We decided to take an exhibition stand on this year’s Mental Health Summit.   We were not quite sure what to expect but thought it would be a good opportunity for us to meet with different professionals and possibly make some new connections.  As a newish start up we have not done a lot of advertising so we thought this may be the right platform for us.  So off myself and Leah took ourselves into the Aviva and I am delighted to say it such an enjoyable day from both a professional experience and also a personal experience.  The day started out with us setting up our stand and settling ourselves in.  We decided to go into the Speaker sessions which were on in the main hall.  We missed out on Brent Pope which was a bit of a shame and only caught the end of Prof Lucey’s from St Patrick’s Mental Health Services talk on recognising the signs of depression.

The MC of the day was Sallyanne Clarke of L’Ecriven restaurant in Dublin City Centre.  What struck me from her opening piece was that she had been delayed in traffic and missed her opening at the start of the summit.  She very gently put it out to the audience that she was sorry that she was late but that sometimes there is nothing you can do about situations such as traffic, we cannot control everything in our lives and that no harm was done she was here now.  I feel she set the tone for the day as very often in life we come across people who get very angry about situations such as no parking, late appointments which sometimes just happen but find it hard to cope with and it really is good for us to notice that sometimes things happen and it really is not the end of the world.  Sallyanne went on to explain her involvement in the day came about through the unfortuntate death of her 16 year old son by suicide in 2012.  She spoke so well about her experience and was really honest in saying that they had no idea there son was in such distress, they believed he was a happy go lucky teenager and the shock his death had brought to her family.  In her time of grief she found that people stayed away from herself and her husband which nearly resulted in the failing of their otherwise successful restaurant.  Her quote was ” We are great at funerals but as soon as they are over we all go back to our own little worlds” She said that strangers had been a bigger comfort to her rather than her friends as they seemed to not know how to react so stayed away which she went on to say hurt her even further.  The death of her son led to her to starting Teenline a phone support for teenagers who feel they need someone to talk to.  Her sadness could still be heard loud and clear in her soft tone but is a true lady in every sense and I found her so brave to stand up and address the audience with such honesty.

Dr Clare Kambamettu Clinical Pyschologist was up next discussing CBT , What is it and how it works.

Dr Clare gave a great talk on CBT and I believe it popularity is purey down to its simplicity in understanding.  Cognitive Behaviouarl Therapy is a proven form of therapy for Anxiety and works on the basis of Challenging your thoughts in order to have a different emotion therefore having a knock on effect to our behaviour.  She gave the example of a Couple who were married.  The wife believes that her husband is not supportive to her in and therefore when she has these thoughts she argues with him and then creates a situation where her husband pulls back from her further which then reinforces her belief that he is not supportive to her.  How CBT helped her was instead of thinking he does nothing to support her she challenged this though by writing down some things that he did do this in turn changed how she reacted to her husband which is turn changed his behaviour to her by being more affectionate as he was not feeling negativity only from her.  This a classic example how we can challenge our thoughts on a daily basis.  Just because we think it doesn’t mean its true.

Dr Kara McGann spoke on Managing Mental Health and Wellbeing in the workplace. 

This was an interesting talk on how employers need to start thinking about putting a Mental Health Policy in place.  So if in the event that someone is having difficulty with their mental health who is it that they can tell and how safe is it for them to divulge this type of information within their job. Employers need to create an environment whereby it is accepatable for an employee to say that they are unwell and that a proper guidelines are in  place in order for them to continue to work. Employers need to take notice of potential signs of mental health issues in the employee’s such as:

  • Changes in their pattern of behaviour such as sudden bouts of absentism
  • Becoming tearful or upset within their work environment.
  • Using appraisals to check in with their staff around their mental health asking them how they are

By taking these steps if could help in the event of someone going out sick with their mental health by staying in touch with them and helping them return to work successfully and they are in a supportive environment. It could be useful to think of things like staggered lunch breaks such as giving  your employee an opportunity to go out for 15 mins in the morning for  short walk to clear their head and then a shorter break later on.  Starting later in the morning as they may be on medication that makes them groggy first thing in the morning.  This would enable someone to continue working while trying to work through their mental health

We are currently living in a culture where even if an employer might notice that something may not be right with an employee they are too scared to ask them.  If proper policy’s are drawn up it opens up the lines of communication for everyone around Mental Health. There may be a designated person within the office that is seen as someone who can be approached if an employee is not feeling well and given advice on how to go about getting help.  Something for us all to think about.

Gerry Hussey (Mental and Emotional Fitness) Linking body and mind

Gerry was a great speaker and used the analogy of The Trampoline to help us understand our mental health.  While jumping on a trampoline we need both legs to land on to enjoy the high as well the come down.  Imagine if one of legs was not working we therefore  could not enjoy the high and the come down would not be a particularly comfortable one.  He applied that to our mental health that in order for us to experience highs and lows in life its the bit in the middle that we need to maintain.   Sometimes when easy language is used to describe things we can easily relate to it.   He spoke of his work with top athleths where he could be looking at them on a field not performing physically well but not because there is something physically wrong but most likely mentally they are being challenged and therefore is plays out on them physically.  Our Physical, Mental, Emotional, Relational, and Spirituality are all connected and what helps us have good mental health is keeping them all in check. He spoke of being compassionate to yourself and how when our mental health is out of sync really try to take each small step with compassion and love rather than with anger.  When we start to love and like ourselves and stop beating our selves up we can start to really become in tune with ourselves.

Dr Terry Lynch – Talk on Towards a new era in Mental Health

This talk was really inspirational it was amazing to see someone want a real change within our mental health system.  He used the analogy of the ICEBERG to describe our current system whereby we are only looking at what the symptoms they patients display are such as:

  • Anxiety
  • PTSD
  • Depression
  • Bi-Polar

He went on to describe how he believes that by using therapy for people in not just looking at what they are presenting with but by going to the root cause of all of the above.  He explained how to have a diagnosis of a mental health disorder you need to fit a certain criteria.  What’s not looked at is past trauma such as:

  • Divorce
  • Loss of a baby
  • Loss of a parent
  • Abuse as a child

Ask anyone who has experienced any of the above would they not describe them as trauma.  He gave us examples of patients he has treated successfully by using therapy to go back to the root cause of their symptom i.e Depression, Bi-Polar, Anxiety etc that he has reduced their symptoms, successfully got them back into work, therefore reducing the cost on our health system.  Give people the opportunity to address the issues that are bubbling under the surface and it may have a very real effect on how the rest of their lives play out.

Last but not least Bressie was the last talk we attended.

I honestly didn’t have a real idea of what to expect from Bressie’s talk but I have say I was truly impressed.  He was honest, he was real, he spoke in language that anyone could relate.  He opened with a statement like this “No one is immune, you can come from the most beautiful family and have a mental health difficulty there is no class divide”

Powerful words and not a truer word said all day.  He went on to tell of his journey with his own mental health and self harm.  It was hard to hear in places especially that he had resorted to breaking his own arm just to get a break from his anxiety.  He spoke of his journey with different treatment methods and his advice is pretty simple after trying and failing at lots of different things

  • Find a good GP
  • Find a good Professional stick with them it takes commitment.
  • Let them be the professional and take their advice
  • Its take consistency to see change
  • Think about what you can do to help

At the end of the day I came away with a sense of hope about our future in Mental Health.  I know that mostly what we hear is negative about our system but after listening to lots of professionals in that room we have access to people who are not only brilliant at what they do professionally, they also have such a will to make change and see change.  Lets hope that our government will allow these people to be part of the change that needs to happen within the healthcare system as Mental Health issues are not going anywhere no more like Heart Disease is going anywhere.