World Suicide Prevention Day

- Tuesday, September 06, 2016

World Suicide Prevention Day  is on  Saturday 10th September  so is  a chance for us to talk about this difficult subject.  Suicidal feelings can be frightening and painful for the person experiencing them and also for those close to them; their partner, family, friends, colleagues.  However shocking it may be that someone has those feelings, it is important not to judge or blame them, your listening, understanding and support may be the first step on their road to recovery. 

Unfortunately there are a lot of myths around suicide and understanding the facts will help you to recognise and support someone close to you who may be finding it hard to cope with their feelings. 

The Samaritans have put together this guide which you may find helpful:

Myth: You have to be mentally ill to think about suicide.

Fact: Most people have thought of suicide from time to time and not all people who die by suicide have mental health problems at the time of death; however, many people who kill themselves do suffer with their mental health, typically to a serious degree. Sometimes it’s known about before the person’s death and sometimes not. 

Myth: People who talk about suicide aren’t serious and won’t go through with it.

Fact: People who kill themselves have often told someone that they do not feel life is worth living or that they have no future. Some may have actually said they want to die. While it’s possible that someone might talk about suicide as a way of getting the attention they need, it’s vitally important to take anybody who talks about feeling suicidal seriously.

Myth: Once a person has made a serious suicide attempt, that person is unlikely to make another.

Fact: People who have tried to end their lives before are significantly more likely to eventually die by suicide than the rest of the population. 

Myth: If a person is serious about killing themselves then there is nothing you can do.

Fact: Often, feeling actively suicidal is temporary, even if someone has been feeling low, anxious or struggling to cope for a long period of time. This is why getting the right kind of support at the right time is so important.

Myth: Talking about suicide is a bad idea as it may give someone the idea to try it. 

Fact: Suicide can be a taboo topic in society. Often, people feeling suicidal don’t want to worry or burden anyone with how they feel and so they don’t discuss it. By asking directly about suicide you give them permission to tell you how they feel. People who have felt suicidal will often say what a huge relief it is to be able to talk about what they are experiencing. Once someone starts talking they’ve got a better chance of discovering other options to suicide.

Myth: Most suicides happen in the winter months.

Fact:  Suicide is more common in the spring and summer months.

Myth: People who are suicidal want to die.

Fact: The majority of people who feel suicidal do not actually want to die; they do not want to live the life they have. The distinction may seem small but is in fact very important and is why talking through other options at the right time is so vital.

Getting help - If you feel someone is in immediate danger suggest they contact

 The Samaritans 24 hour helpline: 116 123  (Freephone)

Otherwise, encourage them to talk to their GP about local help that is available.  

For local counselling services, the Counselling Directory lists individuals and organisations registered with the BACP (British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy) , including Options. 

If you are concerned about someone or are feeling low and struggling with life Options has counsellors ready to help in Basingstoke, Portsmouth, Southampton, Banbury (Oxon) and Milton Keynes.  Visit our website or call 023 8063 0219

The Options Team.

   Get in touch today via our TwitterFacebook or the contact form on our website

Music and Mood

- Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The beneficial effects of music on mood has been known for thousands of years, the ancient Greek philosopher Plato said:

Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, 
and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.

and Shakespeare said:

If music be the food of love, play on

Music is used in films to create the mood to go with the pictures, by military bands to inspire and give confidence, at sporting events to rouse the crowds, by dentists to reduce stress, by children to help them learn their letters and numbers and at shopping malls to encourage you to stay longer and shop more. Modern research supports the old wisdom of music benefiting mood and confidence.

We all have different tastes in music but generally know that happy music helps lift the mood of people suffering with depression, soothing music will help stress, mothers sing lullabies to help their children go to sleep, calming music can help people cope better with the pain caused by serious illness such as cancer or Multiple Sclerosis, reduce anxiety and low mood.  Care Homes play music from the youth of older people with dementia to stimulate their brains and music therapy is widely used to help people with severe mental illness, trauma and behavioral problems.


Learning to play a musical instrument  or picking up one again you learnt many years ago can also be very beneficial in helping reduce stress and anxiety, especially if you can play with a group and have fun with others too.  See if your local community college offers low cost lessons; libraries often have details of local teachers and bands too.  Practicing your instrument (as any musician will tell you) is vital for making progression but also adds to your routine in a positive way. 

