Has a friend ever said "my life is just worthless"? You may be strong and grounded and able to cope, and you may be able to offer support to others. You may have a friend, a client, a relative or a colleague who tells you that s/he is considering suicide. Let us consider this and how you might response to such a disclosure. How do you respond? Take the disclosure very seriously. Do not try to cheer them up and ‘take them out of themselves’. Ask the direct question if s/he even obliquely mentions suicide, saying something like: “My life is just worthless”,“Sometimes I think that I just cannot go on”, “My family would be better without me”.The direct question you should ask is “Are you thinking of taking your own life?” If the answer is “No”, then you should listen empathetically to how s/he is feeling and notice and name the feelings s/he seems to be describing. Do not deny how s/he feels. For example, if s/he tells you s/he feels worthless and useless, do not tell them that s/he should not feel like that with their beautiful family, fantastic job, and gorgeous house. Accept that s/he feels like that and let them stay with those feelings and talk about them. You just listen. If the answer is “Yes, I have thought of suicide”. You should accept this calmly and hear the depth of the dark place s/he is in. You should then ask if s/he has a plan and let him talk about it if they have a plan. Again, you should give time and listen empathetically. It is important to respect how s/he feels and not to provide your own experience or answers. Having given time and space to allow for the discloser’s feelings to be unpacked, ask what options s/he thinks are available to him. Do not produce your own solutions – listen to the potential ways forward and encourage development of those ideas. However, it is important that someone who is suicidal seeks professional help and you should guide them to that conclusion if it is not emerging. Tell them you will support them as s/he moves along the journey to recovery. Make sure that you stay connected and arrange for your next meeting /conversation to support them as s/he takes the journey they have outlined. Contact them if you have not heard within the time you have agreed. Make sure you are supported yourself, as this kind of disclosure can be difficult for you.   CA Support has a confidential listening service. Feel free to get in touch if you need support during this time. We can be contacted by email at casupport@charteredaccountants.ie or call us on (353) 86 024 3294. Article written for CA Support by Prof. Patricia Barker, Dip. Couns., MPhil, PhD, FCA

Aug 20, 2020

William is a Chartered Accountant who had his own business, but because of circumstances beyond his control he lost his business, his home and suffered with depression. CA Support have helped him throughout these difficult times, and he has given his permission for us to share his story with you. As a Chartered Accountant, I worked with a professional firm until 1985 when the entire department in which I worked was made redundant. With a partner I started my own business importing ladies fashion dresses and accessories from Hong Kong. It was very successful; the items were sold in exclusive outlets throughout the country. All went well until a supermarket chain sold identical items at a much lower price. My business partner left me with extensive business debts, so I had no choice but to sell my home. I was not aware of the Benevolent Society (CA Support) until I rang to explain why I could not pay my annual subscription fee. It was a huge relief to discover that there was support available to me. I worked hard to get my qualification and wanted to keep my membership up to date. On the initial call I explained my circumstances and it was a relief to have a friendly non-judgmental voice on the phone. There was a lot of unemployment at the time due to a severe economic downturn. To help those affected, the Benevolent Society (CA Support) hired the ballroom in the Intercontinental Hotel in Ballsbridge and asked me to address the large audience of unemployed accountants. The Institute then set up a small department to assist and offer advice to those who were unemployed. I was very glad I was able to help. I don’t know how I would have managed in the years that followed without their support. I am a very independent person, so the lack of control over my life was extremely difficult to accept. I was unable to find employment, my age went against me and I was also told that I was over-qualified. I turned to writing and had some short stories and magazines published. But the money didn’t cover a fraction of my outgoings, Unfortunately in the winter of 2013 I found myself homeless. I approached the DLR Housing Department and was initially promised accommodation but, the promise was not fulfilled. I was advised I could go into a hostel with the warning that I might have to share with a drug addict, an alcoholic or someone with mental health problems. It was only with the help of a compassionate community officer and my rector that my situation was resolved. Thankfully, I now have a home again I don’t know if I will ever forget that fearful experience, of not knowing what was going to happen to me. I still struggle to find words to express how awful it was. With assistance from CA Support I was able to go in a new direction. I continued with my writing, gave a series of public talks on the effect of suicide on those left behind and last September I gave a talk on the emotional impact of homelessness on mental health at the request of The Irish Council of Churches. For this, I could draw on my own personal experience of having been homeless. I have no doubt that there are others who have stories to tell on how CA Support has helped their lives and continue to do so. Speaking for myself, I hope that those who can will continue to support this organisation, especially now during the current Covid-19 pandemic and the uncertain future that face us all.   William Blackall CA Support are supporting our members and their families always. If you would like to help or if you need help please contact us by email or on 01 637 7342 or 086 024 3294.

