Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The NHS and Public Health Organisations are extremely well prepared for outbreaks of new infectious diseases. The NHS has put in place measures to ensure the safety of all patients and NHS staff while also ensuring services are available to the public as normal. Please check the Government Website for the latest information.

Returning Travellers

Stay indoor and avoid contact with other people immediately if you’ve travelled to the UK from:

  • Hubei province in China in the last 14 days, even if you do not have symptoms

  • Iran, lockdown areas in northern Italy or special care zones in South Korea since 19 February, even if you do not have symptoms

  • Other parts of mainland China or South Korea, Hong King, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan or Thailand in the last 14 days and have a cough, high temperature or shortness of breath (even if your symptoms are mild)

  • Other parts of northern Italy (anywhere north of Pisa, Florence and Rimini), Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar or Vietnam since 19 February and have a cough, high temperature or shortness of breath (even if your symptoms are mild)

Do not go to a GP surgery, community pharmacy or hospital. Use the 111 online coronavirus service to find out what to do next.

Stress – Friend or Foe?

Let’s start by looking at a few definitions of stress. Lazarus & Folkman (1984) define stress as ‘A particular relationship between the person and the environment that is appraised by the person as taxing or exceeding his or her resources and endangering his or her wellbeing’. Similarly, Selye (1956) defined stress as ‘Something that seriously affects one’s homeostasis’.

In a nutshell stress is our perception that we won’t be able to cope with the challenge’s life is presently throwing at us; it bombards us with feelings of fear and anxiety, perhaps sometimes even anger.

A stressor is something that is trying to disrupt our balance. They can present themselves as physiological threats, such as a car accident or a sports injury. They can also present in psychological form through our perceptions of danger. Let’s take University as an example. Say you have just received a fail for your recent exam paper, your brain may perceive this as a threat as it has the ability to catapult you into worry about what happens next.

“How am I going to afford another year of studies if I fail?”

“How am I going to tell my parents that I failed?”

After asking ourselves these questions, we notice that our heart begins to beat a little faster than usual, our mouth becomes a little dry and our hands begin to sweat; we have activated our stress response.

During the stress response a cascade of hormones are released that ignite physiological changes, some of which have already been mentioned. These hormones, alongside the activation of sympathetic nervous system prepare us to deal with the threat at hand.

According to Robert Yerkes and John Dodson (1908) stress is good for you, up until a point. The psychologists hypothesised that little to no stress leaves us feeling bored and uninterested but too much stress leaves us feeling frazzled and drained. In between the two is the ‘sweet spot’ where we perform at our best. Furthering this, it is common among literature that chronic exposure to stress can have serious health consequences such as heart disease and obesity (McEwen & Sapolsky, 2006).

So too much stress is bad for you, right? To an extent yes, but what if your belief about stress is the bigger factor in this misunderstood equation?

Keller, Litzelman, Wisk et al (2012) tracked the deaths of Americans over an 8-year period. They identified that 182,000 died not from stress itself, but the belief that stress is bad for you. The researchers suggested that individuals who had the perception that stress has a negative effect on their health, accompanied by a large volume of self-reported stress had an increased risk of premature death.

So, what if we began to view those physiological changes as our body becoming energised? Preparing us to tackle the challenge head on. By training ourselves to view the stress response as a positive, we can begin to feel more confident, less anxious and have a healthier heart (Jameson, Nock & Mendes, 2012).

When you choose to view your own stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage” Kelly McGonigal (2013).


Jamieson, J., Nock, M., & Mendes, W. (2012). Mind over matter: Reappraising arousal improves cardiovascular and cognitive responses to stress. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 141(3), 417-422. doi: 10.1037/a0025719

Keller, A., Litzelman, K., Wisk, L., Maddox, T., Cheng, E., Creswell, P., & Witt, W. (2012). Does the perception that stress affects health matter? The association with health and mortality. Health Psychology, 31(5), 677-684. doi: 10.1037/a0026743

Lazarus, R., & Folkman, S. (1986). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York: Springer.

McEwen, B., & Sapolsky, R. (2006). Stress and Your Health. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 91(2), 0-0. doi: 10.1210/jcem.91.2.9994

McGonigal, K. (2013). How to make stress your friend [Video File). Retrieved from

Schneiderman, N., Ironson, G., & Siegel, S. (2005). Stress and Health: Psychological, Behavioral, and Biological Determinants. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 1(1), 607-628. doi: 10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.1.102803.144141

Selye, H. (1956). The Stress of Life. New York: McGraw Hill.

