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MAGAZINE FOR WELLBEING

Issue 58

>> Therapeutic Colouring >> Walk and Talk Group >>Another Miracle Cure? >>Enfield in Nature >>Discrimination in the Work Place

2015

>> Art, Science & more

ISSUE 58

>> MIND & the Black Dog


Equilibrium Patron Dr Liz Miller Mind Champion 2008

Front cover image: Taran Parke-Antonis

web alerts If you know anyone who would like to be on our mailing list and get the magazine four times a year (no spam!) please email: equilibriumteam@hotmail.co.uk (www.haringey.gov.uk/equilibrium). Equilibrium is devised, created, and produced entirely by team members with experience of the mental health system. Photo copyright remains with all individual artists and Equilibrium. All rights reserved. 2011

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editorial Hello and welcome to our Christmas/ New Years issue of Equilibrium! Whether you’ve just discovered our magazine for the first time, or are a loyal reader, we hope you enjoy this issue’s offerings. We’ve got some lovely new guest contributions, which we’re sure you’ll enjoy. Do keep them coming! We would love to hear your feedback; please do tweet us @teamequilibrium. If you’d like to join the editorial team, contribute an article, some art, photos or creative writing, please do get in touch via equilibriumteam@hotmail.co.uk. Kate, Editor/Team Facilitator

disclaimer Equilibrium is produced by service users. Reproduction in whole or in part is strictly forbidden without the prior permission of the Equilibrium team. Products, articles and services advertised in this publication do not necessarily carry the endorsement of Equilibrium or any of our partners. Equilibrium is published and circulated electronically four times a year to a database of subscribers; if you do not wish to receive Equilibrium or have received it by mistake, please email unsubscribe to equilibriumteam@hotmail.co.uk

the team Facilitator/ Editor: Kate Massey-Chase. Editorial team: Dev, Ian, Angela, Nigel, Richard, Mohamed and Isobel.

contact us Equilibrium, Clarendon Recovery College, Clarendon Road, London, N8 ODJ. 02084894860, equilibriumteam@hotmail.co.uk. We are in the office on Friday afternoons 2.30-4.30, but you can leave a message at other times and we’ll get back to you.

contributions Wanted: contributions to Equilibrium! Please email us with your news, views, poems, photos, plus articles. Anonymity guaranteed if required.

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MIND & the Black Dog Campaign Edinburgh College gives Black Dog a home to help raise mental health awareness

Edinburgh College is support-

During his time at the college from

ing mental health charity SANE’s

October until July, Angus will visit

nationwide Black Dog Campaign

each of the four campuses to allow

(sponsored by chartered surveyors

Ryden), to help encourage positive discussions about mental health. The

students from across Edinburgh and the Lothians to engage with the

college is providing a home for the

campaign. He has started his journey

black dog, Angus, to help reduce the

at the college’s Granton Campus,

stigma around depression and other

where he was unveiled by principal

mental illness, and support staff and

Annette Bruton.

students to find help.

Photo: Anthony

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Summer/ Issue 38


Fraser Shand

SANE’s Black Dog Campaign aims

that Angus will help the students of

to reduce the stigma surround-

Edinburgh College to develop the

ing mental illness and encourages

confidence to talk more openly

people to seek help early, rather

about their mental health and seek

than suffering in silence. To bring the

help more easily. We look forward

campaign to life, statues of black

to working them in developing

dogs like Angus have been placed

their campaign over the coming

in locations across the country.

months.”

Students and staff at the college

Susan Inglis, Edinburgh College

are being encouraged to take part

equalities, policy and research

in the campaign by taking selfies

manager, said: “We are excited

with Angus to share on social media

to be hosting SANE’s Black Dog

with the hashtag #BlackDogEC and

campaign. We understand that

to share their own stories of mental

balancing college life with other

illness and recovery.

external pressures can be difficult for our students and staff, and that

Majorie Wallace, chief executive of

some may think that they have to

SANE, said: “We are delighted that

suffer in silence. I hope that Angus

Edinburgh College has adopted

will provide the talking point our staff

Angus, and pleased to see that

and students need to engage with

the Black Dog Campaign is gath-

each other about mental health,

ering pace in Scotland. We hope

and lead to positive outcomes.”

www.haringey.gov.uk/equilibrium

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CAN A CHILDHOOD ART ACTIVITY BE THE NEXT REVOLUTION IN ADULTHERAPY?

Mischa Fellez Johnston

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Summer/ Issue 38


Being raised in an abusive environment,

two decades, consuming every style, and

and suffering from PTSD, and ADHD has

medium I could grasp. Seeking mastery

transformed me from victim, to seeker,

of my calling in life became a catalyst for

to thriver. My Father was an alcoholic,

my healing. I then realized that sharing

and my Mother was bi-polar. Crushed

the respite of art with the mental health

under the weight of their afflictions, one

community would be the final step to

of my brothers is homeless and addicted

wholeness. I would leave a legacy of

to drugs, and the other is dying of stage

comfort in my wake, not chaos like those I

four cancer at the age of 40 (unresolved

was raised by. It was an epiphany! Turning

helplessness takes all forms). I somehow

our past pain into something beneficial

made it out intact, and met my beautiful

for others, so that it is no longer useless, is

husband who loves me because of my

how we can become a powerful force for

past, not despite it even though I still must

change in this world.

