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Unashamedly Political – Without the Party or Balloons! Wednesday January 11, 2017

Was anyone listening to the news on Monday when Theresa May announced new measures to help people with mental health problems?

She said that Mental Health had been "dangerously disregarded" in comparison to physical health, especially in the young.

Figures show young people are affected disproportionately with over half of mental health problems starting by the age of 14 and 75% by 18.

I can see that in my own family with my fourteen-year-old daughter suffering from stress related eczema and from the stories she brings home about the number of her schoolmates who already self-harm.

"But, Mummy," she says, "You can tell, because they're the girls who always wear their jumpers, even on the hottest days, to hide the scars on their arms." And yes, it is young women who are proportionally most at risk, although it is young men who contribute more to the suicide statistics.

My daughter has been sensible enough to talk to the school nurse, who – from what I gather – spends ninety percent of her time counselling the children and only ten percent applying plasters to grazed knees and sympathy for tummy aches.

She is lucky enough to go to a school where the pastoral care is superb. And to belong to a family where depression, stress and mental illness are openly discussed. Not every young person has this "luxury".

Of course, there is still not enough money to provide the services and provision that is so desperately needed. Last week I met a fellow bipolar sufferer who had recently been released from hospital. He had been taken to the nearest railway station and abandoned there with just £6 in his pocket and nowhere to go. This is not Care in the Community but neglect.

His case is extreme. Many of us manage to cope with our illness. We hold down jobs and run businesses. We contribute to society.

But, can we do more?

Just before Christmas my neighbour, who has recently won her second fight with cancer, held a "Winter Tea Party" on the little green outside our house. We all contributed cakes and raffle prizes, and she raised over £2,000 for the cancer ward at our local hospital.

Everyone knows someone who has been affected by cancer. They are willing to help and to give.

Huh! You know what? Everyone knows someone who has been affected by mental illness and depression. But we don't talk about it nearly as much. It's still a big taboo.

So my challenge to us all is to do more to get our illness the attention and funding it needs. Speak up if you can. Be as honest as possible. Educate where you can. Give financially where you can.

If not for ourselves, then for our children, our neighbours' children, our children's children and their children too.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Jane Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 5:39am

Thanks Mary. This is so important. I work in Public Health and one of our main focuses is ensuring that the local community have assessible and quality MH services. On a personal level my brother had a long battle with his MH which led to reliance on alchocol and ultimately to him passing away from heart failure last month. Then of course I have my ongoing issues with my own MH which over the past couple of years I have been able to feel more comfortable to speak about. However the work culture I work in helps. This seems to me a fitting moment to thank and congratulate Jon once more for creating Moodscope which helps so many and has, without a doubt, helped me to get through the darkness since Christmas. And that is also thanks to all you Moodscopers. Little acts of kindness every day to people can help so much Xx

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 8:36am

Hello Jane. I am so sorry for your loss. I think many of us with MH issues know how easy it is to slip into reliance on drugs and alcohol. I am seeing it happen to a dear friend of mine right now. Coincidentally, I used to work in the Health service too. I agree that the culture in (some parts of) the NHS is more accepting and supportive of MH issues. Before that I worked for one of the big accountancy firms. There, not so much...

Orangeblossom Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 6:40am

Thanks Mary for your ever thoughtful response and Jane for the appropriate response. I am not liable to take any comments politicians make with skeptiicism. However, hope that the Prime Minister acts on her words & that it isn't empty rhetoric. I agree that we each need to play our own part in increasing Mental Health Awareness in the wider community.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 8:38am

I am sure the majority of politicians are trying their best. Hopefully this is one area where left and right can agree. Good intentions are never enough however, so it is up to all of us to keep this issue high on the political agenda.

Catherine Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 7:13am

Mary, thank you for this. I couldn't agree more. We work daily supporting children and families in schools. Funds are so so so stretched and headteachers work so hard to try to figure out how to keep or put the very essential pastoral provision and mental health support you describe in place - for their children, staff and school communities. It's only by all talking about it as we do here on Moodscope and keeping mental health high on the agenda, and the need for more funds to go into this crucial area that we will see real change and commitment beyond words for this week .... and thank you for all the inspiring blogs you compose to keep us all going Mary!

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 8:38am

Thank you Catherine.

