The Magazine Devoted to Mental Health
Apr 2018 / £4
ON YOUR MARKS
Alex Jones rallies a dream team for charity
Paul Farmer on the Pace of Change in MH
Things You Need to Know About
GLUTEN-FREE (...we asked an expert)
HORIZON Working Through Grief and Finding Her Inner Strength
With every clump of hair that disappeared, I felt I’d lost part of me, too
– Maria's story p26
BETWEEN THE SHEETS Wellbeing Benefits of the 'Big O'
Real Life Great Reads Healthy Hacks Uplifting News
Do Good... Feel Good
MOTHER OF ALL
happiful.com | £4.00
SHARE YOUR LIGHT “Thosds o cls an e t rom sile de, an he e of t cale l not e srtee. Hapss eve ces b en he.” – Gata Bd
Editor’s Favourites: The inspirational mothers on p14
Our cover star Alexandra on p18
Our top 10 picks for April on p45
Make It Count “You can’t repeat the past,” Nick tells Gatsby, in one of my favourite tales of all time. “Why, of course you can,” comes the ever-hopeful response. While hope should never be discouraged, one unfortunate thing in life is that there are things beyond our control. As much as Gatsby believed it possible to relive the past, currently, we don’t have access to time-travelling DeLoreans, or Bernard’s mystic watch, so we have to make do with accepting the present for what it is. But, whether we believe in fate, or luck, or divine intervention, there are times when we’re faced with circumstances we couldn’t have predicted. Good things fall in some of our laps, while others are dealt a bad hand. Sometimes it’s our start in life, and sometimes it’s a bolt out of the blue.
We can rise above. We can choose to find the positives, even in the bleakest situations. We can show that what happens to us does not define us. The inspirational women taking part in this year’s “Mother of All Challenges for Sport Relief” are a shining example of this. They’ve faced traumatic experiences, but their spirits can’t be defeated. They’re showing others who’ve experienced miscarriages, fertility struggles, perinatal depression, or PTSD from labour, they’re not alone, they have nothing to be ashamed of, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We can’t change the past, but what we can do is make every second count. As another literary great, JRR Tolkien, wrote: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” Happy reading,
While we can’t stop the bad things coming, the one thing we can control is how we choose to react. We can fall apart, feel sorry for ourselves, fear the unknown – all perfectly reasonable responses. But, while it’s not an easy option, deciding against these is something we can do.
Rebecca Thair Acting Editor
Don’t forget to join us on social media, we love getting to know you! happiful.com
This Month in Happiful
Contents April 2018
from every copy sold through a subscription goes to Sport Relief. Check out our print subscrition offer on p66
14 SPORT RELIEF
The One Show’s ‘Mother of All Challenges’ sees Alex Jones team up with four women to shine a light on maternal mental health
18 ALEXANDRA BURKE
The Strictly star speaks about her grief, anxiety and love of crystals, in our intimate interview
30 LIFE LESSONS
An in-depth look at adolescent mental health, and how beyond the basics, we need to educate teenagers for life
40 MIND MATTERS
The CEO of mental health charity Mind, Paul Farmer, discusses the progress of policy in the mental health agenda
48 SIMONA BROWN
Discussing portraying mental illness on the screen with the upcoming star
50 THE POWER OF MOVEMENT Working out while saving society, supporting our physical and mental health, and taking a step forward with empathy runs
Life Stories 26 MARIA HOCKING
When Maria lost her hair, she felt she lost her identity. But a dawning realisation reminded her of all she had to be grateful for
38 GEORGIA DODSWORTH
Grew up with ME, depression, anxiety and borderline personality disorder, but found positivity in the power of self-care
58 CHRIS DUDLEY
Hiding who he truly was manifested in mental illness for Chris, who’s OCD and depression ruled his life until he finally took off his mask
74 LADY GERALDINE ELLIOTT
After losing her hearing aged seven, Lady Geraldine hid her deafness and learnt to lipread. But in finding the courage to seek help, she opened herself up to a world of music
Happiful Hacks 28 GARDENING
How horticultural therapy can be a breath of fresh air for your mind
37 SAVE THE PLANET
Tips on how you can be more eco-friendly around the home to protect our Earth
Boost your confidence when out and about by learning some basic skills to protect yourself
56 MENTAL HEALTH AT WORK
Advice on broaching the subject in your job and preparing for the conversation
The truth that lies beneath the sheets... enjoy!
Print Mar 2018 / £4
l Healt h Devot ed to Menta The Maga zine
| March 2018
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Alastair Campb Calls for Action
happiful.com Issue 11
BORN THIS WAY
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MENTA MQ Charity
TO TAKE L ILLNESS'
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WE SWEAR ON
Unsung Heroes Life Hacks Expert Advice
Real Inspiration happiful.com
For 12 print issues!
The Uplift 7 NEWS
Ethical fashion, the school that’s top of the class, and Digby the UK’s first guide-horse
Happiful delivered to your door before it hits the shelves
11 THE WELLBEING WRAP
£6 donation to charity included UK post and packaging included Exclusive offers A chat with up and coming actress Simona Brown
A quick review of this month’s good news
Competitions and prize draws!
12 VIRTUE SIGNALLING How genuine is our empathy?
Food & Drink 62 GLUTEN-FREE DIETS
What they entail, and who benefits from them
70 BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS
A delicious recipe to get your day off to the best start
Lifestyle & Relationships 67 FAMILY DYNAMICS Learning from our family tree
Completely free online Same great content as in print Exclusive offers Competitions!
72 INSPIRATIONAL READS Books to encourage kids to dream big
78 THE BIG ‘O’
The health and wellbeing benefits of orgasms
82 HERO OF THE MONTH
The woman leaving pockets of happiness to brighten strangers’ days
OUR PLEDGE For every tree we use to print this magazine, we will ensure two more are planted or grown.
M g), (Re MUKCP
FE ROBINSON Fe is a psychotherapist and clinical supervisor. Fe advises on our content.
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Introducing the professionals behind Happiful magazine who help to ensure we deliver the highest quality advice
Rebecca Thair | Acting Editor Kathryn Wheeler | Editorial Assistant Keith Howitt | Sub-Editor
GRAEME ORR Graeme is a counsellor who specialises in relationships and advises on our life stories.
Fe Robinson | Expert Advisor Amy-Jean Burns | Art Director Tristan Baliuag | Designer CONTRIBUTORS Gemma Calvert, Bonnie Evie Gifford, Ellen Hoggard, Maurice Richmond, Emma Shearer, Becky Wright, Lucy Donoughue, Dawn Shotton, Lucy Cavendish, Maria Hocking, Georgia Dodsworth, Chris Dudley, Lady Geraldine Elliott, Rachel Coffey
This Month in Happiful
LP AN BA M
RACHEL COFFEY Rachel is a life coach looking to encourage confidence and motivation.
P AC MB
LUCY CAVENDISH Lucy is an integrative counsellor and a regular contributor to The Times.
SPECIAL THANKS Joseph Sinclair, Katrina Appie, Rio Sreedharan, Nathan Klein, Graeme Orr, Claire Nicholson, Anita Gaisford, Claire Basil, Sarah Shakespeare PR & MARKETING Maurice Richmond | Digital Marketing & PR firstname.lastname@example.org Matt Holman | Advisor email@example.com THE HAPPIFUL NETWORK Lucy Donoughue | Head of Content Amie Sparrow | PR Manager
DAWN SHOTTON Dawn is a registered dietician with more than 20 years of experience.
SARAH SHAKESPEARE Sarah is a nutritional therapist and personal trainer, who takes a nondiet approach with clients.
This magazine is FSC certified. Please help us preserve our planet by recycling Happiful. Why not pass on your copy to a friend afterwards? Alternatively, please place it in a recycling bin. Our two-for-one tree commitment is made of two parts. Firstly, we source all our paper from FSC certified sources. The FSC label guarantees that the trees harvested are replaced, or allowed to regenerate naturally. Secondly, we will ensure an additional tree is planted for each one used, by making a suitable donation to a forestry charity. Happiful is a brand of Memiah Limited. The opinions, views and values expressed in Happiful are those of the authors of that content and do not necessarily represent our opinions, views or values. Nothing in the magazine constitutes advice on which you should rely. It is provided for general information purposes only. We do not accept liability for products and/ or services offered by third parties. Memiah Limited is a private company limited by shares and registered in England and Wales with company number 05489185 and VAT number GB 920805837. Our registered office address is Building 3, Riverside Way, Camberley, Surrey, GU15 3YL.
Ali Yates | Membership Marketing Ross East | Marketing Executive MANAGEMENT Aimi Maunders | Director & Co-Founder Emma White | Director & Co-Founder Paul Maunders | Director & Co-Founder Steve White | Finance Director Happiful c/o Memiah, Building 3, Riverside Way Camberley, Surrey, GU15 3YL Printed by Pensord
Tram Road, Pontllanfraith, Blackwood, NP12 2YA Contact Us firstname.lastname@example.org
Positive news that transforms the world
Research conducted by the TV channel Dave has found that regular gaming can help us create stronger friendships
Game helps schizophrenia patients soothe voices Researchers have created a video game that calms the part of the brain linked to verbal hallucinations
esearchers from King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience and the University of Roehampton have developed a game that helps schizophrenia patients who had previously not responded well to medication. In the study, 12 patients, who suffered with severe verbal hallucinations, were asked to land a rocket in a game, while they were in an MRI scanner. As they were playing the game, sensors were attached to the part of the brain which responds to speech and voices.
They were asked to use the mental strategies they had been taught to control the rocket. When they did so, the volume of the voices was turned down, and gradually the voices became more “internal” rather than “external”, making them less stressful and easier to deal with. The aim is for patients to learn how to use these same techniques in their daily lives and, while this study is still in the preliminary stages, the results are promising and it is hoped the research will lead to further breakthroughs into innovative ways to treat mental illnesses. Writing | Kathryn Wheeler
Gaming can boost your social life Contrary to the commonly held belief that gaming can cause us to become insular and antisocial, research conducted by the TV channel Dave has found that regular gaming can help us create stronger friendships, with the average gamer having made a minimum of three friends through gaming. The same poll found that 43% feel gaming is misrepresented as an antisocial hobby, with three in five participants saying they play games in order to connect with others.
April 2018 • happiful • 7
How does it work?
• Your order arrives – you love it
New fashion brand does exactly what it says on the label Ethical fashion’s newest face is giving 90% of its profits to charitable causes
aunched in February, London-based contemporary womenswear label, Ninety Percent, is unlike any other fashion brand. Their concept is about more than just the product they’re selling. It’s giving back. Giving back 90% of all distributed profits to charity and the people who helped make the collection. And that’s not all, Ninety Percent are also asking you to decide where their money goes. This year, Ninety Percent are working with War Child UK, Children’s Hope Foundation, Wild Aid, and Big Life Foundation. Co-founded by Shafiq Hassan and Para Hamilton, with Ben Matthews as Creative Director, Ninety Percent is a powerhouse, dedicated to making ethical shopping simpler. The fashion and textile industry remains a dirty business and many brands are yet to reveal the details of their supply chains, but
8 • happiful • April 2018
consumers are turning up the heat. It’s 2018 and they want to know who makes their clothes and how, and where fabrics are coming from. Ninety Percent has heard them. Women now have the option to #DressBetter and support those making it possible. Oozing relaxed femininity, the collection is low maintenance but elegant, with close-fit jersey staples, sumptuous knits, and prices ranging from £30 to £350. For Ninety Percent, the materials and manufacturing process is no secret. All are carefully chosen and sourced only from industry best-practice suppliers, in countries such as Bangladesh and Turkey. They say: “Sustainability is an endeavour that’s high on our agenda; we’ll share our progress and encourage your feedback as we start this journey together.” Writing | Ellen Hoggard
• You’ll find a unique
code printed on the care label
• Head to
ninetypercent.com/vote to read about the causes
• Enter your unique
code and vote to support your chosen cause
• At the end of the
financial year, Ninety Percent calculate how much will be donated and where to
• From 90% of
distributable profits, 80% will be shared with causes, 5% with those who make the clothes and 5% with those who run the brand
This year, Ninety Percent are working with War Child UK, Children’s Hope Foundation, Wild Aid, and Big Life Foundation
Blind journalist will be first in UK to get a guide horse
Digby the guide horse Best hoof first: M and Digby meet ohammed (left) up
No horsing around, there’s a new alternative to a canine companion for those with visual impairments
BC journalist Mohammed Salim Patel will be the first person in the UK to receive a guide horse. Having lost most of his sight due to a degenerative disease, Mohammed, 23, from Blackburn, Lancashire, was unable to get a guide dog due to his fear of the animals. But a miniature horse called Digby could be the key to his independence. After a successful introduction, eight-month-old Digby will receive up to a further two years training with Katy Smith, from KL Pony Therapy, before becoming Mohammed’s full-time guide horse. Katy trains and offers therapy horse sessions in her local community, often taking her miniature horses into care homes, hospitals, and dementia units. “Digby is an extension of this,” Katy tells Happiful. “He will be a great companion
and friend, and will give Mohammed that independence that is so important.” More than 7,000 disabled people across the UK rely on assistance dogs to help with daily tasks, offer emotional support, and help them keep their independence. Guide dogs can help those living with visual impairments gain a new lease on life, however for some, having a dog may not be a possibility. According to a YouGov survey, Cynophobia – fear of dogs – is one of the nation’s top 15 phobias, while All About Allergy places dog allergies amongst the most common types that can affect us. “Guide dogs do an amazing job, but I’m hoping that guide horses will fill the need-gap for people who are unable to have one,” says Katy, “and I’m so excited for Digby’s future with Mohammed!” Writing | Bonnie Evie Gifford
Unusual Suspects: Therapy Animals Easter, the emotional support turkey, was spotted with her owner, Jodie Smalley, on a flight from Seattle to Salt Lake City in 2016 In 2005, a Wisconsin woman discovered that her emotional support kangaroo would not be allowed to accompany her into restaurants Hobie, the emotional support pot-bellied pig, and her owner, were escorted off a flight in 2014 after the animal disturbed passengers with her noise, and then defecated in the cabin After developing PTSD following a car accident, a man from Florida has relied on Brutus the squirrel for emotional support April 2018 • happiful • 9
On Green Paper The visit from Ms Doyle-Price comes as the Department of Health and Social Care is consulting on plans to improve mental health support for children and young people. The green paper focuses on earlier intervention and prevention, especially in schools and colleges, with the proposals including creating community-based mental health support teams.
A ‘whole-school approach’ to mental health is the future of education A London primary school has been praised by the government’s mental health minister
primary school has been hailed as a “pioneer” for making its mark in children’s mental health provision. Charles Dickens School, in south London, received the praise during a visit from the government’s mental health minister, Jackie Doyle-Price. The state school says it provides a “whole-school approach” where good mental health is embedded into “every aspect of school life” and enables better teaching. It has used mindfulness techniques – such as filling a bell jar with water and glycerin, then sprinkling in coloured glitter to represent moods – to transform their approach to wellbeing. Cassie Buchanan, the headteacher, said: “We have more time to teach a full curriculum, the school is calmer and for the most part, we are self-healing and resilient. “Giving children the tools to manage challenges, to support each other, and articulate their feelings more precisely, means less time is taken unpicking friendship fall-outs or problems at home, or simply not wanting to join in.
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“An example: we are based close to London Bridge, the scene of the recent terrorist attacks – and most of our children knew someone who had been there or they live there themselves. We talked a lot after that night and the children could express themselves so well, in a way that many parents struggled with. “We talked about it and nearly all of the children moved on. Those that didn’t, we were able to spot immediately.” Ms Doyle-Price praised the school’s approach, and insists the government wants mental health leads in schools, support teams and reduced waiting times rolled out to at least a fifth to a quarter of the country by 2022/23. She said: “I had great expectations ahead of this visit, and I’ve not been let down. “What I have seen today is staff, pupils and parents all working together and understanding mental health and how it impacts on every aspect of our lives. I’ve seen what is possible – and I now ask every school up and down the country to follow their lead.” Writing | Maurice Richmond
wellbeing wrap Weird, wonderful and welcoming news
Millenials are less concerned about data privacy than the general public (13% vs 16%)*, despite recent hacking scandals. Is this a sign that younger generations are more comfortable with technology, or that we need to be more aware of our privacy settings? *According to data from the Institute of Business Ethics, 2017
Queen of calming frazzled thoughts Ruby Wax is tweeting up a storm on mindfulness. Join the conversation: “I use mindfulness to check in with my emotions. I love to hear your mindful moments and exercises - let’s learn together?”
