By Jeremy Thomas
Mental health has become one of the most talked about subjects in this country. God forbid, it has nearly overtaken the sticky toffee topic of Brexit.
Mental health doesn’t show favour to those who are old or young, male or female. It does not give dispensation for being British, French, Greek, Russian, Chinese or Indian. You are not immune from it if you own a bank, several oil fields, hedge funds, slush funds, pension funds or manage a sushi bar, patisserie, hairdresser or one hundred Deliveroo drivers.
One person in every family in the UK will suffer from some form of poor mental health at some point.
Everyone needs good mental health.
But what is mental health? People with GMH have the ability to cope with whatever life throws at them.
People with good mental health feel balanced, make balanced decisions, weigh things up carefully in order to make sensible balanced judgements. They react to things in a sane and balanced way. And when they don’t the opposite occurs. They make poor decisions, their judgment becomes impaired, they lose perspective and start reacting to people, places and things in an unbalanced way.
When I first began giving talks to companies and schools about mental health, it became obvious that creating something visual for attendees would really help. Unless a person has experienced PMH or someone close to them has why should they know about this subject.? The dashboard was created as an early warning system to help functioning people keep out of psychological trouble. Some people see the dashboard as a mental gym with a fitness routine based on checking your dials.
What drives people over the edge these days? Annoyingly, no sat nav has been developed yet for the human mind, advising on how to navigate through life and the challenges experienced within one’s mental health… But don’t despair, help is at hand!
Stress is often the number one cause of PMH. Yet it is possible to have good stress. The type of stress that makes you leap out of bed in the morning when you realise you’ve slept through your alarm but have a plane or train to catch. We need what I call good stress when we are daydreaming while standing in the middle of the road and a suddenly notice a Ferrari speeding towards us- the ensuing rush of cortisol from our adrenalin glands/ stress makes us jump out of the way. But too much cortisol can be seriously damaging for your health. Off the scale stress can either be caused by an accumulation of stressful things or something called TRAUMA.
Trauma is when a traumatic event occurs. When someone we love dies, when we experience divorce, moving to a new house, being fired from a good job, when someone we love is seriously ill, when we are in trouble with the police, when we have been assaulted. Traumatic event can trigger mental illness ill health.
As stated, actual stress can be caused by a succession of small things colliding - such as being late, constantly being bullied, damaging your partner’s car, not delivering work on time, worrying about credit card bills, the presentation you have to give, procrastinating, never saying no.
Probably the most important thing in maintaining good mental health other than keeping your stress in check is the subject of sleep. It is no coincidence that the number one form of torture in the world is sleep deprivation. Our brains need to reset and reboot and often sleep can be the one thing that gives us relief. It is the barometer of our mental health. Try to make sure there are no phones, tablets, laptops, TVs or anything electronic near your bed. Make sure the bedroom is cool, temperature wise, that it is dark and preferably silent. A golden rule that some people swear by is to go to bed and get up at the same time every single day. Obviously, some people because of work schedules, shift work or parenting young children cannot get a conventional nights sleep. Although it is probably heresy to sleep purists, my view is that it is better to have a siesta or take naps than not have any sleep. It is probably good common sense to take these naps before 4pm, in order not to encroach on your next nights cycle of sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep is like putting your battery on charge, the more you get the better it will be.
Self-esteem is what we believe about ourselves and what we believe other people think about us. It could be considered the heating and cooling system of all mental health. Get this one right and many good things will follow. It is often about eradicating feelings and thoughts of shame and embarrassment that can emanate from things that happened in childhood and teenage years. Find and study a good book on the subject. Writing is great therapy. Try to exorcise any deep-rooted issues by writing a journal.
There is a cliché about anger and depression – that depression is supressed anger. clichés are often true.
There are two types of angry person, the person who is known as Mr or Miss angry and the person who is a Stuffer. The former can often be really helped by going on an anger management course. But the latter, the person who is incapable of expressing anger due to their upbringing lack of confidence or fear of what people might think often do themselves a great disservice by not expressing anger but stuffing it into their solar plexus hoping it will disappear. Whether you are the head of sales in a PLC or a waiter in a snooty restaurant if you repeatedly supress anger it turns toxic and leads to depression.
