Thursday, 29 November 2012

1 in 4? Or ALL of us....?

One of my colleagues made an interesting comment this week about the "1 in 4" mantra which is so regularly quoted.... in the sense that 1 in 4 of us will experience mental problems, or illness, or distress (it's that language question all over again....) She said, "...actually, I find that the "1 in 4" term is discriminatory, as it implies that 3 out of 4 people won't experience mental distress in their lives, and I believe all of us do to some degree at some point." So that's an interesting comment in itself, and well worth debating.

But, anyway, the fact is that people are now starting to tell their own personal stories in a bid to reduce stigma and discrimination, and it is clear that the "1 in 4" term can be useful in helping this process along a little. Just yesterday on the Time to Change Wales blog  several of our Welsh Assembly Ministers wrote about their own experiences.

Llyr Huws Gruffydd AM said: "Nearly ten years ago I had been diagnosed as suffering from depression. Standing in a room crying for no apparent reason isn’t something a 30 year old bloke would usually admit to – but that is where I found myself at that time."

He and other Assembly Ministers Eluned Parrott, David Melding and Ken Skates then spoke in the Welsh Assembly chamber in a debate about stigma and discrimination.

You can find out more and watch the video of the debate on the BBC website here.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Mental Health First Aid - good news and bad

It's Monday, the start of the week, I'm going to begin on a positive note! I did a Mental Health First Aid course in 2009 with Mid Powy Mind - and particularly as I was relatively new to the mental health sector it was brilliant. Just what I needed at the time. 

It seems loads of other people have also now received their training - according to a Welsh Government report today - 10,000 people across the country as a whole:

The course teaches people about mental health problems and gives them the skills they need to help people in crisis. It covers common mental health issues including alcohol, drugs and depression, crisis first aid for suicidal behaviour, first aid for anxiety and panic attacks, and other issues such as self-harm.

You can read more, including Health Minister Lesley Griffiths' comments on the course, here.

So far, so good. 

Monday ticks away by, and during my lunch break whilst browsing the BBC news website, I notice another important report, this time from the mental health charity Gofal. 

It starts - "Gofal is calling for improvement in healthcare workers and GPs' attitudes to mental health problems in Wales." The survey of 1083 people also found unacceptable waiting times for treatments, and a high level of drug prescribing for people experiencing mental distress.

The first question which comes to my mind is - I wonder if all these health care workers and GPs have been on the Mental Health First Aid course? And if not, why not? Because the Gofal survey implies that there are still a huge number of people out there, many working professionally in the health sector, who urgently need this training.

But ..... even the bad isn't all bad, hopefully. Together for Mental Health, the Welsh Government's new strategy for mental health across Wales, was published last month, and Mental Health First Aid is to be a priority"... the highly successful Mental Health First Aid programme will continue helping people to recognise the signs and symptoms of someone with mental health problems." Doubtless those 1083 people Gofal surveyed would really hope so.

Meanwhile, you can find out more about Mental Health First Aid courses here.

If you have been on the course we would really like to know what you thought of it, so please let us know.

Friday, 16 November 2012

The Abandoned Illness

"The message that comes through loud and clear is that people are being badly let down by the system in every area of their lives." 
Professor Sir Robin Murray, Commission Chair, The Schizophrenia Commission

This week saw the publication of The Schizophrenia Commission's year long enquiry into schizophrenia and psychosis. It was carried out in England, but is clearly of interest here in Wales, where many of the issues will be relevant. It concluded that a major overhaul of schizophrenia services was required.

You can read and download the report here on the Commission's website. 

There is a BBC news story about the report here.

I first heard about the report early on Wednesday when I woke to Robin Murray speaking on Radio 4's Today programme about how schizophrenia is often triggered by a traumatic life event. He suggested that many people may be genetically vulnerable to developing schizophrenia, but not all do as they may never experience the trauma which could spark the schizophrenia or psychosis. Others do, and that trauma could be anything from bereavement, to losing a job, to witnessing a crime - well, anything traumatic in effect. 

Hafal, the mental health charity, has some useful information about schizophrenia here.

Do you have any experiences of schizophrenia services in Mid Wales? Let us know what you think.

Friday, 9 November 2012

What you said about the Powys Vision for Mental Health

In an earlier post I spoke about the consultation work that my colleague Freda Lacey and Eleanor Barrow from Powys Mental Health Alliance had done around the draft Powys Vision for Mental Health.

Well - people turned up to the events that were organised and spoke passionately about their views on mental health services. They told their personal stories, spoke about what worked and what didn't, about changes they would like to see, and the gaps in service provision (such as an out-of-hours service in the North of the county).  They raised other issues such as benefits, transport, and housing, for example, and explained how these also impacted on their lives and their ability to recover from mental distress.

