A minute is all it takes
I hope that this statistic shocks you as much as it does me ….
Every 40 seconds someone in the world loses their life to suicide!
Think about that in relation to how long it takes you to make a cup of tea, brush your teeth, watch a game of football – so many lives lost.
Latest statistics show a worrying increase in the number of suicides
If you have read the above and assumed that is must be worse in “other countries” the Office of National Statistics has just revealed a total of 6,507 suicides were registered by coroners in the UK – 11.2 per 100,000 people – in 2018, up 11.8% on the previous year. This is the highest rate recorded since 2002.
There has been a particularly worrying increase in the rates of young people between the ages of 10 & 24 killing themselves but people between the ages of 45 & 59 have the highest rates of suicide.
Event + Response = Outcome
Like many women of my generation, I am a big fan of the Bridget Jones movies and I always love those scenes where she throws a heap of self-help books in the bin and fills the shelf with her latest purchases as if this will solve all her woes. There is no doubt that a good self-help book can play a vital part in staying mentally healthy – but which one?
The problem is with such a preponderance of self-help books out there (if you look up self-help books on Amazon there are over 100,000 titles available) it is hard to decide which ones are actually worth spending the money on. I’m not going to pretend that I have read a 100,000 self-help book but through my work I have read a few. Some are still on my bookshelf and get returned to whenever I need a top-up. Others, I must admit, have found their way to a second-hand bookshop as they just did not work for me.
What makes this book so great?
One of the books that has survived the test of time is S.U.M.O. (Shut Up, Move On) by Paul McGee. I like a book that tackles my mental health in a fun yet informative way and, as the title would indicate, Paul McGee does this. The book is peppered with personal anecdotes which make it easy to relate to what he is saying – the conversation between Paul and Helen over football is so reminiscent of many conversations I have had with my partner.
The chapter titles alone are enough to make you want to read the book, for example: E + R = O; Hippo Time is OK or Ditch Doris Day, but beneath all of this good-natured humour and personal anecdotes there is a very serious message. Don’t let things that have happened in the past prevent you from enjoying the present or stop you from doing things in the future.
How this book can help you
One of the key messages is the Event + Response = Outcome. The outcome of an event is not just the event itself e.g. losing a job but also our response to that event which is often dictated by previous history.
Breaking the alcohol habit
One of the problems faced by anyone battling with an addiction to alcohol is the lack of knowledge of those who can render the most significant assistance; their closest relations. Unfortunately, this lack of knowledge is generally is also apparent amongst the bulk of the medical profession who are supposed to be able to help.
The difficulty is that the solution seems so simple to those that don't have to wrestle with the problem – just don’t drink.
But if you don't know what is actually going on there is little you, or anyone else can do about it.
As a consequence close family come to believe that person with the problem is weak-willed, and uncaring about their family. Unfortunately, the person who is drinking is generally already thinking they are weak or stupid or both, but they are very much aware that they do care about those around them and desperately want the love and support of their relations.
It's not about will power
We'll take a look at what is going on in the mind and body of someone who is currently suffering from Alcohol Dependency (AD) but let’s banish the idea that somebody who is AD is weak-willed.
Is society’s obsession with body image causing mental health problems?
Since time immemorial people, and women in particular, have chased an image of what is perceived to be physical perfection. The Mayans used to strap stones to babies’ heads to force them to grow in to an elongated and square shape. The Chinese began foot-binding in the 8th Century and it was only made illegal in the 20th Century! Elizabeth I was so determined to present the image of the youthful Virgin Queen that she painted her face with lead. For hundreds of years women were laced in to corsets to achieve impossibly tiny waists – 14 or 15 inches being the ideal. In more recent years we have seen women squeezing their feet in to vertiginous stilettos or people damaging their skin and risking cancer through the pursuit of the perfect tan.
So, what is the problem with this?
There is increasing evidence that this obsession with looking younger and slimmer is creating increased stress and anxiety and shame. Although this predominantly affects women it is also affecting more and more men with a corresponding rise in the number of men being diagnosed with eating disorders like anorexia.
In “Objectification Theory, Towards Understanding Women’s Lived Experiences and Mental Health Risks” (2006) Frederickson and Roberts show that women are more likely to feel “looked at” in interpersonal encounters. Worse still, “Empirical research demonstrates that how a woman’s body appears to others can determine her life experiences”. Their evidence shows that this can lead to lower educational and economic attainment which in turn can affect popularity and dating and marriage prospects.
This issue of body image is one that is so deep rooted in our society that most of us have internalised it without even being aware that we have done so. Why wouldn’t we when we are surrounded by images in magazines, on television, social media and so on? When “reality” shows like Love Island only feature incredibly beautiful, slim, athletic young people no wonder that we all internalise the idea that to be beautiful or successful we too need to look like this. Or when an incredibly popular series like “Vera” is lauded because not only is the lead a female but one who is neither slim, young or even particularly charming!
Worse still are practices such as breast ironing which are designed to make women less attractive. Or a legal system which still implies that women “deserve” to be raped if they dress “provocatively”. The issue of body image is a pernicious one in our society.