Mental health and mindfulness

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Mental Health and Mindfulness

Disclaimer: This page includes content about some quite serious topics and could be distressing for some people. If you need someone to talk to immediately you can always call Samaritans on their free 24-hour helpline. Their number is 116 123.

You can also always get in contact with connections@rsbc.org.uk to get involved with our activities which might help lift your mood.

This section has three main topic areas:

  • Depression and feeling low
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Ways to relax and unwind

If you think there are more Mental Health and Well-being topics you’d like us to cover on this page, feel free to get in contact with us at connections@rsbc.org.uk.

Mental Health conversations are IMPORTANT.

It is tough to talk about mental health, but it is really important for everyone (including blind and partially sighted children and young people) to have these tricky conversations with each other.

We know from working with tonnes of kids over the years that blind and partially sighted children and young people frequently live very happy lives, free from mental health issues. However, research evidence shows that one in every four parents of blind and partially sighted children and young people feel their child is unhappy because of their eye condition (1).

Because of this you can find helpful information, links, and resources on how to look after your well-being as a blind or partially sighted child/young person.

Depression and feeling low 

It is completely normal to not always feel happy and to have off days. This is what we call ‘feeling low’ and often get better after a few days or weeks. Symptoms of ‘low mood’ include, according to the NHS website:

  • Being sad,
  • Feeling anxious or panicky,
  • Being angry,
  • Being more tired than usual,
  • Low self-confidence

 

Often ‘feeling low’ can be resolved by making changes in your life, such as exercising, talking to some friends, or getting more sleep. We offer lots of different activities that you can attend to help with this with all of the sessions being found on the current month’s online activity calendar.

Low moods that last longer than two weeks might be a sign of depression. People who are blind or partially sighted are 2-3 times more likely to be depressed than people who are not blind or partially sighted (2). Being young is also a risk factor for increasing the chances of a blind or partially sighted person having depression (3).

Because of these statistics, we want to make sure that every young person we work with feels like they have someone who can help. Talking to a friend, or a parent, or even an RSBC Family Practitioner can be a massive first step in acknowledging how you feel and helping find ways to make you better.

Stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety levels are high in people with vision impairments (4), (5) of all ages, but especially so in young people.

Firstly, what is ‘stress and anxiety’?

  • Stress can be explained simply as the feeling that everyone experiences when the demand put on you is larger than your ability to cope with that demand (6).
  • Anxiety is defined as ‘feelings of fear or worry.

Signs of anxiety and stress in young people include:

  • Struggling with sleeping
  • Not being able to control your fears
  • Not concentrating
  • Being restless
  • Being irritable (7)

And more!

Like with a low mood, we all feel certain levels of stress and anxiety at some points in our lives! However, as the research above shows, blind and partially sighted young people generally feel these feelings more than non-VI young people. This means that RSBC is especially interested in helping cope with and reduce these stress/anxiety levels in young people we work with.

There are lots of different ways for blind and partially sighted young people to try and handle stress and anxieties.

Sometimes talking to someone is the best course of action. RSBC Family Practitioners are on hand across the country to talk to all problems you may have as a blind and partially sighted young person, including anxieties – for more information you can contact us at connections@rsbc.org.uk.

  • If you think you might be suffering from anxiety and wanted to talk to someone else with a similar experience, Anxiety UK run an Infoline between 9.30am-5.30pm, Monday-Friday (except Bank Holidays) on 03444 775 774.

Other times, simple strategies you can do by yourself can help ease anxiety and stress. This can involve:

  • Slow breathing – take three seconds to breath in, hold the breath for three seconds and then three seconds to breath out.
  • Relax your muscles – go somewhere quiet, sit down, and relax every muscle in your body.
  • Write down your worries – Write down your worries and think for 2 minutes about how you can get over or solve each one.

For different ways of relaxing and unwinding, go to our Ways to unwind and relax section.

 

Ways to relax and unwind

A great way of getting rid of life’s stress is practicing something called mindfulness. Mindful.org describe mindfulness as being able to be fully aware of what we are doing and not get overwhelmed by what is going on around us (8). Mindfulness can be helpful in taking your mind away from stressful life events and a good way to help you concentrate. Two popular ways to take part in mindfulness are meditation and stretching.

  • Meditation can involve sitting in the middle of a quiet room, or maybe outside in your garden. You cross your legs and take a deep breath in for 3 seconds. Hold that breath for 3 seconds and the breath out for 3 more seconds. Try and just think about the breathing and nothing else and keep doing this for as long as you want, counting how many breaths you take.
  • Stretching can be a bit more active than meditation. TeensHealth has some great videos on how to complete different types of stretches, which warm up your body but also help unwind your mind!

If you don’t like mindfulness activities, or find them boring, don’t worry. Each person is different in the way they like to wind down and calm their minds.  Some other ways to do this that we suggest are:

  • Listening to something: Audiobooks, podcasts, and the radio are all easy ways for blind and partially sighted people to unwind.
  • Watching something: Tele and Cinema can both be adapted for blind and partially sighted people and we have articles about that here on our website.
  • Playing something: Find out more about different Sports and Activities available for blind and partially sighted people on our website too!

Further resources

The RNIB has some great resources that might help worth a read on properly handling mental health.

The NHS also has a long list of different mental health charities you can contact – have a look through them if you want and see if any might be of use to you!

Fight Against Blindness also offer counselling sessions through the NHS specifically for children and young people who were born who are blind or partially sighted. Follow the link to find out more – they offer this service in:

    • Eye Clinic Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge,
    • the Oxford Eye Hospital (John Radcliffe),
    • the Southampton Eye Unit (Southampton General Hospital), and
    • Bristol Eye Hospital Children’s Unit.

 

References

  1. Survey of Young People Parents Educators and Mobility Specialists, Nzegwu and Dooley 2008 (p116)
  2. Chou KL. ‘Combined effect of vision and hearing impairment on depression in older adults: evidence from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing’. J Affect Disord 2008;106(1-2):191–6
  3. Nollett C, Ryan B, Bray N, et al. ‘Depressive symptoms in people with vision impairment: a cross-sectional study to identify who is most at risk.’ BMJ Open. 2019;9(1):e026163. Published 2019 Jan 17. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2018-026163
  4. Soubrane G, Cruess A, Lotery A, Pauleikhoff D, Monès J. et al. Burden and health care resource utilization in neovascular age-related macular degeneration: Findings of a multicountry study. Arch. Ophthalmol. 2007; 125(9): 1249–1254.
  5. Kempen GI, Ballemans J, Ranchor AV, Rens van GH, Zijlstra GR. The impact of low vision on activities of daily living, symptoms of depression, feelings of anxiety and social support in community-living older adults seeking vision rehabilitation services. Qual. Life Res. 2012; 21(8): 1405–1411.
  6. Reference: https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/anxiety-type/stress/
  7. Reference: https://minds.actionforchildren.org.uk/anxious-feelings?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIzMPu5N_g6gIV0WDmCh0YQAEMEAAYASABEgIBpvD_BwE
  8. Reference: https://www.mindful.org/what-is-mindfulness/