What is the problem?

Almost half of adults experience a mental illness at some time in their life, and there is strong evidence that there is a significantly higher prevalence for people with Cerebral Palsy.

Adults with CP can be more at risk of experiencing anxiety and depression. Often mental health is impacted when there are additional issues with function, pain and fatigue.

With the right support, many people recover completely, yet we know that services for adults with Cerebral Palsy who are struggling with their mental health are lacking. By not accessing adequate mental health services, people with CP are not able to live their healthiest life. 


Anxiety and Depression explained

Anxiety:

Common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • panic attacks, racing hearts, fearing the worst and avoiding situations that make us feel anxious
  • all people experience anxiety at some time, but if this is frequent and persistent, this the point to seek help and support.

Depression:

  • If you are feeling down, sad and angry most of the time this might mean you are suffering from depression.
  • Other symptoms include feeling overwhelmed, withdrawing from family and friends, feeling tired, and run down but having trouble sleeping and changes to your appetite.

Please speak to your doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms. Blood tests might be needed to rule out other factors that might contribute to the way you are feeling. E.g., thyroid function, hormone deficiency, anaemia.


Risks factors for mental health issues:

  • The initial impairment to the brain might lead to an adult having less capacity to deal with a new and unexpected situation and an inability to handle stress, change or problems.
  • There are conditions related to Cerebral Palsy that can also impact mental health e.g., unaddressed pain, chronic fatigue, disturbed sleep, nutrition, sedentary lifestyle.
  • Social and emotional issues related to living with Cerebral Palsy e.g., reduced opportunity to socialisation, negativity related to having a disability, barriers accessing health support, barriers to education and employment, relationship and family issues.
The number 30, with rising arrow
“”

Adults with Cerebral Palsy are 30% more likely to develop depression than adults without CP

How do we manage it?

What helps?

It is important to work with your GP or mental health practitioner to identify and support the contributing factors to the way you are feeling e.g., managing pain, sleep, fatigue issues. It is important to get early recognition and diagnosis, before the problems become too profound.

Practitioners that treat mental health issues include counsellors, psychotherapists, psychologists and psychiatrists. If possible, it is beneficial to find a practitioner with experience of treating people with disabilities.

Tools that are used with the general population to support mental health are also useful for people living with Cerebral Palsy and can include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), social and assertiveness training, sport and recreation and medications.

How to help yourself

Mental Health hygiene – establishing positive mental health habits early in childhood and adolescent s is particularly important. It’s important to take care of yourself and get the most from life.

Talking about your feelings – This can help you stay in good mental health. Talking can be a way to cope with a problem you’ve been carrying around in your head for a while. Just being listened to can help you feel supported and less alone. It is not a sign of weakness.

Keep Active – Experts believe exercise releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good. Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and help you concentrate, sleep and feel better. Walks in the park, gardening or housework can also keep you active as well as more traditional forms of exercise.

Eat well – Food can also have a long-lasting effect on your mental health. A balanced diet that’s good for your physical health is also good for your mental health. Try to limit how many high-caffeine or sugary drinks you have, and avoid too much alcohol.

Keep in touch – Strong family ties and supportive friends can help you deal with the stresses of life. Social connection and feeling part of a community is a key step in soothing ourselves. There’s nothing better than catching up with someone face-to-face. But that’s not always possible. Give them a call, drop them a note or chat to them online instead. If you are looking to connect with the Cerebral Palsy community, meet new friends or just to have a place to talk, join our weekly calls.

Creativity – Finding creative outlets for our emotions can be helpful.  For some people this may be a diary of our thoughts, a piece of creative writing or even artwork.

Creating a routine – Whilst it’s tempting to stay in bed all day, or in pyjamas, it’s important to get up and stick to our normal routine. Make sure to open curtains and windows to get air flowing.  Get dressed and brush your teeth and maintain your usual hygiene regimen. We may also want to think about keeping to mealtimes instead of simply eating when we feel like it.

Take a break – A change of scene or a change of pace is good for your mental health. Taking a break may mean being very active. It may mean not doing very much at all. Take a deep breath… and relax. Try yoga or meditation, or just putting your feet up. Listen to your body. If you’re really tired, give yourself time to sleep. Without good sleep, our mental health suffers and our concentration goes downhill. Sometimes the world can wait.

Do something you enjoy – Enjoying yourself helps beat stress. Doing an activity you enjoy probably means you’re good at it and achieving something boosts your self-esteem. Concentrating on a hobby like gardening or the crossword can help you forget your worries for a while and change your mood.

