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mental health

"I’ll sit on the stairs in front of the town hall from 2pm to 8pm. I have black pants and a North Face bag on," wrote Patrick Cakirli on Jodel, an anonymous messaging app, in December of last year.

Reaching out to anyone within a 10km radius of his location in Denmark, Patrick admitted: "I am desperate to meet new friends. I’m lonely and going through the hardest period of my life."

13 people replied to his message – a response which ultimately acted as the catalyst for a campaign which seeks to raise awareness around the subjects of loneliness and mental health.

"I had no idea at the time, that this very short message would change my life as well as 10,000 others," Patrick recently wrote on Bored Panda.


On the night Patrick reached out to the public, his 13 respondents revealed that they too were experiencing periods of loneliness, and struggled with its implications.

"Many of them confided in me throughout the evening and told me that they too had felt the heartwrenching pain of loneliness, but were too afraid of reaching out because of the stigma," he recalled.

Patrick, who spent much of his childhood in an orphanage, decided to establish a peer-to-peer group in an effort to assist those struggling in isolation, and Smilet Danmark was born.

"A network where you were applauded for showing your weaknesses and vulnerability. A network where we as a community would stand together against the taboo that is loneliness," he explained.

The organisation, which boasts six regional establishments, brings thousands of people together in a nation which reportedly struggles with a loneliness problem among its population.

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If you find yourself gritting your teeth and clenching your fists at the first sounds of Christmas music, you're not alone.

Let's be honest; even if you're a massive fan of the festive season, the idea of celebrating it for an entire eight weeks doesn't appeal to everyone.

While you can quickly scroll by Facebook friends who post photos of their Christmas tree in early November, avoiding Christmas music can be a lot more difficult, especially if you work in the retail sector.

(Or an office with colleagues who would happily begin the festive season in May.)

And it turns out being subjected to an onslaught of Christmas carols can actually have a detrimental effect on your mental health.

Speaking to Sky News, clinical psychologist, Linda Blair, explained that attempting to tune out the likes of Mariah Carey, East 17 and Cliff Richard indirectly affects your brain's functioning.

"People working in the shops at Christmas have to tune out Christmas music, because if they don't, it really does stop you from being able to focus on anything else," she says.

"You're simply spending all of your energy trying not to hear what you're hearing."

In other words, early Christmas affects your productivity levels.

Something to remember the next time you're passing the office Suggestion Box, right?

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Between busy careers, active social lives, and all the responsibilities life throws our way,  it can be easy to forget what really matters the most – yourself. 

At this stage we're all well caught on the importance of self-love and it's effect on our mental health, but in today's world, taking time out to focus on ourselves is easier said than done. 

So, in celebration of World Mental Heath Day, we've compiled a list of 8 simple, and totally do-able things everyone can do for themselves on a daily basis. 

1. Forgive yourself, and others too

Nobody is perfect. Not you, not me, not anyone – and the sooner we realise this, the better.

Whether it's a missed email, a forgotten birthday or text sent to the exact person you didn't want to read it, just remember, mistakes happen. 

Don't sweat the small stuff. 

2. Get up 10 minutes earlier

It's amazing how far an extra 10 minutes can go when it comes to your morning routine.

Indulge in an extra long shower, plan your day over a warm coffee, or simply catch an earlier bus. 

Whatever you choose, you'll start your day as the calm, collected and punctual individual who always knew you could be.

3. Mark at least one thing off your do-to list

Book that doctor's appointment, send that letter, clean your car (for real this time). 

Sure, they may not be the most exciting tasks in the world, but you'll feel so much better when they're done and dusted.

Make it your mission to complete at least one thing on your list each day and you'll be surprised how quickly everything will fall into place.

4. Make time to meditate

With so many great apps and podcasts available nowadays, there has never been a better time to indulge in this ancient practice.  

Simply taking some time out of your busy day to focus on yourself can do wonders for your body and mind – meaning meditation is a habit that's definitely worth forming. 

5. Try a new recipe

Whether it's a Gordon Ramsay classic, or your own wonderful creation, spending time experimenting with flavours and ingredients can actually be quite therapeutic after a long day.

Not to mention the feeling of pure and utter satisfaction you'll get when discover your new go-to dinner party dish. 

6. Re-watch an episode of your favourite show

It's almost like catching up with an old friend you haven't seen in a while. 