"The key message from ..... across Powys is that people keep saying the same things. Overwhelmingly, the voice of individuals across Powys is, "HOW? How are the aims of the "Vision" going to be translated into tangible results? How is Powys teaching Health Board going to provide services as close to home as possible, out of hours/crisis support, enable people to build up their personal power and strength in relation to their mental well-being, learn what individual recovery means, receive the information, support and services they need?"
You can download and read the full report here.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

National Stress Awareness Day

Here is an informative article on how do deal with stress from Mental Health Today:

People experiencing stress should share their concerns and seek support, a doctor has said ahead of National Stress Awareness Day (NSAD) on November 7.

Stress levels have doubled in the UK over the past four years, according to a recent survey by AXA Insurance. 

The theme of this year's 14th annual NSAD is 'Defining outcomes for wellbeing at work' but Dr Steve Eccles, from Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust, said that any area of a person’s life can be a source of stress.

“People experience stress when the demands that life places on them exceeds their ability or perceived ability to cope,” he said. 

“We all experience stress to varying degrees throughout our lives and generally this isn’t a problem. However, it can become a problem and affect our mental and physical health when it is excessive and/or lasts for prolonged periods of time.

"The possible causes of stress can stem from any aspect of life, whether financial difficulties, worries about health, work-related pressures, or relationship problems.

"It is well known that particular life events that involve great change such as bereavements, getting divorced and moving house are associated with high levels of stress. It is also important to recognise that people may also experience stress due to a build-up of lots of smaller contributory factors."

When people are experiencing stress they may exhibit a range of signs and symptoms including poor concentration, changes in sleep pattern and an increase in smoking, drinking and drug use.
"Unfortunately, once stress develops it can become a vicious cycle in which our ability to cope is further undermined," Dr Eccles added.

"For example, stress can lead to tiredness and increased alcohol use which reduces the ability to cope and thus leads to more stress. The fundamental things to remember are to focus on reducing the things that cause you stress, develop skills to manage stress and ensure you have access to activities or situations where you are able to relax."

Dr Eccles has compiled his top 10 tips for managing stress:

* Organise your life - develop a balanced and structured routine to your day or week that allows time for work, sleep and undertaking activities you enjoy.

* Identify your stressors - allocate time to think about which parts of your life are making you feel stressed. It can help to make a list of the key stressors in your life and identify those that you have some control over. The key is to be specific about what it is that you are finding stressful. The more specific you can be, the more likely you can identify them and make changes.

* Learn to say “no” - being able to say “no” to people and have some control over the demands that are placed on you is invaluable in managing stress. So, before you say “yes” to people, ask yourself “do I want to do it?” and “do I have the time/energy to do it?”

* Improve your diet - ensure that you are eating a balanced diet of three meals a day. Also, make sure you are not drinking too much alcohol (21 units for men and 14 units for women per week).

* Maintain a healthy balance - undertake regular physical activity as this can provide a vent for excessive nervous energy and help you to relax. This doesn’t mean you have to join a gym, as you can incorporate a little more physical activity into your day, such as walking.

* Catch up on your sleep - a common sign that people are stressed is waking during the night or early morning and then lying in bed, worrying about whatever is stressing you. Dealing with your stressors in the daytime should help with this.

* Learn to relax - being able to relax is a skill that requires regular practice. Make space in each day to take regular short breaks. Listening to music, watching TV or reading can be relaxing if you can concentrate. There are many simple relaxation exercises available in books and on the internet that can be used to practice relaxation.

* Get some perspective - when we feel stressed and overwhelmed we tend to underestimate our ability to cope. This leads to feeling even more overwhelmed, meaning more stress. A useful technique can be to take each stressor in turn and think about how a friend might react and deal with the problem.

* Share your concerns - people generally experience less stress if they feel they have the support of other people. An essential buffer against stress is a good support network of family and friends. It can be really helpful to talk to our family and friends about how we are feeling. They may be able to offer practical support and solutions, but their emotional support by offering a friendly ear can be just as valuable.

* Seek professional advice/support - if stress continues for lengthy periods of time it can have a profound effect on a person’s mental and physical health. This can be particularly problematic if a person starts to feel hopeless about their future and feels unable to manage his or her way out of the situation. In these instances, professional help from your GP and wider health services is an essential way forward and the key to managing your recovery.

Posted 04/11/2012 by

Friday, 2 November 2012

And what is PIP exactly....?

And this has nothing to do with apples, rather more to do with Welfare Reform. This is another area where much more information is needed according to the recent consultation work done by my colleagues on the draft Mental Health Vision for Powys.

So, we are calling all Powys organisations who want to find out more about Personal Independence Payment and the Universal Credit. If you work with individuals who are in receipt of benefits, and want to find out more about the changes being made in 2013, then an event we have just organised with the Department of Work and Pensions is for you. Get your diary ready now....

Date - Friday 7 December 2012
Time - 9.30am - 12.30pm
Venue - Plas Dolerw, Milford Road, Newtown, SY16 2EH

The speaker is Ken Davies - Partner Support Manager, DWP National Partnerships Team. 

You can find out more about the event and how to book your place here.