A Desperate Plea From A Relative Of A Rough Sleeper By The Masked Avenger Anonymous

We have all walked past a rough sleeper on the street. Sometimes we give it a second thought. Sometimes we stop and chat, maybe even try to help.

But mostly we walk on by.

Most of us are fortunate enough to have never been there and while we sympathise, we often try and forget it and move on with our busy lives. Rushing to get somewhere; an appointment or some such.

We often don’t see the person beyond the sleeping bag. Sometimes it is very hard to imagine how someone got there. The government dehumanise rough sleepers. They advise us not to feed them as though they are pigeons in Trafalgar Square. They put spikes on floors to stop them being able to get some shelter in a shop doorway. Again treated like pests. So it’s no wonder that we walk on by. Sometimes it is a taboo subject.

But for me it is different. I happen to know a rough sleeper very personally.

You might want to ask me a few questions. Does anyone help him? Is he loved? Do you help him? The answer is yes. To all of the above.

But our help is not enough and the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ he gets into this position is what is complex.

My uncle has undiagnosed mental health conditions. He is an addict. Self medicating I guess. He has never had the support he needed from the professionals. And this is the product of years of neglect.

Born in the 60s to parents with severe mental health issues that lost everything down to gambling, my uncle was not diagnosed with anything himself or supported. Instead when the family broke down, my grandmother had a mental breakdown and no one was there to help. The authorities left my grandmother to it and just took my uncle away into care when he was 7. And that was the start of it. In and out of care. In and out of trouble.

” A handful, naughty, out of control, the mother can’t cope”

While he was in the place that was supposed to care for him, he was abused.

He went in as a child with problems and came out disturbed with even bigger problems.

No one knew what happened at the time. This is only a recent revelation. So he continued. In and out of trouble causing merry hell for the family.

As he got to adulthood he started to ‘self medicate’ and slowly but surely became an addict. Which led to petty crime, prison. And eventually being institutionalised .

“A write off'”

On paper yes. But what no one else saw was the snippets of the man he could have been if the support had been there during his childhood.

Detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure, he had structure, routines and he flourished. He took courses and passed them all. He read and learned and became a talented writer.

He did endless courses and took all of the opportunities he could. He grabbed them with both hands.So when he went back into the outside world he started his own business, he even wrote for a national newspaper as a regular columnist. He became a published author. Some semblance of a normal life was finally coming his way.

He was capable and intelligent and we could see the person he could become if he’d been given more support as a youngster.

But things happened and again the support fell away. Without the guidance of a probation officer, without the structure, his mental health problems that simmered under the surface reared their ugly, scathing, self destructing head again.

Addiction came back with a vengeance and along came some new ones too.

So we saw him slip back. He lost everything and again he went on the slippery slope into the abyss of addiction and self destruct.

So, we try to help as a family, but its not possible to keep an eye on him 24/7.

The downward spiral was and is fast and relentless;he loses touch of where he is and he ends up on the street. He loses contact with any kind of support network and before you know it he is sleeping rough.

We can’t track him. We don’t know where he is.

We’ve had phone calls in the past from wonderful passer bys that have tried to help him. In his moments of lucidity he remembers a number of a random relative and some very nice person decides to help him and calls.

We then hear he’s been in various places begging as he has lost everything. So we get there and we have to try and get him some help. He’s unwell and doesn’t know where he is. The police come and tell us not to bother with A and E as they are overcrowded but that they will try to help him.

Do you notice that even though I’m describing events in the past that I am using present tense? Why you might ask?

Because this is a recurring event. This happened last month but it could happen tomorrow, next week, next month. We never know what will happen next. This is the pattern that happens over and over again.

Services that are cut to shreds still try their best to help him. There are genuinely good mental health staff, hospital staff, police officers and key workers out there.

But it’s not enough.

The services need to be joined up. They need more funding to give him the intensive therapy and support for his mental health needs as this is the root to all of his problems, I believe.

