Page 1





Spring 2017

So Close But We Couldn’t Talk

INSIDE Living With Asperger’s

A Loss Like No Other








A group that’s in its own league in supporting women with an addiction.






The ex-prisoner making town safer for vulnerable people.


THE PERFECT FAMILY BUT I WAS LOST A dad’s struggle to return to normal life after trauma. MC magazine team: Managing Editor: Steve Murphy. Editor: Jackie Rankin.



STAY WELL FEEL GREAT Look after your body and keep your mind well.


Contributors: Mark Hudson, Mike Spencer. Editorial: Julie Crompton, Joanne Cunningham. Photography: Joel Goodman. Design: Jo Hadfield.

You can contact us at: MerseyCareNhsTrust Mersey_Care


If you have received this magazine as a member of Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, we’d like to be sure that the information we hold for you is current and accurate. If you have moved house, changed your email address, or have a new phone number please email with your name, date of birth and details that need to be amended.


adversity and the support from someone who really does know how you feel.

e hope when you’re reading this the sun will be shining and the temperatures rising. Not least because it means we can get out and about. All the evidence suggests that being physically active makes you feel better. Even gentle exercise releases feel good endorphins. It’s a real thing and it’s only when you do it that you get the feeling. If you’re meeting a friend for a coffee and a chat, walk there – every little helps. Speaking of getting together over a brew, actor Kieron Richardson talks in this issue about his support for the Big Brew, a national campaign that uses the power of a cuppa to tackle mental health stigma. And staying with ‘celebrity’ stories, we spent the morning with a WAGS group. There’s not a footballer’s wife in sight – the common bond for these women is their addiction. Their stories are of overcoming

That’s certainly the case for parents bringing up teenagers while battling with their own difficulties. We visited a course run by family support workers where mums and dads can share experiences and learn to reconnect with their sons and daughters.

True support only works if we know what people need.

True support only works if we know what people need. New research is trying to improve services for people with Asperger’s Syndrome. We felt privileged when two young men who live with the condition and who took part in the research talked candidly to us about their lives. It’s inspiring and helps us all to understand the condition - and celebrate amazing people with bright futures. Enjoy spring!

The MC editorial team. 3



Jayne (left) and Denise.

“We let off steam, keep each other motivated...”

When WAGS get together there’s talk of everything from families to fashion. MC magazine went along to meet a group that’s in its own league in supporting women with an addiction.


AGS – Women’s Addiction Group Support - was born from the experiences of Jayne Barton and Denise Sayers. Both had long term battles with alcohol addiction. Denise spent years in rehabilitation before realising that depression was fuelling her addiction.

What I didn’t realise was that I was drinking to block out depression.





“I’d enjoy a bottle of wine after work. But after I got divorced one bottle became two. I knew every relapse prevention technique. What I didn’t realise was that I was drinking to block out depression. Windsor Clinic staff helped get my medication right and the group’s been good for me.

Jayne was 28 when she began drinking after a relationship breakdown. “I partied hard then I lost my job and my confidence hit rock bottom. I needed to drink just to leave the house – everyone else would stop but I couldn’t. “Sometimes I yearn to go back to the times before it was a problem. But I know that as soon as you cross that line you’ll go back to the depths of chaos very quickly. It happens in the blink of an eye. “I’m from a super close family. Being able to be part of that again feels good and being in the group is a chance to help other people feel that too.”

She and Denise share a passion for the group. “We let off steam, help each other stay positive and motivated...and we also have a joke about other things not related to addiction.” Another member, Mary, uses the group to keep busy. She was drinking a half bottle of vodka a day. “I was happily married but I lacked confidence. I’d drink on my own at home. I didn’t cause mayhem, I was just a pain. I enjoy the group, we talk about all kinds of things.” Denise is clear about its role. “We’re mentors here, we don’t all swap numbers or meet socially, but we have a bond. Addicts don’t want to live in the past, but we do need to revisit it every now and again.”

I was happily married but I lacked confidence. I’d drink on my own at home. I didn’t cause mayhem, I was just a pain. Mary WAGS group member. 5


ADDICTIONS “It has to be collaborative. There’s no point in saying to someone ‘do you know this is going to kill you?’ If they could stop, they would. Instead we assess the person, look at the reasons, prescribe medicines but importantly try to help and motivate them to move away from the triggers.

MOTIVATION “Staying away from substances takes a lot of motivation. Our drug and alcohol teams work closely with our mental health teams to identify the underlying problems before someone leaves the services.

Dr Yasir Abbasi




Someone face down in the gutter with a can in their hand, or a dubious looking character begging for spare change to fund the next hit. No. It’s the person who passes you in a supermarket aisle, who you chat to at the school gates, who sits opposite you on the commuter train.


onsultant psychiatrist Dr Yasir Abbasi explains why people become addicts, the new generation of psychoactive substances and how addiction services are helping people put their lives back together.

“There’s no one thing that can define an addict. People have a vision of someone who can’t function, is on the streets but that’s often not the case. People hold down jobs, they appear fine but below the surface they can be struggling.

“It’s almost always other factors that lead to dependence. When you’re facing problems and you don’t know where to turn, the easiest thing is to go back to something that helps you feel better and is available.

“Historically mankind has always had an interaction with mind altering drugs. Human beings have always found a way to use psychoactive substances from the stone age to the present day designer drug era. People turn to substance misuse sometimes to mask difficult emotions or social situations.



“There’s often an underlying mental issue and people drink and take drugs to block it out. Unless we resolve that, the outcome of treatment interventions are not long lasting.


“To say it’s a lifestyle choice is a very simplistic way of looking at it. It may start like that but the addiction comes gradually, often without warning. Some people are more likely than others to become addicted, for example people with an impulsive nature. What happens in your home environment influences your behaviour. As a child whatever you see becomes the norm. You might begin using substances to have a good time, you don’t plan or aim to become an addict but it’s a slippery slope.

“Why is alcohol much more socially acceptable? Alcohol is legal and drugs aren’t. People with drug addiction are perceived by some as criminals, creating trouble for society where alcoholics hurt only themselves. But nothing could be further than the truth. Criminal behaviour can start because the person becomes addicted, runs out of resources and becomes desperate, but in some ways alcohol is more damaging to society than drugs. Heavy drinking can result in antisocial behaviour, violence or disrupt social and family lives.