face my PTSD, and ADHD on a regular basis. When I say, ‘my PTSD, and ADHD’, I mean that I have embraced it. I finally own it. At one time, it owned me. As a child, art became my only refuge from the torrent of emotional, and physical abuse in my home, and I still use it to cope everyday. It was, is, and always will

I began the creation of a therapeutic adult coloring book for PTSD, and ADHD patients. The book, ‘Meditative Imaginings: A Curative Coloring Experience’, embodies a completely original perspective on classic coloring styles, and has been hand drawn, re-sketched numerous times, and lovingly inked over so that the designs radiate a comforting, personal

be the center where the stability of my

touch with a level of effort and originality

psyche hovers. I tirelessly pursued art for

that can be found no where else. cont.

www.haringey.gov.uk/equilibrium

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A revolutionary form of art therapy,

ist with more shading, and intricate

utilizing a cherished childhood

detail within their finished pieces.

activity, adult coloring books have

On the other hand, crayons grant

become an amazing tool for PTSD

an improvisational, and childlike

patients, sufferers of ADHD, in group

freedom for the colorist to explore. If

therapy, and even for people need-

you’re feeling brave, coloured pens

ing to work on their fine motor coordi-

bring a bold, and striking experience

nation. I want everyone in the mental

to the art table. Of course, you can

health community to become part

always combine all these mediums

of this contribution. By empowering

or even add your own imaginatively

other trauma survivors to persevere in

drawn details to each illustration.

their lives through creativity, we are

inspired to embrace our own healing

Colouring reassures a nostalgic feel-

as well.

ing of accomplishment, making us

proud to explore our talents, and

Depending on the mood, a variety of

inspiring us to rediscover our joy

artistic implements can be perfectly

again! By embracing the peaceful

paired with adult coloring books.

process of colouring, we all begin to

Colored pencils provide the color-

reconnect with the child inside, and

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Summer/ Issue 38


merge with the present moment where

If you’d like to share in this heal-

there is no longer room in our swirling

ing venture with me, you are most

minds for the manic oppression of fear

welcome to check out the campaign

from our past, and future. Like dancing,

link below, to donate to the cause,

colouring has no rules and only exists

or share the campaign wherever you

to be enjoyed. It’s a place where we

think it would be a contribution in the

are fully free to escape to a world of

world. Thank you to all my fellow seek-

creative meditation and breathe in the

ers, and survivors for your

beautiful simplicity of self-care.

continued strength, and commitment

to the mental health community. We

I believe in community and that with

shall overcome, and rediscover our joy

the aid of allies and advocates like

together!

you anything is possible. By continu-

ally choosing to inspire tranquility in

Wordpress Art Blog link: http://

our human society with our time on this

mischafellez.wordpress.com

earth, we break the ancient bonds that our fears have tried to shackle us with. A new day can now begin with us.

www.haringey.gov.uk/equilibrium

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PHOTOGRAPHY: SARA MCCALLUM

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Walk and Talk Group Canning Crescent Centre – Haringey

Mohamed

The group meets every Wednesday at

Last summer we played tennis in Bounds

2pm. The session lasts 1.5 hours over vary-

Green and in winter we visited art galleries

ing places, with half an hour for refresh-

in the West End. Some walks also use tube

ments. The Walk and Talk Group is led by

or bus journeys to reach suitable walk

a walk leader who has a passion for walk-

routes. We walk while sharing our struggle

ing and a keen interest in her local parks

and life situations. We walk and talk about

and rivers. Canning Crescent offers these

other opportunities in terms of courses,

sessions to all adults who are 18-65 with

other walk and talk groups in Haringey

mental health issues, such as schizophre-

and voluntary work. The walk and talk

nia, bi-polar affective disorder, psychotic

group motivates all patients to go out and

depression and other psychiatric disor-

enjoy the meeting.

ders. For me, the Walk and Talk Group Exercise is good for the body and mind. It

produces massive benefits to my physical

is a great approach for therapy. Walking

fitness and mental wellbeing.

and talking is a more relaxed environment than the office. Walking and talking

Contact details:

sessions are conducted outdoors while

West Haringey Community Support and

walking together.

Recovery Team Canning Crescent Health Centre, 276-292

We walk in different parks across north

High Road, Wood Green,

London, such as Trent park, Alexandra park,

London, N22 8JT

Finsbury park‌ We also walk along rivers.

Tel: 020 8702 3200

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Enfield in Nature Photos: Taran Parke-Antonis

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Summer/ Issue 38


www.haringey.gov.uk/equilibrium

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Mental Health

& Discrimination in the Work Place

I believe people with mental health

of the high street (e.g Mind, Cancer

issues are not getting the right support

Research, Oxfam, British Heart Founda-

for employment and are still discriminated against in the work place. We

tion and The North London Hospice).

have always been here, even before

I see a lot of people from the mental

biblical times, so why do we still face so

health system working in charity shops

much stigma?

on a voluntary basis but they do not progress into paid work in the shops on

Progressing from volunteering

the high street, not even on a temporary

The charity shop is an established part

basis at Christmas.

