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Autumn 2018


The tech dilemma

Are we making our kids obese?

Reasons to be nervous








As we mark the centenary of the First World War, veteran soldier Kate shares her harrowing story of the men and women still suffering.



EARLY LEARNING Mohammad and his dad are getting lessons in healthy eating. We join them.


GOLDEN GIRLS we meet the Paralympian skiing superstars.

11 IS MENTAL HEALTH A FASHION STATEMENT? Young people talk frankly about what they really think of this and other issues.

MC magazine team: Managing Editor: Steve Murphy. Editor: Jackie Rankin.

Cover shot: See page 17


Contributors: Diane Cooke, Myles Hodgson, Mark Hudson, Sue Ormesher. Editorial: Julie Crompton. Photography: Rick Gem, Joel Goodman, Steve Murphy. Design: Jo Hadfield. Illustrations: Ella Byworth, Andy Needham.


MEMBERSHIP AND GENERAL DATA PROTECTION REGULATION General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), is a European-wide law, which governs how organisations can collect, use and transfer personal data. It came into force on 25 May 2018 alongside the new Data Protection Act 2018. As a Foundation Trust, Mersey Care has a statutory requirement to develop and maintain a membership and it is necessary for us to process our member’s personal data to perform this task. Our members are drawn from the public, people who use our services or care for people who use our services and staff. We request and securely hold data on our members, which they provide when joining our membership.The data we hold on our members enables us to show that we are representative of the community we provide services for, to keep members updated through our quarterly MC Magazine via email or post and to invite all members to the Annual General meeting. We also engage with all members advising when the election for governors will be taking place, giving members the opportunity to nominate themselves to become a governor and to vote in elections for the council of governors. Should you no longer wish to be a member of Mersey Care please email with your details or call 0151 471 2303 asking that your details be removed.

Wrap up and sparkle this autumn.


uthor Matt Haig’s new book “Notes on a Nervous Planet” is one man’s take on how to feel happy, human and whole in the 21st century (page 27). It’s a good but often sobering read, driving home the message of how many of us are tangled up in technology. There are some great examples of how we search in more ways than one for ways to be part of something that compels us, yet we don’t fully understand.

Students talk openly about the social media juggernaut and the damage it can do.

In this digital themed issue we look at the impact of apps, social media and the rest on our mental health. We hear from a psychiatrist about the more sinister side of seemingly innocent online games. Students talk about the social media juggernaut and the damage it can do. There’s a huge flip side to all this – digital technology is taking the NHS into the future in a truly amazing way. We talk to the man leading the way at Mersey Care. Visually impaired skier Menna Fitzpatrick is no stranger to the spotlight. The Paralympian talks to MC magazine of staying grounded and her unique partnership with guide Jennifer Kehoe.

And as the nation marks the anniversary of the end of the First World War we meet a veteran who has fought her own private battles. Matt Haig’s book talks about the feel good factor of socialising – not online but face to face. As we go into autumn maybe we should all get wrapped up and go out in the fresh air – you never know who you’ll meet. Enjoy autumn!

The MC editorial team.

Games like Fortnite can become addictive.



Menna Fitzpatrick has a consultant to thank for her daredevil attitude to life which has earned her an MBE at just 20 and the title of Britain’s most decorated Winter Paralympian.


hen she was born with Congenital Retinal Folds which rendered her blind in her left eye and with only three per cent vision in her right, her parents were advised to treat her the same as her two able-bodied elder sisters. “My family were really good,” she says. “They let me join in everything and didn’t worry when I fell. That made me so independent. I was able to try all sorts of things which helped me to adapt. It was the best advice and I tell anyone with young visually impaired kids to do the same.” That courgeous attitude saw the young Menna fearlessly scaling trees and gave her the autonomy so many visually impaired people crave. But more importantly, it saw her careering down snowy slopes in France from the age of five using her ski-mad dad as a guide, and ultimately going for gold as a top athlete. “Skiing with such limited vision is like passing through a blizzard every time you ski,” explains Menna, 20, from Macclesfield. A picture on her Instagram shows a mass of white and a blurry flash of colour – that’s how life on the slopes looks to her. She was the first visually-impaired child to attend Prestbury Primary School – they’ve had two more since, she says proudly – where they taught her to read braille and large print in year two. At Fallibroome High School she had the help of a scribe and an assistant to describe visually what was going on in chemistry lessons.


