Isle Listen announces businesses and notable buildings around the Island will be illuminated green on Monday 10 May in support of the charitable initiative and Mental Health Awareness Week. They are also asking for people to show their support by wearing something green on Friday 14 May to highlight the importance of mental health and the vital early intervention and prevention work Isle Listen does in schools, the workplace and community.

Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) runs from 10-16 May 2021 and during the global pandemic and lockdowns, many of us have experienced a mental health problem or seen a loved one struggle. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of mental health in the face of the unprecedented and overwhelming challenges we have all faced.

Buildings around the Island that will be lit up green, with help from the event lighting provider ELS Isle of Man, include Pulrose Power Station, the Tower of Refuge, Ramsey Swing Bridge, Douglas Town Hall, Strand Street in Douglas, Zurich International, Jacksons, 3FM, Canada Life, Manx Telecom, Cycle 360, Manx Utilities and International Financial Group Limited.

Zurich International have worked with Isle Listen to expand the participation of businesses in the Isle of Man Business Park to support Mental Health Awareness Week and Nigel Simpson, Head of International Markets, Zurich International, commented: “We wholeheartedly support this initiative, which is why we were delighted to help join businesses in the Isle of Man Business Park together to take part in lighting up their buildings. The events taking place during Mental Health Awareness Week will send out a strong, positive message about this vitally important issue – and strengthen our long-term partnership with Isle Listen.”

Last October, Isle Listen announced a 3-year collaboration with the Z Zurich Foundation and Zurich International in a joint drive to provide mental wellbeing education, prevention and transformative early intervention on the Isle of Man.

The theme for this year’s MHAW is nature and according to the UK Mental Health Foundation, during the long months of the pandemic, millions of people turned to nature. Nature is key to psychological and emotional wellbeing and it is difficult to achieve positive mental health without a greater connection to the natural world.

The foundation’s research on the mental health impacts of the pandemic showed going for walks outside was one of the top coping strategies and 45% of people reported being in green spaces had been vital for their mental health. Websites which showed footage from webcams of wildlife saw hits increase by over 2000%. Wider studies also found that during lockdowns, people not only spent more time in nature but were noticing it more.

Andrea Chambers, Isle Listen Chief Executive added, “While there is a growing awareness of the importance of positive mental health and wellbeing on the Island, there are still many issues in identifying those who require support. The work we do to provide education, prevention and early intervention aims to alleviate pressure on the statutory health services and to avoid the unnecessary escalation of mental health problems which can make recovery more difficult the longer they are undiagnosed.”

“We could not continue to do what we do without the amazing support of our Island community and I’m delighted that so many local organisations want to show their support of our work and the importance of mental health by illuminating their buildings green. There are so many ways people can help remove the stigma that surrounds mental health and wearing something green on Friday 14 May is just one very visible gesture and I hope as many people as possible will want to get involved.”

In the midst of our third lockdown, planning for the next academic year will likely be a priority for many students right now. This can be a stressful process in the best of times, so the air of uncertainty around when things will return to normal, can make it feel impossible to make long term plans and prepare. The next year or so feels too uncertain to even book a holiday at the moment, nevermind take steps as big as making the move to another city, or securing your post-graduate job. Yet there is a whole generation of students going through this process in such unique circumstances, so what does this look like for them?  

These circumstances may feel particularly uncertain for students travelling away to university, particularly those starting their first year in September. The preparation for this can be such a positive experience, planning for so many social, practical and academic opportunities, it really is an exciting time for young adults. It can therefore be unsettling for current students to discover they are unable to go and view university campuses or accommodation, before they commit to staying there. Or that the borders may restrict when, and how often they are able to return home. So how can you prepare for the unexpected? Policies regarding Covid-19, remote learning and tenancy agreements are a crucial new part of university research. It may be helpful to have an idea of what remote learning would look like at your university, particularly if you were to return home in the event of another UK lockdown. Some accommodations have offered full or partial refunds for terms where students had to return home, whereas others have not. A good place to start is accommodation affiliated with your university, alternatively if your private accommodation doesn’t include any information about the event of a lockdown in your tenancy agreement, don’t be afraid ask the landlord about this. Local organisations have also created a lot of resources specific to the circumstances of Manx students, such as the Manx Students’ Union ‘Operation Fairy Bridge’, with up to date information around travelling to and from the island. There are countless students all in the same boat (no pun intended), so engaging with local organisations and groups is a great way to connect with people who may understand exactly how you are feeling. 

