Tell us a bit about your backstory, how have you got to where you are now
I am David Andrew and I run a coaching and mentoring practice from DavidAndrewCoaching.com. I am also a keynote and motivational speaker.
I got into coaching & mentoring naturally whilst working at the Birmingham City Council. I retired early last year after 26 years of working in the public sector. I was responsible for Business Development, which consisted of print commissioning, advertising, and generating revenue.
What is mental health? Is it to do with stress, depression, psychosis etc?
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through to adulthood. Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behaviour could be affected. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:
- Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry.
- Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse.
- A family history of mental health problems.
Mental health problems are common but help is available. People with mental health issues can get better and many recover completely.
You have had your own significant journey with mental health. How has that impacted your life to bring you where we are now?
Looking back at my own journey now, I cannot exactly pinpoint when it actually began. I wasn’t aware of the fact that I could call it a mental health problem.
Reflecting, I can see there were tale-tale signs. Compulsion and urge to do something that at that time looked like a good idea, but that really was probably not possible. Trying hard to pursue those ideas and finding it difficult to get them done, began to cause frustrations and changes in my mood.
Of course, these behaviours I thought were the reasons for me feeling frustrated. It was affecting my family too.
To cut a long story short it did not end well for my family or me. Through those dark years, I suffered from depression, regrets, and loneliness. My close friends supported me, which was helpful.
However, during that long dark journey, I began to look for answers to my problem. It was a transformation period related to my mindset. Changing my mindset was a slow process, but somehow, I motivated myself by talking to people, even the ones that I didn’t know well. My work colleagues and my managers were all very sympathetic and made allowances for me to work at a pace I could manage.
There were five key points I believe that helped me through my journey.
- First is to accept that there is a problem
- Second is to start talking to people who would want to listen.
- Then start acting on some good advice and get a friend, mentor, coach, therapist who can help you through the process. You will need to find coping mechanisms to help you along the way. Every day is not the same. Not everyone can live 100% happy each day. Of course, there are exceptions to this.
- As they ‘say time is the best healer’. Yes, it took time, but today people who know me have seen the transformation and I feel I am a much better person, very positive, happy, content, and peaceful.
- Importantly, I continue to work on my mindset and emotional intelligence, self-awareness, allowing things to enter my thoughts that are good for me. Having friends and companionships with people who influence me in a good way.
Has going through that experience helped you to become more aware of the circumstances surrounding your clients, being in a better position to help them going through something similar?
We need understand that there is a difference between mental health and mental illness.
When we talk about mental health, we’re talking about our mental well-being; our emotions, our thoughts and feelings, our ability to solve problems and overcome difficulties, our social connections, and our understanding of the world around us.
Mental illness affects the way people think, feel, behave, or interact with others. There are different mental illnesses, and they have different symptoms that impact peoples’ lives in different ways. I became aware of these challenges because I could recognise it clearly in other people too. However, I wouldn’t want to say to them that ‘those are mental health problems’.
Often, people don’t see it that way. It’s usually summed up as ‘That’s life’, I’ll be fine. It’s not like, that one morning you get out of bed and say I am having mental health problem.
Various situations in life build up over a period and it can come from any direction. Your family, friends, neighbours, job, finances, physical health, world crisis, Brexit. Basically, a person starts worrying about anything and everything. It gets worse if they can’t sort it and if things that are out of their control. They feel they are not going anywhere in life.
Have you heard this?
How are you mate? ‘Oh, not too bad’. ‘I’m fine’ or ‘I’m plodding along’ or ‘I could be better but can’t complain’.Others say’ Life couldn’t be better’.
However, their facial expression and body language tell us something different.
Why do you think there appears to be a massive surge in the amount of people dealing with mental health issues in recent years? Has something changed, or has a spotlight just been shone on the issue more closely, making it seem like it’s increased in prominence?
Mental health is one of the biggest topics of our age. How have attitudes to mental health changed over time?
I know someone in my family, in fact too close to me, that faced those challenges. But it was labelled differently.
The word Mental was viewed as crazy, mad, stupid, loopy and the list goes on. People felt embarrassed and humiliated.
In Asian and African countries within religious sect labelled it as even being demon possessed. Even now it continues to be viewed that way to this day. However, education is helping people to see it differently.
Our attitudes are changing and I hope as people we will become more sympathetic in helping our fellow humans.
In extreme cases, some may need medication, but medication comes with its own challenges.
Start talking and working on lifestyle changes by
- Eating healthy.
- Moderate alcohol and addictive substance intake.
- Good rest.
- Spend time with your loved ones.
- Work-life balance.
- Developing healthy relationships
- Filling your mind with things that enrich your thinking.
- Be aware of stealth and insidious influences.
In your opinion, what are some of the biggest causes of the current mental health crisis that’s affecting so many in this country? Are there any specific factors to blame?
I think it is easy to blame others for our mistakes rather than taking personal responsibilities as adults. But that doesn’t mean that others don’t play a part in it.
There is a materialistic and spiritual battle we fight every day. The world tends to put on unrealistic expectations on our life. The easier we like to make our life, surrounding ourselves with all the modern technologies, fashion, personal image, and expectancies in society, the weaker we become. We try to keep up with the Jones. We want things done instantly. We want to start looking like that model and wear those clothes. We want to become someone else and start losing our identity and people experience an identity crisis.
Our younger generation is greatly affected by the pressures perhaps imposed on us? Not to mention it is further compounded by the social media and the abuse that happens through it.
Is there any particular age group that is more likely to suffer mental health problems, or can it affect anyone at any time?
Anyone can suffer from mental health problems. There isn’t a specific age as such. What I am noticing is that younger generation, men, and women between the ages of 30 and 45/50 tend to experience more because of the changes they go through in life.
However, people tend to react and respond to those problems in different ways depending on the intensity of the pressures they either put on themselves or is put on them.
Is the world’s reliance, and, for some, dare I say, obsession with social media and being hyper-connected with each other, a factor in this?
Social media has become one of the vehicles or a tool amongst other things that contribute greatly to such problems. Even though social media itself is not the problem, users tend to misuse and abuse it. Others become obsessed and addicted to it. Any kind of addiction and obsession is dangerous.
What would some of the tell-tale signs be, if someone is trying to work out whether they could do with some help?
Experiencing one or more of the following feelings or behaviours can be an early warning sign of a problem:
- Eating or sleeping too much or too little.
- Pulling away from people and usual activities.
- Having low or no energy.
- Feeling numb or like nothing matters.
- Having unexplained aches and pains.
- Feeling helpless or hopeless.
- Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual.
- Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared.
- Yelling or fighting with family and friends.
- Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships.
- Having persistent thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head.
- Hearing voices or believing things that are not true.
- Thinking of harming yourself or others.
- Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school.