I’m Jacqueline Gammon from Go-to Mindfulness. I was a teacher for over 20 years before discovering mindfulness and developing my own daily practice. Amazed by its benefits, I decided to train as a mindfulness teacher to help others manage their own stress and lead more balanced lives.
Q1. What is it you do to help people with their mental health?
Many people don’t have access to a local mindfulness group or would prefer the convenience and privacy of learning in the comfort of their own homes. So, I offer an eight-week, one-to-one Mindfulness course via Skype.
The course is based on the 8-week MBSR (Mind Based Stress Reduction) programme originally created by Jon Kabat-Zinn which has been proven to be particularly effective for sufferers of stress and depression. Mindfulness isn’t about ‘zoning out’ and clearing your mind – quite the opposite; it gives people the opportunity to become more aware of what is going on in the present moment in their own lives, bodies and minds.
Once a week, clients meet with me for a one-hour Skype session. We explore how to step out of automatic pilot and develop more awareness of our body and thoughts through mindfulness techniques and meditations of varying lengths. In this way, we can begin to recognise the triggers for depression/stress such as negative thought patterns and rumination and learn how to react to those triggers in a way which can help to prevent another episode.
As the course progresses, people discover how they can use the breath to calm themselves in difficult situations and how to apply a mindful attitude to their daily life. By the end of the course, each client will have their own action plan to follow and will have the option to receive further support.
Sometimes, people are unsure if mindfulness will be able to help them. I always offer a free discovery session to give people the opportunity to get to know me and find out more about the course.
Q2. What is your opinion on antidepressants? What advice would you give to anyone starting a course?
I think that antidepressants have their place. I’ve known people who were in such a dark place that the only way to get their lives back on track was through medication. However, there’s a stigma attached to taking medication – I have a friend who suffers from depression, he took medication for a year before deciding that he no longer liked the idea of it. Not only has he suffered since, but so has everyone around him.
For anyone embarking on a course of medication, my advice would be to talk to your doctor about any concerns you have about taking the medication in terms of length of treatment and ask if there are any possible additional therapies or counselling that would complement the treatment.
Q3. What coping strategies can be used on a bad day?
I can’t stress enough the power of using the breath as an anchor. Even a simple 3-minute breathing space meditation can help you to feel grounded and calm.
Q4. What effect do you think social media has on people’s mental health?
I think social media has a huge impact on people’s mental health. We see so many images of seemingly perfect bodies and lifestyles that can make people feel worse about themselves in comparison. It’s difficult to remember that those images have been carefully chosen to portray a certain image and don’t show us the whole reality. How many people post pictures of themselves on a bad day? Or of things going wrong? Also, people are spending longer glued to their mobile phones and missing out on doing something for themselves such as listening to a relaxing piece of music or chatting to their family. It has also been proven that using mobiles and laptops before bed can affect sleep quality as they produce blue light which our brains associate with waking up, not sleeping.
Q5. What changes would you like to see in raising awareness for mental health going forward? What would you do? How do you think we can reduce the stigma surrounding it?
I would love to see more opportunities for people to talk about their emotions and to learn how to handle those emotions. People are very wary of talking about their feelings and problems, often believing that this is a sign of weakness. We need to turn this view around – to talk about our problems and ask for help is to be strong. However, we need to see other people doing it. It would be wonderful if more celebrities would stand up and talk about their own battles – they are such important role models for young people today. We also need to provide a space for people to talk, through workshops and groups.
There are some great people out there who are now beginning to step forward to raise awareness of mental health issues. On Twitter, for example, there are communities building up with people willing to support each other. Above all, there is a refreshing honesty and that is what is needed. It’s okay not to feel okay – and why should anyone have to pretend otherwise?
Q6. Have you ever experienced stigma yourself? How did you deal with this?
The same question to an organisation or charity, have you had any backlash in what you do.
My mission is to spread the word about how powerful mindfulness can be, but many people have a preconceived idea of what it is about. Someone I was talking to recently said that a Mindfulness teacher had done a workshop in their company and people weren’t taking it seriously, just laughing and messing about. I think it’s a pity because at the end of the day, when you’re alone and stressed or depressed and don’t know how to manage it, then knowing that you find some relief with mindfulness tecniques would help. Meditation isn’t all about sitting cross-legged on a cushion – it can be done anywhere, even at your office desk with your eyes open. It’s all about giving yourself space to reground yourself. But people have to be open to it before embarking on a course – and have enough faith to trust the process and try something new that they may find beneficial in the long run.
Q7. Finally,yay! Ihear you say.
What advice would you give to someone who is struggling in silence with their mental health?
The same question to an organisation or charity.
If you’re suffering alone with your mental health and are reluctant to find someone to talk to, try to imagine what you would say to a loved one who was going through the same experience. You wouldn’t want them to suffer in silence. If there is nobody in your close circle that you feel you can trust, then there are many organisations that can help.
You can find me at:
My website and blog: https://gotomindfulness.com
Thank you so much for taking part.