargic and not reactive, others may well scream at the slightest provocation. In my case, I would describe it as a feeling of heaviness and despair as if I am trapped in a pit, chained to the wall. One can hardly move, stuck in the darkness and ultimately there is no escape. So why do people feel like this?

I would say from a personal experience that the reason we react in such ways is due to these factors (there may well be more):

  1. Stress of everyday life
  2. Loss
  3. Hatred of oneself
  4. Loneliness

I shall explain these in the order above in a sort of pop psychology way (just let me get my glasses and let me prepare my best Sigmund Freud accent!).

In terms of the stress of everyday life, this is very much a personal theory, and please do not take anything I say for gospel. I am not a trained psychologist, merely a human being with – possibly stupid – thoughts. But anyway, I digress. How do we get depressed? Part of it may well be genetic. My family has had its fair share of alcoholics and manic depressives for generations, each coping in varying degrees of success (or cleverly hidden up by family members ashamed of the stigma… we’ll get to this later). However I do believe life’s experience can be a reason, such as traumatic and extreme experiences such as the loss of loved ones, bullying or witnessing a horrific event, to name but a few. But when it comes to all the depressed teenagers, I am going to put this forward.

We have so much stress on our shoulders…think about it. Our grandparents and parents were some of the most fortunate generations in history. When they were around money was (for the most part) in abundance; people could get jobs by working their way up from an untrained bank clerk to the head of a massive corporation, many parents were easily employed and earned good money, and paid for their kids to survive, eat well, study and be comfortable. Then they turn around and say “Well, time for you to go to the best university ever, get the best degree, the best job and make loads of money!”

I beg your pardon…

Now, not all parents do this. But, and no offence to anyone of an older generation, they kind of mucked things up. Even Jeremy Paxman has admitted this. They screwed up the planet, through their foolish choices and due to greed, they made a recession and thus made jobs harder to find, the amount of salaries less, and also, there’s a lot more people in our generation than theirs! We are all fighting for placements at universities which may not even be of good quality and not even guarantee us a job!

Now if you have a predisposition to depression, tell me, did you just go to DEFCON 1? I have been there. Life out there is not easy and our generation has so much to put up with and endure. But we can do it. Do you really need to make billions? Or do you just want to be happy?! Don’t delude yourself and let your parents’ expectations control your own! You want to be a doctor, be a doctor! You want to go to art school even though you may not be a famous painter, go to art school! Don’t get into anything for the money, because money doesn’t necessarily make you happy. Consider what makes you happy, and be realistic. You may not make millions with what makes you happy, but as a hobby or way to keep you sane or even a low paying job, as long as you can survive and be happy, do it. Who knows, you may even surprise yourself!

However the above may be hard to swallow, because depressed people hate ourselves. This is a problem as this means we lock ourselves away, believing no one wants to help us. And being alone with our thoughts is dangerous. Second bit of imagery here, but imagine a gremlin continuously pulling your hair and biting you as he screams in your ear “You are possibly the most pathetic creature alive! You are stupid! You are talentless! And nobody loves you!” Wouldn’t you love to kill that gremlin? Just stab him? Throw him from the rooftop of a skyscraper? Shoot him? Now remember that this gremlin is living in you…

These are the thoughts that I, and many others, have had to deal with. They drive us away from people; make us prisoners in our own houses, our own rooms and our own minds. We feel that we are hated but also misunderstood, as if we must be mad or crazy. “We should be away from people!” we say to ourselves. “I am a piece of shit to whom people don’t want to talk and not only do I think this, but everyone else does too! Everyone is better than me.” We end up making ourselves alone, and sometimes saying horrid things to people or doing stupid things in order to separate ourselves from others, to punish ourselves, or find a way to feel good.

In my family, a young man did commit suicide but everyone kept it secret, because they were worried what people would think. Some people will think that you are just being lazy or just miserable and you should just shake it off, and that hiding is just a sign of being introverted. Hearing this must make you feel confirmed in your idea that maybe being alone is better.

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But please, and I know how hard it is as I’ve been there, you must not feel ashamed. 1 in 3 people feel the way you do and ultimately you need to talk to the people you feel safest with. Even if it’s just a text, a letter or not even any words, just a brief moment of silence and watching a film or a phone call. The people you feel safest with, like your friends or parents, are probably people who love you deeply (insert Community “Gay!” here). They might not understand, but if you can talk to them, and they are willing to listen, maybe they can help you as people who love you and do not want to see you hurt. Don’t feel guilty for finding it hard to talk to them or feeling like locking yourself away, maybe at least let them know so maybe they could come over for a cuppa and a hug.

