Protecting Factors – What Saves You?

TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE AND SUICIDAL IDEATION

It was not until very recently that I heard the term ‘protecting factors’ but immediately it made sense to me. I was having a mental health assessment and I admitted to having suicidal thoughts on a regular basis. The nurse then asked me what stopped me acting on those thoughts and attempting suicide. I asked myself this question and was slightly embarrassed to give my honest answer. However, I knew the truth and this was that my dogs are what stops me from acting on my suicidal impulses and thoughts. I felt embarrassed about saying this out loud to a mental health professional because human relationships with pets are so often trivialised and I thought that they wouldn’t take my bond with my dogs seriously. I thought that giving this answer would leave them to believe that my suicidal ideation could not be that strong in the first place – none of which is true.

Instead, the nurse told me that my dogs are what is called my ‘protecting factors’. They act as a release valve for my stress because playing with them is uplifting. They comfort me when I am low by nuzzling and cuddling me, letting me know that I am not alone. When I get anxious about having social contact with humans, they remind me I am capable of having a functional relationship because of the ways I have bonded with them. When I think about leaving this world, they tether me to it because I could not bear to leave them; my desire to protect them and watch them grow-up are what, at this moment at least, is still keeping me fighting for life.

The World Health Organisation works on the definition of ‘protecting factors’ as being those which “enhance the likelihood of positive outcomes and lessen the likelihood of negative consequences from exposure to risk.” They use this definition in relation to physical as well as mental health risks but ‘protective factors’ are always seen as what stops an individual’s situation from escalating to a dangerous or drastic level.

So, I would encourage you to think about what your protecting factors are, especially in the lead-up to the festive period which, for me, always adds extra stress onto my shoulders and makes my mood dip because I am hyper-aware of the fact that I am supposed to be happy. Hold your protecting factors dear and be grateful for their existence and what they mean to you. Feel free to share what your protecting factors are in the comments below!

 

Information And Resources About Managing Mental Health At Christmas:

Christmas and mental health – Mind, the mental health charity

Coping at Christmas (5 ways to look after your mental health) – Priory Group

Depression At Christmas Guide – Mental Health in the UK

 

Some Related Blog Posts Of Mine:

How Mental Health Stigma Has Hurt Me

Six of the Most Harmful Mental Health Narratives

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Easy Ways To Campaign For Good Causes

We are not powerless to make a difference. If you are reading this you probably have an internet connection and a laptop or tablet, therefore you have the vital tools to campaign for good causes. So, don’t just feel angry about the injustices you see, do something about them however big or small.

Below are some ways which are quick, easy and simple to contribute to campaigns for good causes.

NB. [some of the language I use is UK-specific, simply because I’m more aware of how politics works here due to being a Brit.]

1. Online petitions

Platforms which give people everywhere the power to start their own petitions are growing in power these days. Signing an online petition takes under 30 seconds and helps to put public pressure on social authority figures, such as council members, Members of Parliament or CEOs of companies. It is hard to ignore people power, especially when individuals from across society collaborate in creating hundreds of thousands of signatures, signalling their determination to make a change. Change.org is a particularly prominent online petition platform which makes it quick and simple to get involved in worthwhile campaigns, as well as also keeping you informed about new and upcoming campaigns you may be interested in. 

 

2. Email your local authorities

Starting at a local level is a really handy campaigning tactic. In general, local councils deal with a lower scale of incoming correspondence than Members of Parliament, so you will get a quicker response from them if you send them an email. Also, if you can get your local authorities onside, then that can add weight behind your campaign once you move it onto a larger scale. In addition, the response of council members will give you an indication about points of opposition people may have to your campaign which can indicate to you what issues you need to build upon when you contact other individuals later.

 

3. Tweet public figures or companies

How quick is it to send a tweet? We all know how easy and convenient it is to use Twitter, so it makes perfect sense to use the platform to your advantage when you are passionate about a campaign. The more people who pile public pressure on a public figure or corporation the better, as it means that at some time or another they are going to have to respond. Also, individuals and companies are easily searchable on Twitter, so getting in touch with them is made extremely simple. Although, please remember to never use aggressive language however much you disagree with the person you are contacting. It devalues your argument, strips the moral high ground away from you and means that you are not campaigning on a compassionate basis, which I believe is key.