But all that happens is the problem is treated that day. Acute support is given while he is physically unwell. But there is not enough in place to prevent this from happening again.

So I sit here and wonder what people must think when they walk past him. When he ends up on the street, bounding in and out of shops, trying to get someone to help him.

They will never see the man he can be. The man he has been, the man he could have been.

Every person has a story, but homeless people are nothing more than pests to the Tories.

If we followed the advice that they give us, which is to ignore a homeless person, don’t give them money or food; if every passer by that has helped my uncle thus far listened to this advice that this ‘government’ dish out my uncle would be dead by now. Perhaps that’s what they want. By treating homeless people like pests perhaps they think they will just die off.

But instead there are good people out there, people try to help. And for now he and we are riding our luck. That might just change one day. And we dread phone calls sometimes. What will happen next we just don’t know.

So I want to say to the people that help, the doctors, the nurses, the passers by, the staff in Pret that give out food, the key workers: Thank You!!!

Don’t ever change and maybe one day if we fight hard enough we will have a government that cares too so that real change can happen and people living in the streets being dehumanised by a callous government will be a thing of the past.

Isn’t It Time We Made Homes Fit For Human Habitation? By Kelly Grehan and Lisa Mulholland

The second reading of Karen Buck MP’s Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill is on January 19th 2018.

We can hardly believe that, in the 6th richest country in the world, in 2018 it is necessary for such a bill to be raised.  

It is astonishing that such a protection is not already in existence for tenants. Tenants have no avenue for redress or means of compelling landlords to make repairs or even secure the safety of the property.

The Bill would empower tenants by giving them the right to take their landlord to court if they fail to take action to resolve a problem.

There are currently around one million rented homes with hazards that pose a serious risk to health and safety. This affects over 2.5 million people.

You might think that this lapse in the law is an oversight that just needs to be rectified. But you would be mistaken.

A version of the Bill was first introduced by Karen Buck in 2015 and was ‘talked out’. A version of the Bill was also proposed as an amendment to the Housing and Planning Act 2016 and was voted down by the government. Including the 87 Tory MPs who are landlords.  Their argument was that such legislation would burden upon landlords and discourage people from renting out homes.

How did we get in the situation we are in today, one might ask.

Many years of under funding and de regulation of the housing market we could argue.

What could be a greater burden for any person than trying to live in a ‘home’ unfit for human habitation, you might wonder.

Data from the English Housing Survey 2017 found that Almost a third (29 per cent) of homes rented from private landlords fail to meet the national Decent Homes Standard; meaning they either contain safety hazards or do not have acceptable kitchen and bathroom facilities or adequate heating

Poor housing impacts on children by making them 25% more at risk of ill health or disability, including raised risk of meningitis or asthma and a greater chance of mental health issues.

They are also more likely to miss school through illness.  Almost one million privately rented homes are deemed to be in a state of “substantial disrepair”, while 442,000 have damp in one of more rooms.

Poor housing also places a greater burden on other services and affects society as a whole, not just children.

Substantially more working age adults living in bad housing report fair, bad or very bad general health (26%) than those living in good housing (17%), with adults in bad housing 26% more likely to report low mental health compared with those living in good housing.

Those living in bad housing are almost twice as likely to have their sleep disturbed by respiratory problems at least once a month.

The association between living in bad housing and health problems is particularly acute among those above retirement age; with Pensioners in bad housing a third more likely to have fair, bad or very bad health compared with those in good housing (58% vs 38%).

Almost a fifth (19%) suffer from low mental health compared with 11% in good housing.

Almost twice as many pensioners living in bad housing suffer from wheezing in the absence of a cold, compared with those in good housing.

Not only is this unacceptable and immoral in this day and age but it also undoubtedly places more burden on the cash strapped NHS, including mental health services and schools that are already under so much pressure.

So what can we do about this?

We welcome the second reading of the bill and hope that this can proceed to the next stage. MPs will have a vote on this issue and we the people can apply pressure on our local MPs to vote the right way.

