Personal & Relationship Counselling

Mental & Sexual Health. 36building photo

What is Mental Health?

Mental health refers to a broad array of activities directly or indirectly related to the mental well-being component included in the World Health’s Organisation’s definition of health:

“A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease”.

It is related to the promotion of well-being, the prevention of mental disorders and the treatment and rehabilitation of people affected by mental disorders.

World Health Organisation

Mental Health

Mental health is linked to our emotional wellbeing and often we can think that we have a mental health problem, when in fact we are reacting to a traumatic event, or overwhelming feelings of not being able to cope. Our emotions can become difficult to manage at times of high stress, and we can begin to panic.

As a counsellor I often have people come for counselling, with the fear that they are going mad.

But often they are reacting to a loss or a difficult event in their lives and this is how humans respond to uncomfortable emotional events, such as; relationship breaking down, excessive work pressures, bereavements, or any number of challenging life problems, experiences that cause a heightened state of emotional arousal, that can seem overwhelming or out of control.

These symptoms can cause us to believe that there is something seriously wrong with us; we can experience a lot of unusual physical responses that cause us to feel as if something is seriously wrong.

Due to this our anxiety levels can increase, this in turn can cause an increase in the physical responses, etc, and we can end up in a vicious cycle that increases our anxiety levels, until we are going mad.

I have had many people say to me in the first session; ‘I don’t know what’s happening to me, I can’t eat, can’t sleep, my heart is racing all the time, I have a pain in my chest, I can’t stop worrying about everything, even tiny things that never usually worry me, am I going crazy?’

The first thing I do is tell them about the normal human reaction to a traumatic event, although this does not change the situation, it allows them to relax enough for me to be able to explain what is happening. This allows us to start counselling, and to deal with the underlying issues.

Usually after the first session, they go away feeling more in control, normal, which can be a relief.

Obviously this is not always the case, and although there are a lot of common minor mental health issues, some are more severe and longer term. These can be due to a physical defect within our brain, or as is often the case, due to some severe trauma during our early years of development, or from being in an environment where we needed to survive by creating a psychological/emotional safe place within our minds, this often happens due to some form of childhood abuse.

With these situations counselling can take a lot longer, often a couple of years depending on the severity of the damage done to our development, this will need repairing and can be quite a difficult journey, in which we need to develop a very trusting, open and honest therapeutic relationship.

Mental ill-health: a hidden problem that undermines British businesses

‘Employees need to be more open about mental health issues at work’, says Louise Aston.

Many people hide issues of mental health at work for fear of reputational damage. Many do not know how to spot the warning signs that they may need help. This means issues that could easily be managed take hold. Businesses are not reporting on mental health and many are not openly discussing it, which is exacerbating the problem.

BITC Workwell research on the FTSE 100 found that one of the firms publicly report on employee psychological health and only six revealed that staff have access to an employee assistance programme (EAP).

A lot of businesses may have processes in place to manage mental ill-health when it occurs but much of this is reactive and they are not talking about it. It suggests that employees don’t know what to do if they have concerns and neither do their managers.

The belief at BITC, and among our Workwell Practitioner team, is that a more open dialogue on mental health will lead to a greater prevention, greater staff engagement and more competitive businesses.

However, people won’t feel confident to voice concerns unless they know they will be supported. This cultural shift must be led from the top. Leaders must talk openly about the issues and foster a collaborative approach to resilience, while better communicating what the company is doing to promote mental wellbeing.

Our research also noted that the transparent human capital management reporting affects investor decisions. If investors started asking tougher questions about how mental well-being is managed then employers would be compelled to be more transparent.

A cultural shift at the top will influence how middle managers respond but organisations need to train managers to help them act appropriately when issues occur. The research reinforced the view that it is in the interests of managers to ensure everyone is engaged and sometimes the only action required is listening, signposting to the right help and then monitoring.

Transparency will also help reveal that many issues are not rooted in the workplace but are caused by stresses at home. However, when a heavy workload is the problem it doesn't always have to be a resource issue, it could be solved by training and planning.