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Summer/ Issue 38


ANGELA

Support from the council

applied for jobs where they said I was too slow.

In the housing department in the local council, there is a panel to represent

Success Stories

people with mental health issues for coun-

Sometimes I hear about success stories,

cil flats. People with mental health issues

where some people get a full-time job and

don’t just automatically get a council flat;

are completely out of the mental health

they have to be assessed first over a period system. However nobody finds out how of time to show that they can live indepen-

they did it. When I left college, I got a job

dently. They look at things like: can you

with the Civil Service.

take your medication regularly, can you

The careers officer from my college

cook, maintain personal hygiene, keep the

phoned me at my home to find out how I

flat clean and deal with repairs?

got the job, so that she can advise other students what to do. This was in the 1980s.

I think there should be a panel to represent

I gained my work experience by temp-

people with mental health issues in the

ing. At the interview I was assessed about

employment department of the council.

current affairs and I had to talk about

I suggest that they do work that does not

the work I was doing in an international

involve a lot of training, e.g messenger,

merchant bank, as a filing clerk. The prob-

receptionist or cleaner. I also think there

lem is, the ones who move on from the

should be flexibility – if it does not work out

mental heath system do not come back to

they should not be penalised for trying.

the centres, so you do not get to find out

Otherwise it can not only be a huge knock

how they did it. You do not get to find out if

to their self esteem, but also mean they

they had to tell the employer that they had

lose their benefits and face poverty. I have

mental health issues, and ask questions cont.

www.haringey.gov.uk/equilibrium

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like: How did they deal with gaps in their CV?

Rejection by Olympics

When they were not well, what do they do

The Paralympics started in 1948 by British

if medication has to be changed? How do

World War II veterans. I see this as very posi-

they get to their appointments?

tive for representations of disability. However, in the 2012 Olympics in London there was

Part time work

a disappointing story about Miss Wilkinson

I did get some reception work at the Claren-

Burnett, a paralympian canoeist who was

don Day Centre. I got £10 for 3 and a half

axed because her condition was in the mind.

hours a week, and this got me a reference.

One of Britain’s best hopes for a medal in

The ‘permitted work lower limit’ allows

next year’s Paralympics has also been told

people with disabilities to earn £20 a week

that she can no longer compete because

for an unlimited period. The ‘permitted work

her disability is psychological rather than

higher limit’ allows you to earn up to £104

physical (Daily Mail, 08/09/15). I feel that

a week (after tax and national insurance).

Miss Wilkinson Burnett who has ‘conversion

In the 2015 Budget by the Department of

disorder’, has been discriminated against for

Work and Pensions, MP Ian Duncan Smith

having mental health issues. I see this as a

said people on Employment and Support

significant rejection.

Allowance (ESA) who are deemed fit for work related activities will have their benefits

Well done, Reed Agency!

stripped back. They could find their £102.15

I think the Work Programme by Reed is very

a week payments have dropped even if they

good. This organisation finds vacancies for

have serious medical conditions.

people looking for work. They teach good interview techniques, tell you how to dress,

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said low paid workers will ‘unequivocally’ be worse off than better earners after George Osborne took a ‘sledgehammer’ to the welfare bill (The

show you how to do a professional CV and prepare you for the interview. They also do training on a variety of vocational subjects, such as ‘Food and Hygiene’ for catering.

Mirror, 09/07/15).

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Summer/ Issue 38


Self Employment

others to be open about their condition

At 25 Carlos D’Souza was diagnosed with

(Tottenham Independent 28/8/15)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). ADHD is a group of behavioural

Conclusion

symptoms that include inattentiveness,

Anita Hudson, the chief executive of Mind

hyperactivity and impulsiveness. ADHD

in Haringey has made a comment on this

can occur in people of any intellectual

subject: “I would like to see more help

ability, although it is more common in

for people with mental health problems

people with learning difficulties. People

in not just getting employment but to stay

with ADHD may also have additional prob-

in employment.” Mayor of London, Boris

lems, such as sleep and anxiety disorders’.

Johnson, said: “There is a lack of under-

Medication is often the first treatment

standing and support from employers in

offered to adults with ADHD, although

London for those who suffer mental health

psychological therapies such as cognitive

problems”

behavioural therapy (CBT) may also help’

09/10/15).

(The Tottenham Independent,

(NHS Choices). I think that people with mental health Carlos D’Souza had difficulty at school at school because teachers thought his disruptive behaviour was because of laziness. He is now 32 and graduated in Sports Medication and Injury prevention. Today he manages the condition using therapy and by following a strict diet. He now has

issues should be given the opportunity to do a work placement where necessary. My problem was that employers kept complaining that I was too slow. I think the employment advisors at Job Centre Plus should be better at getting people with

his own personal training company called

mental health issues into work, and organi-

‘The Carlos Method’. D’Souza is trying

sations to help people with mental health

to help shift the stigma of mental issues

issues back into work should be supervised

through work by telling his story to help

to make sure they deliver on their promises.

www.haringey.gov.uk/equilibrium

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Another miracle cure? Cancer Bush (Sutherlandia Frutescens)

I recently had a discussion about the

thorough, it’s latin name is Sutherlan-

benefits of St John’s Wort, and in that

dia Frutescens.

