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HealthFirst

HF logo with heart rgb rz high 300x170HealthFirst, providing physical First Aid training and Mental Health First Aid training, as well as Health Education, throughout Switzerland (www.healthfirst.ch). 

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By Dr Mecky McNeil and Dr Michelle Wright from HealthFirst

As we enter the second month of the Ukraine crisis, the feelings of concern, distress and uncertainty are becoming more challenging by the day. In response to this, we have prepared a series of podcasts to offer help and support to those in need now.

These podcasts cover the important topics of making sense of emotions in uncertain times, offer strategies to help safeguard mental health and in our third podcast we offer advice for how to talk to children about the invasion of Ukraine.

The Ukraine crisis: making sense of your feelings in uncertain times
https://www.buzzsprout.com/1961687/10305759

The Ukraine crisis: Finding safety in uncertainty: coping strategies to help safeguard your mental health
https://www.buzzsprout.com/1961687/10309260

The Ukraine crisis: Advice for talking to children about the invasion of Ukraine
https://www.buzzsprout.com/1961687/10312752

We hope you find these podcasts helpful.

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By Dr Michelle Wright, Director of HealthFirst.ch

You never know when your First Aid or Basic Life support skills could be called upon. Every week I hear stories from friends, colleagues, and patients about how they have had to react in a medical emergency to help someone in need.

Recently I had the privilege of working with the Swiss Resuscitation Council to translate and record the voiceover for their BLS Quick video, published on their website: resuscitation.ch

BLS stands for Basic Life Support and BLS Quick training is aimed at the general public to raise awareness about:
• When someone might need Basic Life Support.
• How to alert the appropriate emergency services.
• And how to begin providing CPR and using a defibrillator, under the guidance of the telephone operator on the other end of the line.

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The video is well worth a watch. It runs through a scenario where a woman is walking in the forest and comes across a man who has collapsed whilst running. She shouts for help, hoping that someone nearby hears her. She then checks to see if the man is responsive and breathing. Upon finding that he isn’t, she calls 144 for an ambulance and speaks with the telephone operator (the role that I played).

Once advised about the location, the operator immediately deploys an ambulance. Then, the operator then stays with the woman and with her phone on speaker mode, guides her through resuscitation.

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By Dr Mecky McNeil and Dr Michelle Wright from HealthFirst

The power of human connection: creating meaningful moments through kindness, gratitude, and authentic conversations

Over the last 18 months of the pandemic, we have all experienced what it is like to be separated from our friends, family, and colleagues. Even with the lifting of some travel restrictions, it is still challenging to visit our relatives and loved ones in other regions across the world. What is more, despite the easing of measures, many of us still find ourselves remote working. And even with workplaces beginning to open, the expectation is that we will be working in some hybrid form for the foreseeable future. Outside of Europe, many people are still finding themselves in even more challenging situations.

Across the world, COVID-19 has left millions feeling isolated and lonely, and struggling with their health as a direct consequence of this isolation. Studies have shown that loneliness has the same negative impact on health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or obesity. It is associated with heart disease and inflammation, as well as having effects on mental health including irritability, depression, and insomnia.

Loneliness is the emotion we feel when we are isolated and separated from our people. It is a painful and vital evolutionary response that ensures we return to the safety of our family and our community. People who feel lonely are often ashamed to admit it, even to those close to them. And being surrounded by others does not protect from loneliness. Loneliness is often paired with feelings of self-blame which can drive the emotion of shame. This means that those who are suffering often cover it up and push away the very people they most want, or need, to be connected to.

The fact is that as humans, we need social connection and to feel like we belong. We are designed to be connected with each other and to help and support each other, and we see these instincts shining through even more strongly during times of crisis.

Social connection can lower symptoms of anxiety and depression, help regulate our emotions, lead to higher self-esteem and empathy, and boost our immune system. So, by neglecting our need to connect with others, we are putting our health at risk.

Connecting with someone who is lonely can be a lifeline for them. Through simple acts of kindness, the expression of gratitude, and reaching out and engaging in authentic conversations, we can make a difference to someone in their moment of need. And another bonus: these simple acts can make us feel good too.

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Dr Mecky McNeill, HealthFirst

How to up your game by taking a leaf out of the book of the chess Grand Masters – the greatest mind athletes of them all!

For me, with universities and schools in the UK currently working online, one of the blessings of the COVID-19 pandemic has been that my older children are back at home. Spending time with them is not only a pleasure, it is an opportunity to learn!

My son recently shared an article with me that he thought I would be interested in from the pages of one of his passions: sport. On reading it, I learnt that a chess player can burn up to 6000 calories in a single match. How can someone who sits in a chair for 8 hours or more and lifts only their arm to move a chess piece spend so much energy? The simple answer is stress.

Stress is a physical, emotional, and cognitive reaction so many of us know well. It drives up our heart rate, our blood pressure, causes tension in our muscles and impacts our breathing. In fact, our whole body and mind goes into a state of calorie consumption overdrive when we are stressed.

After a tournament, Grand Masters visibly lose weight. Because of this, these elite mind athletes now train like their physical athlete counterparts to prepare for their matches, all to ensure top performance. Daily routines include hours of physical exercise, stretching, and weightlifting to ensure muscle strengthening, alongside a rigorous nutritional regime - especially in the lead up to a game. On top of that, sleep is fundamental.

So, what can we learn from these mental and cognitive geniuses? Sadly, 8 hours at my desk has not yet proved a successful weight loss strategy – in fact, quite the opposite! And we all know that feeling of being drained and exhausted after a long day of demanding challenges in front of our screens, perhaps now more than ever.

We have all (I hope!) heard of the benefits of exercise, regular breaks, a healthy balanced diet, 7-9 hours of sleep every night, down-time, spending time with family and friends, mindfulness, and meditation. And I am sure we would gladly like to attend to them all, every day. But then there would simply be no time left to work!

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By Dr Mecky McNeil, HealthFirst

November is probably the most challenging month of the year. The turning back of the clocks, and with it the shorter days, signifies winter is around the corner. This year, the days feel even darker than usual, as we are facing the greatest health crisis of a lifetime. But alongside Covid, we are also experiencing a mental health pandemic. More than 1 billion people globally are suffering with mental illness. This is being further impacted by isolation following quarantine and the need to socially distance and wear masks to reduce the risk of infection.

Every November since 2003, Mo Bros across the world have been growing moustaches and setting themselves challenges to raise awareness of men’s health issues.

This year alongside raising awareness of prostate and testicular cancer, they are addressing men’s mental health and suicide. Their target is to reduce premature death in men by 25% by 2030.

One man dies every minute from suicide across the world. In England 1 in every 8 men suffer from a mental illness including anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (1), and men are 3 times more likely than women to have an alcohol use disorder (2). These numbers are the tip of the iceberg as they only represent the cases reported and diagnosed.

Gender stereotypes and society’s expectations mean that many men do not feel able to speak out about how they are feeling, leading them to look for other ways to cope. Self-medicating with alcohol to reduce their distress and withdrawing from others for fear of judgement are sadly common outcomes.

In their moment of need, many men simply do not know who, or where, to turn to. The reduced inhibitions from using alcohol in this moment of crisis, means thoughts of suicide may seem the only option. Sadly, this dangerous cocktail can lead to someone acting on these thoughts and the devastating outcome of a premature and avoidable death.