Jun 04, 2020

You may think that, as a Chartered Accountant, you should be strong, resilient, and able to solve problems. This is not necessarily true.  You are just as vulnerable as anyone else to the tsunami of apprehension that may be coming at you from all points of your personal compass – from clients, employer, business partners, spouse, elderly family members, children, friends and colleagues.  There are now so many uncertainties about health, finance, fitness, home, diet, sleep and relationships to cope with. You may be strong and grounded and able to cope and you may be able to offer support to others at this moment in time.  Or you may be struggling. You may have a friend, a client, a relative or a colleague who tells you that s/he is considering suicide.   Or you may be so unable to cope yourself that you are considering self-harm, suicide.  Let us consider first who might consider suicide. Who might consider suicide?   Any of us, including you, might think of suicide as a means of dealing with an overwhelming situation.  Generally, suicide is considered when there is a significant imbalance between our risk factors and our protective factors. We all vary, and the list of risk factors is extensive, but your risk factors might include any combination of: A recent bereavement Bullying Serious financial problems A history of depression, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, depression, or drug abuse A family history of suicidal behaviour or mental disorders A traumatic event Diagnosis with a possibly terminal illness or condition Relationship breakdown Isolation A personality disorder  Your protective factors might include: Your Relationships Social integration Good network Religious beliefs and practices Access to support agencies Your Personal resilience If you are thinking of suicide?   Take such thoughts very seriously. Do not dismiss them or think that you will come through it. Consider and confront your personal risk factors and notice, name and nourish your protective factors. Focus on your feelings and talk to someone about your feelings. You may be feeling overwhelmed, traumatised, fearful, guilty, unable to cope or powerless. You should name these feelings and the fact that you are thinking of suicide. Notice the impact on your life and name it to yourself and talk to someone about that impact. This might include loss of sleep, drinking, feeling depressed, loss of energy, loss of libido, short temper. Think about who you would like to talk to. It might be a family member, a colleague, CA Support, a counsellor, your GP, a clergyperson, The Samaritans. You should not attempt to deal with these feelings alone.   CA Support has a confidential listening service. Feel free to get in touch if you need support during this time. We can be contacted by email at casuppport@charteredaccountants.ie or call us on (353) 86 024 3294. Article written for CA Support by Prof. Patricia Barker, Dip. Couns., MPhil, PhD, FCA