conversation was mentioned a plant

A little research reveals it has been

with medicinal properties which I’d

used for centuries to treat cancer and

never come across. The plant had

a variety of other ailments by Southern

the slightly dubious title of ‘Cancer-

Africans. It contains a powerful immune

Bush’. Its original Southern Africa

boosting property which has been clas-

name is ‘Kankerbos’, and to be totally sified as an adaptogen (an adaptogen

EQUILIBRIUM EQUILIBRIUM 18

Summer/ Issue 38


Nigel Prestayn

is a herbal substance or “tonic” that

wall about ‘Cancer Bush’, with a list of its

helps the body to adapt to environmen-

many benefits, which instantly impressed

tal and internal stress by changing body

me.

metabolism.) Q. How long have you been taking So what it is? Cancer bush is a flowering

Cancer Bush and why did you start taking

shrub of the pea family which grows up

it?

to 1.2m high and is found in its natural state only in the drier areas of the West-

A. I’ve been taking cancer bush for over

ern and Northern Cape provinces of

a year now. I began taking it because I

Southern Africa.

was looking for something homeopathic, with no known side effects, and in partic-

I interviewed a colleague, Richard, who

ular I was looking for something which

has been taking this product regularly for

would reduce my stress levels.

over a year: Q. Richard, where did you here about cancerbush? A. The first time I heard about cancer bush I was on my way to Woodgreen looking for homeopathic remedies for depression and anxiety. I’d been recommended a shop there and when I arrived the first thing I saw was a poster on the

cont.

www.haringey.gov.uk/equilibrium

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Q. What benefits have you found since

Cancer bush is known among the Sotho

you began taking cancer bush?

culture as ‘motlepelo’, meaning ‘bringing back the heart’ - a traditional treat-

A. My nightmares have completely slowed down. Prior to taking it I would have dozens of nightmares. Then I found the more I took the Cancer Bush, the less I had these nightmares. I took beyond the recommended dosage and found I would have just the single odd dream in

ment used by the Sotho for emotional shock and stress. Apparently an ‘infusion of cancer bush was given to Zulu warriors returning from battle “to take the war out” - as a calming tea’ (www.cancerbush. com).

the night. And in the daytime everything seemed a lot easier. I found I was actu-

It is also believed that this medicinal plant

ally looking forward to living life.

may hold the key to the treatment of

The list of benefits from this plant is

millions of poor people living with HIV and

extensive. It is claimed to help cancer,

Aids, helping to relieve the symptoms.

anxiety,arthritis, asthma, backache,

For the first time in South Africa’s medi-

chronic fatigue syndrome and Depression, to mention a few! Of course when we’re met with such claims, we naturally feel a degree of scepticism. Each day there seems to be a new product on the market which proclaims a miracle cure for this or that ailment.

EQUILIBRIUM EQUILIBRIUM 20

cal history, the plant is to undergo clinical trials to assess its immune-boosting properties. Anecdotal evidence is already mounting, suggesting that this plant can improve the quality of life for thousands of people both with HIV and full-blown Aids.

Summer/ Issue 38


PHOTOGRAPHY: SARA MCCALLUM

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Body image, mental health and the fashion industry

As the New Year approaches the annual

held responsible for body image obsessions

assault of advice for slimming and trim-

and its devastating effects, it is a complex

ming begins again, inaugurating the season

issue that needs to be examined in its social

of faddy dieting and gruelling exercise

and historical context.

regimes. Women today are bombarded by a cascade of literature and images

Although I will focus on issues of female

prescribing the physiognomy of the ‘ideal’

body image, this is not to diminish similar

female. Slender models leering down from

pressures on men. From protein powders to

billboards, magazines bursting with chis-

gym memberships, there is an entire indus-

elled cheekbones, stick thin mannequins

try devoted to preying on male anatomical

posing in shop windows; it is impossible to

insecurities. We have created a culture and

escape the onslaught of this prescription of

economy in which we identify one another’s

beauty. While the fashion industry is often

imperfections and prescribe endless reme-

EQUILIBRIUM EQUILIBRIUM 22

Summer/ Issue 38


Isobel Duxfield

dies for our apparent ’defects’.

ing flawless perfection. Instead of idolising figures like Angela Merkel and Michele

One of the most interesting features of our

Obama, celebrities like Cara Delavigne and

image obsessed culture is the way it mate-

Angelina Jolie become heroes of worship.

rialises not from birth but later in life. We

This is not say these two women do not

encourage our offspring to treasure their

deserve acclaim, but for their professional

distinctiveness, yet later in life this philoso-

achievements rather than their sculpted hips

phy evaporates. The child who was once

and breasts. If we are going to teach our

inspired to cherish her lumps and bumps

children to accept all shapes and sizes this

is now offered diets, exercise regimes and

philosophy must be continued later in life.

even drastic surgeries to help shed the ‘flab’. At the dawn of adolescence, girls are

The fashion industry has a lot to answer for.

suddenly confronted by a world command-

Skeletal models parade across catwalks and cont.