NEW WAVE OF ADDICTIONS The past decade has seen a whole new catalogue of addictive substances with bright labels and unpredictable effects. How are they affecting people? “We are seeing the effects of amphetamines and Ecstasy from the 90s. Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS) or legal highs (now illegal) can cause psychotic breakdowns and breathing problems. The name implies safety when in fact they’re synthetic, often made in makeshift environments and the side effects are unpredictable. “Prescription and over the counter drugs like painkillers are just as addictive and dangerous, especially if they’re taken with other drugs or alcohol. Spice – a synthetic cannabis type drug popular in prisons can affect mental health and ketamines can cause major physical harm even with a first dose. A patient of mine ended up having his bladder removed at the age of 24 after taking ketamine. “Gambling is another grossly underestimated addiction. It harms the person and those around them. People mount debt, they lose their jobs and their homes. It follows the same psychological principles of addiction as substances . You get the same buzz. Social media addiction – where the ‘hit’ is in getting likes and is reinforced by this behaviour – may require a ‘digital detox’”.

BREAKING THE CYCLE “The way we help people is transforming beyond recognition. In the past we’d send people with a drug or alcohol addiction on a detoxification programme that took away the physical need then send them home. But if you put someone back in the environment that caused the problem, with the same network of people and without any psychological support to motivate them to sustain their recovery, they’re almost bound to relapse. We’d see them again six months later or so for another detox – and so it went on. “Now we take into account that it’s a complex problem, detox is only the beginning and we have to break the cycle. This is an illness and even along the road to recovery there will be problems. We have to support the person to be able to put their life back together. “The emphasis is on motivating the person to keep going. A big part of succeeding is self realisation – where the person understands the reason why they are drinking or using drugs. That requires skilled people who can work through it with them, to have a frank discussion but not judge or give opinions.

“Having the help of someone who has walked in their shoes is invaluable. We have a long established recovery volunteer programme in which people who have recovered with our help can give support, based on their own experiences. It’s having someone who can talk about life after addiction, someone they can relate to and trust. ‘“We help someone onto our Recovery College courses which can help with simple things like managing anxiety, or put them in touch with other organisations out there who are experts – we are well served in Liverpool by community services who can support us to support our patients. If someone’s drinking is because of a housing or debt issue, we have to tackle the whole problem otherwise it won’t change.”

detox is only the beginning ... We have to support the person to be able to put their life back together.

WHERE TO GET HELP FRANK young people’s drug advice website

NHS Choices –


Mike Spencer.

THE ONLY WAY TO GET THROUGH IS TO GET THROUGH Journalist Mike Spencer lost his wife BBC executive producer Katy Jones suddenly two years ago. He shares his experience.

DEALING WITH GRIEF How you deal with grief will be different from other people. Talking and


had absolutely no idea what was coming. One moment we were a happy family with barely a cloud in view, the next I’d joined the widowers’ club. One morning in April 2015 my wife Katy died from a brain haemorrhage. She was 51 and in very good health. It was so sudden, so out of the blue, that her last words to me were ‘you must tell the BBC I won’t be in today’.

sharing your feelings with someone can help. For some people, relying on family and friends is

It was so sudden, so out of the blue...

the best way to cope. If you don’t feel you can talk to them much –


perhaps you aren’t close, or they’re grieving, too – you can contact local bereavement services


through your GP or the national Cruse helpline on 0808 808 1677.

Losing someone very close will be the most distressing experience most of us will ever face. Grief is a natural process, but it can feel devastating. Facing everyday life again can feel unbearable.

Trained Cruse bereavement volunteers offer emotional support to anyone affected by bereavement. Monday to Friday 9.30-5pm (excluding

We look at the impact of bereavement, the melting pot of emotions as time goes by, and how life goes on because it has to…


ootball star Rio Ferdinand’s television documentary ‘Being Mum and Dad’ in which the former England captain opened his heart about the loss of his wife Rebecca to cancer at 34 touched the hearts of millions. In it he reveals his anger and how he keeps busy to stop unwanted thoughts running round his head. Rio met with a mens support group and a therapy service which made him realise he hadn’t moved on. “I put it in a box and left it over there. I was sceptical about therapy, but I’ve


met some great people and I feel better equipped.” Rio reveals how he now understands people feeling suicidal after losing someone. “I used to think ‘you selfish so-and-so,’ but there’s times at the beginning when you kind of know how they feel. I’d never do it because of my kids, but I do understand it.” He tells how he worries about the effect on his children and when to talk about their mother. “All I think about is when is the right time to talk, but I’m lucky I have a tight network around me.”

bank holidays), and until 8pm on Tuesday, Wednesday Rio met families that have been through the same experience, including a teenager who suggested a memory bottle. One of the most poignant moments of the programme shows the family sharing their memories of Rebecca and posting them in the bottle. Rio appreciated the value of meeting someone who’s been in the same situation. “I needed to see someone who’s been through it, I was ignorant to the idea of seeking help, but having been on this journey we need to reach out.”

Katy had been a notable journalist, working with Jimmy McGovern on his Hillsborough drama-documentary and, as a result, was co-opted on to the Hillsborough Independent Panel. The Hillsborough families sent 96 red roses. There were obituaries in the press. More than 300 people came to her funeral. Theresa May wrote. The BBC Director General wrote. As an organ donor, Katy also saved lives – her heart, lung, kidneys and liver were all successfully transplanted. The pride we felt for her, the adrenaline, the kindness of friends, carried us through the first few weeks following her death. Our 17-year-old daughter had to sit her AS exams or stay down a year. Our son, at university, had to arrange his year abroad as a language student. So life went on. It had to.

against nor could we direct our anger towards a drunk-driver or medical misdiagnosis. Fortunately, and crucially, we had nothing to feel guilty about. At the risk of seeming smug we were an incredibly happy family. It feels to me that one of the hardest things about bereavement is the “baggage” – things said by the living and the dead that can never be unsaid, actions that can never be undone. As to acceptance, well there’s the rub. Two years after Katy’s death acceptance is the last thing I feel. If anything the pain is worse now than in the early months after her death. I have two much-loved children and too many very good friends and relatives to ever feel suicidal. Nor is my life relentlessly unhappy. See me on a night out with friends and it would be difficult to spot who was the bereaved. Coming back to an empty house is the difficult part. One piece of online advice about bereavement that does ring true is the rather prosaic: the only way to get through it is to get through it. In the meantime, the living would do well to remember that most obvious but neglected fact of life – death can come out of the blue. I’m told that on the day Katy died a lot of her friends and colleagues hugged each other, recognising that it could have happened to any of them. That’s a good lesson too.

and Thursday evenings. The MIND website gives information on specific conditions and symptoms

Coming back to an empty house is the most difficult part.

that some people experience when they are going through bereavement. Supporting information provided by NHS Choices Live Well –

It’s said that there are five stages to bereavement – denial, anger, guilt, depression, acceptance. This may be helpful to some people but to me it feels, like five-day diet plans, too neat to be wholly true. I don’t think any of us were ever in a state of denial - disbelief certainly - but not denial. As an atheist I didn’t have a God to rail

Katy Jones was on the Hillsborough Independent Panel.