Head to Ruby’s Twitter @rubywax to join.
Sex is good for your mental health! The skin-to-skin contact we receive during sex releases the “cuddle hormone” oxytocin, which can help to reduce stress,
according to sex therapist Vanessa Marin. So, it turns out having sex on the brain can be good for your mind.
Money saving expert Martin Lewis is urging for a six-week window to be enforced, allowing debtors with mental health issues time to get the help they need, and preventing creditors from contacting people in debt or imposing interest charges.
GET YOURSELF A
You are “seven times more likely” to engage properly with work tasks if you have a best friend in the workplace, according to a report from American Business Analytics. Here’s to our work BFFs, supporting our careers with every coffee-break and catch-up!
Australian Rules Football players, athletes and celebrities have combined to play a match in Perth to raise awareness for youth mental health. Sounds like a winner!
How happy are you?
A step in the right direction
Professor Peter Kinderman, from the University of Liverpool, in partnership with the BBC’s Tomorrow’s World campaign, is hoping to boost people’s happiness. His test, the “Secrets of Happiness”, offers personalised tips on improving your mental wellbeing and mental health – try it out at secretsofhappiness.co.uk
Join mental health charity CLASP in their bid to increase mental health awareness, suicide prevention, and end mental illness stigma, by embarking on a Walking Out of Darkness event this year. The first of seven walks will be held in London on 12 May – to sign up, visit claspcharity.com
‘Paws’ for thought Hawaiian legislators are aiming to halt animal testing on the island chain. Two bills, backed by Cruelty-Free International (CFI),
seek to curtail “unnecessary suffering of animals when many more effective, animal-free methods exist”.
The Uplift | The Explainer
Virtue Signalling? From charity fun-runs, to slogan t-shirts and protests, are we only doing ‘good’ things to make ourselves look virtuous? Writing | Kathryn Wheeler
ince the middle of 2016, there’s been a new buzzword making headlines and edging its way into debates. “Virtue signalling” is a term used to describe the act of showing support or doing something “virtuous” because it makes you look good to your peers, rather than because you truly believe in it. It’s true that over the last few years, politics has been creeping into all aspects of culture. The values we present to others help build our identities. You can see it in the films we watch, the places we go, and the clothes we wear. Dior’s Spring 2017 collection brought us the “We should all be feminists” slogan T-shirt (which you can buy for a cool £490). And, whereas a few years ago acceptance speeches would normally be full of emotional “thank yous”, 2018’s award season has been dominated by the rallying #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns. Google search trends can tell us a lot about culture and worldwide conversations, and the term “virtue signalling” peaked dramatically on the 29 January 2017. What’s relevant about that date? It was the day when US federal judges blocked Executive Order 13769, commonly known as Donald Trump’s Travel Ban.
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The Travel Ban sparked mass protest in airports across the US. Here in the UK, the response was similar. Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, voiced a preference to prevent Donald Trump from addressing the House of Commons, and the condemnation continued online from MPs and the public alike. Throughout it all, there was one phrase dominating the think-pieces and online debates: “virtue signalling”. We’d like to hope that people are genuine and they’re speaking up because they care about the cause. But if the trends tell us anything, it’s that as there has been a rise in the number of people engaging with politics and social justice, others become increasingly sceptical of their motives. However, although we now have a nifty phrase to describe it, “virtue signalling” isn’t an entirely new notion. “The behaviour behind ‘virtue signalling’ has been going on ever since society put a value on doing good for others,” says Rachel Coffey, a qualified life coach. “What has shifted significantly in recent years though, is the ease with which your ‘average person’ can share what they think or do with an audience.”
Trending UPDATE Trending UPDATE
The trends show that as people begin to engage more in politics and social justice, others become increasingly sceptical of their motives
So, “virtue signalling” does happen from time to time. But, when it does, who is it actually hurting? “The odd bout of ‘virtue signalling’ in itself is probably pretty harmless,” says Rachel. “It’s part of human nature, and charities ‘Virtue signalling’ has have probably done fairly well thanks to this flaw been going on ever in our personalities – we since society put a all know someone who has ended up doing a 5k value on doing good fun-run because they for others think it looked good.” But, there’s little fulfilment to be found in pretending to be something that we’re not. For Rachel, the point at which “virtue signalling” does become harmful is when people become addicted to a cycle of imagecrafting and promoting themselves in a way that isn’t true, just to get a reaction.
While we can’t truly know the real intentions of others, the conversation on “virtue signalling” offers an opportunity to assess whether or not we as individuals live authentic lives, and are being true to ourselves. “We all need to feel comfortable in our own skin,” says Rachel. “Living an authentic life allows us to have a clarity of thought, confidence to pursue our dreams and build strong relationships with others. This is because we know who we are and what we need to make us happy.” So, how do we make sure that we’re being authentic to our true selves? Rachel believes the key is to be honest with ourselves. “Share things with others that we genuinely believe in and enjoy – don’t get too swept up in what we think others think of us,” Rachel adds. “If in doubt, ask yourself what the purpose of doing something is. If it’s for attention or admiration, leave it out and spend the time on something you think is really valuable instead.”
April 2018 • happiful • 13
Charity of the Month
SPORT RELIEF The Mother of All Challenges Testing themselves against the elements, four intrepid mums team up with The One Show’s Alex Jones to raise awareness of maternal mental health
Writing | Maurice Richmond
port Relief is returning with a bang, as fundraisers are pushed to their physical limits to raise awareness, particularly of mental health, this year. Radio 1’s Greg James embarked on an ambitious 500-mile cycling challenge, climbing three of the UK’s highest mountains in just five days in aid of youth mental health. Presenter Zoë Ball is taking up her own cycling-themed challenge as well, saying she’ll have “miles to cover, hills to climb, and a lot of chafing”. But Happiful's main focus from this year’s fundraising bonanza surrounds the activities of The One Show’s Alex Jones as she teams up with four everyday mums (Amal, Debbie, Jodi and Leigh) to take on a series of epic challenges across the UK.
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They’ll brave running in the rain, cycling up the steepest peaks, walking across rugged terrain, and swimming through open waters as “The Mother of All Challenges for Sport Relief ” puts them to the test like never before. It all unfolds on The One Show from Monday 12 March to Friday 16 March, as the five mums push themselves to breaking point, both raising money for Sport Relief and sharing their own stories of maternal health to help raise awareness of this important issue and the work Sport Relief does to support it. Alex said: "Tackling [the challenges] as part of a team of mum's makes this the most special thing I've done for Sport Relief. It will push us out of our comfort zones and test us physically, mentally and emotionally. I can't wait to get started."
The Challenge DAY ONE: Sunday 11 March. Starting on Mother’s Day, the team will brave the freezing cold by swimming a section of Scotland’s Loch Ness, which boasts an average temperature of just five degrees Celsius in March. DAY TWO: Monday 12 March. Helvellyn via Swirral Edge in the Lake District will be the setting for the second day, as the team face a nerve-racking 870m ascent via a narrow walkway, followed by a tricky 800m descent. DAY THREE: Tuesday 13 March. The team will put their endurance to the test by cycling three of the Lake District’s toughest passes. Starting with a climb up Kirkstone Pass, then on to Windermere’s shore, finishing up at Honister Pass and Newlands Pass.
Since 2002, Sport Relief has raised more than
DAY FOUR: Thursday 15 March. It’s then on to Alex’s home country for the mums, who’ll head deep underground to navigate a maze of Welsh caverns to reach Porth Yr Ogof cave in the Brecon Beacons. In normal weather conditions, a dry, rocky river bed leads up to the cave’s main entrance, but following rain this soon becomes a raging torrent, dubbed Afon Mellte (the Lightning River). DAY FIVE: Friday 16 March. The week climaxes in a marathon finish, tackling a relay run across the hilly Welsh coast. The fearless mums will put their stamina to the test in order to get over the finish line in Swansea.
April 2018 • happiful • 15
Charity of the Month
Meet the Team Amal gearing up for the challenge
LEIGH Having had two rounds of IVF, which were both successful but unfortunately ended in a miscarriage with the first pregnancy, Leigh is concerned about the impact fertility treatment can have on maternal mental health. The challenge is an opportunity to prove to herself that she’s as capable and determined as she feels she’s become. A lot of women will understand the burning desire to have a child – IVF can offer hope, but can also lead to disappointment. The euphoric high I felt after discovering the treatment had worked, was countered by the plummeting grief when I miscarried. However, I still felt physically and mentally strong which allowed me to try again and resulted in my beautiful son and daughter. Ahead of the challenge, I think I’ve gone through every emotion possible. I’m not sure I’d be able to do this on my own, but having the girls and Alex with me means we can support each other. Infertility can still carry stigma – that having to resort to IVF is a “failure”. When I tell people that I had my twins by IVF, a lot of people look visibly uncomfortable. I want to tell them yes, look what science can do – I’m now a mum to two fantastic children who I might never have met if it hadn’t been for those amazing people in white coats. Let’s celebrate it, let’s talk about it more, lets share our hopes and disappointments!
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AMAL A tough pregnancy took its toll on Amal’s mental health. She struggled with pre-natal depression, a difficult labour resulted in a damaged pelvic floor, and she felt overwhelmed by breastfeeding. Amal wants to raise awareness of the trauma women can face before, during, and after childbirth. The social narrative of women who haven’t had children tends not to include chatter about pelvic floors, incontinence and painful sex. When I asked my GP at eight weeks postpartum about what I now understand to be symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, I was told that it would eventually get better. The health visitor I saw immediately postpartum advised me to start doing ab crunches on day two, and I think this reflects the systematic lack of understanding about the physical sequelae of birth. The narrative needs to change.
It’s more common than you think to not feel consistently positive when you're a new mum I’m excited and nervous about the challenge! It’s going to be mentally and physically tough, but I’m sure there’ll be one person carrying the “positivity-baton” at all times! To the mums out there I’d say it’s more common than you think to not feel consistently positive when you’re a new mum, and to have a physical injury postbirth. I would stress that it certainly isn’t your fault. If you find yourself in this position, book an appointment with your doctor. I didn’t do this early enough, and what’s to lose? Talk to others, meet up with other mums, and when you take some time for yourself, do it without guilt – you deserve it.
Alex Jones and the mums
JODI When Jodi went into labour four weeks early, she experienced severe perinatal depression, believing she’d been given the wrong baby. Following a second pregnancy, her depression manifested in exercise bulimia. Jodi wants to help other mums by showing them that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. When I became pregnant, I thought I was ready for all that pregnancy brought with it. I started out loving how my body was adapting and changing to support my growing child. But when I reached six months, I hit a speed bump – I was scared of how out of control I was. Through the last few months, all I could do was keep breathing and reminding myself it was temporary to keep my baby safe and healthy. But it culminated in my son being born early due to my poor mental health. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to reach out to mums who are feeling lost, scared, lonely, and confused – the list could go on. A lot of us feel programmed, biologically, to have babies. When becoming a mummy happens and you feel like you are “failing” it’s the most confusing time of our lives.
I want to tell those mums suffering in silence to reach out
I want to tell those mums suffering in silence to reach out – tell your health visitor, tell your midwife, tell a friend, tell the postman! Start to normalise the feelings and have some comfort; allow help to come. The challenge itself doesn’t scare me – I spent my whole life feeling like I was failing, but not any more. I’m going to finish, whatever they throw at me, however long it takes, for my boys and for anyone who thinks they “can’t”.
After six pregnancies (with fertility drugs used for four of these) and two miscarriages, Debbie experienced a traumatic birth and delivered at 32 weeks. The grief curve was part of my depression but not all of it; the shock of what happened with the birth of Ellie was a big part – one minute I was fine, then I had a pain like a stitch, and within a few hours I was told I was bleeding internally and that my baby was dying inside me. She was born by emergency c-section and I had to have blood transfusions. Not knowing if she would be OK, being a mum to my two older girls and being the “strong” one took its toll on me. I felt out of control, incomplete, tired, scared, pessimistic, and had no idea what was happening, so going to a doctor and the subsequent counselling educated me and enabled me to build "me" again. I’m looking forward to spending time and sharing the experiences with the other mums. For me, the challenge is me putting a full stop on my recovery; life is now good, the kids are growing into wonderful young ladies, I have a wonderful partner and our future looks bright. Doing this challenge is Deb saying I’m back, I’m the best I can be, and look what I can do. I want to show that your mental health does not define you, and it certainly doesn’t dictate what you can and can’t do with your life. The Mother of All Challenges for Sport Relief will feature on ‘The One Show’ from 12–16 March. Visit sportsrelief. com to find out how you can support the mums. April 2018 • happiful • 17
Centre Stage | Alexandra Burke
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On the Record The past 12 months have seen extreme highs and lows for Alexandra Burke – and couldn’t have been much more emotionally challenging. Her hugely supportive mother passed away, shortly before Alexandra appeared on Strictly Come Dancing where, despite reaching the final, she received a torrent of abuse in the papers and online. But with a new album on the way, an upcoming stint in the West End, and not to mention her surprise engagement, the singer is on the up again, and it’s music to our ears >>> Interview | Gemma Calvert
Photography | Joseph Sinclair
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Centre Stage | Alexandra Burke
the bookmakers’ favourite. But her pure Strictly joy was short-lived. Despite Alexandra’s technical brilliance, she twice ended up in the bottom two and found herself on the receiving end of hostile newspaper stories that focused on so-called diva-like behaviour, and social media hounds who criticised her every move. “If I shed a tear it was: ‘Look at her, she’s fake,' and even lexandra Burke wants me to if I went the other way it was: ‘She’s too much, I can’t take proofread a passage of words she has written to thank her her because she’s too positive.’ I felt like I was so trapped nearest and dearest for supporting her during the making in my own self that I couldn’t be myself,” says Alexandra, of her album, The Truth Is. It’s six years since the former finally reflecting on the troubles. “I felt like I just needed X Factor winner has released music – performances to be quiet, that if I shut up I’d please everyone and it’s an in stage productions of The Bodyguard and Sister Act, absolute shame.” and competing in last year’s Strictly Come Dancing Alexandra, who reached the final and finished alongside contributed to the delay – and, there’s no denying it, this former magician’s assistant Debbie McGee, 59, behind moment is big. winner, Holby City star Joe McFadden, 42, admits all the Recipients of Alexandra’s gratitude include her friends, “nonsense” has taken its toll on her self-esteem. her management team, her record label Decca, her “It’s only been in the past 72 hours, after two friends family and, at the very end, the woman who raised her in said to me ‘You’ve lost your confidence’, that it suddenly Holloway, north London, as a single mother, supported hit me and I realised: ‘Actually, I think I have’,” she says. “I her musical dreams and remains her ultimate career idol still don’t feel my true, happy-go-lucky self, but it’s a relief – her late mother Melissa Bell, a former singer with 80s to admit that. Now I don’t need to always say ‘I’m fine’, band Soul II Soul, to whom the album is dedicated. because sometimes I’m not.” The night before we meet at the Happiful photoshoot in As Alexandra talks, her eyes work like emotional central London, Alexandra, 29, showcased a selection of subtitles to her story, expressing sadness, fear and songs from the album in a room packed with journalists, fire. She is highly sentient and emotionally honest – opening with a spine-tingling performance of the title “sometimes too honest” – and speaks up if she feels track, which describes with agonising exposure her wronged. What’s her opinion, then, of the suggestion emotion after Melissa died last August at the age of 53, from Tobi Oredein, editor of Black Ballad magazine, that after a lengthy battle with kidney failure. That very night, the lack of viewer support for Alexandra was rooted in delirious with grief, Alexandra walked the red carpet at subconscious racial anxieties? the Strictly launch after pledging to continue her dance “I don’t have an opinion because I don’t see colour,” show journey in her mum’s honour. she says. “I tell you what hurt me – seeing the headline So Alexandra danced. Boy, did she dance. In the arms of ‘Alexandra Burke is too black to win Strictly, ballroom her Spanish professional dance partner, Gorka Marquez, is a white dance’ in the Daily Mail two weeks before the 27, she quickly emerged as the series’ standout star, show ended. In this day and age, that shocked me. Why regularly topping the leaderboard and swiftly becoming do people see colour when it comes to dance or music? Blood runs through everyone’s veins the same way. We’re all human.” Alexandra’s mature sense of perspective, even during the “I still don't feel my true, toughest of times, is impressive and happy-go-lucky self, but rooted in years of self development, it's a relief to admit that. which started at the age of 16 when, Now I don't need to always locked in an abusive relationship, she turned to Rhonda Byrne’s 2006 say 'I'm fine', because best-seller The Secret for guidance. Continues >>> sometimes I'm not”
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Top and skirt by Umbro, bralet by Freya
'Why do people see colour when it comes to dance or music? Blood runs through everyone's veins the same way. We're all human'
April 2018 â€˘ happiful â€˘ 21
Centre Stage | Alexandra Burke
'There's something about working out and keeping fit that makes me feel good, because it takes away everything mentally for me'
Top and leggings by Bershka
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Alexandra and the ever-ado rable celeb pup Stewie Sinclair
“I left that relationship because "I was blessed to have of that book. I was my mum for 29 years like: ‘I’m worth so and I'm heartbroken, much more than being in an abusive but imagine being 16 or relationship.’ That’s even 10. Those are the what changed my life,” she says. strong people" “Since then I’ve read The Power Of Now, by Eckhart Tolle, and The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz, and I downloaded The Secret Daily Teachings app. I used it every single day on the Strictly tour when, mentally, I was going through a Conversation inevitably turns to Prince Harry, colot. I know that with every negative you can feel down, founder of mental wellbeing charity Heads Together, but you have to find the positive in everything you go who was just 12 when his mum, Princess Diana, died. through.” Last year he admitted that he only sought professional Completing a life coaching course in 2014 during an counselling two years ago after bottling up his feelings for 18-month stint in New York after some career highs 16 years. (her debut single "Bad Boys" and album Overcome were “I get that,” nods Alexandra slowly. “It’s easier said than number ones) and lows (her second album Heartbreak done to say to people: ‘Talk.’ There is a limit that I go to On Hold only reached number 18, and in June 2013 when I’m in interviews and get asked about my mum. I her former record label RCA terminated her contract), can talk about her having kidney failure, I can talk openly armed Alexandra with the tools to flip negativity on about diabetes and making people aware, I can talk about its head. It’s the “nearest” she has gone to experiencing when she got sick. Anything deeper than that, I can’t go talking therapy – something she believes she isn’t ready to, for myself. I haven’t even done it with my family.” to seek so soon after her mum’s death. Alexandra does, naturally, find emotional release “People have said to me that it’s not something to be through music. Many The Truth Is songs – including afraid of; I just don’t know where I am mentally to take her first single "Shadow" – are punctuated with that step yet,” explains Alexandra, adding that in the autobiographical outpourings. days leading up to our cover shoot, she found comfort “It’s difficult for me to come out and say: ‘This is watching Rio Ferdinand’s BBC1 documentary Being what I’m feeling like in my reality.’ It’s easier to write a Mum and Dad, which sees the ex-footballer meet song about it. I use writing as my therapy, as my way families coping with bereavement, following the death of releasing and letting go,” she says. She speaks with of his wife Rebecca to cancer in May 2015. comfort of the “plenty” of people around her who care, “Everything he said at the beginning [of the namely her siblings David, 30, Aaron, 24, and Sheniece, documentary] about not feeling ready to talk – he said 31, and her stage manager fiancé Josh Gillenny, who everything that I’m afraid to say and it gave me hope,” she met three years ago on the set of The Bodyguard. she says. “I watched it with my brother and we both They live together in Hertfordshire with their four dogs looked at each other and said: ‘It’s good to talk, you have (her “babies”) and got engaged in January after Josh, 31, to talk.’” whisked her away on a surprise Eurostar trip to Paris. “It has crossed my mind to do a documentary based Alexandra’s eye-popping diamond ring is off her finger on grief, especially for young people who have lost their today (“I’m not wearing it on photo shoots”) but her parents. I was blessed to have my mum for 29 years and excitement about becoming a Mrs is palpable. I’m heartbroken, but imagine being 16 or even 10. Those Continues >>> are the strong people.”