Help somebody else – Helping others can help us feel valued and build self-esteem. Volunteering is also a great way to meet other people with similar interests. Doing something for others helps with the release of “feel good” hormones.

Ask for help – None of us are superhuman. We all sometimes get tired or overwhelmed by how we feel or when things go wrong. If things are getting too much for you and you feel you can’t cope, ask for help.

More ways to help ourselves

During our midweek matters calls our community shared with each other the things that they do to help support their mental health.

Drawing & creative activities / reading / going for a walk / talking to a friend / going for a cup of coffee with a friend / meditation  / listening or playing music  / asking for help / living within your own values / spending time outside  / gardening / writing a journal / writing a gratitude diary /

Make time for yourself
In order to be the best version of yourself you must always focus on maintaining a positive mindset. Mental health is equally as important as your physical health, your mind is precious. Taking time for yourself is key whether it’s meditating working out or spending time with friends and family. Understanding what makes you happy is the best way to maintain a positive outlook on life.

Don’t Compare
Never compare yourself to others in order to stay positive. Always focus on your own goals and your own progress in order to stay focused on self-improvement. We’re all on our own journey and the only person you need to compete against is yourself. Celebrate even the smallest wins, remain consistent and you’ll be surprised with how much progress you may make.

Concept of comparison and why it is unhelpful for good mental health :

Comparison is actually not an emotion, but it drives all sorts of big feelings that can affect our relationships and self-worth…. Sometimes we don’t know we are doing it. The goal is to rise our awareness of how and why they happen so we can name them, think about them and make choices that reflect our values and our heart.  “ Comparison says, be like everyone else, but better”

Communicate
Communicating how you feel is so important to your own well-being. Asking for support from friends and family is nothing to be ashamed of. It is something that I have done so many times in the past and has helped me gain perspective on the various challenges I face day-to-day.

Look after your nutrition
My diet is something that I’ve always been passionate about and have always put importance on her eating healthily in order to boost my mood and feel like the best version of myself. This has enabled me to remain consistent with my physio/training and given me the extra motivation when I have had days where I’m struggling.

Be adaptable
Be realistic about what you can/can’t do when it comes to physio and training. Everyone’s bodies are different and we have to understand what our capabilities are. Adapt exercises to movements that you’re capable of and then focus on doing them the best that you can. Use whatever you have access to support your movements – I regularly use a wall or a chair to support my balance.

 Allow yourself to be vulnerable
Acknowledging your emotions and asking for help is not a weakness but it allows us to connect with others . If you allow yourself to be vulnerable it allows you to receive more love, belonging and support.

Watch this Ted Talk on the Power of Vulnerability, by Brene Brown.

Try and avoid blame:

Watch this clip as Brene Brown shows us what  the consequences of living with blame are.

 

“”

Vulnerability is not weakness it is our greatest measure of courage

– Brene Brown

Watch these Midweek Matters replays

Disability Plus on Counselling for Adults with Disabilities part 1

Disability Plus on Counselling for Adults with Disabilities part 2

Joe Bird from @CPTruths on Mental Health

Resources

If you are supporting someone in need of immediate help, you can contact one of the below services:

  • Ring your GP or out of hours service for an emergency appointment
  • Contact your Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) if you have one
  • See if Disability Plus can be of help – counsellors and psychotherapists with the same or similar disabilities support adults, carers & family members with specialist services.
  • Call Samaritans on Freephone 116 123 (24 hours a day)
  • Give us a shout – help young people and adults texting with issues including suicidal thoughts, anxiety, depression, relationships, abuse, bullying and self-harm. To start a conversation, text the word ‘SHOUT’ to 85258.
  • For young people under 35, or if you are worried about a young person, please call Papyrus –a charity which runs the HopelineUK – on 0800 068 41 41, text 07786209697 or email pat@papyrus-uk.org
  • Call 999 or NHS Direct on 111 (England) or 0845 46 47 (Wales)

Mental Health Day film:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0V8iCaHD1EM]

 

Research

Functional connectivity and quality of life in young adults with Cerebral Palsy: a feasibility study
https://bmcneurol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12883-020-01950-7

 

 

Scarlett Murray is a 22 year-old mother of one, and a talented writer who blogs about her experiences of living with Cerebral Palsy. Her form of CP is left-sided hemiphlegia. She tells us her story.

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Young woman with little girl (Scarlett Murray and daughter)

Clive Gilbert is a leading policy expert on assistive technology for disabled people, drawing in part, on his own experiences living with Cerebral Palsy. He tells us his story.

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Man using assistive technology (Clive Gilbert)