You can find who your local MP is and and how to contact them by clicking on the link below.

http://www.ukpolitical.info/YouandyourMP.htm

The above is taken from Natcen’s 2013 report on People in bad housing.

Why Has It Taken So Long To Start Work On Shielding Grenfell Tower? By Lisa Mulholland 

Two weeks ago, I was on my way to a concert at Wembley. Happy and excited as I was driving along through London, (we travelled from south London and was heading to North London) my cousin and I were happily pointing out all of the pretty sights in London. 

As we continued our drive, singing along to music and generally in a fantastic mood, we were driving over a flyover and spotted a skyline that was filled with tower blocks that were lit up. All except one. One huge tower was darker than the night sky.

I wasn’t sure exactly where I was, as I was just following my sat nav but this tower was huge and haunting. Something about it unnerved me. 

In my head I thought ” What is that… it can’t be Grenfell can it?”

As I got closer I realised it was. 

We both fell silent. Our singing stopped. I gulped and said “I think that is Grenfell”.

We got closer and I could see the burnt shell. Towering above us. And I cannot explain the sheer horror I felt. I flinched and gasped at the enormity of it. Overcome with emotion my reflexes kicked in and I shouted “Oh My God.”

I am not an emotional person. I cry perhaps 3 times a year but I cried right there and then.

Just the sight of the tower reduced me to shake and cry. And I was only driving past. It is a feeling that has stayed with me and I cannot describe to people just how horrific it was to see that tower.

Which instantly led me to ask myself “How on earth to people who live next to the tower cope with seeing that every day?”

I didn’t know anyone in that tower. I was just a passerby yet the punch in the stomach I felt by looking at it was very overwhelming. 

Imagine seeing that every day? 

Imagine seeing it burn!

Imagine if you lost people in that blaze???

At the time I thought ‘why is that tower still in full view, it should be covered up to protect the people living nearby but also out of respect for the people that perished there.’

It is now essentially a gigantic ‘tomb in the sky.’

So I was pleased to hear last week; 4 months after the terrible, horrific events of the Grenfell Tower fire, the authorities have finally decided to cover up the tower in protective material to shield it from the eyes of the public.

But work on this will not be completed until early 2018!!

There are so many reasons why this needs to be done. And so many reasons why this should have started months ago.

No one can really imagine the true horror of witnessing the fire, which was a rather prolonged horrific event that continued for hours. 

For those who knew people that lived in the tower, the horror must be beyond any stretch of your worst nightmare. 

And to be helpless. For hours. 

I would imagine that many of the survivors and witnesses may have already or could, in the future, develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Some of factors that contribute to PTSD are reliving the events and exposure to the place where it happened. 

Part of their recovery will be hindered by constantly having to view the tower in all its horrifying enormity every day.

So how can they recover? Why has this not been done sooner.

A month ago I went to The World Transformed Event where I met some Justice 4 Grenfell campaigners. They told us that only 5 families had been rehoused and that there had been around 50 suicide attempts. 

Which all points to my guess that there must be hundreds of people suffering from acute PTSD.

I decided to look into it, because let’s face it, the mainstream media have gone quiet over it. All I could find was that the local authority have a page set up advising people to go to their local Mind charity for support. And there is now a community hub to support witnesses and survivors.

But having had to use mental health services for my child recently, I know that the services are massively underfunded and under equipped to deal with the general population. Let alone the unprecedented amount of people suffering after a major tragedy.

Seeing the support that is offered now (and I do not claim to know if everyone has been offered support, or whether it is adequate) I can only hope that this is enough and that this support doesn’t just stop. With austerity raging on it is something we can only hope for. This support will be needed for years to come and sometimes PTSD can be delayed. 

So many questions need to be answered, aside from the obvious:

Why are people not being rehoused? And when I say rehoused I mean in permanent , suitable accommodation?

Why has it taken so long to even start covering up the tower? 

