Mental Health First Aid

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This makes it official, right?

Well…! I’ve finally done it! The first of many steps towards breaking the stigma surrounding mental health problems in Malta:

I am a Mental Health First Aider!

Confetti it’s a parade!

Celebrations aside, this has been something I’ve wanted to do since forever. And it’s finally done. 2 Saturdays. 6 hours each. Lots of laughs and new friends. Breaking the stigma, one person at a time.

Why should one take a mental health first aid course?

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My experience

Over the past two sessions, I learned a lot of things about mental health, and took note of them. Having been through mental health problems gave me a good background of certain things, but some things were new to me, including ALGEE:

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ALGEE – the life-saving acronym

Algee, the mascot of MHFA, is this cutie pie:

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Algee the koala

Despite having the MHFA manual, which was given to us free of charge, I still took notes of my own, and they will be listed down below…

  • Mental health problem – not diagnosed but displays symptoms
  • Mental health illness – diagnosed
  • Image result for spectrum of interventions for mental health
  • NEVER leave a person alone if they need help!
  • Say you went through a “similar situation” NOT “same thing”
  • Image result for thoughts emotions behaviors triangle
  • Attack the behaviour not the person
  • Make sure of the following:
    • You care and want to help
    • Empathy
    • Help is available
    • Thoughts are very common
    • Encourage the person to do most of the talking
    • No threats/guilt
    • NEVER KEEP SUICIDE A SECRET
    • There are ways to address specific problems
    • Involve the person in who to be told about the problem
  • When person is in crisis – first aid
  • When person not in crisis – ALGEE
  • Panic attacks are
    • frightening but not dangerous
    • not all triggered
  • When in doubt, assume person is experiencing a panic attack, NOT a heart attack
  • When person says they’re having a panic attack and recovers – no intervention
  • Slow breathing helps BUT focusing on breathing can become an emotional crutch leading to difficulty with eventual treatment
  • Panic attack – not more than 10 minutes
  • Types of traumas:
    • Individual
    • Ongoing
    • Mass
    • Witnessing/hearing
    • – (I didn’t get the last one unfortunately)
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder = Multiple Personality Disorder but NOT = schizophrenia!
  • Psychosis = loss of contact from reality
  • Neither confirm nor deny someone with psychosis!
  • Schizophrenia should be diagnosed early – teens to early 20s
  • Borderline Personality Disorder NOT = Bipolar!
  • Schizoaffective – schizophrenia + bipolar/depression (mood disorder)
  • Helpful actions: *
    • Seeking help
    • Offer tea
    • Didn’t go inside
    • Good memories
    • Friendship to help
    • Calm + firm tone
    • Gave options
    • Showed concern
    • Seated
    • 90-degree angle
    • Listened/emphatic
    • Minimal reaction (present)
  • Unhelpful actions: *
    • Sarcasm
    • Judgemental
    • Showed fear
    • Tone of voice
    • Remained standing
    • Arguing with delusions
    • Anxious
    • Insane
    • Calling help behind his back
    • Speaking about Peter in front of him
    • Facial expressions
  • What is affected by substance use disorders? The 4 Ls
    • Livelihood
    • Love
    • Liver
    • Law
  • Three types of substances:
    • Depressants
    • Hallocages
    • Stimulants

* Points taken during a video about MFHA: Psychosis taken from the MHFA Australia DVD


So these were all the points I jotted down throughout the 12-hour course, including some pictures used during the presentations. As a disclaimer, I would like to point out that despite this certification, I CANNOT diagnose ANYONE, but simply ASSIST the person in case of mental health problems. For a diagnosis, please seek professional help (GPs, psychologist, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, etc.)

 

Why I Still Go to Therapy… and why it’s OK

This is probably one of those posts where I had a thousand of ideas, and yet I never really knew how to form those ideas in a decent post. That, and I found it really difficult writing this post. Because the stigma surrounding mental health is still there. I was told by my family not to write about this, but I refuse to be silenced.

I am recovering from depression and anxiety. I’m happier than I ever was, and am in a good place, both physically and mentally.

Yet I still go to psychiatric therapy. And I still take my medication.

And it’s okay.

