We all have mental health and there is no health without mental health. As part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2017, I have presented a series of articles covering a variety of mental health subjects to increase our knowledge.  These have so far covered:

  1. What is Mental Health?”
  2. The Impact of Mental Ill-Health
  3. When is a mental health problem a problem
  4. Balancing the Risks around Mental Ill Health
  5. Stress
  6. Anxiety

The final article in the series, this one, looks at depression.  We may all have a down day, but what is depression and how do I gauge that this is a down day (or few days) and that is depression? Do remember the third article in the series about “When is a problem a problem? (Answer: When it’s a problem).

Thoughts and reading around depression have led me to a formula:

S + A + T = D

In this formula, S is stress, A = anxiety, T = time and D = depression. If we live with stress we can develop anxiety and over a period of time, these can turn into depression. As a rule of thumb, depression is identified when we have suffered the symptoms for at least two weeks. The symptoms to look for include:

  • Persistent sadness
  • Numbness, a lack of feeling
  • Mood swings, anger to complacency
  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Affects ability to study, concentrate and enjoy relationships/ socializing
  • Global thinking, for example, everything is always against me or I am always wrong
  • Anxiety and guilt
  • Loss of libido
  • Self-criticism, pessimism
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Fatigue and sleep issues (insomnia, poor quality of sleep or sleeping too much)
  • Appetite issues (either undereating or overeating)

Depression affects up to 10% of people in England in their lifetime. It can re-occur, if you have been depressed once you can go back there (but as you are more aware of it should be able to get help sooner). Depression can co-occur with other health and mental health issues. As an example, it is probably not a surprise to realize that someone diagnosed with a long-term chronic medical condition (let’s say fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome or cystic fibrosis) may also become depressed. Or a person diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder may go on to develop depression also.

Depression in the Workplace

 Depression in the workplace may be challenging to recognize but the cost to the individual, the company, and the economy is significant. 1 in 6 employees may have enough symptoms to be diagnosed with a mental health condition at any one time. Stress, anxiety, and depression are the most commonly recognized mental health issues at work. The HR specialists tell me that a middle manager being signed off due to a mental health issue may cost the company in excess of £30 000.

Depression in the workplace may present as a combination of all or some of the following:

  • Decreased productivity
  • Morale problems
  • Lack of co-operation
  • Safety problems (risk-taking behavior including driving at speed and not using PPE)
  • Timekeeping issues
  • Absenteeism – call in sick when not
  • Presenteeism – going to work when ill, or being there but not actually doing work
  • Frequent complaints of being tired all the time
  • Alcohol and/or other drug use

It goes without being said, but I’ll say it anyway, that if the symptoms described affect you perhaps it is time to write them down and go for a chat with your GP.



We all have mental health and there is no health without mental health. As part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2017, I am presenting a series of articles covering a variety of issues on mental health subjects to increase our knowledge.  These have so far covered:

  1. What is Mental Health?”
  2. The Impact of Mental Ill-Health
  3. When is a mental health problem a problem
  4. Balancing the Risks around Mental Ill Health
  5. Stress

Continuing with the illnesses coming under the banner of “mental ill health”, let’s now take a look at anxiety.

There have been times when understanding anxiety has been challenging. The thought that something we are “merely” anxious about can be to the extreme and become a disorder – as in an Anxiety Disorder and have a debilitating impact on a life may seem extreme. But, when we look at the types of anxiety disorder, it suddenly makes a lot of sense.

Anxiety Disorders include:

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – different types include locking and checking of windows and doors, hand-wringing, hand washing (to the point of rawness), counting windows or lines or light fittings, never stepping on a crack in the pavement, hoarding, etc
  • Phobias – I have a list of 100 different phobias from arachnophobia (a fear of spiders) to zoophobia (a fear of animals)
  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder – anxiety about anything and everything
  • Panic Disorder – also called panic attacks
  • Acute Stress Disorder – the result of a traumatic event, usually fades or dissipates over a few weeks
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – the trauma from an event is still being experienced more than two months after an event and often includes flash-backs
  • Social Anxiety Disorder – also called social phobia, affects our ability to meet and talk to people, eat and drink in public, etc
  • Body Dysmorphic Disorder – all or part of our visual appearance to the affected person is very stressful, others may not notice but the affected person dwells on it. For example, people may say we have a “normal” nose but we view it as utterly hideous and stress over it.