Lacey Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 7:34am

Hi Mary
Yes,I did hear what TM plans t d to reduce the suicide risk and help young folk in particular
BUT.....its not just the young.....what about the ones like myself?
30 years and still fighting and struggling in the process....;-(

Not moaning just stating you say everyone knows someone with cancer AND with mental health problems and there lies the difficulty.

What are the statistics;£9.00 goes on research for each of us for cancer and 9p for mental health do the maths as they say ...:-(
Not very fair is it??

Where is the hope for those like the lad left at a station with nowhere to go and six quid in his pocket
It's a scandal.....sure most people will agree

i feel like standing on Speakers Corner so I can bang my drum for the NHS and their lack of care in society ;-)

Until then I will shout about it on Moodscope's site instead (bit cold at this time of year) however if you ever fancy holding my hand @ said corner and shouting out about the injustice of our treatment please drop me a line

i'm game if you are :-) !!

Hoping you have a great day even though we are to have thunder snow showers(storms) apparently (Chris Evans quote early this lovely morning)

I have a very busy one;off to get a loaf from Med Cakes for my Mum's breakfast and then waiting for British Gas to come and fix the boiler which broke while I was on holiday over two weeks ago..... :-(

And don't even get me started on what money TM is allowing for this vital work

We could teach her a thing or two I bet.

i lecture in staying well for mental health sufferers though I fall in the hole often

Today is a good day-I have a gut feeling

(Sorry,I've wittered on a bit.....;-))

P.S.I now tell everyone and anyone I meet that I have bipolar disorder and I've been amazed at the reaction from strangers and friends alike; hope and positivilty and warmth and so many tell me they have the same problems in their life that I face.
Chow Hun

Ruth xxx

Jul Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 8:42am

Hi Lacey. You know the same thought struck me when I heard TM and previous speeches about MH. What about me and those who have suffered mental health issues for 30 plus years with no real help! I remember arguing when I was so ill at work, that if I had cancer or a visible illness, I wouldn't be considered to be shirking. I am so relieved though that the issue of young children's MH is now out in the open. That's where it all starts and it's so sad that children as young as 5 are suffering. I think at last this PM has got it right about addressing MH in primary schools. Of course we all hope it's not just rhetoric and her plans will be put into immediate action. Thank you Mary for writing about this today. Julxx

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 8:44am

Ruth, thank you! TBH I am not sure of the efficacy of Speakers corner, although of course I will come along to support you if you decide to go to speak there. (As an aside, a young German friend we had staying with us over the summer listed Speakers' Corner as one only two London attractions he was most keen to visit; he is very political himself). I too have experienced more acceptance than I expected from people to whom I have disclosed my condition. As my postie said yesterday (he has suffered depression himself) we need to stop talking about the "stigma" and just talk about the illness. Good point, I feel.

Eva Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 8:52am

I am not around young people much as very few of my friends have children, so I feel that I don't have much to base this on... But I wonder how much of MH in the very young is due to media overload? We have developed these amazing new technologies so fast I wonder if we are doing some damage with stimulus overload, I don't think we were designed to take in so much, and I mean at a very basic level, flashing lights, loud noises, adverts for example are designed to spark response over and over. I certainly find that a few hours working on my pc will over stimulate me, and I think there is research to show the Blue light in many devices is upsetting our circadian rhythms... A build up of this might contribute to poor mental health problems, I wonder if a bit of research in this area might prove useful?

Jul Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 10:04am

I agree Eva. Social media has been blamed for much of young peoples' distress . There was something in the paper the other day about our brains but more importantly the brains of children not being adapted to cope with stimulus overload from the internet etc. Julxxx

Tutti Frutti Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 8:58am

Hi Mary, I totally agree with everything you have said. A friend of mine is currently really worried about one of her daughters who has self harmed and she is only 11. We do need to raise awareness in order to get something like equality in that 100:1 research spend that Lacey mentions. I am afraid to say though that although I am reasonably open about my condition I chickened out of an opportunity to raise awareness only yesterday. The following story about how it can be really challenging to take the opportunities to raise awareness and our conditions impede us probably goes off the point a bit but I hope you will excuse me because I kind of need to get it off my chest.

