18 Feb What I learned from running a ‘Self Managing Your Anxiety’ Workshop
In December 2016 I was invited by the DIT Mental Health Society to give a talk to their members around the issue of Anxiety. Anxiety is the most common Mental Health issue in Ireland, in conjunction with Depression. European Health officials estimate 1 in 9 people will suffer from Anxiety at some point in their lives. In America they estimate that 18% of the population will have issues. Theres no way of ever actually knowing the real figure, as in most cases, the issue is never reported. Most people choose to struggle on on their own. Its a pretty big issue and young adults are especially at risk.
When I met with the Society, we didn’t just want to give a presentation on Anxiety on just the facts and figures. We wanted to do something that would be useful for the students, really useful. So we decided instead to run a workshop that would focus on different tools and techniques for helping people Self-Manage their own Anxiety. I had wanted to run something like this for a long time so it was a great opportunity to prepare something.
The workshop was really well attended, which to me was unsurprising given the topic. I would like to just say that I am absolutely not a medical professional, but I have a huge interest in Mental Health and I have worked directly with young adults for almost 15 years now. I feel Anxiety is a HUGE issue for young-adults in Ireland right now; probably a lot bigger issue than society realises.
The attendees came from all across DIT, and there were even some people who didn’t attend the college but asked to attend. Many of them had their own issues with Anxiety to varying degrees, but some people attended because someone they cared about struggled with Anxiety, and they wanted information to help. This was an amazing gesture on their behalf and a reminder that in general, people are awesome.
The workshop gave the attendees some key facts about the issues; statistics, types of Anxiety and such. Then we asked the attendees to start looking at their own particular type of Anxiety and how it manifested for them on their own level. It was really interesting hearing all the different ways that Anxiety can manifest. I’ve read up a lot on Anxiety, but hearing peoples personal stories is still really eye-opening.
As people talked, they really opened up more about some of the more wacky things Anxiety had lead them to do, and it turned into a surprisingly fun discussion. People talked about different tools they had tried to relax, how people had reacted to them if they found out they had Anxiety, and even about using medication to try and curb the symptoms. We then looked at a list of different tools and techniques that have been used by people to manage their Anxiety.
When we were finished the workshop, I asked the group for feedback and I was really surprised by their response. I expected some questions on some of the more wacky techniques, or maybe some discussion on some of the stats, but no. What I got was this:
“I had no idea there was so many things that I could do myself, to help me”
Once one person said this almost everyone agreed with them. They talked about how Mental Health Campaigns talk about going to GP’s, or talking to people, or that its ok to take medication. They spoke about coming to college and being told if they’re sick, see a doctor, if they are sad, see a counsellor, “but no-one ever told me there were things I could do myself to try and address my Anxiety” one of them said.
Disclaimer: I would absolutely counter that in the event of serious mental health issues you should absolutely of course see a doctor or health professional, and in many cases medication is essential to a recovery. This is not up for debate and I wouldn’t dare suggest otherwise.
It was just an interesting insight to how we may, going forward, help prepare young people for the management of their own Mental Health. To educate them to recognise when things are going off-piste; to empower them to build up a toolbox of options to self-manage their mental health; and to provide them with the necessary medical support in the event they need additional support.
I am really looking forward to running more events like this again.