17/04/14 Time to talk? A YouTube conversation on self compassion

Ok, here’s a bit of an experiment – here I reply to Johnny Benjamin’s film on self compassion

Johnny’s film

My reply

Any thoughts folks?

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14/4/14 Smoke and Mirrors

Are we all enjoying the Oscar Pristorious debacle? How could he…? Did she…? Four shots, I mean…

And what about that 9 month Pakistani child accused of murder? Hey, they have some funny ways, don’t they…

They’ve sent a submarine down to look for that plane…I wonder if they’ll…

Back at home, 25 schools are being probed over an ‘Islamic Plot’- it’s those Islamists (what is an Islamist incidentally, by the way?) up to their shenanigans again…

Oh and, *cough, by the way, *mumble, a recent study has found, *good god, look over there, you don’t see one of those every day…, that 55% of teachers questioned report that work pressures are having a detrimental effect on their mental well being.

Of those teachers who did feel their job had damaged their mental health, many reported experiencing stress (80%), exhaustion (69%), disturbed sleep patterns (66%), anxiety (57%) and headaches (47%). Almost one in three said it had affected their appetite.’

Is this in the mainstream news? Well, yes it is…but is it in the mainstream bit of the mainstream news?

No. The BBC have it so tucked away that it takes mental health nerds to dig it out. Even the Guardian has hidden it away in the education part of their paper.

Who reads the education section?

TEACHERS!

The same group of folk who are most likely to spot that over half of their colleagues are being driven mad by the endless cascade of tests, OFSTED inspections, a cast of thousands in their classes…

The same group of people who’re unlikely to seek help for fear of it fucking up their prospects for promotion in their chosen profession.

This is mainstream news – this effects us all – why isn’t it mainstream?

In other news –

‘Italy’s former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi must do one year’s community service over tax fraud, a Milan court has ruled.’

Hold the front page…

Walk a mile

Chris

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11/4/14 The 300

Imagine, it’s the 8th of March, 2014…

Over the next 3 weeks the hopes and dreams of 300 folk, 300 lives that once shone brightly with passion and wonder, wide eyed, loving and laughing, gradually begin to fade and die.

It’s ok though, the media from every continent bellows that this will never happen again. 14 Nations are drawn together with a ‘Sense of Brotherhood’ promising to find out what happened, to pick through the wreckage of these lives, cut short all too soon, no expense will be spared.

Even though hope of finding anyone alive has been lost, the search continues…what could have happened?

Who’s responsible?

But tragically, for the people I’m talking about, there is no black box pinging in the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean, although the debris and the devastation is still there for so many to see.

The clues are there.

Something must be done!

But these aren’t some folk who mysteriously vanished on flight MH370 on the other side of the planet.

These are the 100 people who die every week in the UK – individuals who have run out of hope, choices, a future for whatever reason.

People who take their own lives – over 5 thousand people every year – the biggest killer of men under 35 on these here islands of ours – people who have the audacity not to be celebrities but who are, nonetheless valuable, beautiful, magnificent and incredible.

Where’s the concerted effort to get to the root of it all? The willingness to spare no expense? That sense of brotherhood?

What makes our 300 citizens different from the 235 souls lost on that Malaysian airlines flight?

What would the world’s media be saying if the brotherhood of forces were held back due to austerity and efficiency savings?

‘What about the risk to those future travellers?’ the world would, quite rightfully, scream.

But why this conspiracy of silence? This compassion on the cheap? This, ‘it’s their own fault for getting on the plane,’ kind of attitude? This weird view that if we help now we’ll just create dependency…insert your own ridiculous, embarrassing parallel/ parody here…

Only 13% of the NHS budget is spent on mental ill health.

Really?

To pinch the tag line of a fine organisation – it’s time to change.

Walk a mile

Chris

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9/4/14 Resilience

On my recent visit to the undergrad psych nurses at Hertfordshire Uni, I had promised the day’s organiser, Dr Audrey, that I’d talk authoritatively about resilience and my angle on the usefulness or otherwise of the interweb for people with your mental malady.