Skiing with such limited vision is like passing through a blizzard every time you ski. Menna’s road to Paralympian stardom started in 2010 when she was spotted at Chill Factore in Manchester and started regular training with the British Para Snowsport team.

bronze in the giant slalom while they began the 2017-18 season in superb fashion, winning two silvers and two bronzes at the opening World Cup in Kuhtai. At the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Paralympic Games Menna and Jen became Britain’s most successful Winter Paralympians as they claimed slalom gold, super combined silver, giant slalom silver and super-G bronze. Menna and Jen are very much a team. In fact, few people know that Jen is also visually impaired, although her sight is corrected with contact lenses. CONTINUES ON PAGE 6.

GOLDEN GIRLS She made her senior international debut for Great Britain in 2012 and in March 2016, she and guide, Jennifer Kehoe, a Captain in the Royal Engineers, made history by becoming the first British skiers to win the overall World Cup visually impaired title in Aspen. The duo also picked up the giant slalom Crystal Globe, silver in the overall super-G and bronze in the overall downhill and slalom events. At the 2017 World Championships in Italy, Menna and Jennifer claimed

Menna and Jen use a specific set of commands to communicate.


Menna and Jen became Britain’s most successful Winter Paralympians in 2018 with slalom gold, super combined silver, giant slalom silver and super-G bronze.

TIPS MENNA’S TIPS FOR SUCCESS You need trust in people around you, that’s really important. I have complete trust in Jen and that has been a huge part of our success. Determination – for me picturing myself on that podium winning gold is a great incentive. Courage – you definitely need that – I broke four bones in my hand in 2016 when I hit a rock, and had to have eight pins put in. Communication – it has to be effective, particularly in what we do. I have to listen to what Jen says and act instantly.

Visually impaired athletes ski with a guide wearing bright clothing slightly in front, communicating at every turn via bluetooth headsets; these skiers need to change direction every one to three seconds and travel at speeds of up to 100km per hour. Menna and Jen use a specific set of commands to communicate, and Jen is responsible for communicating the direction of travel, changes in terrain, light and snow conditions and the rhythm of the course.


Plus, she has to set the correct pace to enable Menna to ski as fast as she can and give her instructions to speed up, slow down or keep at the same speed. Now the pair are in training for the next Winter Paralympics in Beijing in 2022. In between training they visit schools to inspire the athletes of the future. As Menna says: “Whether you’re able-bodied or have a disability you can go out and do anything

you set your mind to. Seeing the impact we have on others who look up to us is humbling. But if we did it, they can too.” From a person who grew up hurtling down slopes and climbing trees with only three per cent vision, that’s a sound piece of advice. Interview Diane Cooke.



Jim Hughes - leading the digital revolution at Mersey Care NHS Trust.



The NHS is 70 this year and the transformation the service has undergone in those seven decades can only be described as revolutionary.


ho would have thought in July 1948, when health secretary Aneurin Bevan launched the NHS at Park Hospital in Manchester, that in less than a century people would be using video to consult their doctor, or that Artificial Intelligence would be helping to diagnose illness. Mersey Care, a mental and community health NHS Trust is at the forefront of that revolution having been awarded a title of Global Digital Examplar for its ability to deliver exceptional care, efficiently, through the use of world-class digital technology and information. Exemplars will share their learning and experiences to enable other trusts to follow in their footsteps. Leading the charge into the digital future is the programme director Jim Hughes, who is overseeing the innovations that will change the lives of service users and staff in the near future. One programme which started recently gives patients and medical staff access to individual records online.

“This is a way of empowering service users by having access to their records,” says Jim. “It will help to join up the services for the benefit of the patient who can show their records to anyone involved in their treatment from their consultant, to their GP”. Over the next year, the Trust will be rolling out an electronic prescribing system which will control stock and eliminate the need for paper systems for people on the ward. This will free up staff time for patient care and dramatically reduce medication errors, according to Jim. Linked to the Trust’s Zero Suicide Alliance Programme, Mersey Care is working with an organisation in the USA on research into an app which could effectively save lives.