You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll reminisce about old times – and you can do it all from the comfort of your own bed. 

7. Don't put things off

If it can be done in less than five minutes – just do it right now. 

It can be hard to switch off when you can't stop thinking about the mug that's been sitting in your room since yesterday evening. 

8. Reach out to someone you haven't spoken to in a while

Whether it's an old friend who moved away, the cousin you only see at Christmas, or even your own mother, a quick "how're you getting on?" phone call could be just the thing you need when you're not feeling yourself. 

Chances are they'll appreciate the long over-due catch up just as much as you do. 

 

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Melanie Chisholm revealed she's lucky to be alive after restricting her diet during the early years of her career in the music industry.

The Spice Girl made the admission when she appeared on the TV series In Conversation With, telling comedian John Bishop how she suffered from depression and disordered eating while in the girl band.

Known for her athletic figure and sporty style, Mel kept her struggles out of the spot light.  

"I started to restrict my food to a point where I was just like – God only knows how I survived – but I think for maybe a couple of years, maybe it couldn't have been that long – but I was just eating fruit and vegetables," she said.

"That was it. And with that workload."

The 43-year-old previously spoke about her obsession with being the “perfect” pop-star, telling The Telegraph she thought she needed to look a certain way in order to be worthy of her success.

"I thought I had to be a certain way to be deserving of everything that was happening to me… to be a pop-star I had to be perfect, and that was my way of trying to achieve perfection.”

“I was exercising obsessively and all of my time with the Spice Girls I think I was probably living on adrenaline.

John Bishop: In Conversation with Melanie C airs on Thursday October 12 on W.

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So, at this stage we're all well aware of the negative impact social media can have on our mental health.

Whether we're drooling over someone else's lunch, or pining after that leather jacket we'll never be able to afford, a quick scroll through our social feeds can sometimes leave us feeling, well, just a bit fed up really.

However, new research has shown that a five-minute Facebook session could actually boost your self-esteem.

For the study, led by Dr Zaheer Hussein, Lecturer in Psychology at Derby University, 163 participants, aged between 18 – 24, were asked to complete a survey before and after a short scroll through Facebook.

Results showed that a person's stress level played a huge part in how they conducted the social media session, with higher stress levels leading to more intense use.

What's more, researchers found a 'significant' increase in self-esteem when participants used the social network for five-minutes, once a day.

Dr Hussain said: “A five-minute Facebook session can immediately result in increased levels of self-esteem. This may be because users who browsed their close friends, chatted with them, or viewed positive content on social networking sites would display a momentary increase in self-esteem.”

Basically, five-minutes is the optimum time for a feel-good scroll, because after that, you're likely to get sucked thorugh a spiralling wormhole only to reappear two hours hours later, halfway through a photo album your ex uploaded in 2014 – which, let's face it, isn't a good look for anyone.

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Mental health awareness is of vital importance, and sometimes it's the anecdotes of others that remind us how essential it is to be aware of our own mental health, and that of those around us. 

One Iowa-based hairdresser took to Facebook to share the story of one of her clients. 

When a 16-year-old girl walked into Kayley Olsson's salon, she hadn't brushed her hair for an extended period. In fact, she had barely left her room due to her severe depression. 

'Today I had one of the hardest experiences with my client who I am keeping anonymous, I had a 16 year girl come in with who has been dealing with severe depression for a few years now,' she penned in a Facebook post. 

'She got to the point where she felt so down and so worthless she couldn't even brush her hair, she told me she only got up to use the restroom.'

'She starts back at school in a few weeks but she has her school pictures today.'

'When she walked in she told us just cut it all off I can't deal with the pain of combing it out, she called herself worthless for it.'

Facebook / Kayley Olsson

'It honestly broke my heart and we tried everything we could to keep this child's hair for her! At the end of the day I want this to be a lesson to people. MENTAL HEALTH is a thing, it effects people all around the world and of all ages!'

'PARENTS take it serious don't just push your kids off and tell them to get over something they legitimately can't. A CHILD should NEVER feel so worthless to not even want to brush their hair.'

'After being here 8 hours yesterday and 5 hours today we finally made this beautiful girl smile and feel like she IS worth something!'

'Her last words to me was "I will actually smile for my schools pictures today, you made me feel like me again"'

The emotional story is going viral on Facebook today, as Kayley's post gains traction. 

We have to give her credit for raising awareness for such an important issue. 