What is most notable is that the severity of the symptoms is greater and they last longer (than “normal”). I think it is worth noting that the response to the trigger issue is debilitating and impacts life. As an example a person with OCD may take an hour and a half to leave the house to go to work in the morning because they are repeatedly checking their home security such as door locks, window locks, water taps, gas taps, electrical switches, etc, are all securely turned off, and doing it many times over before feeling secure enough to actually leave the house and go to work. This is debilitating and may affect their work, home and social lives to the point of not wanting to make the enormous effort required to leave the house in the morning (which in itself may have another impact).

Whilst on the subject of OCD, I have heard people say (business managers in particular) that they are a little bit OCD by insisting they want something done in a particular way or to their standard. This is not OCD, it is not debilitating and ruining their day (at home, at work or socially). These are people with high standards and blaming apparent OCD for having high personal standards. Their high standards are what got them to the place they are in their job and they expect the same high standards from others. People impacted by OCD are so involved with their own issues that they are not able to look much beyond that. Don’t confuse OCD with having high standards or use OCD as an excuse for your own insecurities.

What are typical symptoms of Anxiety Disorders?

  • Restlessness – physical restlessness, the “fidgets,”
  • Worried – expressing worry about
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Dizziness and/or fainting
  • Palpitations*
  • A feeling of doom, unease or apprehension when not in imminent danger
  • Nausea
  • Muscle tension

*It must be stated that if a person has palpitations, has no idea what is happening and no previous history of heart disease that an ambulance should be called. I am sure anyone working in emergency services would rather check on someone having a panic attack for example than being called in late to attend a person having a heart attack because it was thought to be “only a panic attack.” If in doubt ask the person if they have had this before and what happened or what helped them then. If in doubt – call the emergency services.

Remember – the symptoms of an anxiety disorder last longer than normal, affecting many areas of life and can be quite disabling. There is an overlap of stress into the anxiety disorders.

The next article in this series will look at depression, both in general and in the workplace.



We all have mental health and there is no health without mental health. As part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2017, I am presenting a series of articles covering a variety of issues on mental health subjects to increase our knowledge.  These have so far covered:

  1. “What is Mental Health?”
  2. “The Impact of Mental Ill-Health”
  3. “When is a mental health problem a problem”
  4. “Balancing the Risks around Mental Ill Health.”

Now turning to some of the illnesses that come under the banner of “mental ill health”, let’s start by looking at something we are all familiar with – Stress.

What is stress? It is a word bandied around readily enough. We have probably all said recently that we are stressed accompanied by a heavy sigh. But how would I know if my stress is the sort of stress that needs attention?

Let’s look at the symptoms of stress. We may have all or some of them, in various combinations and degrees of challenge.

*        Overwhelmed

*        Worried/Distressed

*        Run down/burnout

*        The body’s response to danger or stress-provoking events (flight, fright, frolic, fantasy)

*        Irritability/Anger (a short fuse)

*        Fatigue/Headache

*        Insomnia

*        Chest pain/Palpitations

*        Psychomotor agitation (the fidgets, pacing, hand-wringing, etc)

*        Bruxism (teeth grinding)

*        Panic attacks

*        Anxiety/Depression

It will be obvious from the last 2 symptoms that stress may overlap with anxiety and depression. I have a formula which partially explains this overlap:


Time is an important factor in this formula. Symptoms affecting us for a short period of time may not lead to mental illness. The significance or intensity and duration of the symptoms is important.

Being stressed is like living with a high level of adrenalin in our body all the time. We all know that in a crisis adrenalin kicks in and carries us through – complete with palpitations, dry mouth, sweaty hands, upset tummy, nausea, butterflies, confused thinking, indecision, forgetfulness, wobbly legs, etc. I am sure you can understand how debilitating these symptoms can be over a longer period of time as is found in stress.

If in doubt about your own health, mental health and stress level please consult your GP.

In the next article, we will look at anxiety.

Book Review: The Presenter’s Edge 2nd edition by Gavin Meikle (ISBN 978-7872-3027-9)

Book Review: The Presenter’s Edge 2nd edition by Gavin Meikle (ISBN 978-7872-3027-9)

Public speaking in any guise can be fraught with anxiety and stress. Yet, with a little care, planning, and attention to the detail it can become a skill we all acquire and can be honed to a high standard quite easily. This little book goes a long way to guiding you through the process from concept to conclusion of the Q&A at the end.

