Mental Health And Me By Lucy Robinson

At 17 I moved out of home. Within a year, my Dad & Step Mum who I previously lived with emigrated to Canada. My Mum lived in Wales. I was alone in London, with the world at my feet. I was ready.

…Or so I thought.

I bought a flat at 18, working in building maintenance. At 21 I fell pregnant; not ideal, unemployment and repossession ensued with me ending up – after lengthy process – in a Housing Association flat.

I refused to become a statistic of another single Mum on benefits.

Then in 1997 Labour got in to government – there was hope!

At this point I decided my career had to work for me. I went from working on a help desk in 1999 to managing engineers, to managing contracts. I did day release university and got qualified.

I started to manage bigger contracts, better contracts, profit margins increasing.

I was bold, brave and very good at my job.

In 10 years I went from part-time admin earning £10k to Projects Director in a multi-million pound engineering company, commanding a salary of £80k a year, managing literally hundreds of people.

I was now married with 3 children aged 13, 4 & 3. My stress levels were through the roof: I was being bullied at work (which most who knew couldn’t fathom) and my soul mate was dying of cancer.

It was a rollercoaster.

My soul mate died, work paid me off in a compromise agreement and then, just as I couldn’t get lower, my husband left.

It’s OK. I’m the breadwinner, I have child care, a cleaner, money… I can do this… NO.

No you can’t, not without a support network, which I didn’t have, I had opted for a career.

I was about to learn the hardest lesson.

I CAN’T DO IT ALL!

I lost 4 stone in as many weeks and never slept, apparently.

I have no recollection of 2011/12.

I still went to work every day, my kids were fed and clothed and attended school – in no small part thanks to my long-suffering teenager.

No one knew.

I saw not a cloud move, not a raindrop fall, didn’t taste or feel anything at all in this time.

I didn’t hear my children laugh or cry and from what I understand behind closed doors I was a vile ball of negativity and bitterness. I’ve no idea how my three beautiful babies coped while all I knew was blackness.

I sold my house, my beloved BMW convertible and got divorced. I started to regain what was missing and came to discover I was moving home.

I moved to Kent, I can’t quite tell you why; I do know rent was cheaper and I was born there which I assume took me back.

The moment I moved I could start to feel the ground under my feet (literally).

I saw I had an old ford Mondeo, my teenager was occupied as much as possible and we should all understand why, I saw my younger children cower from me and I was in so much physical pain it was hard to think.

I couldn’t fathom it… what was happening?

My hands didn’t work properly, I was physically sick most days and getting my children to school was a task. I had to have 4 operations: one on each wrist, one on my bladder and one on my throat. I had also gained a hiatus hernia and degenerative disc disease in my spine, not to mention the complex neurological disorder (nerve problems)…

But I’m bold and brave and very good at my job, I’m respected and established how could this happen?

My Doctor was incredible. I arrived gripping onto his desk, shaking, crying, scared and justifying that I was an intelligent, capable human being but I just needed help.

Please help me.

He did.

I went on antidepressants and got to know my children again. Did I mention autism? Yes we are an autism friendly family; not helpful if your Mum is having serious mental health issues.

I tried to go back to work, similar level but local on £60k. I couldn’t hack the pace, people were getting the better of me.

Tried again, still local but less responsibility on £40k.

I can’t EVEN do that.

It’s now 2015 I’ve moved twice and I am just going to have to finally admit I have mental health issues.

My spine is deteriorating, my children are not getting to school on time, my landlord might find out I’m not working and the school might find out I’m not coping.

Depression, anxiety, zero self-esteem and no support network… I’ve got to do this.

The school get involved, leading to a family conference with my family (now in Wales), my ex-husband’s family and my MENTAL HEALTH social worker, with me begging for help.

How does a bold brave person end up crawling so low. I’ll tell you…

By not taking care of the one organ which is bigger than you… your brain!

My landlord did find out I wasn’t working. I was still paying my £1145 a month rent in full but no, he wanted me out.

November 2015; 5 days before my youngest’s 9th birthday my three children and I were evicted, literally on the street. No temporary accommodation available locally, one North London and one in Harlow.