Continue reading Why I Still Go to Therapy… and why it’s OK

Let your body do the Yoga

Anyone living with pain (whether physical or emotional) can tell you that it takes over your whole life. You become somewhat isolated from everything and everyone, including your own body. Having a strong relationship with your body is important because it is the gateway to awareness, and it is from awareness that change can begin.

Continue reading Let your body do the Yoga

Dim the Spotlight on… Chris Cornell [#1]

This is a new series which consists of me looking back at artists I love and have influenced me that are unfortunately no longer alive.

My earliest memory of Cornell is when I heard the song ‘Black Hole Sun’ playing on VH1 Classic when I was a pre-teen. As I usually do with every song I like, I searched all I could about the band, lead singer and songs.

You could say I was instantly hooked.

Black Hole Sun

The lyrics, particularly those of ‘Black Hole Sun’ really spoke to me, and I could tell from both the lyrics and my research that what Chris Cornell was singing truly came from his heart and how personal it was.

It’s just sort of a surreal dreamscape, a weird, play-with-the-title kind of song. He also that “lyrically it’s probably the closest to me just playing with words for words’ sake, of anything written. I guess it worked for a lot of people who heard it, but I have no idea how you’d begin to take that one literally. It’s funny because hits are usually sort of congruent, sort of an identifiable lyric idea, and that song pretty much had none. The chorus lyric is kind of beautiful and easy to remember.

Other than that, I sure didn’t have an understanding of it I was just sucked in by the music and I was painting a picture with the lyrics. There was no real idea to get across.” the song was misinterpreted as being positive, No one seems to get this, but ‘Black Hole Sun’ is sad. But because the melody is really pretty, everyone thinks it’s almost chipper, which is ridiculous!

Mental Health

Cornell battled drug addiction at a young age (13 years of age), to the extent of starvation. He starved so badly he had to be sent to rehab for a while to recover from both his drug addiction. He only got clean when he met his second wife, Vicky. Of this, he says, “It was a long period of coming to the realisation that [being sober] is better. Going through rehab, honestly, did help… it got me away from just the daily drudgery of depression and either trying to not drink or do drugs or doing them.

“They give you such a simple message that any idiot can get and it’s just over and over. But the bottom line is really, and this is the part that is scary for everyone, the individual kinda has to want it. Not kinda, you have to want it and to not do that crap anymore or you will never stop and it will just kill you.”

Demise

He was found dead inside the bathroom of his Detroit hotel room just mere hours after performing with Soundgarden. I found out about his death on my way to work and I was distraught. I couldn’t believe it, and it seems, neither did his wife, friends or fans all around the world. It was later revealed that he took his own life by hanging.

And this is why I wanted to start the series in the first place, because people would think something like “Kill himself why? He had everything: a great career, wife, family, money, fame…! What more could he possibly want?!”

You need to realise that famous people are also humans. They bleed like us, they have feelings like us, and they breathe like us. They feel happiness, anger and sadness just like the rest of us. So don’t you dare say “He had it all”.

No.

He had everything and nothing. He was happy and sad. Living and not. (A metaphor which makes complete sense in my head but not in the writing, but I wrote it anyways because I don’t know how to explain it).

The Skinny on… Stigma

They say to never a judge a book by its cover. And yet, we judge those who look and behave differently from us. By “us” I mean humanity in general. I know many people who don’t judge those different from them.

I am one of them.

Before being clinically diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I was considered a quiet, anti-social outcast with weird tastes in music, books and fashion. I was called weirdo for not interacting with others “normally”. (Disclaimer: I am in NO WAY calling anyone normal. Just generalising…!

What was wrong with this description? The stigma. Since when was being shy associated with being a weirdo? I know shy people who are more “normal” (again, just generalising) than me, and have greater fashion sense than anyone I know. Now I’m not saying all shy people are like this because . . . look at me!

Another myth surrounding depression is that anyone feeling ‘sad’ is said to be depressed. Um, since when?! Everyone gets sad at one point in life, but they are far from depressed in most cases. Imagine this: I was told I was just a ‘sad’ person, then some 11 years later, I was diagnosed. Not all sadness is the same, as much as it isn’t all depression.

If you do think that you have symptoms of depression, please consult your doctor or a psychologist for a proper diagnosis and guidance for recovery.


I can’t believe what I wrote…

It made so much sense in my head, but now, seeing it in writing… I don’t even know what I’m trying to say except to stop stigmatizing mental health.

Yep, that’s the whole point.

Letter to Alice (Anxiety) and Dina (Depression)

Alice, Dina… we need to talk about some things. Well, it has been a while since we’ve last spoken to each other. I hope you two are comfortably sat down because this might be a long one.

Continue reading Letter to Alice (Anxiety) and Dina (Depression)

Things I Would Like to Do In The Future

Psychology Course

During my year-long stint at University, I studied Psychology for two semesters. I enjoyed every second of it… well, I love Psychology in general; I spent more time outside reading or surf-shopping with my classmates from my course than actually paying attention to the lectures since all the notes were sent to us by email.

Just a few days ago, I was looking for some things and I stumbled upon these Psychology notes, and it made me feel nostalgic of the one-year stint.

In a forum for the local MHA, someone wanted suggestions on Psychology courses, and a friend of mine said that she is attending one and that is is really interesting. And that triggered my sudden interest in sitting for a Psychology course… at least on Intermediate level… for now.

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The brain is a fascinating thing isn’t it?

Voluntary Work

I’ve always been a keen voluntary worker, but never really found the time to do much voluntary work. Last time I did any type for voluntary work was for a school project which was worth almost half my grade. I once did voluntary work at the Notarial Archives in Valletta.

But other than that, nothing.

Now that I have three whole months in summer of not working, I decided on doing more voluntary work if I don’t manage to find a job for the summer, and decided on two organisations to give  helping hand to:

  • MSPCA – Malta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Everyone knows I love animals, particularly dogs, and I want this experience to serve me for a future of owning a dog myself)
  • Richmond Foundation – a nonprofit dealing with mental health (now you know why I want to volunteer with them).change-the-world-1

 

Make-Up Course

I buy lots of make-up. I actually made a post about my make-up collection, which has since expanded spectacularly… and yet I have no clue how to apply eyeliner without looking borderline Panda.

So that’s why I think a makeup course would be good for me. I know several make-up artists who make the most BEAUTIFUL make-up, and I want to be able to do that too!

(Just nothing too extravagant. As if I want to look like the Mad Hatter!)

I mean, LOOK AT THIS BEAUTIFUL MAKE-UP!

UPDATE: I WILL BE DOING A 3-DAY MAKEUP SEMINAR TAUGHT BY ONE OF MY FRIENDS, WHO WAS HERSELF TAUGHT BY LOCALLY RENOWNED ARTIST SHASHA FABRI AAAAAAAAAAAA!

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BONUS: Have her beautiful features

Start a Nonprofit for People Without a Voice

I don’t mean people who cannot talk, but who think they are alone in the world with their problems, no matter how little or severe they are. It could be on mental health, traumatic experiences, eating disorders, sexuality… anything the world exploits and tosses aside.

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Write a Self-Help Book

The goal of all future goals. I’ve alway been keen on literature and the skill of writing. I remember my earliest memory of writing a story. It was about a boy whose toys come to life and — no, not Toy Story — they take over his family and hold them hostage. Now before you say anything… I was actually around eight years old when I wrote this. EIGHT. And already writing about hostage situations! I know, I know… weird, and sad… but I always had a wild imagination ahead of me.

(It still precedes me to this day, but anyways).

But this time I don’t want to base myself on fiction, but more of a first-hand experience type of writing.

A self-help book.

With a LOT of first-hand experience to write a freaking saga, I want to put all my life together in a book to help people of all genders, ages, religions and sexual orientation. No judgement. Just guidance and illumination through writing.

And guess what…?

I’VE ALREADY STARTED IT! Yes, that’s right! I’m in the process of writing my first (and hopefully not last) book! I already have a photographer and illustrator on board… and they’re both survivors like myself! Couldn’t have asked for anyone better than them!

So stay tuned for a book with my name written on it! AAAAAAAAAA!

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So these are my future goals. I might update this post if the need arises. Let me know in the comments what YOUR goals for the future are.

That’s it from me, stay strong beautifuls x