www.haringey.gov.uk/equilibrium

EQUILIBRIUM 23


tiny girls are draped across glossy maga-

ably this size zero ethos merely satisfies

zine pages. This industry has propelled a

existing social attitudes. This is a position

perverted perception of the female form

supported by editor of British Vogue, Alex-

in which protruding bones are considered

andra Shulman, who recently claimed

‘chic’, gaunt faces ‘elegant’ and bowed

that catwalk culture cannot be consid-

legs ‘graceful’. Indeed fashion guru, Karl

ered the tipping point from dissatisfaction

Lagerfeld’s declaration that ‘nobody

with body image into something more

wants to see a curvy figure on the

harmful. To an extent Shulman is right.

runway’ exposes the vehemence of this

Demand for excessively thin models is

culture. It appears that today the route to

not the sole source of negative percep-

happiness is through a size 4 dress. The

tions of oneself, leading to damaging

devastating effect on women, particularly

emotional and psychological problems

young females, is profound. Unable to

(such as self-harm or eating disorders).

achieve a size zero frame we are left feel-

Mental illness is a lethal concoction of

ing unattractive, even ugly, relentlessly

deeper unhappiness and insecurity. While

comparing thighs and buttocks with these

the fashion industry’s promotion of a slim

airbrushed seraphs.

frame is clearly an aggressive force body for dysphoria, it must be recognised as

However the fashion industry’s size zero

a cog in a wheel, not the source of the

culture is not directly and exclusively

problem.

culpable for insecurities with our physical appearance. The relationship between

Nonetheless the fashion industry is still in

this multibillion pound sector and female

need of reform. Following recent pressure

body image multifaceted. Indeed argu-

from lobby groups steps are now being

EQUILIBRIUM EQUILIBRIUM 24

Summer/ Issue 38


taken to reduce the use of malnour-

suit. However, while the prohibition of

ished models. In September it was

underweight models and other reforms

announced an all-party parliamen-

may signal progress they merely

tary group, led by Conservative politi-

scratch the surface of our deep rooted

cian Caroline Noakes, will investigate

obsession with body image.

the option of laws prohibiting underweight models on UK catwalks.

The media also shoulders a significant proportion of the blame for propel-

This echoes similar movement across

ling idealisation and objectification

the channel where French authorities

of the female form. Popular maga-

have barred the employment of ultra

zines exuberantly make a spectacle

thin models, with fines of up to £55,000

of celebrity physiques, pointing out

for agencies found contravening the

excess flesh and lambasting style

new conventions. We are already

faux pas. We revel in this cruel sport;

witnessing changes. In June Yves Saint Laurent’s advertisement featuring underweight models was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority. This is part of wide ranging regulatory reform in France aimed at tackling the worrying glorification of unhealthily slim physiques. If the world’s fashion capital is reforming their practices, surely it is time we followed

mocking Madonna’s love handles, sneering at Angelina Jolie’s stretch marks and derisively noting Beyonce’s double chin. Disturbingly, even Serena Williams, arguably the greatest female athlete on the planet, whose muscles have helped her secure countless championship titles, is regularly denounced for her larger figure. cont.

www.haringey.gov.uk/equilibrium

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The media has even instilled body image

Body image is an increasingly perturbing

as a prevailing feature in today’s poli-

issue. This objectification of our anatomy

tics. We have come to define the profes-

has become ingrained in our society with

sional capability of female politicians

women encouraged to pursue physical

by their physical appearance. Although

perfection. It permeates all levels of 21st

the accessibility of politics for women

century society with devastating effects

has improved dramatically over the last

for sexual equality and even mental

century, media representation of female

health. Women are instructed consciously

politicians is perpetuating an archaic

and subconsciously in the importance

attitude to women’s professionalism,

of their appearance. So maybe this New

where they are deemed inferior to their

Year requires a focus on a more holistic

male counterparts. When David Cameron

wellbeing, not merely chasing physiques

speaks at prime minister’s questions, the

like our airbrushed idols. While there is no

colour of his tie is not deemed newswor-

problem in trying to get outside more, or

thy; yet Tessa Jowell and Harriet Harman’s

cut back on sugar this January, we must

outfit disasters dominate media coverage

remind ourselves we are not defined by

of their appearance in the Commons.

our externalities.

EQUILIBRIUM EQUILIBRIUM 26

Summer/ Issue 38


PHOTOGRAPHY: TARAN PARKE-ANTONIS

Neil Walton Book Release: “Recovery began when I could laugh at my disorder” A Section for Laughing has been released into the wild. This kindle book celebrates the author’s recovery and Neil Walton encourages you to pick up the pen. “I was fortunate to have held onto my ‘humour marbles’ - now it’s time to play with them.” Check www.bipolar-expedition.co.uk for more info

www.haringey.gov.uk/equilibrium

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Christmas, comparisons, the media and mental health Thoughts on having a more realistic Christmas this year

Do you have a mental picture of how

Thoughts like…

your life ‘should’ be? Do you ever find

“Things should be different”, “I should

yourself judging your experience as

be doing this”, “I shouldn’t be feeling

‘not right’ and comparing it to how

this way”, “It’s nearly Christmas, why

you feel you ‘should’ be feeling or

don’t I feel excited?”, “I’m on holiday,

what ‘should’ be happening?

I should be happy”.

EQUILIBRIUM EQUILIBRIUM 28

Summer/ Issue 38


Clare Rose Foster

Internal comparisons

from or how to get rid of it.

