Thursday, 18 December 2014

Top 10 Tips to Survive Christmas

The mental health team here at PAVO would like to wish you all the best for Christmas and New Year 2014. However, we understand that it can be a difficult time for some people, and between us the team have come up with ten (hopefully useful) tips for surviving Christmas. If you have ideas of your own we would really like to hear from you - just add them in the comments box at the end.

1 Get together with other people
If you haven’t got anything planned for Christmas and are worried about being on your own, why not contact someone who may be in a similar situation, and arrange to do something together.

2 Prepare in case of a crisis
Before Christmas make a list of people and places who could support you in a crisis. Make sure you have phone numbers to hand, opening times of places that are important to you, that you have renewed your prescription if you have medication, and have emergency cash if possible for taxis if you really need to get somewhere. If you self-injure and think this is likely over Christmas make sure you have what you need to be safe. (See links below for further support and help).

3 Remember lost loved ones
Christmas can be a difficult time if you have just lost someone. If you have lost someone close maybe acknowledge this and light a candle for them. You might like to give something to an appropriate charity in their memory.

4 Be a Christmas volunteer
What about actually volunteering to do something with a local group or charity? Many organisations would like to hear from you if you have time to help, but contact them in plenty of time so that your offer can be incorporated into the group's plans.

5 Just treat yourself!
Do something nurturing for yourself - get yourself a treat - plan to go to your favourite place or go on your favourite walk, or listen to music that you really like.

6 Celebrate in your own way
If the commercialisation or the religious aspects of Christmas are not for you celebrate the mid winter in your own ways - think of the mid winter as a time for reflection and quiet, a time for beginning to nurture new growth….think of all the things in nature which begin life in a period of dark and quiet - roots start to grow, trees rest before the new leaves of spring, sheep are in lamb ready for spring …...sow some seeds of change for yourself - what can you begin when the days start to get longer again?

7 Have a laugh!
Promise yourself a laugh on Christmas Day - even if you don’t really feel like it. Look at some funny DVDs or ring someone who makes you laugh - find a funny YouTube clip - even if you feel false doing it laughing can definitely help to lift negative feelings.

8 Take the time to be useful

Use the time to do something practical. You may get a sense of achievement for having accomplished something. Perhaps you have been waiting all year to find time to sort out that untidy room or make a new garden bed. Dive in and start now!
9 Create, create, create
Be creative - paint a picture, knit a scarf, design your garden ready for the new season, write a poem, make a fun mask, go for a walk and take some photographs, sing a song.... Perhaps it is an opportunity to try something new. There are lots of groups out there encouraging creative activity, such as Arts Alive in Crickhowell. Or you can search the internet for websites packed full of ideas, like this one.

10 Be a friend to someone else this Christmas
Think about what your neighbours might be doing, and if any of them might need some support, help or companionship at this time. Often helping someone else - even just small gestures such as collecting a newspaper for them from the local shop -  can take your mind off your own struggles and can be a very rewarding way to spend time over the Christmas period.

Wellness and Recovery Learning Centres around Powys are open at some point over Christmas and the New Year and would welcome your visit. Visit their websites to check their opening times, details here. You can link to national helplines here.

If you need help urgently find information here.

We look forward to hearing from you in 2015.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Dyfed-Powys Police: Dementia Friendly and Neighbourhood Friendly

Dyfed Powys Police is running an initiative to raise awareness of dementia in our communities and Inspector Brian Jones is at the forefront. In this guest post he tells us more about the initiative in Powys.

Inspector Brian Jones was born into a rural community near Hay-on-Wye and has spent his life in and around the county of Powys. Joining Dyfed Powys Police in 1994, he worked his way up the ranks, filling a variety of roles, to his present position of Neighbourhood Development Inspector, responsible for forging links with partner agencies to develop an integrated approach to addressing community problems. He is also responsible for equalities and the development of links with under-represented groups within the local community in order to increase police knowledge, understanding and awareness of the plethora of issues impacting on modern day life. 

Each of the four areas that make up Dyfed Powys Police has established a Confidence and Equality Group (CEG). These groups are organized by the police and seek representatives from communities that include young people, aged 16 to 25 years, elderly people, people with disabilities, people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender and people from minority ethnic communities. The purpose of the CEGs is to ensure access by under-represented groups within the community to the police and to provide a forum to discuss and resolve the needs and concerns of the community.

