10/09/18 World Suicide Prevention Day

It’s world suicide prevention day.

I fucking hate awareness days like these – especially since EVERY day should be suicide prevention day.

Why?

Because it’s the biggest killer of men under 50 in the U.K.

That’s right – more men under 50 die by suicide than from cancer or road traffic accidents.

Last year 5,821 people took their own lives in the U.K.

That’s 1 person every 90 minutes. I’d really like you to think about that this weekend when you’re watching your football favourite team.

1 person every 90 minutes.

Last week the BBC told us that deaths by suicide in men had reduced to its lowest level since 1981.

Before we all throw our collective hats in the air in celebration, consider this…

Suicides in young Londoners, aged between 10 and 19, doubled last year – rising by 25% in the rest of the country.

Ordinarily, I’d take some time to explain why I think this is happening.

But I don’t need to, do I?

You already know, don’t you?

Bloody Snowflakes!

What a wonderfully convenient label – a victim blaming assault on our young people that shifts the responsibility from you and me onto them.

A generation where we’ve left many devoid of hope with spiralling university fees, unobtainable mortgages for houses that cost 8 times the average salary, soaring rental prices for those who can’t even dream of the first rung of the property ladder, an astonishingly unequal education system that hinges on the failure of thousands, adding to ever increasing exam stress, zero hour contracts…sorry, Bastard zero hour contracts…a benefits system built on punishment, mistrust, control and fear…We have the jauntily named ‘Universal Credit’ where folk, discarded from their zero hour none-jobs, have to wait 35 days before they get any money.

Think about it – 5 weeks with no money!

And yet we’re told that people use foodbanks for ‘Complex Reasons’.

With the old system people were forced to make the choice between heating and eating…now they can do neither!

Homelessness has grown exponentially…

How do we deal with this home made mental health epidemic? We cut mental health services. Did I say ‘cut’ ? Sorry, we decimate health and social care where there’s little or no joined up services as our young people make that transition into adulthood.

People are desperately trying to get treatment for their mental ill health – rapidly realising they need to tread that precarious tightrope, hoping, often in vane, their mental malady will sit neatly in that ‘Goldilocks’ zone where they’re just the right amount of crazy – a step either side and they, we, don’t get the support we deserve.

Throw a bit of stigma into the mix – ‘attention seeking’, ‘manipulative’, ‘not engaging with services’ and we’ve got a perfect storm…

Oh, and our prisons are bursting at the seams with an ever increasing population of folk with mental health problems – people who need understanding, treatment and support rather than incarceration.

And yet…and yet, we persist with this ridiculous ‘Snowflake’ smear. That insult is nothing short of disgusting.

When we’re asked why our younger people are more stressed, we shrug and give the revoltingly vague response, ‘The Internet…?’

Fuck off!!!

If anything the internet offers information – granted, some of it shonky – forums and support from people with shared experiences. What would you do if you couldn’t get support from anywhere else?

As for the claims that deaths from suicide are reducing in men, I’d suggest you take that with a large pinch of salt.

In 2011, professor David Gunnell suggested that as many as 6% of suicides were being misclassified as accidents as more and more coronors inquests are ending with ‘narrative verdicts’ (increasing from 111 in 2001 to 3012 in 2009).

I’m as surprised as you possibly are – I really thought the process was altogether more scientific.

We are the 6th wealthiest country in the world – the support, care and compassion we give to our most vulnerable people should reflect that.

I make no apologies for my anger here. These are desperate times. I think it’s time to treat each and every suicide with the same anger, despair and indignation we reserve for murder and terrorism. This is a humanitarian crisis of our own making, and it’s the responsibility of all of us to step up to the plate. Care, compassion, empathy and support are not purely the domain of the mental health professional.

I appreciate you may feel anxious about supporting someone with a mental health problem – but don’t let that anxiety turn into inertia. We can all do something.

You can take the first step today by following this link that takes you through some straightforward steps to take when you feel concern for someone’s psychological wellbeing.

Every day is world suicide awareness day.

Walk a Mile

Chris

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10/09/18 Stephen Fry ate my Gerbil!!