Or for anyone to even acknowledge that this needed to be done?

Why has the tower that still holds remains of the poor souls that perished inside the tower, not been covered straight away as a mark of respect and to protect the evidence inside the tower from the elements of weather and decay?

When I met those Grenfell campaigners, when I stood at the housing talk and gave a minutes silence to remember the dead, and when I drove past that tower in tears I made a silent promise to them and everyone affected by it:

I will never forget you and I will never stop seeking Justice 4 Grenfell.

And I urge you to all do the same. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to Justice everywhere.”



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I Am A Mental Health Worker And This Is A Letter To My Patients That I’ll Never Send By The Masked Avenger

Author Anoynmous

Dear Service User,

I am sorry I cannot offer more.

I am sorry I couldn’t call you back yesterday when you needed me and I am sorry I am not able to do more to help you.

I have worked in mental health for 10+ years and whilst I love my job it never gets any easier. 

I have books on my shelves and articles in files on the latest evidence based practice. I have ideas in my head for sessions we can do together and the passion to sit with you whilst we figure all this out. 

However, first you need to get to me and I need the time to deliver it all.

Referrals into mental health services are on the increase, this could be due to the ever growing pressures in society on everyone; from children to the elderly or the successful drive to normalize and promote mental health like never before, ripping down barriers and shouting from the roof tops that it is ok to not be ok.

So you gather the courage to call someone (which I know is so hard to do) and get help…

Unfortunately our pie is not getting any bigger, there is no more ‘money tree’ and we cannot afford anymore resources. So whilst we are able to see you, accessing treatment is entirely different. 
In the service I work in there are 30 practitioners for nearly 400 people on the waiting lists. No matter how you do the maths it is never going to fit. We try and change the service, we make it more lean, we shave things down to try and get everyone in but it is impossible. We have ideas of more we can offer but no money to fund it and no bodies to deliver it.

I want to see you straight away but there are hundreds of other people ahead of you.

I want to take it at your pace and see you for as long as it takes but I only have 8 sessions otherwise other people will have to wait longer. 

I want to be there to answer the phone straight away when you need me but I already have 6 other back to back appointments, before racing to collect my children from school. 

I constantly squeeze every drop of time to fit in more people but inevitably it all runs out as I cannot make 24 hours into 25. 

I want to offer you the therapy you need but no service, that I know of, is commissioned to offer it, which just really sucks.

I don’t know what the solution is but I want you to know that I am sorry because I feel just as frustrated as you. 

I know my boss, their boss and the bosses’ boss also constantly look for answers, but with an ever growing population and more needs becoming prevalent it is very hard. 

It’s not just us either; before, we could have referred you to other 3rd sector organisations which could have helped but they are just as squeezed as us and having to make equally hard and heartbreaking decisions. 

So please don’t be offended when we talk about self help materials or equipping you with the tools to help yourself, it is the only weapon I have at the moment to help you long after I have to reluctantly discharge and move on to the next case. 

Please don’t think I don’t care if my next visit isn’t for another 6 weeks, I hate this just as much as you do. I need you to understand that my intervention isn’t limited through choice , so all we can do in the short time we have is to teach you the skills I have to help yourself.

I need you to not miss any appointments as they count in my limited time and I need you to work with me as much as you can so that I can give you all I have. 

One day maybe we will have enough resources, but for now all I have is I am sorry!! 

We all deserve more than this, no one more than you. 
Please hang on in there, believe in yourself, take any support you can find and know that your wait isn’t because we don’t care, our pie just simply isn’t big enough.

From Your Practitioner. 

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People Are Bloody Brilliant By Lucy Chapman

I have been living in a world of negativity, probably since David Bowie died,  not that I’m blaming him; I think he got his timing spot on. 

Then Alan Rickman, then Caroline Ahern and Victoria Wood finished me off. But this isn’t about them.

