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Thursday 9 February 2023 Dublin: 1°C
AS IT HAPPENED: Dr Eddie Murphy answers YOUR questions on mental health
You sent us some great questions, so let’s see what the expert had to say…

Video / YouTube

MENTAL HEALTH WAS our subject for this week’s Q&A – we had clinical psychologist Dr Eddie Murphy at offices to answer your questions.

Dr Murphy has more than 20 years of experience working in the area and has appeared on RTÉ’s Operation Transformation to offer guidance to participants.

We asked you to send questions you had about mental health and we had a great response in the last 24 hours.

You can watch the full clip above – and if you don’t have time this afternoon, here’s the liveblog of what happened, from our reporter Daragh Brophy…

So, we’re just getting under way here.

Dr Eddie will be with us for around half an hour.

If you have a question you’d like Michelle to ask, don’t forget to send us an email or a tweet (details above).

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We’re starting off with a few questions on the area of anxiety…

A reader says he’s being kept awake all night dealing with anxiety – says he can’t stop thinking about his ex-girlfriend, and her new partner and that he feels he may not find a new love.

Dr Eddie says there seems to be a few issues at play here – and that loss may be manifesting itself as anxiety and stress.

“In life we all experience different transitions.”

And during these periods of transition, our stress can increase.  If we tackle the stress, then it won’t escalate into anxiety, he says.

“I get the sense that there’s both low mood and anxiety,” Dr Eddie says.

People have also been in contact about medication issues.

A reader says she has been suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression, and that her medication has been increased.

She’s concerned she ‘may never have a normal life’.

On the general issue of medication, Dr Eddie says there’s a role for both medication and counselling to deal with mental health issues.

People often approach him, saying they’re on medication and wonder if they should be – and whether they should come off the treatment.

“There are pros and cons,” he says – and it depends on the individual, but in some cases medication can be critical.

A reader asks about getting signed-off from work because of a mental health issue.

Speak to your GP, he says. Often doctors can arrange to have a person signed-out from work because of general medical reasons, and don’t need to give specifics.

These days, more employers are making progress in the area, and arranging for workers to ‘phase in’ to work again after a break.

Another reader says her husband is in his early 60s and suffering from dementia, and that she’s finding it difficult to cope.

Getting good information on dementia and Alzheimer’s is essential, he says. Speak to the wider family about it, speak to support groups and talk about future options.

‘Reminiscence’ therapy is often helpful in later-stages of dementia, he says – going through old photos and letters.

For the moment, it’s all about ‘enjoying the now’ as much as possible.

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Another question – from a woman whose husband’s brother is dealing with a very serious mental health issue.

Her husband is being seriously affected too, as a result of her brother’s lifestyle.

He’s being a ‘typical Irish man’ about it, and shuts-down whenever she tries to bring it up.

The man needs to identify what’s making the problem worse, and really should examine the issue and seek help, Dr Eddie says.

After a quick, final question about animal therapy, that’s it for the video Q&A for this afternoon.

Dr Eddie has agreed to stick around to answer a few more questions that came in during the livestream, however.

You can read them here, within the next few minutes….

One reader asked: I‘m 2 weeks away from finishing a thesis while caring for my 2 yr old which leaves me with only nights to do a huge amount of work… I’m finding I’m getting overwhelmed and panicky lately with it though and getting NO work done.. Any tips for staying cool to get this done?

Here’s what Dr Murphy has to say…

Take what you have left and break it down into bite-sized chunks. We say eat the elephant one bite at a time. She’s two weeks off from her thesis – how many words has she left to write? Is it written and she’s going back over it and over it? In life we talk about being good enough, it doesn’t have to be perfect. It might be time to draw a line over it, get some of the external readers to look at it.

Can she get some support to mind the two-year-old? It’s like two competing things. Two-year-olds want a lot of your time, that’s their job – to extract as much time as they can. If you’re doing a thesis, are you able to give it? No you’re not really but can you get yourself a two week window? Can someone mind the child while you get a block of work done?

