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.”



For more articles and commentary please visit our Facebook page:

https://m.facebook.com/theavengeruk/

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.

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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. 

For more articles like this please visit our Facebook page: 

https://m.facebook.com/theavengeruk/

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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No-one Today Should Be Caring Alone By Miriam Gwynne

By Miriam Gwynne


Middle aged man, commuting by train
Thoughts turn to his sister he left crying in pain
He’s off to a meeting, while she struggles at home
Both of them left to face it alone

Teenage mum struggling, pushing a chair
The child is yelling, people just stare
She is begging for help as she picks up the phone
She cares for her child, but does it alone

The couple at the cafe, sharing their tea
One of them lost yet no-one can see
He lives in the past, a mind not his own
Forgetting her name, they both grieve alone

The parents of a child, who may never walk
They sing to a baby who still can not talk
Kissing a hand, though it’s all skin and bone
Everyday precious, weeping alone

Little eight year old, should be out to play
Instead she is feeding her dad everyday
Doing his care as the nurses have shown
With no one to tell her she isn’t alone

The next door neighbour, bringing some meals
Staying and listening to ask how she feels
Filling out forms while letting her moan
Determined his friend should not feel alone

The father sitting at the hospital bed
Digesting the words that the doctor just said
A new diagnosis, his mind has been thrown
Needing support so he isn’t alone

So many people with stories to tell
Caring for others, and doing it well
Yet they all need support, to know they are not on their own
Because no-one today should be caring alone