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Sue Brown

A sad child hugging his dog

A Father’s Day Plea

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I always twinge at the mention of Father’s or Mother’s Day. Not because I begrudge people a chance to celebrate and thank those they love. It’s more because my thoughts immediately go to those for whom days like this are a painful reminder of what they haven’t got.

Whether it’s those whom this Sunday, Father’s Day is a hige reminder that their dad is no longer with them. Or it may be someone who cannot say that they had or have a loving or caring Father. These days can be a painful and seemingly cruel reminder of what someone hasn’t got or have never experienced. When the whole day is the focus of so much attention on adverts and Facebook it only reinforces this.

There are no magic answers to make days like Father’s or Mother’s Day ok for those whom it is painful. I certainy don’t think people should stop celebrating the day.

My Plea

My only plea is this : if today you are celebrating, please do remember that not everyone is. If you are writing messages all over Facebook to say what a great dad you have, why not add a message saying you are thinking of those for whom the day is a tough one? If you are going out celebrating – I hope you have a fantastic time. When you get back, why not send a text to someone you know is struggling? Say hi and let them know you are thinking of them? These are not big things to ask or do. I guess it’s just about looking out for others whilst you still have a good time.

Celebrate well and please remember those who aren’t.

two tired teenagers sat at a desk, needing sleep

Improving Teenagers’ Sleep : Easy Tips For Change

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Around 80% of the young people I work with have problems sleeping. Young people are often awake for most of the night or can’t get to sleep. Last December, I did some training with which helped me to understand more of why teenagers often have problems sleeping and some simple tips that can help improve things.

The Rules Are Different For Young People

During the adolescent years, the brain changes at an incredible rate. Teenagers brains are need to sleep at different times than most adults and children. They need around nine hours quality rest a night. A young person left to sleep when their body needed would probably do so between 2am-11am. This obviously doesn’t fit with the school and work day! But if you are wondering why your son or daughter are still awake at 2am – one answer is because that’s what their brains are designed to do this at their age.

Find Their Natural “Sleep Time”

Everyone has a natural “sleep time.” This isn’t necessarily the time they go to bed but the time they fall asleep. So, the first step in helping a teenager develop a healthier night time pattern, is to find out what this time is. This can be easily done by keeping a note for a week of what time they fall asleep. If someone’s sleep time is 2am, there is no point sending them to bed at 10pm. It simply won’t work as their brain is still in daytime mode.

Any work to improve a teenager’s sleep needs to start by working with their natural sleep time. This may mean allowing them to go to bed later than you may like at first. Work according to their body clock but bring that forward the sleep time by 15 minutes a week. Within a month they will be getting an hour’s extra quality rest every night. That can make a huge difference to their wellbeing during the day.

Develop A Wind Down Routine

During the last hour before bed, it’s good to develop a routine that tells the body it’s time to rest. Ideally (!!) that would mean stopping using mobiles and tablets. This last hour could be spent doing things to help relax. This could include having a hot bath, reading or doing something kinetic. Doing a jigsaw, making something of playing a musical instrument – although not everyone may appreciate this at 1am! All these things tell the brain it is time to get ready to sleep.

Bed Means Sleep

Part of re-programing the brain includes teaching it that getting into bed at a certain time means it’s time to sleep. It’s probably unrealistic to expect all young people to not crawl into their beds at other times in the day. Ideally, in the evening, they should try to only get into their bed’s to sleep. If a young person has spent all evening in their room, it might help them to go to another room for the last hour before bed.

Gaming & Mobile Devices

Lots of teenagers go to bed and then spend hours and hours watching YouTube videos or chatting to friends on social media. Teenagers who can’t do without their devices can change their settings to “nightshift” mode. Settings can be changed so the display changes one hour before they intend to go to bed. This setting alters the colours of the display so it doesn’t tell the brain to stay awake.

If you and your teenager put into action these steps, I’m pretty certain that their sleep will start to improve. Of course, in turn this will improve lots of other aspects in their lives – including their mental wellbeing, learning capacity and physical health.

Sleep well!

