Tuesday, 29 January 2013

TED and a dementia story

My friend's Dad, who is 90 later this year, has what is described as "a little bit of dementia." He lives alone in his own home, and is relatively independent for his age. But over the last couple of years my friend had noticed that his memory and his mood had started to deteriorate.

"Every time I said something positive, he hit me with the negative. The dementia seemed to accelerate if he was socially isolated for long periods."

At first, it wasn't clear what might help, but my friend suddenly hit on an idea after watching an inspiring online video from TED talks. TED (Technology, Entertainment & Design)  is a global conference set-up run by a non-profit organisation called the Sapling Foundation, and has taken off big-time online. You can watch inspirational talks from speakers on almost any topic imaginable (climate change, health, science & technology, to name but a few).

My friend had downloaded the TED app to use on her tablet, and then searched "mental health" issues. Whilst browsing she came across a talk called "Music is medicine, music is sanity," by Robert Gupta, a violinist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra who is also passionate about neurobiology and mental health issues. You can link to the video and watch it here.

Enthused by what she had seen, my friend encouraged her Dad to join a local singing group ("he has a magnificent voice,") as a form of music therapy, and after initial reluctance he was soon thriving in amongst new-found friends participating in an activity which he clearly much enjoyed.

"The increased activity and reduced isolation has improved his mental health, which has also impacted on his dementia.... the music therapy and activity has changed his mindset. Now he is keen, enthusiastic, and can remember things better."

Here at Powys Mental Health we are looking at providing more information about the dementia support you can access locally in the county, and we have just set up some information pages on our website which you can link to here.

Do you know someone with dementia? Let us know if you have ideas about support which have worked.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Mobile phone restriction - patient confidentiality and the public

Since our recent post "Do we have a right to our mobile phone?",  we have been in touch with other people who are writing and debating similar subjects, including the use of social media on inpatient wards.   

There is some interesting information on Wardipedia that looks at internet access and social media on wards. We have been privileged to have made contact with "Little Feet" who has also blogged on the subject on her site Chaos and Control and Jackie recently "lurked" (her words not mine) at a recent twitter webchat that involved Victoria Betton, deputy director at NHS Leeds Trust.

This has made me ask myself the following questions:
  • Are members of the public/patients responsible for adhering to health board confidentiality codes?
  • Are health board staff responsible for making sure that members of the public do not break these confidentiality codes? And if so how far must they go to prevent it?
I don’t really know what the answers are but let me tell you a story about Sheila (not me - totally fictional, I don’t know how to post on my facebook wall).

At a recent visit to my GP, I was sitting in the surgery when my neighbour Brian (he works at the chip shop) turns up in to the waiting room. He was acting strange, talking about being the son of God and then he proceeded to strip. Well I caught it all on my camera phone. By the time they had managed to calm him, and get him and his clothes out of the waiting room, I had downloaded the video as a "Fail" on You Tube and pasted a link on my facebook wall with the comment "you’ll never guess what I saw today".

Afterwards I went to get a bit of shopping, the people I told around the town just couldn’t believe what Brian had been up to, but generally we concluded that it wasn’t really like him and that he must have been very upset about something.  

This was a small town and the GP receptionist was a "facebook friend" of Sheila and saw the video and messages.

So what responsibility do the GP staff have to protect patient confidentiality from other patients in the future? Should they act and try to prevent something like this happening again? Perhaps they could:

    • Put up a poster asking people to respect each other's privacy.
    • Get people to sign something when they join that asks them to respect the privacy of others, detailing consequences if they don’t.
    • Put up a poster asking people not to use their mobile phones.
    • Take people’s phones off them when they check in for their GP appointment.

In the inpatient ward in Bronllys, Aneurin Bevan Health Board, who deliver this service for residents in Powys, have opted for the later approach. 

So what about Sheila …

I am here again at my GP, the atmosphere is very different today.  I feel a bit sorry for the staff, people seem to be angry with them.  How strange, the receptionist has taken my phone off me, she is taking everybody’s. 
Oh no, I forgot to wish Alison good luck with her interview today. I have time, I’ll just get my phone back for a minute and go outside to text.  
Done. Thank goodness I remembered.