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Centre Stage | Alexandra Burke
"I'm bottling a lot up and I don't know when I'll be ready to go there, but it isn't now. I keep saying to myself 'one day at a time' and all I want to focus on is – yes, the album – but also my happiness"
“What’s special for me is that somebody could love me enough to want to marry me and spend the rest of their life with me,” she smiles. “That’s really special. I’m so happy that he's shown me love actually really does exist.” Previously, Alexandra has been fairly unlucky in love and today, perched on a leather sofa in our studio, she pulls her knees closer as she describes how leaving her first “awful” relationship sparked an episode of anxiety. Things worsened when she found fame on the X Factor and anxiety still affects her, most recently after her mum’s funeral. “My symptoms are physical,” explains Alexandra when I ask how she feels before an attack. A fidgety or numb leg, she says, is one sign. She also feels “physical pain” in her chest, often at night, but refuses to take prescribed medication for the problem. “I’ve always dealt with it the natural way,” says Alexandra. “I use lavender oil, drink lemongrass tea and I spray my bed with a lavender mist. I’m a firm believer in crystals as well. I always carry one and have one next to my bed. Nature definitely helps too – I love going for long walks.” It’s the same story with the gym. Even during twoperformance days on the Strictly tour, Alexandra’s daily commitment to exercise never faltered because she regards it as an investment in her body and mind. “There’s something about working out and keeping fit that makes me feel good because it takes away everything mentally for me,” says Alexandra who has lost two stone
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and three dress sizes in just under three years by eating healthily and working out. Truthfully, Alexandra never stops. For the first thirty minutes of our shoot time, she is huddled in a corner, reading glasses on, writing her thank you script, approving album photography and, later, finalising outfit plans for a performance at London’s GAY the following night. After Strictly, she hit the road for three weeks on tour, and after the current spate of album promos will star in a new West End revival of the musical Chess, alongside Michael Ball. Alexandra says “distraction” has been her “saviour” during this transitional and deeply sensitive period of her life, but grief experts warn that keeping busy can be detrimental because it only serves as a tactic to bury the pain. Perhaps it’s time she took a break to take stock? “The one day I took off, Valentine’s Day, I very quickly went into a very dark place – I was getting quite upset and staring into space – so I found myself in Halfords buying air fresheners for my car and in M&S buying some daffodils, mum’s favourite flower,” says Alexandra. “I’m exhausted emotionally, mentally and physically and I know it’s because I’m bottling a lot up and I don’t know when I’ll be ready to go there, but it isn’t now and because of that, I just keep working. I keep saying to myself ‘one day at a time’ and all I want to focus on is – yes, the album – but also my happiness.” Perhaps, really, there isn’t one set way to behave during a bereavement, and the fact that Alexandra isn’t beating herself up about her approach to living with grief screams more of self-protection and self-love than foolishness. “I know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” she admits, before heading back to Hertfordshire, armed with a box of cakes for Josh and a whole lot of trust in her heart. “I haven’t found mine yet, but I’m hoping I’m a little bit closer.” Alexandra's new album 'The Truth Is' is out 16 March with Decca Records.
Dress by Elisabetta Franchi
Makeup | Katrina Appie using By Terry, Chantecaille, Sunday Riley, and Nars Hair | Rio Sreedharan using Ouai hair care April 2018 • happiful • 25 Styling | Nathan Klein
Alopecia made me feel I’d lost my identity After the birth of her second child, Maria Hocking lost all of her hair – and herself. But everything changed when she realised what she had to be grateful for. She not only survived the storm, but learned to thrive as a result
our hair may grow back, or you may remain bald forever.” The consultant seemed unaware of the emotional pain that ripped through me. He wrote me a prescription – for a wig. I collapsed to the floor sobbing; I couldn’t believe that it was possible to lose so much in such a short space of time: my hair, my confidence, and my identity. I prayed to disappear. My journey to rock bottom began a few weeks earlier, after the birth of my second child. While looking in the bathroom mirror one morning, I discovered a bald patch on my scalp. Concerned, I went to my GP, who told me not to worry. “It’s normal for women to lose hair after childbirth,” he said. When I woke the next day and discovered another bald patch, I knew something was wrong. Over the next few days, more bald patches appeared and, to my horror, started joining together. My morning showers filled me with dread. I would watch what should have been part of me, slither down the plughole. With
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every clump of hair that disappeared, I felt I’d lost part of me, too. I tried to continue with my daily routine, but parents who’d always spoken to me in the playground turned their backs to me. Others would speak to me, but would keep glancing at my scalp mid-conversation. Not being able to cope with the outside world, I became a recluse. I quit my job as a waitress, believing that no one would want to eat any food served by me. The rest of my hair decided it had better places to go, and took along my eyebrows and eyelashes for the ride. The change in my physical appearance was devastating, but nothing could have prepared me for the emotional impact. I felt that my soul had disappeared, leaving nothing but darkness and despair. I felt not only physically, but emotionally naked. Crying became part of my daily routine, as did desperately checking in the mirror for signs of re-growth. Following the appointment with the consultant, my husband dragged me to my first wig fitting. I was advised to
‘One morning, I discovered a bald patch on my scalp’
With every clump of hair that disappeared, I felt I’d lost part of me, too choose one that felt “just like me”. I didn’t know who I was anymore, so how could I possibly know which wig felt like me? I gave up trying to figure it out, and settled for a light brown, shoulder length head of hair.
‘I realised I’d been so busy focusing on what I’d lost, that I’d forgotten what I had’
The next day, wearing the wig, I stared into the bathroom mirror desperately looking for a clue as to who I was. The answers never came. The only thing I was certain about was the feeling of emptiness that fuelled my daily torrents of tears. Wallowing in self pity became quite a talent, and negative thoughts dominated my mind. Then, one day it changed. I’d been crying all morning when I caught sight of my three-year-old daughter playing with her baby brother. I saw their smiles and heard their beautiful giggles; the sounds penetrated my heart and soul. In that very moment, I realised I’d been so busy focusing on what I’d lost, that I’d forgotten what I had. Overwhelmed with gratitude, the answer came. I couldn’t change the fact that I had alopecia, but I could change me. Knowing I needed something to focus on other than myself, I called a local college and, through sobs, informed them of my situation. As
I’d always loved sport, the receptionist guided me towards a fitness instructor course. I ended the call and felt overwhelming relief. As I drove to the college a few weeks later, relief was soon replaced with fear. What if my wig fell off? What if people laughed at me? Knowing that going home would be returning to misery and stagnation, I pushed through the fear. Arriving at the college, I attempted to stand tall and stomped into the building. I loudly announced: “Hi, my name is Maria Hocking. I have alopecia and I wear a wig.” The truth had been delivered. I refused to hide anymore. After an awkward silence, there were a few giggles. I quickly realised they weren’t laughing at me, but along with me and my stupendous entrance. In that moment, I learnt an important lesson: when we face our fear, it disappears, instantly and without trace. People didn’t shun me, or laugh at me. Instead, they showed interest and asked questions. Being the queen of hair loss research, I had all the answers. The course progressed and the emptiness inside began to fill with feelings of happiness, and joy. Looking in the mirror, I began to see the “real me”. I wasn’t returning to who I used to be, but creating a happier, more fulfilled “me”. A new confidence filled my mind, and after 12 weeks I started my own business in the fitness industry – I even used my wig as a branding tool. I consider my 14 years without hair to be a beautiful gift that taught me
much about myself, and life. Alopecia was the first of many challenges I’ve experienced, but with each challenge I looked for the gifts, and grew stronger. The biggest gift of all has been the knowledge gained not only surviving, but thriving through adversity. This knowledge gave me the ability to pursue a career that I’ve found to be my dream job. Working as a life coach, motivational speaker and author, I now help others through personal challenges. My message to the world is, and will always be: “What happens to you, does not define you, but helps to find you.” We will all experience emotional nakedness throughout our lives, but it’s only when we’ve been stripped of who we thought we were that we find who we were really meant to be. We need to get naked to get changed. Only when we’ve felt nothing, can we become everything. Maria has written a book on her experiences: ‘Strip Naked & Re-Dress With Happiness, How To Survive & Thrive Through Personal Challenge’, Practical Inspirations £10.99. Visit mariahocking.com for more.
Our Expert Says Many people in Maria’s position, be it through alopecia or illness, feel like their identity is being stripped from them in a very public way. It can feel lonely and incredibly disempowering. But Maria realised that her value didn’t lie in her hair, but within her. It can’t have been easy taking those first steps into a new world, but it transformed Maria’s life, setting her on a path of discovery and self-fulfilment. Rachel Coffey BA MA NLP Mstr Reg Ind counsellor
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HOW Gardening Can Help You
Whether growing your own veg, tending to some pot-plants, or mowing the lawn, getting outside in the garden can really plant the seeds for positive mental wellbeing Writing | Emma Shearer
hen I think of gardening, I’m taken back to when I was a small girl watching my nan potter around her garden on a summer’s day. I used to associate gardening as a hobby for an older generation, but it can be beneficial for people of all ages, and is now recognised as a type of therapy – horticultural therapy. Here are just some of the wellbeing advantages that gardening can have, and how you can make the most of them:
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Gardening encourages mindfulness 1
This term describes being entirely focused in a moment. Technology is a constant distraction these days and it can be difficult to be 100% present. But the sensory element of gardening, or being in the garden, allows us to home-in. We’re focused on the atmosphere, whether we feel the sun on our face or the breeze on our skin, we can smell the nature around us, and we can feel what we’re doing – be that planting new bulbs or deadheading existing flowers. We are well and truly encompassed by the act of gardening. Mindfulness is a well-known coping mechanism for those who suffer with various mental health issues – anxiety being a prime example. Gardening can therefore help us refocus; it becomes a healthy distraction, which promotes relaxation and reduces stress caused by the modern-day world.
Physical activity is linked to an improvement in mental illnesses 2
There are physical benefits involved with gardening, as it can help individuals maintain mobility – particularly those who find more strenuous exercise difficult. Whether you’re burning calories by pulling up a stubborn weed, or sweeping up the aftermath, you’re constantly moving. By taking part in any form of gardening activity, you will naturally use (and eventually strengthen) your bones, muscles and joints. Physical activity has been linked to an improvement in clinical depression and anxiety in an article published by Harvard Medical School in 2014. Their review explains that “people who become or remain physically fit or active are less likely to develop clinical depression” and that gardening can be a great way to keep fit!
Gardening can Help People with disabilities 3
Thrive, the UK's leading charity changing the lives of disabled people through gardening, explains how the organisation has helped a keen gardener continue his passion, even after a stroke. By taking part in a practical course with a focus on learning new ways to tackle everything, he now is able to strengthen his mobility. Furthermore, gardening has helped him deal with the emotional trauma of having a stroke, as he notes: “The team at Thrive helped me realise that the stroke is over, but life isn’t.”
11,000 Gardening can encourage a healthier lifestyle 4
Anyone who is able to garden and grow things from scratch will feel a sense of responsibility as they are in control of nurturing another living organism. There is reward and achievement in watching something grow and come to life because of your own work and commitment. In addition, gardening may encourage you to grow your own fruit and veg. If you’ve got a healthy source of food growing in your back garden, you may be more inclined to eat it.
So, now you know why gardening is not to be sniffed at, especially if, like me, you had a preconception that gardening was only for your dear nan! The garden can be a wonderful place for all of us to escape life and reconnect with it on an entirely new level. As Audrey Hepburn said: “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”
25,300 hours donated by volunteers *2017 stats from Thrive
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Mental Health in the Education Sector
FOR LIFE Given that 75% of mental illnesses are established by the time we turn 25, supporting young people’s mental health as they enter adolescence – and a peak period of change in their lives – could make the world of difference in their long-term health. So what support is out there for them? And can a holistic education prepare them for all parts of life, beyond academia? Writing | Becky Wright
heard something the other day that really made my blood boil: “Oh to be a teenager today. These kids don’t know they’re born.” I’m sure you’re familiar with the sentiment. And sure, wouldn’t it be great to grow up in the age of the Internet? All the answers to any question you’ve ever had, right at your fingertips – or even, your lips (Hey Siri, anyone?). But the truth is, it’s never been easy to be a teenager. As counsellor Anita Gaisford says: “16 to18-year-olds are at a particularly critical period of vulnerability to mental health issues (with most mental illnesses having their origins in teenage years), as well as then reaching ‘adulthood’ – a period of major physiological, emotional and social change in their life.” Yes, society and technology have progressed massively for Generation Z, but the cost of higher education is rising rapidly, as are house prices, not to mention that youth unemployment currently stands at around 13%. It’s keeping many young people trapped in what observers are calling “suspended adulthood”. There is growing evidence that teens are in the grip of a mental-health crisis, given that rates of depression and anxiety among teenagers are at an all-time
Almost 19,000 teenagers were admitted to hospital for self-harm in 2015–16, an increase of 14% since 2013–14
The Sixth Form College, Farnborough, in Hampshire is leading the way for schools
high – increasing by 70% in the last 25 years. Additionally, NHS data reveals there’s been a 68% increase in teenage girls admitted to hospital for self-harm over the past decade. It’s as if, rather than acting out, young people are turning in on themselves. But what help is out there for teenagers? On average, teenagers spend 195 days at school per year – that’s 53% of the year. It’s interesting to think about how this time could be best utilised, to help prepare and support teenagers with their long-term mental health.