While there are some considerations that can be taken to prepare for unexpected changes, this is a good time to give energy to those things you know you can control, rather than keeping track of all the things you can’t. This could look like paying attention to your support systems, maybe ensuring you can have regular calls with a family member or friend is something that would benefit your wellbeing at university. Some people may feel more comfortable knowing they are up to date with government information about the pandemic. Whereas for others, who may find a daily influx of this information stressful, a step back from social media may be beneficial. This can look like researching the city or town you are going to, finding people from your lectures and seminars through university pages, or even researching the experiences of students over the past year. In a time where there is a lot of discussion about all the things that could go wrong, it can be worth remembering all the things you are excited for. Maybe you’re excited to meet new and like-minded people, get stuck in a course you love, or have your first taste of independence living on your own.  

This uncertainty affects people no matter where they are in their academic career, for students remaining on the Isle Of Man, it feels there is still always the threat of another lockdown looming. This can be stressful for so many different reasons, there are people who would much rather be in their school or college, around their friends and out of the house. While others may benefit from spending more time at home, or have become so used to it that the idea of returning to normality again is actually very daunting. Even without this issue of travel some students are facing, having your time and resources limited during a period of life already involving a lot of pressure, is overwhelming to say the least. The prospects of returning to normality are equally strange for recent or upcoming graduates right now. With a lot of workplaces unable to conduct face to face interviews under current restrictions, this creates another obstacle for those trying to plan for their future outside of education.  

While we are all going through this, everyone’s individual experience of it will be very unique. In a situation like this, it is okay to be feeling unsure, more stressed than usual, or to not be sure how you are feeling at all. If the things that you usually find help you manage stressful times, don’t seem to be working at the moment, this could mean you may benefit from some extra support. This can come from a trusted individual in your life, whether that is a teacher, a parent, a friend. It could involve supporting you within that relationship, or helping you to identify external support through your school, or local organisations.

Stress is something we all live with and experience daily, some stress (eustress) is good for us, it’s the type of stress that gives us our ‘get up and go’ factor, it’s the stress that we need to take on new challenges and step out of our comfort zone. If we just had to contend with this type of stress we would be thriving and we would be able to look at life’s unpredictability with vigour and a positive mindset. You can learn more about eustress in our online guide to Supporting your Mental Health.

Unfortunately, there is also harmful stress (Distress). This is the type of stress when things start to get ‘on top of us’ or we feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with tasks, multiple events and challenging times.

The two types of stress go hand in hand. It’s sometimes difficult to identify what type of stress we’re encouraging as a result of the unpredictable challenges we are faced with in life from hour-to-hour and day to day. It’s important to be able to stand back and look at how we’re dealing with things. If we find we are struggling or encouraging the wrong type of stress, we need to look at ways of taking back control and encourage the use of some coping tools and techniques.

One such coping tool/technique that can help us during unprecedented times is embracing the ‘Blue spaces’ around us.

We are fortunate to live on a beautiful and relatively safe and secure Island with open green spaces and beautiful views of the sea. In a recently publish article by Elle Hunt of The Guardian newspaper, it was stated that “Coastal environments have been shown to improve our health, body and mind”, and concluded that doctors could maybe start issuing nature-based prescriptions to help cope with the harmful stress we experience (Distress).