Brian chairs the Powys group, which meets quarterly, and involves members from these under-represented groups, as well as those actually living with a condition, for example, mental health. “I want the group to have a wider membership and create wider awareness”, said Brian. “To this end, the CEG meetings have been themed since 2012. These themes have covered a range of issues, such as mental health, dementia, ageing population and autism, to name a few.” 

Dyfed Powys Hate Crime Support Officers
The Powys CEG meeting, which is attended by a mixture of partner agencies and Community Support Police Officers, was held in November 2013. The theme was Dementia and Rhiannon Davies, Chair of the Brecon and Hay Dementia Friendly Community Group, agreed to attend to present the case for people living with Dementia. “It was following this meeting that Rhiannon asked me to become a Dementia Champion, which I did, and all 34 attendees subsequently signed up to become Dementia Friends,” said Brian. “Having this increased awareness and understanding of dementia is vital in assisting the police to treat those living with dementia with dignity and respect, to react appropriately to situations involving such people and to give the wider community the confidence to come forward, knowing that we, the police, can deliver the quality of service and support needed.” 

With his Dementia Champion hat on, Brian has now given Dementia Friends sessions to the scouts, to senior police officers and is soon to present a session to the Police Call Centre based in Carmarthen. All Hate Crime Support Officers throughout the 4 areas of Dyfed Powys Police are now Dementia Friends, trained by Brian. He also presented a session to the Powys Mental Health Planning and Development Partnership, as well as to a seminar for nurses and midwives. It is perhaps testament to the success of Brian’s role as a Dementia Champion and Neighbourhood Development Inspector that a police officer should be asked to stand before a group of health professionals to present the case for dementia.

Besides himself, Brian now has five Community Support Officers trained as Dementia Champions, whose responsibility it will be to train all staff in all stations in the Powys area.

For those police officers who have become Dementia Friends, the badge now forms part of their uniform and it is noticeable that wearing the badge opens up doors and initiates conversations. “My ultimate aim is for Dyfed Powys Police to become a Dementia Friendly organization” said Brian. “There are so many instances when we might be called upon to engage with someone, whether a carer or the family of someone, living with dementia. Whether it’s a missing person, a victim of hate crime or domestic crime, the level of response is extremely resource-intensive for the police. The key to providing the correct response, to picking up signals at an early stage, to treating people with dignity, respect and understanding, is in having that insight, that additional awareness, whether we’re dealing with dementia, autism or mental health.” 

“I’m very proud of how we’ve been able to change the culture within the organization over the last 20 years to where we are now” said Brian. “The culture of communities is changing as well and therefore how we engage with and police them and I’m proud to be part of that too.”

Do you live in a Dementia Friendly Community? Let us know what you think or if you have any queries in the comments box below.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Powys Mental Health Alliance Winter Open Day 2014

It's that time of year again already! The mental health charity - Powys Mental Health Alliance - holds two open days each year, one in spring/summer (you can see my colleague Freda joining in the Stretch and Smile session in May here), and another each winter. Last week I went along to the Royal British Legion in Llandrindod Wells to find out more about the group's latest activities and also listened to invited speakers on subjects as diverse as mental health research and dog-sitting.

Chair of the organisation, Bryan Douglas-Matthews, and trustee Debra Douglas-Matthews,
check out the latest edition of Headspace magazine with editor Carla Rosenthal.
The Open Day was well attended with individuals travelling from far and wide across the county, including Ystradgynlais in the South and Llanfair Caereinion to the North. Many organisations had stands on the day as it's a great way to share information about their activities - more details about some of those who came along at the end of the post.

The first business of the day was the charity's annual AGM, where members have the opportunity to sign off the annual report and accounts. The trustees are also voted in at this point for the coming year.

Current trustees of the organisation L-R: Christine Field, Bill Fawcett, Debra Douglas-Matthews,
Bryan Douglas-Matthews, John Steadman. Not pictured: Kelvin Mills, Robert Short.

First speaker of the day was Jenna Markham of the National Centre for Mental Health, a research organisation based in Cardiff and backed by Welsh Government, the NHS and Cardiff University. 

