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

The Devastating Plight Of Kent Families Hit By Austerity By Kelly Grehan and Lisa Mulholland

This past week has highlighted how the people of Kent are suffering from further cuts to services.

On Monday it was announced that Kent County Council had decided to press ahead with the £400,000 cuts to breastfeeding support services.

This was despite a staggering 1,294 responses to the consultation (the average last year was 156 per consultation) and an evidence based campaign from ‘Keep Kent Breastfeeding’.

Data from Unicef indicates that 81% of mothers wish to breastfeed their babies at birth, but only 17% babies are still exclusively breastfed at 3 months.

The health benefits of breastmilk are well known.  We are particularly concerned over the impact on the emotional health of mums who want to breastfeed and are not supported to do so, and as such experience a sense of failure, this is at a time when postnatal depression is on the rise.

A 2015 study by Netmums indicated that one quarter of all new mums experience loneliness.

NCT research shows that good breastfeeding support has practical and psychological benefits for mothers; impacting on the wellbeing of their babies.

Breastfeeding support workers had the luxury of having time to spend with mums. I think we all recognise that, with the best will in the world, Health Visitors who will be expected to take on the task and void left as a result of these plans will not have the time to spend with women.

It seems KCC did not comprehend the value of breast peer support workers and thought only of the initial costs.

Maybe, having awarded themselves a 12% pay rise last year maybe it is inevitable KCC Councillors would need to make cuts.

The cuts to breastfeeding support were not the only indication that family needs are not the priority of KCC this week.

Last Friday The Royal College of Psychiatrists revealed Kent have only 3.75 child and adolescent psychiatrists per 100,000 children.

The lowest number in the country.

In London, the tally is around 17.  With a national average of around 8, it is evident that Kent is leap years behind the UK.

And that is no mean feat when you consider many councils and people across the UK as a whole are suffering immensely from austerity.

The toll it takes on parents and families is immeasurable.

I ( Lisa) have written about my personal battle with child mental health services as a Kent parent and was asked to appear on the BBC local news to talk about the effect it has had on me and many other families throughout Kent. You can read my article here https://theavengeruk.com/2017/09/18/my-open-letter-to-the-pm-about-how-austerity-affected-my-childs-mental-health/

It is a sad fact that life is not easy for many Kent children.

The End Child Poverty Coalition estimate more than 93,000 children in Kent are living in poverty.

Shelter estimate 2000 children in Kent are homeless.

An investigation it carried among people living in emergency B&Bs and hostels found every family living in a single room, with 25% having no access to a kitchen and 50% having to share toilet and bathroom facilities.

Imagine growing up in those conditions!! And it begs the question, where is the help for these families?

The suffering and endless misery does not stop there.

Since 2015 the average Tory cut in funding to each primary school has been £54,000, and to each secondary school it has been £205,000.

Teachers and parents are having to fund vital equipment. And now they’ve denied 1m children a free hot school meal. Unless the DUP own you of course; children Northern Ireland is exempt from these cuts

It seems that no service is safe.

Maybe it is unfair to place the blame squarely on KCC.  Tory austerity has hit them hard.

For example:

● The council is expected to make around £75m of savings next year, out of a £900m budget.

● In the past five years the council’s grant from central government has been cut by £185.4m.

● The council says it has made savings to the tune of £417m in the same period, because of the drop in funding and increased demand in services

But yet this remains the sixth richest country in the world!

Yet at every turn our children are failed time and time again. Budgets are cut to shreds and it seems to be children who are on the receiving end. What a sad state of affairs this is.

We will be taking a closer look over the coming week of how austerity has affected services across Kent.

Without awareness we cannot seek to change what is happening.

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.

The Rough Sleeping Homeless- A Growing Problem by Eddie Luigi

At this time of year Christians everywhere are reminded that Mary and Joseph found themselves homeless, in Bethlehem, through no fault of their own, but because a physically distant government passed a law to determine how much tax they could collect, in order to keep their privileged citizens in the luxury that they had become accustomed to.

Two thousand and seventeen years later, in English towns and cities, you don’t need to walk far to be reminded that, just like Mary and Joseph, there are now many people who find themselves homeless through no fault of their own, because an emotionally distant government passes laws to determine how much tax they could collect in order to keep their privileged citizens in the luxury they have become accustomed to.

The idea of taxes is a redistribution of wealth. That redistribution of wealth should be for the benefit of the many wealth producers and not solely for the benefit of the privileged few.