We’ve all been there, needed to get a message across and messed it up. What I love about The Presenter’s Edge by Gavin Meikle is that you can start at the beginning and work your way through, systematically creating your presentation as you go, or dip in and sort out an existing presentation that you are working on. Left to me – I’d start at the beginning and use this book to craft a great presentation from the initial planning right through to handling questions after presenting pearls of wisdom to its audience. The book is the distilled essence of what counts, focussed, to the point and without space filling verbiage.

Gavin describes his work as a “bite-size book” and promises us more on what gestures to use and the stagecraft of presenting. I look forward to those as I believe they will really help those of us who struggle with presentations to hone our skills further.  In his introduction, Gavin talks about “a much-needed revolution to transform the way people around the world communicate.” If you have ever survived death by PowerPoint you will know what he is referring to and be desperate to avoid it in your own presentations! The solution is here in Gavin’s bite-size book.

A presentation like a good story needs to flow; it needs a beginning, a middle and an end. In the book, these are described as an Opening (get them hooked in for more with an understanding of where you are taking them), the Body (the important stuff) and a Conclusion (wrap it up drawing the important points together, to close).

I noted the author’s use of “threes” several times along the way and they do help us stay focused on the important points. From the initial thinking about a presentation (content, structure and delivery); to doing the research and really getting to grips with your subject (think, feel, do); to scripting in chapter 4 (ethos, pathos and logos); to delivering skills (visual, vocal and verbal) and rehearsal strategies (audience, presenter, neutral observer).  And, yes, you do need to rehearse (to an audience, alone to yourself and in your head).

Other important subjects covered include the use of visual aids (I learnt this as KISS – keep it simple stupid – but what does that mean in visual aids for a presentation?), the words to use, a challenge about avoiding jargon (I am sure we have all tripped up on that one) and how to tackle nerves. On the nerves issue, I learned many years ago that our nervous response is caused by the same hormones that make us feel excited. So it is a matter of interpretation as to whether we are nervous or excited (I dare you-you choose!). If you are desperately short of time and don’t know where to start – go to page 87, Chapter 14 “Let’s Recap” and choose the bit that concerns you most and dive in there.

By preparing our presentation thoroughly, using the systematic method set out by the author we can train the butterflies to fly in formation, and ensure that the formation is tight and targeted. We may even enjoy the process and feel in control during it and accomplished at the end.

You can obtain your copy of this book here

Book Review: Your Other Half – The Guide to Better Relationships with Others & Yourself by Sophie Personne

Book Review: Your Other Half – The Guide to Better Relationships with Others & Yourself by Sophie Personne

In mental health matters, the toll taken on the human psyche when relationships aren’t quite right or go wrong is a huge burden to us in terms of stress and anxiety. “Your Other Half” is a highly useful and economical tool to assist in relieving that stress and anxiety.

You could be forgiven for asking “Which other half?” Sophie Personne in her debut self-help book looks not just at the obvious “other half” – our spouse or partner, but also the hidden other half, our other half – the one we hide from view inside ourselves.

Using her experience in relationship coaching with singles, couples and groups backed by her training in NLP Sophie busts open many relationship myths. She encourages us to investigate deeper our thoughts and behaviors, not just those of our spouses/partners, but, even the most important one – our relationship with ourselves. There are overlaps in the relationships we have with our colleagues in the workplace so the process we learn can be very far-reaching.

Sophie writes that “the aim of the book is to get you on your way and give you the foundations of an authentic happy life, whilst being true to who you are, learn to communicate better and understand others.” The book is not overburdened with theory from an academic perspective but practical and realistic, drawing from her personal experience. There is a wealth of knowledge included but it is definitely easy to read and follow.

What adds particular value to the book are the worksheets that the reader can download from Sophie’s website. We all know that the benefit gained from a self-help book is directly proportional to the effort/work carried out by the reader, using the material in the book. The worksheets are designed for those who are single and struggling to establish a good long-term relationship and those already in a relationship and desiring to make it better/stronger.