Jenna spoke about 
the current research programme which NCMH is running, and invited anyone who is interested to contact her to find out more.

This particular research
 "is working to find out more about mental health conditions so that we can make diagnosis, treatment and support better in the future." Jenna explained that the research started in 2011, and has a target of 6000 participants. So far 3000 people, aged from 4 - 96, have taken part across Wales.
NCMH is interviewing people both with and without a mental health diagnosis, as a control group is required. She said that the process was very informal, and also offered the opportunity to discuss how effective people thought any medication they were taking was, and if they received benefits from other therapies or approaches to their mental health problems.

After the serious matter of mental health research, it was time for some light relief in the form of Michele Hart's Stretch and Smile exercise session.This has proved extremely popular at previous Open Days, and this time was no different! 

Others took the opportunity for some gentle relaxation with Holistic Therapist Liz Gannon from Welshpool, who offered neck, shoulder and head massage and reiki sessions on the day.

Stretch & Smile, with Liz Gannon providing a neck
massage in the background
Liz told me that the benefits of massage included: 
  • Relief from pain, stress and tension, and the release of endorphins - the body's feel good hormones.
  • Increased energy levels and feelings of vitality.
  • A general sense of health and well-being.

A mask-making workshop, with former PMHA trustee Diane Hart, tempted others to put their creative skills to good use during the coffee break. Diane has created designs for a variety of animal masks which can easily be adapted - she showed us her lion, wolf and owl. They look gorgeous!

Diane holds regular Harts & Crafts workshops at Ponthafren Association's Welshpool base - you can find out more here.

Next up to speak was a regular supporter of PMHA - this year's Powys High Sheriff Phil Bowen. Phil has enjoyed an extremely busy year so far - the following week he was due to support the Lord Lieutenant at Princess Anne's visit to the Royal Welsh Winter Fair in Builth Wells. In his role Phil has provided huge support to a variety of mental health organisations and activities since April, including opening the new Wellness and Recovery Learning Centre at Bronllys Hospital and introducing new drama activities for mental health patients on Felindre Ward at the same hospital.

The Open Day then welcomed Julia Roberts of Dementia Friends, an initiative of the Alzheimer's Society. Julia, who works in a shop in Knighton and is also busy as a school governor, recently took part in a Dementia Friendly Information Session, and became a Dementia Friend.

The Knighton Dementia Friendly Community held its first steering group meeting last week and Julia hopes that the initiative will prove as successful as that already underway in Brecon.

Julia had taken away many messages from her Dementia Friendly session, including that it is possible to live well with dementia, and that there is always more to a person than their dementia.

She said that she hoped to help make a community in Knighton where "I can feel safe, loved and valued if I develop dementia."

And then to Barking Mad. Local organiser Steve Gibbon was unable to attend the Open Day, but, luckily for us, Headspace Editor Carla Rosenthal had two moving doggy tales to tell.... Last summer Carla sadly lost her own much-loved dog and felt very miserable as a result. Whilst writing an article on Bob the Dog for the magazine she realised how depressed she was because she didn't have a dog any more, and then found out about Barking Mad.

Before long Carla found herself looking after a Staffordshire bull terrier called Nancy while her owners went on holiday. She took Nancy for a walk around Clun on a lovely sunny day and spoke to lots of other dog walkers. Her spirits were lifted. She felt energised. "It changed the whole weekend for me."

Carla has since looked after Ozzie for 10 days and went walking every day. She sent a postcard to the owner on behalf of Ozzie and even texts. "I had all the fun of a dog without commitment!" By the end of Carla's talk everyone seemed sold on the idea! Not to be left out, even the cat lovers were throwing out ideas about cat sitting and cat cafes!

PMHA were pleased to welcome a number of other organisations on the day, including the following:

Mel Santorini of Time to Change Wales
Denise Davies of Mid & West Wales
Fire & Rescue Service
Meg Lewis and Linda Jones of Powys Care & Repair
Lucy Taylor of Powys Carers
If you want to find out more about the future activities of Powys Mental Health Alliance, you can check out the organisation's website here.

You can also tweet the charity 

Tel:  07926 862 414

Were you at this year's Open Day? 
Let us know what you thought in the comments section below.