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“I learnt to accept help when I needed it”

Posted on: October 20 2020

cropped.jpgChristopher Burdett on improving his mental health through counselling

I chose MS-UK Counselling because I felt I needed to talk to someone independently to discuss my situation living with multiple sclerosis.

I was able to talk to someone openly and discuss my feelings and what was bothering me. I’m a positive person with a lot of faith. My counsellor listened and was helpful, didn’t judge and gave me guidance and suggestions to follow.

They made me believe that I should think about myself, be kind to myself, and accept help. That was the hardest thing to do. But I learnt to accept help when I needed it. I also learnt to say no.

I had shut out and hurt a close friend because she was going through her own issues and I didn’t want to burden her with mine. I deeply regret that. But, since, we’ve talked about it and we are OK now.

I’d definitely recommend counselling to anyone. It’s an important and valuable service. If I could go back and speak to my newly diagnosed self, I’d say to take each day as it comes, and talk to someone.

To find out more about MS-UK's Counselling service, click here

Mental health resources and links

Posted on: October 12 2020

Thank you to everyone in the MS-UK community who got involved with our World Mental Health Day event on Saturday 10 October. We just wanted to bring all the resources together in one handy place, so anyone can access them in the future. 

Here's a list of links for the resources. If you would like any support, please get in touch. MS-UK is here for anyone affected by multiple sclerosis (MS) and you can reach us on 0800 783 0518 or by contacting us via our online web form.

Blogs about mental health resources

Read our blog about mental health organisations

Read our blog about mental health professionals

Read our blog about mental health apps

Read our blog about cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

MS-UK mental health services

Find out more about MS-UK Counselling

Find out more about our Single Session Therapy pilot

Our Loneliness and Isolation Report

This year we commemorated World Mental Health Day by sharing the findings of our Loneliness and Isolation Report. You can find out more about this piece of research by reading the full report below or visiting the web page

Read the report (PDF version)

Mental health organisations

Posted on: October 10 2020

Across the UK, there are a range of mental health charities and organisations offering support and information. Here we have listed some well-known organisations which you may find useful.

For a longer list of organisations that specialise in certain areas, visit the NHS website.

What to do if you need urgent help

The NHS urgent mental health helplines provide 24-hour advice and support for anyone living in England. You can find a helpline number using the NHS website

If you feel you or someone else is at risk of serious harm or injury, please call 999. 

Mental Health Foundation

The Mental Health Foundation aims to help people understand, protect and maintain their mental health. The offer community and peer programmes, undertake research, give advice to people affected by mental health conditions and campaign for change.

Visit the Mental Health Foundation website

Mind

Mind provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They also campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding. They run an Infoline, a Legal Line and produce publications about a wide range of mental health issues. 

Visit the Mind website

Local Mind organisations

Across the UK, Mind have a network of independent local Minds that are run by local people, for local people. They provide support like advocacy, counselling, housing advice and more.

Find your local Mind

Rethink Mental Illness

Rethink Mental Illness offer a network of 140 local groups and services and they offer expert information via their website. They also campaign to make sure everyone affected by severe mental illness has a good quality of life.

Visit the Rethink Mental Illness website

Samaritans

Samaritans offer a 24-hour helpline that anyone can contact if they are struggling with their mental health. You can call them any time, 365 days a year, on 116 123 for free. Samaritans also accept email enquiries, letters and have a self-help app on their website. 

Visit Samaritans website

Sane

SANE provides emotional support, guidance and information to anyone affected by mental illness, including families, friends and carers. 

Visit the Sane website

More information about MS and mental health

You can read our Choices booklet about MS and mental health online today or order a printed copy.

Visit the MS and mental health web page

Who to ask for mental health support

Posted on: October 10 2020

Image saying 'mental health professionals' with a green ribbonSaturday 10 October 2020 is World Mental Health Day. Here at MS-UK we are reflecting on the findings of our Loneliness and Isolation Report, hoping to bring these important issues into the light.

We are also sharing mental health resources live throughout the day on our Facebook page (join us on Facebook between 10am - 3pm). 

There are a number of health professionals who can help to support you if you are experiencing mental health issues.

Talk to your GP

This is often a good starting point if you are feeling anxious, having trouble sleeping or beginning to worry about your mental wellbeing. It can be difficult to start this conversation but your GP will be able to offer advice and refer you on to mental health services if they feel it is needed. Your GP may mention the IAPT programme, which stands for 'Improving Access to Psychological Therapies. You can find out more about IAPT on the NHS website.

Talk to your MS nurse

MS nurses are familiar with multiple sclerosis (MS) in a way that means they can spot signs of low mood or depression, sometimes before you notice them yourself. Talk to your MS nurse if you have any worries and they will be able to signpost you or refer you on to other support. 