HELP YOURSELF Our Bereavement self help guide is available to download FREE or view an audio or video version.




A SAFE HAVEN Stephen knows the sleepy village of Whalley in Lancashire like the back of his hand.


e’s a familiar face. Shopkeepers wave as he goes by - he’s the guy who signed them up to Safety about Town, a scheme in which businesses agree to offer help to anyone who needs a helping hand. It could be a warm welcome to people with a disability, a call to relatives of an elderly person who is confused – or just a cup of tea and a chat.

I want to help my peers, to give service users a voice. Until five years ago home was behind bars, until a diagnosis of obsessive personality disorder led to him being transferred to a specialist secure hospital in the town. “I’ve been in and out of prison since I was 14. I came here in handcuffs, a big massive padlock, looped over. They used to nick you, cut in.

“I thought you’d just be locked up. The funny bit was when my family came to visit; they thought I’d have been in a straightjacket. I said ‘it’s not like the olden days!’ Since then I’ve lived in four different secure units and I’m hoping to be able to live in the community one day. “I’ve learned a lot – the support we get and our experiences as service users makes us experts, we’re helped to reflect on past incidents so we can make things better. I wanted to help people like I’ve been helped.” Stephen knew Lancashire County Council Disability Board’s Safety in Town Scheme would be ideal for people with a learning disability. “Our service users get distressed and I wanted them to know there are people who’ll help not judge. When I first started asking businesses to sign up I was worried people might think I was a salesman. I was very open about my disorder but I was scared, it’s a hard thing to explain. But once they understood all but one business signed up.

I arrived here in handcuffs. “It got me down that I couldn’t get support from everyone, but the others are really involved. I meet them to advise what they have to do and we hold group meetings to give updates. “I want to get messages out there to help people understand people like me. I’ve spoken at conferences and been to an awards ceremony at Old Trafford – being a City fan that felt strange! I’m hoping to become a volunteer – I want to help my peers, to give service users a voice.” Watch Stephen’s film on Mersey Care’s Youtube channel.

Safety in town is a national scheme that gets shops and businesses to be safe places for people who feel vulnerable when they are out. If you see a shop with the Safety in Town sticker in the window you know you will be welcome to ask for support. If you sign up to the safety in town scheme you will get a Safety in Town card. The card can be used to give important information to help people support you. Find out more at:

Stephen has been in and out of prison since he was 14. Now living in a unit for people with a learning disability he’s a relentless campaigner for shops and businesses in towns to become a safe haven for vulnerable people. 10



Paul Bainbridge can sketch a comic strip character faster than you can say SHAZAM! But the 42 year old had to regain his own superpower - self belief. Now he’s inspiring others to do the same.


aul uses his experience of depression and anxiety to inspire people in the comic strip drawing course he runs as a volunteer. “My fascination with superheroes came from being dressed up as one by my brother – my early memories of having a towel wrapped around my neck to make his games more fun. As I grew up there were very few days when I didn’t draw, I’d use it as relaxation but I was getting more and more commissions and the pressure grew.“ It all got too much and Paul became depressed and anxious. “I couldn’t bear to pick up a pen. All sense of enjoyment of drawing – and life in general – had gone.”

As part of his recovery programme he signed up for a peer support course with Imagine Independence. During one session participants were asked to draw a self portrait. “My hands were sweating, but because I could draw I finished mine and started to help the other people in the session. It gave me back my confidence.” Paul aims to give that same sense of fulfilment to people on the course at Liverpool Life Rooms, Walton. “One guy had read comics all his life and had longed to be able to draw them. Another wrote stories and wanted to be able to illustrate them. There are some talented artists, but for most people it’s getting back that sense of self belief.

“They don’t know each other, or what each has been through, but they do know they’re with peers. As people start to talk, they help each other and they’re surprised at what they can do. We start with a stick figure, everyone chooses and creates a personalised comic strip character. They give themselves a name, an origin, emblem and superpower. It’s relaxed and good fun - and there aren’t many people who, when asked what they did that day can say ‘I created a Superhero!’” • The comic strip course is free at the Life Rooms:

For information about arts courses in your area go to your local authority website, contact local colleges or community centres.

It’s fun, people can go home and say “I created a superhero.”



Jackie Aldridge and daughter Sadie are close again with support.



Jackie is visibly proud of her only child. Sadie is midway through her A levels and has ambitions to work in mental health. It’s partly influenced by her own experiences; after her marriage broke up Jackie struggled with her own mental health. At the same time she wanted to make sure Sadie was happy at any cost.


& ME

When your child reaches teens the transformation can come as quite a shock. If you’re already struggling with your own mental health it can be overwhelming. We sat in on a course that’s helping parents of teenagers share experiences and support.


ive women and two NHS family support workers sit sharing their stories round a table. Jackie Aldridge (pictured above with daughter Sadie) received support after a family break up. Another mum Donna, tells how her 15 year old daughter had ‘come out’ to her mum and shared her plans to go on a date. Donna is happy they were able to talk openly, but she admits she’s massively overprotective of her only child. Jeanette’s 14 year old daughter had also recently revealed how she’d been approached by an older man she’d met through a friend.

ANGRY AND UPSET “I got angry and upset when she told me.” Jeanette tells the group. “I’ve had to leave her to go into hospital and although it’s been four years since my last admission I’m always trying to prove I can be there for her.” The seven week long My Teenager and Me course is facilitated by Wendy Michaels and Angie Youd, experienced professionals, but, importantly, parents of teenagers. There are valuable visits by group speakers – Brook Advisory Service staff are giving advice on supporting young people on sexual health issues.