Close friends of the beloved actor, author and voice over guy to the stars tell me he vociferously denies the heinous…

It’s world suicide prevention day.

I fucking hate awareness days like these – especially since EVERY day should be suicide prevention day.

Why?

Because it’s the biggest killer of men under 50 in the U.K.

That’s right – more men under 50 die by suicide than from cancer or road traffic accidents.

Last year 5,821 people took their own lives in the U.K.

That’s 1 person every 90 minutes. I’d really like you to think about that this weekend when you’re watching your football favourite team.

1 person every 90 minutes.

Last week the BBC told us that deaths by suicide in men had reduced to its lowest level since 1981.

Before we all throw our collective hats in the air in celebration, consider this…

Suicides in young Londoners, aged between 10 and 19, doubled last year – rising by 25% in the rest of the country.

Ordinarily, I’d take some time to explain why I think this is happening.

But I don’t need to, do I?

You already know, don’t you?

Bloody Snowflakes!

What a wonderfully convenient label – a victim blaming assault on our young people that shifts the responsibility from you and me onto them.

A generation where we’ve left many devoid of hope with spiralling university fees, unobtainable mortgages for houses that cost 8 times the average salary, soaring rental prices for those who can’t even dream of the first rung of the property ladder, an astonishingly unequal education system that hinges on the failure of thousands, adding to ever increasing exam stress, zero hour contracts…sorry, Bastard zero hour contracts…a benefits system built on punishment, mistrust, control and fear…We have the jauntily named ‘Universal Credit’ where folk, discarded from their zero hour none-jobs, have to wait 35 days before they get any money.

Think about it – 5 weeks with no money!

And yet we’re told that people use foodbanks for ‘Complex Reasons’.

With the old system people were forced to make the choice between heating and eating…now they can do neither!

Homelessness has grown exponentially…

How do we deal with this home made mental health epidemic? We cut mental health services. Did I say ‘cut’ ? Sorry, we decimate health and social care where there’s little or no joined up services as our young people make that transition into adulthood.

People are desperately trying to get treatment for their mental ill health – rapidly realising they need to tread that precarious tightrope, hoping, often in vane, their mental malady will sit neatly in that ‘Goldilocks’ zone where they’re just the right amount of crazy – a step either side and they, we, don’t get the support we deserve.

Throw a bit of stigma into the mix – ‘attention seeking’, ‘manipulative’, ‘not engaging with services’ and we’ve got a perfect storm…

Oh, and our prisons are bursting at the seams with an ever increasing population of folk with mental health problems – people who need understanding, treatment and support rather than incarceration.

And yet…and yet, we persist with this ridiculous ‘Snowflake’ smear. That insult is nothing short of disgusting.

When we’re asked why our younger people are more stressed, we shrug and give the revoltingly vague response, ‘The Internet…?’

Fuck off!!!

If anything the internet offers information – granted, some of it shonky – forums and support from people with shared experiences. What would you do if you couldn’t get support from anywhere else?

As for the claims that deaths from suicide are reducing in men, I’d suggest you take that with a large pinch of salt.

In 2011, professor David Gunnell suggested that as many as 6% of suicides were being misclassified as accidents as more and more coronors inquests are ending with ‘narrative verdicts’ (increasing from 111 in 2001 to 3012 in 2009).

I’m as surprised as you possibly are – I really thought the process was altogether more scientific.

We are the 6th wealthiest country in the world – the support, care and compassion we give to our most vulnerable people should reflect that.

I make no apologies for my anger here. These are desperate times. I think it’s time to treat each and every suicide with the same anger, despair and indignation we reserve for murder and terrorism. This is a humanitarian crisis of our own making, and it’s the responsibility of all of us to step up to the plate. Care, compassion, empathy and support are not purely the domain of the mental health professional.

I appreciate you may feel anxious about supporting someone with a mental health problem – but don’t let that anxiety turn into inertia. We can all do something.

You can take the first step today by following this link that takes you through some straightforward steps to take when you feel concern for someone’s psychological wellbeing.

Just to be clear…the ubiquitous Stephen Fry didn’t eat my gerbil…

And every day is world suicide awareness day.

