The role of humour in mental health recovery

Today, senior operations manager Sophie Dumayne gives her thoughts on the importance of humour and honesty when coping with mental health struggles. Sparked by reading the well-known book ‘My Sh*t Therapist’, Sophie’s words strike a chord at what is a particularly challenging time of the year for so many.

I try to always to have some form of self-help or personal growth book on the go at any one time. My most recent audiobook listen was Michelle Thomas’ My Sh*t Therapist, and boy, did I relate!

Told with a great deal of humour, vulnerability, and realism (the fact that she’s Welsh and lived and worked in Bristol for a time also helped with my connection) this book really explored what is like for some people who experience an acute mental breakdown and the long and often bumpy road of recovery.

Take a long, hot bubble bath

One of my biggest frustrations when I was ill was what I regarded as the most ineffective and often patronising advice given to me by mental health professionals. At risk of self-harm or suicide? Take a hot, long bubble bath… Suffering from debilitating panic attacks that leave you exhausted for hours? Try a nice brisk walk with headphones… Paralysed by the perfect combination of severe depression and high anxiety? Try lighting a scented candle…

Now I appreciate these were probably well-meaning pieces of advice, intended to arm me with a toolkit of self-soothing strategies, but at the time, they seemed pointless and made me disengage with certain professionals as I felt they had no understanding of how I was feeling. If they didn’t understand that, how could they make me better?

However, kudos to the community psychiatric nurse who recommended adult mindful colouring and whale-song music. I spent the calmest three months of my life creating some beautiful masterpieces and am now almost fluent in the sounds of the ocean ?

Time for challenge and change

‘My Sh*t Therapist’ takes the reader through Michelle’s search for a ‘good’ therapist, something that for her, was challenging and expensive. It is too often the case for people experiencing mental health issues that the support they receive from professionals can sometimes be unhelpful, or at its worst, retraumatising.

The responsibility we carry as mental health professionals is immense. And the positive impact we have on the people we support when we get it right is nothing short of life changing. That’s one of the things that attracted me to Second Step, an organisation that is committed not only to the people we work with, but to challenging and changing the system for the benefit of everyone.

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