We have long-known that getting outside into the fresh air for exercise has a positive effect on our mental health and wellbeing, and we certainly don’t need a prescription from a GP to do so. But we do need to be able to identify when we are not coping well and to be able to take back control and start making small changes.

I love being around water and swimming, beachcombing, the smell of the sea, the sound of the waves and the sense of freedom that comes with it. I enjoy the escape to a place where my ancestors may have had a similar experience.

Throughout my life I have always been drawn to the water. Wherever I have travelled and lived, one thing stands out, I always found myself close to the sea. Maybe it was a subconscious decision or maybe something else, but I have always found an inner calm whenever I’m near water or ‘blue space’ is found.

Here on our beautiful island it is a similar story – I love splashing in the water with my kids and seeing them smile and laugh which makes me happy; whether going for a walk through rivers on an adventure, or simply walking on the beach to find our favourite pebbles or shells; perhaps looking for something that doesn’t belong on a beach and creating memories that may last a lifetime.

We are lucky to live in a place where we have such incredible blue spaces on our doorstep. I will leave you to make up your own mind on whether it should be GP driven but I can say that the theory and studies do certainly indicate the benefits to our wellbeing and managing harmful stress. Living on an island, I suspect deep down, we all know that already, but we just need reminding occasionally.

Here’s some ideas for making the most of our very own ‘Blue Space’

  1. Visit an old favourite – going to a place that triggers fun memories will boost your mood.
  2. Bilateral stimulation – just getting out of the house and going for a walk gives your mind time to process and forget all the troubles you may be experiencing.
  3. Serotonin, dopamine, and endorphin boost – swimming, walking or jogging in a blue space will give you a huge boost of the “good chemicals” that help lift our mood.
  4. Beachcomb – look for something special on the beach and you are never let down, many treasures are found, valuable or not, which connect you to nature.
  5. 3 pieces of plastic – pick up three pieces of rubbish and take them back to a bin, this is rewarding and will boost your sense of wellbeing as well as being great for the environment. Find out more about our Fill a Fish joint initiative with Beach Buddies and Suntera.
  6. Sea swim – a dip in the sea stimulates the parasympathetic system which is responsible for rest and repair. Another boost for serotonin and dopamine.
  7. Fishing – apart from the health benefits of eating fish, research shows that fishing can help combat depression and anxiety along with increasing patience and concentration.
  8. Less air pollution – the area around the sea is healthier for us as negative ions speed up your ability to absorb oxygen and balance serotonin levels.
  9. Sunlight – being by the sea boosts vitamin D, changes the body temperature and as a result helps you sleep better.
  10. It’s fun – no matter if it’s blowing a hoolie, raining sideways or glorious sunshine, being outdoors and by the sea is fun! We should all be allowed a little bit of time where we can be kids again and just have a giggle.

In recent weeks, the Island’s Department of Education made the announcement that exams would no longer take place this year. This announcement came after almost a year of uncertainty due to the pandemic and has likely impacted many of our young people in different ways.  

This news may have caused a lot of upset for some people who feel as though they’ve worked really hard for their exams and might have even missed out on social events because of them. It might even feel like all the energy and effort they put in is now worthless, and you might feel frustrated that you won’t ever know the grades you could have got. You might be worried about what comes next – whether that’s getting into sixth form or university, getting a job, or about having no idea what is next. You might also be one of those people who hadn’t started revising or working to get their grades just yet, and you’re worried how this will affect things.  

For some people, this may have come as good news. If you’re the type of person who dreads the atmosphere of such pressure-heavy environments, you may be feeling optimistic right now. Maybe you’re feeling relieved that your grade for the year won’t be determined by one hour, where you’re more worried about being stuck in a room with 100 of your peers, or whether or not you have a clear pencil case. If you’re someone who favours coursework over exams you might also be feeling positive, or more in control of your performance right now. Where there will be people feeling this overall sense of relief, there will be just as many feeling the exact opposite. This is a good time to check in on friends when you can, as this outcome could affect everyone differently. Your friends will likely be in a similar position to you, so they will be able to relate to what’s going on, and helping others can also boost our own wellbeing. 