Yerkes, R., & Dodson, J. (1908). The relation of strength of stimulus to rapidity of habit-formation. Journal of Comparative Neurology and Psychology, 18(5), 459-482. doi: 10.1002/cne.920180503

Mental Health Awareness Week – Body Image

Body image is about how we see ourselves when we look in the mirror or how we picture ourselves in our minds.

Many people of all ages, genders and cultures struggle with their body image and may have a negative perception of their appearance. It is important to remember that there isn’t a single type of beauty and everyone sees it differently.

People with a positive body image are more likely to have good physical and mental health. Girls and women with negative thoughts and feelings about their bodies are more likely to develop certain mental health conditions such as eating disorders and depression.

A negative body image can also lead to low self-esteem. This can have a huge impact on lots of aspects of your life and may cause you to not want to be around your friends and you may start to obsess about what you eat or how much you exercise.

What causes a negative body image?

We are exposed to some much imagery about how we should look it’s difficult to ignore it. Children of parents who diet or have a negative body image of themselves are more likely to develop unhealthy thoughts about their own bodies.

Sometimes, past events and circumstances can cause a negative body image, including:

  • Being teased or bullied as a child for how you looked
  • Being told you’re ugly, too fat or too thin or having any aspect of your appearance criticised
  • Seeing images or messages in the media, including social media, that make you feel bad about how you look
  • Being underweight, overweight or obese

If you are struggling, remember:

  • Be kind to yourself and try not to compare yourself to all the images you see online and on social media. Many of those images have been retouched and digitally enhanced to make them appear to be ’perfect’. They are not a true representation of how people look in real life
  • Focus on the things you like about yourself
  • Try and spend time with people who make you feel positive about yourself. Some people find it beneficial to write down the compliments they receive and not just about the way they look. People value you for many reasons
  • Think about what you would say to a friend if they were struggling with how they look, what advice would you give?
  • Talk to someone you can trust and that you feel you can confide in

If you feel you are unable to cope, it is advisable to make an appointment with your GP.

Tips for a positive body image

  • Keep a list of things you like about yourself and remember to refer to it often
  • Remind yourself that beauty is not skin deep. Look at yourself as a whole person, beauty is a state of mind and not a state of body
  • Wear clothes that are comfortable and make you feel good about your body
  • Reduce the amount your accessing the media and social media. Be aware of images, slogans or attitudes that make you feel bad about yourself and remember these are images are likely to have been edited
  • Do something nice for yourself, this can be a bubble bath, meeting up with friends or whatever you find relaxing and enjoyable

World Bipolar Day – Strength for today, hope for tomorrow

The vision of World Bipolar Day is to bring world awareness to bipolar disorders and eliminate social stigma.

World Bipolar Day (WBD) is an initiative of the Asian Network of Bipolar Disorder (ANBD) and the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF) and the International Society for Bipolar Disorders (ISBD). It is celebrated each year on March 30th, the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh who was posthumously diagnosed as probably having bipolar disorder.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar Disorder is a mental health condition that mainly affects your mood. People with Bipolar Disorder are likely to have times where they experience:

  • Manic or hypomanic episodes (feeling high)
  • Depressive episodes (feeling low)
  • Potentially some psychotic symptoms – during manic or depressed episodes

The Facts (Bipolar UK)

  • Bipolar is a common condition. 1 to 2% of the population experience a lifetime prevalence of bipolar and recent research suggests as many as 5% of us are on the bipolar spectrum. 12
  • On average, it takes 10.5 years to receive a correct diagnosis of bipolar in the UK
  • Bipolar increases the risk of suicide x 20
  • The World Health Organisation identifies bipolar as one of the top causes of lost years of life and health in 15 to 44 year olds
  • Compared to other health problems, treatment of bipolar is still badly affected by misunderstanding and stigma
  • Bipolar affects every aspect of your life and your relationships. Family and friends can all be put under stress

The Diagnosis

The diagnosis is usually made by a psychiatrist who will:

  • Take a comprehensive history to arrive at a clear diagnosis
  • Assess risk e.g. safety to drive, or stay at home on your own or risk of suicide
  • Medication – stopping antidepressants and starting mood stabilisers
  • Psychoeducation of the patient and the family so they understand the illness and how best to manage it
  • Psychological therapy

The Long Term

The aim of the treatment is to stabilise the persons mood and effectively manage their symptoms. Ongoing support is likely to be provided by the Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) or the GP.