Walk a Mile

Chris

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09/08/18 Euthanasia and mental ill health

****mentions suicidal ideation***

I read this article today,

‘The troubled 29-year-old helped to die by Dutch doctors’

with a mixture of feelings from hollow sadness, to anger, to frustration, finally settling down on, good God, that could have been me.

It’s easy to slip into the ‘Parity of Esteem’ argument – where we can say, ‘If Euthenasia is seen as a viable option for people with an intolerable/ terminal physical condition, then surely the same choice should be given to folk with mental health problems.’

Or something very similar.

I can only speak from my personal experience here – but I don’t think our society is anywhere near ready for the euthanasia of me or any of my peers.

Our society – sadly – is both discriminating and stigmatising.

If we could look at a specific mental health problem in a vacuum away from this, then I think it would be worth consideration.

However, we are told, almost on a daily basis, that we are a burden on society.

We’re benefit scroungers – living off society – habitually drinking and smoking with our flat screen TV’s and mobile phones and our hordes of children…

To amplify this 10 fold, our welfare system has been made so laughingly impossible for applicants with mental health problems that the underclaiming of benefits is a much bigger problem than fraud.

The NHS describes us as a disease burden. But no, we shouldn’t take offence, that’s a technical term to describe the cost our maladies might have on society.

This feeling of being a burden is perpetuated in the media – through TV shows and news stories – so much so, that when someone develops a mental health problem we seldom consider the environment that caused, grew and cultured that problem.

Very quickly the person and not the cause becomes the problem.

That’s galvanised when many of us are told we’re not engaging with services. Services that are often set up to ensure the wellbeing of the organisation and not the person…

And yet…the shortcomings in the services become our problem. We can either be ‘too mad’ or ‘not mad enough’ to get access to the help we need.

Wild, eh?

We have housing providers that can legitimately say, ‘No benefits’ as they pass the responsibility onto the buy to let mortgage lenders who can also say ‘No’ to people on benefits.

We know that disability hate crime is on the increase – and yet the belief that folk with mental health problems are a danger to society dominates when the reverse is true.

Imagine experiencing suicidal ideation in this kind of environment?

I have, and I still do. It’s more easily managed now that I know to treat it like the imposter it is. For me it’s a defence mechanism – a pretty desperate one that allows me to consider there’s an escape from the racket in my head.

If I’d been offered euthanasia when I was 29, I can’t honestly say what I would have done. Those intense, terrifying feelings combined with the steady drip feed of how I, and people like me were a burden would have made it a very tempting option.

My life’s great – except for that third of the time where I dissociate. I’ve a horrible feeling I would have missed out on that had the option to take my life with medical assistance had presented itself to me.

I don’t pretend to have the answers here, but without getting our society in order, I really believe we can’t begin to consider euthanasia for people with mental health problems.

Walk a Mile

Chris

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04/08/18 Borderline (Bastard) Personality Disorder

So, you’ve survived your Hellish childhood. You’ve been abused either sexually or physically – sometimes both.

You may have experienced neglect, poverty, bereavement…

You may have found yourself on the periphery of your world – your family – your fellow students – often your friends – your work colleagues…

You may be fortunate enough to have negotiated these rocky waters unscathed. Alternatively, you may have developed any or all of a cluster of symptoms that serve to make your days … fucking challenging.

Your reward for all this?

A label – a destructive diagnosis laced with prejudice…

Borderline Personality Disorder.

Go on, try it on for size.

Yes, I know, it sounds pretty meaningless, doesn’t it?

Borderline of what?

Personality Disorder??

Where’s the acknowledgement of all the shit and trauma you’ve gone through?

Well, in the ‘60’s, doctor whoever wotsisname found there were patients who didn’t fit neatly under either psychosis.

or neurosis

deciding that there was a group of folk – my people – who hovered somewhere in between.

To my mind, the creator of this label went to the same school of wilful dingbats as those who sought to call elephants ‘pachyderms’.

For those of you who aren’t up to date with your Latin, ‘pachy’ means ‘thick’, ‘derm’ means ‘skin’.

If only they’d taken a couple of steps backwards, they’d have seen the elephant (in the room) in its full glory.