I emptied my home into a van and a garage I had rented. I find different places for all of us to stay.

Only two nights but two scary, lonely long nights.

I get a call. Erith. That’s somewhere I’ve heard of.

Another move but this time it means I’m in the system that offers help. A year later my family are offered a twee little 3 bed council house in the cutest of roads, garden, a downstairs bathroom to accommodate my disability.

I honestly couldn’t have been more grateful and slowly we start to heal.

So here I am in 2018, nearly another decade on from earning £80k with my BMW and two decades from refusing to be a single mum on benefits…

I AM a single Mum, on benefits with a disability to boot.

Would I have been better off with no career?

No, I loved almost every second of it.

Would I have stayed married?

No, I needed support.

Will I actively encourage people to look after their mental health?

EVERY SINGLE DAY!

I’m lucky. I am 43, once again with the world at my feet… it’s a blank canvas… now what is it I want to do?

By Lucy Robinson

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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Happiness: A Basic Human Right? Not According To The Tories By Eddie Luigi 

By Eddie Luigi 


Let me make this clear from the start. Generally I am happy and content. 

I view happiness as a three legged stool, with happiness as the seat and the three legs of home, health and an honest wage for an honest job.
Any of you who have studied psychology will be aware of Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. 

Which in a nutshell means until you have achieved the basic needs you cannot go on to achieve any of the more humanistic needs. 



The basic needs at the bottom of the hierarchy are food, water, warmth, rest security and safety. Without these essentials it is impossible to proceed up the hierarchy and achieve happiness and fulfil ones potential.


It’s like a game of ‘snakes and ladders’ sometimes you’re going up and sometimes you go down and have to start the climb again.

So, my view is that, until you have the basics of home, health and an honest wage, you can’t even begin to think about happiness. Then if one of those three legs of the stool is missing, happiness comes tumbling down.

But since the tories came to power in 2010, millions of people in England are struggling to gain the basic needs. Hard to believe but the figures do not lie:

4,134 sleeping rough ( up 134% since tories got in 2010) in England.
Almost 1.2 million needed emergency three day food parcels.

250,000 as registered homeless in England.

Around 4 million private renting in England. Most of these will have yearly or month to month contracts, with no basic security. 

That is a lot of people that can’t reach a happy state, or fulfil their potential.

Many self help books advise you to simplify and find happiness in the little everyday things.
This does not seem good advice if you have no home and your day is taken up by wondering where you can sleep safely tonight. 

Nor does it help if your physical or mental health means that your day is taken up wondering if you can be cured, or taken up trying to overcome the splinter in your mind that feeds the self doubts about your looks, your weight, your usefulness or your worth. 

That advice must surely be ignored if after you honest day’s work your ‘honest’ day’s wage, topped up by social welfare, is still not enough to meet your budgetary needs for housing, feeding and clothing your family.

I fear that in our current political situation not everyone will have the three stool legs necessary to think about happiness.




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World Mental Health Day And Why It Is Important By Lisa Mulholland 

By Lisa Mulholland 

Today marks World Mental Health Day 2017.


Here at The Avenger UK we would like to mark this day for a number of reasons. As many of our readers will know we cover many topics but mental health seems to be the most popular of our posts.

And there is a reason for that…

One in four of us adults will suffer from mental health issues in our life time yet mental health still remains somewhat of a taboo and with that comes stigma.

Many of us that struggle with mental health not only have to struggle with the difficulties that the various conditions brings, but we also have to face a society that doesn’t understand and a mental health care service that is significantly underfunded. 

So much work needs to be done to raise awareness of mental health and how mental wellbeing underpins a happy and productive nation. 

Something that this government seems to have forgotten. 

Hellbent on cutbacks, they have missed the point that when mental health and wellbeing is a priority in our society (with proper treatment and understanding for those that suffer from ill mental health) that a happier nation is actually more productive and costs less to the taxpayer in the long run. Developing a different approach at the outset can prevent so many future problems.

Mental health needs to be addressed in every aspect of social and public policy.

Children need the freedom to be children. 