 

4. Boycott certain businesses

Corporations run on profit and the only way they can make a profit is through the consumer. If you refuse to consume their products or services, then business is fundamentally compromised and, unfortunately, many companies only take notice when money is involved. In the past, campaigns such as the one against the Dakota Access Pipeline urged supporters to boycott banks which were investing in the damaging project. Divesting your funds away from unethical corporations will make them have to chose between their customer base and their dirty investments.

 

5. Drop a quick text to a friend or relative

Many online petitions give you the option of sharing a link to their page after you have signed. This enables you to send a link to the petition via text, email or other social networks, so you can ask friends or relatives to consider signing too. Text and emails are an undervalued way of spreading awareness about an issue, so if you think someone you know may also be interested in contributing their signature and using their power as a member of society, then it couldn’t be easier to facilitate them doing this. 

 

Resources:

Change. org – The world’s platform for change (online petition site)

Greenpeace – online campaign platformWWF – campaign with us

WWF – campaign with us

 

YOU CAN FIND ME HERE:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

A Walk With Nature Facebook Page

Another Gratitude List!

Things have been rocky lately (how many times do I start off a blog post with those words?!). In short, I have experienced some very unsettling mental health symptoms which are new to me and got me seriously concerned and fearful, I then changed medication and am waiting for my body (and mind) to adjust to these tablets. However, through the whirlwind of mental health confusion which has left me trying to catch my breath at times, I have seen glimpses of things I am so sincerely grateful for. Surrounding myself online with positive (yet realistic) accounts, whether that be on Instagram, WordPress or Twitter, has yet again realigned my perspective and made me give time, no matter how small, to the things I am grateful for. So, here’s a gratitude list from me to the world!

1) The seasonal change to autumn.
From the leaves changing colour to the crisp edge on the air, autumn is definitely upon us. I am thankful for this change of season because it has brought my attention back to nature. Consciously looking out for the changes in my surroundings, whether big or small, has made me undergo a whole new process of appreciation for the environment. When you can see the world around you as beautiful, it is one more weight taken off of your burdened heart and a way to look around you and feel some sense of hope.

2) Having access to mental health services
I retain the right to say that I firmly believe mental health services in the UK are critically underfunded by the government and so what they can offer people is curtailed by the lack of support they are given by the state. However, I am grateful that I do have access to support when so many people around the world are suffering completely alone in a whole variety of different, heartbreaking, situations. I am immensely grateful that I was able to get an appointment with a GP, talk honestly about how I felt regarding my medication and have him give me a way to reach out to the services I need. I want to say a huge thank you from the bottom of my heart to the people who work in our National Health Service, as time and again they tirelessly try against the odds to help us in anyway they can.

3) My dogs aka the lights of my life!
Being reunited with my dogs has undoubtedly given me a huge boost (as it always does). Their boundless enthusiasm for life, their endless love and devotion as well as the all-round silly and ridiculous things they do which make me laugh out loud, are the things which really keep me going sometimes. I could write for hours and hours about all the ways they have improved me as a person and given me a little chink of sunlight in my life when I have felt completely hopeless. However, for now, suffice to say that I love them both so dearly and genuinely see them as my best friends.

4) The ability to cook
For me, self-care always starts with looking after my nutrition. Eating properly gives me a foundation from which I can start to feel better about my day and show myself some compassion. Preparing my meals is therapeutic in itself, then actually appreciating the fact that I have made the effort to give my body a nutritious and healthy meal allows me to shift my perspective which usually focuses on my habit of self-loathing.

5) Music
Whilst my ears have probably suffered from my reliance on music, at least putting my earphones in and drowning out the world has given me some peace of mind at times throughout these past few weeks. As always, I am immensely grateful to Paramore, Twenty One Pilots and Dodie Clark for making such raw, honest and insightful music. The fact that they don’t dress-up life as an easy ride in their lyrics gives me so much comfort whilst the beautiful music which laces together their words affords me hours of escapism.