Now we do understand that certain songs or tunes can trigger sad thoughts, memories or feelings. Some people find having a 'happy song' they can swap to and sing in their head or even out loud is a good way of dealing with the situation when the one song you don't want to hear comes on the radio. 
In the musical 'The King and I' Anna tells one of the children she is Governess to:- 

“Whenever I feel afraid, I hold my head erect
And whistle a happy tune, so no one will suspect I’m afraid…
And every single time,
the happiness in the tune convinces me that I’m not afraid.”

If you would like to talk (or sing!) to an Options counsellor about your worries,

   Get in touch today via our TwitterFacebook or the contact form on our website.

The Options Team.

Going for Gold and getting it

- Tuesday, August 23, 2016

We know most of you will have enjoyed watching the Olympics from Rio and no doubt like us had a few bleary-eyed mornings after very late nights watching Team GB (and apologies to those of you who hate sports of any kind!)

This year has been a bit bleak in news terms so the good news from Rio has helped brighten up things for many people. We offer huge congratulations to all our medalists, but also to all those who played their part in Team GB's success by doing their best in whatever their event was. 

We talk about mental wellbeing, it's in the name of our charity, and feeling good about yourself and the world around you is a key part of good mental wellbeing (or good mental health). We know our mental wellbeing and how well we cope with day-to-day life can change, from day to day, month to month or year to year, particularly during periods of stress, change and uncertainty.  By setting yourself small goals you can help yourself stay mentally well. Start with a small challenge, e.g. go for  a short walk every day, eat two more portions of  fruit & veg than you did yesterday, dig out that craft project you never quite finished, spend 5 minutes doing some deep breathing. 

Longer term goals for your mental wellbeing could include:

  •   Spend your time with positive and supportive people
  •   Look after your physical health, eat, sleep and exercise well.
  •   Do something you enjoy
  •   Do some volunteering, help someone else
  •   Talk about how you feel 
  •   Practice relaxing
Work out your own personal Gold medal target, then go for it! 

If you need some help in achieving your goals, and we all do, our gold medalists all talk about their amazing support teams, 

                              don't hesitate to get in touch with us at Options.   

   Get in touch today via our TwitterFacebook or the contact form on our website.

We know you can do it!

The Options Team.

Be inspired by the Olympics

- Monday, August 15, 2016

Be inspired by the Olympics

Many of you have probably been watching the Rio 2016 Olympics where Team GB have been winning medals by the bucketful, with plenty of Golds among them. Years and years of training, early morning starts  and missing out on a social life not to mention the sweat, physical and mental pain gone through, can all be rewarded in a matter of seconds. Personal Bests can mean as much as a medal. 

You may have seen Mo Farah who fell over during his 10,000m race but barely missing a second, he got back up again. He said he thought his Olympic dream may be over, but he dug deep and carried on to win the  Gold medal. 


Now most of us won't be Olympic athletes, but maybe you have been inspired to take a bit more exercise, which we know is a great way to improve our physical and mental wellbeing. You don't need to do 10,000m at speed like Mo, a gentle walk in your nearest park lasting 20 - 30 minutes about three times a week is really good for you. If you're up for a bit more, you may have heard of Park Run where people meet up in their local area of open space on Saturday mornings all over the UK for a 5K run. They are FREE, open to all, safe and easy to take part in. 

Or maybe you have been inspired by watching other Gold medalists, like Laura Trott and her team mates, to take up a new sport. Find a local club or visit your local sports centre, council run ones are usually cheaper. 


We understand sometimes it is hard to get yourself going, especially if you are dealing with depression and anxiety, but meeting new people and getting fit can really help. And if like Mo Farah you fall, do your best to get back up again, you can still run your own race and win.

Enjoy the rest of the Olympics and if you need some help running your own personal race, don't hesitate to get in touch with us at Options.   

  Get in touch today via our TwitterFacebook or the contact form on our website.

The Options Team.

Health conditions and employment

- Thursday, August 04, 2016

Health conditions and employment

Disabled people or those with a long term health condition are more than twice as likely as people without health conditions or disabilities to fall out of work research by the charity Citizen’s Advice has shown this week.

