A safe place for better mental health?

Posted: 21 May 2020

The day-to-day business of care is about people who need help for a whole bucket of reasons. Of course we all have our problems and the old and infirm (and indeed anyone who needs care) have very specific ones, and we at St Kath’s are committed to doing what we can to help.

Mental Health issues split very roughly into two categories, ‘reactive’ and ‘clinical’. The first is when you’re in a situation that creates a certain response… loneliness, for example, can make you feel a bit “down” and in situations like this the brain can be helped to rectify that because it has mechanisms to bring itself back into balance. Essentially though, you ‘react’ to the stimulus.

The “out of balance” feelings are the bad ones, and the “in balance” feelings are the good ones. A very good example is the way in which our carers bring help and companionship to their calls, to cheer up the customer and help re-balance their feelings. Family can do that as well. This is why, during lockdown, when families haven’t been able to visit,  we’ve done our best to step into the breach in whatever small way we can, because nothing can really replace family, can it?

Sometimes, however, the brain can’t re-balance itself and that’s when clinical intervention is needed. Clinical Depression is a good example of this, as is Severe Anxiety Disorder, both of which can require medication. Our role then is to support the customer, possibly helping out with meds, liaising with other healthcare agencies if need be, prompting the medication to be taken and noting it being observed. We do our best to keep an eye on things, too.

Then there are the major mental illnesses: Dementia, Alzheimers, Bipolar, Schizophrenia, and many others, and we have experience of helping with all of those.

But what about the carers themselves? We all have similar problems…

As well as dealing with solitude and loneliness, we have to deal with our fear of catching the virus, the stresses that food and supply shortages bring, the increased closeness of family life (we love our kids, but…) and then again the agony of being six feet away from a sick or dying loved one and being unable to give them the comfort of a hug. No wonder that we have to think about our mental health.

One technique that I have found invaluable is to create a “Safe Place” in your mind. For some people it can be somewhere real, but for many it’s an imagined space where you feel absolutely at one with yourself. Close your eyes and build a picture; it could be a garden, a hilltop retreat, a beach, a riverside scene, we all have something different. As you imagine it, add features to it. Trees, grass, flowers, birdsong, whatever it takes to make your heart lighter…

The “Safe Place” technique really works for me, and with practice you can turn a ten minute coffee break into a two week holiday, it really does leave you feeling that refreshed! Close your eyes, build your picture, and let your thoughts drift away…

Life’s hard enough, so our message is that “we’ve got your back” on mental health, whatever the issue and however it presents. We take the mental health of our own staff very seriously and have help/mentoring/counselling available to everyone for those times when life gets too much, for whatever reason. If we can help our carers, then they are better placed to help our customers, and that can be a virtuous circle that never ends.

Find your Safe Place!