Things are running late, I'd better let my husband know he’ll be waiting outside soon otherwise, just pop up again and ask for my phone…

Still waiting, My cousin is here too, she is arranging a surprise party for her Mom. She has been trying to get in touch with our Aunt, but she only had her old number. I have the new one in my phone – dare I ask again! It’s just to get a number, it will only take a second.

Bored, bored, bored. 30 minutes late. Now where is it my daughter’s going next week, capital of Portugal. Can't remember, oh it's bothering me.  I’ll just google it. Doh!

So if it is OK to restrict phones on Bronllys Ward, isn't this acceptable too?  What do you think?

Monday, 21 January 2013

Blue Monday

Going on the amount of snow heaped up on the roofs outside my office window, today should be called White Monday rather than Blue Monday. But apparently the Monday in the last full week of January is now known as Blue Monday - the day out of all 365 (or 366 in a leap year) which is supposedly the most depressing of the year. Not just because we are laid low by the bad weather, post-Xmas debt, and possibly the size of our waist-lines following a bit of seasonal binging, but because of a complicated equation devised by a certain Dr Cliff Arnall (formally a tutor at Cardiff University psychology department) a few year ago. 

You can find out more about that here.

Personally I don't do maths (well only in a pathetic finger-counting rubbish sort of way), so equations are out for me. But really, is mid - late January each year really so much more depressing for people than any other time of year? And are the factors quoted in the equation likely to affect most of the population in this same way at this same time each year?

At The Guardian Dean Burnett calls it a "depressing day of nonsense science (again)".

On a more serious note, for those people that experience SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) then any day with low light at this time of year could potentially be challenging. There is more information about SAD here. Mental Health Research UK is running a campaign called Blooming Monday to encourage people to dress more brightly to raise awareness about SAD. (There is a bright blue streak in my otherwise purple scarf if that counts....)

But back to Blue Monday. All kinds of organisations have taken advantage of the media hype to promote their own ways of overcoming the blues of this particular January Monday. If a man in blue lycra takes your fancy, then there's even a video:

Friday, 18 January 2013

Give me a job - (and make me happy)

Yesterday I was chatting to a colleague about job security. Our contracts are renewed annually. So, 12 whole months of job security. Though my contract has been renewed since 2009 and hers since 2006. I said I felt I was in the most secure job I'd had for years.... lots of my previous work had been for charities, often grant funded, say by The Big Lottery Fund. After the typical three years' funding ran out I'd be off out job hunting yet again, and each time it seemed there were fewer job opportunities out there.

My colleague said she felt the opposite. She had previously worked for the statutory or private sectors, and felt more secure in those positions (though the times they are a-changing here too...)

But what about people who have no job at all? They might never have had one, and no matter how hard they try there is no prospect of a job showing up soon. So often now this means young people, even graduates, who take on endless volunteering opportunities or intern-ships, and still struggle to find a permanent job. Research has shown that this can have a serious impact on long-term life opportunities, and potentially on a young person's mental health. Earlier this month the Princes' Youth Trust published its fifth annual Youth Index, which gauged young people's happiness across a range of areas from family life to physical and mental health. Last night the charity hosted a live web-chat about the issue, and you can find a record of the conversation here. It is a useful source of ideas and resources for young people who are unemployed and want to know - what next?

Also, Mental Health Today has an interesting article about the subject here.

And you can listen to a Radio 4 broadcast comparing the experiences of unskilled baby boomers' seeking work in the early 1960s, and young people in a similar situation today here.

Are you a young person looking for work? Or do you have children, relatives or young friends struggling to find employment? Tell us about your experiences and if it is has affected your mental health.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Stress: fight or flight?

Well today is my first day back at work after a week's leave. The holiday was great. Relaxing, active, away from my normal everyday life... and so I return refreshed and invigorated. That was at 8.45am... now it's 4.30pm, I've read hundreds of emails and suddenly there seems an awful lot to do and not enough time to do it in...well, that's work, it's Monday, I'm just back from holiday, and it's bound to be a bit overwhelming, isn't it? But could I be starting to feel a little bit of low level stress about it all....?