80% of work age people without a disability or health conditions are in employment compared with 53% of those with a disability or health condition and only 36% of those with mental health problems. There are 3.5 million people with a disability or health condition who are out of work, 1.4 million of whom would like a job.

We know that employment is good for us in terms of having a purpose, engaging with others and also earning some money. So if you or someone you know has a disability or health condition and is either worried about keeping a job of finding one, what help and support is out there?

Getting help and support with employment

A good place to start is the National Careers Service website which offers help to choose or change career, skills tests, course searches, job search advice and personalised help from careers advisers

The advice and support previously offered by the Job Centre Plus service is now available through a service called  Universal Jobmatch

If you have mild to moderate stress, anxiety or depression you can self- refer to your local Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service, which is free. Most services have employment advisers who work alongside the therapists.  In Hampshire the service is called italk, in Southampton it’s Steps to Wellbeing, in Portsmouth it’s Talking Change Portsmouth and in Milton Keynes it’s Talk for Change

Options is here to help too

If you or someone you know is struggling with issues that are affecting their ability to get or keep a job, Options is here to help. Our fully-trained, professional team of counsellors are on hand to discuss a variety of problems including stress, depression, anxiety, life changes, relationships, loss and bereavement, and addictions (specialising in alcohol and gambling).

No problem is too big or too small.  Don't hesitate to contact Options and make a change today

Get in touch today via our TwitterFacebook or the contact form on our website.

The Options Team.

Celebrate National Parks Week

- Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Celebrate National Parks Week

Celebrate and enjoy the great outdoors in National Parks Week Monday 25th to Sunday 31st July 2016. This
year's theme is ADVENTURE and there are adventures out there for all ages and abilities, with many FREE or low cost. 

Getting out and about in the fresh air is great for your physical health, mental health and general wellbeing. It's something the whole family, including pets, can do together and if you're willing to take your waterproofs with you, it doesn't even have to be a sunny day!

Follow this link for more details on what's going on near you  National Parks

If you don't live near or can't travel to a National Park, see what's going on over the summer in your local park.  Remember having fun is good for you! 

But if you don't feel so great, also remember

Options is here to help...

If you or someone you know is suffering from harmful stress and is struggling to cope then Options is here to help. Our fully-trained, professional team of counsellors are on hand to discuss a variety of problems including stress, as well as those associated with it: depression, stress and anxiety, life changes, relationships, loss and bereavement and addictions (specialising in alcohol and gambling).

No problem is too small. A healthy lifestyle, including getting some exercise in the fresh air, can help to boost your mental health and wellbeing, but sometimes that is not enough. Don't hesitate: contact Options and make a change today.
Get in touch today via our TwitterFacebook or the contact form on our website.

The Options Team.

Southampton Mela Festival 2016

- Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Southampton Mela Festival is a free family festival organised by Art Asia filling Hoglands Park with music, dance and family activities from all around the world. This Saturday, 16th July, will see 20,000 people get involved in a range of activities including music and dance styles from South Asia and around the world. Get involved with Bollywood dancing, Flamenco or Bhangra, or indulge in family-friendly activities, international food and market stalls.

What is Southampton Mela Festival?

Southampton Mela Festival is in its 14th year of running, and is growing every year. Last year 17,000 people attended the festivities at Hoglands Park, and those numbers are expected to be even bigger in 2016. The festival brings cultures from around the world to Southampton, educating young people and families about their ways of life, music and dance, food and many other aspects. The festival, and its organisers Art Asia, invite everyone to enjoy the event that promises a fusion of music, dance and family activities, all with an international flavour. The festival aims to educate young people and their families about Southern Asian culture and other cultures from around the world.

What activities are at the festival?

This year sees a multitude of events over nine activity stations and stages…

Main Stage

Enjoy a variety of performances from Bollywood music to drumming to Kathak dance. The main stage has performances from twelve artists and groups over the course of the afternoon and evening.

World Stage

Music from all around the globe can be found on the world stage. From Irish music and songs to Flamenco music and dance, the world stage is a great place to learn more about music and dance styles from Asia and the rest of the world.

