Book Review:  Looking After Your Mental Health

Book Review:  Looking After Your Mental Health

This is the sort of book that I wish had been around when my children were younger. Looking After Your Mental Health is a great “how to” book for every young person. It is also the book every parent needs to start some of those difficult conversations.

The authors James & Stowell review almost every issue that has an impact on the mental health of young people. Written in “their” language, the chapters are short, the font is easy to read, and it is loaded in graphics and pictures. You don’t have to start at the beginning and progress through – just dip in and out as you see something that catches your eye or a topic of interest.

“Looking after Your Mental Health” starts at the beginning with “What is mental health?” A good question. We must talk about mental health more in general, but in particular with our children. Back in February 2016 the Independent published an article about the teenage mental health crisis and noted that the rates of depression and anxiety among teenagers have increased by 70% in the past 25 years.  It also cited a Girl Guides attitudes survey that found that mental health was one of the most pressing concerns, with 62% of those surveyed knowing a girl their age who has struggled with mental health problems.

Looking After Your Mental Health

Looking After Your Mental Health by Alice James& Louie Stowell

Chapters include subjects that have a huge impact on our young people – what happens in the minds, their bodies, and their feelings as they grow up. It talks about friends (and includes bullying), family (and all the different meanings that has today), sex and romance, the internet (and cyberbullying), difficult times and mental health problems. It touches on the actual mental health problems of depression and anxiety and touches on eating disorders (not a mental health problem, but a behaviour covering emotional pain). Of course, it includes some sound suggestions about finding help – talking to those closest to you for starters and a range of really useful and practical suggestions in its “Try This” sections. The glossary of terms in the back is useful to understand some of the jargon.

It does not cover a lot of actual mental health conditions (there is no mention of OCD, PTSD, acute stress disorder, phobias, psychosis, or self-harm (eating disorders’ sibling). There is no mention of contraception and safe sex (but it does talk about the emotional side of sex and saying “No”); nor of sexually transmitted diseases which may make it easier for children at the lower end of the recommended age range (9 – 18) to cope with. It does not mention the overlaying of mental health issues occurring with other conditions such as ADHD, Autism or chronic illnesses. But in not mentioning these it creates space for further discussion around the dinner table with the family.

I believe “Looking after Your Mental Health” is a really useful starter book with sound advice for some of the issues affecting our young people today. It is published by Usborne Books, so is available from your local friendly Usborne rep. If you don’t have one then please contact mine – Tracy Hickson – here.

Book Review:  Looking After Your Mental Health by Alice James & Louie Stowell, 2018, Usborne, London. ISBN




When is a problem a problem?

When is a problem a problem?

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 around mental health to increase our knowledge of the subject in general. The first article answered the question “What is Mental Health?” and the second is “The Impact of Mental Ill-Health”. In this article, I am posing the question of when is a mental health problem a problem?

When is mental ill-health a problem?

A problem is not a problem until it’s a problem, is it? In a way, a mental illness could be compared to alcohol. Until the person is prepared to admit “Yes, I am an alcoholic,” or “Yes, I have a mental illness” the behaviors are not a problem (for the affected person at least).

Our mental health affects our behavior and the way we think and feel. So taking that one step further how would we know if our behavior, thoughts and feelings are on the side of ill health versus good health or somewhere in between? There are three pointers to bear in mind about the behavior (we may call it the symptoms):

  • Persistent – the symptoms continue firmly and obstinately
  • Pervasive – the symptoms are widespread, noticeable and entrenched; they affect every area of life (work, social and personal/family)
  • Problematic – constitutes or represents a problem, they are having a negative impact on life (at work, socially and personally)

Failing to admit there is a problem for them self can result in the affected person being sectioned – forcibly admitted to hospital.

As an example we can all be affected by sadness, feeling down or numb for a short time and then get over it, get back to our normal happy self. But if the sadness becomes overwhelming and the numbness affects all areas of our life and lasts for more than a couple of weeks, that sadness and numbness are becoming a problem. The problem IS a problem.

From the individual point of view, it is definitely time to get a doctor’s appointment. Don’t leave it until like John in the previous article you suffer a nervous breakdown and can’t cope with it anymore. The HR people tell me it costs a company in excess of £30 000 when a middle manager like John is signed off due to mental ill-health.

Is there anything a company can do to decrease the cost of mental ill-health in the workplace? Yes, most definitely, through mental health first aid training.

