The perfect body myth

The rise of social media has seen some incredible developments and benefits. You can meet new people who you would never meet in your everyday movements, speak to people on the other side of the world and just generally keep up with all 900 of your Facebook friends. But wow does it have its downsides.

If you’re anything like me, you’re being bombarded everyday with pictures of people with perfect lives, bodies and diets that definitely don’t match up to your own. Fitness pages on Instagram are full of men and women with incredible bodies, rather than help and advice on how to stay fit and healthy. How does this way of posting help anyone apart from boost the egos of those in the pictures?! No thanks. Continue reading

The value of working for nothing

A lot of people struggle to find the time or motivation for volunteer work, simply because financial gain is something we require to survive in today’s societies. It is, however, in my opinion really important to gain some experience of volunteering your time and skills for no financial gain whenever you’re able, simply because of the different benefits it provides both for you and others. Personally, I have been involved in a couple of volunteering roles, both of which I have found massively rewarding – albeit challenging at times.volunteering-1

The role I’ve decided to write about is one that people may not instantly think of where volunteering is concerned. When thinking about a volunteering role, we often think of fundraising, DIY projects, conservation and the like; whereas some of the more unusual roles are often forgotten.

As part of work experience for my potential career in Clinical Psychology, last summer I underwent a volunteer placement in a local psychiatric hospital, which involved working with some really vulnerable and risky patient groups. Due to the risks involved in this role, it wasn’t something I took lightly and would probably not be considered your typical ‘fun’ volunteering project that we often see portrayed in the media. But I think it’s really important to look for the more unusual roles if you’re interested in volunteering and not just staying in your comfort zone.

Volunteering can provide you with some really amazing opportunities. There is a self-centered culture within jobs in our society of pushing yourself to the limit and working as hard as you possibly can, even under great levels of stress. Whereas in the volunteering sector, there’s less emphasis on slogging your guts out and more on personal learning and growth, as well as providing for those who are less fortunate than you.

From working with a variety of patients, to women with long criminal histories and complex mental health needs, to men with learning difficulties, I learnt a huge amount about myself and how I cope in stressful situations. In addition, I also helped some really poorly people, without the pressure of being paid.volunteering-2

I felt myself more willing to just sit and talk to these people – which is what they ultimately needed – simply because I didn’t have the constant financial pressure to perform. You’re also provided with a sense of pride that you’re giving your time for free to those who really need it, and there’s no greater feeling in my opinion.

Even though volunteering is a more altruistic path to take compared to paid work, there will always be certain aspects of personal gain. Through volunteering, I was able to improve my CV and gain some key clinical experience towards my career progression. But there’s just something about volunteering that people admire and appreciate, regardless of the role you’ve taken.

Whether it’s doing your next door neighbour’s gardening, volunteering for a charity or working in a psychiatric hospital, there will be so many personal lessons you will learn simply by being there. Sometimes we need to get away from the financial pressures of the rat race and realise that to help people, we don’t need to be paid in money, or any other currency for that matter!

I think it’s important that we experience human kindness – both giving and receiving – at some point in our lives so we can remember that we are not working machines. As much as being paid in today’s world is important, so is personal growth, kindness and providing – simply because we can.

Melissa Kirwan is a full-time postgraduate student currently studying for a MSc in Clinical Psychology and Mental Health.

We need to talk about suicide.

Suicide isn’t something that regularly makes it into everyday conversation. It’s that big taboo subject that everyone tends to shy away from, even the word is loaded with all sorts of meanings and negative images. But the fact is that it’s something that needs to be spoken about. And it needs to be spoken about now. Suicide is the leading cause of death of men and women aged 20 to 34, overcoming heart disease, road accidents and cancer (Office for National Statistics, 2014). This statistic in itself should convince you that suicide awareness needs to be a public priority, up there with dangerous driving awareness and cancer research. In the run up to Christmas, there is a lot of happiness being shared, but there’s also a lot of sadness and despair that goes on behind closed doors, especially at a time of year when happiness is so prominent. This post is about being aware of this and knowing what to do when things take a turn for the worse. Continue reading

The Power of Words

I’m sure everyone reading this will have heard terms such as “I’m a little bit OCD about that”, “I’m so depressed” and “She’s completely mental” thrown around in everyday language. We’re all guilty of it, but probably don’t realise the effect this type of language is having on the way mental health is viewed in society. A lot of people reading this will think it’s all a case of political correctness gone wrong, however the use of these words and phrases actually changes the way in which we view people with mental illnesses. By colloquialising mental health terms such as “depression” and “OCD”, we’re reducing the perceived severity of these disorders, helping to contribute to the ongoing stigma towards mental illness. Continue reading

The Anxious Fresher: What to do and how to help

If, right now, you are one of those people who is struggling to throw themselves into university life like the rest of your peers seem to be doing, missing home and finding it generally hard to integrate yourself with everyone…you’re not alone. You may feel desperately alone, I know. But trust me, there are people right now who are feeling exactly the same way you are. I want to say first of all that this is okay. Being unsure and scared of a new experience is not only normal, but extremely common – around 1/3 of students experience feelings of depression and homesickness at some point in their university careers. But this may not make you feel much better. If you’re struggling to hold back tears, feeling isolated yet not wanting to leave your room and having the desperate urge to run back home and never experience this feeling again – I’ve been there, and it will get better. Continue reading