Pressure for milestones to be met and constant tick boxes start the day the child is born and sets the tone for a lifetime of scrutiny. As parents we worry about raising children that have mental health issues.

In school children are constantly assessed and now even take tests at the age of 6. Squeezing productivity from very young children , categorising them, setting them apart from each other; it can only lead to unhappiness and disenchantment from children’s natural love of learning.

And so this continues; all throughout childhood. 

On the one hand the government push pressure for children to perform better and on the other hand, the ever increasing number of children with mental health issues is rising. If you combine this with a severely underfunded system that spends between £35 and £70 per head on children’s mental health in England and you have a crisis on your hands not to mention a timebomb in the future.

The reality of having a child that cannot access mental health services can be devastating.

These children with untreated mental health grow into adults. 

We have all heard about the mental health bed crisis. We have our own Masked Avenger stories from both acute mental health service users and mental health workers all saying the same thing; 

More funding and understanding is needed!! 

So there is a lot of work to be done and Rome wasn’t built in a day. But the first step is awareness. 

And that is what World Mental Health Day is all about.

So today we want to raise awareness. Not only of what what it is to suffer from mental illness and the struggles that come with it, but also we want to raise awareness of the creativity and intelligence that people with mental health possess.

We want to celebrate the neurodiversity and showcase art and poems of people with mental health issues.

And this is why we created our World Mental Health Day special collaboration of art, poetry and commentary. 

Please take a look and enjoy a varied approach to raising mental health awareness by clicking here:

https://theavengeruk.com/2017/10/09/a-collaboration-of-poetry-and-art-expressing-mental-health-by-various-writers/

Please show your support by reading, liking and sharing our mental health posts today.

And maybe one day we can all work to a more tolerant, understanding and supportive society, where mental health and wellness is a priorty.



Thank you

Lisa Mulholland- Editor The Avenger UK

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If you would like to find out more about World Mental Health Day or get involved please visit :

https://www.mind.org.uk/get-involved/world-mental-health-day/

https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/

A Collaboration of Poetry and Art Expressing Mental Health By Various Writers

To mark World Mental Health Day 2017, we have produced a collaboration of poems, art and commentary from various writers and artists. We feel these contribute to raising awareness of what it feels like to have mental health issues.


It Really Is Okay-   A poem By Rosie Meyer

Two days ago I was taking big steps
That day I reached my goal

I was able to cover a lot of ground

And I felt in control

Two days ago my goal was achievable

And I had quite a bit of help

I was well prepared and I took my time

And I felt good about myself

Yesterday I stumbled and fell

And I was overwhelmed for the whole day

I tried to get ahead of myself

And made no progress along the way

Yesterday my goals were ridiculous

And I had no help at all

I expected far too much of myself

And it slowed me down to a crawl

Today I’m taking baby steps 

I’m just going with the flow

I’m making more progress than yesterday

But it’s going kind of slow

Today I haven’t set much for goals

Just one-to make it through the day

And even though I haven’t worked much

I still feel okay

Some days I’ll feel like I’m on top

I’ll feel tall and my steps will be long

Some days I’ll feel like I’m crawling

And I just need to be strong

Some days I’ll feel scattered

Unaware of where I’m going

And some days I’ll be inspired

With creativity and knowledge flowing

On the days I need to catch my breath

I need to realize, I can’t run all day, every day

And when I need to slow down a bit

It really is okay.

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Words by Rachael Lamb


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A Poem By Anonymous Writer 

That crushing feeling in my chest,

Never gives itself a rest.

Constant thoughts race through my mind,

Why can’t I relax, unwind?

Anxiety affects me every day,

Why won’t it just go away?

The panic, the feelings of despair,

Those irrational thoughts, they’re always there.

Why am I filled with so much dread?

I want these thoughts out of my head!

Such an awful feeling of unease,

Anxiety; just go away, please.

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Art by Caitlyn Johns


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A poem by an Anonymous Writer
Mental Illness 

No one understands or knows our pain, why do we feel like this again? 
We toss and turn, we can’t sleep at night, we always think of giving up the fight. 

Yes, the demon is certainly back, it makes us helplessly steer off track. 