If a company trains staff in mental health first aid skills (in much the same way as it has physical first aiders) then mental ill health can be recognized sooner and appropriate help sought before a break down occurs. Once recognized sooner the company can support the person through recovery. If the person can keep working (and let’s face it there is a limit to how much daytime TV anyone can watch!), even if with some concessions in terms of hours worked, or workload carried, then they will recover faster. In addition, the business does not lose the knowledge, skills and experience of the affected person and that person’s self- confidence is maintained at a high level. Now if that is not a win-win, what is? Getting mental health first aid skills into a company is a no-brainer really.

Please use the Contact form if you would like to know more about the courses available to introduce staff to mental health issues through awareness and first aid training.

The next article in this series will take a look at balancing the risk around mental health. We will then move on to briefly examine some of the symptoms of various mental illnesses in future articles.

Enroute to Making MHFA Training a Legal Requirement

Enroute to Making MHFA Training a Legal Requirement

MHFA is just as important as physical first aid

MHFA is just as important as physical first aid

For a while now I have been saying that mental health first aid needs to be a legal requirement in businesses, in the same way, that physical first aid is. The two should be treated on parity. There is no health without mental health.* I even predicted within the next 5 to 10 years it will become law. The process is starting.

According to Mental Health First Aid England, an announcement is due today. “The Right Honourable MP Norman Lamb will lead a call on the government to make MHFA part of the first aid regulations for employers.” The timing is no coincidence – today Monday 10th October 2016 is World Mental Health Day 2016.

What does this mean for business? You have two options –

  1. Wait until it’s law and then join the rush (with all the others) to comply.
  2. Get ahead of the game, make the most of the CSR** opportunity this presents for your marketing and HR announcements and get your staff trained NOW. Who would not want to work for an organization that is not supportive of mental health issues?

As a Mental Health First Aid Course Trainer accredited to Mental Health First Aid England let me train your team. Let’s get your course(s) setup – contact

*Link here

** CSR  = corporate social responsibility

Happiness on the Agenda for Guernsey

Happiness on the Agenda for Guernsey

Tickets for a second, ground-breaking mental health and wellbeing conference organized in the island of Guernsey are now on sale. Thrive 2020 will take place in St Peter Port this October and will ask speakers and the audience to answer one simple question – how can Guernsey become the happiest country on Earth?

The bold question reflects the organizers’ ambition for the future of this small Channel Island’s community.

‘Happiness is a common goal. It is something that parents want for their children; it creates an environment for productivity and creativity and it is something that is within reach for all of us,’ explains Marc Winn, one of the conference organizers.

Speakers and attendees at Thrive 2020 in 2015

Speakers and attendees at Thrive 2020 in 2015


‘Guernsey is small enough to implement changes easily while having a large enough population to track those changes. We also believe that what happens here can be a role model for other communities and we believe Thrive 2020 can have a tangible impact both here and abroad.’


Conference organizers from the Dandelion Project are bringing together a myriad of experts from the fields of education, workplace wellbeing, neuroscience, health, community and spirituality to speak.

Over 20 speakers, including 13 experts from the UK and Europe, will focus on the subject of happiness and mental wellbeing.

International speakers include Susan Hayward of Susan Hayward Mental Health First Aid Training, in Hampshire. “I am delighted to be joining The Dandelion Project for this year’s Thrive 2020 to talk about how mental health first aid can help Guernsey become the happiest place on the earth to live.”

As well as attracting experts from across Europe, local speakers include Deputy Gavin St Pier, Dr. Greg Lydall, a General Adult Psychiatrist with Guernsey’s Health and Social Care team, men’s coach Andre Duquemin and Valerie Winn, co-founder of the Guernsey-based Feminine Truth project.

The theme of happiness has a very broad appeal and stems from the Dandelion Project’s research on what matters most to islanders. ‘We have been asking the local community what is truly important to them. Happiness is the answer we get time and time again. We felt it was important to run a regular event on this topic,’ explains Mr. Winn.

It is anticipated that the 20 talks will inspire, educate and excite the audience, as well as sparking debate and conversations that the organizers hope will make an impact on the community.

The 2015 Thrive 2020 conference was highly praised by speakers who were invited from the UK and beyond to participate, with one presenter saying that Guernsey was ‘leading the way’ with the organization of this type of event. ‘The success of last year’s conference has helped us to attract some highly respected speakers who are excited about the prospect of being part of a project that can make a real difference,’ says Mr. Winn.

Thrive 2020

Thrive 2020