Counselling

Counsellors do not offer advice and will not tell you what to do but can help you to talk about your experiences to make it easier to find a way forward. MS is an unpredictable condition and learning to live with this uncertainty can be challenging. Counsellors can help you to explore how MS may be affecting your wellbeing and how you are adapting emotionally.

MS-UK Counselling is a telephone service that is available to anyone with a diagnosis of MS. You can register online for MS-UK Counselling or ask a health professional to refer you. If you would like to try face-to-face counselling, check if your local MS Therapy Centre or local MS Society group offers this. You can also search for a therapist through the BACP website

More about MS and mental health

You can read our Choices booklet about MS and mental health online today or order a printed copy.

Visit the MS and mental health web page

Mental health apps

Posted on: October 09 2020

Image of a green ribbon with the words 'mental health apps'Mobile phone or tablet apps can be really useful for supporting your mental wellbeing, so this World Mental Health Day we take a look at what is available in the app store at the moment.

At MS-UK, we believe in offering people affected by multiple sclerosis (MS) as much information as possible, so you can make your own informed choices. That's why we have listed as many apps as possible, but which ones you try out are up to you. Where we can, we have also included links to the app websites. 

You can download any of these apps via Google Play or the apple store straight to your smartphone or tablet.

Aura

This app helps people manage their emotions and get a restful nights sleep. It gives options to subscribe for personalised mindfulness meditations as well. The idea behind the app is to find strength and rest through using Aura when you feel stressed or anxious. Visit the Aura website

Breath 2 Relax

This app is all about managing your breathing to reduce stress. It features instructions and practice exercises to help users learn the stress management skill called 'diaphragmatic breathing'.

Catch It

This is a free app that helps you manage feelings of anxiety and depression by turning negative thoughts into positive ones.

Chill Panda

Another free app, Chill Panda measures your heart rate and suggests tasks to suit your state of mind. Visit the Chill Panda website

Headspace

This app is all about developing a mindful approach. It includes guided exercises, videos and meditation. Find out more on the Headspace website

Insight Timer

This is a free meditation app, with paid features you can subscribe to as well. Visit the InsightTimer website

My Possible Self

This app has simple learning modules to help you manage fear, anxiety and stress and tackle unhelpful thinking. It is free, but has some in-app purchases as well. Visit the My Possible Self website

Side by Side

This is Mind's online community, which used to be called Elefriends. It is a forum where you can listen, share and be heard thorugh posting, commenting and private messaging. Visit the Side by Side website

SilverCloud

This is an app that offers a free eight-week course to help you manage anxiety and stress, designed to be completed in your own time and at your own pace. You can find out more about the course on the SilverCloud website.

Smiling Mind

This app lets you track your mood for free and access targeted mindfulness practices. The app suggests you spend 10 minutes a day to help bring more balance into your life. Visit the Smiling Mind website

Togetherall

This is a free online community, offering digital mental health support for anyone aged 16 and over. You can find out more about the forum on the Togetherall website.

WorryTree

This free app aims to help you take control of your worries, one at a time. It helps you record, manage and solve your worries based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques. Find out more on the WorryTree website

More about World Mental Health Day

On Saturday 10 October, MS-UK is posting live on our Facebook page to commemorate World Mental Health Day. This year, the theme for the day is 'mental health for all' and we are sharing the findings of our Loneliness and Isolation Report to highlight how important mental health support is for people affected by multiple sclerosis. 

Follow our page on Facebook to join in

Read the Loneliness and Isolation Report

What is MS-UK Counselling?

Posted on: October 08 2020

At MS-UK, we believe in listening to people affected by multiple sclerosis (MS). Over the years, we have heard from more and more people who have found that MS impacts their mental health. That's why we launched MS-UK Counselling a few years ago, which is a telephone service available to anyone in the UK who has recieved a diagnosis of MS. 

What is counselling?

Counselling is a talking therapy. It gives you the opportunity to talk and reflect in a confidential and supportive space with a qualified counsellor who is registered or accredited with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). Counsellors do not offer advice or tell you what to do but help you to talk about your experiences to make it easier to find a way forward.

How can counselling help people affected by MS?

Counsellors help you to explore how MS may be affecting your wellbeing and how you are adapting emotionally.

MS-UK Counselling can support you with:

  • a mental health issue such as anxiety, low mood or depression
  • coming to terms with your MS diagnosis
  • a difficult transition such as a relapse, change of symptoms or a move to a different environment
  • a life event such as work-related stress, relationship difficulties or bereavement
  • emotions such as guilt, anger, low self-esteem and confidence

What is involved?

