A Middlesex Perspective-
He has now retired from the NHS.
Prior to his retirement he was in senior management initially as the Senior Nursing Officer and later as the Assistant Director of Operations in a Community and Mental Health NHS Trust in North West Surrey.
He is currently a fully trained and vetted voluntary visitor for the MCF and a member of the Middlesex Almoner Support Team.
This is the first of a series of articles on mental health
“In many ways mental illness is no different to physical illness, so why do some people find it so difficult to admit that they may be suffering from it and seek help ?
The human body is very clever and does things automatically to protect us.
These are our defence mechanisms.
Thus, we shut our eyes to protect them, or flinch when we see something coming towards us, whilst our skin covers almost our entire body to protect it from any invasion of germs.
However, it is much harder to protect oneself against mental illnesses – and fighting against it may not be the best approach.
As with physical threats, our body reacts naturally to mental situations, including circumstances beyond our control – such as our upbringing, bereavements, physical or mental abuse, loss of employment, divorce etc.
Some mental illnesses may come from within, so we have a natural inclination towards anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, mania etc.
It’s important to remember that mental illness is very common, but symptoms can be relieved, and support is available.
There is nothing to be ashamed of in suffering from a mental issue – in exactly the same way there is nothing to be ashamed of if you have diabetes or epilepsy.
THE FACTS –
• 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime.
• Depression or anxiety has been noted to be highest among those aged 50-59 and those of 80 years and older.
• Depression affected 22% of men and 28 % of women aged 65 or over.
• Fewer than one in six older people with depression discuss their symptoms with their GP, and only half receive suitable treatment.
Many people (Freemasons included) will avoid talking about a mental health problem, mainly because of the perceived stigma.
Some feel a mental issue is a sign of weakness or unmanliness, but this simply isn’t true.
TELL TALE SIGNS –
As Freemasons, we should always be on the lookout for signs of mental distress amongst our Brethren and there are a range of tell-tale signs, for example someone who is:
• unusually quiet or preoccupied
• uncharacteristically short-tempered or emotional
• not looking after themselves properly (“letting themselves go”) or excessive drinking
• unnatural or unreasonable behaviour, including obsessions
• mood swings or violent outbursts.
Whilst we should always ask ourselves whether we are the “right” person to speak with the individual about mental health, depression or anxiety or whether we refer them to others for help, it does no harm to let the person know you are supporting them.
They may be much more likely to talk more freely with someone who has no direct link to them or their family.
We need patience to listen carefully but as we are not trained counsellors, so professional help may be needed.
Hence it is a matter of pointing them in the right direction where help may be available.
In my next article, I will talk more about what help is available out there”.
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