However you feel right now, it’s completely understandable – if you are struggling, there are things we can do to help. Reframing our thoughts about it can help us cope if we’re feeling like our hard work is wasted or our results are somehow worth less – you’ve still learnt all the knowledge, and would have all the skills to sit the exams if you needed too, which will help you in your future. The exam was only one point on a journey – you’ve done so much to be proud of before it and will continue to do so without it. A grade is not our whole identity, and there is so much else to who you are as a person.  

Set small goals that are unrelated to exams – these might be things like finishing a book, trying a new hobby, exercising or scheduling in some relaxation time. You might want to research future options available to you to. Making time to take care of ourselves and do things we enjoy is particularly important now. These can also help us with our motivation; by giving ourselves things to accomplish, it adds to our sense of achievement, boosts our self-esteem and improves our wellbeing. If it helps, you can also start doing some of the work and revision you might have done over this time, so keep up with your revision or homework timetable where possible. You can also celebrate when you would have finished your exams, as this can help with our feelings of closure.  

It is likely some people will have concerns about how their grades will be determined, especially if this differs between schools. If you’re feeling uncomfortable with which pieces of your work are determining your grade, or who is making this decision, it is worth raising this with someone you trust. This could be a parent, family member, or member of staff from your school you feel comfortable discussing this with. If you’re struggling with motivation or your wellbeing over this time and you’re worried about it affecting your grade, try and make someone aware of how things are for you. 

If you are supporting a young person, have the conversation with them about how they’re feeling. Be completely honest about what you do and don’t know – for example, if a young person doesn’t know how their grades will be awarded, be honest if you don’t know, but tell them you can help them by making a plan of who they can ask. Provide them with encouragement about school and about the future.  

There is so much uncertainty around this time that it’s normal to feel a bit worried about what the future holds; if this is significantly impacting you and your life, speak to someone you trust who can help find you some support.  

As part of Stress Awareness Month we wanted to help you to understand how we manage stress. 

We can view the way we manage stress like a tap and bucket, with the tap being the things that create stress and the bucket being our ability to carry and cope with stress. 

Stress is a normal part of life and it’s not always bad, we need a certain level of stress to encourage us to take action and get things done. 

However, if there are too many stressors in our life and we don’t have effective coping strategies in place, our stress levels can become harmful, making us feel overwhelmed and like we’re about to ‘burst’. 

1.

Stress is a normal part of life – we can view the way we manage stress like a tap and bucket, the tap being the things that create stress and the bucket being our ability to carry stress.

Some stress can be good and some can be bad, but both take up space in our Stress Bucket!

2.

There may be times when the amount of demands/stressors that we’re experiencing fills our bucket to a level that is harmful, and can eventually cause us to feel overwhelmed and like we’re about to ‘burst’.

3.

Coping abilities/strategies help us to let go of the unnecessary stressors that fill up our bucket.

It’s important to remember that we can’t flush everything out of our Stress Bucket – we need to be able to tolerate a certain level of stress.

4.

Some coping strategies are less effective at helping us to deal with stress, and although these strategies might provide some temporary relief (such as comfort eating), they aren’t healthy in the longer-term.

5.

Healthy coping strategies help us to keep our stress at a manageable level over the long-term – some healthy strategies are: rest and relaxation, talking to someone you trust, or doing something you enjoy (i.e. exercise or art).

6.

If you do find that your stress-levels reach a point where you feel overwhelmed and are struggling to cope on your own, this is when it’s important to communicate and seek support.

Take some time to think about the good and bad sources of stress in your life – doing this helps us to identify and prioritise the stressors we can control, to manage how much stress we’re placing on ourselves. You can also think about what coping strategies you might use, are these effective in helping to relieve stress, or might they actually be creating more stress? 