I have a tendency to make

“I feel low this morning” leads to…

comparisons and judgements about

“This is a really rubbish thing to be

how I feel my experience ‘should’

feeling” and on to…

be. This doesn’t usually happen

“I shouldn’t be feeling low, everyone

consciously. Instead it takes place

else is happy” …

in the flow of automatic thoughts

“What’s wrong with me that makes

that runs like a tape through my

me feel this way?” …

mind when I’m not really paying

“Why can’t I ever just be happy?”….

attention.

“Nothing is ever going to change”. What if you were able to catch your-

Anyone who has experienced it

self and stop making those initial

will know that these comparisons

automatic comparisons?

are not very pleasant experiences.

Instead of this downwards spiral

It’s made worse by the fact that

making your negative mood more

thoughts like this can (often without

deeply entrenched, what if you

us really noticing) lead to further

could be more accepting towards

negative thoughts and judgements

your initial low mood?

about ourselves, the world and the

Instead of making things much

future. This can lead to a downwards

worse by judging, comparing

spiral into a low mood – one that

and trying to intellectualise your

you can’t work out where it came

emotions what if you could just try

www.haringey.gov.uk/equilibrium

EQUILIBRIUM EQUILIBRIUM 29


taking a positive action to help your-

has ever been before. Now we also

self feel better - or just wait for the

have the projected experience of

experience to pass?

others to contend with. Social media,

Learning to recognise and catch your-

particularly Facebook, gives people

self when you start to feel this way

an opportunity to project the version

can help you to prevent things getting

of their life that most closely fits their

worse. You can do this by accept-

‘ideal’ to their friends, family and

ing the initial feeling and giving it an

acquaintances.

opportunity to pass without trying to

We don’t just have that internal

‘solve’ it through thinking. Have a look

image of how our lives ‘should’ be

at my Mindfulness Based Cognitive

that we constantly and automatically

Therapy (MBCT) series for more detail,

compare to our actual experiences.

particularly blog 2.

Now we’ve got an external (although probably equally unrealistic) image

External comparisons

of how everyone else’s lives are. And

This automatic comparison is some-

from this point, the negative spiral of

thing that I do all by myself without

judgement to internal recrimination to

any external pressure – people who

anger, frustration and misery can be

have or have had depression have a

the same.

tendency for it. It’s also something it is really easy to do without thinking and

Christmas and comparisons

without recognising you’re doing it.

Christmas is a time when even people

Before you know it you’re feeling low

who don’t usually suffer from depres-

and you don’t even know exactly how

sion are much more at risk of the

you got there.

negative spiral that can be triggered

But there’s more fuel for making

by making comparisons.

comparisons these days than there

Just look at the way the media, the

EQUILIBRIUM EQUILIBRIUM 30

Summer/ Issue 38


shops and the advertising compa-

ence now. Look, it matches!

nies celebrate. For well over a month,

This in turn just feeds the external pres-

we are bombarded with images and

sure that others are feeling. As a soci-

ideas about what the perfect Christ-

ety, we’ve created a monster. A story of

mas should be. As far at the media is

Christmas grown through our television

concerned no one is lonely, no families

screens, shop windows and advertising

fight and everyone is cosily wrapped

and kept fed through our own attempts

up in warm woollen knits. The trickiest

to recreate it on social media.

thing that might happen is a teenager

But it’s a lie. Experiences in those

won’t wear his Christmas hat or a mother

few weeks are as varied as there

gets slightly flustered over the turkey.

are people. No one experiences the

Never mind though, everything is almost

‘media’ Christmas. Things always fall

instantly resolved with a hug and a

short of that because that version of the

rueful look.

world doesn’t exist. We are being forced

Day in day out over the Christmas

to measure our experiences against

period we are almost forced to make

something fake. And when they fall short

that comparison between our actual

we make ourselves feel worse by allow-

lives and feelings and what we’re being

ing that negative spiral of thoughts and

told they ‘should’ be.

judgements to get in.

Look, my experience matches!

This year, don’t let comparisons make

Many of us respond by trying to recre-

you feel worse

ate this ideal and sharing our crea-

This year, have a real Christmas. It might

tions on social media. This picture of

not be great, it might be mainly a lot

me in a woolly scarf drinking a mulled

of fun, it might be totally rubbish – but

wine matches how things ‘should be’ at

however it goes don’t make it worse by

Christmas. I feel better about my experi-

letting yourself get sucked in to comparisons.

www.haringey.gov.uk/equilibrium

EQUILIBRIUM EQUILIBRIUM 31


Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy

tells us the story of how we should be

taught me techniques to deal with

experiencing the season.

some of these automatic comparisons

Adverts in particular are very insidi-

and judgements.

ous and a sense of how things ‘should’ be at Christmas can sneak its way

So what can you do?

into your brain however hard you are trying. Next time you see a Christmas

Recognise it’s happening

advert, imagine them all made of Lego

One of the most important things seems

or painted in watercolours. This way it’s

to be catching yourself making these

easier to recognise that they’re telling a

automatic comparisons in the first

lovely story. That’s all it is - a story.

place. Writing them down can help you to view them as intrusive thoughts

Taking action

rather than reality. This can help you

Recognising that you have started

next time they start to take hold in your

making comparisons and if you don’t

mind.