First of all you will have an assessment with a MS-UK Counsellor, to make sure this service is right for you. If everyone agrees to go ahead, you will have six sessions that are on the same day and time each week. Each session lasts 50 minutes, and can be delivered over the phone or via a video link. All clients must be over 18. At the end you will have the chance to give us feedback, or seek further support if you feel you need it. 

Counselling is a safe and non-judgmental space for you to talk about any worries you might have about any aspect of your experience with MS. Any information we take down is kept on our encrypted servers here at MS-UK and is not passed on to any third parties unless you ask us to. We will only break confidentiality in the event of a safeguarding issue which would mean any form of harm to either you or someone else.

How to register

You can register online using our web form, or give us a call on 0800 783 0518 and we can support you to register for MS-UK Counselling. 

MS-UK pilots Single Session therapy

Posted on: October 06 2020

Single session therapy.png

MS-UK is piloting single session therapy as a response to the anxieties and concerns that MSers have shared with us about the impact of COVID-19. There are currently only 20 spaces available for this first pilot so book quickly, but should this pilot be successful we would look to continue to offer it as a regular service. 

 

What is Single Session Therapy?

Single session therapy is a focussed one-off session with an MS-UK counsellor who uses their counselling skills to listen and help you find a way forward with a specific MS-related issue that is impacting on your daily life right now. The session will be conducted either by telephone or Zoom to ensure the service is accessible UK wide.

 

How do I sign up?
If you want to find out more about this pilot then please email Diana Crowe, Head of Services at counselling@ms-uk.org who will send you more information about how to take part. Please note that you must have an MS diagnosis to qualify for this pilot. 

 

About MS-UK Counselling

MS-UK Counselling is a confidential service for people who have a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) and live in the UK. It is the only service of its kind available in the country.

Counselling is a talking therapy. It gives you the opportunity to talk and reflect in a confidential and supportive space with a qualified counsellor who is registered or accredited with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). MS-UK is a BACP organisational member and our number is 275169.

Counsellors do not offer advice or tell you what to do but help you to talk about your experiences to make it easier to find a way forward.

Your mental health and emotional wellbeing are linked to your experience of MS so our counsellors have had training about living with MS.

Counsellors help you to explore how the pandemic and MS may be affecting your wellbeing and how you are adapting emotionally.

 

Sign up

“You can’t do this Mark… it’s not going to work!”

Posted on: July 01 2020

A light-hearted look into technology from a self-confessed technophobe

mark resized.pngI’m Mark, a member of the MS-UK Counselling team. We have recently offered clients with multiple sclerosis (MS) a way of face-to-face talking via Zoom conference calls. Up until this recent development we have worked with clients on the telephone only, so this is a big step forward for both clients and counsellors.

Now for someone the wrong side of 60 and with very little technological know-how, this is quite a challenge. If research is to be believed, the average 10-year-old has more technical expertise than the average 60-year-old… this sums me up to a tee!

I have worked with Zoom before. We have team meetings via Zoom. I get emailed a link which I activate on the correct

day and time and lo and behold there I am, like witchcraft on the computer screen, with my other team members.

Working with clients, however, is different. The meeting is initiated by MS-UK. The client receives the link and I am responsible for starting and hosting the meeting. This slight difference plays directly into my technology-based anxiety and I can hear my inner voice saying “You can’t do this Mark… it’s not going to work!”

MS-UK’s Head of Services, Diana, set up a test meeting this week in preparation for my first Zoom client. This proved problematic in itself. For some reason, Zoom did not recognise the microphone or video facility on my PC.

I contacted the MS-UK IT support team. They looked into my Zoom account and could not identify anything wrong, “it should be working fine,” they said. By now my inner voice was screaming “I told you… we’re all doomed.” Then Diana suggested I download Zoom on my telephone to see if it works… and it did! Diana and I did a couple of test meetings over the telephone and all was well.

I’ve had my first Zoom client and I couldn’t have wished for a better experience. It was good to work with clients face to face again and to watch their body language. I’m sure there will be hiccups along the way but my inner voice is silent… for now! Even my grandson thinks I’m ‘cool’ working with Zoom… so bring it on!

I’ve realised that my anxiety, like everyone’s anxiety, is fuelled by a perception of lack of control, assumptions of what other people are thinking and a fear of what the future has in store… counsellors are human too.

To find out about MS-UK’s counselling service, including video counselling over Zoom, visit www.ms-uk.org/counselling

Making the connection

Posted on: May 29 2020

Clive small.jpgFor World MS Day, Clive Whyte explains how connecting with our counselling service helped him transform his mental health

A diagnosis of Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a very big thing to take on board, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

At first, I thought I could handle it and just stride through life with no worries – it’s just a condition! However, the mind has a way of catching up with you and stopping you in your tracks. After being diagnosed, I started having issues with anxiety that was affecting my day-to-day life.

