Lancashire psychologist co-writes guide to help young people with anxiety

Bridie Gallagher, left, and Dr Sue Knowles, right,  wrote My Anxiety Handbook together with Phoebe McEwen
Bridie Gallagher, left, and Dr Sue Knowles, right, wrote My Anxiety Handbook together with Phoebe McEwen
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As a child, Sue Knowles remembers being very anxious and being particularly affected by social anxiety during her teenage years.

Dr Sue Knowles, now 36 and a senior clinical psychologist working for the psychological services organisation Changing Minds UK, recalls: “I just remember feeling really anxious and being quite withdrawn as a child, particularly in high school.

“As I got older, I became interested in psychology and my own experiences with anxiety played a part in this.”

Dr Knowles, who lives in Chorley, studied psychology at the University of Central Lancashire and did her doctorate in psychology at Lancaster.

She then began working for adolescent inpatient services for mental health in the Manchester area.

It was here she met Dr Bridie Gallager, also a senior clincial psychologist and, together with Phoebe McEwen, 19, a student from Bolton with a lived experience of anxiety, they decided to write a book on anxiety, which led to the publication of My Anxiety Handbook.

Dr Knowles explains: “We thought it would be useful to write a book on anxiety because we realised there were so many young people struggling to get help with anxiety on the NHS.

“This is due to long waiting lists or not meeting the threshold for support.

“The book is written for any young person experiencing anxiety, worry or going through a difficult transition or stressful experience, such as exams which may be exacerbating their anxiety.

“Due to the ongoing cuts in mental health services, particularly for children, young people and their families, young people with anxiety difficulties often do not meet the criteria for mental health intervention.

“This book is a self-help guide with signposting to additional support where appropriate.

“Alternatively, it could be used alongside therapy to reinforce and promote the techniques learned during sessions.

“The book sees anxiety as a normal, human, emotion and helps the readers to better understand their anxiety and the difficult patterns that they might get into and finds ways for them to better cope with and feel more in control of their anxiety.

“It also includes young people’s views and recovery stories and it culminates in an ‘anxiety survival plan’ which pulls together the learning from each chapter and personalises it for the reader.”

“The aim of the book is to provide some evidence-based advice and support for young people who are struggling with their anxiety.

“It is different to other books because it brings together lots of different therapies, techniques and advice because we know that one therapy does not work for everyone.

“It also has a lot of recovery stories.

“Young people like to know the stories of other people who felt like them but got through it.

“It tackles everyday things like exams, school stress and problems with sleep.

“One of the key messages in the book is the importance of getting help from the people around you and it gives you tips for doing this.”

The book is illustrated by Emmeline Pidgen, 29, a local illustrator from Chorley who has also written one of the anxiety recovery stories featured in the book.

Sue says: “Anxiety is a massive issue for young people today.

“They worry about the future, about jobs, about financial security, exam pressures and stress.

“Social media is also a big contributor to anxiety among young people.

“We know that the majority of teenagers have little hope of getting specialist mental health support, but that most young people are struggling with anxiety at some point in their teens and lots are really suffering and think they are alone.

“The book gives them information and lots of ways to help them manage their stress and worries.”

• You can order My Anxiety Handbook priced at £12.99 from www.jkp.com or from Amazon. When ordering from JKP.com, use code MAH for 10 per cent off.

Dr Sue Knowles’x company website is: www.changingmindsuk.com and Emmeline’s website is: www.emmelineillustration.com