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Mental Health Awareness Week 2017: Surviving or Thriving

May 9, 2017

The theme for this years Mental Health Awareness Week centres around the theme of surviving or thriving.  To me, I view this concept as the difference between having just enough or the bare minimum to stay alive and creating the best conditions for life and being able to flourish.

In mental health these are powerful concepts as illnesses, such as depression and schizophrenia, can rob the individual of the motivation to live the best life they can and many function at a level where they are just keeping their heads above water.  Thriving requires energy and to have energy you need to be in environment where certain conditions are being met.  Some of these are outlined below:

  • Stimulating and positive challenges
Nobody thrives in an environment where they feel bored and unstimulated.  Challenges need to stretch the person while remaining positive and they should provide the opportunity to learn and grow.
  • A healthy balanced diet
A diet that is varied with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables will help the body to function well.  It is also important to remain hydrated and keep stimulants, such as caffeine, to a minimum.   
  • A comfortable living environment
A home is more than just a roof over your head, it is a place where you can feel safe to relax and recharge.  It is also a space that is yours to personalise and keep the items that have meaning to you.
  • Healthy friendships and regular social interaction
It is not uncommon for people living with mental illness to feel lonely and isolated from their community.  In order to function well we need to maintain some form of social interaction with others.  Healthy friendships require healthy personal boundaries where you are able to identify what behaviours you find acceptable in other and which are not and feeling confident to be assertive when those needs are not being met.
  • Access to adequate support when required
None of us have the ability to manage every challenging situation alone.  Sometimes we need support and assistance from professionals as well as friends and family.  
  • A sense of safety
A sense of safety is not always easy to achieve when someone is struggling with their mental health.  They may feel at risk from themselves or feel anxious and paranoid around others and be unsure of others intentions towards them.  Having a reliable and trusted network of support will help to build this.  
  • Being financially secure
Although money does not buy happiness, everyone needs a certain level of income to cover the cost of housing, food, bills, clothes and other essentials.  It is also important that we can treat ourselves from time to time and know that this will not effect or limit our access to those essentials.  In this sense I am not talking about having lots of money but enough to allow a decent quality of living.  It would be hard to put a figure on this as it will vary from person to person depending on their circumstances but it would mean being able to afford all what you need and some of what you'd like.  It also means not relying on an overdraft or credit card to live.
  • Good quality sleep
The amount of sleep we require may vary over time and with age, health and lifestyle but in order to remain healthy, both physically and mentally, we all need a period of sleep everyday.  Sometimes factors affect the quality of sleep and this can impact our performance the following day.  If this is consistently absent then it is important to look into the causes and speak to your doctor.

In summing up, it is important to stress that surviving is okay. Sometimes, when someone is really unwell, that is tough enough.  However, in order to have the best quality of life we should strive to create the conditions that allow us to thrive as this is when we truly flourish.

Six Steps to Maintaining Mental Wellbeing During the Winter Months

November 1, 2016
As the seasons change and we move towards winter many people can struggle with their mood and motivation. This is in part due to changes in light levels and intensity.  Also many find the run up to Christmas stressful and we are often more prone to winter bugs like flu.  This is why it is important to make an extra effort to be kind to yourself and take extra care of your mental and physical wellbeing.

1. Sunlight & light therapy
During the winter months the days will shorten in the lead up t...

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World Mental Health Day 2016: Emotional and Psychological First Aid

October 10, 2016
Each year the  events for World Mental Health Day are focused around a different theme.  This year the theme is of Psychological First Aid (PFA) and hopes to raise awareness of the value of emotional and psychological supportive interventions during a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster or serious incident.  The aim of this approach was to reduce the impact of these events and therefore reduce the chances of people developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  

The thinking behind...

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Healthy Morning Routines for Good Mental Health

June 2, 2016
Many people who experience issues with their mental health find morning times difficult.  This could be due to medication side effects, low mood or anxiety or a general lack of energy and motivation. Below are some ideas to help you to improve your morning times and establish healthier habits.

The foundations to getting a morning of to a good start are laid down in your night routine.  Getting to bed and asleep by a reasonable hour (ideally before midnight) will help to give you the energy yo...

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Seven Self Care Essentials For When You're Feeling Depressed

May 26, 2016
According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, as many as 1 in 5 of us will experience depression during our lifetime.  Depression, in the medical sense, is not just feeling a bit low or sad from time to time.  This is very normal and we all experience some fluctuations in our moods over time. Depression is a condition where the person will experience persistent low mood over a period of time, for some it may be months or even years.

They may notice changes to their appetite, and consequenti...

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Five Quick Strategies That Can Help You Manage Exam Anxiety

May 19, 2016
As we approach the summer months many students will be preparing for exams.  Exams can be a source of great anxiety so learning to manage your anxiety in an exam situation will help you to perform your best. Below are some tips you can practice to help you manage exam nerves.

1. Breathing exercises
When you feel your anxiety levels rising take a few moments out to refocus on your breathing.  Place your hand on your tummy as this can help you feel more connected with your breath.  Inhale through...

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Tips for Writing a Formal Letter

May 10, 2016
There are a number of occasions where you may need to make formal contact with someone by writing.  You may be applying for a job, making a complaint, replying to a formal letter or requesting additional information or clarity on an issue. Below is a guide on how you can structure your letter.

Additionally aim to keep the language in your letter clear and objective.  Avoid making personal remarks or judgements.  If you do need to share how an experience left you feeling own those views using f...

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Making Sense of Facebook: A Beginners Guide

April 5, 2016

Facebook is the most popular of all the social media websites and applications available.  According to it’s own figures, over one billion people worldwide are active members of the site.  If you have just joined Facebook and you don’t yet know your way around the site or understand all the main features and language used on the site then this blog post hopes to make this a little clearer.  

The image above is a typical view you will see when you first log into your Facebook account.  This...

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Returning to Work After a Period of Mental Ill Health

March 29, 2016

According to the Office of Statistics common mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, and stress related illness have become some of the top causes of long term sickness.  
 The term 'stress related illness' is often used to describe issues such as burnout, exhaustion, depression and anxiety.  Taking time out from work can provide some respite but this can then lead to anxieties around returning to work. Below are some suggestions on managing the return to work after a spell of me...

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A Beginners Guide to Social Media

February 23, 2016
Social media has become an extremely popular way to keep in touch with friends, family and other contacts. It also provides a potential space for making new contacts and friends from around the world. There are lots of options which are targeted at different markets and work in slightly different ways. Rather than try to cover every option out there I have stuck to the three most popular.


Facebook is one of the oldest of the social media platforms and it is the most popular worldwide b...

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About Me

Katherine Clark I am experienced mental health worker with 15 years experience working with young people and adults with enduring mental health needs. I have set up this blog to share some of the tips and skills I have learnt along the way. If you have any suggestions or particular questions you would like me to answer feel free to email me at

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