To cut a short story long, I didn’t – instead I told tails of derring do with a few bits and pieces thrown in.

So – to remedy that particular shortcoming…

Weirdly, when presented with the word ‘resilience’ I immediately think ‘recovery’

If one looks to the interweb for guidance you will find this definition springing out at you…

‘Psychological resilience is defined as an individual’s ability to properly adapt to stress and adversity. Stress and adversity can come in the shape of family or relationship problems, health problems, or workplace and financial stressors, among others.’

Being an argumentative sort, I don’t like it as a word or as a definition. For me it oozes strength and, therefore, weakness; it implies that we’re all on an even playing field. It’s the folk who lack resilience who succumb to the madness.

While I’m at it, I don’t like the label ‘borderline personality disorder’ either. What’s it on the borderline of? What does personality disorder even mean…?

That’s enough of that particular tangent…

Don’t even get me started on ‘recovery’!!

Chris! Focus!

For me, resilience is multifaceted. It’s about using the tools (wank word) that the psychological community has bestowed me with.

I use mindfulness – where I focus on the moment – not stressing about my past, not worrying about what’s waiting for me in the future, just enjoying the experience if being. It’s easy to describe, but it takes a lifetime to become a mindfulness ninja.

I have forgiven those that have done me wrong in the past. This is a very active thing – some days I manage it better than others – but when I do it well I physically feel that weight coming off my shoulders.

I’m still working on forgiving myself – some days I do, some days I don’t – it’s a work in process.

I use just a pinch of cognitive behavioural therapy to steer me away from my particularly unsavoury thoughts – preventing them from becoming unsavoury actions.

I accept that I have a pain in the arse mental malady that will stop me in my tracks from time to time.

When it comes to visit, I no longer go into battle against it. I accept it. Usually with the support of the lovely Ella, I physically find myself somewhere safe. Once there, I repeat the mantra,

‘This will pass. It always has, and it always will.’

Even if I’m going through mental Hell and I don’t believe it – that simple phrase helps me on my way.

By accepting it – I can readily accept help.

When I started the ramble, I think I’d conned myself into thinking I was cured. I think I was about 3 weeks in, just outside Stonehaven,when I was smacked between the eyes by this crazy condition.

Looking back, it was obvious that I was beginning to learn. I’d been accepting people’s help on a daily basis – food, water, shelter, hospitality, company; now it was somehow easier for me to ask for help for the mental stuff too.

As best I could, I described what was going in in my head in a blog…and then I was overwhelmed by the kind words that flowed in my direction from you lovely Facebook folk. People I’d never heard from before got in touch with warm words of support, of kindness and compassion. Enough to get me up and going again…amazing.

On numerous occasions I’ve been encouraged to write some ground rules for the folk who are part of the journey on Facebook. I’ve steered away from that – people know this is a supportive group, they know how to be, they know how to care for each other.

I won’t pretend there haven’t been any punch ups – but they have been few and far between and some people have left the group under a cloud – which is sad, the group is always less for their parting.

The only people I’ve ever removed are folk who’ve decided that the walk a mile page is an ideal shop front for them to sell shoes.

Which brings me back to idea of resilience where it meets the internet.

Resilience isn’t an individual thing. Sure we can fend off some of the nasties using a few psychological tricks, but we are social beasties.

My mental health, your mental health, everyone’s mental health is everyone’s problem. For me, the support I get from the people on the internet is part of that resilience jigsaw. A piece that slots in comfortably with the folk I meet on the road – the same people who are trusting and trustworthy, who are compassionate and hospitable, which in turn slots in seamlessly with the folk who love me – who I love and support – all these pieces compliment each other.

Oh, and I take some pills – more when I’m particularly mental.

Acceptance.

Strength?

I’m not so sure.

Walk a mile

Chris

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25/2/14 Another Country

Water, water everywhere…

The other week I was watching question time on the BBC, enjoying the spectacle of the locals of Scunthorpe ripping into the panel, the media and the government.

Why? What was their beef?