But no…instead we’re left with an umbrella term for a cluster of symptoms that carry with them seemingly endless judgement from many of the professionals, friends and family charged with our care.

‘Attention seeking’

‘Manipulative’

‘Dishonest’

‘Violent’

In recent times, it would appear there has been a push to destigmatise the condition by the folk who come up with the names for mental maladies…

In the U.K., we’re now referred to as people with ‘Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder’

That’s better! That’s so much less judgemental, isn’t it?

Hey, wait a minute! ‘Emotionally unstable!?’ I thought it was the ‘Personality Disorder’ bit that was brimming with stigma?

So, imagine going through much of the shitstorm that was your early life, only to be given this bastard diagnosis that breeds prejudice.

A diagnosis that doesn’t go any way to acknowledge what happened to you.

Everyone I know who’s ‘attracted the label’ of borderline personality disorder has either suffered abuse, neglect and/ or a steady drip feed of exclusion in their early lives.

Everyone.

Take a step back. What are we dealing with here?

We are more than a cluster of symptoms. We are people who’ve experienced trauma while we were growing up – where we developed any number of emotional defence mechanisms to see us through. Defence mechanisms that served us well at the time of the trauma, but now…? Well, not so much.

Borderline Personality Disorder is a result of trauma.

I’d like to suggest it was a kind of post traumatic stress condition – but that doesn’t tell the full story.

Paradoxically, receiving that label, a diagnosis we’d hope would be the gateway to the effective treatment of this bastard condition, has instead led to more trauma, through the institutional prejudice inherent in a system that asks ‘What’s wrong with you?’ instead of ‘What happened to you?’

That way, the person with the label becomes the problem. Not what happened to them. Not the way they’re treated by society. Not the shortcomings in services…

It’s you.

You’re the problem.

Imagine that?

You’ve gone through all that shit. You’re faced with health and social care services who, at the drop of a hat, will declare you’re failing to engage with services.

The conclusion? The services aren’t shit. You are.

And then folk have the audacity to tell us not to fall foul of ‘Self Stigma’.

I mean, just because everyone else sees you as shit, doesn’t mean you should join in.

This needs to be addressed at every level, root, stem and branch. The whole systemic treatment of folk like me is flawed.

We could try ‘Post traumatic stress disorder’ ?

It’s not that simple though, is it?

We could whack the word ‘complex’ at the beginning…?

Closer…but no cigar.

‘Post’ suggests the trauma is a thing of the past.

Hopefully I’ve encouraged you to look further than that. Because of the way we’re still treated across society – at home, at school, in college, university…at work, or by the welfare system…

This is trauma – nothing less.

Walk a Mile

Chris

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Walk a Mile, Tales of a Wandering Loon review

Here’s a great review on Walk a Mile: Tales of a Wandering Loon

Outdoor prescription and me

It’s funny how trails can lead to things on the internet. As a service user of Mental Health services I have found the Masked AMHP blog to be helpful in answering some of the questions or concerns I’ve had about my care, it’s also a useful insight into Mental Health provision in the UK and provides answers or thoughts into how legislation is applied. I recently discovered that the blog has a facebook group which I also followed. A member of the group recently shared that they’d had a book published detailing their diagnosis and subsequent treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder (NB I will refer to it as BPD for the rest of this review). The book appealed for me for many reasons which I will detail later in this review, what also appealed to me was some of the profits go to the Shaw Mind Foundation. Its funny…

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#42Days A #HungerStrike in protest against #UniversalCredit #SevereDisabilityPremium

One of the great claims of the supporters of Universal Credit at it was rolled out around the country, was that it would target those in greatest need…

Well…NewsFlash…it has…but it may not come as a great surprise to you, it hasn’t been in a good way.

Although I’ve mentioned this in passing – I’ve been particularly focused on the unacceptable 42, come February 35 day delay between the application for Universal Credit and receiving any money – people with the most severe disabilities have borne the brunt of the most massive cuts of austerity.

We hear that Universal Credit is crunching 6 benefits into one – we’re told that this simplified the system.

