Mental health campaign: Why ‘It’s OK To Say...’, how to go about it and the impact if we don’t seek help...

Anxiety specialist Stacey Turner.

Anxiety specialist Stacey Turner. - Credit: Archant

Run alongside anxiety specialist Stacey Turner, the Herts Ad’s It’s OK To Say campaign aims to encourage people of all ages to speak up about mental health concerns before they escalate and obtain the support needed for a healthy and happy life. Here, Stacey looks at the first steps towards obtaining help...

It’s OK to feel the way you do. Sometimes part of the panic is feeling guilty for feeling the emotions swirling around and unable to make sense of them. Lost and confused usually come out first without the recognition that these are part of a pool of emotions explaining reactions.

It’s OK to feel and accept these emotions, known as “mindfully embracing an emotion”, rather than get caught up in the drama of an emotional reaction. A mindful person kindly observes the emotion without judging whether it’s the right or wrong way to feel in any given situation, creating space to choose a healthy response.

There is no right or wrong way to feel, while emotions can seem scary, they have a purpose and each person at any age perceives things differently. With that acceptance, we learn to alter our perceptions.

You don’t have to be brave, often the bravest thing you can do is remove the brave face and speak out.

Encouraging you to reach out for help for you or your family is the overall intention. If things are tense, finding ways to say through journaling, creative expression or choosing a person you feel safe talking with is helpful and calming.

Everyone needs an unbiased ear to listen to them and gain reassurance. It’s helpful to consider all the options by taking into account that this can be through the NHS, privately, or through charities or helplines.

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You may consider a support group, a trusted friend you know you can rely on or family members, even to ask for help in holding the fort while you have a little time to figure things out, and simply asking yourself the question ‘What is going to help me or us right now?’.

There are many of us who seldom have the luxury of family nearby to offer support, however it is crucial to consider what little changes can be made to make a big difference. If your children are suffering, it’s OK to say you need support for you too.

When learning how to manage feelings, you are taught and guided to stop, breathe and think.

Label feelings, recognise feelings, and acknowledge feelings: “I feel like this because...”

Learn how to manage your feelings. A therapist can help you or your child(ren) learn essential tools and strategies which are also essential for anger management.

Look at self-care and what support can be put in place. This may change on a daily or weekly basis and it’s important to note that yours will be different depending on what you feel and what you value.

If we deny our feelings, anxiety manifests. For some, this can be a slow and gradual build-up and for others it seemingly comes from out of the blue unless related to a traumatic experience.

Realistically, things may have been stacking for a while and you haven’t been recognising and acknowledging your feelings along the way. Sadly, this can appear in many ways such as a period of anxiousness, depression and/or anxiety, although this is a broad term covering a host of conditions.

For anyone, it is important to trust your instincts, if something isn’t sitting right or seems out of the norm related to you or your child, it’s OK To Say and find out if there are reasons for your concern.

Within you and your children, watch out for any physical symptoms such as tummy ache, diarrhoea, a lump in the throat, dizziness, nausea or headaches, to name a few.

Other such things to look out for are poor concentration, a lack of appetite, a feeling of being unable to wind down, and trouble sleeping. Fretting, pacing, being snappier than normal, and angry outbursts are also recognisable symptoms, although some may be less obvious and rely on your child being open and honest with you.

If your child is shutting down and is unable to talk, please seek help where a professional can explore this further.

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