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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what can we do about this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As I got closer I realised it was. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Imagine seeing that every day? 

Imagine seeing it burn!

Imagine if you lost people in that blaze???

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And to be helpless. For hours. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to Justice everywhere.”



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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

🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏💚🌏

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/

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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13 and Autistic: How Sensory Overload Feels For Me and Some Helpful Tips By Nathan Hillman

By Nathan Hillman

What is it like having autism? 

Well, what is autism? 

Autism is a spectrum condition that can make people hear and see the world differently to others without autism. 

Everyone has struggles in their daily life and autistic people especially struggle. I have autism and so do my two cousins (who will remain anonymous).

I can definitely say it does have its’ downsides. But not everything is bad about autism.

How do I feel in busy places with autism? 

Autism can affect people’s sensory processing and not everyone with autism are the same. 

Here is how it feels for me. “It feels like my head is going to explode” “My heart starts racing” and “My ear drums feel like they will pop.” My ears are very sensitive so I cannot stand it when my mum puts the hoover on. Autistic people can seem like they are being disrespectful but they are not, They can have meltdowns sometimes because of sensory overload.
Autism is just another word for ‘little sh** syndrome’… I have heard people say this but IT IS NOT! I hate it when people say that!! 

People with autism can have meltdowns but they cannot help it. I’m sorry but it is just the way they are, there is no cure but there are coping strategies that I would like to share:

Focus on your big toe. Sounds strange doesn’t it? Nope, when you focus and move you right toe, you are concentrating so hard on your toe that you cannot focus on your anxiety anymore.
Count to 10 and breathe. This is a common one, this does help a lot.

Exercise more often. It has been proven that exercise can release happy chemicals in your body, so do some yoga or go for a run!

Meditating. This is the second easiest one (as counting to 10 is the easiest) get a meditation CD or look up meditation music on youtube and just lay or sit up straight, and breathe…. easy right?

Eat a healthy and balanced diet. This can help with mood swings and depression as well.

I hope some of these help you!

There are certain materials I do not like and this is common with most autistic people. There are a lot of parents that get worried about their child having autism and the best advice I can give is to research autism and go see your GP for advice. 

Now onto the good things! 

Autistic people are very clever, I think that autistic people should follow their dreams and do what they want when they grow up. I want to help people, that’s why I am am writing this.

I hope I have helped some of you! 


For more information on autism please visit :

http://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is/asd.aspx

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

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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Staying ‘Well’ : 8 Tips to Maintaining Mental Wellness By Rachael Lamb

By Rachael Lamb

This isn’t the be all and end all of staying well as I know different things work for different people and also what works for you sometimes may not at others so do go back to things you have tried before even if it didn’t help in other times because every day, every situation is different. 

First I would just like to say that I am mentally ill,  I have had therapies, counselling , lots of medications, hospital stays and so much discrimination because of this. Over the years I have struggled with suicidal thoughts, self harm , anxiety and PTSD and I have found over this time some things that help me also help others. 

Two years ago,  I was talking with my peer support worker and she mentioned needing ideas for a new occupational therapy group, so I sat and reeled off some ideas; she wrote them down and a week or so later rang and said she had some other ideas from another service user and our ideas were going to make a group which would run for 12 weeks via the mental health team and I was asked to help facilitate this. I felt like finally something good had come of my struggles.

The group ran and it was so popular than have run it 3 times a year since and are also sharing the 12 week group on a website for professionals in the UK so they too can run the groups.



Everything is low cost / free . I will gladly share details on a separate  blog but for now I wanted you to know a bit of my background and ideas for mental health. 

Anyway here are some tips I have found help me to stay ‘well’

1. Have a daily planner
  

If you are really struggling to prompt yourself to do even the minimum of tasks like self care, taking  meds , washing , eating etc , you can buy a planner to put on the wall.

Fill it leaving slots so its not overwhelming. Once you get into the routine of doing the self care stuff you can add other things like going for a walk or gardening or something you enjoy or will get you out of the house. I have a weekly planner now as my days are going OK so I have not been using it but if I feel myself sliding I will write up what I’m doing for the week and I consult it in the mornings it helps to ease stress and anxiety.