Stress Awareness Month has been held every April since 1992, with the aim of increasing knowledge around both the causes of and cures for stress.  

We’re all very different, but stress is something that affects all of us at various points in our lives. For example, according to the Mental Health Foundation, 74% of adults in the UK felt so stressed at some point in the last year, that they would describe it as feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope. 

There are a lot of generic causes of stress: work, relationships, commitments and bills amongst many other things. However, we must also take time to understand what affects us as individuals so that we can take some small steps to reduce stress for ourselves and those around us. Things like setting clear and healthy boundaries, communicating assertively and remembering to save time and energy for yourself can be very helpful when working to limit your stress levels.  

The theme for Stress Awareness Month 2021 is “Regaining Connectivity, Certainty and Control” – this was based on a study conducted over the last year which showed that roughly 65% of people in the UK have felt more stressed since COVID restrictions were introduced in early 2020. The 3 biggest areas of concern for people were: feelings of disconnection, uncertainty and a loss of control.  

So, what can we do every day, to help lower the stress on ourselves and those around us?  

For the month of April, the Stress Management Society are encouraging people to pick out an activity or action which could help you improve your wellbeing, and to carry it out every day if you can. It takes around 30 days to begin forming a habit, so this challenge aims to maximise your chances of forming a lasting change.  

Throughout this month, each week we will be discussing different areas of stress and some practical tips to help you manage it. 

We often get asked the question “What can I do to help to remove the stigma surrounding mental health?”. For us, this is one of our main aims, as removing the stigma helps everyone on the Isle of Man to feel emotionally empowered and effectively supported with their mental health and wellbeing, so here’s 6 things you can do to help. 

1. Talk About It 

The biggest thing is to talk openly about your own mental health. Lead by example. 

When you’re asked, tell your friends and family how you’re really feeling. You can be open if you’re not feeling great, or just let them know that you’re genuinely having a good day. 

Be honest if you need a bit of extra support from your loved ones and be clear about what that support is. 

2. Ask Others  

Encourage others to talk about their mental health. By asking open questions about how someone is feeling, you can open up the door to a conversation.  

Equally, it’s important to respect people’s boundaries – if they say they don’t want to talk about it, respect their choice and simply remind them you’re there if they want too, then move on.   

Be prepared for what the response might be – this might be making sure you have options to signpost to, or some suggestions of the support you are prepared to offer. You can signpost to online services like Kooth and Qwell, to health services like their GP or other community initiatives.  

Support might be a regular catch up, taking them some shopping, or exercising with them. People often appreciate just being asked because it really shows you respect and care about them.  

Equally, it’s important to take care of ourselves – don’t offer anything that will put your own wellbeing at risk. 

3. Have a Conversation 

If you get a feeling that someone is struggling or has been distant with you, ask them how they’re doing and say what you’ve noticed. It gives them an opportunity to open up or clarify a different reason for their behaviour.  

If you can, ask them to make time for a phone or video chat, as sometimes seeing someone’s face makes it much easier to talk than over a text. If they say they’re ok, they will most likely appreciate a good old chat with a friend anyway.  Who doesn’t need one of those right now? 

4. Talk to your Employer 

Could your employer do more to support your mental health?  Perhaps you feel that your colleague is struggling?   

Around 1 in 6 employees experience a mental health or wellbeing issue each year. While the reasons behind it are not always work-related, it is important that employers and their workforce know how to address mental health and wellbeing and support one another.  

During a time when we have much less interaction with our colleagues, it’s important to put in place virtual ‘coffee breaks’ to promote those chats that often help people. Your employer may be able to facilitate more flexible working hours, a reduction in duties, or more collaborative ways of working. 