WHAT PROBLEMS ARE TEENAGERS FACING?
1. Expectations Counsellor Anita says: “Society places increasing demands on young people to conform to an ideal which, for some, is not attainable. Without emotional resources in place to cope with this, a young person’s mental health may be compromised. This can affect their self-esteem, can lead to increased risk of depression, anxiety, bullying, body image issues, and possibly a fear of failure.” One societal expectation is that all teenagers mature at 18, when the reality can be very different. Where some will
According to the Office for National Statistics, suicide is the second leading cause of death for adolescents and young adults
be ready to move out of their family home, others may not do so at all. Some teens have large networks of friends and family to look to for support, while others may be on their own – reliant on the NHS and social services for help and advice, if they can access it.
2. Falling through the gap With all the pressure young people are subjected to growing up, it’s no wonder that Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) struggle to meet demand across the country. In fact, a 2017 Care Quality Commission report observing child mental health services found that young people can wait as long as 18 months to receive treatment. Supply and demand isn’t the end of the story, either. CAMHS are primarily focused on people under the age of 18, so young people have traditionally faced a “cliff edge” of care on their 18th birthday. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) suggest that up to two-thirds of teenagers are “lost” or receive interruptions to care as they try to access adult services for the first time. Continues >>> April 2018 • happiful • 31
Mental Health in the Education Sector
Claire Nicholson, who works in pastoral care at Bracknell & Wokingham College says: “The transition into adult services when you turn 18 is daunting, and can be overwhelming for some – it’s not always clear how to get the support that is vitally required.” 3. Parents Mental health charity Young Minds has found that exams are a significant trigger for mental illness – which doesn’t come as a huge surprise. What is surprising, though, is that this anxiety is thought to transfer to parents as well – who strive to maximise their children’s accomplishments, seeing them as an indication of their own value. This can have a direct impact on young people’s mental health, who may not only be afraid to disappoint their parents, but, in some cases, are afraid to talk to them. A study by the National Citizen Service found that girls, in particular, are more likely to seek comfort on social media when they are worried, rather than talking to their parents. 4. University A key life transition, starting university has the potential to be extremely stressful. Recent analysis by the Institute for Public Policy Research has indicated that almost five times as many students have disclosed a mental health condition to their university, compared In December with 10 years ago. 2017, the This has led government some critics to ask whether published a professors green paper and lecturers outlining plans need to learn about mental to increase health, in funding for order to provide better young people’s support for mental health students. But the onus should
be on all of us to do this – from the government to universities, to parents and teachers, and even to students themselves. Rather than expecting educators to be experts in mental health, we should be looking to inform students about what they can do and who to reach out to when they experience a problem. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England Director and Youth Lead, Caroline Hounsell, responded to this notion, saying: “It’s not about training people to be therapists or counsellors, but simply ensuring they’re equipped with the knowledge and confidence to be able to have conversations around mental health, and signpost young people to further support.”
WHAT CAN SCHOOLS DO TO HELP?
I’m not sure if mental health support is a big part of choosing which school or college to attend for students or parents. But if it isn’t, maybe it should be. Practical skills to help young people take care of their mental health will never go out of date; knowing the signs to look out for and when to take action to improve their wellbeing. Claire Nicholson says: “The learning environment needs to feel safe and secure, with the student having confidence in staff offering the right guidance when needed. This means advising on and enabling students to gain access to the information and
3,000 students reported mental health issues in 2006, which rose to more than 15,000 in 2016 services both within the educational environment, and externally.” It’s about providing an education that benefits them for life. In its 2017 report, the Department for Education (DfE) identified some key findings from research into mental health provision in schools and colleges. Almost two-thirds (64%) felt that the promotion of positive mental health and wellbeing was integrated into the school day, while the most common type of support offered for pupils with identified mental health needs was counselling services (61%). But counselling isn’t the only way schools can support their students’ mental health, and it should be 100% of schools promoting positive mental health, daily. There are many ways to integrate it into school and college timetables, but two of the most popular activities are: • Skills development sessions: think time management, CV writing, managing money – useful and practical. • Taught mental health sessions: whether you’ve heard it as “Personal, Social and Health Education” (PSHE) or “Tutorial”, these lessons are often an essential part of learning about factors that can affect mental health.
What is the AcSEED initiative? Set up in 2010 by members of the YoungMinds Very Important Kids project, the initiative was established to research the support services available in Hampshire secondary schools. In 2011, the programme won backing from Hampshire County Council’s healthy schools programme and in 2012, it received support from charities such as Beat. The initiative has since extended its activities nationwide, with all UK primary and secondary schools, and colleges now eligible to apply for the AcSEED Award.
Students at the Sixth Form College, Farnborough
SPOTLIGHT ON: FARNBOROUGH SIXTH-FORM One establishment leading the way in pastoral support is the Sixth Form College, Farnborough. Throughout their time there, students are provided with regular mental health education and advice via a programme lead by a specialist “Health and Wellbeing” team, which includes two trained nurses and a Health and Wellbeing Co-ordinator. The college also provides workshops on a variety of relevant subjects throughout the academic year, on topics such as procrastination and time management. Additionally, students have the opportunity to talk to a trained
counsellor via a free, voluntary and confidential counselling service, giving them the extra support they might need. The college has been recognised for the emphasis and value it places on providing mental health and emotional wellbeing services to their students, by the AcSEED initiative. Claire Basil, Lead Counsellor at the college said: “Given the growing awareness and spotlight on teenage mental health, we have worked very hard to provide students with a variety of options to support their emotional wellbeing and mental health.” Continues >>>
SO, WHO IS RESPONSIBLE?
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Mental Health in the Education Sector
What else is happening in schools? The government has pledged £200,000 to provide every secondary school with a member of staff trained in mental health first aid. The funding will help to train 3,000 teaching staff on how to deal with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders and self-harm, as well as how and where to refer those pupils in need of professional help.
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We need to be aware of the struggles our teenagers are facing. We need to guide them as best we can, and direct them to helpful resources or further support if needed. But more than that, we need to make sure they’re empowered – to take their mental health into their own hands.
I’M A TEENAGER, HOW CAN I TAKE CARE OF MY MENTAL HEALTH?
We all have bad days – sometimes things might seem overwhelming, but the important thing to remember is that you don’t have to cope on your own. And know that no problem is too big or too small. Taking care of yourself sooner rather than later is always the best step.
Who can you ask for help?
Take responsibility for your mental health
It’s up to you to tune into your mind and take care of it on a daily basis – you know when something’s not quite right. It’s not about mending something when it’s broken, it’s about looking after and nurturing your mind every day.
Talk to someone
You might not like asking for help. You may feel that you don’t want to burden other people. You may worry what they might think or even be afraid that they’ll laugh at you. It’s common to have thoughts like this, but think about what you’d say to a friend; would you want them to deal with distress on their own? Of course not. Be your own best friend – don’t be afraid to ask someone for help. If school or college work is getting too much, speak to your teacher, your form tutor, or another member of staff that you connect with. If your school offers a counselling service, find out how you can access it. You might be able to drop-in, or simply email to refer yourself for a session.
Self-care is important
Life is busy. But, however busy you are, it’s important to take time out for yourself, to relax and recharge your batteries. Some conditions like anxiety and depression can be caused by “too much work and not enough play”. And, not taking time out for relaxation may make any existing mental health issue worse.
Keep physically healthy
It can feel like an extra chore after a long day, but a little bit of exercise can actually help you to feel better. A half-an-hour walk, an exercise class, or a session at the gym can be just the thing to help you de-stress.
Use technology mindfully
Be aware of what triggers your low moods. If, like anyone, scrolling through Instagram can leave you feeling deflated, shut that app down.
Family & friends Classmates Your GP A social worker Teacher Counsellor Also, be aware of the time of day you’re using technology. We know it’s difficult to switch off your laptop or phone before getting into bed (especially if you struggle to fall asleep). But, it might be the blue lights from your gadgets keeping you awake. Avoid using tech at least half an hour before bed if you can – it will help you get some quality shuteye. Though, technology’s not all bad. Explore ways you can use tech to make you feel good. Try an app like Headspace if you need a few minutes each day to switch off. Remember, your academic education is important, but nothing is more important than your mental health. April 2018 • happiful • 35
YOUR TIME WILL COME AGAIN “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated.” – Maya Angelou
2 WASTE NOT, WANT NOT Buying and cooking the exact amount of food that you plan to eat plays a crucial part in saving the planet. Imagine the amount of emissions that are being used to make the seven million tonnes of household food that goes to waste each year. This could all be avoided if we took some time to learn about meal and portion planning. For help with this, visit lovefoodhatewaste.com
Disposable plastics, like cutlery, water bottles, and carrier bags are having a disastrous impact on marine life. Next time you reach to buy a bottle of water for 50p, consider the true cost. It may be pennies to you, but to a baby turtle, it could be the difference between life and death. Splash out and buy yourself a reusable bottle!
1 DITCH THE DISPOSABLES
A few quick and easy ways to help you do your bit for the environment:
UR PL A O E
wn o fort of your
Every piece of plastic that has ever been m ade, still exists in the world today
s Wasted food cost ds ol UK househ ’s £470 a year. That o tw the cost of to weekend tickets ! to Glas
3 BUY CLOTHES THAT LAST Buy less and buy better. Remember this mantra when you’re next out shopping. The chances are if you spend a bit more, you will get more for your money, meaning your clothes will last longer and therefore fewer clothes will be sent to landfill. Also, if you’re having a clear out, take your things to a charity shop. One person’s rubbish is another’s treasure!
4 ON YER BIKE You may feel like you’ve heard it all before. But have you heard that by choosing to cycle or walk instead of taking your car out once a week could help save tonnes of emissions each year? Imagine that feeling you’ll get when you realise you have directly impacted the planet, for good! Stick on your walking boots and go outdoors!
Only 3 old c % of our sold lothes are for recla recycling matio / n into textil es tting Consider se are h s r a up a c rk, or o w t a scheme ycling a walking/c wards club. The re ater could be gre ink than you th April 2018 • happiful • 37
After years managing my depression and anxiety, I was diagnosed with ME Growing up with ME, depression, anxiety and borderline personality disorder was incredibly difficult for Georgia Dodsworth, but she found positivity in her experiences by starting a self-care movement
ntil the age of 12, I was a happy child – energetic, enthusiastic and curious about the world around me. I had lots of hobbies from dancing and swimming, to music lessons. But, I struggled with change. Change made me feel anxious; unsure of who I was and who I could trust. I had mild attachment issues, which stemmed from my father leaving when I was two. When I started puberty, a lot of change took place. I started at secondary school, had new friendship groups, and I stopped dance, swimming and music. From the beginning of secondary school, I hated it. The evenings after school would go so fast, and I would anxiously count down the hours before I had to go back. I would get angry at the smallest things – if I couldn’t find a certain set of pyjamas I would have a meltdown, smash everything in my bedroom, and sit and cry. When I made it to school, I would give excuses to leave early, but luckily my mum could see there was
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something deeper going on. She took me to my GP and he referred me to the NHS’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
Having ME made my mental health symptoms worse, and my mental health made my ME worse
I felt very confused during my initial appointment, asking: “Why do I have to talk to a stranger about my emotions?” I felt ashamed about going to CAMHS once a week because none of my friends did. I wondered why I couldn’t be like them instead?
But the fact was, I didn’t feel “normal” in myself and in society. I felt different. I felt painful and numb at the same time. After five sessions, the psychiatrist asked my mum and me to come into the appointment room together. It was then, just after my 14th birthday, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, caused by adolescence. I left the appointment feeling strange and empty. Rather than being comforted by my diagnoses, I felt blind and confused. I didn’t even know what anxiety and depression were. After 10 psychotherapy sessions, my therapist suggested I should try medication – an SRI antidepressant called fluoxetine. At first, the medication didn’t help, and for the next few years I was back and forth to the GP, CAMHS and hospital. I was experiencing exhaustion more and more, feeling heavy like I was wading through golden syrup. There were times where I physically couldn’t get out of bed, and after more tests, I was diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalopathy (ME).
True LIFE Having ME made my mental health symptoms worse, and my mental health made my ME worse. It was an ongoing cycle. Bit by bit, I gradually started to cut myself off from the world. Around the time of the diagnoses, I started having suicidal and self-harming thoughts. I was hardly going to school, and eventually it was decided that I should receive home tutoring. This helped, but it didn’t make the problem go away. The first time I overdosed on fluoxetine was because I wanted people to hear me. I remember seeing my mum’s face when I told her what I’d done. She looked worried and scared, and deep down, I was too. Reflecting now, I overdosed because I felt unsupported and unheard. I thought if I took an overdose, people would start to take me more seriously. However, at the time, I couldn’t articulate this and, unfortunately, I took three more overdoses between the ages of 14 and 17. Looking back, I can see that the only light in my life was attending weekly children’s theatre sessions at the Chickenshed Theatre Company – a theatre company that work to individual’s strengths, finding the creative environment that enables them to flourish. I felt accepted and could express myself without being judged. Chickenshed was my safe space for me to just be me. Things started to look up. The medication was beginning to help, along with the combination of therapy and being away from the pressure of school. Over time, I started to know myself – and my limits. I was learning to look after myself before I’d even
Georgia (left) with heard the term her mum, Angie “self-care”. Life suddenly took a whole new turn. At 18 years old, I got a place at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and left CAMHS, which was scary but I felt ready. My mental health journey wasn’t over though. As an adult, the mental health services are very different – there’s a lot less funding. Last year I received a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. In the two years I’ve been at university, I constantly need to care for my mental health, which is a huge learning process for me. I still get suicidal thoughts, however now I know how to manage them. I’m learning how to mother myself, to truly think about what I need to stay well, both physically and mentally. This is why self-care is so important to me, and has become a massive part of my everyday routine. It’s about taking the time out to make small actions that benefit your mind, body, and soul. Self-care is unique to everybody, as it’s about tuning in to what you need – not what society is telling you. Practising self-care is a challenge, but over time it does become a habit. Witnessing the effects of self-care first-hand has inspired me to start a movement: World of Self-Care – a platform exploring self-care, self-love and mental wellbeing through
art-based workshops and discussions. The response has been overwhelming, and I hope that one day I can go into schools and educate teachers and students on mental health and the importance of self-care. I now share my story to encourage people to start talking about mental health, and to raise awareness of how powerful self-care is when part of our routines. Everyone has mental health, everyone has emotions, so let’s ask ourselves how we feel, let’s ask others, and let’s start talking.
Our Expert Says
Georgia’s experience highlights the importance of really listening to people and making sure they feel heard. Accepting and not judging symptoms like self-harming is crucial in supporting those with mental illness. As Georgia notes, self-care is essential for us all, and each person has their own unique needs. Having permission to be who we are is crucial to strong mental health, and the person we most need it from is ourself. Fe Robinson MUKCP (reg) MBACP (reg) psychotheraist and clinical supervisor
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The Conversation | Mind Matters
Could there be a time where mental and physical health have parity of esteem? Mind boss Paul Farmer speaks to Maurice Richmond on the challenges mental health faces today in ‘unravelling decades of underfunding’, and his hopes for future preventative care
Pushing for Parity Q
Paul Farmer, CEO, Mind
A good friend of mine had a very bad breakdown and nobody knew what was going on, or what to do
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How did you become involved with Mind? I’ve been working in health and emotional health charities since 1991; I worked for Samaritans and Rethink Mental Illness before Mind. The driver for that is a couple of personal things; in my family there’s a history, like so many, of people who have mental health issues. Also at university, a good friend of mine had a very bad breakdown and nobody knew what was going on, or what to do. That had a big impact on me and, working at Samaritans, it struck me how it was such an important issue for our society.
What’s changed the most since you started working in mental health? The way we’ve shifted the stigma line. In the 90s and noughties, the only headlines about mental health were when somebody would kill themselves. Thanks to things like Time To Change, and thousands of individual people having their conversations, we’ve seen it shift – I don’t think there would have been a Happiful magazine 20 years ago! Now, mental health gets senior management and political attention.
