The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs

I would highly recommend the recent BBC documentary, “The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs.”

Dr Chris van Tulleken, of “Trust Me, I’m a Doctor” fame, encourages patients at a London surgery to stop using medication to control symptoms. Instead, they are asked to explore the causes of their problems – and to discover more empowering, long term solutions.

I found the story of the woman with chronic back pain, who discovered martial arts; and that of the woman with chronic depression who started cold-water swimming particularly inspiring.

Doctor van Tulleken exposes the links between GP’s surgeries, pharmaceutical companies and free lunches. He takes an online depression test himself, explaining how negative questioning tilts results in a particular direction. And why this might happen.

Brave, refreshing, perhaps even revolutionary television.




Exercise Your Mental Health



Incorporating regular exercise into your weekly routine is a great way to reduce stress, stave off depression and generally look and feel more healthy. It is also a way in which you can be alone, if this is important to you.

Running is perfect for me, because it is so simple and requires so little equipment (a pair of trainers, a t-shirt and some shorts). It also legitimizes me being alone, for an hour or so. Something essential for my mental health.

You may not need regular and frequent time alone but if you are mildly depressed or anxious, or suffering from any form of stress, I recommend that you get running, swimming or cycling. Yoga is also a fantastic form of exercise – for body, mind and spirit.

The more scientifically minded should check out the NHS website: Here, a GP recommends exercise for better mental health.

Depression – Loss, Rage, Hope


My favourite piece of writing on depression is William Styron’s “Darkness Visible” (Vintage Books, 1992, 84 pages). A first-hand account of what it is really like to experience this life-threatening illness. Clear-eyed yet beautifully written, it has been helping people feel less alone (with depression) for twenty-five years. It has the added advantage of great brevity. Read every word.



Celebrities pledge to talk about mental health problems

Celebrities like Stephen Fry, The Wanted and Rebecca Front talk about mental health problems like depression and why it’s important to be open.

Celebrities - Alastair Campbell - Cycling - Photoshoot for general market use - DSC 6187

Alastair Campbell talks about depression

Former political aide and author, Alastair Campbell recalls the conversation he had with former prime minister Tony Blair about his experiences of depression and why talking is important for social change.

Read Alastair’s story


Ruby Wax - Sane New World

Ruby Wax

Ruby Wax has experienced episodes of depression for most of her life, but it wasn’t until she finally checked into a clinic, that she realised how widespread mental health problems are: “It’s so common, it could be anyone. The trouble is, nobody wants to talk about it. And that makes everything worse.”

Read Ruby’s story


Stephen Fry visits Bletchley Park

Stephen Fry talks about bipolar disorder and mental health stigma

Stephen Fry has experienced mental health problems for much of his life. But it wasn’t until he was 37 that he was finally diagnosed withbipolar disorder. “I’d never heard the word before, but for the first time I had a diagnosis that explains the massive highs and miserable lows I’ve lived with all my life.”

Read Stephen’s story


Nick Clegg at Mental Health Conference

At the Mental Health Conference on 19 January, held at the King’s Trust, Nick Clegg called for a new ambition for zero suicides across the NHS.

The Deputy Prime Minister spoke about removing mental health stigma and the need to adopt a ‘zero suicide’ ambition across the NHS.

I think….

Read the full article >

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Reducing anxiety


Mental health charity MIND ran a poster campaign some years ago, using the statistic 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lifetimes. Today, 1 in 4 will experience a mental health problem this year in the UK. By far the most common are depression and anxiety.

Many GPs and therapists are seeing large and increasing numbers of people suffering these problems. They are almost certainly the most common complaints of those prescribed benzodiazepines and those “self-medicating” on codeine, alcohol or illicit drugs.

Depression and anxiety are often grouped together and they do frequently occur in the same individual. However, they are different conditions. Depression will be examined in a later article. What then is anxiety?

Anxiety is a type of fear. Not a fear of something happening right now but a fear of what may happen in the future. If you have ever thought about tomorrow’s driving test or job interview and felt a tightening of your throat muscles, you have experienced anxiety. So anxiety is a natural human emotion, felt by us all at some time.

However, chronic anxiety will not pass when a particular event has passed – it will go on and on. Extreme anxiety means that sufferers are not afraid of looking uncomfortable during a job interview – they fear shopping in town on a Saturday, a conversation with a neighbour, perhaps even leaving the house at all.

Unpleasant symptoms accompany anxiety. Both bodily – headache, tingling limbs, dry mouth – and mental – repetitive thoughts, panic, paranoia. Initially, attention will be drawn repeatedly to anxiety’s trigger – the journey to the shops or conversation with a neighbour.

Fortunately, even chronic and extreme anxiety can be reduced to manageable levels. Here are some suggestions:

  • Determine that you will overcome your anxiety and be prepared to work systematically to achieve your goal. Take small steps and keep on taking those steps. Avoiding what you fear will keep fear alive; facing the fear will reduce and eventually overcome it.
  • Practise Mindfulness of both physical symptoms and though processes. What are you feeling and when and where are you feeling it? Note your findings – without negative judgement. Keep an anxiety diary – in itself, this is likely to reduce anxiety.
  • Breathing: Anxiety produces shallow breathing which increases anxiety. Learn how to breathe slowly and fully, even when suffering anxiety. A basic yoga course – from a book, class or online – will help here.
  • Counselling can help you to reduce anxiety, long term. Find a skilled, ethical counsellor who feels right for you – and keep your appointments, however much you may feel like missing them.
  • Please note that medication can be effective in reducing anxiety. However, it is a supplement, not a substitute for your hard work. Good luck.