 

YOU CAN FIND ME HERE…

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

 

Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

Having been away from the place where I grew-up, my heart is now starting to crave a return to that place which I once took for granted. I thought my hometown was simply run-of-the-mill, boring and easy to forget, little did I know that one day I would look back over my shoulder at it and get a little misty-eyed in missing that place. Sure, it looks grey and typical from an outsiders’ perspective but once you lace the town with your own memories, it takes a hold over you for life. Nothing about it special per se but hindsight tells me that it formed a basis for my life and gave me a springboard to jump forward into the place I live now.

I love my home county in the autumn and winter. I miss walking with my dogs through the dense woods where the trees block out the rest of the world, I miss seeing my dogs kick through the neat piles of autumnal leaves as we made our way through the posh streets in town and I miss shivering in my bed at night with no heating on. It’s funny the things which cling to your heart when you look backwards at your past life. The things you would have assumed that ‘adult’ you could forget in a heartbeat come back as fresh and clear as ever. Small things which seemed inconvenient or too small to notice at the time take on a different hue when you put your rose-tinted glasses on.

Sure, I can still appreciate that it’s not perfect. People there are discontented and suspicious of each other. No-one proudly proclaims that they live there; it is not a picture postcard town. Actually, if anything, the heart of it is pretty ugly. Perhaps it is the bubble which I inhabited there for a time that I want to return to – I can take or leave the rest of it. It’s the walks I took when the air was so cold that it burned the back of my throat, it’s the journeys we took in the car after rugby matches and it’s the times I saw my doggies run around the house together in synchronised mischief. Those are the little bubbles of emotion and experience I look back at with tears in my eyes. Maybe, it’s not the place that I cherish, just the memories it provokes in me. My hometown can still be seen as my fairytale though; the place where I lived when I wanted to die and the place where I learned to breathe again when I was scared to go outside.

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

How did this happen?

When did we stop –
Telling our location from the trees?
The sky, now, is pixellated,
Distorted through the lens of a window,
And now I am scared to go outside.

Leaves are swept away,
Dirty inconvenience out of sight,
Childhood fun out of mind,
We sleep through the birds’ call,
Then ignore the disappearing hours.

I used to love the stars in the sky,
Now they are choked by wires,
And aerials reach-up, further conquering.
If the night sky was no longer,
Who would look through pollution
And wonder, where our kin had gone,
Or if we will be next to disappear under?

 

Food for thought and what has provoked this poem:

Each car in London costs NHS and society £8,000 due to air pollution

Our natural world is disappearing before our eyes by George Monbiot

Are We Missing Something?

Through the eyes of my animals,
I see constellations, not flowers,
Vast fields of jewels in the sky,
Not an opaque glass ceiling,
My animals see beauty and life
Where before I just saw home.

Excitement is a life force in their eyes;
A sparkle betraying the fire of curiosity,
Underneath this lies the loving flutter
Of hearts set on adventure and discovery,
To them no walk is just a walk.

Love shines through them,
From the patter of their paws at a run,
To their heavy panting of anticipation,
Everyday is the beginning of a new story;
Opportunity in the enchantment of their world.

World Environment Day 2018!

It’s World Environment Day today, June 5th. You wouldn’t know it for looking around you though. Hardly anybody seems to be talking about it and brands have also managed to overlook the occasion. On other days of the year, like Valentines Day, it seems that everywhere you look you cannot escape the celebrations of the day. Yet, when it comes to showing appreciation for the world we live in and whose vital natural processes we take for granted, the vast majority of people don’t appear to care.

Nature is constantly working for us and sustaining itself in the most beautiful ways. Then humans come along and consistently put corporate greed and profit before environmental welfare. We dwindle away natural resources without a care in the world, sometimes not even noticing that we are doing it. I truly believe that there is not enough outrage about this in the world. Who decided that humans have the inherent right to become parasites of the Earth? We keep feeding off of the environment and taking more and more away from it day by day but never giving anywhere near enough back in return.

Human greed and recklessness has brought climate change down upon our heads yet the President of the United States refuses to acknowledge it as a serious threat. Our oceans are plagued with plastic and Governments would rather compromise a community’s water supply than lose out on profits from oil pipelines. The British Government chose today, World Environment Day, to confirm their plans to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport regardless of the fact that aviation is one of the largest growing contributors to emissions and London has failed to meet its own air pollution targets for years. Where is the outrage? 

We do not have the right to play God with nature.

We are ruining the environment and it is future generations who will face the dear consequences.

When will our selfishness stop?