stop they are going to make you feel

Recognise that it’s a fantasy world

low is a big step in itself.

being created and identify everything

If you notice them taking hold, chal-

that is feeding into it.

lenge them. Create yourself a mantra –

If you find yourself scanning Facebook

“I’m not going to let myself get sucked

and feeling jealous or inadequate then

into this comparison game again, I’m

you’re making comparisons and are at

comparing my experience to some-

risk of that negative spiral. Remember

thing that doesn’t exist”. Instead, be

that those people are representing their

gentle with yourself. Make yourself a

lives in the same way that the media

list of things that give you pleasure,

EQUILIBRIUM EQUILIBRIUM 32

Summer/ Issue 38


however small, and do one of those if

sleep – but at least recognising their

you find yourself feeling low. Distract-

influence can help you regain control

ing your mind can prevent it from

of that mind spiral.

spiralling down. Take a ‘breathing space’ to stop that thinking and refo-

The Mindfulness series I linked to

cus your awareness on the here and

earlier can give you some tools to

now.

help become more aware of both how your mind is acting and what

Be real. Talk to your friends and family

actions you can take. Take a look at

about what’s actually going on. Enjoy

weeks 7 & 8 in particular.

the good but don’t feel you need to pretend things are perfect.

Have a real Christmas and an authentic New Year!

Prevention

Enjoy all the good moments this

This isn’t always easy, but there are

Christmas. When you find things

things that can help you to keep a

difficult move away from making

clearer head. For me, alcohol makes

comparisons and be gentle with your-

a massive difference. If I drink more

self. Try not to make it worse by letting

than a glass of wine on a night, I really

yourself get sucked into comparing it

notice its impact on my mood and

with a fantasy.

ability to manage it a couple of days

Good luck - and don’t beat yourself

later. If I drink more than one night in

up if you do find yourself making those

a row it’s even more apparent. Every-

comparisons more than you want to -

one has to manage their own relation-

we all do it and it is not an easy thing

ship with alcohol, hormones, food and

to stop!

www.haringey.gov.uk/equilibrium

EQUILIBRIUM EQUILIBRIUM 33


What if there was no NHS... ... to support our mental health?

In the UK, we have the NHS to turn to

need ongoing support (i.e. counselling,

when we need it. It is a free service for

seeing the psychologist or psychia-

resident in the UK, paid for by taxes. So

trist, going into hospital). This is usually

in other words you would not have to

not a quick fix thing. According to the

pay anything for the services when you

Guardian, it costs £70 billion a year to

need to use them. If you are working

maintain the country’s mental health

you have to pay for your prescriptions,

services. An OECD (the Organisation for

otherwise you do not need to. I often

Economic Co-operation and Develop-

wonder what would happen if you had

ment) study shows 40% of the 370,000

mental health problems but no NHS? It

new claims for disability benefit each

wasn’t until I visited India that I realised

year are caused by mental health

how fortunate we really are to have this

issues.

service, especially when it comes to mental health conditions. We are very

What would happen if we had no

lucky to have to have the NHS.

NHS? Basically we would have to pay for everything at the point when we

Maybe I should explain: when you have

needed it. The economic and social

a mental health condition you often

cost of mental health problems in

EQUILIBRIUM EQUILIBRIUM 34

Summer/ Issue 38


Dev

England was ÂŁ105 billion in 2009-10, taking

There was once case I know of in India

into account costs for health and social

where a family of eight were living in a

care, loss of output and human costs.

small, unfit place, and had to look after a

If, for some reason, the NHS never had

mentally unwell family member. This led to

happened then everyone would have to

two of the older children giving up educa-

pay for the entire service. A person with

tion in order to look after the family and

a mental health condition would have to

the remaining siblings. You can imagine

try and work no matter what the sever-

the living conditions of the family would

ity of his or her condition, or might end

be below standard living conditions, possi-

up homeless. These services cost a lot of

bly leading to them begging for money.

money. If a person who has no control over

The key reason for this is that there is NO

their mental health condition would have

support system for mentally ill people. This

to be supported by their family, and this

sounds very severe and shocking to be

could mean a great deal of the household

the case in the 21st century, but it does

income would go into looking after that

happen. It’s something that I have seen

family member, even before living and

on my trips to India. Luckily this would not

travel expenses and other requirements.

happen here. But if the NHS was not here this is what we could expect (although

In developing countries and countries with

probably not as severe, as there is not such

very expensive medical costs, people

extreme poverty in this country). If you look

and their families can be in grave difficulty

at life before July 5, 1948 and especially

trying to pay for mental health services.

during and before the Edwardian periods

Sometimes they are even abandoned

you will see what life was like before the

at hospitals, or they experience severe

NHS. If you look further back, during the

malnutrition or physical abuse. This unfor-

Industrial Revolutions, you will see some

tunately quite common in parts of India,

evidence of situations that resemble what I

where my family are from. If that does

have written about in this article.

not happen they are often left to fend for themselves on the street, where people ridicule them in any manner possible.

www.haringey.gov.uk/equilibrium

EQUILIBRIUM EQUILIBRIUM 35


Poetry Corner

I live here so I don’t have to live here I want to live in a place Where sections are pieces And unit means number. Doors unlock, windows open, taps run and Showers flow. Lunch time is fun time and I can pour my own tea. Where shaving my legs and Going to the toilet Is seen as person hygiene. Not viewed with suspicion. Walking is a way to get from A to B Rather than 90 to 80. CPA, TTA and OT are just letters and Ensure means to make sure. Fish is served in a fillet, Not perfectly round measures, And dropping a chip in the floor is an accident, Not a triumph. No ringing bell wakes me up And no torch shines in my eyes. Where I’m not a patient, But a person.