Activity Tent

If you enjoy the performances on the main and world stages, head over to the activity tent to try it out for yourself! There are dance and music workshops for a variety of styles that are fun for all the family.

Plus there are many more events across the Sports Zone Stage, Big Band and Brass Tent, Music Workshop Tent, Sports Zone and Activity Zones. To find out more about the activities at the festival, visit the Southampton Mela Festival website.

How do I get involved?

If you want to get involved in the 2016 Southampton Mela Festival, head down to Hoglands Park on Saturday 16th July 2016 from 12pm. Festivities will run until 9pm and there is plenty to get involved with before then! You can find Hoglands Park between St Mary’s Street and Palmerston Road.

We hope you enjoy the festival and learn more about cultures from around the world. If you attend, get in touch! Send us pictures and comments to our Twitter or our Facebook page.

The Options Team.

Image Credit: 

Men's Health Week 2016

- Thursday, June 16, 2016

13th - 19th June 2016 saw this year’s Men’s Health Week across the UK. Men can often be reluctant in coming forward and talking about health and wellbeing problems and Men's Health Week aims to raise awareness of how important it is to talk about these issues before they become too serious. The Men’s Health Foundation work continuously, not just during Men’s Health Week, to make a difference to those reluctant to talk about health and wellbeing problems.

This year’s theme was stress, something that matters because if we let stress build up it can turn into something more serious.

Why focus on stress?

Throughout this year, 1 in 4 people will develop a mental health problem. A buildup of stress can be a significant factor to such problems so it’s important to spread awareness of the problems associated with stress and how we can deal with it.

It is important to remember that stress is normal, and is something we’ve talked about on our blog before. However, what we do about this stress is what matters.

What are the warning signs of stress?

Stress can be affected by many parts of everyday life. Common causes of stress include:

  • Work or unemployment

  • Money

  • Bereavement and other endings i.e. moving house, changing jobs, children leaving home or splitting up with a partner

  • Partners and friends

  • Drink, drugs and addictions

Whilst some stress can be good, igniting our fight or flight response, a buildup of harmful stress can do a lot of damage to both our physical and mental health. It is important that you are able to recognise the warning signs in you and those close to you so you can do something about it:

  • Eating more or less than normal

  • Mood swings

  • Low self-esteem

  • Under or oversleeping

  • Feeling tired and lacking in energy.

For more information about all of the harmful stress warning signs, their causes and helpful contacts if you are suffering from these problems then visit the Men's Health Forum website.

How to cope with stress.

If you are suffering from stress, then don’t worry: you are not alone! The first step to alleviating harmful stress is to talk about it, whether that is to a friend or family member or to a doctor. The Men’s Health Forum have lots of information about how to talk about your own stress, how to talk to a friend or family member about their stress and whether or not you should see a GP.

As well talking about the problem, check out these tips to beat stress…

Be Active

Exercise will not make stress disappear but it helps to clear your thoughts and let you deal with your problems more calmly.

Take Control

The act of taking control is empowering; if you tell yourself that you are in control and that you can deal with your problems, this can help to alleviate some stress.

Avoid Unhealthy Habits

Try not to avoid on alcohol, caffeine and smoking as ways of coping with stress. This is called avoidance behaviour and is common amongst men. Whilst this might provide temporary relief but this does not tackle the cause of the stress.

Try to be Positive

By looking for the positive things in life and the things that you are grateful for, you are looking at the glass half full rather than empty and this can help in your journey to beat stress.

Options is here to help...

If you or someone you know is suffering from harmful stress and is struggling to cope then Options is here to help. Our fully-trained, professional team of counselors are on hand to discuss a variety of problems including stress, as well as those associated with it: depression, stress and anxiety, life changes, relationships, loss and bereavement and addictions (alcohol, gambling and eating disorders).

No problem is too small. A healthy lifestyle can help to boost your mental health and wellbeing, but sometimes that is not enough. Don't hesitate: contact Options and make a change today.
Get in touch today via our TwitterFacebook or the contact form on our website.

The Options Team.

A Balanced, Healthy Lifestyle

- Sunday, June 05, 2016

Are you leading a healthy lifestyle?

