Karen Janas, President of Wellington Women’s Institute, gave members an ‘illuminating and sobering’ talk on mental health, based on her own experiences as a mental health counsellor and psychotherapist at the group’s August meeting.
She included facts about the prevalence of anxiety and depression in society, especially amongst young people. One in ten people have a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their lives with a 9 to 18 months wait for treatment. Only half of those with a diagnosed condition receive the help they need.
Members were reminded that some anxiety is normal and essential for basic survival but that an excess of anxiety can lead to disorders such as phobias, panic attacks, obsessive compulsive and post-traumatic stress disorders.
Self-help strategies to counter worry and anxiety were explained. These include deep breathing (also known as nature’s tranquiliser), accepting imperfection and planning a response to a stressful situation.
Depression is closely linked to anxiety and may follow on from it. A sufferer described it as ‘living in a body that fights to survive with a mind that wants to die’. Winston Churchill, a lifelong sufferer, called it “the black dog”. Karen explained the neuroscience and outlined warning signs such as feelings of hopelessness, guilt, irregular sleep and difficulty in making decisions.
Karen outlined how drug and talking therapies play important parts in treatment but said that help can be obtained by having active fun, talking to family and friends, developing good sleep hygiene and the benefits of cold water immersion.
She described the way learning to be mindful is a skill. She illustrated how mindful eating can be stimulating to the senses and can help sufferers of anxiety and depression who sometimes cope with their condition by overeating.
Later in the meeting members labelled and decorated pots of homemade jam for the WI stall at Wellington Flower Show and cakes and volunteers were requested for the World Wellington Boot Championship where WI jams and pickles will be on sale.
A poem written by one of the members has been chosen to represent Somerset Federation in the Lady Denman Cup Competition and members are knitting and crocheting poppies for a displays around the town for Remembrance Sunday.
Wellington WI’s next meeting is on Thursday 21 September, 7.00 for 7.30 at The Beambridge when their speaker will talk about her work with elephants in Africa. Visitors are most welcome to come along.