Author Topic: Mental Health and Hiking  (Read 2149 times)

gunwharfman

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Mental Health and Hiking
« on: 12:31:41, 23/08/20 »
I keep noticing articles in the newspapers and on TV and radio that refer to the nations 'mental health problem' and the suggestion that its being caused by Covid-19 and lockdown etc.

Having worked with people with 'mental health problems' or the 'mentally ill' if you prefer for most of my life, I find the terminology to be confusing, it would seem that 'all personal problems' as the media presents it to us can now be given this status?

I know that the 'message' is what it is and I can't change it but I worry that people are now being negatively 'labelled' too easily and my worry is that they might be tempted to believe that with the 'label' someone else will make them feel better about there life and how its unfolding? 

For those who feel 'sad' that they are now in this era, I too am 'sad' about it, but I am also that by getting out and about (hiking, running, cycling etc) it might be just the tonic that they need rather than just sucumb to the comfort of a diagnosis that may mean something of course, or perhaps nothing at all?

Of course the other danger is that more and more people are now taking all sorts of necessary or even unessary mediaction? This would worry me because I know that there are some very 'dodgy' drugs out there. I remember the dependency drugs (e.g. Valium) the spongy gums drugs (e.g. Phenytoin) and other 'wonder medications.' People who may feel the need or who are being persuaded to go down this route should, if they can, think carefully before doing so.

So, it may sound simplistic, but my view is, try to 'get out and about' first and get onto the medication route last!

ninthace

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Re: Mental Health and Hiking
« Reply #1 on: 12:40:01, 23/08/20 »
I sometimes wonder if we are not sometimes just giving names to normal aspects of the human condition thereby making victims of ourselves and seeking a professionall delivered solution when the cure may be in our own hands.
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Birdman

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Re: Mental Health and Hiking
« Reply #2 on: 13:02:38, 23/08/20 »
The Covid-19 situation has triggered anxiety and depression in a lot of people. I think it's a good thing to acknowledge this rather than deny these thoughts. Knowing that a lot of people struggle with this at the moment, I think acknowledging this can help and actually give people hope ("There nothing wrong with you, this situation just sucks and it will pass").



I agree that there is a big difference between "real" mental illness and people who are simply temporarily out of balance because of the unprecedented situation and justified worries about family members, genuine economic worries and a sudden sense if isolation.


I think the latter group should definitely stay away from medicine. Spending time outdoors, walking, enjoying nature is a good advice.
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Bigfoot_Mike

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Re: Mental Health and Hiking
« Reply #3 on: 13:13:01, 23/08/20 »
There are really severe mental health conditions / illnesses, such as PTSD, schizophrenia, bipolar, clinical depression and I have seen all of these in family and friends. However, nowadays almost every situation when someone is feeling a bit low seems to be labelled as some type of mental health syndrome. The severe situations may well need some quite powerful medication, which can have significant downsides. In the lesser cases it would often be much better to spend some time outside or doing things that are enjoyable. It is currently difficult to spend time with people outside our households, but most can keep in contact. I do think that the generation is over pampered compared to earlier times and dread to think how we would have coped during the first half of the 20th century or living in one of the many countries much poorer than ours or subject to oppressive regimes.

pleb

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Re: Mental Health and Hiking
« Reply #4 on: 13:38:28, 23/08/20 »
I agree with gunwharfeman. There is a lot to be said for fresh air and nature.
I remember a bod on the telly looking at a blue butterfly on the south downs, he said they ought to prescribe it on the NHS.

Birdman

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Re: Mental Health and Hiking
« Reply #5 on: 14:10:24, 23/08/20 »
I do think that the generation is over pampered compared to earlier times and dread to think how we would have coped during the first half of the 20th century or living in one of the many countries much poorer than ours or subject to oppressive regimes.


There are many reasons for that. Of course, when you struggle for survival there isn't much time to ponder about whether you have a "fulfilling" life or not. It is also true that people nowadays are very detached from the results of their work (feeling like a wage slave) and there are often no other goals (like religion) so life can become quite meaningless if you cannot find an alternative way to give your life meaning.