On exam stress in general:

A lot of people when they come to exam time, crunch time, or getting in thesis , it’s a performance isn’t it? And some people might have performance anxiety, for some it might be the first time if they’re in third level. For some people it can be stress and for others it can be a full on panic attack.

What I’d encourage people to do is to plan their study, have a really good study plan, talk to their tutors if they’re in third level and explain that they’re experiencing anxiety, go to the student counselling service. For some, medication, if you’ve only two weeks left you might need to get medication so you can get some sleep and that’ll help you function.

If you’re a bit further out, a few months, I’d recommend regular exercise, good nutrition, sleep, starting yoga.

Another email we didn’t get to while we were live:

How are you supposed to be able to pay for mental health when public waiting times range into almost 2 years and health insurance pays literally nothing for mental health therapy or treatments unless you’re being hospitalised?

Dr Murphy said:

That’s a very fair point, it can be very difficult to access good quality therapy or counselling. It depends – there’s free counselling for those who have experienced sexual or emotional abuse through childhood, through the National Counselling Service.

There’s books, we call it bibliotherapy. My book is about tackling anxiety and depression, low self-esteem. Then there’s online therapy – some really good free online therapy, like MoodGym which is an Australian site that’s free that people can access.

There’s a number of free online cognitive behavioural therapy programmes for anxiety and depression that are free. I think more therapies will go online. Face to face is best but for some people that’s not possible.

You can do Skype, remote type therapies. A lot of people in Australia have therapy through Skype. Some people don’t want to see the therapist that’s living in their local area.

I do hear what the person is saying, it’s very difficult to access different therapies. We don’t probably fund enough training of psychologists in Ireland and that’s the reality.

One woman got in touch seeking help with her marriage:

My husband has recently left the family home, and is seeing a counsellor. He has problems in work that haven’t been resolved in the last two years. He is now saying that he is not happy anymore with anything in his life. He would not take medication. I’m so stressed and worried that he will never get better. Can you advise?

Dr Murphy says…

It depends on what the person wants. It sounds like she wants him back and he’s in a situation where he’s unclear about what he wants – whether he’s in conflict or estranged from work and obviously now he’s estranged from family. Sometimes for men they want big bang solutions and sometimes they don’t necessarily want to work through the issues. Men can compartmentalise problems and close the door and think they can just start a new life but I’ve seen men come here from Germany and Australia who thought they could start a new life but they brought that old mindset and those existing problems with them.

So it’s hard and I feel the pain for that person but all she can do is say “we’re here and we’re willing to support you and let’s see can we work a way out of this together”.

Another really interesting one from a woman about her weight:

Hi Dr Eddie. What advice could you offer me please, quite overweight, had lost a fair amount only to put it back on, in a much shorter time. I felt undeserving when i got so many compliments, and i was uncomfortable with the attention, though I personally felt good about myself having lost weight, i am very aware that it is up to me to make changes for me only. Doesnt help that I eat my feelings either! You would have a field day sorting me out, lots of other related issues, but the self-sabotage bothers me most. Thanks in advance.

Here’s his advice:

Irish people can be very uncomfortable with comments, sometimes we need to think American in terms of how give ourselves compliments and how we take compliments. What I hear there is, and we’ve a chapter in the book about emotional eating, sometimes it’s not what you’re eating, it’s what’s eating you.

With that we’d encourage a person to keep a mood diary. It’s a practical guide for a person to check what they’re eating but also the mood that they’re having and then target that particular mood. Is it boredom?

To me it sounds like self-esteem is a big issue here. How does this person love herself? Because it sounds like she has a big problem taking praise and almost re-grew herself in a way not to receive any more compliments. There’s a great sadness in that.

I would say, if you work on that belief, that’s going to be the engine of your change.

If you believe that you’re not worthy of the compliments then the opposite of that is that you’re valued and you’re worthwhile and how do you make that belief work in your life.

And that’s it! We’ve agree to let Dr Eddie Murphy leave offices now. He’s off to launch his book at Dubray Books on Grafton Street.

Thanks to all of you who got involved today and to everyone who watched the Q&A live. 

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