LAST week I attended the Yorkshire Soroptimists’ Safeguarding Conference in Leeds.

I had been asked to speak on emotional health. That's not quite correct. I had been asked to speak on mental health. I changed the wording. The organisers had hoped to have a speaker from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). Unfortunately the service is under resourced and couldn't spare anyone. It was sad to hear that this is still the situation in 2017 and well publicised as a nationwide problem.

It was due to the waiting times for help, that led me to open the York Practice in 2001. A York colleague told me last week that desperate parents are still seeking private help for their distressed children, due to the long waiting times for CAMHS.

One of the conference speakers was from a West Yorkshire Multi-Agency Safeguarding Unit. She agreed with me, when I said that the majority of mental health problems start as emotional health problems and if not managed in their

initial stages, can become mental health problems.

We agreed that there was a stigma attached to the word 'mental', but not so much to 'emotional'. Then I heard something shocking. If the agencies do not use the word 'mental' to describe a problem, only ‘emotional’, there is no help available. The door is closed, often with challenging consequences.

The writer Daniel Goleman coined the expression, ‘Emotional Hijack’ when writing on Emotional Intelligence in the 1990s. It’s a perfect description of those times when our emotions rise to a level that inhibits clear thinking and

there is an emotional hijack of our thoughts and behaviours. At the root of the majority of depressive thinking, anxiety problems and addictive behaviours is an ‘emotional hijack’. Emotional maturity brings the ability to take control not

lose it. We can learn to understand our emotions, what has triggered them and our subsequent thinking, perhaps with help from a professional listener. We can help ourselves take control of situations before they become out of control and an ‘emotional health’ problem develops into a ‘mental health’ problem. This is the basis of Cognitive Behavioural Therapeutic approaches.

‘Control your emotions or they will control you’

Chinese proverb

Rita Leaman is a psychotherapist and writer who lives in North

Yorkshire. As Alison R Russell, she is the author of ‘Are You Chasing


She also writes a blog on

emotional health: