Volume 1 • Issue 7 • 2007

Welcome to Overcoming
The monthly newsletter for primary care mental health workers

As publishers of the Overcoming series – a range of self-help guides and assisted self-help courses based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Techniques – we aim to broaden access to assisted self-help by providing excellent resources and support to people working on the front line. In this, the seventh newsletter, we’re going to look at strategies for dealing with the extra distress the winter season can bring. If you’ve got any suggestions about what you’d like to see us writing about in the New Year then do let us know by emailing nova@overcoming.co.uk

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
As the days get shorter and the temperature colder, a significant number of people find themselves affected by SAD or the milder but still debilitating ‘winter blues’. SAD is a form of depression with symptoms that are thought to be caused by a lack of light. The number of people affected by the condition peaks between December and February, so now is the time to be on the lookout for it. If diagnosed correctly, people affected by SAD can benefit from taking preventive measures, e.g. by using a lightbox in early autumn. Antidepressants have also been shown to be effective, especially when combined with light therapy, counselling and self-help. To find out more and receive an information pack, visit: www.sada.org.uk

Overcoming Christmas!
Although Christmas is a time to celebrate, for many people it is also a time of extra stress. For those at risk of depression and anxiety, the extra pressure to spend money, clear the desks at work and take part in a hectic social calendar of drinking and eating can be the last straw.

For those who are ill, Christmas can be an especially isolating time. The following tips can help anyone, but are especially useful for those affected by a mental illness:

  • Plan ahead – decide which events you want to attend and prepare your excuses for those you don’t.
  • Keep the drinking to a minimum – alcohol is a depressant so stick to the soft drinks as much as possible. Don’t be pressurized into drinking – no-one will know if you really do have vodka in your orange juice.
  • Avoid isolation – if you know you will be on your own, look for community events that you might want to attend. Keep any relevant helpline numbers and details of out-of-hours medical services handy. Local newspapers and voluntary organizations are a useful source of information
  • Talk about it – to everyone else you look perfectly normal, so if you don’t tell them how you are feeling they probably won’t know and be able to help. This is especially important if you’re at work and need some support from your line manager.

Don’t suffer in silence! Manage your expectations – New Year’s resolutions are often the biggest source of self-recrimination. Give yourself a break and start the New Year with only realistic goals.

Can you help us raise awareness?
The Overcoming series prides itself on providing high-quality information about conditions which may be highly stigmatized and are often unacknowledged. In the New Year we want to begin to raise awareness amongst even more people. Journalists always want the human angle, and so we are looking for case histories of patients who may have been helped by the Overcoming publications and are now willing to help others. If you know of anyone who may be interested in having a brief phone chat with us about this, please email nova@overcoming.co.uk. We will talk over what will be involved, including how we will support and if necessary protect the identity of participants. We have a fully trained patient-group representative helping us with this.

Assisted self-help is a vital part of the stepped care approach. Help us to bring it to an even wider audience.

Offenders' mental health
The government has just published the consultation paper, Improving Health, Supporting Justice, which is widely considered to be a good first step in helping prisoners, many of whom are affected by some form of mental health problem. Emphasis is placed on health and criminal justice services working together, but there are gaps when it comes to the detail of what that will look like. The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health also believes that electronic patient records should be introduced across the criminal justice system.

Until 4 March 2008 you can read and comment on the consultation paper here: www.dh.gov.uk/en/Consultations/Liveconsultations/DH_080816

Get a check-up and a job!
With Primary Care Trusts spending 11% of their budget on mental ill-health and 30% of GP appointments being used to discuss mental health problems, the government has pledged to treble the number of employment advisers in GP surgeries, and pilot an £8m advice and support service for smaller businesses as part of a new approach to help people with stress and other mental health conditions find and keep work.

According to Alan Johnson, Secretary of State for Health: "Each year many people are unnecessarily forced to give up their jobs because of mental health problems, which is a terrible waste of talent for British business and a great loss to the individual. This package is designed to help people keep well and in work, which will ultimately save businesses huge amounts in sick leave and contribute to a better quality of life for those who may have otherwise had to give up work."

Read the full details here: www.gnn.gov.uk/Content/Detail.asp?ReleaseID=333911&NewsAreaID=2

Congratulations to...
Suzanne Forster, a graduate mental health worker in Liverpool and winner of a set of Introduction to Coping With... booklets in last month’s competition.

If you weren’t one of our lucky winners then don’t worry, here’s another chance to win. Just tell us your top tip for avoiding Christmas stress, and we’ll give the 5 best answers received by Christmas Eve a free copy of any one of our self-help publications you choose (not including A Complete Guide to Primary Care Mental Health). Simply email newseditor@overcoming.co.uk with your answer and telling us the title you would like. Winners will hear early in January.

Our Christmas wish to you
From everyone here at Constable and Robinson, we wish you a very merry Christmas. This time of year is particularly busy for people working in mental health and we hope that you have time for a festive break and a mince pie or two. We look forward to seeing you in the New Year.

What's in your diary?
New Year 2008

23/01 • A Fresh Challenge: New Guidance and Policy to Support People with Learning Disabilities who Present Challenges
Institute of Physics, London

This conference will explore the future development of services for people whose condition is challenging.

Tel: 0207 997 6654

24/01 • Patient Involvement and Empowerment 2008 Manchester Conference Centre

Tel: 020 8541 1399

14—17/03 • ISAD 4th Biennial Conference:
Integrative Approaches to Affective Disorders
Cape Town, South Africa


Quote of the month

There are three stages of man: he believes in Santa Claus; he does not believe in Santa Claus; he is Santa Claus.

Bob Phillips

  Email enquiries@overcoming.co.uk to add your key dates to our calendar.
Questions or comments? E-mail us at enquiries@overcoming.co.uk.
If you no longer want to receive this newsletter, email nova@overcoming.co.uk.
Registered Number: 05300094 England.


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