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They say a picture tells a thousand words, and while a thousand might be pushing it a little, a new study has revealed there could be some truth behind the well-known proverb.

Scientists have developed an algorithm that can determine whether or not an Instagram user is showing signs of depression based on their posts.

According to the study, published by EPJ Data Science, researchers from Harvard University and the University of Vermont assessed just under 44,000 photos from 166 users – 71 of which had a history of depression.

Using insights form previous psychological studies, the photos were then examined on their colour schemes, the number of faces and the number of likes received.

Results showed that people who were depressed tended to post photos and opt for filters that were darker in tone.

The specially designed algorithm was able to successfully identify signs of depression 70 per cent of the time.

What's more, it was able to spot these signs before participants were clinically diagnosed.

However, authors of the study have warned that the research was limited by the relatively small sample size and said that while the findings cannot be applied to every Instagram user, they do provide a "blueprint for effective mental health screening in an increasingly digitalized society."

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Sinead O'Connor has shared a heart-felt video discussing her struggle with mental illness.

Fans have raised their concerns after the singer revealed she is feeling suicidal and is currently living alone in a Travelodge in New Jersey.

The Irish songstress began the 12-minute video, which she shared on Facebook, by saying: “I hope that this video is somehow helpful.”

“Not actually to me, but the fact that I know I'm only one of million and millions and millions of people in the world that are just like me, actually, that don't have necessarily the resources that I have in my heart or in my purse, for that matter.”

Sinead went on to reveal that she has been on her own “for two years” after leaving her family in Ireland “because they didn't care.”

“I’m all by myself. And there’s absolutely nobody in my life except my doctor, my psychiatrist – the sweetest man on earth, who says I’m his hero – and that’s about the only fucking thing keeping me alive at the moment, the fact that I’m his bloody hero… and that’s kind of pathetic.”

She continued: "Mental illness, it’s a bit like drugs, it doesn’t give a sh*t who you are. And you know what’s worse? The stigma doesn’t give a sh*t who you are."

The 50-year-old went onto explain how she suffers from three mental illnesses and spoke of her hope that her family would come take her home.

In a heart-breaking cry for help, she asked, “am I not worth fighting for?”

Fans of the star took to the comment section with words of encouragement and concern.

One wrote: “Dearest Sinead I just want to wrap my arms around you so you feel secure, cry with you because the pain needs to be released, laugh with you as laughter is so healing, to listen.”

Since then, a statement was posted to Sinead's official Facebook page assuring fans that she is is "surrounded by love and receiving the best of care."

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People with mental health issues can feel pigeon-holed by the stereotypes that the disorder involves. 

Demi Lovato has not shied away from her diagnosis as bipolar in recent years, but has spoken out about ditching the 'label' of bipolar and instead embracing it as one aspect of her personality. 

Demi doesn't want to word to define her, but isn't scared to admit to her issues. 

 

A post shared by Demi Lovato (@ddlovato) on

 'I think when people refer to me as being bipolar, it's something that is true—I am bipolar—but I don't like people to use it as a label,' she told iHeartRadio's Label Defiers with Zico Coconut Water's Elvis Duran.

'It's something that I have, it's not who I am.'

Rather, she said, "I think Demi Lovato, activist, is something that I would really be proud of."

'I think it's important to speak up about the things that you believe in because your voice will be heard no matter what position you're in.'

 

A post shared by Demi Lovato (@ddlovato) on

'And I just happen to be in a position where more people will hear my voice than they would have 10, 15 years ago.'

'I use my voice to do more than just sing and I use it to speak up about mental health because that's something I'm very passionate about.'

We commend Demi for embracing her mental health as  just one of many things that make up who she is. 

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Earlier this week, a CEO in the United States named Ben Congleton hit the headlines when he praised an employee for reminding him of the importance of caring for one’s mental health.

After Madalyn Parker circulated an email to her team which acknowledged her need to take a sick day in order to focus on her psychological wellbeing, Madalyn's employer told her that her candour did much to remove the stigma surrounding the issue.

Make no mistake; there’s a reason Madalyn's story struck a chord worldwide this week, and that’s because the vast majority of us either have first-hand experience of a mental health condition or know someone who suffers from one.

Like any physical ailment that prevents you from properly doing your job, anxiety and depression can render you incapable of functioning in the workplace.