Of course many (even serious) mental illnesses weren't acknowledged as such in the beginning of the 20th century. Soldiers during WW1 suffering from PTSD and shellshock were sometimes even executed because of cowardice or desertion.


It is true that most of us have been incredibly lucky to live today in peaceful and prosperous times. Just imagine you were a German guy born in 1895. By the time you are 19 years old WW1 starts and you spend 4 years, from 19 to 23 - your formative years!) in the trenches. If you survived these 4 years of unspeakable horror (probably scarred both mentally and physically), you get hit by the Spanish Flu Pandemic. Having survived that, just when your life starts to get somewhat normal you get hit by hyperinflation at 27. All your savings you had worked for since the war are gone. After losing everything, the Great Depression starts when you are 34, the prime of your life. You lose all your savings once again! And your job, possibly your house if you even had one... When you reach 38, Hitler comes to power. Actually, from that moment on you may actually get a few more stable and more prosperous years, provided that you are not a Jew or gay or (suspected of) being against the nazis. If you escaped that, at 44, WW2 starts. You may escape the western front (because of your age) but not the eastern front (arguably more horrible) because by 1943 even the elderly were forced to fight. By 1945 at latest (you are then 50 years old) you'll spend several years in a Siberian POW camp. You'll be in your mid 50's till you get home (if survived), only to return to the spot where your house once stood (bombed). You now live once again in a totalitarian regime (the DDR). Great... If you survived all this, you probably die just a few years later (life expectancy at the time was ~65).


I often think about how incredibly lucky I am to live here and now. 75 years peace! However, I fear we are not going to see another 75 years of this.
« Last Edit: 14:14:56, 23/08/20 by Birdman »
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gunwharfman

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Re: Mental Health and Hiking
« Reply #6 on: 17:12:10, 23/08/20 »
I like your paragraph about from 1895, well thought out. I'm 75 and I know that my life as been really 'easy' compared to my Mum and Dad's and the previous generation. I may say that life was hard for but in reality, it wasn't really, the best I can come up with is perhaps 'uncomfortable' at times. I also remember that really optimistic 60s decade, well it was for me, I hadn't got a care in the world! Doesn't seem to be that good for young right now though, or are they 'creating their own problems,' because of an overwhelming need for 'stuff' which perhaps they can't fulfil and so the end result is 'mental health problems'

I'm also wary about the word 'depression.' Are people really 'depressed' or are they just 'sad' perhaps at the situation, they are in or feel that they are in?

I've always been interested in the power of 'group pressure' and what makes them start to think in the same way, and nowadays I wonder whether group negative thinking via 'social media' is able to influence some peoples state-of-mind and how they look at and interpret the world around them?

I also wonder if this feeling of being 'depressed' is also shaped by the demands of what an individual feels they MUST HAVE to believe that they are 'normal' and/or 'successful?' For example, I didn't have a car, a PC, a mobile phone, games console, etc, etc, my life was economically simpler then, but it doesn't seem to be so today. Only yesterday I was listening to a child (about 10) and mother arguing on Southsea Common. The child was fraught, in tears and screaming that Mum wouldn't buy her an iPhone just like the one her friend had. It's a situation I've heard and seen played out time and time again over the past few years.

I sometimes try to 'compare and contrast' to my parent's expectations of what they wanted or needed from life, I'm sure they were lower than mine. I remember that their focus was more about the basics of food, warmth and shelter.

 

Birdman

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Re: Mental Health and Hiking
« Reply #7 on: 19:15:05, 23/08/20 »



Paradoxically, living in good times and having plenty of opportunities can also be a burden. Because every opportunity is also an opportunity to fail. We are told we can achieve anything in life, as long as you work hard etc. Everybody can be rich, beautiful, famous, happy... But if you fail to achieve these goals, who can you blame but yourself? In the time of my grandparents (I'm 52 myself) there was a lot less to choose. If your father was a farmer, you would be a farmer too. So you don't blame yourself for not being rich/ famous/ etc, it was just the way it was and it was easier to accept. The illusion nowadays that it is all in your own hands, but it really isn't.