 

2. The out and about bag  

I use a zip up bag for inside my bag which is my go to area for when I’m out and about, I use the bus a lot so having things to help calm me or keep me from fidgeting and getting over anxious helps.

I have the following below in my bag, but you can put in anything you think would help you while out and about, or even have it in your living room or bedroom though I have a bigger selection of things for use in situations at home where I am anxious.

  • Hair clip to open and shut so simple but the motions helps
  • Roll on perfume , the scent helps me to concentrate on the here and now of I find myself getting distracted in a day dream 
  • Fiddle toys, there are lots on the market and I find the cube one helps me to relax and stop my hands shaking
  • Lavender balm, lavender is known for its relaxing scent.
  • Lip balm , dry lips are the worst when anxious 
  • Boiled sweets/mints to ease dry mouth
  • Little charms  that I have been given , these remind me of happy memories 
  • Hair brush and hairbands , I sweat a lot due to anxiety and there’s nothing worse than a hairband breaking so knowing I have spares and a brush to sort out my sweaty hair helps
  • Mobile phone emergency charger , I use my phone all the time when out and it helps to know my battery can be charged when needed. I have apps and the radio which help a lot.
  • Bach’s rescue remedy drops , I’m not sure if they really help but I use them sometimes
  • Promethazine ( I am prescribed this and can take it throughout the day if needed) 
  • Pen and small note pad, so I can doodle or write when needed
  • Shiny stones , because they look pretty and are smooth its a great sensory tool.

3. Find a group

Even if it is online where you can talk to others going through similar things and it is good to help others and also talk to others when you aren’t feeling so great.

4. Have a bath or shower 

I know we can get dictated to by mental health professionals to keep doing the basics but I struggled for a long time to have a bath and relax , now I found some lovely bath products and candles can really help if I’m stressed out . 

5. Try and go for a walk

Even if it is a short 5/10 minute walk each day , I used to roll my eyes and say whatever but even a short time outside can break a bad mood and help move the day forwards.



6. Try and eat 

I’m not going to say eat healthy eat your five a day but it is important that you eat ( or drink) at low points I made sure I had lots of smoothies in so I was getting some goodness , when you are on medication it is key to having something in your stomach. 

Eat little and often if you can’t face or prepare a meal. Toast , porridge, yoghurt etc , make a snack plate and includestgubgs that you fancy to encourage yourself.

Never say no to treats!

7. Engage with support 

Whether you can’t reach for the support of mental health teams or you find that you don’t get listened to, even if you have a good friend, they will listen or help you keep distracted go out for coffee/tea and relax. 

I must say at this point if you do have a named care co ordinator or mental health nurse do ask for another if you don’t feel they are helping or don’t understand you. If your relationship with them is not a good one at the times to need to speak to someone you are more unlikely to call if you don’t get on well.

 I had to do this myself recently and although it made my anxiety increase it has worked out better for me in the long run as I now have a care co ordinator who listens


8. Connect with free services who have trained volunteers. 

I stumbled upon a web service chat with trained volunteers called mental health matters. 
http://www.mentalhealthmatters.com/our-services/helpline-services/time-online/

They operate an online chat usually after the telephone line has finished late at night usually around 10.30/11pm. I found talking online really helped. Sometimes I just could not verbally get the words out and would seek support and guidance and they gave me the courage I needed when I really needed to get help.

You are never truly alone

Mental health lies to you to isolate you and it can consume you but by following your own path you can be well. It’s not a recovery , I don’t think you ever truly are recovered from mental illness but that as in life you have the ups and downs the highs and lows. 

Never be ashamed of being you, you are beautiful.



** If you need to seek support in a crisis please try and reach out. **

You can call the Samaritans just to chat, you do not have to be suicidal you can just need someone to listen and vent to and it’s completely confidential.
The number is 116 123 or you can email jo@samaritans.org although a reply may take a little while.