I think that a good Christmas present for the homeless would be for the government to put as much effort into their house building policies as they put into their rhetoric about how much they have done, whilst failing to mention how much they have not done that they promised to do.

There are currently 4,000 people sleeping rough and over 300,000 people classed as homeless in England, according to the charity Shelter.

The figure for the rough sleepers has increased by 134% since the Tories came to power in 2010.

Isn’t it time Theresa May and her government owned up to this figure instead of trying to lie about it?

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.




For more articles like this please check out our Facebook page:

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

Why We Should Be Worried  About The Rise Of Gambling Addiction By Kelly Grehan

By Kelly Grehan

Last week I attended an event with Matt Zarb-Cousin, he is known for his previous role as Jeremy Corbyn’s Spokesperson, but is a long term campaigner for the organisation Fairer Gambling (http://fairergambling.org/about-the-campaign/). Since listening to him I’ve been looking at the awful impact gambling now has on our communities.
I grew up with relatives who would bet on the horse racing every Saturday and for them gambling was a harmless pleasure, akin to collecting stamps or going fishing.  

Whilst gambling remains harmless for some, for others it is a desperate source of misery. 

More than 2 million people in the UK are now either problem gamblers or at risk of addiction, according to the industry regulator, the Gambling Commission. They also estimated that the number of British over-16s deemed to be problem gamblers had grown by a third in three years, suggesting that about 430,000 people suffer from a serious habit.

Gambling advertising is now everywhere.

Nine premier league football teams now carry bookmakers names on their shirts. During half time, TV advert breaks are now filled with aggressive adverts flashing up the odds on who the next scorer will be and urging them to log on and place a bet. They are now such a staple part of half time advertising of football games, and have normalised gambling so much that many children think the sole purpose of the break in play is to allow audiences an opportunity to place a bet.
Fixed Odd Betting Machines are a major problem, allowing gamblers to spend £100 every 20 seconds. Indeed the bookies, once primarily concerned with horse racing and football bets, currently make 60% of their income from the machines. 

Currently shops are allowed to have up to 4 machines and this is one of the main reasons for the high street becoming full of betting shops: to allow the company to get more machines in. 

As many traditional shops have departed the high street, the number of bookies and arcades has risen.

I feel these machines are an undeniable source of misery: 43% of people who use the machines are ‘problem gamblers.’ Unlike bingo or a night at the dogs there is no social interaction, in fact I visited a bookies before writing this piece, at noon on Saturday and found people so absorbed in the machine they did not respond to any stimulation like noise. It was a sad sight.  
The machines inflict further troubles to the towns they occupy. One third of the machines are smashed every year, meaning the call outs to betting shops by Police are far above the average to other high street shops. Most have only one member of staff, on a low wage, in store at any one time, so their impact on the total economy is minimal.  

The mental health repercussions of problematic gambling are immense. 

The National Council on Problem Gambling estimates that 80% of addicted gamblers think about killing themselves and one in five make an attempt to take their own lives. As a result, gambling addiction costs the UK up to £1.6 billion a year in mental health, police and welfare system services.

A study published in the Journal Addiction last year found that all gambling increases the participants likelihood of engaging in violence. The gambling industry contribute £10 million per annum of their £13 billion profit towards gambling treatment.  

The social effect of addictive gambling does great damage to the family unit and to the disposable income the family should enjoy.

Poorer people are targeted more by gambling companies: there are twice as many machines/bookies in poorer boroughs and gambling companies are even harvesting data to deliberately target low-income gamblers and people who have given up.

Inevitably calls to set limits on gambling we be met by calls of nanny-statism. But I would like to point to parallels with the smoking ban, which has seen marked improvements in public health since it was introduced in 2007. There are already strict laws on the times junk food and alcohol can be advertised on television. I think the same restrictions should be placed on the advertising of gambling. 

Why not ban fixed odd betting machines altogether? We ban drugs, driving without a seatbelt and cycling without a helmet in order to protect individuals from their own bad judgement, why would this be any different? 

It is not as if the machines provide any positive socialisation or community benefits.
Of course problem gambling has always existed, but the rise in it and the implications it has for those affected and the costs to the state of the health problems it generates surely mean government action should be taken.  
If  you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and would like more information please visit:

https://www.gamblersanonymous.org.uk/

If you would like to read more articles like this, please visit our Facebook page:

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