Now add social media to the mix, where everybody broadcasts a fake and idealised image of themselves and everybody compares themselves to the apparently wonderful lives that other people have. And social media are addictive: "likes" generate dopamine in the brain. That's why many people cannot spend 5 minutes without checking their phone. You wouldn't give your children drugs, but kids spend hours every day on social media. The result is no surprise.

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Sarah Pitht

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Re: Mental Health and Hiking
« Reply #8 on: 22:01:32, 23/08/20 »
Interesting thread. I fear that it is in fashion to talk about MH issues. But most people think MH illness is a bit of depression or anxiety. If they came across someone having a manic episode, or the lad I was with the other week having full blown flashbacks due to PTSD or the teenager with dissociative identity disorder who had so many voices going on in her head that she said she had blackouts, they would run a mile.


I suppose this vogue is at least the start of bring MH illnesses into the open - but we have a long way to go. And the lack of investment in CAMHS in terms of therapeutic  input terrifies me.

ninthace

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Re: Mental Health and Hiking
« Reply #9 on: 23:26:48, 23/08/20 »
Sharing time.  Not sure if this is relevant to the thread but:


Some years ago in the RAF I was newly promoted to a senior rank and was working all hours to get a new section up and running,  In time I started feeling ill.  It began with dry heaving before going to work and then things got worse. I could not sleep, feeling sick and so on.  Eventually, I went to see the base doctor.  We had a long chat and at the end he told me to go home.  I just told him I did not have the time to be sick.  He just looked me straight in the in the face and said "If I told you you had cancer - would you do as I said?"  That was an easy one.  Then he said "The good news is you don't have cancer, but what you have killed my wife and it will kill you too if you do not do as I say"  That sort of thing brings you up short.  He explained what was going on in my brain (apparently it was a stress related chemical imbalance) and why I had to stop.  So I crawled off home armed with some pills.


The first few days were the worst - mixed feels of paranoia and guilt.  I just hid away.  My wife said my personality changed and I wasn't the person she married, even though I felt the same inside.   Eventually I thought I felt better, put my uniform on and set off to drive to work.  About half way there, I just could not do it, so I turned round and drove home.  I tried again a few days later with the same result.  It was a really weird thing, I felt perfectly healthy physically but inside I was a wreck.  We we were in quarters on the edge of the Chilterns at the time so I started to go for long walks. but they only helped a bit.  There was no pleasure in it.  I could not reconcile feeling physically well with the guilt of not being able to work.


Finally, it settled down and I went back but it was a long time before I could even talk about it.  The abiding feeling was one of guilt at letting people down, shame and inadequacy.   Military people, and officers especially. are not supposed to cave in under stress but it can happen. 


I suppose is there is a moral, it is that it can happen to anyone and it is not necessarily a weakness.  If you feel it creeping up on you, do not be ashamed to talk about it.  If I had been able to do that, perhaps it would have been different.
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MkPotato

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Re: Mental Health and Hiking
« Reply #10 on: 07:12:03, 24/08/20 »

There are many reasons for that. Of course, when you struggle for survival there isn't much time to ponder about whether you have a "fulfilling" life or not. It is also true that people nowadays are very detached from the results of their work (feeling like a wage slave) and there are often no other goals (like religion) so life can become quite meaningless if you cannot find an alternative way to give your life meaning.


Of course many (even serious) mental illnesses weren't acknowledged as such in the beginning of the 20th century. Soldiers during WW1 suffering from PTSD and shellshock were sometimes even executed because of cowardice or desertion.