The head of my Department wrote his weekly blog about the imposter phenomenon where bright people aren't able to accept their own achievements and always put it down to luck, feel that they aren't competent and are about to get found out etc. (Perhaps Our PM inspired him.) Apparently Bertrand Russell said that 'the trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are riddled with doubt'. Anyway everything in the blog was very sensible and supportive and the head of department even admitted to feeling self doubt himself to try and show the rest of us it is ok and you can still make a worthwhile contribution at work. Unfortunately I kind of thought I ought to stick my head above the parapet and add an issue like " great you are bringing these issues up". Then I got totally paralyzed by the idea that my whole office would then read between the lines that I was riddled with self doubt but I thought that in my case (as someone whose career has stalled many grades lower) they might just be thinking "well I'm not surprised you doubt yourself you aren't that good" and would be thinking I was arrogant to try and associate myself with the Bertrand Russell quote and claim intelligence. Mind reading is a bummer isn't it! Confidence at work has been a huge issue for me over the years (and is almost certainly the main reason my career stalled) so in the end I did nothing other than get all emotionally wound up and wreck my efficiency for the morning. (Bit of a shock when I arrived expecting to crunch numbers!) Hopefully the blog had a better effect on the rest of the staff and at least the boss was raising awareness even if I didn't manage it.

Sorry this is so gloom laden. Anyway I have hopefully now got this incident done and dusted and perhaps I will get an opportunity to do something on a slightly smaller scale for awareness which I might cope with better.

Love TF x

Jul Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 10:09am

Hi TF. Do you know what the reaction of your colleagues was to your HoD's blog? I am certain I would have had the same thought patterns as you did . You described them so well. Do you think you were right not to put your head above the parapet? I suppose in one way you do..for self protection..but in another maybe no. It's such a pity that if you had done, the reaction might have been negative from your colleagues or in your own mind. post remark. I like BR's comment! Julxx

Tutti Frutti Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 11:43am

Jul I think basically I have done the right thing by not commenting as I have hopefully limited the amount of mind reading I will be doing. I am sure that I wouldn't have got much actual reaction from colleagues either positive or negative - many of them probably wouldn't even have had time to read it. Since I would have struggled to believe the positive and it would have been very difficult to believe that non reactions weren't really people who were thinking something negative it's probably sensible self preservation not to have made a comment raising awareness. Unfortunately I am also aware that my admitting to lack of confidence might have been helpful to some random colleague who I don't know well enough to tell otherwise, and I think I am currently beating myself up because I have an overly rigid belief that I ought not to have put myself first when I could have helped someone. If I now acknowledge that this belief is unhelpful because it leads me to attempt things at too great a cost or feel guilty about not doing so and that paralyses me from being helpful or doing anything else, and replace it with a better belief "I prefer to help others when I have an opportunity but it is ok bottoms do so if it comes at too great a personal cost and this includes the cost to my mental health" then I have effectively completed my REBT exercises on moodscope this morning! Sorry for wittering on again but working this out as I was writing has been quite helpful. Thanks Jul for your enquiry which set me analysing this further! I am supposed to get a couple of hours work done at home on a Wednesday so now I really really must go and get started! Love TF x

Tutti Frutti Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 11:47am

To clarify in the above where I talk about not commenting I mean not commenting on the blog at work and for some reason Auto correct changed not to to bottoms! TF x

Jul Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 12:13pm

I can see exactly where you are coming from TF! No replies now. Work!! Love Julxxx

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 2:10pm

Love it when this kind of exchange happens. Thinking powerful thoughts for you TF!

Ruth Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 9:55am

I have had mixed feelings whilst listening to the, very welcome, talk about various ways of supporting those who work in the mental health system and those who benefit from it of whom I am one. I found myself feeling increasingly irritated and couldn't see why. Gradually it came to me that every report was saying 'the stigma of mental health' even in supportive pieces. We don't keep saying the stigma of 'heart disease'. Why do we still relate that word with mental health issues? Even in responsible, edited journalism?
I think actually I feel sad and frustrated because I see no end to this. Am I over sensitive?