We have all heard about the perils of bottling things up!
Exercise is a vital tent peg in our daily routine, neuroscientists now know, not just think, that if you take 15 to 20 minutes exercise a day where you become partially out of breath the activity sends oxygen into your brain and attracting endorphins that ward off anxiety and depression.
Despite all our high-tech methods of communication we live in an age where loneliness has never been so prevalent. Owing to the ways in which we work, whether we are analysts, stockbrokers or long-distance lorry drivers, it is easy to isolate and never actually talk to anyone. Human contact is really, really, important and talking to someone you trust or even a perfect stranger can often be easily the best medicine. Having a pet that provides unconditional love, can also be super therapeutic.
It is normally not one thing that drives us mad or sends us into the world of bad mental health. It is often a mixture of things happening at the same time. Granny dies, the cat dies, moving to a new house, poor sleep, sedentary life, drinking too much, relationship bust up, losing that promotion at work. Just as much as it’s a mix of what’s going wrong, more importantly, it’s an alliance of remedies that can put things right.
What does anyone let alone a successful person or businessman need do to keep ahead of the game these days? Yes, the huge Importance of using a toolbox of tent pegs, the massive importance of talking to someone you trust- look at the example of two farmers with depression in the middle of nowhere mentoring each other. Sometimes we just need to summon our reserves of resilience, stay in the saddle, stay up on the horse and power through the troughs of anxiety. Meditation and prayer, belonging to something, a group, self-help group, a church, or club, being occupied, volunteering in the community, having an interest and not just with work. Having that personalised routine. Finally, remembering one’s sense of humour and much underrated power of common sense. I am forgetting all about Brexit and extolling the virtues of a new political party: PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE. Except of course, when it comes to eating that sticky toffee pudding.
A bit about the author:
“Jeremy Thomas is a complete original. His writing, like his life, is a whirlwind of brilliance, wonder and blunder, by turns hilarious and terrifying. Highly recommended.”
- Stephen Fry
Jeremy Thomas will be the first to tell you that the rollercoaster ride journey of his life hasn’t been an exceptionally easy one, but it’s been a huge part of what has made him the great success that he is today. By his mid twenties Jeremy was living a hectic lifestyle, running record labels with notable artists such as James Brown, Gordon Giltrap, U2 and The Levellers. After leaving music behind and focusing on the literary world instead, he enjoyed a lengthy career during which he appeared on BBC Radio and Television, wrote articles for The Times and The Daily Mail, pieces for film and TV, and several novels and plays. Two of the most notable including Taking Leave, a darkly comic, semi-autobiographical book that was voted BBC Radio 5 Book of the month; and The Santa Monica Suicide Club, a dark crime novel.
But it was Jeremy’s long battle with undiagnosed Bipolar Disorder that subsequently became a defining part of his career. Upon his diagnosis and treatment, he realised his potential to help others suffering with similar issues, and his passion to help them get back on a path to good mental health. Jeremy went on to co-produce an Emmy award-winning documentary about Manic Depression with Dr Tony Hughes and Stephen Fry, and co-wrote a book with Hughes titled ‘You Don’t Have to Be Famous to Have Manic Depression: An A-Z Guide to Mental Health’.
Nowadays, Jeremy is an award-winning author, inspirational speaker, mental health advocate and all around, literary star. Jeremy is well established at presenting talks on mental health to companies, professional organisations, public sector, schools and colleges. Over the years, he has spoken to over 35,000 people sharing his unique toolkit on ‘How To Stay Sane In An Insane World’.
Jeremy’s talks and workshops are unique, thought-provoking and powerful. He utilises his charismatic personality and personal experience to unite the difficult topic of mental health with a sense of light-heartedness, humour and practical solutions. They continue to be a powerful force in breaking down the stigma of mental health, as Jeremy works towards the goal of making mental health an accessible subject to talk about, and therefore beat.