They’d identified, quite rightly, that there is a London-South-centric approach to all things stormy and floody by those who really ought to know better.

Who knew that the areas around Scunthorpe had experienced floods far worse than those er, down the way at the tail end of last year?

Anyone?

Me neither.

A week or so ago I took it upon myself to drive around a number of Corby businesses to highlight the plight of the Safe Haven and to raise a bit of cash, sponsorship…whatever.

With my sparkling wit, presence and personality, what could possibly go wrong?

Nobody I spoke to had ever heard of the Safe Haven. Some feigned interest, others showed a real desire to put their money where their mouths were, whilst a significant bunch saw the whole mental health thing as someone else’s problem – something that had bugger all to do with them.

One, a pharmaceutical company, blocked me at the intercom stage. A distant voice, after hearing a quick blurb about this valuable mental health resource in Corby, told me they weren’t that kind of company.

I tried to argue my point but was met with a quiet click as the disembodied voice found something better to do with his time.

If only it were that easy – all mental health problems eradicated at the flick of a switch.

Others were fantastic – they couldn’t do enough through their donations and raffle prizes…

Mental ill health will effect one in four of us – plus the friends and families of that person. It is the biggest killer of men under 35 in the UK.

Every year over 5 thousand people, 75% of whom are men, take their own lives on our small collection of islands.

With this in mind, what percentage of the NHS budget do you think goes towards supporting folk with a mental malady?

Well, according to a report by the London School of Economics in June 2012, mental illness accounts for just 13% of NHS spending.

Bugger.

Ok, let’s try another angle.

How many British servicemen do you think died in the Iraq war?

How many Iraqi civilians do you think died in Iraq because of the conflict?

Well, you might be surprised that 179 British service personnel lost their lives in the conflict…you’ll probably be less surprised to read that estimates vary regarding the numbers of Iraqi civilian casualties between around 100 thousand and 1 million.

Take a look here

And here

But what about terrorism?

Well, it would appear you are as likely to be killed by a bee sting as by a terrorist – in the last decade both level out to a little more than 5 a year

Have a think to yourself about how this avalanche of the statistics has been reported to you, an ordinary British citizen, over the past 10 years.

Not for one second would I suggest that any of the deaths above are any less or more important or shocking to me.

Sure, many of us might connect less with the Iraqi deaths. They’re different from us…aren’t they? They have different beliefs…don’t they?

Even if the reportage on these deaths had some kind of parity with the loss of our military folk – what is an Iraqi civilian’s life worth?

Ok, closer to home now.

Let’s compare those same servicemen to the people who’ve taken their own lives in the same decade.

700 (roughly, if we include deaths in Afghanistan) military folk to…

…over 50 thousand people who’ve taken their own lives in the past 10 years.

Another country.

They’re not like me.

When are we going to invade mental ill health?

A cynic might say there’s no oil to be found there.

An optimist would say, yes, but take a look at the wealth of resources there if you’re willing to just scratch that surface.

Walk a mile

Chris

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15/02/14 They eat their own children…don’t they?

During the first, second and probably every other war there’s ever been, combatants have been encouraged, cajoled and indoctrinated to distance themselves from their foes.

They’re not like you…they’re monsters…cockroaches…they…

It was a hugely diluted version of this otherness, this I’m not like themness, I felt as we drove to meet the commissioners who had cut the funding to Safe Haven.

They’d had a public meeting a week or so before this – I’d raised some questions by email that I wanted to raise at their public meeting – they got back promptly saying they felt that these issues would be best addressed in a private, more formal meeting with them.

I spoke to some people who have worked in the area and they agreed that I was right to feel some hope alongside my trepidation.

Janice, the manager of Safe Haven, remained sceptical.

These were the people who cut the funding to Safe Haven because the bid was 8 minutes late.

£104 thousand cut because of 8 minutes.

That’s £13 thousand for every minute.

We arrived at the corporate building with it’s rooms named with inspirational/ aspirational titles that I’d only sneered at on BBC’s ‘The Apprentice’.