Self-care is an important part of managing the condition and it is advisable for the person to:

  • Get to know their moods – monitor mood over a period, use a mood diary
  • Understand triggers – action can then be taken to minimise the impact
  • Recognise the warning signs – this could be a change in seeping and/or eating habits
  • Take practical steps – sticking to a routine – this includes taking medication at the same time and taking time for hobbies and social plans
  • Looking after physical health plays an important role too – eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and taking regular exercise

World Bipolar Day

Each of the funding organisations encourage their members to raise the profile of bipolar via social media, press, organising an educational event and tweet using @WorldBipolarDay More information is available at


1Merikangas KR, Peters TL, Update on the Epidemiology of Bipolar Disorder. In Yatham LN, Maj M “Bipolar Disorder Clinical and Neurobiological Foundations”, Chapter 6, page 52-61. Wiley-Blackwell UK, 2010.

2Lam, D.; Wright, K.; Smith, N. (2004). “Dysfunctional assumptions in bipolar disorder”. Journal of Affective Disorders 79.

Mental Health and Elite Sport

It’s encouraging to hear the many voices of elite athletes that have spoken out about mental health and sport. There have also been some tragic suicides.

Sports people experience extreme pressure to score goals, run faster and win trophies all under the watchful eye of their fans and followers as well as the scrutiny from the media. All have an opinion (and are not afraid to express it) on how they can improve and the errors they have made in their last performance.


Research from Mind identified three areas of mental health concern that coincides with times of key transition:

  1. Leaving

What happens when an athlete must come to terms outside of sport? A young person may join a football academy at 16 years of age but how many of them are playing professional football at the age of 21? A bad performance can lead to being dropped and funding being withdrawn.

For those who continue their career into adult hood, this usually brings a higher profile and added pressures and expectations.

  1. Retirement

Facing retirement form sport is a particularly daunting time for most athletes. They have identified as athletes, and this is now being taken away from them.

  1. Struggling in Silence

Many sports people have spoken out about their own struggles with mental health; including depression, self-harm and anxiety and they have actively encouraged others to do the same. The amount of people suffering in silence is unknown. It is understandable that those who are still playing and competing are reticent about speaking out. They are concerned what impact asking for help may have on their career; unfortunately demonstrating there is still a stigma attached to mental health.

Mind’s research went on to explore 6 sports that showed sports clubs, governing bodies and player associations are starting to recognise that mental health is as important as physical health.

The 6 sports they looked at are Football, Rugby League and Rugby Union, Cricket and individual sports – Athletics and Swimming.

Key Learnings

  • There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to address the mental health issues that exist in sport. All sports have different needs as they do not have same structure. The report recognised that there are already some great initiatives in place and best practices and learning outcomes should be shared.
  • There is a need to carry on and build on the mental health initiatives that have been started by individuals and player associations, in collaboration with clubs and across team sports.
  • More support needs to be given to athletes at key transition periods in their careers. E.g. entering professional sport, signing their first contract, dealing with long term injury and retirement.
  • Confidentiality and independence were recognised as highly important to athletes when providing mental health support. There is also underlying concern about how a mental health problem may impact on their career.

As part of the sport strategy ‘Sporting Future’ government has been looking at how sport can improve its offer of mental health support to elite sports people. ‘Sporting Future’ not only recognised the impact sport has on physical and mental health but also highlighted the sacrifices athletes make in striving for success.

Pets and Mental Health

The companionship that a pet offers is great way to reduce anxiety and stress.

Studies carried out at the universities of Manchester, Southampton and Liverpool concluded that pets can help people manage their long-term mental health conditions by providing a powerful distraction. Some pets also encourage physical activity, such as walking the dog, but also encourages the owner to engage socially with other pet owners.  A hamster owner told the researchers that cleaning the cage and feeding the animal gave them a sense of purpose. One bird owner described how important it is to feel like everyone else and not feel isolated. Having pets makes you feel like everyone else.


Pets can also have a calming effect on their owners. Stroking, sitting next to or playing with a pet can give the owners a chance to be calm and clear their minds.


A pet is a great companion. They provide owners with company as well as a sense of security and someone to share the routine of the day with.

Later Life

People in later life who are experiencing typical life stresses can be comforted by a companion pet. It is thought that a dog can act as a stress buffer that softens the effect of adverse events on a person. There is some evidence to show that when there is a pet in the home, people with Alzheimer’s are thought to have fewer anxious outbursts.