We say and do things we don’t mean at all, sometimes we feel good but most times we fall.

That’s what feeling this way does, we always end up thinking ‘why is it us?’ 

But we’d never wish it upon anybody else, because depression is well and truly hell. 

This black cloud lingers above our head, we lie at night wishing we were dead. 

Lonely, scared and worthless too, negative things we think are true. 

Because depression feeds on our hopeless thoughts, it wraps us up until we are caught;

Among the hell we call our life, it sometimes makes us reach for the knife. 

So we can feel a release of pain, it’s the only thing that keeps us sane. 

It makes us feel we’re in control, makes us feel like we are whole. 

Other people think that we are mad, but they don’t know that we’re just sad. 

Until the day we start to grow stronger, we find our happiness is lasting longer. 

All we need is a little glimpse of hope, that will help make us realise that we can cope. 

Depression is an illness people hardly understand, so let’s get together and make a plan;

We need to make people more aware, so they can support us and just be there, 

To help us through our darkest days, as depression affects people in many ways. 

Young or old, boy or girl, anyone can be subject to this hell. 

So please help us get this message through; We’re normal people just like you.

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Art by Taylor ~ Sixth Circle Art


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Freedom To Be Me 

A poem by Lisa Mulholland 
I am the one who isn’t enough
And
I am the one who is too much

The one chastised for things I didn’t mean
So much so that now I have no self esteem

Always apologising, taking ownership
Of responsibilities that aren’t mine
Maybe it’s because it’s easier than being wrong all the time 

I stand a better chance of being liked
When my mask is on and I pretend to smile

But what about what others don’t see?
The tears and the turmoil 
The fear of being me

I cannot and will not prove everyone right 
So
I swallow my words and sit tight

I sit on my hands so no one can see 
That I pick my hands until they bleed.     Pulling the strands of my hair,                  surely that would make people stare?

That’s not acceptable in this day and age
Not the way a mother of three
Should behave 

So I put my mask on.                                          I push down the tears                                    And hope that no one notices;                        my long list of fears

No one can see,                                                 my cough helps disguise                                The bile rising from my throat,                     the stinging in my eyes

When someone looks at me with a frown
I just say “I’m tired”
And I smile                                                       And it works for now

It covers the terror, the panic
And the fear.                                                       Of all the things I can’t make sense of.             Or don’t want to hear

I don’t understand what their expressions mean
So I’ve learned to smile and look keen

And replay it all while I’m alone.                     All the bits I did wrong,                                        I hope it didn’t show

It’s too much sometimes
And I want to hide
I need to be better tomorrow.                         To work on my disguise

Right now my transformation
Is almost complete
From shy anxious girl.                                     To woman of the world

There are two me’s
The one you that you see 
And the other for those                            Unlucky enough to get close

Maybe one day 
I’ll fully be able
To transform myself                                        And in private be stable 

Tomorrow will be better
I tell myself each night
Tomorrow I will learn
How to get it all right

To calm those butter flies
To stop those skipped beats

Until next time
Until I am free
Free to be brave enough to be me

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Art by Taylor ~ Sixth Circle Art


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Life – A poem by Rachael Lamb
Life is tough 

The days the nights

The long darkness of my mind nothing can override

The days too are long but they are light nothing can erase the fright.

What do you do?
Where do you turn?

When you your living a lesson no one can learn.

You get up each day
Prepared to fight 

Prepared to battle

Prepared to win 

But all you want is peace

Is that such a sin?

You make others smile
But don’t own your own

For your smile is broken 

Its not coming home .

Who do you turn to?
Where do you go?

When you’re feeling so lonely and don’t feel at home.

Your body is whole

But your soul incomplete 

If only people could see

The invisible wounds on your feet ,

Your hands that are broken

From holding on tight

Because of the terrors 

Taking hold in the night.

Your eyes they smile

But behind your eyes

Are floods of tears 

That you cried in the night.

It takes time they say
To stop feeling this way

But when will it happen

Nobody knows what to say.

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Words by Rachael Lamb


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Commentary
 
Why Are You Tired?