My Little Treasures

Sometimes life feels like too big a picture to even contemplate. The landscape of responsibilities, obligations and pressures looks like it could swallow you up in its utter vastness. So, I think it is valuable to your sanity to cut that landscape up into manageable chunks and look at it in a way which makes it less scary. Looking at the minute details can help with that, especially when you find the beauty in the smaller things. Things that look inconsequential and easy to look over at first may just serve as your saving graces.

My gratitude list of little things I am grateful for:

1) Writing in a notebook with a fountain pen
2) Lighting candles when I’m working
3) When my dog lies his head on my lap
4) The feeling of soil on my hands when I plant flowers
5) Drinking a cup of tea while sitting on the sofa
6) The luscious green of the grass and trees outside
7) The sense of serenity which fills me when I practice yoga
8) The way my dream catcher looks in the morning light
9) Breathing in my mother’s perfume

‘Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.’ – John Milton

The Wisdom of Rubeus Hagrid

Hagrid is an often overlooked character in the Harry Potter series. Readers may chuckle fondly at him and his clumsiness or his many ambitious schemes to conceal or train magical creatures, however Hagrid is not given enough credit for the virtues he displays or the hardships he has to face. So, to give Hagrid the attention he deserves, here are three lessons which the Hogwarts Keeper of Keys and Care of Magical Creatures Professor taught us throughout the Harry Potter books.

1. Our differences gives us a unique insight rather than being a burden to hamper us

Hagrid lives his life on the fringes of the magical community as a half-giant. He was lumbered with the weight of the many stereotypes which wizards and witches attributed to giants; that they must all be stupid, without compassion and undeserving of the same privileges which the wizarding community could enjoy. However, Hagrid proceeded to show all of these stereotypes to be wrong; he had the highest understanding of anyone about the workings of magical creatures, as well as showing the most love and empathy to both them and his pupils. His experience of being consistently undermined, persecuted and insulted by wizards and witches alike gave him the insight to understand how other marginalised communities felt. For example, when Hermione was first called a ‘mudblood’ by Draco Malfoy, it was Hagrid who could comfort her the most because he knew what it was like to be ridiculed for being different. Also, he had unique sympathy for the cruelty Harry experienced when living with the Dursleys because he knew what it was like to be treated as an inferior and frequently criticised.

2. Love and loyalty breeds the strongest relationships

Hagrid was the first person to show the 11 year old Harry proper love and almost paternal affection. Hagrid never doubted Harry for one moment throughout all of the years when he was being ridiculed by the Ministry and The Daily Prophet and, in return, Harry counted him as one of his closest friends and allies, as shown when they stopped to hug each other even when the Battle of Hogwarts was raging around them. The loyalty Hagrid showed Dumbledore when he obliged any request which the Headmaster gave him was also met with loyalty in return as Dumbledore would not hear a bad word about the Keeper of Keys and protected him in his job when most members of the wizarding community would not have given the position to the half-giant in the first place because of their own prejudice.

3. Hard work and dedication can overcome the obstacles others place in your path

Hagrid was denied the education that was rightfully his as a young Tom Riddle took advantage of the many stereotypes which people attributed to giants and used them to frame Hagrid as the pupil who had opened the Chamber of Secrets. Therefore, Hagrid’s learning was cut short and he was burdened with the label of being a particularly dangerous member of the magical community. Through this he was stripped of his right to ever use magic again and had his wand snapped (although he did find ways around this with his pink umbrella!). However, Hagrid did not let any of these things stop him as his love of magical creatures continued to flourish and he found himself back at one of the most prestigious magical schools in the world within an official staff role. Later on, when Hagrid was again convicted of opening the Chamber of Secrets in Harry’s second year, he eventually returned to the school with his name cleared and without a hint that he would ever take a step back from his role in the magical community even though he was aware of how easy it was for his peers to suspect him of terrible and violent crimes. Whatever hardships and barriers were placed in Hagrid’s way, he found methods to navigate them whilst never showing any shame for who he was and continued to show love and compassion to his beloved magical creatures.

“I am what I am, an’ I’m not ashamed. ‘Never be ashamed,’ my ol’ dad used ter say, ‘there’s some who’ll hold it against you, but they’re not worth botherin’ with.” – Rubeus Hagrid