Children with ADHD

Children with ADHD can benefit for looking after a pet. Taking charge of their welfare by feeding, walking and bathing can help the child learn to plan and take responsibility.

Pets need to play, and this can be a great way for the child to run and burn off excess energy. Playing with a kitten or taking a dog for a walk can make the child more relaxed later in the day and calmer at night. Fresh air and good circulation from aerobic exercise increases oxygen-filled blood flow to the child’s brain, therefore increasing their ability to concentrate.

Children with ADHD are familiar with their parents trying to calm them down. A pet is not only a good companion but also a good listener and provides unconditional love and wont reprimand the child for having endless amounts of energy! This can provide a boost to the child’s self-confidence.


Children with autism are often introduced to sensory activities so they get used to the way something feels, sounds or smells. Dogs and horses have both been used for this purpose. Children with autism often find it calming to work with animals.

Pet Prevalence

Every year the Pet Food Manufactures’ Association (PFMA) commissions the Pet Population report, which looks in detail at pet ownership trends. In 2018 it is estimated that 12m (45%) of households have pets.

The Mental Health Foundation carried out a study with Cat’s Protection which involved 600 respondents; a mix of cat owners and non-cat owners. Half described themselves as currently having a mental health problem. The survey found that 87% of people who owned a cat felt it had a positive impact on their wellbeing. 76% said they could cope with everyday life much better thanks to their feline friend.

Half of the cat owners felt their cat’s companionship was most helpful, followed by a third of respondents who described stroking a cat as a calming and helpful activity.

University Mental Health Day

University Mental Health Day is the biggest day of the year for student mental health, bringing together the university community to make mental health a university – wide priority, to create ongoing change to the future of student mental health.

This year’s university mental health day is all about using the power of your voice. We all have mental health and therefore we all have stories to share.

Mental Health Increase

In 2017 it was reported that almost five times as many students as 10 years ago reported a mental health problem to their university. In 2015-16, more than 15,000 UK-based first-year students disclosed mental health issues, Institute of Public Policy Research analysis suggests.

A YouGov survey found that female students are more likely to say they have a mental health problem compared to males (34% vs 19%) and LGBT students have a particularly high likelihood of mental health problems compared to their heterosexual counterparts (45% vs 22%).

For a significant proportion of students who report mental health problems, these problems can make completing day-to-day tasks difficult and their fore impact on their daily lives and of course their studies.


Depression and anxiety are by far the most reported conditions. Of those who suffer 77% have a depression related condition and 74% have anxiety related problems. Compounding the problem is the fact that it is very common for students to suffer with both conditions at the same time. The next reported condition in terms of prevalence is eating disorders at 14%.

Getting Help

Fortunately, most students are aware help is available at their universities and know how to access it.

Universities have a dedicated mental health support service which is sometimes called a wellbeing service. Most universities also have a counselling service and may offer Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and practical advice and problem solving.  Where necessary, the team can refer you to external support services.

Each university will have different support options available but may include:

  • Daily drop in sessions
  • Coping Mechanisms and Exam Nerves Sessions
  • Night-time support
  • Stress Management Workshops
  • Online therapy

To get involved and to find events near you, please use this interactive map:

Single on Valentines Day

With all the heart shaped chocolates, balloons and cards in the shops it’s hard to ignore Valentine’s Day. There’s so much on social media that you can’t be blamed for thinking there is something wrong with you if you are alone.

Remind Yourself that being Single is OK

There is nothing wrong with being single and it’s good to remind yourself that Valentine’s Day is no different although it can be easy to forget this when you are surrounded by hearts and flowers.

Remind yourself of all the positive things about being single – think about that you are able to focus on your own goals, you can spend your time in any way you want and you have more time to spend with your friends.

Avoid Social Media

Social media will be populated by images of happy, smiling couples – remember anything you see is only a snapshot of other people’s relationships and people share the best bits! In reality, couples do have argument’s and sources of conflict that they don’t share on social media.

Spend Time with Friends and Family

As a single person you can have many loving relationships that provide emotional support, encouragement and safety. Spending quality time with loved ones is always a good idea and especially so if you are feeling down.

Love Yourself

You can pamper yourself by indulging in a manicure, having a massage or watch your favourite film.

Think about what you would like to do for yourself – it could be taking up a new hobby that you’ve been wanting to try.

Laughing releases endorphins so why not get some friends together and go to a comedy club.

Buy yourself some flowers and/or chocolates and enjoy them.