Apr 09, 2020

A problem shared is a problem halved. It might be a cliché, but it's true. When you're not feeling yourself, talking things through with someone you trust can help lighten the load. It's the first step towards taking back control of your mental wellbeing. Why does talking help? Talking about something with another person allows you to see things from a different perspective. There could be another way of looking at your situation Talking aloud can help you make sense of a problem and clarify your thoughts and feelings. When we're just turning things over and over in our own heads it can be difficult to see what's really going on Another person may offer practical advice and solutions that you hadn't considered before The simple act of being listened to often has a big impact in itself. You'll feel less alone knowing that someone is there for you. You might even discover that you're not the only one who feels the way you do Sometimes just saying something aloud is immensely relieving. You may have been carrying something around in your head for a long time and talking about it can be like setting down a heavy load. You might notice your whole body relaxing as you start to talk Opening up to friends and family might encourage and empower others to do the same Talking openly about how you feel might seem awkward at first. Especially if you're not used to it. But it will get easier and become more natural the more you do it Who can you talk to? Friends and family are a great place to start. They may have already noticed that you're not quite yourself and asked if everything is ok. This can make starting a conversation a bit easier. Having said this, it's common for people to find it difficult to talk openly with friends and family, for lots of reasons. Often they're worried about upsetting people they care about, how their relationships might be affected or that they might be treated differently. And this can affect how honest and open you are about the reality of your situation. Sometimes it's easier to be more honest with someone you don't know. That's where counselling can help. Counselling, or talking therapy, is a chance for you to talk to someone who will listen without judgement. It offers you a safe space and dedicated time to talk openly about you. Your thoughts. Your feelings. And the real impact they have. A counsellor can offer an impartial perspective on what might be a very complex and intense situation. As someone who's not involved and with no personal agenda, they may be able to help you work through and understand things in ways that your friends and family can't. Ask us about counselling CA Support can arrange for you to work with a professional counsellor face-to-face, over the phone or online.  Take the first step You might have avoided opening up in the past, simply because you don't know where to start. How can you possibly articulate all the thoughts and feelings going round and round in your head? But there's no set script you have to follow, and no rush to get it all out at once. When you contact CA Support, our trained advisors will help you find the right words. And after that first step, you'll have the support of a professional counsellor to help you through the rest of the process. You won't be on your own. You can talk to an advisor in complete confidence, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call us on 01 637 7342 to talk to one of the team. We are here for you. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Aug 08, 2019

Talking therapies can help many people in different situations, it gives people who are either going through a bad time or have emotional problems to discuss with someone else when they can’t sort them out on their own. Research has shown that talking therapies can work well regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, education or social class. People sometimes find it easier to talk to a stranger rather than relatives or friends. During talking therapy, a trained therapist listens to you and helps you find your own answers to problems, without judging you. It’s an opportunity to look at your problems in a different way with someone who’ll respect and encourage your opinions and decisions. Talking therapy is usually on a one-to-one basis, however, sometimes they are held in groups or couples (e.g. relationship counselling). Below are some of the situations where talking therapy can help: Mental health problems Talking therapies can help if you have depression, anxiety, eating disorders, phobias or have an addiction. They are often used if you have been diagnosed with a serious mental health condition (including schizophrenia or bipolar disorder) alongside other medicine. Difficult life events If you’re going through a sad and upsetting time, talking therapies can help. This could include bereavement, health concerns and job loss amongst many others. Physical illness They can also improve your quality of life if you have a lifelong physical illness such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease or stroke. People with long-term health conditions are particularly vulnerable to depression, and talking therapies have been proven to help. Over-65s Depression in later life (especially over 65) is often dismissed as a normal part of ageing, however, talking therapy can improve your enjoyment of life if you’re feeling low. Past abuse If you’ve been sexually abused or experienced discrimination or racism, taking a course of talking therapy could help you to cope. Relationship problems Couples therapy can help to save a troubled relationship or help you through separation and divorce. Ideally, a couple should go to counselling together, but if your partner refuses to join you, counselling can help you sort out lots of things on your own. Troubled families Family therapy is talking therapy that involves the whole family. It can be especially helpful for children with depression or a behavioural problem, or whose parents are splitting up. It can also help families in which a child or parent has an eating disorder, mental health condition or drug addiction. Anger Talking therapy can help people who find it difficult to keep their anger under control. Children Talking therapy works as well for children as it does for adults. NICE (the independent body that produces guidance on the effectiveness of medical treatments) recommends talking therapy rather than medicines for children who are depressed. It can also help children with anxiety, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and children who are in physical pain. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jul 05, 2019