EQUILIBRIUM EQUILIBRIUM 36

Summer/ Issue 38


Francesca Baker

When pathetic fallacy gets it wrong

The

sun quivered down upon us A loosely weaved blanket of golden light. It grazed my shoulders with warmth And licked his knees. The sweet scent of honeysuckle Mixed with fresh grass and burnt hay Bewitched me in with its charm. A giddy blend of bliss. I saw cauliflower clouds up In the streak blues of sky And smiled as the leaves ruffled As the breeze tried to settle. Our breath was balanced. As he breathed in I breathed out. ‘Teamwork.’ I thought. I was happy. He rolled onto his side And broke the rhythm. ‘It’s over’ he said.

No thunder clapped. No lightening streaked. The sun blazed on. But his heart had gone cold. Her toe nails are painted blue like a deep night sky With little specks of glitter Like stars. Her heels are cracked, like shattering skin A splitting mud surface in the heat Dried up. A crooked little toe looks rubbed and knocked Just there, on the side Like a pebble. She flexes her ankle up, skin creasing Points her toes out as if to say ‘That way!’ For her feet will carry her on Far away and to her future Far from me.

www.haringey.gov.uk/equilibrium

EQUILIBRIUM EQUILIBRIUM 37


YOUNG PEOPLE WITH AND WITHOUT DISABILITIES CREATE FEATHERED FRIENDS FOR MILTON KEYNES’ REDWAY

Throughout September and October,

emy to enhance the Milton Keynes

award-winning charity Create has been

redway system by designing a series of

bringing together disabled and non-

artworks. The redway system is a set of

disabled students in Milton Keynes to

shared paths for cyclists and pedestri-

develop inspiring new artwork to encour-

ans spanning 270km. The project has

age increased use of the redways.

been designed by Create in consultation with intu Milton Keynes to enable

The health and social benefits of access

local young people with and without

to green space has been well-publi-

disabilities to collaborate creatively

cised over recent years with Natural

and, in the process, feel welcomed into

Health England reporting that if every-

these green spaces by involving them

one was given equal access to green

in the decision-making around their

space, the estimated saving to the NHS

improvement.

would be £2.1 billion. Access to these green spaces is not equal, however.

Guided by Create’s professional visual

The Diversity Review published by the

artist Daniel Lehan, the young people

Department for Environment, Food and

have started by building and decorat-

Rural Affairs found that those with learn-

ing clay birds, constructing a ‘bird hotel’

ing disabilities and young people are

and producing models of other wildlife,

much less likely to access the natural

which they will paint and collage. These

environment despite health and social

designs will be used as inspiration by a

benefits being particularly advanta-

professional artist, being commissioned

geous to these groups.

by intu Milton Keynes, for a new artwork to be included in the redways. The

To increase accessibility for local young

young people’s original artwork will be

people, award-winning arts char-

displayed at intu Milton Keynes during

ity Create is enabling students from

January 2016 after being included in a

White Spire School and mainstream

two month exhibition at KPMG in Canary

students from Milton Keynes Acad-

Wharf London.

EQUILIBRIUM EQUILIBRIUM 38

Summer/ Issue 38


This project is part of Create’s crea-

without disabilities. Not only that but

tive: connection programme which

we’re seeing how the creative arts can

brings together young people with

be used to get young people engag-

and without disabilities in creative arts

ing with their local natural environment

workshops led by professional artists.

and experiencing the benefits. We

The programme encourages friend-

hope that their artwork will inspire the

ships between young people who may

artist who is creating the final piece

not normally have the opportunity to

and strengthen the sense of commu-

socialise, tackling disability prejudice

nity within the Milton Keynes redway

and helping students to build confi-

system for everyone to enjoy.”

dence in their communications skills. These collaborative creative experi-

Shelley Peppard, general manager

ences enable young people to see

at intu Milton Keynes, added: “We are

past the stereotypes and assump-

delighted to be involved in this project;

tions that can break down community

it’s lovely to see these young people

cohesion.

working together to create something so positive for the local community.

Co-Founder and Chief Executive of

This artwork will vastly improve areas of

Create, Nicky Goulder, commented,

Milton Keynes’ redways; we want these

“It’s fantastic to see this project bring-

green areas to be somewhere that we

ing together young people from

can all be proud of and that will attract

different backgrounds and fostering

more people to enjoy being outdoors,

relationships between those with and

and the benefits that come with that.”

www.haringey.gov.uk/equilibrium

EQUILIBRIUM EQUILIBRIUM 39


Equilibrium Magazine for Wellbeing Issue 58  

Hello and welcome to our end of year issue of Equilibrium, 2015! Whether you’ve just discov- ered our magazine for the first time, or are a...

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