Sophie gets to the heart of the matter – why things go wrong (but no spoilers here!) and the process involved in building/developing relationships. It’s no pushover and yes, knowledge is required to make it happen and effort is needed to work it through to success. But, if we are honest with ourselves, the end result of good, healthy relationships will be well worth it and is achievable.

I recommend “Your Other Half” to anyone who has ever wondered why some relationships work and others do not. And also for those who want “more.” I doubly recommend it if you want your relationships to be better and stronger and encourage you to download the worksheets and make the effort to work things through.

To order a copy of Sophie’s book please click on the link here.  

Tackling Stress: Who Moved My Cheese?

Tackling Stress: Who Moved My Cheese?

Change in our lives can be something we go with or can resist. Change can generate a LOT of stress. We all know that stress + anxiety + time = depression. If the stats are to be believed then up to 70 % of people are hardwired against change. They are the people who oil the systems and make processes happen smoothly, they are stable and reliable. But, they find change a challenge. So the subject of change is really pertinent now in 2017 with Brexit under consideration and Trump entering the White House. If you have read it before I certainly recommend you read it again to underwrite your foundation in these challenging times. If we can manage change we can manage our stress and reduce the likelihood of becoming depressed.

Who Moved My Cheese: An amazing way to deal with change in your work and in your life

Dr. Spencer Johnson 2000 Random House

A great plus point for this book is that it can be read in about an hour. It is a parable about change, our response to it and what we tell ourselves and other about change. It covers a LOT in a few short pages. The Cheese, according to Johnson, is a metaphor for what we want in life and the maze represents our life – it’s where we look for what we want. The parable details two mice and two people searching for and finding (or not) cheese in a maze. The mice are Sniff and Scurry and the people, Hem and Haw. Yes, their names tell us a lot about them, but we learn a whole lot more as we read.

The book opens a door on our future – on the change that is part of our lives, whether we expect it or not, accept it or not. Change can be relentless; one of the things we can count on along with taxes and death. The story covers simple truths with unique insights; it will get you thinking about yourself and those you know. It sounds complicated, but in reality is easy to understand, prompting the reader to new levels and successes having recognized change and coped with it. The message is clear, told with easily recognizable characters and humor. You will recognize yourself (and your colleagues) or possibly your family and friends.

There is enough in the story to explore the four characters, their individual sets of behavior, abilities, and responses. We are able to look forward to the future and back over the past from the lessons it details and the observations it makes.

I found the book provided a need to review, to laugh and to share.

It is obtainable here.

Tackling Anxiety Disorders

DSCN6807 I was fortunate to be asked to contribute an article to the first edition of The New Forest Messenger – Autumn 2015. It is a new magazine aimed at the over 60’s who are not online in the Waterside area of Southampton. The editor/publisher is Kathy Baker who can be contacted on messengermag@yahoo.co.uk should you wish to know more.  The first edition went down very well and I felt very privileged to contribute.

A copy of the transcript is included below.



By Susan Hayward, July 2015

We have all experienced anxiety, a dry mouth, clammy hands and heart beating loudly. Anxiety is a natural response that keeps us safe and helps solve everyday problems – before an exam, dealing with a work deadline or an important meeting. Anxiety is not a personal weakness, a character flaw and has nothing to do with a “poor” upbringing. One in four of us will have a mental health issue at some time in our life, over 90% recover and go on to lead productive, fulfilled lives.

Our ability to cope with everyday anxiety depends on our personal resilience and events happening in our life at the time. Low resilience and high-stress loads reduce our ability to cope with anxiety. Being tired and overloaded (with work, family and community responsibilities, etc) lowers our resilience.

Anxiety becomes a disorder when it takes over our lives affecting us at home, at work and socially; it is more severe and longer lasting and has an impact on our family too. Anxiety disorders are a serious mental illness in which worry and fear dominate. There are a number of anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder (panic attacks), phobias, acute stress disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and mixed anxiety and depression.

To treat anxiety disorders it is important to eliminate certain medical conditions, the side effects of certain prescription drugs and non-prescription or illegal drugs. A visit to your GP is an important starting point. Talking therapies and medication may also be appropriate. There is also a wide range of self-help therapies that can be explored to support those prescribed or recommended by the medical professional.

To learn more about mental health first aid courses please contact sue.mhfa@gmail.com