So, when a Washington Times columnist suggested that Madalyn’s request to focus on her mental health was a classic example of ‘America’s wussification’, we are reminded that when it comes to removing the stigma, we are far from in the clear.

Commenting on the popularity of the story, Cheryl K. Chumley berated Madalyn’s decision, writing: “Taking a day off because you’re feeling depressed or anxious or otherwise unhappy and distressed is the stuff of Millennial Madness.”

“What a sad moment for America,” she continued in an article entitled Mental Health Sick Days a Sign of America’s Wussification.

“Just think back on the generation upon generation of hard workers who braved the likes of the Depression and meager work opportunities and conditions to take whatever jobs were offered –  and then think of the plight of Parker, who’s feeling a little down in the dumps and needs a day or two to nap it off, or do some therapeutic ceramic-making," Cheryl smugly quipped.

“And, oddly enough, who has to share that very private personal health information with work colleagues – instead of, once again, keeping it private," she added.

And therein lies, perhaps, the biggest problem –  Cheryl’s insistence that Madalyn should have just kept quiet.

Keeping schtum about a family member’s mental illness is something many of us know all too well.

Hiding our own until we buckle under the weight of it is something felt just as keenly by others.

And being forced to internalise the insensitive remarks made by women like Cheryl K Chumley are the very reasons Madalyn’s story is one we need to continue circulating.

“If you’re that down and need personal time to deal with your mental health, for goodness sake, just call in a sick day. No need to explain,” Cheryl argued.

Because God forbid, we’d seek strength in transparency, solace in the truth or solidarity in our colleagues, right Cheryl?

“All this open embrace of weakness is just making the American work force look bad,” she concluded.

Oh really? And is asthma a sign of weakness? What about diabetes? And where do we stand on epilepsy?

When you have the likes of Cheryl K Chumley sharing her thoughts on mental health sick days, you can be damn sure we need the likes of Madalyn Parker and Ben Congleton sharing theirs.

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Less than 400 people died by suicide in Ireland in 2016, the lowest rates in more than 20 years.

However, while overall levels are down, figures from the National Self-Harm Registry have shown that there was an increase of 6.2 per cent in suicide rates among Irish women, with the biggest rise seen in women over the age of 35.

Rates among men have dropped by 15.2 per cent overall, however, a slight increase was noted in 55-64 year old males.

Figures supplied to the HSE also revealed that the rate of suicide among Irish teenagers is below the European average.

This is in contrast to a recent report that suggested Ireland had the fourth highest rate of teen suicide in the EU region, but according to HSE chief, Tony O'Brien, it is “important to note that this data related to 2010.”

Speaking about the overall 11.5 per cent drop, HSE director for mental health, Anne O'Connor, suggested it was the result of  “a more positive conversation” around the issue.  

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Whether it's your best friend, a close family member or your favourite hairdresser, there's nothing like a good chat to lift your spirits and as it turns out, those bonds could have a huge effect on our mental and physical health.

According to The Irish Independent, a number of studies carried out over the past 40 years have indicated that good social relationships may contribute to a reduction in abdominal obesity, better lung function and even a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

Some researchers even claim that our relationships could be more important than diet and exercise when it comes to overall health and wellbeing.

A 2010 study carried out at Brigham Young University found that having a good network of friends and family members could improve a person's odds of survival by up to 50 per cent.

What's more, researchers claimed that not having these kinds of relationships can have them same effect as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Meanwhile a study conducted by the US health provider Kaiser Permanente, surveyed over 9,000 women diagnosed with stages 1-4 invasive breast cancer.

Participants were asked a number of questions about their social lives, including the quality of relationships with friends, family, partners and colleagues.

Based on their answers, the women were then divided into three groups – 'socially isolated', 'moderately integrated' and 'socially integrated'.

20 years later, researchers checked in with the participants and found that the 'socially integrated' women were significantly less likely to have passed away from their battle with breast cancer than those who were deemed 'socially isolated'.

The risk of reoccurrence was also greatly reduced in women who said they has a quality network of friends. 

Head researcher, Candyce H Kroenke, said: "It is well established that women who have more social ties generally, including those with breast cancer, have a lower risk of death overall."

"Our findings demonstrate the beneficial influence of women's social ties on breast cancer, including recurrence and breast cancer death."

What's more, an earlier study carried out by the same team, found that laughing and enjoying quality time with friends could help patients deal with some of the physical symptoms of cancer.  

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