How we eat, what we do and how we think has a massive impact on our physical and mental health. We’ve talked on our blog before about how things such as exercise and sleep can cause you many problems, but what about healthy eating? And how do all of these fit together to create a healthy and balanced lifestyle?

Eating Healthily: What are the benefits?

Diet actually plays a big role in relation to our mental health and wellbeing so remember: when you’re feeding your body, you’re feeding your mind too! Recent research has found that over 60% of those who do not report daily mental health problems eat fresh fruit or vegetables, salad or fruit juice everyday. Those who report some level of mental health problems eat fewer healthy foods and more unhealthy foods such as ready meals and takeaways. By including complex carbohydrates, essential fats, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and water in our diet, we can protect our feelings of wellbeing and enhance our mood.

How does a healthy lifestyle affect mental health and wellbeing?

Healthy eating, a good sleep schedule and regular exercise can help to boost your mental health and wellbeing. Alongside treatments recommended by your doctor, they can help to create a positive mood as well as helping your body stay fit and healthy. Sometimes it's hard to be healthy all the time, and that's okay. Nobody's perfect! By applying small changes to your diet, exercise routine and sleep schedule you can start to boost your mood for the better and move toward a happier, healthier you. 

What if a healthy lifestyle doesn't help my mental health and wellbeing?

If you are struggling to cope with mental health problems or other issues, and a healthy lifestyle is not helping to overcome these problems, then contact Options today. Our team of fully-trained, professional counselors are on-hand to help discuss a range of issues including:
  • Depression
  • Stress and Anxiety
  • Life Changes
  • Relationships 
  • Loss and Bereavement
  • Addictions
    • Alcohol
    • Gambling
    • Eating Disorders
No problem is too small. A healthy lifestyle can help to boost your mental health and wellbeing, but sometimes that is not enough. Don't hesitate: contact Options and make a change today.

Get in touch today via our TwitterFacebook or the contact form on our website.

The Options Team.


Volunteer's Week 2016

- Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Volunteer's Week have extended their celebrations this year to enable more people than ever to take part and get involved. It has been found that over 21 million people volunteer at least once a year in the UK, generating £23.9 billion for the UK economy. Such a big contribution deserves a celebration to continually make people aware what a big difference an individual can make to communities and environments. 

What is Volunteer's Week?

Volunteer's Week is an annual event that has been running since 1984. It is a long-standing and popular event supported by charities of all sizes across the UK. The contribution of millions of individuals are celebrated as well as volunteering taster sessions, team challenges, recruitment events and new volunteering campaigns also taking place during the week. The event, and their partnership with NVCO (The National Council for Voluntary Organisations), encourages everyone to get involved and it is your choice as to how you contribute! 

How can you get involved?

There are many ways that you can get involved with Volunteer's Week this year, from celebrating to actually volunteering yourself!

Share you Stories

Do you volunteer or have you done in the past? Why not share your story this week? Upload photos, videos and your experiences to social media and you could inspire someone else to volunteer in their community.

Join in an Event

There are hundreds of events running during the course of Volunteer's Week all across the UK, so there's no excuse not to get involved. If you want to find out more about events near you, or how you can run your own event, then visit the official website for Volunteer's Week.


Inspired by the 21 million people who volunteer every year? Get involved, today! Whether it's helping a vulnerable person in your neighborhood to volunteering some of your time to the local charity shop, little things can make a massive difference to those in need. If you want to find out more about volunteering, check out Volunteer's Week and their 'I Want To Volunteer' page. 

Volunteering with Options

As a not-for-profit organisation, volunteers are an important part of our work at Options and we value and celebrate their contribution to our company.

Are you a good listener? Do you like to meet new people? Would you like to make a difference?

Does that accurately describe you? Then you could be exactly the kind of volunteer we are looking for. Join our experienced volunteer team as a volunteer counsellor working with our problem gambling customers, or as a volunteer administrative support worker and help to extend the services we offer.

Contact us today...

If you are interested in volunteering with us at Options then get in contact today. Visit our Vacancies and Volunteers page to find out how to apply. If you have any questions then don't hesitate to get in contact on our Twitter and Facebook pages or through the contact form on our website. We look forward to hearing from you!

The Options Team.