Perhaps your employer would like to contact us to discuss workplace mental health awareness sessions, or help staff build their resilience or even train a few employees to be wellbeing first aiders. There’s lots of information and resources on our website so take a look here at the Isle Listen in the Workplace pages of our website.  

Your HR department is there to help with any concerns and can often signpost you to lots of good resources. 

5. Help us to continue helping our community  

Isle Listen is a charitable initiative, and we are funded by the generous support of our community.  

We are working hard to bring about change and that starts at a young age by preparing our children and young people to cope with challenges of 21st century life, following this through with our workplace and community initiatives into adulthood.  

With this approach we can gradually unpick the stigma surrounding mental health which has existed for many generations and resulted in so many people struggling unnecessarily.  

You can help us to be able to continue our vital work by making a one off or regular donation  – Donate

6. Fundraising and spreading the word

You might like to take on a fundraising challenge for us and help spread awareness of the importance of mental health at the same time.  

The importance of setting and achieving goals for mental health is well documented, as is doing something for others, so this is a really great way to boost your own wellbeing and help others! 

Maybe you’d like to undertake a sporting challenge, hold a quiz, sell some homemade items, do a sponsored silence, train to do a half marathon or whatever your passion is, but by becoming one of our fundraisers, you will be helping us to help our community.  

Let us know if you have any fundraising ideas and we will be delighted to help you out – email us at getinvolved@islelisten.im 

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘Choose to Challenge’. This centres around choosing to speak out when we see gender inequality or bias. Sadly, mental health is not a field that is immune from the impact of gender inequality and bias.  

Over the last year, women and girls have experienced unique challenges as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Research has shown the negative impact on our mental health due to returning to school, social media, caring responsibilities and restrictions in place around maternity services and health services more generally. Depression and anxiety rates are higher in adolescent girls than in their male counterparts. Eating disorders are also significantly higher amongst females and the number of people seeking support has risen at alarming rates. Gender-based violence is also on the rise. The economic impacts are often more heavily felt by women who typically will earn less than their male counterparts because of existing gender inequality.  

On the Island, we have just entered lockdown number 3 (which is not something I ever thought would happen) and because of the factors mentioned above, this is certainly going to be a difficult time for everyone, but especially women. So how can we take care of ourselves, or help support the women we care about?  

This International Women’s Day, we can all help just by speaking up and challenging the inequalities that exist in society. This is also true for mental health and wellbeing – only by talking about our mental health and wellbeing can we remove the stigma that surrounds it. By acknowledging that we are human and we do make mistakes, it means we can build mental health services that ensure equitable access for all. Make sure you check in with yourself and the women that you love and speak out if you are struggling and need support.  

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, please read with caution as this article contains details that could be triggering. 

According to Beat – the UK’s eating disorder charity – there are approximately 1.25 million people in the UK living with an eating disorder and with this number on the rise, I wanted to speak out and share my own personal experiences of living with an eating disorder in order to raise awareness of this mental illness.  

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” 

To those who don’t know about my mental health issues, I may look like I have my life together – at 29 years old, I’m married and mum to a happy, healthy boy, I have a degree and a job that I love, I come from a loving family and I have wonderful friends – but I struggle with one thing that most people don’t even think about: eating. 

I’ve had an eating disorder for more than a decade. I was first diagnosed with anorexia nervosa when I was just 12 years old and have spent most of my teenage and adult years in and out of treatment, consumed by this illness. 

I’ve always found it hard to open up about my mental health issues, even to those closest to me, because eating disorders don’t make a whole lot of sense – like breathing or sleeping, eating is a basic human need that we all need to do in order to survive… so why does my mind try to convince me otherwise? 

Eating disorders are complex. 

I struggle to pin-point one thing that led to me developing an eating disorder but my issues with food began round the time I started high school. Like many others, I’m sure, I found the transition from primary school to high school to be quite overwhelming. I’ve always had a “Type A” personality – ambitious, competitive but insecure – so instantly, I felt the pressure to work hard in order to stand out and achieve what I thought was expected of me. 

