By Nóirín O’Neill on 20 March 2021
This week we have been listening to Doolally Tap A Women’s Mental Health Podcast. In this episode, Amy and Cerys interview Mary, the survivor of a violent attack and a Chartered Counselling Psychologist/trauma expert.
This episode called “Breaking Down The Mountain: Trauma and Meaning in an Uncertain World” was published on 8 March, 2021 and the recording runs for just over 43 minutes. This podcast shines a light on violent trauma, how faith is linked to recovery and coping mechanisms.
At the start of the podcast, a warning is given to listeners that the events described in the podcast could be triggering or distressing. Likewise, we apply that same warning to our blog post here.
Amy interviewed a young mother called Mary who was violently assaulted whilst crossing the road on her way to a job interview. Mary felt a “searing pain in her back” when she was stabbed with an eight inch knife by a person who she described as a “mentally ill man who was lashing out at his demons in his mind.”
Mary who had studied psychology speaks about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Richard Dawkins and how she did not feel safe anywhere following the stabbing. Mary describes how she suffered extreme anxiety and talked about her fears following the stabbing. Mary felt like she was in “world of chaos” and for some time afterwards, the trauma hid away in her brain and came back with a vengeance. Mary eventually speaks to her GP, obtained professional help and “broke down the mountain”.
A chartered counselling psychologist with over 17 years experience working in the NHS provides the professional perspective on violent trauma in the podcast. We learn about the science of trauma to the brain, the impact of violent trauma and the different ways in which our survival brain works and our thinking brain works. This psychologist works with people who have experienced violent trauma which has caused things such as sleeping difficulties, OCD and eating difficulties.
The counselling psychologist speaks about the benefits of Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) for people affected by violent trauma which helps with the de-shaming, the de-blaming and the self-criticism. It was acknowledged that not everyone will be able to access therapies such as CFT. Emphasis is placed on the value of activating the five senses, using essential oils, soothing scents, incense or anything that invokes calm and dampens the threat system, especially during flashbacks. We are also encouraged to have a soothing box with photos and items that invoke calm and a weighted blanket.
In their discussion, Amy and Cerys take us on a journey through trauma, feelings of despair, mental collapse, blankets of futility, hopelessness and meaning making. Amy and Cerys are both English Literature graduates and during the podcast, we hear a reading of The Way It Is by William Stafford and discussions about children’s literature. It is lovely to see how poetry and children’s literature are being used to support and enhance mental and emotional wellbeing and how we can look forward with hope rather than despair. Cerys also speaks about the importance of activating your soothing system – touch, scent, taste, soft blanket, soft pet and unhooking from dark difficult thoughts to calm yourself down.
Overall, this podcast episode has real stories from real women who are openly discussing their mental health challenges and coping mechanisms. If you are interested in women’s mental health issues, the lived experience of violent trauma, the professional perspective, english literature and psychology this is definitely one to put on your list. The podcast is just over 45 minutes long and is in three sections. so it can be listened to in chunks. The podcast has links to resources if you or anyone you know need help with trauma which we have also shared below.
Amy and Cerys are both English Literature graduates and during the podcast, two poems are read out by Amy. The Way It Is by William Stafford; Mont Blanc : Lines Written in the Vale of Chamouni by P.B. Shelley. It is lovely to see how poetry is being used to support and enhance mental and emotional wellbeing and how we can look forward with hope rather than despair.
**This blog post does not constitute healthcare advice. Always see your GP if you require professional help. **
Nóirín O’Neill was shortlisted for PR Student Blogger of the Year (UK Universities) in 2020 by the PR Academy. Nóirín is currently completing an MSc in PR & Communication (Healthcare Comms) at Ulster University. Nóirín is the founder of O’Neill Healthcare Communications Consultants launched on International Women’s Day 2021. Nóirín is a freelance blogger and also welcomes guest blog posts on healthcare issues. Any requests should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org