Stigma is social injustice and an error of society. Hence, eradicating it is the responsibility and should be the priority of that society (Corrigan and Rao 2012) Current research indicates that nine out of ten people have experienced stigma related to their mental ill health and that this has significantly affected their ability to recover. Mental health difficulties are associated with great stigma and this has an effect on disclosure to friends, family and colleagues, acceptance and opportunities to take part in the activities that could support a persons' wellbeing. It's clear from this that as a society we must continually work towards diminishing people's experience of stigma, especially in the workplace. However, before we can do this it's important that we fully understand what we mean by stigma. What exactly is it and how does it manifest in everyday life, especially when mental health awareness campaigns are everywhere? What is stigma? The term 'stigma' originates from a Greek word meaning 'mark of shame' and was applied to slaves and criminals as a sign of disgrace. In the middle ages, mental illness was considered a punishment from God and has been used throughout history to denote evil. In these more modern times, stigma refers to the feelings of deep shame a person experiences when subjected to pervasive prejudice and discriminating behaviours. Rossler (2016) describes society's current attitude and behaviour towards those with mental health difficulties as, “unworthy of modern welfare states”. Why does stigma occur? In one piece of research, 56% of employers admitted they would not employ a person with depression even if they were by far the best candidate (Pescosolido 2010). In addition, 47% of respondents said they would be unwilling to work with a depressed person, and 30% thought someone with depression was potentially violent. The prejudice and discrimination that ensues from these responses only serve to isolate the person further and delay their recovery. It's been found that neurobiological explanations of mental ill health only exacerbate people's experience of stigma, as others see them as 'defective' in some way. Attitudes and behaviours that promote these views clearly need challenging and it's only through education, shaped by those with lived experience, that we'll see a change. What types of stigma are there? There are different types of stigma that we must challenge, namely social or public stigma and self-stigma or perceived stigma. Social stigma refers to prejudicial attitudes and discriminatory behaviours directed towards a person with mental health difficulties and the stereotyping of people as unreliable or even violent. This might affect a person's ability to retain employment or secure a job, maintain relationships with friends and family and limit their access to activities and hobbies which might otherwise support their wellness. In the Thrive at Work report of 2017, it was found that 300, 000 people leave or lose their job due to poor mental health that hasn't been properly supported. The impact on individuals, families, communities and workplaces can be catastrophic in terms of lost quality of life and an organisation's ability to retain key members of staff. Self-stigma or perceived stigma refers to the internalisation of indirect and direct messages from others and often makes individuals with mental health difficulties vulnerable to confirming or endorsing these stereotypes. The fear of stigma also means that people feel uncomfortable reaching out for much-needed help and support. This, in turn, can delay recovery and increase isolation. It's also important to mention the reinforcement of negative stereotypes via the media and press, which often portray those with mental health difficulties as 'violent' or 'dangerous'. Terminology including 'crazy' and 'mad' is often more tolerated than other words would be when connected to other health problems. Structural stigma is defined by Wahl, Link and Rossler as the “Societal level conditions, cultural norms and institutional practices that constrain the opportunities, resources and wellbeing for stigmatized populations.” This means that there are continuous barriers put in the way of people experiencing mental health difficulties from securing education and employment. There is a relatively poor investment in mental health services as opposed to physical health services and the treatment of those in existing employment. What can we do to diminish stigma? Campaigns that encourage social engagement between those with and without mental health difficulties have shown to be more successful than merely providing education in awareness campaigns. It's vital that employees with lived experience of mental health difficulties have a voice in shaping any work-based campaign aimed at reducing stigma. It's also important to invest in targeted interventions, which tackle discrimination and prejudice in the workplace at source, reviewing processes and policies to ensure they're equitable and fair to those experiencing mental health difficulties. Educating line managers is also clearly important, as are routes of accountability for those who flout and undermine attempts of fairness and social justice within the workplace. The current interest and focus on mental health in the workplaces offers many opportunities for us to work together to continually challenge the practices and attitudes that keep stigma alive. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jul 05, 2019