It’s a well-known fact that what we put into our bodies affects what we get out of them, so I thought that by improving diet and lifestyle, I could improve my performance at school. At first, I stopped eating junk food – chocolate, crisps, sweets – opting for healthier snacks instead. I also started exercising more and everyone praised my new, healthy lifestyle. 

Then I decided to cut out snacks – I thought that I didn’t really need to snack in between meals if I was eating a good, nutritious breakfast, lunch and dinner. Somewhere around this time, my mindset shifted and my thoughts became distorted. I started eating less and exercising more. I became paranoid about eating in front of people because I was convinced everyone was watching what I ate, so I stopped eating at school. Not eating at home was difficult as we always sat down as a family at mealtimes, but I ate nothing where I could and ate less where I couldn’t. 

I lost a lot of weight very quickly and people – family, friends, teachers – became worried, but despite their concern, nobody really knew what to do or how to help me. Knowledge/understanding of eating disorders was basically nonexistent and the resources available were limited. I was referred to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) and that’s where my journey to recovery began. 

I just want to clarify that eating disorders are not caused by dieting alone. The exact cause is often unknown, but it is generally believed to be a result of biological, psychological, and/or environmental influences. Through working with a therapist, I have discovered that there were other factors that contributed to the development of my eating disorder, but I’m not ready to share that part of my story just yet… not to mention that this piece would basically be a novel! 

17 years later and I was recently discharged from my 4th (and hopefully, final!) treatment programme. 

Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. Research has found that 20% of anorexia sufferers will die prematurely from their illness. Bulimia is also associated with severe medical complications, and binge eating disorder sufferers often experience the medical complications associated with obesity. In every case, eating disorders severely affect the quality of life of the sufferer and those that care for them. 

Recovering from an eating disorder is hard. 

Food is a fundamental need, so unlike someone recovering from a drinking problem where the focus of treatment is working towards a life that doesn’t necessarily include alcohol, recovering from an eating disorder is complicated, because the focus of treatment is working towards a life that does include food. 

Living with an eating disorder – or any mental illness for that matter – is exhausting. Every day is a fight between what you know is right (eating) and what your eating disorder tells you is right (not eating). There are good days and there are bad days, but there’s no such thing as a day off from mental illness. 

Until recently, I’ve always avoided talking about my mental health. I’ve always felt embarrassed about having an eating disorder – I mean, what sort person doesn’t love food?! – but I’ve realised that opening up and talking about it and breaking down the barriers surrounding mental health can be a good thing.  

Having an eating disorder has shaped who I am as a person and while there’s nothing I can do about that, I can and do want to help shape the future of mental health by raising awareness and encouraging others to speak out too. 

Following the government briefing and the requirement to stay at home from Wednesday 3rd March, our team will be working from home until further notice which means for now, our face-to face services are temporarily postponed. We are contacting our service users, schools and workplace clients individually. Despite this temporary set-back, we will continue our important work remotely and still have plenty of useful tips and resources available on our website and social media.  

So what does this mean? 

You can still get in touch with us by email as normal or via our social media. You can also get lots of tips and useful information to help you through this short lockdown period via our YouTube channel where you will find some short videos and webinars.

You can also read a wide range of useful blog posts on our website.

But don’t forget…  

As an Island community we have shown our amazing resilience and determination throughout the pandemic. But remember to make sure you keep in touch with loved ones, friends, colleagues and neighbours by staying in touch virtually by text, phone call or video call. Remember also to check in on ourselves, our state of mind, our general wellbeing and of course our mental health – there is no right or wrong way to deal with the situation we have found ourselves in and there is no right or wrong way to feel.

We’re here. Isle Listen.

When someone says the words ‘self-harm’ or ‘self-injury’, it feels like something that is big, scary and uncomfortable. The thing about self-harm is, it’s actually a whole range of behaviours on a spectrum that are usually done because we are hurting emotionally, we want to feel differently, but we’re not sure how to cope with the negative feelings.  

