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Mental Health Awareness Week 2021- Stress and how to manage it

The Greater Manchester Housing First pilot and the Greater Manchester Mental Health Trust have worked together to support some of the most vulnerable people in the 10 boroughs and our Dual Diagnosis Practitioners use their unique expertise to provide support to those on the pilot.

As part of Mental Health Awareness week, this blog is from a dual diagnosis perspective as many of our clients suffer with mental health issues. We wanted to take the opportunity to discuss how this impacts clients and staff and raise awareness.

Why is it that some people develop a mental health difficulty and others don’t?

The following model can be used as a tool to apply to ourselves and use with others to better understand the relationship between stress and vulnerability and how this impacts mental health and the things we can do to help.

The Stress Vulnerability Model, developed by Zubin et al. in 1977, explored why some people developed a psychotic illness and others did not. This model can also be applied to many other types of emotional suffering and a useful tool in assisting others in understanding vulnerability and risk factors.

The authors propose that every single one of us has some degree of vulnerability that would put us at risk of developing a mental health difficulty. These vulnerabilities can include:

  • biology / genetics

  • trauma

  • abuse

  • loss

  • social isolation

  • poverty

  • neglect

It also suggests that each one of us would at some point in our lives be exposed to stress of some sort, for example loss, illness, financial difficulties, work-related stress, relationship difficulties etc.

Those people with multiple vulnerability factors may be more at risk of developing a mental health difficulty when exposed to lower levels of stress than someone who has fewer areas of vulnerability.

Someone with few vulnerability factors may be able to tolerate higher levels of stress than those with greater vulnerability – but every single person would still have their tipping point and no one is completely protected.

This model can be helpful for understanding a relapse in mental health. It is also important to remember that our personal vulnerability is not a static concept and that it can change with time.

Developing positive coping strategies can help with handling stress and reducing its negative effects on vulnerability.

A key way to reduce the negative effects of stress on vulnerability is through social support, which comes from having close and meaningful relationships with other people. Supportive relationships can help in a variety of ways, such as:

  • helping people solve challenging problems

  • supporting people in using coping strategies to deal with symptoms and substance-use urges

  • being open and willing to discussing and resolving personal disagreements, misunderstandings, and areas of conflict that could otherwise lead to stress

  • letting people know that they are important and cared about

  • supporting the person in pursuing personally meaningful goals.

People who have good social support are less vulnerable to the effects of stress on their psychiatric disorder.

Having strong social support enables people with co-occurring disorders to handle stress more effectively and live a normal life.

It is impossible for anyone to live a life that is free of stress. However, there are many ways people can learn how to deal with stress more effectively, and to protect themselves from the effects of stress on worsening symptoms.

As part of our work with the pilot, we support people who display stress and using our expertise we are able to work with GMHF colleagues and third party services to ensure clients get the right support at the right time.

Thus far, this has been very successful and, together, we are making a difference.


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