But the real power in the room comes from parents who come here because they’re dealing with their own issues (though you don’t have to be a mental health service user to join the course), while trying to support their children through the delicate teenage years. Mum Donna enjoys the camaraderie the course provides. “I’m normally very guarded but here I’m more chilled, relaxed. I don’t feel judged; I can say things about my mental health here that I never would outside.”

The course showed me I was sometimes heavy handed and how to take things a step at a time.” Wendy and Angie want the course to help people realise the bonds are still there. “When we ask them to think of three positive things about their children and to think back to their own teenage days, evoking memories, of songs, clothes – and rows with parents – things that remind them that they were teenagers once! We help them to be consistent and get help when things get tough.”


Things got so bad they couldn’t talk without conflict and the relationship was breaking down. “I’d get up, take her to school, go back to bed, then get up to pick her up and make tea – then I’d go back to bed. I hardly got dressed and I didn’t realise how much it affected her.” Family Support Worker Wendy Michaels helped Jackie get back on track and mediated between the pair. “Jackie wanted to please Sadie, but Sadie wanted boundaries. They’re so close but they just couldn’t talk; each had their own issues.

I’d try to help them see each other’s point of view. “I’d try to help them see each other’s point of view and encouraged Jackie to go on a Recovery College course ‘Journeys through Film’. At first she couldn’t see the point, but getting out of the house made her feel better and Sadie was delighted her mum wasn’t spending her days in bed. The reason it’s worked so well is because Jackie was willing to give it a try.” Jackie looks back philosophically. “You have to have a light bulb moment, I’m a better person now and the support has helped a lot.” Sadie smiles, there’s talk of going to Edinburgh University. Jackie knows it’ll be hard to let go - but they’re both in a good place.

NEED HELP? • Relate offer information and a helpline for parents of teenagers • Young Minds Parents Helpline offers free, confidential online and telephone support, including information and advice, to any adult worried about the emotional problems, behaviour or mental health of a child or young person up to the age of 25. Call free on 0808 802 5544 • Family Lives website gives advice on communicating with teens My Teenager and Me courses are run by Mersey Care Recovery College at Walton Life Rooms Liverpool. Call: 0151 330 4140 Email:

HEAVY HANDED Before, when Jeanette felt vulnerable, she would call Mersey Care’s crisis team. Since coming to the course she no longer feels the need to make crisis calls. “We’ve been battling for four years; I didn’t get it until I came here.

Family support worker Wendy Michaels (left) helped Jackie (centre) and Sadie get back on track.

I’m a better person now and the support has helped a lot. 15



Hollyoaks’ actor Kieron Richardson has faced challenging scenarios both on and off screen. He tells MC magazine why he’s joining us to help stamp out stigma. Kieron and his husband Carl.


ater this year Kieron Richardson and his husband Carl will become parents. It’s a responsibility that is not lost on Kieron.

I want a world where everyone can be open with each other, with no one judging and where there’s no stigma in being different.

“It makes you stop and take stock of what matters in life. I know that the parent I will be is very different to the parent I might have been if I hadn’t experienced the things I have. I’ve started to realise that experiences good or bad can help turn you into a better, more rounded, considerate and appreciative human being.” One thing that most gay men and women plan for and fear in equal measure, is ‘coming out’ to their parents. Kieron’s didn’t quite go as planned. “I’d always known that I was gay, I wanted to tell those I loved most in the world first. But while I was filming Dancing on Ice there had been some newspaper speculation about my sexuality, saying that they kind of knew and asking if I wanted to do a story with them to get it out there.

The Big w Bre

“I absolutely didn’t want to go down that route. I was 20 and felt that I was being pressured into doing this massive thing. I wasn’t prepared to be bullied. So I told my mum and then two million other people when I came out to Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby on ITV’s This Morning. My only regret about not doing it sooner is that my gran never got to know the whole me. I would have loved to have spoken to her about it.” The aftermath was huge for an unprepared Kieron. To that point no-one other than his closest friends knew that he was gay. Overnight he became the gay poster boy with an implied responsibility to loads of other young gay men and women all over the country. In 2015 Kieron and his long-term partner, and only boyfriend, Carl married in a fantastic and slightly tongue in cheek wedding. “Clearly no one was going to be in a wedding dress, so I thought lets have some fun and put the bridesmaids in them, all 12 of them!

One of the most wonderful things in life is being able to talk. “I wanted to become part of the Big Brew family because that’s exactly what it stands for. The most wonderful thing in life is the ability to be able to speak to a friend, a lover, a parent or even a stranger. Every one of us, no matter who we are, needs someone to talk to. I want everyone to be open with each other. Share the good things but never be afraid to share the bad. “I long to live in a world where we are all equal. No one judging and no stigma in being different. We are all different and it’s our differences that make us interesting. Me telling you the things I have is my small way of participating in the Big Brew conversation.”

Find out more at


The Big w Bre




Taylor Swift is reported to have anxiety dreams. Former One Direction star Zayn Malik pulled out of several live performances last year because of what he described in a magazine interview as “extreme anxiety”.



hen life gets on top of us, we often drop the things that would make us feel better. It could be playing a sport, or even going for a walk. We might stop socialising, scared we won’t be good company - that we don’t look our best. Thinking about what we can’t do makes us even more down. Singer Ellie Goulding’s anxiety attacks are reported to have got to the point where she couldn’t even get into the car or go to the studio. Therapist Hayley Fraser says it’s vital to break the cycle that comes with anxiety, low mood or depression. She leads Activate Your Life a proven psychological treatment programme by talking therapies service Talk Liverpool.

Hayley Fraser: “We help people work out a plan based on what matters to them. Then we support them to follow the plan rather than their mood.” She’s frank about the commitment needed for success. “We ask people to set tasks and report back. It’s not always easy, and everyone has tough weeks. If that happens we might review the plan. So if the task was to clean the whole house, we might set the new goal to clean one room – it’s creating a sense of achievement.” “We also help make people aware of how to stop themselves going back into that horrible cycle.

Zayn Malik cancelled gigs because of anxiety.


Ellie Goulding couldn’t get in a car or go to the studio.