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 2:14pm

Just after I had written this blog yesterday the postman arrived. So I talked to him about it (he knows about the bipolar and has suffered depression himself). He said something that I thought was very wise. He said we should stop talking about the stigma of mental health and just start talking about mental health. Let us not forget that, until probably the early 80s, cancer was still the C word that was whispered, never said out loud. There is hope, but we need to get louder and stop whispering. Let's not be ashamed and start to get strident..... Hmmm - I can tell that I'm coming out of the down part of the cycle... I couldn't have written that a few days ago.

The Gardener Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 10:21am

Oh Mary, you've touched a raw spot. Money, money, money. Yes, it's good that the PM has drawn attention to mental health being the 'poor relation' and not recognised and treated as much as it should be. BUT, and a big BUT, many of the youngsters who are in trouble - and self-harm in whatever way are the products of an appalling home life - Mum swapping partners and the new boy-friend being jealous or abusive - bitter marriages where the parents are too busy quarreling to notice what their children are doing (or care?. No money on earth can help these kids who self-harm to get attention - they want care, hugs, encouragement in their school-work - and, mentioned above, some control over their use of social media, where they can be subject to bullying and then more self-harm - even, suicide. I agree with Ruth about the 'stigma', we had a good discussion on 'labelling' the other day. We need, Utopian, a huge influx of volunteers to back up the professionals in any way - Youth Clubs, Scouts, Guides - all non-starters. Over the last few days people have beating their way to door (phone, e-mail) with their troubles - where do I go? Moodscope. One of my grand-daughters self-harmed - her life was a mess, parents besieged daily for help - then, she got and held down a job (through friends, admitted) then, wonder of wonders, she discovered a latent talent for flower arranging - She does absolutely wondrous weddings.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 2:27pm

I agree that many mental health issues can be traced back to all the areas you mention. But it happens even when parents are happy, when there is support, encouragement and money at home.My eldest daughter is one of these children who carries the weight of the world on her shoulders, who sets impossibly high standards for herself (and is devastated when she fails: not just academically, but if we point out she has been rude or inconsiderate in any way). It is not surprising that she has this eczema. My second daughter has had trichotillomania and has suffered from nightmares most of her life. When we went to the children's mental health unit for assessment (they were wonderful with us) the conclusion was that she is just a nervous and sensitive child. She is empathic to a worrying extent and picks up on all the emotions of everyone, so that she is pained by any upset around her. It's pointless to tell her to grow a thick skin, because that's not going to happen; we can only work on coping strategies and find ways she can use that empathy in the future. Both children have been brought up within a happy marriage and stable encouraging environment; with the comfort of faith and the support of extended family and friends. Both take responsibility for their way of being, both embrace coping strategies (I was touched and amused when my youngest spent her Christmas Amazon voucher on a selection of stress balls and toys). But - the issues are still there.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 2:28pm

And I love the story of the flower arranging. A creative outlet.

John Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 11:17am

We have a friend who's daughter was having problems with self harm. Although media and her peers played a part, I couldn't help but see how our friend was too proud to get the personal and family help that they so obviously needed, as it seemed obvious to us how that contributed to the daughter's problems.

I have suffered with depression for most of my life (since my teens) and hold down a job/career. I am on my own journey to understand myself and resolve all those horrible niggly things that are holding me up/back. It may take some time ;) But I realise also that there is cultural dynamic that can have an affect on us all, and I don't know how to help resolve that

Holly Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 11:31am

I'm sceptical on the plans announced since it didn't include many things that I would've liked to see. Nonetheless, at least it's spreading awareness.

For me, I've found that the best thing I can do is to give my time. I volunteer online helping young people who are struggling with all sorts of things.

I've gone through my fair share of things, and never dreamed I would be someone helping others because I felt like I was the one that needed the help! I never had help with my struggles until I managed to understand what I had been through as a child and then got help as an adult. Even though I got my degree, I've not been in the best of health physically or mentally, but volunteering to help those in need has kept me going :)

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 2:30pm

At my local bi-polar group meeting last week, someone else in exactly your position said almost exactly the same thing. We who have been through it have an understanding, not just of what people are going through, but the experience of dealing with it (at least semi) successfully. We can help in ways that others, who have not dealt personally with it, cannot.