It is true that most of us have been incredibly lucky to live today in peaceful and prosperous times. Just imagine you were a German guy born in 1895. By the time you are 19 years old WW1 starts and you spend 4 years, from 19 to 23 - your formative years!) in the trenches. If you survived these 4 years of unspeakable horror (probably scarred both mentally and physically), you get hit by the Spanish Flu Pandemic. Having survived that, just when your life starts to get somewhat normal you get hit by hyperinflation at 27. All your savings you had worked for since the war are gone. After losing everything, the Great Depression starts when you are 34, the prime of your life. You lose all your savings once again! And your job, possibly your house if you even had one... When you reach 38, Hitler comes to power. Actually, from that moment on you may actually get a few more stable and more prosperous years, provided that you are not a Jew or gay or (suspected of) being against the nazis. If you escaped that, at 44, WW2 starts. You may escape the western front (because of your age) but not the eastern front (arguably more horrible) because by 1943 even the elderly were forced to fight. By 1945 at latest (you are then 50 years old) you'll spend several years in a Siberian POW camp. You'll be in your mid 50's till you get home (if survived), only to return to the spot where your house once stood (bombed). You now live once again in a totalitarian regime (the DDR). Great... If you survived all this, you probably die just a few years later (life expectancy at the time was ~65).


I often think about how incredibly lucky I am to live here and now. 75 years peace! However, I fear we are not going to see another 75 years of this.


Great post!


Iíve had similar conversations with my peers. Anyone under about 75 (unless theyíve served in the forces) has lived remarkably safe times (on mainland UK). There were worries in the Cold War, but it never really got too close to kicking off. (Iím too young to remember the Cuban Missile Crisis).


Economically, late40-60-somethings have had a pretty charmed life as well. Iím in my early 50s, so too young to be directly affected by the economic turmoil of the 70s/early 80s, and arguably (hopefully) not as likely to suffer the long term fallout of the COVID crisis. Gen X and Baby-boomers are indeed charmed generations, particularly in the West.

Itís not surprising that weíve become a bit superficial and navel-gazing - we havenít had anything too serious to worry about.

(Iím sure there are exceptions to these vast generalisations!). 
 
« Last Edit: 07:15:40, 24/08/20 by MkPotato »

Birdman

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Re: Mental Health and Hiking
« Reply #11 on: 10:17:09, 24/08/20 »
Sharing time.  Not sure if this is relevant to the thread but:


Some years ago in the RAF I was newly promoted to a senior rank and was working all hours to get a new section up and running,  In time I started feeling ill.  It began with dry heaving before going to work and then things got worse. I could not sleep, feeling sick and so on.  Eventually, I went to see the base doctor.  We had a long chat and at the end he told me to go home.  I just told him I did not have the time to be sick.  He just looked me straight in the in the face and said "If I told you you had cancer - would you do as I said?"  That was an easy one.  Then he said "The good news is you don't have cancer, but what you have killed my wife and it will kill you too if you do not do as I say"  That sort of thing brings you up short.  He explained what was going on in my brain (apparently it was a stress related chemical imbalance) and why I had to stop.  So I crawled off home armed with some pills.


The first few days were the worst - mixed feels of paranoia and guilt.  I just hid away.  My wife said my personality changed and I wasn't the person she married, even though I felt the same inside.   Eventually I thought I felt better, put my uniform on and set off to drive to work.  About half way there, I just could not do it, so I turned round and drove home.  I tried again a few days later with the same result.  It was a really weird thing, I felt perfectly healthy physically but inside I was a wreck.  We we were in quarters on the edge of the Chilterns at the time so I started to go for long walks. but they only helped a bit.  There was no pleasure in it.  I could not reconcile feeling physically well with the guilt of not being able to work.


Finally, it settled down and I went back but it was a long time before I could even talk about it.  The abiding feeling was one of guilt at letting people down, shame and inadequacy.   Military people, and officers especially. are not supposed to cave in under stress but it can happen. 


Great post. Thanks for sharing.

And this:
Quote
I suppose is there is a moral, it is that it can happen to anyone and it is not necessarily a weakness.  If you feel it creeping up on you, do not be ashamed to talk about it.  If I had been able to do that, perhaps it would have been different.


So true!


I'm guilty myself of (in the past) dismissing people who claimed to be depressed as posers who were just not used to some adversity in their lives anymore and should just man up (or woman up). Then, in my mid-20's, I hit a rough spot myself, triggered by something that happened in my life that on the surface was bad, but something that you should normally recover from in a few weeks or months time. But to me it felt like my life was over, while people around me couldn't really understand, because on the surface I was doing well and had everything going for me. I also denied to myself that the problem was largely in my own head. I didn't want to see myself as a "loser" with a psychological problem and kept telling myself that the reason for feeling this way was that I was experiencing a perfect storm of external circumstances that other people couldn't really understand.