It can feel at times, if you let your anxiety get the better of you, like everybody’s waiting for you to really mess up… Taylor Swift

The Activate your Life programme helps people understand the underlying issues, learn to concentrate on what you can do rather than what you can’t, and find fulfilment and enjoyment in other ways. It uses Behavioural Activation, a therapy proven to be more effective for some people with anxiety and low mood than Cognitive Therapy, and on a par with medication.

Read Mark’s story on page 20.

HOW IT WORKS Participants start with a one to one therapy session with a Talk Liverpool counsellor, followed by two hour interactive group sessions and a final one to one session (you won’t be asked to discuss personal issues within the group.) The course requires you to read materials and complete exercises – these will be the staple part of your therapeutic process and will improve your chances of recovery. Contact Talk Liverpool: Tel: 0151 228 2300 Email:


All of us have peaks and troughs; it’s recognising the warning signs and using the techniques they’ve learned so that they don’t go back to the point where they are out of control.”

HELP YOURSELF Mersey Care has a number of self help guides that may help with a number of issues. These can be downloaded for FREE at





Former rugby player Mark Taylor is used to taking the knocks. But his son’s premature birth was like being at the centre of an emotional scrum.

We were setting off to deliver Christmas presents to my family in Leicester when Kate went into labour at 26 weeks. We had an eight month old daughter Emily so we suddenly had to decide how to care for them both. There was no time to think.” Mark spent the next three months at his tiny son’s side in a special care baby unit. The baby thrived, but Mark struggled to return to normal life when he came home. “He was so small, nothing else mattered. Looking back I felt lost afterwards. I’d stared at an incubator for so long, I felt like I was in a cloud. I couldn’t concentrate so I’d put things off at work. I didn’t know anything about depression and low mood but I knew I wasn’t right.”

I felt lost ... I’d stared at an incubator for so long, I felt like I was in a cloud.

me options, including a talking therapies course.” Mark attended Talk Liverpool’s Activate your Life, a four week course that encourages people affected by their environment to make subtle changes to their lifestyle. “The course helped me set goals based on what was most important. For me it was getting back to work and having the kids enjoy being around me.

I didn’t want to go to the GP but I knew I had to.

“You make a diary of what you think is achievable and discuss each week how you’ve got on – if you need to readjust your goals they’ll help you do that. I set myself up for a fall the first week but after that I was OK. I kept my diary sheets on the family notice board and the kids would give me stickers when I did well, just like we do with them! The therapists are good at putting you at ease. Having other people in the group breaks down barriers. It’s good to know about their stories, you feel like it’s not just you. I’m back to being the dad I want to be.”

Mark became unable to work. At his lowest point he struggled to get up each day. By then the couple had a third child, Nathan, and Kate knew Mark, a hands on dad, needed help. “Kate’s my rock. I couldn’t understand why she was asking what was wrong – then she said I’d been shouting at the kids. That hit me harder than anything. I didn’t want to go to the GP but I knew I had to. He explained I had anxiety and low mood and gave


They help you set goals. 21



New research aims to change the way we support people with Asperger’s Syndrome. Often misunderstood and rejected, those with the condition can experience extreme isolation. We get an insight from experts and talk to young people living with the condition.

Microsoft inventor Bill Gates and Pokémon creator Satoshi Tajiri have Asperger’s. Director Tim Burton is reported by his former wife Helena Bonham Carter to display traits. Renowned American expert, Dr Tony Attwood describes Asperger’s as “a different way of approaching life, one that is dominated by the pursuit of knowledge and truth”.


n Liverpool around 15 adults, some in mid or later life, are diagnosed each month by specialists from Liverpool Asperger’s team. It’s a similar story in Sefton. Some have lived undiagnosed for decades. Problems tend to start in adolescence when relationships become more intimate and peers may be more scathing. The experiences of getting things wrong can stay with someone and make them afraid to be in social situations for years afterwards.

Some with the condition may struggle with changes to their routine. Frank Chapman leads the service. “Most of us learn the rules about how we communicate and interact and use them instinctively. We take a cue from others about how to express ourselves - through facial expressions, hand gestures, how close we stand to someone when we’re talking. “Someone with Asperger’s Syndrome can’t always read what others are thinking. It’s not that they don’t care, quite the opposite.

They know the rules but not how to apply them, and they worry constantly about getting it wrong.” Tracy Thistlethwaite, community nurse with the Sefton service agrees:” Life can be scary for someone with Asperger’s – some people struggle to make eye contact. So in school or college, when a teacher says ‘look at me when I’m talking to you’ they become excruciatingly uncomfortable and in some cases find it impossible to obey the rule, so they get into trouble.” This apparent lack of empathy and tendency to speak the truth can also bring attention from authorities, who may think the person is being confrontational. Some people may also struggle with changes to their routine. Tracy: ”If their regular bus or train is cancelled the person wouldn’t always know to wait for the next one or ring for a taxi.” Exploitation is also a problem particularly online where money may be sent or bank details given to strangers without question. The service offers assessment and diagnosis as well as individual and group support. They also work with employers to improve awareness and support their staff.

Life can be scary for someone with Asperger’s. “We hear of people losing their jobs because their inability to read a situation and to take things literally can cause conflict with their boss. On the other hand one young man I worked with would stay behind long after his working hours ended because he didn’t know how to express to colleagues that he was going home. “One employer came to us for help supporting an apprentice whose job was giving out insurance quotes. We helped with his customer service skills, he kept his job and the employer had a very capable staff member.” Frank: “We’re all different and these are highly valued, focussed, honest conscientious people. Our job is to celebrate that difference but to try to help them understand some of the rules of social communication and interaction that the rest of us take for granted, so their lives are improved.” Read Elliot’s and Wade’s stories on pages 24 and 25.

Frank Chapman Asperger’s Service Lead and Community Nurse Tracy Thistlethwaite support people with Asperger’s

RESOURCES • National Autistic Society provides information about Asperger’s Syndrome with support for people with Asperger Syndrome and for their networks of support • Liverpool/Sefton Asperger’s Teams: Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust


Our job is to celebrate difference and improve lives.





• Change can be difficult to manage. Try to plan any changes well in advance



’m going to China this summer to meet my girlfriend Karen’s parents. She’s an international student at the University of Liverpool where I study Ecology. We worked together on modules and were just friends but then I realised I was falling in love. Being with someone is important - it makes everything more meaningful. As a kid I felt I was weirdly normal. Children don’t always behave in a way that makes sense to adults. But I was very loud. I didn’t know how to behave. My mum made sure I socialised by organising play dates. But in high school, when most kids start to move away from their parents, I still needed her help to make plans with friends; it was a totally foreign concept to me. The cool sporty kids who I wanted to emulate were in a different set - I didn’t fit in anywhere.