Some people are frustrated that awareness is good now, but little is happening in terms of policy. Do you agree? There’s three ways to look at this. Firstly, is there a plan for mental health and does it contain money? The answer is yes. Secondly, is that going to be delivered? The answer is hopefully, because there’s a lot of momentum behind it, so politicians need to ensure it happens. Thirdly, is it sufficient? The answer is very clearly, no. This year is the most crucial in the Five Year Forward View for mental health – we’re into the third year. This is the point where we want to see real change. At the moment, not enough people are seeing enough change.
Why is that? We’re trying to unpackage decades of under-investment, which all parties are responsible for. This won’t change overnight. You can’t magic-up doctors, nurses and therapists without investing in their training. That’s happening, but there’s no doubt people feel the pace of change is not fast enough.
How could things be speeded up?
Paul Farmer with Mind ambassador Fearne Cotton at the 2017 Mind Media Awards
There are some things where you can move more quickly than others. If you recognise the role of community-based mental health services as part of the overall, then those have a little more flexibility. Our local Minds are running these services, and the difference they make is incredible. You can quickly invest in those, but for many people their mental health experience is not about what happens inside the NHS. It’s putting mental health into the heart of criminal justice policy and social policy, housing for example. There’s still a lot of work to do. The best and worst example of this is in people’s experience of the welfare system.
Does it frustrate you that some feel mental health is being used as a political pawn between parties? Our objective is to ensure that mental health is being discussed and features in the plans of all political parties. We work with everyone and want to see mental health treated as the most important issue. In the last General Election, there was an analysis of each party’s political manifesto, and each contained more references to mental health than any other health condition in any other set of manifestos from any other General Election since the Second World War. So, we can say the engagement is positive, and significantly improved. Our challenge is to raise the level of expectation among all parties for what ought to be possible. The debate on mental health, and how much needs to be spent, comes into play. I actually think it’s one of those issues where there is a lot of consensus on what is needed.
Q Active Monitoring This enables GPs to refer patients directly to a dedicated mental health practitioner as soon as they present with problems such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem or stress. Active monitoring was first piloted in Tameside, Oldham and Glossop local Minds and is now being replicated in Wales.
Do you think full parity between physical and mental health is possible? It wasn’t that long ago that nobody was talking about cancer, now you can’t really threaten cancer services, quite rightly. That’s the place we want to get to with mental health. When the Five Year Forward View plan was published, I was asked: “Is this going to get us to parity of esteem?” We are very clear that it is not going to happen in this five-year period. The next step has to be what the next equivalent of the Five Year Forward View for mental health is going to look like, and how close to parity we can get in that period. Continues >>>
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The Conversation | Mind Matters
Stephen Fry, Paul Farmer, Fearne Cotton and award venue Odeon’s Kathryn Pritchard just before the Mind Media Awards 2017
It’s pretty poor that people are being discriminated against on the grounds of their mental health. Our whole purpose is to eliminate that
Can we do it in a 10-year timeline? I think we should be aiming to try to do that. What does that mean in reality? Having the same level of confidence in access and quality of services you are going to receive. You know roughly how long it is going to take you for A&E and long-term care; you should know this for mental health. Confidence in the quality and quantity of staffing. Confidence in the resources to embed all this over the period of time. That’s a basic principle of parity. The rest of it means investing in prevention; there’s a lot work that goes into physical health, but relatively little, or virtually nothing, going into mental health.
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Nothing? Very little. The current proportion of local authority spending on mental health is less than 1%, based on our yearly survey. We’re used to receiving messages around smoking or the benefits of good physical activity. We haven’t yet been given the mental health promotion and prevention.
Could mental health be part of TV ads, bus slogans and billboards in the future? Absolutely, because that is what we need. The two places where we are seeing that start to emerge is in schools, where some are investing in the wellbeing of their kids, and in the workplace. The idea of workplace wellbeing is starting to catch real attention.
How do you see the future of local Mind branches? I am a big fan of the “federated” model, quite a lot of chief executives aren’t! So what we are seeing among our network of people, who are absolutely extraordinary, is that their strength is in their understanding of their local communities. I don’t think there’s a chief executive who could hope to have a better understanding about what is going on in Aberystwyth or Hull as our local Minds do. The branches are going through a period of evolution – becoming much more sustainable. Like all charities who have a reasonable reliance on local authority funding, they’ve been through a pretty tough time. They’ve absolutely come out the other side, though. We have a slightly smaller number of Minds, but helping a greater number of people. They are the hive of innovation, and we want to pull up that innovation.
With volunteers, are you finding more or less people wishing to get involved? We have roughly 2,500 volunteers and 1,000 staff. One of the positive aspects is that more people want to engage. I think it’s really encouraging that the change is beginning to happen. We know from the Time To Change campaign, that it’s the younger generation – the 18–34 age group in particular – who are driving the positive-attitude change. Awareness and fundraising go hand-in-hand for us as a charity, but for individuals they want to do something to help.
Could more be done to push the mental health agenda in sports and arts? The sporting world has surprised us with its willingness to engage – from the elite to grassroot levels in sport. This is helped by the sports media, who you wouldn’t necessarily expect to be that supportive, who have been pretty good and understanding of high-profile players such as Aaron Lennon and Marcus Trescothick. [In May 2017, footballer Aaron Lennon was detained under the Mental Health Act, while cricketer Marcus Trescothick left England’s tour of India in 2006, later citing mental illness as the reason for his departure.] Arts are in a slightly different space. You’d expect the arts sector to be quite aware of the issue of people’s mental health. Pretty much every single great play ever written has a mental health theme at some point. Interestingly, our media advisory team will work with the Royal Ballet and the Royal Shakespeare Company about depicting these issues.
Formed in 1946, as National Association for Mental Health
Became MIND in 1972, before dropping capitals in the 1990s
Counts on support from a staggering 9,481 volunteers
135 local Minds
Employs 3,347 staff including those in shops
More than 500,000 people used local Mind services between 2016 and 2017
In terms of responsibility and duty of care, recently it was revealed some insurers are reluctant to cover mental health. What are your views on this? It’s pretty poor that people are being discriminated against on the grounds of their mental health. Our whole purpose is to eliminate that. We need to encourage the insurance sector to understand what’s driving some of these exclusions. I think some are realising this is an own goal.
Raised £28.8 million during this time period
Why do you think some insurers are discriminating? We are shifting from a state of relative ignorance into a phase of awareness, followed by outrage, followed by action. We want to move quickly – awareness is good, but that has to be sustained. People are asking the questions, now we need to get into action.
To find out more about Mind, visit mind.org.uk To support Paul in raising money for Mind through running the London Marathon, head to Virgin Money Giving and search for Paul Farmer
April 2018 • happiful • 43
SPREAD SOME FIRGUN Firgun is a Hebrew phrase that describes the feeling of genuine pride or delight in another personâ€™s achievements
The Happiful Seal of Approval Our top 10 things to try this month, whether you’re in need of a great read, a day out exploring, or something inspiring to tune in to
Anxiety Is Really Strange by Steve Haines (Singing Dragon, £7.99): a short, sweet comic about the everyday experience of anxiety.
Lend us your ears The Heart of It (Audioboom. com podcast): lifestyle blogger and author Estée Lalonde tackles topics close to her heart, and invites weekly guests to share their perspectives.
Out and about
Blind date with a book (blinddatewithabook.com): receive a mystery, handwrapped book from a wide range of genres, with clues alluding to the book inside. Head for the hills
The V&A’s Winnie-the-Pooh Exhibition (Ends 8 April): Relive your childhood with this multi-sensory exhibition exploring the world of Winniethe-Pooh.
to open up and address the stresses in our lives.
Megan Jayne Crabbe (Instagram @bodiposipanda): an advocate of self-love and diversity with a feel-good feed.
Grace and Frankie, Season 4 (Netflix): a wholesome, feelgood comedy about the adventures of two older women trying to rebuild their lives after divorce.
Forest (App Store and Google Play): plant a tree when you want to focus on something and a beautiful forest will gradually grow – as long as you don’t stop to leave the app to check your phone!
Sharpham House, Devon: a wellbeing retreat with Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teachers running a break that mixes mindfulness with yoga, nversa walking, o c Stress singing and Awareness creative Month: April offers writing. us the opportunity
Winnie-the-Pooh | catwalker / Shutterstock.com
GET GOING The London Marathon (22 April): comedy charity runners and pros take to the streets for the 38th annual marathon in the city.
4 TOP TIPS
to boost confidence While we hope none of us need to use self-defence moves, knowing how to deal with a situation where we might can make us feel more confident and self-assured Writing | Becky Wright
hat is the art of self-defence? Many people think of it as a karate kick to the groin or a jab in the eye of an attacker. And, in some instances, this is true. In fact, according to The Times, there’s been a surge in applications for martial arts classes. As a nation, we’re expressing an interest in learning how to protect ourselves. But, the truth is there’s more to self-defence than merely knowing a few physical moves. And the most effective form of self-defence is doing everything possible to avoid fighting. It’s about using the power of your mind – not your fists. Knowing how to avoid danger can be reassuring. But, we can’t stop ourselves from enjoying life. We can’t live life feeling frightened. So, if you find yourself walking home from the pub in the dark, or running through the woods at the weekend, knowing some key moves can act as a confidencebooster. Feeling confident in your ability to protect yourself can help to empower you in everyday life, too; nothing’s going to hold you back.
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If you find yourself dangerous situatio in a advice would alwaysn, our get yourself out of be to it hide, tell.” Avoid fig: “Run, back or engaging w hting ith attacker at all costs.an
We hope you’re never in a situation where you need to fight back, but if you are, you shouldn’t be afraid to. Here are four simple self-defence tips to help improve your confidence every day:
Why not try a self-defence class? One of the easiest ways to try out self-defence is to go to a martial arts class. You’ll learn the skills, get fitter and stronger, and you’ll be doing it in an inclusive team environment.
1 Don’t put yourself in danger
Prevention is the best form of self-defence. Be sure you always follow general safety tips: be aware of your surroundings; only walk and park in well-lit areas; have your keys in reach as you approach your door or car. Attackers will look for vulnerable targets, so try to notice the way you hold yourself and move your body. Do you look timid? Nervous? An easy target? Walk with your head up and shoulders back. Make eye contact with people you pass, instead of looking at your phone or at the ground. You’ll feel and look more confident – and this will change how a potential attacker sees you. It also lets potential attackers know you could identify them, if necessary.
2 Talk the talk
Apart from avoiding confrontation, try to defuse a situation before it gets dangerous. If you can sense a situation is about to get heated, try talking the person down. If there’s something they want – money, your phone – hand it over. Nothing you own is worth more than your safety. But, if an attacker touches you (or it’s clear that escape isn’t possible), shout loudly: “BACK OFF!” or “DON’T TOUCH ME!” This does two things: it signals for help, and lets the attacker see you’re not an easy target.
3 Hit where it hurts
If you need to apply force, aim for the parts of the body where you can easily do the most damage: the face (eyes, nose, ears, neck) and the lower body (groin and knees). Depending on the position of the attacker and how close they are will determine where you strike them. Remember, do not step in closer to hit them. Don’t put yourself in any further danger, or give them an opportunity to take hold of you.
Nothing you own is worth more than your safety
4 Escape a choke hold
If your attacker is able to grab you and starts to choke you, it’s normal to instinctively reach for your neck. But, trying to pull their hands away will be hard – especially if you’re smaller than them. Instead, focus all your energy on getting hold of their thumbs. Use your hands as hooks in a “C” shape to prize their thumbs away. This will make it harder for them to maintain their hold on you, giving you time to try to get away.
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Lifestyle & Relationships
Interview | Kathryn Wheeler
Named in ‘InStyle’ magazine’s annual Rising Star talent portfolio, Simona Brown is making waves in the British acting scene. Her upcoming role in ‘Kiss Me First’ sees her playing Tess, a woman with bipolar disorder. We caught up with Simona to chat about the challenges of portraying mental illness on-screen, and the importance of shining a light on ‘under-represented perspectives’ You’ve had an amazing career so far, and you’re only just getting started! What are you most proud of? I’m really proud of my most recent role of Tess in Kiss Me First. It was my first time being a co-lead, so I felt a strong sense of responsibility for this project. I also overcame my mild aquaphobia. I couldn’t swim before filming Kiss Me First, but had to learn for the role, which was a huge milestone for me! Your character, Tess, has bipolar disorder. Did you do much research for the role? Yes, I read books, poetry, and watched films and documentaries. I wanted to make her nuanced and relatable, and didn’t want to make her a caricature. When approaching the text, I made sure I didn’t pre-empt her actions, I just listened and responded. What was the hardest thing for you about portraying Tess? Every day was different. I suppose that came with its own set of challenges. I was going from one scene being manic and full of childlike energy, to the next being full of angst and even contemplating suicide. Do you feel you have a better understanding of bipolar disorder now? Yes. I had no idea of the pace of bipolar, that the highs and lows could last for as long as a year or more. I also understand that everyone has their own processes and we all deal with mental illness differently.
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Do you think your portrayal will help tackle stigma? I think Tess’s journey will appeal to a wider audience and will give an insight into mental illness from an under-represented perspective. Mental illness is a real taboo in the AfricanCaribbean community, so I’m happy I had the opportunity to play such a complex role. You’ve been in a couple of socially conscious TV dramas – was that something you aspired to do? Being involved with socially conscious projects was definitely an aspiration of mine. I like thought-provoking storylines. They challenge me to consider different realities. Who do you admire? My mum, of course! She’s one of the strongest people I know. I draw inspiration from my niece and nephew, to trust and follow my instincts, as they do so effortlessly. Also seeing Angela Bassett’s portrayal of Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do with It inspired me to act from a young age. What are you looking forward to in 2018? I’m really excited about the release of Kiss Me First. Also, I’m currently shooting BBC’s The Little Drummer Girl, so I’m looking forward to rubbing shoulders with director Park Chan-wook. I think he’s brilliant. ‘Kiss Me First’ will air on Channel 4 and Netflix in in the spring.
QUICK-FIRE ROUND Favourite song ‘Baby’ by Donnie and Joe Emerson or ‘The Beautiful Ones’ by Prince Last book you read If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
Photography | Desmond Lingard
Favourite way to relax An essential oil bath with Epsom salts First thing you do in the morning Write a gratitude list One thing guaranteed to put a smile on your face A cup of tea
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The Power of Movement
ONE STEP AT A TIME Whether itâ€™s a walk around a park, a run with a friend, or a group mission to make daily life better for others, Happiful explores three initiatives encouraging movement for good Writing | Lucy Donoughue
know the moment I finish a run, or a long blustery walk, I feel better than I did before. Yet I also know that there are times when putting on your shoes and stepping out the door is a big challenge. If I could somehow bottle the feeling I get after being active and give myself just a little hit of it when I’m struggling, I’d be off the sofa in seconds. Sometimes I need that bit of extra motivation, which usually comes in the form of committing to run with someone else. This works for me, as I don’t want to let someone down and there’s the added bonus of a social element to the exercise (and potential for coffee and cake afterwards). It’s a win-win! Exercising with other people has so many benefits beyond motivation though. In his most recent book Running For Your Life, psychotherapist William Pullen explains that while running produces endorphins elevating both mood and thinking (often referred to as the “runner’s high”), running and talking with a companion can activate oxytocin as well (AKA the “love hormone”). This is created by sharing and giving trust and attention to another person while moving with them. Imagine then, the feel-good effect of running with others and participating in projects to help the community in which you live? Or knowing that your run is supporting others in opening up about their own mental health? Or inspiring children to grow-up, comfortable with talking about how they’re feeling? That’s exactly what three organisations are offering people – a way to connect doing good and feeling good. I discuss Dynamic Running Therapy and Empathy Runs with William Pullen, good deeds all round with GoodGym, and the impact of group talk and walks with Mental Health Mates. Time to get those trainers on…
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The Power of Movement
DRT Founder William Pullen
Dynamic Running Therapy and Empathy Runs William Pullen’s revolutionary method is helping people work through their issues, one step and thought at a time, using ‘emotion in motion’ to connect to our feelings and inner dialogue
ynamic Running Therapy (DRT) is not complicated, but rather, as William Pullen poses in his book Run For Your Life, about learning a couple of simple but very powerful techniques, and embarking on an exploration of who you are. DRT is tried and tested. William developed his approach back in 2007 when he was experiencing challenges of his own. His journey began by finding refuge, space and quietness in London’s Hyde Park and starting to run – slowly at first due to his physical fitness – but improving over time. Running with a friend, he realised that the act of exercising – moving forward together – allowed them to have an open discussion, which felt both liberating and healing. A year later, he started six years of training to become a therapist, now champions DRT, and is an advocate of empathy runs for adults and children.
