Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Depression in the news

The tragic death of the Wales football mamager, Gary Speed, last weekend brought depression into the limelight.

Now I don't intend to speculate on any individual case, but some of what I read online over the next few days both encouraged and upset me because I think it generalised too much. 'Talk to someone' was the general mantra being bandied about the social media. Now I have no argument with this, CBT and counselling are widely and successfully used in mental health treatment and the Samaritans do a fantastic job. It would be wonderful if everyone with depression could confide in a friend or family member and be gently pointed towards the doctor as a starting point for timely and appropriate treatment.

But real life isn't like that. In real life a person who is clinically depressed or experiencing other mental health symptoms may internalise their pain and confusion to such an extent that they are unable to open up to anyone. In real life a seriously depressed person may be clinging onto everyday life with such success that their true condition is not obvious to even close family and friends. Most of us have an impression of a clinically depressed person as being unable to get out of bed and unable to function, but it isn't always like that. In real life depression can cause paranoia, even psychosis, and can be part of another disorder. In real life medication handed out readily by doctors can, in rare cases, actually make the depressed patient suicidal. And there are significant waiting times to see a psychiatrist on the NHS even after a referral has been made.

So yes, if you suspect someone is depressed encourage them to talk. But if someone is, or appears to be, having suicidal thoughts get emergency help for them. A visit to Accident and Emergency will enable a proper assessment to be made and can be a fast track into psychiatric services. It doesn't necessarily mean that the patient will be hospitalised, as if needed there are intensive crisis services operating in the community nowadays. But it might just save a life.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Creativity as therapy?

I've been taking a brief break from the blog while I toss around a few ideas for future projects. Possibly not for the immediate future, but I'm beginning to see a glimmer of light at the end of a very long tunnel and starting to plan, in my head at least, for the day when I may have more time available. Not just more time to actually write, but time to expand my interests into other writing-related projects.

One of the questions I've been asking myself is why do we write? I'm guessing that the answer to this will be different for every writer. Some may write as therapy, others just to let out the stories which are swirling around their heads. I guess for many writers it will, initially at least, be a combination of the two.

My first novel, Walking on Tiptoe, has its seeds in my own experience. But it's not my story, nor that of anyone I know. It was created from a mish-mash of things of things I've seen, heard and read over many years, with a lot of imagination thrown in. Most of my short stories have started in the same way.

Actual life writing (memoir) is much harder. I find that I can only write about life events from which I now have a considerable distance. When Son 1 was a new-born, struggling for life in intensive care, my writer's instinct told me I should be keeping a diary. But I could only live in the moment, I couldn't even revisit the trauma of earlier the same day. Perhaps my brain was protecting me.

I've only written about our experiences in the neonatal unit once, a poem which is on my website. I rarely write poetry, except for writing course assignments, but almost sixteen years after the event I was compelled to write that one and doing so was hugely beneficial at another difficult time.

I truly believe in creativity being therapeutic. Not just writing but fine art and handicrafts, music and dramatic arts. I've always had the urge to create, to write, to knit and sew, or even create greetings cards and jewellery. I find such creativity both relaxing and occasionally frustrating when things go wrong. It's not coincidental that creative arts therapies are used to much with people who have disabilities or mental health issues.

I wish that more people had the time to explore their own creative sides. The product doesn't have to be beautiful or saleable, it is the process of creation which provides the benefit. Whether we sell our work or not we should be proud of it.

Monday, November 07, 2011

National Short Story Week

I've just started to dip my toes back into short story writing after a break of about a year, when I was concentrating on other forms of writing. So I was delighted to find the website of National Short Story Week, which starts today.

The website is a treasure trove of writing tips and resources for short story enthusiasts, both young and old. I'm particularly looking forward to listening to the exclusive interviews from Sue Cook's The Write Lines radio show.

I'm off to read more and hopefully become inspired. Why don't you join me?