Although I gradually recovered from it, it has really affected about 5 years of my (young) life in a negative way. Only when looking back at this period many years later in my mid 40's, I started to see it for what it was and now I regret not having taken it seriously at the time. A mental health professional holding up a mirror to me could have been a great help, but I never sought help because I didn't want to be "one of those people".


After many truly fantastic years, especially the last decade, just months ago this happy episode abruptly ended for me with a period of severe anxiety attacks (not my words, but from a professional assessment) and moderate-severe depression triggered indirectly by Covid-19. I thought: "Not this **** again!", so this time I did look for help and I am happy I did! I would say I'm now 90% better than on the day I called my GP (anxiety attacks have disappeared and depression toned down). It's amazing what simple Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can do (I had never heard of that before).


I'm by no means a clinical case and normally a happy and stable person. But apparently I do have some character traits that make me prone to this in certain extraordinary circumstances. I guess this is why I responded so well to the CBT. There must be many people who, like me, are temporarily pushed out of balance but in their head they are facing the abyss! The experience is very real for them (us) and downright scary! Don't dismiss this (as I did myself in the past). If you have not been through this yourself, you have no idea what you are talking about.


Therefore, I encourage the recent increase in reporting about mental health issues and removal of the stigma. A great many people can be helped with CBT. In my own case the sessions were done entirely online (apart from the 45 minutes assessment to see what treatment would benefit me) and then there were "homework" assignments, self study etc. Thanks our wonderful NHS for making this available to me and others!


And going back ontopic: activities like walking, birdwatching etc are actually part of a the large toolbox that CBT is! I needed little encouragement for this part (though obviously limited by the lockdown at the time).
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happyhiker

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Re: Mental Health and Hiking
« Reply #12 on: 10:28:57, 24/08/20 »
We have had the "5 a day" fad, "drink 8 pints of water a day" (or whatever it is), eat Flora not butter etc etc. I am convinced this latest mental health thing is another fad. If we believed what we hear, virtually every other person has a mental health issue. Most people get a bit fed up occasionally and Covid will have made this worse but that is far from being mentally ill. People should stop looking for problems and get on with their lives. Obviously if they really think they have a problem or feel suicidal, they should talk to somebody but let's not get our "mental health crisis" out of proportion.


Having said that, whatever state you are in, being out in the countryside, walking etc definitely lifts you.

harland

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Re: Mental Health and Hiking
« Reply #13 on: 10:47:58, 24/08/20 »
It reminds me of the bit in Crocodile Dundee:-
Sue Charlton : She found a wonderful shrink.
[seeing that Mick doesn't know what she means, then speaks in an even lower voice]   
People go to a psychiatrist to talk about their problems. She just needed to unload them. You know, bring them out in the open.
Crocodile Dundee : Hasn't she got any mates?
Sue Charlton : You're right. I guess we could all use more mates. I suppose you don't have any shrinks at Walkabout Creek.
Crocodile Dundee : Nah - - back there, if you got a problem, you tell Wally. And he tells everyone in town... brings it out in the open... no more problem.  ;D

tonyk

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Re: Mental Health and Hiking
« Reply #14 on: 11:04:36, 24/08/20 »
 The current nonsense about everyone suffering from mental health issues is driven by celebrities such as Prince Harry and Prince William who probably do have real issues themselves.When I was caring for my late father a nurse said she was worried about the effect it was having on my mental health.I didn't know whether to laugh or cry as looking after one elderly person isn't exactly a big deal.Yes,sleep is disturbed and I didn't have a proper day off,let alone a holiday,for more than four years but its not that hard to cope with.


However,I do feel for people who are currently struggling to make ends meet as that does make life very stressful but its not really a true mental health issue that comes from an internal chemical inbalance rather than external factors.If something is wrong with the brain certain external factors can trigger an episode but for most people being furloughed isn't going to lead to full blown mental illness.The result is more likely to be boredom and too much time to think.