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Running gave me something that therapy didn’t at that time – empowerment and progression
Tell us about the beginnings of DRT. I was going through a crisis in my own life and took up a bunch of different activities, including running. I was a different person then – a heavy smoker and drinker. Running gave me something that therapy didn’t at that time: empowerment and progression. Running with a friend gave us both a real sense of camaraderie. Each time we ran we could do a little more, loosening up and at the same time, really focusing on what each other had to say. It was mentally, as well as physically, therapeutic. What is it about movement that lends itself to therapy? I believe that it’s written in our DNA to move together and tell stories. If you think back to the Stone Age and hunter gatherers, that’s exactly what they would have done. It’s also
more natural than sitting face-to-face and static; there’s a momentum there that carries you through your thoughts. What about empathy running? Empathy running, like DRT, is a concept that is hugely important to me, and I’ll be giving a TedX Talk on the subject in June. It’s based around two people moving side-by-side, running or walking, and one person really listening to the other speak without interrupting, and then reflecting back what they’ve heard at the end of the allotted time, or at the end of a run. The same thing can be done with children. A group of school children can be split into pairs to do this and the results can be amazing. Children who don’t really know or even like one another, can gain more understanding of each other through this process. This also works incredibly well with children and their parents too. Running serves as a sort of distraction for children, helping them to stay focused and open up. They are also often quite excited to be running with the adults, meaning they begin from a positive and confident place. What would you say to someone who is interested in DRT, but is struggling to get started? I would say that no matter how hopeless you feel, anything is possible if you just put one foot in front of the other. That’s all you have to do – just keep on moving.
Download the Dynamic Running Therapy app from the App Store for free. ‘Run For Your Life’ by William Pullen is available in bookshops and online now. Follow William @pullentherapy
GoodGym Forget the stats on your fitness tracker, GoodGym have a set of numbers that need to be celebrated by us all. In 2017 alone, GoodGym (currently at 5,500 members) logged more than 33,000 good deeds and supported more than 1,000 older people
ounded in 2009, GoodGym started life in Tower Hamlets, London, and now operates in 40 areas across the UK. The concept is simple and brilliant: GoodGym combines free group exercise, with helping community organisations and isolated older people. Some GoodGym runners are paired with isolated older people, who they run to visit socially each week. Research shows that more than one million older people are always or often lonely, going for weeks at a time without seeing friends or family. GoodGym is tackling this head on and with respect, calling the older people they visit “coaches” because they help keep members motivated to run and share words of wisdom with them. Continues >>> April 2018 • happiful • 53
The Power of Movement
GoodGym has 5,500 members
good deeds done so far!
GoodGym members also run in groups to local organisations that need help, completing tasks like shovelling earth for community gardens, planting trees or clearing derelict land, and then run back, all within 90 minutes. Group runs are led by qualified running coaches who help members with their running technique, and support them to achieve their fitness goals. Members get fit, while doing good. Ellie Fry first joined GoodGym in London, and continued her membership when she moved to Bristol earlier this year. What was your first experience of GoodGym? I turned up to Battersea Arts Centre not knowing what to expect and was greeted by such a warm welcome, it felt like I’d been part of the running club for ages! The first task was leaflet dropping for a local community gardens project (running to and from all the destinations).
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Tell us about some of the community work you’ve done? The “missions” are so varied – from leaflet dropping to helping clean a hospice. Since moving to GoodGym Bristol, I’ve been involved in litter collecting down at the Avon Gorge and helping a community garden project (Haven), which offers support to local communities. How has being part of GoodGym helped you? I love the whole ethos. Run. Volunteer. Meet like-minded people. There’s something so rewarding about doing activities that help the local community, rather than just running on a treadmill or pumping iron in the gym.
There’s something so rewarding about doing activities that help the local community, rather than just running on a treadmill or pumping iron in the gym
What would you say to someone thinking of joining? Go for it! It’s amazing how many groups there are now all across the country. GoodGym is always open to new members, whatever their fitness level. For more information, visit www.goodgym.org
Get some fresh air and have a chat with MHM
Mental Health Mates On 14 February 2016, 20 people met to walk together, following a call-out on social media by journalist Bryony Gordon, who, at the time, was struggling with her mental health. Fast-forward two years and there’s almost 60 Mental Health Mates Groups across the UK and meet-ups in Dubai, Melbourne and San Francisco
ental Health Mates was born out of “a terrible funk” Bryony Gordon was going through as she was writing Mad Girl, a memoir about her mental health. A documentary she was listening to while out running, inspired her to bring together groups of people who were feeling alone and struggling with their mental health too. Over the past two years, MHM has “grown beyond her wildest dreams”, and groups have now popped up all across the UK and beyond, run by a dedicated group of volunteers and walk leaders, showing there’s a real need for these collective and informal support networks. Kate leads the Mental Health Mates Walks in Oxford with her friend Jess. How did you hear about Mental Health Mates? I read an article by Bryony in Cosmopolitan and she was looking for people to start their own MHM groups across the country. I think it’s really important that we all do more to support and connect with one another, so I got in touch. I received the walk leader’s pack and chatted with Jess, who agreed to start an Oxford MHM group with me. Doing it together means that we can support one another.
Tell us about your first walk? Our first walk was in November 2016, starting in the University Parks – an absolutely beautiful place. We had no idea if anyone would come – but they did. It was a small group, but it felt so good to get together and connect. We’ve held a MHM walk almost every month since, and some of the people who came to that first walk still join. It’s a very close-knit group – though we actively welcome new people every month.
We understand. There is no pressure from us on the walk or at any time. We are there every month and you’ll be welcome any time
What can people expect from a Mental Health Mates Walk? We’re all regular people, none of us are trained counsellors but we know and appreciate that we all have our struggles. That being said, you don’t have to talk about your mental health during one of the walks; we talk about all sorts. It’s a really friendly and non-judgemental atmosphere. What would you say to someone who wants to come, but is struggling? We understand. There is no pressure from us on the walk or at any time. We are there every month and you’ll be welcome any time. To find and join your nearest Mental Health Mates walk, visit mentalhealthmates.co.uk April 2018 • happiful • 55
reporting a mental health issue
Talking about your mental health – to anyone – can be frightening, but talking to your employer? That’s a whole new kettle of fish. How do you tell them you’re struggling? Can they even help? It’s not easy, but with a little information and guidance, the conversation can be a lot less daunting Writing | Ellen Hoggard
may not have a diagnosable mental health issue but, like everyone, I have mental health – and sometimes it’s less than good. Very recently, I woke up feeling what I can only describe as “wrong”. Something was off. It was as though a dark cloud had descended over me. I felt very sad and overwhelmed; I was empty, yet my mind was full. Almost overnight, the job I loved became something I feared. I wanted to cry. I’m very lucky to work in the mental health industry. I told my manager how I felt and that I was going to be a little quiet over the next few days. They regularly checked in and explained that if things got too much, I could go home. However, despite my opening up and this support, I came into work every day. It didn’t seem
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right to take time off because I felt overwhelmed. Surely it’s just a part of working life? But the thing is, it shouldn’t be. No one should be forcing themselves to work when they are emotionally, and physically, struggling. If you want to talk about your mental health, but have no idea how to broach the topic with your employer, here’s some advice to help you take the leap.
Trust your gut
Do your research
Take the plunge
Prioritise your health
1 in 6 workers in the UK are experiencing common mental health problems
What to consider
The first thing is to remember that you’re not alone. According to Mind, at least one in six workers are experiencing common mental health problems, so chances are, someone else in your office is going through a similar thing. Is there someone you can talk to? It can be helpful to think about what you want from speaking up – immediate support or longterm guidance? Perhaps you need some time off to rest, to scale back your responsibilities, or work remotely. Maybe you need to cut back on hours. If there’s something you think will help, write it down. Think of this note as a mini cheerleader, reminding and supporting you during what can be a frightening conversation. If you’re not sure what might help, that’s OK. Instead, when talking options with your employer, suggest small changes. You can then make note of how they’ve helped you.
Speaking about our mental health is scary, regardless of who you’re speaking to. But as daunting as it is, if you know deep down that you want to talk about it, trust that feeling. You’re the only one who knows how you feel, and if you need help it’s important you get it.
It can help to know whether your company has a policy in place for mental health concerns. This information should be in your company handbook, or you may need to speak to HR. Having an idea of what support is available can be helpful, if and when you decide to speak up. And remember, you have rights. Thanks to the Equality Act, you are protected from discrimination in the workplace. They shouldn’t be, but if your employer is dismissive or unhelpful, they are required by law to make “reasonable adjustments” to support you.
When you’re ready, request a one-to-one with your manager. This may be easier said than done, but you don’t need to go into detail right away. Send them an email or message, or find them in the coffee room and ask if they’re available for a chat. Book some private time, away from your colleagues, where you can discuss your mental health and your options.
Remember, as hard as it may be, things will get better. Talking about your mental health is your choice, but being open and honest can help you get the support you need. Work may be an important part of life, but it’s not the most important. Your health and happiness should always take priority.
It's OK to need help Find a counsellor using counselling-directory.org.uk April 2018 • happiful • 57
My lifelong battle with OCD and depression Trying to please everyone around him led Chris Dudley to wear a mask to the world and struggle with his mental health in secret. But in allowing his authentic self to shine, he learned to manage his conditions, and now helps others as a life coach
n an attempt to break free from my depression and OCD, at the age of 29 I found myself sitting in an neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) practitioner training course, having a breakthrough. At the time though, it felt more like a breakdown, exclaiming to my tutor: “If I continue to remove all these masks I wear, there’ll be nothing left of me.” I remember sitting there with a deep sense of dread, finally understanding that I was a tailored version of myself to everyone around me, and I wasn’t sure who I actually was. I was born in 1982, in a small village in Leeds, to young parents who married out of convenience and divorced out of necessity when I was six years old. I was brought up by
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my mum – a single parent who struggled both financially and with mental health challenges, including depression and OCD. I don’t recall ever feeling like a child; I had responsibilities beyond my years and felt a natural inclination to be everything to everyone; telling those around me what I thought they wanted to hear, and being the version of myself I thought they wanted me to be. At the age of nine, my stepdad told me I needed to stop being so girly as older men would take advantage of me. At that moment, I had a realisation that I was gay and that it wasn’t a good thing to be. I began a nine-year battle with hiding the deepest part of who I was. This was one of the heaviest masks I wore.
True LIFE When I was 11, my younger brother and I moved in with my father in Wakefield, and I was separated from my mother and younger sister for seven years. Having been brought up by my mum in a volatile and sterile environment, the move to my dad’s seemed healthier for us both mentally and physically. However, not seeing our mother was never acknowledged by any of the adults around us, and neither my brother nor I dared to speak out.
‘I don’t ever recall feeling like a child; I had responsibilities beyond my years’
Chris felt like an outsider in his teenage years
When my OCD was at its worst, I would crave a period of depression. It’s a perverse concept, but depression was a break from OCD
As an outsider in my teenage years, my life felt so out of my control and I remedied this by accessing my maternal bloodline’s usual coping mechanism, OCD. We term it “our family’s illness” and the stories of past generations focus on each different relative’s version of OCD. I attempted to control everything I could about the world I lived in, but without it coming to the attention of anyone else. My cabin bed became my world – completely organised, with a place for everything. I took a job at the school library, as this allowed me to eat my lunch alone in the corridor outside. I’d then enter the library and carefully tidy each book on each bookshelf until the bell would ring. The library became somewhere safe for me, and the usual torments placed on a gay child in school became the activities of the corridors and classrooms.
My dad and step-mum didn’t recognise my OCD, and many of my behaviours were joked about and shrugged off. My dad tested my boundaries one day by moving everything in my cabin bed while I was at school – disorganising the drawers, the cupboards, my wardrobe. To this day I cannot recall my reaction; it’s a complete blank, and I’ve chosen not to ask anyone about how I responded. Later in my teenage years, my usual mood was one of deep sadness, but I didn’t know I was depressed. I had thoughts of not wanting to be here anymore and two things kept me going. One, I couldn’t possibly leave my younger brother; we had experienced everything together and I had to be there for him. Two, I didn’t want to attempt it and fail, and then have to live with everyone knowing I wasn’t well. At 17 years old, I moved in with my mum and we repaired our relationship. Yet all the love we had for one another wasn’t enough to stop our versions of OCD fighting. Continues >>> April 2018 • happiful • 59
Chris’s Story I decided to become a full-time life coach. I finally had my mental health under control, and I had brought my black dog to heel on a couple of occasions
My mum has OCD for cleanliness, and I for tidiness. She had to clean my bedroom every day, which included moving and cleaning every item individually. I would return home from college and have to put every item back in place. Many evenings would end with us both frustrated and crying at the madness of it all. I moved into my own flat at the age of 19, taking my OCD to the most extreme level I experienced. I was now free to be my own person and at the same time, I was the most trapped I had ever been. On the days my depression permitted me to get out of bed, the day revolved around cleaning and tidying my flat until I achieved my version of perfection. The evenings were then spent attempting not to break this perfection, including watching TV sitting on the floor so I didn’t mess up the sofa, 60 • happiful • April 2018
brushing my teeth in the toilet in order not to mess the sink, and a nightly battle of getting into bed and sleeping without messing the pillows and sheets – all the while knowing that every activity I did was completely mad. Ironically, when my OCD was at its worst, I would crave a period of depression. It’s a perverse concept, but depression was a break from OCD – an opportunity to sleep liberally, to stop brushing my teeth, to lounge on the sofa. I entered adulthood unsure of my place in the world and without an understanding of, or connection to, my authentic self. I came out as a gay man and was able to openly discuss my depression with my mum and doctors, and this began a life littered by periods of being mentally healthy (with OCD), followed periods of time off work on antidepressants. This battle with depression, anxiety and OCD I temporarily and regularly overcame with overspending, high-achievement and continuing to sacrifice my needs for others. Therefore, the mask I wore to the wider world was one of success, as defined by society. I maintained this version of my life throughout my twenties, but knew I had to do something to overcome it properly; I couldn’t allow myself to continue to be an actor in my own life. A short period of counselling supported me in gaining a deeper understanding of my challenges and how I arrived where I was, but it failed to give me the freedom I desired. I became a self-confessed, self-help junkie and I continue to be passionate about all areas of personal development.
True LIFE In 2012, at the age of 29, I decided to take responsibility for my life and my goal to be my authentic self – less who I was and more who I wanted to be. So, I found myself sitting in the NLP practitioner training course removing masks, letting go of limiting beliefs and addressing my negative emotions. Change didn’t happen in an instant; it’s a gradual process, which is difficult but not impossible. Since then, I have furthered my studies into human potential, achieving qualifications as NLP Master Coach Practitioner, Master Practitioner of Time Line Therapy, Master Practitioner of Hypnotherapy, and I am a Certified Learning and Development Specialist. My greatest achievement is overcoming my mental health challenges and committing to follow my dreams to live life on my own terms. In 2015, I decided to become a full-time life coach. I finally
In 2015, Chris became a full-time life coach
had my mental health under control, I hadn’t experienced a period of depression for a few years, and I had brought my black dog to heel on a couple of occasions. I’d overcome my OCD, although I am still a tidy person. I was ready to help others, and after 18 months as a full-time life coach, I had a huge realisation. Much to my surprise, I found a final mask. While I had overcome my depression and OCD using coaching and NLP therapy, I refused to proactively seek clients with mental health challenges. I was scared to offer life coaching as a valid mechanism to support a person’s mental
healthcare. More than that, I wasn’t willing to share my story for the fear others would think less of me. I knew I was turning my back on people I had the most potential to help, and I knew this was the final hurdle I needed to jump in order to achieve my goal of truly being me and owning my past, present and future. That day is today. Readers, thank you for listening to my story, told with pride, this article is my final mask, removed and cast aside.
Change is a gradual process, which is difficult but not impossible
Our Expert Says Sometimes life seems unfair, like we’ve drawn the short straw. What Chris discovered though, is that if we choose to take responsibility, not for everything and everyone, but for ourselves and how we feel, we have the power to change things. Chris had a breakthrough with NLP. We all have the right to find the help that will truly allow us to be ourselves. He took that brave step and it paid off – helping not only himself, but now others too! Rachel Coffey BA MA NLP Mstr Reg Ind counsellor
April 2018 • happiful • 61
GOING GLUTEN FREE Gluten-free alternative: amaranth grain
Eliminating certain foods from your diet is essential for those with an allergy, but some people are choosing gluten-free diets not out of necessity, but because of a belief in its health benefits. It’s time to ask exactly how a gluten-free diet impacts us Writing | Dawn Shotton 62 • happiful • April 2018
luten-free diets are undoubtedly on the increase, gaining in popularity year on year. The proof is on our supermarket shelves – abundant in gluten-free alternatives and “free-from” labels for those seeking “healthier” choices. But are glutenfree products better for us, or are they just pricey gimmicks for food fanatics?