’m studying Audio Production – I’d like to work as a sound editor for TV or film. In the past I have presented app ideas at the Sound City Conference, volunteered in a local gaming convention which had me hosting a few tournaments and I have had places on film courses run by the British Film Industry. In school life I’ve almost always had trouble asking for help with my studies. Even when I do get help, I find it hard to think of it as a self achievement. Although social interaction can be tough in university, I also find it quite difficult to interact with people online. I’m usually only able to chat with friends I already interact with in real life. I’d like to be more open but I know it could go wrong if I say

Wade with his beloved dog.

the wrong thing, I think this is mainly due to not being able to read people’s reactions when I speak online, compared to in real life. I can laugh or smile in person to get through social situations but I can’t do that online. It gets to points where even if somebody messages me in a group chat, I freeze up and feel sick from not even being able to respond to someone saying “hey”. I try not to think too much about when I was younger. I did go to friend’s houses in primary school, but after finishing I quickly lost contact with pretty much everyone from there. My cousin went to my secondary school which made it easier to talk to people. But sixth form was the best time, the most social. I went to the Studio School, they specialise in digital

media and games development. I felt I could be a lot more open there. The people I see now are mainly from my secondary school, occasionally seeing others from sixth form. I was in a social group for young people with Asperger’s and still speak to people from there. When I’m with friends, I find that I am a lot more able to communicate in surface level social interaction. Over the past year I’ve become more involved with research projects ranging from ones to help improve services for people like myself to ones that looked at links between perception of pain and reaction to touch. The researchers give you small rewards, but that’s not why I do it. I just want to help people understand more about it.

MY PARENTS THOUGHT I’D NEED SUPPORTIVE LIVING I thought nothing less than A levels would do, but at sixth form I was still thinking like a 13 year old, I had this childish idea that if I wanted something it would happen. I didn’t consider the consequences of not working for it. I wanted to study genomics so I could live forever! But I failed in my studies and so many other areas of life, my parents were making provisional plans for me to live in supported living. I wanted to be an unknown, to make a fresh start. I’d let myself down through my actions in the past. I wasn’t crazy or eccentric but I knew I had to get my life back on track. My goal was to be ‘normal.’ I felt BTEC college was much more for me, with a mix of people. I got a place on the Biosciences course at the University of Liverpool. My parents were proud, but moving away from home was hard. I tried to fit in, but I felt empty and lonely.

I couldn’t work out the system for social events and I couldn’t cook, so I went in catered halls when most of my fellow students were in self catering. But I was determined to become a functioning person. My A level experience taught me humility, what I needed to do. I taught myself to cook. I got support from the outreach service, I’m not a practising Jew in the spiritual sense but I joined and became elected treasurer of the university Jewish Society. Things are much better now. I understand how to go confidently from place to place, to speak to people who aren’t like me. I’d say to someone in my position, take a step back, analyse what you want, think about how what you do will affect you, and think ‘what do I need to do to be who I want to be.’ Don’t be hesitant to get support; if you let them in they can help you.”

POSSIBLE SIGNS OF ASPERGER’S SYNDROME There are lots of behaviours that look like Asperger’s syndrome but these do not mean a person has the condition. A person with Asperger’s might: • Notice small sounds when others do not and find physical touch difficult • Find it hard to know how to tell if someone listening to them is getting bored • Struggle to work out what other people’s intentions are • Like to collect information about categories of things (eg. types of bird, types of trains)

• Give the person extra time to process information especially if they are feeling stressed. Provide clear information in small chunks where possible • Write things down or drawing out problems on paper can be helpful • If a person has a special interest they may find talking about these can be calming • Avoid jokes, metaphors, sarcasm etc. • Give the person gentle guidance when to start or stop talking in conversations • Give the person time alone, as they may not enjoy or need social interaction with others in the same way as most people • Avoid physical contact hugs or touch which is intended to be caring can be unpleasant for people with Asperger’s syndrome.

Adults on the autism spectrum aged 16 or over and their relatives can join the ASC-UK national research project via: • and click on ‘Register with the Adult Autism Spectrum Cohort’

• Be socially isolated and not want to mix with their peers

• For paper registration forms call 0191 282 1380 / 5965 or email adultautismspectrum@

• Take things literally and find it hard to understand humour or sarcasm.

• Find eye contact really difficult


Adult Autism Spectrum Cohort – UK @uk_asc #ascuk




Nominate someone for the #brewfie challenge!



IT’S TIME TO TALK – BUT HOW? Cue the Big Brew. The Big Brew campaign is shattering stigma by getting more people talking about suicide, sharing thoughts, offering support.

Being physically well makes your mind feel energised. We look at ways to become more active, eat well, connect with others and start to feel better.

Coping can start with a cuppa. It’s only a tea bag – but it can be a lifeline. A small display of kindness, like the offer of a brew and a conversation could be the first step. By encouraging someone to talk you’d be doing something amazing – tackling stigma head on... and maybe saving a life.

Find out more at


The Big w Bre

See back page for more details 27



A TASTE OF THE MED It’s the vibrancy and Mediterranean colours in this Spanish chicken dish that made it first choice for Lancashire chef Peter Gardner. “It’s really a stew with paprika and garlic to give warmth. You can add chorizo to bring back memories of holidays in the sun.” says Peter, who heads the team at Herbstones Restaurant at Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust Whalley site where staff patients and visitors are served from the same mouth watering menu. It’s served with herb roasted Jersey Royal potatoes and chicken but the meat can be substituted with cannelloni beans to create a vegetarian version. Both versions are healthy options and can be cooked ahead in a slow cooker.



xercise really does make you feel better. But if it feels a step too far right now choose something that gets you moving about but is enjoyable. Make it something you can do when you feel like it – things you can do by yourself or with others, indoors or outdoors, and as much or as little as you like.