Valentine’s Day is just a day like any other. It can be a happy one, but if you are feeling down you are not alone but try and keep things in perspective. If you’re not in a relationship don’t despair – it’s much better to be single than in a bad relationship. You shouldn’t base your worth and happiness on being in a relationship.

Social Media and Mental Health

Over recent years there has been a great deal of press coverage about the impact of social media and mental health.

Molly Russell, 14, took her own life in 2017. When her family looked into her Instagram account, they found distressing material about depression and suicide. Instagram made a statement confirming they do not allow content that glorifies self-harm and suicide and that they remove content of this nature.

However, hashtags like #selfharm and #suicide allow Instagram users to look at fatalistic, graphic images of slashed wrists and motorway bridges with signs saying “jump” are easily accessible and likely to be viewed by thousands and thousands of people. These are extremely distressing images for anyone to see, the impact for someone suffering with a mental health condition is unimaginable.

The UK government is urging social media companies to take more responsibility for their online content. Health Secretary, Matt Hancock announced in October 2018 a review of the impact of excessive social media can have on children’s mental health is to be conducted.

The review, to be conducted by chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies, will cover cyberbullying, online gaming where there is a social media aspect, sleep problems, and problematic internet use, also known as “internet addiction”.


By comparing ourselves to others that we see on social media – whose images have often been filtered and re-touched, we are measuring ourselves and our self-worth against how other people are portraying themselves. This can only compound our feelings of insecurity.

Human Connection

As human beings we enjoy forming relationships with each other and being able to communicate. Spending too much time online making digital friends as opposed to getting to know the real-life person.


Checking our social media and being online can keep us awake at night. The white light from our devices hinders our sleep and the interaction prevents us from winding down and not allowing our brains to rest. The internet is never closed so its down to us to switch off and move technology away from our sleeping area.

What about the positive side of social media?

There is also a huge amount of positive content on social media and many examples of people sharing their experiences to support others. Many feel that technology in general is good, however, there is evidence to show that children who use social networking sites on a school day are twice as likely to report high or very high scores for mental ill-health. The rise of social media has meant that as a global population we are more connected than at any other point in history. Understanding the risks that young people may be exposed to is the first step in protecting them.

Four ways to keep your child safe online:

  • Talk regularly about online safety and what they are doing
  • Explore their world online together
  • Agree rules about what is OK and what is not
  • Manage your family’s settings and controls

Tips from Share Aware


Social media can provide us with the ability to look back on events and allow us to revisit our memories. It is also a place where we can safely store photographs.

Writing a Mental Health Journal

Writing down your daily thoughts and feelings can help clear your mind, track your progress and identify any triggers. If you are able to spot the triggers it can help you recognise when you are becoming unwell. Triggers and warning signs can be very personal so it may take you a while to work out what yours are.

There are many variations available both printed and online so find the one that best suits you. This can also be useful for children and young people who are developing and understanding their thoughts and feelings. They can be fun to fill in and some have elements that you can colour and act as mini trackers so are a great visual aide.

A journal can be a useful tool for people who find it difficult to discuss their thoughts and emotions with a therapist or family and friends as they are able to share the journal without the need to articulate everything they have experienced.

How do you Maintain a Mental Health Journal?

  • Try to write every day. To encourage yourself to do this, try and set aside a few minutes each day
  • Make it easy by keeping a pen and paper handy at all times so you are able to jot down your thoughts when you want
  • Write whatever feels right
  •  Use your journal as you see fit – this can be to keep it private or share with friends, family or your therapist

Lots of people in history have kept detailed journals of their lives. These journals have served two purposes – one is a permanent record for posterity and the other is a cathartic release for the person writing it. You may feel you don’t need either but your mental health can benefit. Regular writing can make you feel good and it helps you re-live the events you have experienced in a safe environment where you can process them without fear or stress.

Helping Anxiety

Writing a journal can have a positive impact on your anxiety through:

  • Calming and clearing your mind
  • Releasing pent-up feelings and everyday stress
  •  Letting go of negative thoughts
  • Exploring your experiences with anxiety
  •  Writing about your struggles and successes
  •  Enhancing your self-awareness and help you to recognise your triggers
  • Track your progress

The Benefits

Overall, journaling and expressive writing has been found to:

  • Boost your mood
  • Enhance your sense of well-being
  • Reduce symptoms of depression before an important event (like an exam)
  • Reduce intrusion and avoidance symptoms
  •  Improve your working memory (Baikie & Wilhelm, 2005)