What they found motivational, I found embarrassing.

Scratch that – maybe they found it embarrassing too.

They had a pre meeting meeting – we were kept waiting somewhere between 5 or 10 minutes before we were invited in.

We were ushered in and there they were – four folk sitting round a table – smiling – welcoming.

At the back of my mind I recharged those positive thoughts – these people were in these posts for a reason. They must have a history of working in the mental health area – they must have an interest – a passion for this sort of thing.

They’re not monsters. They never were – looking around the table we had more similarities than differences.

However…my optimism had been misplaced.

We’d been informed by letter, by phone conversation and now, here by meeting, that the funding remained cut because the submission had been 8 minutes late.

There was nothing new.

Just a reiteration of the reiteration.

‘Whats the purpose of commissioning?’ I asked.

Head commissioning service man responded with things like…best services for folk with mental health problems…more bangs for the tax payer’s buck.

In amongst my, admittedly flared nostrilled, responses I asked how this dogmatic adherence to time fitted with best value for money. This isn’t EBay after all.

The question was raised, ‘Is this procurement law?’

Well…no it isn’t…it’s NHS policy/ guidelines.

So there’s scope for flexibility?

No there isn’t.

How would we feel if one of the other voluntary organisations had submitted late and had been awarded funding?

I stopped short of saying, ‘I wouldn’t give a flying fuck,’ but I think the answers around the table implied that.

If they were concerned about the response of the other voluntary organisations in Northants, there are only 16, why didn’t they contact them, ask them…an hour or two’s work…’Safe Haven have submitted their bid a bit late…is that ok with you?’

Easy. None of the other organisations provide what Safe Haven does…an out of hours service that responds to a person’s definition of crisis – counselling by qualified and experienced staff – with scope for follow up and a drop in service including transport.

We have a 10 roomed, comfortable building, plus an emergency flat provided FREE by Corby Borough council.

The other voluntary agencies in the area compliment our work, and we compliment theirs.

Surely if only they’d been asked…?

How long would that have taken the commissioners?

We divert folk away from statutory, 999 services – people who feel stressed, out of control, in crisis during those, oh so inconvenient, out of normal working times come to us.

We save tax payers money at the same time providing people with what they need at the time they need it.

If need be we signpost folk to statutory services to ensure their safety.

That feels like a lot of bangs for bucks.

However…the contracts had already gone out…that was it…there was no money.

Head commissioner man told us he was satisfied that they had commissioned the right services for the good folk of Corby.

So, how do we reassure our existing service users? Where do we direct them for out of hours…

They can’t tell us – not until the contracts are returned from the successful bidders.

I suggested – quite strongly – that the whole system appears to be service led – meeting the needs of the organisation before it meets of the punter.

I said it was ridiculous.

8 minutes.

Head commissioner person chastised me for my choice of language. I apologised.

I hereby withdraw that apology.

8 minutes.

As a social worker I was often a complete pain in the arse. I would write to managers who came up with policies to save money – telling them if we implemented all of their nonsense we’d be breaking the law and that I’d be encouraging our clients to complain…

Oh how we laughed…but that was another world.

Shit happens when good people do nothing…or some such.

I raised the point that mainstream NHS psychiatric services in Northamptonshire were about to be cut by £2.6 million…and that, although they’re a good idea, putting the service user in control of their own care and support, direct payments and personal budgets were proving to be a challenge for both health and social care in the county.

Blank faces…surprise.

And there’s another problem – different organisations jealously guarding their budgets – no, we don’t do that, that must fall under your umbrella of care…

Silos of care each in a protective tower with a very definite fiefdom…nobody with an overall view…

Except for the voluntary sector – interestingly referred to as the third sector – who are there, doing their best…

Oh, and the punters of course. With time you learn what’s available – sometimes playing the system to get what you need..

Head honcho commissioner questioned our assertions that we supported and diverted – he lacked evidence…

Evidence they’d received many times over the past 15 years.

He justified.

We polarised.

We stopped short of calling each other names…just.

Time came to our rescue.