There was the Brexit referendum here and Trump winning the election in the USA. I found the injustices of our selfish, immoral and heartless government so overwhelming that I felt duty-bound to start attending meetings with the opposition party to fight the good fight. I also felt compelled to put pen to paper and write about these issues for others to read about but the research necessary simply lead me down even darker paths of corruption and lies; the fire of anger and passion raged even stronger than before.

Writing wasn’t a comfort but a catalyst.

But this isn’t about that either. This isn’t even about Kim Jong Un pissing in corners or concerts where children are being bombed, or police being killed trying to save lives, or Muslims being stabbed on their way to worship. No, this all contributed to the anger churning inside, this was my view of the world and I was getting simultaneously more angry yet more numbed to these events and even bored of trying to argue against them. I was writing blogs about how rubbish things were and at the same time was totally fed up with reading the moans of other people, even when I agreed with them… But yesterday at 4.45pm, I set up a JustGiving page…

My good friend has Cancer. At age 36. Two years after beginning a new life, newlywed with her wonderful husband. This isn’t fair. I got angry some more.

She had radiotherapy, chemotherapy, she’s down for surgery but the tumours are too big, the chemo isn’t working, more aggressive chemo then… still not working.

There is a drug, Avastin which could potentially help shrink the tumours to a size that is operable. I will leave the disgusting practices of Hoffman la Roche, the company who supply this drug for another blog. A company who I have heard described as ‘not even amoral but immoral’ by a Doctor.

The upshot is, Avastin is not deemed cost effective enough to be available on the NHS. My friend will have to pay.  

The drug costs £1500 a session, she needs six sessions for this round and it’s very likely she’ll need at least six further sessions.

Yesterday at 4.45pm we set up a justgiving page and we were blown away. In five hours we had raised £6,000 and by morning her first course of treatment at £9,000 was covered and now we’re collecting for the next.

What struck me, and turned my attentions away from how shitty this situation was for my friend and towards how bloody brilliant people are, were the comments left by people making donations and seeing the range of people who donated.

My friend is a teacher and we saw pupils, ex-pupils, parents of pupils donating. One a twelve year old who gave £10 towards his teacher’s treatment. Friends donated, relatives of friends, friends of relatives. One donation came from a young woman / teen whose brother’s girlfriend’s mum is a friend of my friend. She didn’t need to do that! She is a wonderful person!

People who’ve only ever come into contact with my friend via social media sent funds and one complete stranger donated £250! These people are bloody brilliant.

It wasn’t just the money either. 

A man who I’ve met once contacted me to offer to DJ for free for a fundraising event, an ex-pupil now singer emailed me to offer to perform for a fundraising event, a friend started contacting local venues to put together a concert, the head of a teaching union in our area asked if he could see how they might be able to help. This was phenomenal. These people are bloody brilliant.

So stick it death.

Stick it Trump.

Stick it Putin and Kim Jong Un and Theresa May.

Stick it Boris and David Davis with your crass double-D jokes.

Stick it politicians with your penny pinching, grubby little mits all over our public services.

Stick it to your pay caps and your fake pay-cap lifts.

Stick it Amazon and Starbucks and all you other skin-flint companies who dodge contributing to our children’s education and treatment of our sick through fair taxation.

Stick it Richard-offshore-Branson.

We got this. Us little folk, we got this.

Us on the ground doing the legwork; we’re going to foodbanks and we’re putting school uniforms onto credit cards and we’re not just about managing actually, but we got this. We are good people and we count and you know what? Us people, us little people, we are bloody brilliant.  


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Family Life, Support and Judgement By Kelly Grehan

By Kelly Grehan

Yesterday I attended an event organised by Mums4Corbyn at The World Transformed.

It was clear that women have a lot to offer each other in terms of support. One issue that came up was that of breast feeding. The problem, in Britain at least is that the feeding of babies can often feel an issue of division rather than unification.  