It’s estimated that around 1 in 5 people will self-harm at some point in their lifetime with this often beginning in adolescence. Self-harm can either be self-neglect or self-injury; self-neglect is where we fail to meet our basic needs, and self-injury is where we hurt ourselves intentionally. The kinds of behaviours often associated with self-neglect are over or under sleeping, over or undereating, not maintaining personal hygiene, isolating ourselves or engaging in risk-taking behaviour. Self-injury is a term that is used in more clinical settings and involves things like cutting, burning, banging, hitting or scratching ourselves.  

For those who haven’t ever felt the urge to engage in these behaviours, it can be difficult to comprehend why someone might engage in such behaviour as it goes against our basic evolutionary drives to protect ourselves from harm.  

So why do people engage in it? 

If we look at the behaviour in its most basic form, it’s a coping strategy – it’s something individuals do to help them manage how they’re feeling. Like all coping strategies, it provides us with an outlet, releases endorphins and provides some control over our feelings and thus makes the individual feel temporarily better.  

What it’s not is an attention-seeking behaviour which is why it’s so difficult to stop. If we take away the self-harm behaviour and don’t replace it with anything, the individual is left without a coping strategy so when they subsequently feel difficult emotions, it’s easy to fall back into old habits.  

Finding out that someone we love or care about is engaging in this behaviour can evoke many difficult feelings. . This can potentially mean that we respond the individual concerned in a way that isn’t helpful or could have a negative impact. It’s important to remember that as human beings, it’s understandable that we will feel worried, sad or uncomfortable because we care.  

So how can we channel those feelings to support someone who is self-harming? 

Self-harm is often thought of as this big, scary secret – it’s only by talking about it that we can change that. This self-injury awareness day don’t be afraid to ask the question if you’re worried about someone. If you are struggling with self-harm, please reach out to someone you trust. 

Nigel Simpson has been appointed to the board of MCH Psychological Services (MCH), the charity behind the Isle Listen and Minds Matter initiatives that provide mental health and wellbeing support in schools, the workplace and community, and to people living with cancer and other life-changing conditions.

Nigel has worked for Zurich International for more than 25 years in several management and business development roles and is currently Head of International Markets.

In October last year, Isle Listen, the Z Zurich Foundation and Zurich International announced an unprecedented collaboration to provide mental wellbeing education, prevention and transformative early intervention in the Island’s schools, the workplace and community. Since the start of the September 2020 academic year[i], Isle Listen has already reached 2,619 students in schools, delivered 64 student group sessions and provided 333 one-to-one student listening sessions and, in the workplace, 28 courses reaching 645 people.

Commenting on his appointment, Nigel said: “Whilst there is a growing awareness of the importance of mental health and wellbeing, there is still a stigma attached to the issue. At Zurich, we’ve been hugely impressed by the work that MCH has done in firmly establishing the Isle Listen and Minds Matter initiatives in the field of psychological support and I am very pleased to have the opportunity to contribute towards the growth of the charity and its long-term success.”

Welcoming Nigel to the board, MCH Chairman Stuart McCudden said: “We’re delighted to have Nigel join our rapidly growing charity and at this crucial time in our evolution. He further strengthens our Board by bringing strong commercial experience and additional strategic and conceptual thinking which will be extremely valuable as we develop.”

Zurich has a long association with promoting good mental health, most recently launching an online Wellbeing Toolkit to provide support to the community during the Covid-19 pandemic. Locally, Zurich International was already working with Isle Listen to offer mental health awareness sessions.

MCH Psychological Services is a registered Isle of Man charity that can trace its roots back over 35 years to Manx Cancer Help and The Lisa Lowe Centre. It provides clinical guidance and oversight to the Isle Listen and Minds Matter initiatives.

[i] Up to 31 December 2020