GF GRAINS BUCKWHEAT
WHAT IS A GLUTEN-FREE DIET?
Gluten refers to the proteins found in wheat, rye and barley. A diet that is gluten-free removes these grains and any foods or ingredients made from them – including breads, pasta, biscuits, and cakes made with flour. Some people also have to avoid oats. A glutenfree diet also excludes foods that contain only a small amount of gluten, like sauces, salad dressings, soups and other processed foods. Some gluten-free foods may still contain wheat starch where the gluten has been removed, which are therefore unsuitable for people with a wheat allergy. Also, wheat-free foods may not all be gluten-free if they contain rye, barley or standard oats. This makes things quite complicated for people with coeliac disease, gluten and wheat intolerances – checking labels very carefully is an important part of life if they are to avoid becoming unwell.
WHO SHOULD FOLLOW A GLUTEN-FREE DIET?
Gluten-free diets were originally recommended for people diagnosed with coeliac disease – a serious illness where the body’s immune system reacts to gluten by damaging the lining of the small intestine. According to Coeliac UK, coeliac disease affects one in every 100 people in Britain, and twice as many women as men. People may have a gluten or wheat intolerance or sensitivity. Unfortunately, the test used for coeliac disease is not able to detect intolerances or sensitivities, although symptoms are still unpleasant. Nor is there any other reliable and evidence-based test available for these conditions, making medical diagnosis tricky. Some studies suggest that gluten sensitivity is actually quite rare and affects only 1% of people. However, trends in gluten-free product sales have risen sharply, and much faster than other food sales in the UK (according to Euromonitor, a consumer data group), suggesting people are avoiding gluten of their own accord and perhaps, without a reliable diagnosis.
SYMPTOMS OF COELIAC DISEASE INCLUDE: Bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, wind, constipation, tiredness, sudden or unexpected weight loss, hair loss and anaemia. Symptoms of gluten and wheat sensitivity or intolerance can be similar to coeliac disease, but to a lesser extent. Symptoms can vary greatly too.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I THINK I HAVE COELIAC DISEASE OR AN INTOLERANCE TO GLUTEN?
If you experience symptoms or feel unwell after eating gluten, it’s best to see a doctor as soon as you can, and definitely before deciding to go gluten-free. It’s important to consult a doctor to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms, and also because you need to be eating gluten for the blood tests to work. What’s more, you are likely to feel much better once you stop eating it – so trying to reintroduce it for tests and diagnosis can be hard to do! Continues >>>
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CAN A GLUTEN-FREE DIET BE HARMFUL?
While gluten-free diets are certainly healthier for those who have coeliac disease or a gluten sensitivity or intolerance, going gluten-free is not necessarily healthier for everyone. There is no evidence that reducing gluten is beneficial for people who do not have these conditions. How healthy a diet is depends on overall food selection. Going gluten-free can make the diet better or worse depending on how and to what extent it is altered. Some studies have shown that gluten-free diets can be deficient in certain nutrients – fibre, calcium and iron in particular. It is therefore especially important to make sure a gluten-free diet is adequate in these nutrients. Also, gluten-free foods are often less palatable. Manufacturers sometimes compensate for this by adding additional salt, sugar or fats to their products. Therefore a gluten-free option can turn out to be a poorer health choice than the standard product that contains gluten. Getting a gluten-free diet right can be difficult and for this reason people who are diagnosed with coeliac disease usually have regular follow-ups with nutrition healthcare professionals who can offer personal advice and suggestions on how to manage their diet. Those with gluten intolerance and sensitivity will also benefit from professional nutritional input to help ensure their diet remains balanced. Some people believe that going gluten-free is a great way to lose weight. But the reality is that people can gain weight as well as lose it when they change to gluten-free. In fact, studies show people who are newly-diagnosed with coeliac disease are more likely to gain weight, as their gut repairs and they benefit from the removal of gluten from their diet. The range of gluten-free products available also means that foods previously off the menu can now be enjoyed without any discomfort. So, if high-fat, high-sugar snacks are eaten more frequently, regardless of the gluten content, Coeliac these calorie-dense choices are disease likely to lead to weight gain. A healthier alternative would be affects 1 in to reduce refined carbs like 100 people white pasta, white bread and in Britain, white rice, and replace these with whole grain varieties and twice as instead. These choices help many women boost fibre intake, carry extra nutrients, and will help maintain as men energy levels too.
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Spring quinoa salad with broccoli, red onion and pomegranate
THE BOTTOM LINE 1. Check that you are experiencing gut symptoms only after eating gluten. It is easy to attribute symptoms to the last thing you ate, but this isn’t always the case. A food and symptom diary will help you keep a log of things and will accurately reflect your issues. 2. If you have symptoms, talk to your doctor before going gluten-free. They can help you with a suitable test and, very importantly, rule out any other causes. 3. Don’t try to alter things on your own – make sure you seek some professional nutrition support to help you get things balanced. You can find a nutrition professional near you on nutritionist-resource.org.uk 4. Remember, gluten-free does not always equal a healthier diet or guarantee weight-loss. This really depends on your choices! Dawn Shotton MSc BSc is a registered dietitian with more than 20 years of experience. She is passionate about all things dietary and associated health, holding a master’s degree in weight management. To find out more about Dawn and her services, visit dietwise.co.uk
WE’RE NEVER ALONE “We all live with the objective of being happy; our lives are all different and yet the same.” – Anne Frank
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Family Dynamics Similar dramas and debates often crop up in families over the years, causing guilt for not presenting a perfectly happy family unit. But with advice from our counsellor, you can address the dynamic in a healthy way and stop history repeating itself >>> Writing | Lucy Cavendish
April 2018 â€˘ happiful â€˘ 67
Lifestyle & Relationships
We often give our children messages we were given in our own childhoods – some of these can be helpful, some not so much
Expert Opinion 68 • happiful • April 2018
ith the arrival of spring, comes a time of rebirth – we clean out and declutter our houses, we think about getting out in nature as the days get longer, and consider how those New Year’s resolutions have stuck (or not). With the dark winter days confining us to our houses for the past few months, some families will have shared social posts of enthusiastically playing games, or cooking up a storm together in the kitchen. Then there are others made to feel guilty that our families aren’t as happily bonded and have spent our time squabbling instead. Yet I am sure we might well have all experienced the complete opposite. There are many families who are naturally far more combative. We argue, throw things, cry, drink, fall out, vow to never have anything to do with each other ever again. When we’re all in a small space, and venturing outdoors is only for the brave, we can experience a start-of-year period full of drama, and the fall out from it can be intense. Yet this latter behaviour and family system possesses far more energy than the “feel-good” family who, I always suspect, are harbouring deep secrets and fissures that no one wishes to reveal or fall in to. In reality, we all fall somewhere in-between, ricocheting between falling out and falling in, and then somehow balancing out. Most families go along inhabiting a family system that suits if not all the time, at least some of it. But as bank holidays and summer vacations approach and the prospect of spending extended periods of time together looms, it can be a time of reckoning for many families. But with a bit of thought and contemplation, it may also be a time to think about family dynamics and how to shift the bits that don’t serve you so well, for a stronger family unit going forwards. In my clinical practice, I often find that clients tell me about their own families and how distressing they can find them. I find siblings who are not talking to each other, parents and their grown-children who rarely communicate. There can be a lot of pain
behind these miscommunications, yet it is very difficult to bring these things into the foreground. Part of our fear is that if we mention anything, the entire house of cards will fall down. Yet I often find the opposite can happen. The family dynamic that is present is often a replaying of a past difficult relationship – a historical family system as it were. The client with a terrible relationship with her sister reveals that her mother doesn’t speak to their auntie. Another who has a demanding, difficult brother has a father whose family was, in his eyes, torn apart by his own difficult brother. In this way, families hold together through a process of secrets and lies that have become embedded over generations yet, through therapy, a lot of these things can be laid bare and looked at. For the client – once they have got over the sudden, rather shocking, realisation that their own relationships with members of their family are a re-enactment of an older generation’s experience, there can be a sense of resolution. Part of it is the relief that “it’s-not-just-me”. Part of it is the challenge to maybe make the choice not to continue to repeat these old dynamics. Maybe it is possible to be curious as to how situations have occurred. Why does the aunt and mother’s relationship feel so antagonistic and stuck, and does this mean the system has to continue? Once we consider how our families work, or don’t work, we are able to bring thought and consideration to how we could possibly do it all a bit differently. We often give our children the same messages we were given in our own childhoods – some of these can be helpful, and others not so much. Clients may not be aware of the messages they have been handed down, yet, once we come in to more awareness of these messages, we can be empowered to change them. This is what therapy can do. It helps us to look at the situations we create within our families and the messages we have become used to – from “I was never my dad’s favourite” to “my sister resented me being born” – and empower you to change these so we, in turn, don’t hand them down to the generations coming after us. Lucy Cavendish MBACP is an integrative counsellor and a regular contributor to ‘The Times’.
April 2018 • happiful • 69
Breakfast of Champions Writing | Ellen Hoggard
pring is officially here and Easter bank holiday weekend is on its way (not that we’re counting). While springtime in the UK doesn’t necessarily bring warm weather, it does bring brighter days, which means it’s a heck of a lot easier to wake up in the mornings – huzzah! But other than sunshine, what else can put a spring in your step? You guessed it – breakfast. Whether you’re a big breakfast kinda guy, or a grab ‘n’ go girl, eating something in the morning is a great way to start your day. Breakfast provides the body and brain with fuel after an overnight fast – that’s where the name comes from, “breaking the fast” – but that’s not all. Having something to eat in the morning is also thought to improve memory and concentration, boost our mood, and can even reduce stress levels. Jamie Oliver's certainly a fan, having said: “Breakfast is back. Make it cool and colourful – it’s the best ticket to professional and physical success. It’s time to stop popping pills, stupid supplements,
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When we’re rushing to get out the door in the morning, often the first thing we skip is a good breakfast. But starting your day off with a proper, nutritious (and delicious) meal can not only be easy, but sets you up to flourish all day
protein shakes etc. People are beginning to realise that having a good breakfast should not be a luxury but the way to start every day.” In an ode to spring – and our sweet tooth – this recipe is the perfect way to start your long weekend. It can be eaten fresh from the hob, or stored overnight in a jar, ideal for on-the-go or time-limited mornings.
NUTRITIONAL THERAPIST SARAH SHAKESPEARE SAYS:
"We’ve heard that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, but with hectic lifestyles and time restraints, it seems many people just grab a coffee on the way to work. Yet, unsurprisingly, this isn’t the most productive way to start your day. Drinking coffee first thing on an empty stomach sends our cortisol levels (the stress hormone) through the roof – leaving us feeling anxious and unable to focus. We inevitably experience a sudden energy crash and reach for a sugary pick-me-up. Eating on-the-go switches on our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response), causing the digestive system to shut down. But sitting
down and eating breakfast mindfully helps to switch on our parasympathetic nervous system, enabling our food to digest properly. This recipe is a great example of a balanced, nutritious breakfast. The pecans and porridge contain protein (even more if you use quinoa oats and unsweetened oat or hemp milk), which coupled with cinnamon, balances your blood sugar levels, keeping you fuller for longer (alleviating the said sugarfix). Rhubarb has vitamin K to help brain function, and B vitamins help metabolise your food. The pectin in apples is another great source of insoluble fibre, aiding healthy digestive function. This balanced combination of complex carbohydrate, fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals and tasty sweetness is a great way to kick start your day – your body will thank you for it!
Sarah is a nutritional therapist and personal trainer. She takes a non-diet approach to help clients live a happy, balanced life.
U M BLE P
1 cup rolled porridge oats 1 cup chopped rhubarb 1 cup chopped bramley apple 2 cups milk of choice or water ½ tsp cinnamon Chopped pecans Honey
Rhubarb crumble porridge Serves 2
METHOD For warm porridge Chop the rhubarb and apple into small half-inch pieces. Add to a medium-sized saucepan and cook until tender. To the pan, combine the milk, oats and cinnamon. Mix well and bring to boil over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the oats and fruit are of a thick consistency. Serve in a bowl, top with a drizzle of honey and sprinkling of chopped pecans.
For overnight oats Prepare fruit as described, cooking until tender. Remove from heat and leave to cool. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, oats and cinnamon. When cooled, add the fruit. Divide into jars and chill in the fridge overnight. In the morning, add the honey and pecans and enjoy – wherever you are!
Find a qualified professional: search nutritionistresource. org.uk April 2018 • happiful • 71
Relationships & Lifestyle
Big Dreams Read all about it: the women who made history by pursuing their childhood dreams Writing | Bonnie Evie Gifford
ave you heard of Ada Lovelace? I’m going to be honest – I didn’t have a clue who she was before picking up a copy of Isabel Sanchez Vegara’s latest book. Then again, growing up in the 90s, there were far fewer casual children’s books focusing on STEM subjects outside of the classroom. The Little People, Big Dreams series is part of a wider movement that has taken off in children’s literature over the past couple of years. Brought to mainstream attention by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo’s Goodnight
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Stories for Rebel Girls runaway success in 2016, Vegara’s first book in the series, Frida Kahlo, hit the shelves in February the same year. Daughter of poet and politician Lord Byron, Ada Lovelace was a British mathematician, and is now considered to be the world’s first computer programmer. From her early love of logic, and passion for inventing, through to her work with the father of computing, Charles Babbage, Veraga’s latest illustrated book provides an accessible introduction to an inspiring historical figure for young readers and parents alike.
Filled with charming, striking illustrations and simple, straightforward language, like many books in the Little People, Big Dreams series, Ada Lovelace provides an excellent starting point for parents looking to introduce young children to highly engaging, quality non-fiction. Presented in story format, the book highlights the power of following our dreams (despite societal or parental pressures) as Ada combines her whimsical passion for creating fantastic inventions with her mother’s preference for her to focus on their
Illustration by Zafouko Yamamoto from Little People, Big Dreams: Ada Lovelace
Inspiring Reads for Young Kids
Try… Kids 6+ Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls 2
Elena Favilli, Francesca Cavallo Release: 28 February 2018 Publisher: Timbuktu Labs Sequel to the 2017 #1 best-seller, this book offers 100 new inspirational stories based on the lives of remarkable women. Presented in fairytalestyle, these heroines don’t need rescuing.
Kids 9+ Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World Rachel Ignotofsky Release: 2017 Publisher: Wren & Rook
Filled with fascinating infographics and beautiful illustrations, ‘Women in Science’ highlights the contributions of 50 notable women across the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Little People, Big Dreams
Published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, one of the world’s most respected creators of picture books and narrative non-fiction celebrating cultural diversity, the series currently boasts more than a dozen books. Share the lives of inspirational scientists, artists, designers, and more with titles highlighting inspirational women who have made an impact across a diverse range of industries in societies across the world – from Agatha Christie, to Anne Frank, and Ella Fitzgerald.
Teens/YA Strong is the New Pretty Kate Parker Release: 2017 Publisher: Workman Publishing
Inspired by a viral photo project, Parker’s photo-driven book celebrates what it means to be strong and focuses on the idea that girls are perfect in their imperfections.
YA/Adults The Female Lead: Women Who Shape Our World
Edwina Dunn, Brigitte Lacombe Release: 2017 Publisher: Ebury Press Designed to encourage women to realise their hopes and ambitions, ‘The Female Lead’ outlines 60 inspirational women from all walks of life, featuring striking portraits and ambitious stories told in their own words.
Adults The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer Sydney Padua Release: 2015 Publisher: Penguin
An award-winning graphic novel based on the popular webcomic, Padua turns one of the world’s most compelling scientific collaborations into a hilarious series of adventures.
shared love of logic. Highlighting Ada’s perseverance and dedication to her passions, Vegara’s book is not only inspiring for children, but also provides a springboard for further reading together or independently. At the end of the book, a short section provides more detail for parents and children interested in learning more about Ada and her work. Most importantly, the book isn’t just informative, it’s relatable for younger readers and parents alike. It is little details like Ada’s parents being away so she spends time with her grandparents and cat, Mrs. Puff, through to the simply presented parental expectations and how they can shape their child’s future, that make what could be a simple read much more engaging and memorable.
Ada Lovelace highlights that children don’t have to choose between creativity and STEM interests – they can dream big, and create whatever they want. With passion and dedication, dreams can turn into something much bigger than they imagined.