Julie Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 11:39am

I'm a member of the charity Rethink and there are plenty of ways you could all join in and help with campaigns, fund raising and contributing, there is the up coming Time To Talk day on February 2nd for example.Take a look at their website and why don't you join up today. It's only £6/year for online and you get lots of info on what's going on. Rethink were part of the negotiations in getting TM and government to this point where they see the importance of good mental health care and making this announcement was seen as a great achievement in itself as twenty years ago it would have been unheard of.
Best wishes to all and hope to see you at next Rethink conference.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 2:43pm

Thank you Julie, looking them up now.

Ella Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 7:52pm

I have huge admiration for the work Rethink does - but I'd also like to see more of our mental health charities campaigning for systemic societal and economic change to reduce mental health at the root. I wouldn't want to leave people starving without food banks, I wouldn't want to leave people without help when they're vulnerable - but the more charities do, the more the problem is seen as inevitable and acceptable and the less focus there is on changing the conditions which give rise to the problems in the first place.

Terri Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 4:16pm

Thank you, Mary, for encouraging me to think about what I can do to improve the field of mental health.

Ella Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 7:48pm

Yet another con by government. A small sticking plaster to appear to care. None of what follows applies to the relatively few occurrences of genuine mental health issues - and I have huge compassion for everyone suffering whatever the cause. We have to push for responsibility to be taken where it rightly lies and that's not with the individuals in mental and emotional pain. Our focus needs to be on the policies which create stresses and which lead to mental health problems and stigmatisation eg spurious testing of children from a young age, where all credible research shows this to be unhelpful and to lead to stress both in teachers and children; eg tipping people into poverty and despair through bedroom tax, removal of benefits without proper medical backup. And so on and so on. The war on the poor and vulnerable. As I write I'm listening to an account of the convicts sent to Australia in the 19th and 20th century for minor crimes such as stealing a spoon, crimes born of desperate poverty. Harsh as that punishment was, at least some had a hope of a new life, if they survived the journey. Now governments just leave people to die - of starvation by topping or removing necessary benefits, on trolleys in the corridor of overstretched health services where every staff member is working their butt off under unhumane shift hours, or to commit suicide through stress and despair. Fundamentally we need to fight back against the labelling of conditions born of poverty as mental health issues which are then stigmatised and held as the fault of those in trouble, which businesses then see as opportunity to make money by providing expensive 'fixes' which usually keep people in the place where they can be fleeced long term. The whole way our society and economics is structured ensures the failure of the many for the benefit of the few. That failure can manifest in different ways, including mental health problems. The real mentally ill are those without empathy or compassion, those who are content to take, those who wield power to maintain a greedy superiority, those who lie and cheat, who rig the system for their benefit - and then pretend to care in order to silence protest.

Ella Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 10:05pm

Introducing meditation into schools is an interesting move. Not unwelcome but it does seem ironic that the necessity to do so was created by the government in the first place by placing so much unwarranted stress into education - the experience of which could and should be redemptive and joyful.

Julie Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 10:31pm

I'd be interested to hear howl you are lobbying government to making the changes you suggest?

The Gardener Wed, Jan 11th 2017 @ 7:52pm

Lacey - can I come and join you on your soap box? We have a friend who was told he would not make Christmas - lung cancer - then a 'new' drug was found - his life is being prolonged - not comfortably, and at vast expense. A teenager who has 'lost their way' may never have a decent life (or a life, if they commit suicide) and have a job to get help at all. Cancer is 'high profile' and emotive. Men seldom admitted to depression until, I think, a Prime Minister of Australia resigned because of it. Same for testicular cancer, again, I think, because a Vice-President of the USA got it. And Mary, I am only too aware that children in happy families will face mental problems at stress times - I've agonised over third son since he was 13 - first depressive state - then his 20's, then the wreckage of alcoholism - hopefully on an even keel now - but, as the French say 'fragile' and I cannot relate to his problems, or help him, although I've been down that road myself - too alike? No empathy? I'd love to do what we've just done with his sister - hours round the kitchen table - discussing current problems, and re-living the crazy holidays all the children had together. But I'm convinced the strong bi-polar genes of my father are very evident in the grand-son - and my pa was not talkable to either. Jul, as it's on line, can I get involved in Rethink from France?

Jul Thu, Jan 12th 2017 @ 8:43am

Hello Gardener. It was Julie who mentioned Rethink. I am not sure if you can get involved from France but I'll look it up for you. Julxx

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