We all shook hands. I told one of the commissioners that he and I had played for the same Sunday league football team when we were 12 – managed by his Dad…his dad had worked with mine at the steelworks.

He has a history of working in the voluntary sector in mental health. He has both depth and breadth of knowledge. As I’m sure the head of commissioning has.

They didn’t go into this to torture voluntary sector services – they went into this, I imagine, full of hope and desire that they could make a difference.

I believe – I may be right or wrong here – that in this instance though they’ve made a big mistake. To dismiss a service purely because a submission is eight minutes late is, in my opinion, just plain wrong.

BUT, even with this in mind, after the dust has settled, after I’ve unflared my nostrils, these are people on the same side as us. They are fighting the same battles – they’ll have pressures coming from all directions.

They don’t eat their babies.

They’ve just left us with an awful lot of work to do.

Walk a mile

Chris

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13/02/14 Save Safe Haven – a Plea

SAVE OUR SAFE HAVEN

The Safe Haven

82 Dorking Walk,
Corby,
Northants,
NN18 9JN

Tel: 01536 461414

Janice Crane, operational manager, 07729945056

Chris McCullough Young, Chair of the Management Committee, 07535035909

Email: Janice safehaven22@googlemail.com

Chris c.mcculloughyoung@btinternet.com

http://www.justgiving.com/thesafehaven

Hello, my name is Chris McCullough Young, I’m the current chair of the management committee of the safe haven in Corby.

I’m writing to you on behalf of the campaign to keep Safe Haven open.

As you probably know, Safe Haven Corby provides an out of hours, crisis service to people with a mental health problem – there’s a phone service that’s available to everyone in the county and a warm, homely comfortable drop in service for people in the north of the county with transport provided where necessary.

Counselling is provided by trained and experienced staff at these times of crisis and during more regular hours by appointment.

Safe Haven is losing it’s main funding on April 1st 2014. Our aim is to get as much short term money in NOW to allow us to apply for larger grants such as National Lottery and Comic Relief to keep us going throughout the year.

We need £24 thousand to keep running until the end of June.

The campaign is gathering pace – you can listen to our radio interview on Corby Radio here –

http://www.corbyradio.com/news/community/160114a

Both BBC radio Northampton and the Northamptonshire Evening News have taken up the story.

You can read the first report in the Telegraph here – http://m.northantstelegraph.co.uk/news/top-stories/fight-to-save-corby-mental-health-service-1-5824963

Or you could listen to the interview with me and a couple of service users on BBC Radio Northampton on BBC Iplayer here –

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01pm2c8

The interview is roughly an hour and 20 minutes into the show.

We are gathering folk on our Facebook ‘Save Safe Haven’ page – you can find that here –

https://www.facebook.com/pleasesavesafehaven

The issue of mental ill health is apolitical – it will effect one in four of us, regardless of our class or political standing. Every year in the UK over 5000 people take their own lives, 75% of whom are men.

Suicide is THE biggest killer of men under 35 in the UK.

Corby’s suicide rate is the highest in the county at 3% higher than the national average.

Safe Haven provides support to people at the end of their tether. It diverts people away from expensive, limited and inappropriate 999 services such as A&E, reducing the risk of sectioning and hospital admissions.

Last year we received over 1300 contacts.

It’s a startling fact that if each and every person in Corby donated just £2, Safe Haven would be secure for another year.

There are a number of ways you can help –

1) simply by raising awareness of our plight amongst your workers. I would be more than happy to come to your factory and talk about the effects of mental ill health in our community and what we can do about it.

2) you could come along to our sponsored walk on Saturday 15th of February at 10am at Corby’s boating lake – what better way to get over the disappointment of Valentine’s day?

3) you could come to our fundraising night at the Grampian social club on Friday the 7th of March at 7pm

4) you could donate a raffle prize – we currently have some great prizes, but you could save someone from going home with Aunty Mary’s chutney.

5) of course, you could just make a donation to our cause through the just giving link at the top of this email

Many thanks for taking the time to read this,

Chris McCullough Young

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