If alone, do some work, listen to a song that makes you happy, watch a film, express yourself by writing a poem, a story, a song or a short film! Who knows maybe you could make millions, like that git Morrissey! Or most songwriters! And please, please, get help. It could be medication or an hour with a therapist, just don’t let yourself get into a place so dark that you really do feel like it’s the end. Be safe, since someone out there does love you and would do anything to make you feel safe.

“For now, I just want all things safe and familiar.  My life may not be perfect, but it is what I have known.” ~ Ann M. Martin, A Corner of the Universe

For those of you who have read this, and do not have depression, then may I say this: do not judge. Mental illnesses are awful and painful. Please support these people you know, do not assume it is just a bad day, sometimes all it takes is one bad day (yes, Batman quote!). If you love them, make sure you let them know that you will be there for them. I was very fortunate to have many friends and my parents support me. Now gradually, although I may always have some horrid thoughts, I’m getting through life (sometimes in tears, sometimes silent and sometimes because of their love) and laughing like a complete and utter fool. Your support and love and willingness to get them somewhere safe where they can be help could well be what saves them.

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

D. Mason

13-11-2014

Let it Go

I am about to attempt something completely new and different (can you tell that’s the theme over the past week or so?).  I am going to attempt to communicate the way I feel about depression and social anxiety and coping with the aforementioned through music and a video blog.  So, this post is less wordy than my others but I hope you will play the video below and listen and see what it is I want to say but often am unable to.  Otherwise, stick around and the next post in my guest series will be up presently!

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

12-11-2014

Words of a Friend

After the last hugely successful post, I have given my next slot to a great friend and my flatmate at university from last year so she can offer her words of vast wisdom.  As far as mental health goes, it not only affects those who suffer from related illnesses but those around them, so I wanted to give one of them a voice here – I’m just fortunate her writing is so good! There are some great articles coming up from a varying and interesting bunch of people, so stick around!

Happy Armistice Day,

P. Mistry-Norman


Last year, I was lucky enough to spend a year of my life sharing a flat with Pippa. It was a privilege – and not only was she a fantastic flatmate but she has taught me huge amounts about being a friend. With what little knowledge I have, I wanted to write this post for people who, like me, just want to help but don’t quite know how – and, at the same time, to let those suffering know that we want to help, but just don’t quite know how. None of us are alone.

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I’m sure that I have had, and possibly still have, a whole range of misconceptions about mental health, and apologise in advance (please forgive me) for any that crop up in this post. I, like the rest of the world, admittedly have shockingly little awareness of the subject, and I can’t be more thankful to this blog and so many others for helping to give me some.

In my 21 years on this earth I have been fortunate enough never to have suffered from mental health issues. Then again, I’m no stranger to them. A whole host of my friends, relatives, loved ones, colleagues and acquaintances have struggled to cope with them – and it’s likely that over a quarter of my friends and family will at some point, if they haven’t already, have mental health problems. And I am, or will be, one of three quarters they will turn to for help.

When they do, I almost always feel under-qualified to offer it. I’m no psychiatrist, I’m no upstanding member of the community and my life experience is minimal. I don’t know how it feels to feel utterly lost in my own skin. That one time, when someone tells you they want to die, you don’t always know what to say.

The thing is, though, nobody expects you to know what to say. That friend who’s suffering does not expect essays of wisdom to suddenly put meaning into their life, you can’t out-logic their depression, you can’t make sense of it through your own eyes because the issue is theirs and nothing on this earth can make you understand. All you need to do, all you can do is be there. Listen, if and when they’re ready to talk. And if they’re not, then let them know where you are, keep an eye out, check in on them and let them do their thing. Don’t push it.

The biggest mistake that anyone makes in trying to help someone with mental health issues (that I have made countless times), is making it your personal responsibility to make things better. And by the same logic, is it never your fault on those occasions when you can’t help. As heart-breaking as the fact is, there will be – and for me, there have been – times when you just can’t help, when you can’t do enough, when you can’t see the signs. You cannot let yourself feel guilty for it. The weight of the world was never designed to rest on your shoulders.

What we can do, is be part of the wider network. Be a kind face, a thoughtful text or Facebook like to let them know we’re thinking of them, that they can come round for tea, come out for a drink or go silent for a week and we’ll still be there. We can teach our children and grandchildren to think of mental health as no more alien than physical health, and let those suffering know that it’s ok not to be fine.

Because I am not a psychiatrist – I’m a friend. Sometimes a friend is all they need.

And one day, when you need it most, they’ll be there for you.

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

S. Strand

11-11-2014