Ada Lovelace Written by Isabel Sanchez Vegara Illustrated by Zafouko Yamamoto Publisher Frances Lincoln Children’s Books Hardback RRP £9.99, available from 1 March 2018 Kids will love… the simplistic language, adorable illustrations, and inspirational story Parents will love… the re-readability, further talking points, and focus on both creativity and STEM subjects
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Lady Geraldine’s Story
I lost my hearing as a child, but found a passion for music as an adult After going deaf aged just seven, Lady Geraldine Elliot taught herself to lip-read and hid her secret of a silent world from everyone. But in her 20s, she sought medical support that changed everything and brought music to her life
ver since I was a baby, I had experienced regular severe ear infections until, at the age of seven, I had catastrophic failure of my hearing and ended up completely deaf. At that time, I’d been constantly bullied by people who assumed I was stupid, rather than understanding about my hearing problems. So when I realised that my hearing had completely gone, I was so young and had experienced so many previous problems with my ears that I didn’t tell anyone. More out of necessity than anything else, I gradually found I could lip-read most things and hid the fact I was deaf. For the most part, I did a good job of covering it up. My new-found lip-reading abilities covered most face-to-face contact in the classroom, in the playground and at home. The real problems occurred when people would talk out of my vision and I simply didn’t respond. School proved a complete nightmare as the teachers would turn to the blackboard to write as they talked, and without their mouths to read, I missed crucial parts of the lessons. This led to the teachers thinking I was stupid and sending 74 • happiful • April 2018
me to the back of the class – which made it even harder to lip-read anything at all. Even simple things like the teacher calling for quiet would lead to me being punished, as I wouldn’t hear the instruction. I would be sent to stand for hours outside the headmaster’s office for being disruptive. After a while, I did tell one of my closest friends at school that I couldn’t hear anything and that I thought I might be deaf, but she just smiled and said: “Your secret’s safe with me.” I never brought up the subject again, and remained isolated in every sense. As the years passed, I gradually withdrew into myself, which made it easier to conceal the problem. For those people that I simply didn’t hear, they just thought I was unsociable or ignoring them, so the isolation grew and grew. I muddled on until I was “encouraged” to get married at the age of 16. This proved another disaster as I endured five years of hell. My husband was violent and abusive, leading to a traumatic break-up where I cited “mental and physical cruelty” as the grounds for the divorce. Isn’t it funny that when you’re down, life seems to have the habit of kicking you in the teeth?
True LIFE At 21 years old, all the problems seemed infection. My left ear, however, was too far so overwhelming, and unable to conceal gone to treat. them any longer from my friends and Then came the sometimes overwhelming family, I visited my doctor and sobbed my feelings – being scared to take the plunge. They said that whole story out to him. He calmed me with Should I take the risk? Could I cope with heartfelt wisdom and discussed the options the medical risks involved? And probably due to infection, I had. After his examination, he referred even more worrying to me at the time, my right ear drum what if it didn’t work? Could I cope with me to the local hospital hearing clinic, which at long last offered me a ray of hope the disappointment? had completely on the horizon. Eventually, I summoned up the courage disintegrated I went to my local hospital in Westonto go for it. At long last I could hear super-Mare, where several specialists again, albeit they could only restore 30% examined me and pronounced me hearing in one ear, but for me, it was a profoundly deaf. They said that due miracle. It took some adjusting to my to infection, my right ear drum had new sound-filled world, with even the completely disintegrated, but there was a noise of crunching breakfast cereal being chance that they could use a skin graft as a replacement ear overwhelming at first. But, gradually I adapted and have drum which, if successful, might be able to restore partial never looked back. It felt like I’d been given a second chance hearing in that ear. But, they warned that it would be a major and I was determined not to waste it. operation that carried a life-threatening risk due to potential Continues >>>
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Lady Geraldine’s Story
My new-found love of music was treated to all manner of influences with the local musicians, and my creative abilities blossomed
I re-married, this time choosing a much more stable man, who was originally in the Royal Navy but at this time worked in the oil industry. This led to travelling the world, settling initially for a few years in Libya, north Africa. Searing heat, flies, snakes and barren desert made the place intolerable, and add to that in Tripoli they carried out public executions, then you’ll understand why we couldn’t wait to leave. We managed to transfer and relocate to Venezuela, South America, where my new-found love of music was treated to all manner of styles and influences with the local musicians. It was within this environment that my creative abilities blossomed. 76 • happiful • April 2018
Eventually, withVenezuela proving politically unstable and growing somewhat homesick, we managed to transfer again, this time to Edinburgh, Scotland. I immediately started searching for a way to use my creative skills and so I founded the Edinburgh Dolls Hospital – a place where broken dolls and teddies would be lovingly restored and brought back to health. It seemed so natural given my history. The business grew as my reputation for offering a first-class, sympathetic restoration service established my business as one of the best in the country – and I was recommended by Harrods and Hamleys. But life played another cruel trick, as my landlord literally doubled the rent overnight, making the business not viable financially. But the rollercoaster had another strange twist up its sleeve, as one of my customers who knew of my love of music invited me to a recording session in his studio. He had previously worked with the likes of Big Country, Wet Wet Wet and the Bay City Rollers. I was fascinated by this creative environment and welcomed the opportunity when asked to provide female backing vocals on one of the tracks. At the same time, I knew I had to address the void that the closure of the Dolls Hospital, and a recent second divorce, had inflicted on my life. I decided to incorporate all my creative
and hands-on restoration skills into a new business venture. I started my jewellery design and manufacturing business, Lady Geraldine Designs Limited. Still based in the culture capital of Scotland, Edinburgh, my business has grown to service two distinct markets: everyday jewellery with quality beads sourced from all over the world; and my Precious Collection made from the finest precious stones. I still hand-make every bespoke piece with the same love, care and attention I lavished on the poor souls that came into my Dolls Hospital. It is now my firm belief that everyone and everything should be treated with respect; whether that be a person, animal or even toy; nothing and no one should ever be written off. The rest, as they say, is history. My musical partnership has led to my life stories and experiences being turned into songs, that are literally part of me. My new Album Little Miss Blue offers songs from my heart, and really helped me deal with my previous hurtful and damaging experiences. I hope that they are not just entertaining, but convey serious messages about life and all it can throw at you and, most importantly, how to deal with that. Be strong, be positive and never give up on your dream. If I can inspire even one person with my life story, then itâ€™s all been worthwhile.
Our Expert Says Lady Geraldine became adept at covering up her hearing loss, but this lead to bullying, and misunderstanding. Like many with a disability, it became easier to hide. After an abusive marriage, a divorce and isolation, she felt she could no longer cope. But after finding the courage to reach out for help, her hearing was partially restored and life blossomed. She is a shining example of the possibility of triumph over adversity, and hopes that sharing her experiences will inspire others to defeat their demons as well. Graeme Orr MBACP (Accred) UKRCP Reg Ind counsellor
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Sex & Relationships | The Big ‘O’
Orgasms Writing | Kathryn Wheeler
A Wellness Supercharger
With benefits including anxiety-fighting hormones, and a host of physical perks, could regular orgasms transform wellness as we know it?
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rgasms are good for us. Like, really good for us. Physical benefits, psychological benefits, and a whole host of social ones; the evidence is overwhelmingly telling us that it’s something we should invest some time in. When I attended a recent Ann Summers event in London, launching their new Elation range, with a focus on the mental health and wellness benefits of orgasms, masturbation and sexual health, I was struck, not by anything “vulgar”, but the naturalness of sexual wellbeing. At the event, I met Lucy Beresford, host of LBC radio’s Relationships and Sex show, This Morning agony aunt, and all-round sex-positive woman. With a background in psychotherapy and counselling, for Lucy sex, orgasms and mental health are all connected. “For some individuals, there can be a huge link,” says Lucy. “Feeling sexually confident and relaxed about intimacy can lead to wider confidence in life.” It seems that few things possess the power to transform both our mental and physical health the way that orgasms do. And yet, history shows that they haven’t always been a welcome part of our lives and attitudes. But times are a-changin’. Talking about sex is OK, masturbation is OK, and regular orgasms can have the power to transform our wellness. Here’s how they do it:
WITH A PARTNER
When it comes to having orgasms with a partner, there’s some disparity between the genders. On average, men report having an orgasm 85.1% of the time, no matter what their sexual orientation, but hetrosexual women report orgasms only 62.9% of the time, with that number slightly higher for lesbian women at 74.7%. Of course, the goal of every sexual interaction doesn’t have to be an orgasm, and people choose to have sex for a whole host of reasons. In fact, back in 2007, two researchers from the University of Texas published a study in the journal Archives
of Sexual Behavior, which found a total of 237 different motivations that could be categorised into: physical reasons, goalbased reasons, emotional reasons, and insecurity-based reasons. “Sex with a partner means that open, vulnerable part of you is being exposed to someone else. To their needs, desires but also hang-ups and prejudices,” says Lucy. “And while there are certain emotional risks with doing this, when it’s right, the pay-off can be fantastic.”
I would never say sex or masturbation is better for you than the other, it’s just lovely that with masturbation, you possess a reliable source of pleasure for the rest of your life!
And the value of an orgasm with a partner cannot be underestimated. Communication is the cornerstone to a successful relationship, and orgasming with a partner has been shown to greatly increase our ability to bond with each other. A 2014 study into “pillow talk”, a colloquial term to describe the usually “deep” conversations had after sex, published in the Journal of Communication Monographs, showed that couples who orgasmed during sexual activity were more open with each other afterwards, and were more likely to talk about their emotions and disclose “information of greater magnitude”. Continues >>>
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Sex & Relationships | The Big ‘O’
HISTORY OF THE
Female Orgasm 13th Century In Medieval medical texts, female sexual organs were seen as an inversion of a male’s, and as an orgasm from a man was essential for conception, they assumed the same must be true for women. 19th Century Attitudes towards female orgasms drastically changed and were now viewed as part of a female nervous condition called “hysteria”, with symptoms including irritability, nervousness, sexual desire, and most other normal emotions. In order to treat “hysteria”, doctors would masturbate women to orgasm, leading to the invention of the vibrator. 20th Century Before scientist Alfred Kinsey’s sexual survey in the 1940s, not much was known about women’s sexual habits. This study, the first of its kind and still referenced today, revealed much about how women experience orgasms – specifically that 40% of the women surveyed had their first orgasm through masturbation. 21st Century Even now we’re not quite sure why women have orgasms. While there are several hypotheses, we’re still some way from knowing the truth. In the meantime, what we are certain of is that orgasms are great for both your physical and mental health.
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‘With no risk of pregnancy or STDs, masturbation is the safest way to explore your sexuality’
Ancient teachings and cultural taboos have come together throughout history to project masturbation as a shameful thing. But this is changing. We’re talking about it more in the media and our personal relationships, and a 2017 study by Ganesan P Adaikan in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that feelings of guilt amongst women who masturbate are decreasing, replaced by a “positive relationship and feelings towards their bodies”. “Masturbation boosts your sexual confidence,” says Lucy. “It can provide a reliable source of orgasms, and the hormone released during those orgasms means masturbation creates relaxation and pleasure.” Generally speaking, we’re much more open about talking about masturbation in men, and Lucy has some ideas as to why: “The main
difference is that the part of the body men use for masturbation is clearly visible, whereas for women, only part of the clitoris is visible and nothing of the vagina. Over time (by which I mean centuries) I believe this has set up an idea that playing with your penis is an ‘open’ activity, whereas stimulating your clitoris, vulva, labia or vagina is somehow ‘hidden’ or ‘secret’.” With no risk of pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, masturbation is the safest way to explore your sexuality and, as long as it doesn’t start negatively affecting the rest of your life or relationships, it’s a healthy way to get to know your body. “I would never say sex or masturbation is better for you than the other,” adds Lucy. “It’s just lovely that with masturbation, you possess a reliable source of pleasure for the rest of your life!”
HISTORY OF THE
13th Century At this time, it was believed that men could die if they didn’t have regular sex. For this reason, medical thinkers recommended masturbation to celibate men such as monks. 19th Century By the Victorian era, masturbation was out of the question. However, ejaculation during sex was encouraged and it was thought that whichever partner had the strongest orgasm, would pass on more of their characteristics to a child. 20th Century In 1966, Masters and Johnson’s groundbreaking study on sexuality shone a new light on the male orgasm. Tracking each stage, they provided us with a definitive understanding of the phases of a male orgasm. 21st Century We now have a pretty good idea of what the male orgasm is for and how it works. While in some cultures, taboos around masturbation still exist, we are generally open about it and its benefits.
Heart disease, diabetes, migraines, and colds are thought to be prevented or tackled by regular orgasms
LUCY BERESFORD’S TIPS FOR A FULFILLING SEX-LIFE On your own… “There are so many great sex toys, massage oils, erotic literature or films to watch.” With a partner… “Start the conversation by referring to something you’ve read or heard about (like this article! Or a scene in a movie...) as a way to introduce some new ideas. You could, for example suggest an erotic dance, practise role-play, use a feather boa to tickle your partner’s skin, or use sex toys.”
When a person has an orgasm their body is flooded with the hormone, oxytocin, the feel-good chemical that leaves us feeling warm and fuzzy, often referred to as the “afterglow”. But this isn’t just a fleeting feeling. Last year, researchers at Florida State University studied 214 newlywed couples and found the “afterglow” feelings of satisfaction and stimulation could last for up to 48 hours. Orgasms can also raise testosterone levels in both men and women, increasing our sex-drive and creating a self-satisfying cycle of feel-good hormones where the endorphins in our bodies can send us into deeply relaxed states, soothing our stresses and anxieties.
When it comes to the effect of orgasms on our physical health, it seems that there are few things that can’t be boosted. Heart disease, diabetes, migraines, stomach ulcers, coughs and colds, and even ageing are thought to be prevented or tackled by regular orgasms.
But we also feel healthier too. A study published in New England Journal of Medicine in 2007 found that of the 3,000 participants, those who were having sex regularly rated their general health higher than those who weren’t.
From the mental to the physical, from our relationships with others to the relationship with ourselves, it seems there are few things that can’t be enhanced with good sexual wellbeing. That isn’t to say that the big ‘O’ can solve all of life’s problems, or that those who choose celibacy can’t have equally fulfilling lives. But the perks are ripe and there for the picking and, as we continue to bring down sexual taboos, what’s to stop you taking a bite?
Lucy Beresford is a qualified psychotherapist (UKCP) and host of LBC radio’s Relationships & Sex phone-in show.Visit lucyberesford.co.uk
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Pockets of Happiness For the Local Community Rebekah Moody has nominated her friend Katie Britcliffe, who worked through grief to create a network of happiness
hings haven’t always been easy for Katie. A few years ago, her mum, Annie, was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease and, after a few short months, she passed away. It was an unbelievably tough period for Katie, not only with facing the fact that her mum would not be with her for much longer, but also in taking an active role in her care. Rebekah tells us that on the hardest days, Katie and Annie always tried to find small things that happened each day that were worth celebrating. Send your Annie’s nominations to philosophy was email@example.com that no matter how hard the day, there was always a pocket of happiness to be found. “The reason I am nominating her is that, following a year from hell, she
Do you know an unsung hero?
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turned an experience that would have broken many people into a positive, inspiring and uplifting initiative, that has changed many people’s lives for the better,” says Rebekah. Katie began making beautiful homemade keyrings with a “happy” tag attached to them, and hiding them around Surrey. Each keyring had a message, a number and a web address, and people could keep or re-hide their keyring, with the idea being that each keyring brought a small pocket of happiness to someone’s day, and they could either keep it, or share it again. She encouraged people to log their keyrings as they were hidden and found on the Pockets of Happiness website. Soon after, the idea took off and gained hundreds of followers online. Katie now sells the keyrings nationally, does gift packs and birthday cards, and gives 10% of all profits to mental health charity Mind. She has turned it into a small business with the aim of keeping it going as a long-term endeavour, in loving memory of her mum.
10% of the pr to MH cha ofits go rity Mind
“Katie deserves to be recognised as an unsung hero,” says Rebekah, “for her stoicism, determination and drive to turn a tragedy into daily pockets of happiness that she shares with people across the world.”
Katie turned an experience that would have broken many people, into an uplifting initiative, that has changed people’s lives for the better
You can find out more about Katie’s Pockets of Happiness at: findmyhappy.org
WHAT MAKES US HUMAN? Ubuntu is the South African philosophy, that reminds us that we are all interconnected, and are most â€œhumanâ€? when we share kindness with other people