The UK has the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world.
About 80% of women try breastfeeding at birth but by the end of the first week half have given up.  
Lots of new mums speak about feeling pressure to breastfeed and experiencing guilt about ‘failing.’ 
In recent decades a newer pressure has emerged, for babies to be in a sleeping and eating routine as quickly as possible and this is largely incompatible with breastfeeding and not good for milk production. Mothers are now experiencing a sense of failure if their children are not complying with this picture-perfect experience of motherhood.

To be clear if women chose not to breastfeed this is absolutely fine, what concerns me is a society that tells women to breastfeed, fails to support them to do so and then instills guilt into them for the failure.  

I’m passionate about more support and understanding for new mums, partly because of my own experience. My first child struggled to latch on, was losing weight, not sleeping. He is 10 now, but I’ve never forgotten the awful sense of failure that overtook me. It later transpired I had a tongue tie which made it hard for him to latch on. I fed half breast milk and half formula for four months, before giving up completely. Anytime I met anyone who talked of finding feeding easy or of having fed for long periods I felt jealous and the sense of disappointment hit me.  
Three years later my second one fed without any issues immediately after birth and I breastfed him for over a year. My previous guilt and anxiety about breastfeeding melted away.

What the experience of having two such polar opposite experiences of breastfeeding I have been able to observe the divisive nature many conversations about breastfeeding take, with it often causing conflict, defensiveness and separation between mothers. 

Then of course other issues start to take on the form of division and competition between mothers – weaning, childcare, controlled crying, discipline, clothing, diets, going back to work – discussions around all these things often feel like they end in judgement rather than support.

Is there something about our approach as a society that is unsupportive towards parenting and parents in general?

Well research confirms that if women receive support – whether it be from a friend or family member, a health professional, or volunteer breastfeeding supporter – they are likely to breastfeed for longer. 

Yet, Peer Support and Drop in sessions for breastfeeding services are being cut all over the country. 

In Kent where I live, the County Council was proposing to absorb the support into the health visiting service make a saving of £404,000 a year.

This week the consultation was suddenly halted until September so we await news of what will happen next. Sadly, I think we all know health visitors are too overstretched to offer the help needed.

It is a similar picture with other parenting issues. Up to 20% of women experiencing mental health problems in pregnancy or the first 12 months after birth. A Mental Health Alliance study in 2014 report found significant gaps in the detection of mental health problems in the period before and after birth, only an estimated 40% are diagnosed, with just 3% of women experiencing a full recovery. 

Costs of perinatal mental illness in the UK are estimated at £8.1bn per year, or almost £10,000 per birth. Yet fewer than 15% of areas provide effective specialist perinatal services for women with severe or complex conditions, and almost half provide no service at all.
Sure Start appeared to be making some progress with a culture change, but more than 350 Sure Start children’s centres have closed in England since 2010, with only eight new centres opening over that period. Spending on the centres in the 2015-16 financial year was 47% less in real terms than in 2010.

Childcare remains a deeply expensive and stressful thing for many parents, as work and money compete with family pressures compete, causing terrible stress and anxiety for parents. 

There is nothing I can find to indicate any progress has been made in aiding parents with this.  

It seems that family life, feels very unsupported in this country.
Judgement and pressure reign and support is hard to access and what is available is diminishing.

I think this culture is damaging family life and impacting upon the happiness of parents, children and everyone else. 

 The lack of support undoubtedly impacts on emotional well being across the board. We need better services, but we also need to look at our attitudes towards each other and to create more supportive dialogues and attitudes. 
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Isn’t It About Time We Tried A Holistic Approach To Mental Wellbeing? By Kelly Grehan

By Kelly Grehan

Mental health problems are the scourge of our time. 

Around one in four adults in England is diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their lives. This includes depression (3.3 million people are currently diagnosed with this), eating disorders, psychosis, personality disorder and anxiety. 

The NHS spends around £11.7 billion on mental health, including £400 million on drugs every year. But all indicators are that this is woefully inadequate and terrifyingly 57% of Clinical Commissioning Groups planned to reduce their spending on mental health services this year.  