But some workers cope with pressure better than others and it is up to the employee to talk to their employer about what role is right for them.

Professional services firm Deloitte has a network of people who act as mental health champions.

Employees can talk to them about issues of concern and staff know there is a clear map for what will happen next. A lack of this framework in other organisations may be a barrier to having the confidence to talk.

The economic climate is exacerbating the conspiracy of silence as people worry about job security and feel that flagging concerns about stress or mental well-being will damage their prospects. Employees want reassurances, they also want leaders to demonstrate less stressful ways of working, such as being more visible in the cafeteria or leaving on time.
There is also an element of personal responsibility for workers to spot their own warning signs and flag them, which can be a simple as small changes in general behaviour, performance or sleep patterns.

It can often be hard to take the first step and admit you have concerns – people need more examples of those going through the same process. There are more celebrities talking out about these issues now, perhaps because they face fewer perceived professional consequences. We need more business leaders to discuss this openly, as has been seen recently with a small number of MP’s including John Woodcock. Such transparency is helping to debunk the myths that surround people affected by these issues, particularly around their effectiveness.

Everyone has a role to play in breaking the culture of silence. Silence is stifling UK businesses, the way to break that is by talking and the time is now.

Louise Aston


Mental & Sexual Health. 36building photo

What is Sexual Health?

'A Bit of Philosophy'

“Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being related to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled”.

World Health Organisation (2002)

Sexual Health

Sexual health is also linked to our emotional wellbeing and often we can have a sexual problem that is due to emotional distress, this can be a reaction to a traumatic event or it can be a general life position, such as a sense that our relationships are not working, or a stressful working environment. Having children can cause all sorts of problems in a relationship that ultimately affect our sexual health.

Our emotions can become difficult to manage at times and we can withdraw from our partners and close down, often this suppresses our desire for sex. At times of high stress, our desire fades and often in a male this causes erectile difficulties.

As a counsellor I often have people come for counselling with the fear that there is something wrong with their sex drive, or they have physical difficulties, such a premature ejaculation and dryness, loss of desire, difficulty sustaining an erection.

But again, this is how often humans respond to difficult emotional events such as; relationship breakdowns, overwork, death and other generally traumatic experiences, we can develop a fear that there is something wrong when what we really need to do is address our emotional difficulties and things can return to normal.

Often these symptoms can cause a lot of unusual sexual, physical and mental responses that become quite disturbing.

Due to this our anxiety levels can increase, this in turn can cause an increase in the physical and mental responses etc, and we can end up in a cycle that increases our anxiety levels to a point that can cause us to feel as if we are sexually inadequate, or have a perversion.

I have had many people say to me in the first session; ‘I don’t know what’s happening to me, I can’t keep an erection, or I have no desire to have sex with my partner, I can’t sleep as I can’t stop worrying about it. The first thing I do is tell them that this is a normal human reaction to a difficult situation and although this does not change the situation, it allows them to relax enough for me to be able to explain what is happening to them. This then allows us to start counselling and to deal with the underlying issue that has brought them to this heightened state of emotional distress. Often after the first session they go away feeling a bit more normal and reassured that we will continue counselling, and that this will very likely help with their sexual problems.

With sexual problems, if the person is in a relationship we like to work with both partners together, as this allows open honest communication and there is nothing sexier than being with a partner that knows you well, who you can trust and trusts you. With individuals, it’s often a confidence or self esteem issue and this can be worked on an emotional level, with one to one counselling.

Copyright Nigel Summerton, Personal & Relationship Counselling - Est.1994. self-development workshops, divorce, self-confidence, professional development groups, CPD, relationship counselling, stress counselling, therapy, mental health, well-being, loneliness, isolation, depression, anxiety, bereavement, loss, anger management, assertiveness, sexual problems, sex addiction, gambling addiction, psychosexual therapy, sex therapy, vaginismus, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, delayed ejaculation, sexual desire, loss of sexual desire, painful sex, dyspareunia, family therapy, sandplay, workshops, supervision, group supervision, training, Plymouth, Plymstock, Plympton, Ivybridge, Devon & Cornwall.

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