Tag Archive | talking therapies

Ruby Wax on Mindfulness

003Last Monday I was invited to the Barbican in London to attend a mental health event featuring Ruby Wax. I duly made my way down to the Metropolis from Birmingham  first to enjoy a drinks reception kindly hosted by my employers, KPMG and Linklaters followed by the event itself.

The reception was a great place to start the evening as everyone there has a personal interest in mental health. The reasons for their interest were varied, interesting and often surprising. You just never know what goes on behind those shutters and it is humbling to hear others talk about their experiences of their own mental health issues or those of their family. The best thing though, is that we were all talking about “it”. Thankfully the stigma attached to mental illness is slowly but surely being whittled away so that more people are prepared to stand up and admit to their illness. I have seen first hand the amazing results that being open and honest can bring about and listening to others in “my tribe” it appears that the word is spreading with life-changing impact.

Bold and brash. Modest and mindful. In simple terms this describes the very distinct and diverse traits of the complex personality that is Ruby Wax. Polar opposites-the Ruby Wax of old and the “new” Ruby that is now the proud owner of a number of Diplomas in subjects related to mental health. At first I was rather sceptical, but as the evening wore on, I soon realised that this woman knows her stuff. She also knows that she has limits, and most of the “show” was given over to her interviewer, Radio 4’s Claudia Hammond and Psychologist  Dr Tamara Russell who specialises in Mindfulness.

005And this is where the evening got really interesting. I have been a fan of Mindfulness and MCBT (Mindful Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) for many years and often practise MCBT techniques to get me through the day. Ruby Wax has clearly cottoned on to its benefits, and if I understand correctly, her new book describes Mindfulness and how it can help with depression. She herself uses the techniques and finds it does help her condition. Good for her for sharing and if it encourages others to follow suit, it has to be a good thing.

Mindfulness is described as;

“the awareness that arises
when paying attention in a
particular way: on purpose, in
the present moment, and nonjudgmentally”
(Kabat-Zinn 1994)

and there are numerous books and websites which contain information about Mindfulness and how to practise the techniques.

Personally, I have a Mindfulness bell set up on my computer so that it chimes at certain times of the day when I recognise that I am usually at my most vulnerable. On hearing the bell, the Pavlov Dog in me immediately takes in a deep breath and starts 2 minutes of breathing properly. In the moment. Calm and peaceful. Relaxed and refreshed. It works for me.

 The evening was very different to what I expected but pleasantly so. I wasn’t disappointed-far from it I was impressed by Ruby’s approach and demeanour and she came across as a genuine “sufferer” and someone who is determined to help herself. She is no victim, but she remains vulnerable and for this, her admissions are commendable and inspiring to many others who find themselves unable to “come out” just yet.

I don’t think I will be buying her book which comes out in June, and I didn’t learn anything new on the night but it was a great idea and I would recommend going to listen to her talk about her battles with depression and Mindfulness if you get the opportunity.

It was £10 well spent!

Useful links:

 Oxford Mindfulness Centre 

Mindfulness bell

Food for thought

Two years ago I came out and came clean about my personal experiences of depression. The confession lifted the burden of secrecy from my shoulders and I made a commitment that I would continue to talk openly and honestly about my experiences in the hope that it will help others do the same and gradually whittle away at the stigma that still accompanies any mention of mental illness.

With this in mind I agreed to do an interview for the Daily Mail which was published yesterday. Overall, despite some minor inaccuracies, poor assumptions made by the journalists who interviewed me and some ill-chosen and emotive language, I was comfortable with the article and I was interested to read some of the many feedback comments that the article generated.

The responses vary from measured and balanced comments to rash and angry remarks and it highlights how easy it is to read an article like this, which is merely a condensed version of all the interviews which took place, without the benefit of knowing exactly what was said and come to the wrong conclusion. Therein lies a conflict of interest. Idealist I may be but I think that the journalist has a responsibility to present the information in such a way that the story is told correctly, accurately and without bias. In short a balanced approach is preferred. A balanced approach however doesn’t sell papers and inevitably there are compromises, hence the emotive language and definite slant to the article. I can cope with this as any informed reader will realise these limitations and look through what has been written to consider the stories behind the story but I do worry that some readers take the view that depression is treated “lightly” in the article which cannot be further from the truth.

I am pleased that people read the article and made the effort to comment. Any discussion about mental illness has to be good and helps to bring the topic out in the open, breaking down barriers and encouraging those with the illness to seek help without fear of reprisals.

Depression is a complex illness. People are complex beings. Put the two together and you can see straight away that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the illness but there are a number of options available to those who do suffer from depression and these should be explored with your GP as soon as possible. There is a strong link between seeking help early and recovery, so don’t leave it too long before seeking help. Not all GPs hand out anti-depressants as the first resort and, going back to the Daily Mail article, I was not “scathing” about GPs who do. I understand that GPs have their limitations and not all of them take an interest in mental health issues. More education and training about mental illness and its treatment should be available for professional health practitioners and more funding should be made available for talking treatments which would give GPs further options to offer their patients.

Sadly, we are talking money and this is in short supply.

But that’s another story.