I fear we will make no progress in improving the overall mental health of citizens in this country whilst we continue to rely solely on a heavily stretched medical model to fix the problem. 

That is not to say that I am not absolutely in favour of increasing the mental health treatment budget (indeed I am a trainee counsellor). However I think we need to start looking at mental health in a holistic way. 

To quote a well known leaflet by charity Mind “good mental health isn’t something you have, but something you do.”

So I am cheered by the publication of the report Creative Health: 

‘The Arts for Health and Wellbeing from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing http://www.artshealthandwellbeing.org.uk/appg-inquiry/

The report found that arts-led alternatives to conventional therapy and medicine could serve as effective treatments for many mental health issues. 

Some of the findings conclude that:
Music therapy reduces agitation and need for medication in 67% of people with dementia.

● An arts-on-prescription project has shown a 37% drop in GP consultation rates and a 27% reduction in hospital admissions. This represents a saving of £216 per patient.

Arts therapies have been found to alleviate anxiety, depression and stress while increasing resilience and wellbeing.

● Visual and performing arts in healthcare environments help to reduce sickness, anxiety and stress.

The heart rate of newborn babies is calmed by the playing of lullabies. The use of live music in neonatal intensive care leads to considerably reduced hospital stays.

● A 10-week art and craft programme with mothers experiencing anxiety and their children saw a 77 percent reduction in anxiety and depression and an 86 percent reduction in stress. The bonds between mothers and children improved, and the emotional, social and cognitive development of the children was stimulated.

None of these things sound unattainable to roll out across the country do they? 

I suggest that rather than finances being the problem, what is needed is a change in culture and an acceptance that mental wellbeing is something that requires investment and that should be addressed through multiple disciplines. 

Is one reason that mental health is not addressed in this way because the Ministry of Health works in a silo? 

Could an approach of working with the Department of Culture could have greater success?  
Is it possible this problem is compounded by an attitude that persists that art is something to be enjoyed by the privileged?

The proportion of GDP spent on the arts by the government remains below the European average

This was recognised in the Labour Party manifesto with a promise to rectify this and introduce an arts pupil premium for every primary school pupil, in line with the existing PE pupil premium. 

Announcing the policy Jeremy Corbyn said :

“There is creativity in all of us but we need to give people the opportunities for this creativity to flourish.”

Art based activity (including drama and music) is repeatedly shown to cut stress even if the person is not good at it!!

Therefore it is logical to assume that a if society gave people of every age access to art then they would have less mental health issues.  
Continuing with the theme of looking at holistic approach to wellbeing, last year Natural England published a study which reviewed the benefits and outcomes of approaches to green care for mental ill-health. Nature is known to be one of the most reliable boosts to mental health.

However it has strangely become less accessible to people as we spend more times in offices, cars and generally trapped indoors. 80% of people in England agree that the quality of the built environment influences the way they feel yet our environments are typically becoming more urbanised and our leisure time increasingly spent inside. 

It is unsurprising that as people live in increasingly overcrowded housing and towns that mental well being suffers. We know access to parks, rivers and natural improves lives: people who live in the areas within our cities and towns that have more green or blue space have better mental health.
 
As with art, a new approach is needed to ensure people of all ages are able to access and enjoy outdoor living. The evidence for this being of benefit is plentiful. For example:
Spending just 15 minutes a day in nature can boost focus and ease anxiety.

● From a mindfulness perspective being in nature helps us to become present.

Children who play outside are more physically active, which helps prevent obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other health issues

● Research done in hospitals, offices, and schools has found that even a simple plant in a room can have a significant impact on stress and anxiety.

It is a failing of our society that mental health remains so neglected in terms of recognition, treatment and approach. 

Let’s see a truly comprehensive integrated approach, across government departments and across all organisations including employers, aimed at improving emotional wellbeing. 

It is quite evident that such an approach and investment in relevant projects would save money and would lead to happier people, surely that should be the real goal of our community?


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