Mental Health & Emotional Wellbeing
Anyone can be affected by emotional difficulties, or suffer from mental health issues at any point in their lives – recent research has suggested that one in every four people in the UK will experience some sort of mental health problem at some point in their lives, so it really isn’t uncommon. However, living with long-term illnesses like HIV can mean that there is a greater likelihood you would encounter these problems for a host of different reasons.
Living with HIV can affect people in different ways. At times people can feel that they are coping and managing well. At other times people may feel anxious, stressed or depressed due to the way that HIV affects their lives. It is really important to look after your mental and emotional health and wellbeing as both have a significant impact on your ability to not only adhere and respond to your treatment regimes, but to also manage and get the most from your day-to-day living. There are various services in Sheffield that can offer a range of support for people living with HIV and offer pathways for treatment of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. (See Services)
Adjusting to diagnosis and treatment
Adjusting to a positive diagnosis can be a very challenging time, where emotional distress and feelings such as anger, guilt, fear, or shame can make it very difficult to think positively about the future, and to think about the options available for moving forward. For most people these feelings about having HIV change over time, and people gradually come to terms with being HIV+. However some aspects of living with HIV can still cause difficult feelings and some people may experience ongoing difficulties with low mood, depression and/or anxiety.
It’s important to be able to recognise these difficult feelings and know that you have a right to feel this way. By acknowledging these feelings you can then begin the process of seeking help and support to overcome these difficulties.
With the advancements in HIV treatment, more and more people living with HIV are living longer, healthier lives, and adapting their lives and relationships to look after their emotional, physical and mental health and wellbeing.
Many elements may contribute towards living well with a HIV+ diagnosis including:
- Accepting your own HIV status
- Having choice around disclosure of HIV status
- Positive relationships with partners, families etc
- Goals for the future
- Looking after your own physical health and wellbeing through healthy diets, rest and exercise
- Access to care and support
- Being in control of your own choices regarding alcohol, drug and tobacco use
Adapted from PANCAP resource:
HIV Anti-Stigma Toolkit for people living with HIV
Support is available from the HIV Services in Sheffield in identifying and sustaining how you would want to move forward with your life, looking after your emotional, physical and mental health and wellbeing. Services in Sheffield can offer a range of help for people who have problems with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.
Support in managing a positive diagnosis can be made through referral pathways from the point of receiving the positive diagnosis. Specialist Health Advisors at the Dept of Genito-Urinary Medicine and Specialist Nurses at E-Floor are available to offer ongoing information and support based on an individual’s needs. They can also answer questions about treatment options. Referrals can also be made through to specialist services such as Psychology Services and HIV Social Work support at the Forge Centre. Accessing HIV Support services such as SHIELD also offers an opportunity to receive one-to-one support and peer networking on managing the adjustments a person may need to make in their day-to-day lives.
If you feel that you are experiencing low mood, anxieties or depression, it’s really important to speak to someone about it, whether the Health Adviser at your next appointment, regular social work support or counselling, or even a close family member or friend. By asking for help in addressing these difficult feelings you may well be able to manage them much more effectively for yourself.
Information on this page has been sourced from ‘HIV, mental health & emotional wellbeing’ produced by NAM