Mental Health Awareness Week


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Mental Health Awareness Week - May 13th - 19th

13-19th of May is Mental Health Awareness Week. The theme this year is Body Image and how we feel about our bodies.

Over the next week on social media, we'll be sharing:

  • Tips on combatting your body image worries 
  • Advice on body image when taking medication
  • Our video on looking after your mental health on social media

as well as resources from our four nations family at Mental Health UK, who'll be looking at work and mental health this week. 

Looking after your mental health on social media

5 Tips for Better Body Image

Let's face it; loving our body all the time is unrealistic. But we can all take steps to being more positive about our own bodies.  Here's our 5 tips for being more BodyKind.

"I felt like my body had been taken over by an alien" - Cara talks body image and medication

Cara first experienced mental illness when she was 20.  When she was prescribed medication, she experienced side effects, including weight gain.

Here's Cara's tips for coping with how medication can change your body image.

"I was prescribed antipsychotic and mood stabilising medication when I became unwell.  Although I now credit it with saving my life, I wish I had been more aware that they could make me gain weight. When I asked about side effects, weight gain was kind of mentioned, but shrugged off as mild.

I'm not a doctor and this is just my experience. When I started taking medication, I gained weight quite rapidly.In the initial months, I found I had a much more increased appetite, especially when it came to sugar. I would wake up with a ferocious hunger for something sweet.  My medication also made me very sleepy, so I wasn't as active as I could have been.  People kept telling me to diet and exercise to lose weight, but I was still in the early stages of my recovery. 

I found it incredibly distressing; I felt like my body had been taken over by an alien.  I had already experienced an eating disorder so gaining weight was very upsetting for me.

My appearance changed and it really affected my self confidence.  But the medication was working; my illness had become very debilitating and I was starting to recover. But I felt like getting well had come at the expense of my body and it was hard to cope with. It's alright for some to say, "just lose the weight!" but it's not as simple as that, and you still have to live with the body you're in. 

Here's what helped me to build up my body image: 

1. I stopped putting too much pressure on myself.  I had experienced something life changing and I needed to adjust and let myself recover - my weight could wait. 

2. I sought support from other people who'd been in the same situation.  I found the internet really useful for this, but also joined a support group.  Just speaking to people who understood really helped me to put things into perspective and be gentler on myself when I felt bad about how I looked.

3. I was never going to be a runner, and there was no reason to expect myself to become one just to lose medication weight.  What I did do, however, was go back to something I had loved before I became unwell, which was cycling.  It got me out of the house, helped get me fitter and was also great for my mental health.  Just moving my body made me feel great, and seeing the progress I was making.  I was getting faster, stronger, could go longer distances and it also helped me to save money.

4. I had a frank discussion with my doctor. Doctors can and should be checking on your physical health when you're prescribed psychiatric medication, though in my experience, that can be quite patchy. I would suggest, if you aren't able to advocate for youself, that you get an advocate on board to make sure your physical health is being looked after as well as your mental health. Moreso than my appearance, I was worried about my health and the risk of type 2 diabetes. I had regular blood tests to check I hadn't developed prediabetes or diabetes. There are also lots of options to investigate for healthy eating.

I know how to eat healthily, but when I had been unwell, I hadn't really been able to cook and plan meals.  Going to a healthy eating group helped me to get back into the habit of preparing meals and thinking about what I was eating.  You can check with your CPN,  doctor, or GP about what's available in your area. If you don't feel up to groups, there's lots of you can do online. 

I've also had counselling so I feel like I have more tools to help me stay well. I still struggle with body image, but for me I glad that I am still in recovery from my mental illness, and I feel proud of that". 

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to join the #BodyKind conversation. 


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