The Children’s Sleep Charity – loads more great tips on helping children and teenagers

The Link Between Mental Health & Teenage Sleep from the NHS

Therapeutic Work With Young People

Man hand writing "ASAP" with white marker on visual screen indicating there is no CAMS Waiting List

No Waiting Lists Here : Get Support Now

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Parents and carers speak to me every week about their children who are stuck on a waiting list for CAMS (or CAMHS). Carers who are unable to get help quickly from CAMS / CAMHS, often turn to their child’s school for help. However, only a few days ago, TES revealed that one third of secondary schools are having to cut back on the mental health support available to pupils.

Provision In Crisis

Children’s and young people’s mental health provision in our country is desperately overstretched. Last year, the RCN surveyed its’ staff who work in CAMS / CAMHS. Seven out of ten nurses felt that the service was either “inadequate” or “highly inadequate.” 72% said long waiting lists caused major difficulties for children and families.

Common sense and a whole raft of research shows that the earlier someone gets help the better. It’s not surprising that many parents decide to look to private counselling rather than wait for help from NHS services.

Immediate Support

I try to make a point of ensuring that when people contact me, I see them as soon as possible. This is usually either the same or the following week. I try to make it as easy as I can for people to get what they need as quickly as possible. Coming along to a first appointment isn’t about making a commitment to “sign up” for long term sessions. In any therapy, it’s important to find the right person. So, that first session is a taster for the child and parent / carer to decide if I am the right person to help them.

So, if you would like to make an appointment to see if I can help your child, please do get in touch. I can’t guarantee to have magical answers but I can guarantee that there are no waiting lists here.

Beating The Anxiety Monster

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Three Cartoon Monsters Looking Anxious

Anxiety Can Spread Like A Virus

I see a lot of children and young people whose lives’ have been consumed with anxiety. Often, it can start with one thing then spreads from one thing to another. Before someone knows it, even seemingly simple tasks, are becoming incredibly difficult. Here are some principles that I use when helping children and young people whose lives’ are being ruined by the Anxiety Monster.

ANXIETY IS NOT A SIGN OF WEAKNESS

Children and young people can start to beat their anxieties by understanding just what is happening to them. Anxiety is an extension of our fight-flight response. Many of the symptoms that children, young people and adults experience (a racing heart, churning stomach, not being able to think clearly) are not signs of weakness but rather a sign that their brains are working hard to keep them safe. One of the first stages in overcoming anxiety is working out just what it is that the brains are detecting as “dangerous.” That’s where a good counsellor can come in.

ANXIETY IS LIKE THE WORST VIRUS EVER

I see anxiety like some kind of virus because it quickly spreads from one thing to another. Many children and young people feel embarrassed that they are becoming anxious about a wide range of things. However, this is more common than you may think. It can be very tempting to try to eliminate every individual worry that a child or young person faces. However, my approach is firstly about trying to look for what the main fears are about. We deal with that and then work on any ‘left over” worries.

EVERYONE CAN LEARN TO BEAT IT

Once a child or young person has been able to face their “root anxiety” there are lots of tools that they can learn to help reduce any subsequent symptoms. Anyone of any age can learn simple ways to become more self aware. They can learn how to stop anxiety before it grows into a monster. These tools help children and young people to understand and handle future anxieties themselves. I always think that the greatest success for me as a counsellor is for my clients to not need to attend any more.

If you would like me to help your son or daughter battle their anxieties, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

There is also lots of help and advice available on the web. Here’s just a few of them :

Help For Parents & Children

Help For Young People

A Free App For Young People Dealing With Anxiety

Why Do People Self Harm?

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13239832 - beautiful, young woman showing a question mark on a white piece of paper in front of her head, on blue background

Self-Harm can be hard to understand

Why self-harm? Most people know that we are all made with an in-built survival mechanism. In the light of this, self-harm can seem like a senseless behaviour.

I recently ran a training session about self-harm for a school in Sheffield. As I was preparing for this, I came across some research into self-harm and the brain. What I discovered shed some light on just why people turn to self-harm.

SELF HARM AND THE BRAIN

When I ask someone why they self-harm, they can provide me with a range of answers. The most common answer that I hear is, “Because it makes me feel better. I don’t know why, but it does.” Neuroscience research has found that the parts of the brain that deal with physical and emotional pain “criss-cross.” This means that when one part of the brain is activated, the other is deactivated for a short time. So, if someone is very upset and self-harm, the part of the brain which copes with physical pain is activated. This means that the part of the brain that registers emotional pain stops working for a while. The person feels less upset. So self-harm can and does bring a short relief to emotional distress.