INGREDIENTS Eight skinless chicken thighs Two diced red onions Two diced red peppers One diced green pepper One large diced courgette Three garlic cloves thinly sliced 80g mixed olives 2 tsp smoked paprika 1 tbsp tomato puree 150ml white wine 200ml chicken stock 400ml passata 250g tinned cannellini beans Large sprig thyme Tbsp flat leaved parsley roughly chopped 1kg new potatoes sliced lengthways Tbsp chopped rosemary Tbsp thyme 1kg chopped Cavolo Nero (black kale) Half a lemon


METHOD • Parboil new potatoes in boiling salted water for eight minutes. Drain and toss in olive oil or low calorie spray oil, rosemary and thyme and place on a baking tray • Seal and brown chicken thighs in a tsp oil in a large heavy bottomed frying pan. Once browned remove • In the same pan, gently fry onion, peppers, courgette, garlic and smoked paprika over a low heat until softened. Stir in tomato puree • Add chicken back to the pan and increase heat. Add wine and reduce by half • Add chicken stock and thyme and reduce by half • Add passata, beans and olives. Either simmer for 40 mins or place in the oven uncovered for one hour on 170oC Gas Mark 3

• Walking is a good one to start. Even a short walk out can give you a new perspective. The things you see will give you something to think back on when you get back home. Grab your headphones and listen to music as you walk – it can help find your rhythm and distract you from unhelpful thoughts • If going out isn’t easy right now put on some uplifting music and dance your way through getting washed, dressed, washing dishes or making the bed • Relaxation does work, but if going to a class is too much there are some really good videos on YouTube. The same goes for Pilates and Tai chi • A session on your games console may get rid of tension and burn a few calories.

• Roast potatoes for 30 minutes turning occasionally • Bring to the boil 300ml of water in a large pan. Add chopped Cavolo Nero and stir. Cook with lid on for three to four minutes, stirring every minute. Drain if necessary. Finish with juice from half a lemon. • Finish the chicken with chopped fresh parsley and enjoy!




You might need to try a few things before you find something you like, that fits into your lifestyle and how well you are at the time. Don’t compare yourself to other people – this is about what you can do, and when you can do it.

• Set achievable targets – you don’t need to have them but if you do, make them small to begin with and work up • Look after yourself. Stay hydrated and do warm-ups and cool-downs to prevent injuries • Don’t over-do it and if it’s making you feel worse stop and go back when you’re ready • Don’t compare yourself with others (especially on social media) – go at your own pace. You can find more helpful tips from


he sudden lust for life we feel in springtime is down to the serotonin sunshine gives. Daylight signals the body to produce less melatonin (important for sleep) and more dopamine – the chemical messenger that promotes pleasure, motivation, confidence and memory – increases with more exposure to sunlight.





Food and mood are linked and breakfast is the most important meal of all. There’s been debate recently about whether breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. NHS dietician Anna Ashton (left) is in no doubt. “Food and mood are linked and breakfast is the most important meal of all. You’ve had a period of starvation and your blood sugars are low, which affects your mood. We expect our brains and bodies to function as soon as we wake, so it makes sense to give yourself some energy. If you can’t eat first thing drink a glass of milk or a milky coffee then eat as soon as you can.”


I wasn’t going to waste the money the NHS has spent on me.

Low-fat Greek yoghurt topped with fresh fruit, such as strawberries and mixed nuts – packed with about 10g of protein per 100g, Greek yoghurt boasts almost twice the protein of regular yoghurt. NHS Choices Live Well –





rene Riley is 69 - she spends weekday mornings at the gym and swims a mile a day. She’s just finished a course on healthy cooking using a slow cooker and is always on the hunt for new things to keep her mind and body in good shape into later life.

“I started drinking after the cancer treatment, I did it to dull the pain but it didn’t help. I drank in secret so no-one in my family knew. I hid it well and my husband never once condemned me, but I was ashamed. I thought how can I be l like this at 67?”

Irene has genetics on her side. Her mum is 88 and her grandmother lived to 95 - her goal is to still be going strong beyond that age. But a year ago Irene was convinced she wouldn’t make 70. She’d had treatment for cancer, but although that had taken its toll, it was alcohol that threatened her mind and body.

THEY GAVE ME SO MUCH HELP She finally went to her GP and was referred to Mersey Care’s specialist alcohol service. “I found it difficult to talk but once I admitted I had a problem they gave me so much help.“

Exercising in later life can protect the memory and knock a decade off the age of your brain, a new study suggests. Irene was directed to Mersey Care’s Recovery College to enrol on courses that would help her on her road to recovery. “I’ve done every course on offer; I wasn’t going to waste the money they’ve spent on me. The courses worked wonders for me. I’ve never looked back. I’m living life to the full.” It’s over a year since Irene drank alcohol, now she’s looking forward to celebrating her golden wedding with her husband and family – and staying around to beat her Nan’s record!


merican researchers studied 876 people over 12 years. Those over 65 who did little or no exercise at all experienced a decline equal to 10 years of ageing compared to those who reported moderate to intense exercise.

Researchers did initial studies, then returned seven and 12 years later to test memory and thinking skills. The findings, published online by the journal Neurology, say the difference takes into account other factors that could affect brain health, such as smoking, alcohol use, high blood pressure and body mass index (BMI). Study author Doctor Clinton Wright, of the University of Miami, said: “Our study showed that for older people, getting regular exercise may be protective, helping them keep their cognitive abilities longer.”

Older people, getting regular exercise may be protective, helping them keep their cognitive abilities longer.



GET GARDENING! Gardening is proven to be good for you, but it’s just as much fun visiting someone else’s. The National Gardens Scheme (NGS) raises funds for charities by organising the opening of private gardens for a small fee. It’s a day out that doesn’t cost the earth and there are often delicious home made refreshments!

• Grow in a window box – or any box! Vegetable seeds are outselling flower seeds for the first time since the Second World War. Watching seedlings grow then picking and eating your own produce really does lift the spirits • Grow as a group! Community gardening gets you out in the fresh air, connects you with people who share an interest and keeps you learning – all ways of staying well. Gardening with others prevents cognitive decline, gives a sense of independence and reduces loneliness. Gardening courses can be expensive but more are being run within communities such as Liverpool’s Walton Life Rooms.



tweet! Twitching is good for you! Seeing birds around your home reduces stress and anxiety – the more you can see the better you feel. Exeter University’s study of 270 people in towns, including those in socially deprived areas found that levels of depression went down when people could see birds from their windows. The study, published in the Bioscience journal, also found that spending less time outdoors than they were used to could reverse the effect.