By Rosie Meyer

Chances are, you know someone with a mental disorder or disability and you’ve probably asked them this or thought this before.

This statement, “I’m tired” is not a complaint or pessimistic.  It’s merely a fact of life.

Allow me to explain why a person who is constantly battling their own brain and societal expectations feel so drained.

These are people whose brains are stuck in overdrive and have a great amount of difficulty unwinding to fall asleep at night.  For the average person, it takes 7 minutes to fall asleep.

Imagine crawling into bed exhausted and it takes an average of an hour to fall asleep instead of 7 minutes.  Every nap and bathroom break and the brain relaxation delay begins again.

These are people whose sleep is frequently disturbed and who spend their nights tossing and turning instead of resting.  Sometimes they’re awoken by noises, pain, an inability to keep body parts still, by loud noises inside of their heads, vivid dreams and many other reasons.

These are people who wake up feeling, at best, slightly more rested than they were when they crawled into bed in the first place…like a battery that has been damaged that never seems to recharge properly.

These are people, who for decades, don’t feel rested after their slumber.

These are people who put an immense amount of effort into focusing on the task that they’re supposed to do or perform while their minds are trying to carry them down other paths or while they are struggling to remember just what those tasks are.

These are are people with working memory issues who from school age on into adulthood, lack the skill to remember multi-step instructions in a world where they’re just expected to know how to do it.

These are people who are in a constant war with their own brain.  People who are battling their own thoughts and fears; hearing every day from their brains that they aren’t good enough, strong enough, skinny enough, that people don’t like them, or that they should have done better…just to list a few things.

These are people who are in a constant war with other people’s judgement and lack of understanding.  

Who are often asked questions or who hear comments like “Why are you always tired?”, “Just suck it up and deal with it.”, “It’s just a lack of discipline.”, “It’s all in your head.”, “Stop being so pessimistic.” and “Stop being so lazy.”

These are people who experience sensory overload that mentally exhausts them.  From the clothing they are expected to wear, the food that they are expected to eat, the noise around them, the sights engulfing them and the odors surrounding them, these people’s senses are constantly under attack.

These are people who are exhausted from self-advocating to people who don’t understand and don’t care to understand.

These are people who spend most of every day dealing with fears that others find silly and irrational.  

It’s like living on a rope bridge swaying in the wind over a canyon while you’re afraid of heights and hearing “I don’t understand what you’re complaining about, the bridge is secure.  Suck it up and deal with it.  I can do it, so you can too.”

These are people who are struggling to communicate their experiences because communications is a skill that needs to be taught and exercised.  It’s like those who don’t have a strong artistic talent being instructed to create a sculpture using the items around you to present how they currently feel within the next five minutes.

These are people who expel a large amount of energy trying to understand body language and emotions which is another lagging skill.  It would be like showing you a picture of my cat and expecting you to identify what he’s feeling based on his facial expression and pose within minutes, multiple times a day.
How is this kitten feeling?

These are people who are tired from the side effects of medication or self-medicating to cope with the symptoms of their diagnosis and the expectations of society.

These are people who are struggling with their brain to differentiate what’s real and what’s not because their brains present everything to them as reality.

These are people who are likely to be struggling with relationships, drug abuse and alcoholism.

These are people who have physical manifestations from their mental struggles because being on high alert takes a physical toll on a person.

These are people whose muscles ache constantly or whose muscles are tired from being tense too often, who get frequent headaches or migraines, who’s appetite is affected and whose immune system becomes impaired…just to name a few things.

So please, dear readers, the next time someone with an invisible disability says that they’re tired, don’t treat them as if they’re lazy or irrational.  

Instead, imagine living your life on a rope bridge over a canyon, or imagine how you would feel if someone jabbed you and woke you up several times a night for just one year and the physical and mental impact it would have on you.



Is he about to attack?

I beg of you, on behalf of all of us fighting our own silent battles, please be patient and empathetic.  Just because you don’t experience it doesn’t mean that it’s not a reality for someone else.

🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏

If you would like to know more about World Mental Health Day or get involved please visit:

https://www.mind.org.uk/get-involved/world-mental-health-day/

https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/
 

 











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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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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