Neuroscience hints at why self-harming can also be an addictive behaviour. Studies have found that when the part of the brain that deals with physical pain is activated, it releases Opioids into our bodies. Opioids are from the same group of chemicals as Opiates, These are, of course,  addictive. So people who self-harm often speak of both an emotional release and a kind of “high.”

Of course our brains are also highly adaptable. Studies of people who self-injure have shown that the brain “learns” that the physical pain it is experiencing is self-induced. It then increases a person’s pain thresholds. So, someone who self-harms needs to do so more and more to activate the physical pain part of the brain This is why self-harmers often escalate their injuries over time.

So, neuroscience provides some reasons why so many young people turn to self-harm. Hard that it can be to accept, it really can help.

DEALING WITH THE UNDERLYING DISTRESS

However, self-harm is only a short term answer. So many responses to self-harm are focussed on stopping someone hurting themselves. However, whenever I see a someone who is self-harming, my focus is not on primarily on stopping them hurting themselves. Rather I look at and work on what is causing them to feel so upset in the first place. It’s my experience that when you deal with the causes of someone’s upset the amount of self-harming reduces.

So, neuroscience is teaching us that self-harming can bring about some kind of relief from emotional pain. However, at 8:16 I focus firstly on dealing with the root of the problems rather than focussing on stopping the outward symptoms.

Scientific American : How Pain Can Make You Feel Better
The Smithsonian : The Neuroscience of Self Harm

Coping With Exam Results Day

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Exam Results

So, it’s the time of year when pupils across the country face exam results day. This is a day that some pupils will have been thinking about and mentally rehearsing for months. For others they will have been denying will ever arrive. At this time of year the media will be filled with images of young people happily comparing results and one or two young people who look slightly less happy. But how do you cope with your exam results – good or bad? Here are some tips that may help you through the next few days.

Seize The Day

If you got the results you wanted – take some time to enjoy that feeling. Celebrate in whatever way you enjoy. Think about what it took to get you these results. Take a mental note of all these feelings so the next time you face an exam, this moment can give you some motivation to keep on studying and working hard.

If you didn’t get the results you wanted then it’s ok to not be ok. Despite what people may tell you, it’s ok to feel down about it. If you don’t want to be around everyone who is celebrating, it’s ok to take yourself off and do something kind for yourself. Just like people who have got the results they wanted, it’s important for you to take an internal note of how you feel today because, although it may not feel like it, it will serve you well in the future.

Moving On

Whether you have been congratulating yourself for a job well done or hiding away from the universe, you can’t stay in this place for ever. Exam results day is the start of the next phase of your life. Whatever you got, now is the time for you to look forward in a practical way and choose what you do next. It could be that the path you thought you were going to go down isn’t going to happen. If that’s the case, it’s time to start thinking creatively about Plan B or even Plan C. So, now is the time for action – whether that is deciding what you need to buy for sixth form or uni or looking into alternative courses, apprenticeships or jobs. If you do nothing from this point then that is exactly what you will achieve – nothing.

Don’t Be Alone

It does sound cheesy, but don’t be an island. Use these last few weeks before September to spend time with people that you care about. Have you got friends who have done well? Then celebrate with them. Friends who haven’t got the results they wanted? Try to be there for them. If you are struggling then try to not cut yourself off from these people. There also some good websites that can help you at this time of year if you don’t feel able to speak to people in 3D, there are some great forms on online support that can help. I’ll put some links at the bottom of this blog.

It’s Just One Day

Although exam results day is a big day, it really is just one day. It’s hard to believe but one day you will look back on this day and it won’t feel as big as it did. No matter what your results are, you have loads of other days to live your life. Live today for today and then move on and make the very most of all your other days ahead. If you need to learn from your mistakes then do that – but don’t beat yourself up forever over it. Equally, you may need to learn from what you did right so you can do it again.

If you are looking for some online support, these places are a good place to start :

Support for young people who have received their exam results

Online 24/7 support for under 25’s

07967 211167