The Stress Management Society defines stress as: "a situation where demands on a person exceed that person's resources or ability to cope." 

That could be me. It could also be any of these people that I have met or spoken to today:
  • My niece, who is madly juggling a part-time job and studying for her next university exam.
  • A colleague who experienced a bereavement just before Christmas.
  • Another colleague who exclaimed: "Windows 8 is evil!" and hurried away to face the next challenging dilemma in his inbox.
  • My friend's partner, who (like me is no chef!) had to rustle up a Sunday roast unexpectedly for a house full of visitors.
Apparently stress has been hard-wired into us and would have been brilliant in the old days when we turned a corner in a forest path and happened upon, say, a wolf wandering in our direction. Stress causes the well-known response of "fight or flight..." (I know what I would have done when the wolf showed up....) But "fight or flight", whilst perhaps helping us out of the immediate crisis, does all sorts of damage to our health both physically and mentally, and is generally not to be welcomed.

However, one thing I have discovered about stress is that whilst I might not like it, there are loads of resources out there which can inform and help us:

The Stress Management Society has some useful information on its webpages here.

Deepak Chopra writes a blog called The Unconcious Life, you can read one of his posts on stress here. There is a really interesting section on the "fight or flight" response.

And the mental health charity Mind has some useful information on stress here.

Let us know what de-stresses you. Loud folk music (bring on Seth Lakeman) and exercise does it for me - but we're all different - so share some strategies and maybe help someone else fight their stress.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Top mental health blogs 2012

All around me, in the office, down on the street outside the window, I can hear people greeting each other - "Happy New Year!"

So, whilst we're still in the mood, here's another of my New Year resolutions - to start reading more of other people's blogs! What better place to start than the best of the bunch as just judged by This Week in Mentalists, aka TWIM. This UK based website showcases a weekly selection of blogs from across the "Madosphere, our affectionate name for the mental health blogosphere." I like Madosphere - must keep that in mind... The selection is published each Saturday or Sunday on the The World of Mentalists website - an e-zine of news, commentary and blog digests in the arena of mental health.

Anyway, TWIM has just announced the 2012 TWIM Awards for the best blogs in the following categories:

If you have a favourite blog of your own, then please let us know and we can link to it from here.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

New Year resolutions: food for thought

Well, I rounded off 2012 with a bag of crisps if you recall. I'm starting 2013 with some thoughts on food too. So many New Year resolutions seem to revolve around food - what we eat, how much, when.... This is a photograph of some food I randomly found in my kitchen this lunchtime. To be honest, I haven't eaten any of these things today (yet).  I had bread, cheese and picked onions for lunch actually, but the fact is that some of these items shout "healthy and good" whilst others yell "full of sugar and probably bad..."

As a student years ago I ate a lot of junk food. That Mars-a-day campaign must have made the company a fortune, because I stuck with it for almost the whole three years. I also drank a lot of cola drinks (and others more alcoholic, but that's probably another post....) And I'm convinced that my mental health at the time suffered as a consequence. One way or another I definitely eat a lot more healthily these days, and feel a whole lot better for it. It's just that at Christmas (and birthdays, and holidays, and weekends...) temptation can be just that little bit too much...

Anyway, there are plenty of useful links out there right now to get us started on eating more healthily if that is the way we want to go. 
  • The Mental Health Foundation have a New Year Healthy Diet podcast which you can listen to on their site here.
  • The BBC website has a diet and fitness plan to follow here.
  • The Royal College of Psychiatrists' website has some excellent information on eating well here.
Finally, some people struggle with food addiction, compulsive or emotional eating, and I thought I would point anyone interested in the direction of a new Powys peer support group - Food for Thought - which meets early next week. You can find out more information and download a flyer on our website here. (And thank you for inspiring the title of this blog post!)

Happy New Year to you all, and we look forward to hearing your mental health food and diet-related views.