CAKE CULTURE Dentists and doctors say sharing sweet treats in the office is fuelling obesity and poor oral health. Tips to cut back on sugar included keeping it as a lunch time treat and hiding snacks out of view. But 2016 Great British Bake Off runner-up Jane Beedle said cake could bring joy to the office! She told BBC Radio 2: “We should resist things that are not worth the calories but I don’t think a little bit of homemade cake is going to kill anybody” What do you think? Tell us on … @Mersey_care MerseyCareNHSFoundationTrust E:



Spring cleaning will refresh you as well as your home. The North West tops a survey of regions most likely to clean annually and spends the most time (15 hours or more) completing the task. Londoners are least likely to spring clean. Natalie runs Fat Bottom designs.


atalie Jeffreys-Meadows’ founded Fat Bottom designs on the advice of her Job Centre advisor. A back problem had left her unable to work and she ‘spiralled into depression’. The advisor suggested she make a business of her hobby. “It lifts my mood so I thought I’d try it with other people as a volunteer first. You don’t need to be able to crochet, I’ll help. There are loads of knitting groups but crocheting is catching up. It’s so relaxing and we chat while we work, it’s a good way to get to know people.” Newly retired Joan was looking for something to occupy her time. “It’s lovely, a little bit of me time and Natalie is very patient.” Fat Bottom Designs runs groups in Merseyside including the Life Rooms, Walton.



her, Meryl Streep, Eva Longoria and Catherine Zeta Jones all do it. Even the ‘millennial’ generation is discovering the art of crochet. It’s as relaxing as yoga and meditation but with the added bonus is the feel good endorphins that flow when you complete a creative task. What is it? A handicraft in which yarn is made up into a textured fabric by means of a hooked needle. The name is taken from crochet, the French word for hook. It’s not as common as knitting (yet) but look on Pinterest for ideas and search online for groups. Your local yarn shop may run regular knitting and crochet classes.





CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST, ENHANCED CARE SERVICE I work with patients at the medium secure unit, Scott Clinic in Rainhill, Merseyside. When a person comes into secure care it’s likely they’re very stressed, and events in their lives mean their family may not visit. They may feel a sense of abandonment, they don’t have what most of us have, a place where they feel safe.


his morning I walked in the grounds with a patient. He used to get angry and refuse therapy. Then we discovered his life had been nomadic, he didn’t feel relaxed in an enclosed space. We moved the sessions outside, now he comes along keen to engage. Outside is his safe place. When someone is in distress they can react with anger or be harmful to themselves or others. It can be challenging, sometimes bewildering for staff so we regularly have a joint thinking space to construct a psychological understanding from a trauma informed perspective, it helps develop a psychologically safe environment.

We’re together, staff and patients in close proximity. Our nurses are brilliant, they know patients can have a lot of pain, they sit down and help without judgement. But this can be challenging and often exhausting. Having dedicated time and space to think together about things that have happened; to reflect on how we handled a situation, and what we might do differently next time, can help us through difficult times. Psychologists can be scary. Even friends feel you’re trying to read their minds!



hen decisions are being made about our local mental health, learning disabilities and addictions services, how can we make sure we have our say? One way is through your local NHS Foundation Trust Council of Governors. We asked Beatrice Fraenkel, Chairman of Mersey Care mental health trust to explain. ‘Our Governors are a group of people who are passionate about mental health and want to use their skills, background or personal experiences to influence the ways our health services are run.



“The Governors perform an incredibly important role, making sure we are fit for purpose and to be authorised as an NHS Trust. They have the final say on major service and other developments. Last year they approved the Trust’s acquisition of Calderstones Partnership NHS Foundation Trust in Whalley, Lancashire. They also appoint and set the pay of our Non-executive directors and they have just appointed an external auditor.”

“Governors can’t deal with a patient complaint or act as an advocate for an individual; however they can advise our members on the complaints process and signpost someone to advocacy organisations.”

HOW DO I BECOME A MEMBER OR A GOVERNOR? “We are proud of our large, diverse, representative membership. More than 12,000 people have joined the Trust and are helping us build and maintain effective links with the community that we serve. This ensures direct involvement of stakeholders in our corporate governance and decision making processes.

HOW MANY GOVERNORS DO YOU HAVE AND WHO ARE THEY? “We have 30 governors representing three constituencies: service users and carers, staff and the public as well as a small number who have been appointed from local stakeholders, for example, Sefton Council. I’m proud of our membership and our governors. They’re all very different, bringing their unique skills and experiences and acting as ambassadors for the Trust.

“We will be holding further elections to our Council of Governors this year. To nominate yourself to become a Governor, you will need to be a member to receive details of forthcoming elections.” If you would like to join us please call the membership team on 0151 471 2303, email to or by post to Alison Bacon, Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust V7 Building, Kings Business Park, Prescot, Liverpool L34 1PJ.

“We have four meetings a year and anyone can come along to observe.”

Beatrice Fraenkel, Chairman.

What makes my day worthwhile is if a patient wants to engage. It means we have trust.




If you have any feedback, comments or concerns, you can contact your governor by emailing the relevant constituency as follows: Service Users and Carers Mersey Care staff Members of the public


You’ve been nominated for the #brewfie challenge! 1


We believe that the power of a cuppa to bring people together can be harnessed as a tool to prevent suicide. Reaching out and talking to someone who is suffering may be the turning point they need. If you agree, accept our #brewfie challenge by taking a photo featuring yourself, a loved one - or even a pet with a suitable brew! Upload it to social media using #brewfie to show your support, then nominate three friends to take the challenge, and help us to spread the word of our Big Brew campaign!





Contact Details



HOLD A BIG BREW EVENT For more information and your FREE BIG BREW pack go to


Got some news you’d like to share?

Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, V7 Building, Kings Business Park, Prescot, Merseyside L34 1PJ

Contact us at the following address.

Telephone: 0151 473 0303 Email:

MC MAGAZINE is published by Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust and produced by the communications team, Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, V7 Building, Kings Business Park, Prescot, Merseyside L34 1PJ T: 0151 473 0303 E: W: MC MAGAZINE is available in other formats on request. Please pass on for others to read and recycle.

Spring 2017 Final  

The Spring 2017 MC Magazine looks at stamping out stigma around speaking out about Mental Health and Suicide

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you