In that process, a little known benefit, Severe Disability Allowance, has simply vanished.

This means that the folk who were previously defined as having the most severe disabilities in our society have had £62.45 a week cut from their income – that’s £124.90 for a couple.

That works out at a cut of £3247.40 a year for individuals and £6494.80 for couples.

We’re not all in this together

Tragically, this is the tip of a particularly pernicious iceberg.

People who are reliant on benefits have also been hit with the ‘spare room subsidy’ – the bedroom tax – where they lose 14% of their housing benefit for 1 empty room in their home and 25% for 2 or more.

The average rent in the UK in 2017 was £908 per month – so that’s a tax of our poorest people of around £2724 a year.

This is when there are no alternatives available – so this is has been little more than a straight cut in their income. With no meaningful choice, peole have been forced to pay the top up directly from their disability benefits.

And there’s more..

There’s been a further shift in disability benefits…disability living allowance has been transformed into the new…improved…personal independence payment (PIP)…

When I say new and improved, I mean the government have taken this opportunity to lop more money from people’s incomes.

Folk with mental health problems who’ve applied for, or who’ve been transferred over to the new benefit have found it rather physical – centric.

Thousands of people with mental health problems have lost the mobility component of their disability benefit, because there’s nowhere to shoehorn their needs into the astonishingly restrictive forms.

This means that many folk in this group have lost a further £22.00, possibly £58.00 per week.

That’s a further cut of between £1,144 and £3,016 a year – purely because of a failing in the assessment process.

Add to that the current freeze in benefits, which is basically a further 4% cut in people’s incomes…

I’m so tempted to dive into the cuts into services – local and national – here, but this is clearly enough.

The next time you hear a politician or representative of the department of work and pensions declaring that we’re targeting our most disabled people in our benefits system, ask for a bit of clarification. I’m fairly sure they don’t want you to know that we’ve cut the incomes of thousands of people with disabilities and/ or mental health problems by up to £8987.40 a year.

In other news…I started eating again today…puréed pears…but after going through the above financial shenanigans, it feels like that’s paling into insignificance..

Walk a Mile

Chris

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#42Days A #HungerStrike in protest against #UniversalCredit Day 42

This is it folks…this is the big one…the last day of the hunger strike.

You know all the whys and wherefores behind it – and together we’ve made a bit of a noise – and I can’t thank you enough for that.

I’d like to ask a bit more from you all.

Remember – this is not about me!

It’s about the shitstorm that is being meted out on our most vulnerable people at their most vulnerable.

I’d like you all to contact your MP in whichever way you find most comfortable, and tell them that…

1) The 42 day wait between application and delivery of Universal Credit was never acceptable

2) Reducing that time by 7 days to 35 days is a derisory reduction. 35 days with no money is still unacceptable.

3) The convoluted system of crisis and/ or advanced payments aren’t fit for purpose – they just mean vulnerable people have to jump through more hoops – and bear in mind they have to repay that money from any future Universal credit they get.

4) The maximum time people must wait is 2 weeks.

5) The punitive system of benefit sanctioning must stop. It’s punishment without due legal process – and it has no place in a civilised society.

6) People with mental health problems are hugely over represented in this Draconian system – where DWP representatives can stop a person’s benefits for anything between 3 days and 3 years – for the heinous crimes of not filling out a form correctly or missing a meeting.

Instead of finding out what happened to the applicants, DWP staff sanction our fellow citizens when they’re at their most vulnerable.

7) Tell them it’s time to break the tired old rhetoric around people who claim benefits. They’re not ‘workless’, lazy, or in need of ‘tough love’

These people aren’t just like us – they are us.

We all have to work together to start breaking down that prejudice today.

8) Finally, for Universal Credit to work, it must come from a place of love and compassion – not one of suspicion. Remind them that only 0.7% of disability benefits are claimed fraudulently – our biggest problem is that roughly £2 Billion in benefits remain unclaimed.

Let’s make our welfare system into a real safety net – a service that we can be assured is there at our times of need and one that we can all have real pride in.

Remember, we live in a democracy – and together, we can make a difference.

Go on then! What are you waiting for?

Walk a Mile

Chris

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