I read about MS-UK’s Counselling service and decided to refer myself.

When I had my first session, I spoke to a completely neutral counsellor about everything and anything that had been troubling me daily and causing my anxiety. There was absolutely no judgement, just a listening ear.

After the sessions, I felt like I had lifted a lot of troubling thoughts out of my head. I’d felt like I had a lot of tangled, knotted thoughts in my brain, and counselling helped unravel them. It helped me to think more clearly.

Relationships

My partner is my rock, and she has seen me go through some quite dark moments. However, she tells me she has definitely seen an improvement in me recently. I still have good and bad days, but I feel a lot more in control of my thoughts in general.

My confidence has grown more and more since my counselling sessions, and I feel a lot more comfortable in social situations at work and with friends. Before, I would avoid a lot of these situations due to anxiety.

With time, and the help of counselling, I began to accept my condition and come to terms with a lot of the other things you need to process after an event like this, and that’s exactly what I will continue to do.

Counselling was a way for me to release feeling trapped within, and allowed me to feel more relaxed in myself and with who I am. It’s been a gift for me, and one for which I’m very grateful.

Sign up to MS-UK Counselling

“Acknowledging our vulnerabilities is an important part of taking stock”

Posted on: April 20 2020

thinking.jpgFor MS Awareness Week, MS-UK counsellor Leila Hancox discusses learning to accept the limitations and possibilities of MS

On receiving a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS), we may be tempted to try and carry on life as normal if our symptoms allow us to do so. To try and forget that we are living with a life-limiting condition and imagine that it has no bearing on our lives that need worry us. 

Maybe work has always made us feel good about ourselves and we’ve spent years investing our time, energy and resources in becoming experts in our fields, so to take our eye off the ball in this regard would be unthinkable.

Or we dedicate our lives to various sporting pursuits such as mountain biking or running and nothing will stop us from pushing ourselves even further towards our next target, whether hill or dale, trail or treadmill. Or we pride ourselves on being the friend or family member upon whom everyone else relies, the one who gives support wherever it is needed but asks for nothing in return, because we are the strong ones who shoulder whatever gets thrown at us. That’s what we’ve always done and that’s who we are.   

Wake-up call

Then one day we receive a wake-up call. A relapse or a new symptom that turns our whole world upside down as we knew it before. Fear and confusion take over that we may never again be able to do the things that made our lives worthwhile. For then who will we be and how will we cope? 

If we are feeling overwhelmed then we may do well at this point to prioritise our safety and security rather than immediately try to come up with solutions. Listening to our bodies is obviously a vital part of this process. What may also help with our physical symptoms and with our general sense of wellbeing is if we are able to pay attention to what is going on for us in terms of our thoughts and feelings, rather than getting caught up in every-day distractions. This can be difficult if we are not used to reflecting in such a way or we believe that we should be able to cope by ourselves, or that it is a weak or indulgent way of doing things. Yet if we fail to use our full range of resources then we stunt our ability to understand the implications of our new situation for our lives going forwards, and to adapt in ways that are helpful, both for us and those people closest to us.

Although we can help ourselves take stock by reading books, listening to music or whatever it is that helps us tune into our personal resources, we may benefit further by reaching out to other people or organisations, whether that be for information, practical or emotional support. 

Ask for help

It can help to tell someone, for example a counsellor, who listens carefully and understands when we tell them what it is like to live with a particularly difficult symptom. Perhaps we struggle to communicate with those closest to us in our lives because we don’t want to burden them. We may give up trying to explain to colleagues why we need help with a particular task because they just don’t get it. The act of opening up to another person in this way can help us to feel less alone and isolated and therefore better equipped to find a way forward. It can also help us deal with uncertainty, especially if we can remember our strengths and together come up with ways of coping when things get difficult. 

Being vulnerable

Acknowledging our vulnerabilities is an important part of taking stock. Perhaps there were things about the way we lived our lives in the past that didn’t work particularly well and don’t stand up to scrutiny now. Being viewed as the strong or capable one, for example, may have prevented people from getting to know who we really are whether that be friends, relations or a romantic partner.

A wake-up call

MS may be the wake-up call that we need for re-evaluating our lives and reconsidering what is truly important to us in order to find long-term fulfilment and hope for the future. That’s not to say that things will be easy and there won’t be obstacles along the way, whether that is to do with MS or more generally whatever life throws at us. But if we spend some time reflecting on what we truly need to help us cope with the challenges ahead, and what we think truly matters, then we are in a good position not only to survive but also to thrive in ways that previously we might never have thought possible.

MS-UK has launched a crowdfunding project to raise money for video counselling to improve the mental health of people living with MS. If this blog has helped you, make a donation to our crowdfunding page, so we can help to improve the mental health of even more people living with MS.

Click here to donate

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