SWIM – Strength Within Me – is being piloted by 50 inpatients, who are given a smartphone and a Fitbit which by way of diary entries can track everything from mood to activity and sleep. The data collected is analysed to see if a service user is at risk of self-harm or suicide. “People don’t necessarily write that they are feeling suicidal,” says Jim. “But the system can analyse types of language used by an individual to assess risk to aid early intervention.” “Service users say the Fitbit has proved helpful by encouraging them to do more exercise which in turn makes them feel better in themselves.”


The people he was playing with did have bad intentions.

Forensic psychiatrist Arun Chidambaram

CAN YOU HELP SOMEONE? People should encourage their children or a vulnerable person they’re concerned about, to share their online activities. Forensic Psychiatrist Dr Arun Chidambaram, says people need to be aware that children and young people or those more vulnerable are particularly susceptible to online grooming. “The communication channels need to be open. Show interest in other aspects of their life, not just the online games. Try not to focus solely on online, otherwise the person might disengage.” He also suggests parents discuss the subject with other families to make sure everyone’s children are safe. But most of all, parents need to make sure that their children interact with their friends regularly.


And that means encouraging them to put down the mobile phone and games console to enjoy a real life experience which doesn’t involve technology.



Even with mainstream online activities, for example the popular game Fortnite, it’s not always possible to verify who the other players are and if they have malicious intentions. Unless a child or teenager shares with their parents they won’t know what’s happening online and the effect on that person can be very damaging.”

A SINISTER TURN A vulnerable middle-class teenager referred to Dr Chidambaram had become trapped when his gaming obsession took a sinister turn. It turned out that the people he was playing with did have bad intentions towards the youngster. Over a matter of months friendly banter turned into abuse; he was drawn into the Dark Web and a world of criminal behaviour from online strangers.

The boy was bullied and coerced into making a series of hoax calls to remote locations unaware of the immense trauma his actions were causing, or that he was committing a criminal offence. Though his mental health difficulties contributed to his vulnerability, he was sentenced to prison by a court. Teenager George Duke-Cohan is further proof that online threats can have repercussions. The 19 year old caused fear and panic around the world with hoax bomb calls made solely for enjoyment. Hundreds of terrified children were evacuated from UK and US schools. He was remanded in custody. The National Crime Agency said: “Operating online does not offer offenders anonymity. We will identify you and you will be brought before the courts.”




It’s the hottest game in the world – a viral teenage obsession. Over 40 million people played it last month alone.


ortnite: Battle Royale – the version kids play - involves up to 100 people playing against each other. It’s a ‘shooter’ game, in a similar vein to Hunger Games, where players are dropped unarmed onto an island and must find their way to ‘houses’, where they find weapons to shoot and kill. The task is to build structures and avoid the destructive storm that threatens all outside its safe zone. Staying alive is the difference between winning and losing – the last player standing is deemed the winner.

Studies report 4% of adolescents could be affected. IT’S ADDICTIVE A nine-year-old girl was sent to rehab for Fortnite addiction, after wetting herself to

keep playing. When her parents removed the game, she attacked them. Parents have reported losing their sons and their cash to Fortnite – like the mum who discovered her son had used £200 on her credit cards for the game. Video gaming addiction is now classified under the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases. Studies reported in national media show that 4% of adolescents could be affected. Gaming Disorder, as it’s known, is characterised by a pattern of behaviour such as: • impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context) • increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities such as home, family and school work

• continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences. This has to be evident for more than a year for a diagnosis to be made, (although it can be shorter if the gamer meets all the diagnostic requirements and symptoms are severe).






Illustration: Andy Needham

No-one understands the positives and negatives of advances in technology more than Mersey Care NHS Trust forensic psychiatrist, Dr Arun Chidambaram.

In my work I’m seeing a lot of psychopathology which is driven by isolation. People are feeling more vulnerable, with no-one to talk to. Communication is the essence of human life. It distinguishes us from other species.

IT’S A HUGE WORRY We can’t move away from technology; it’s part of our lives, from booking train tickets, to banking. But we’re losing social connectivity and it’s a huge worry.” Dr Chidambaram’s concerns about the downside of social media in particular is not something restricted to his work as a medical professional, it also affects him as a father. His six-year-old daughter is not allowed a smart phone because he believes she’s too young – as a concession she’s allowed to use her parents‘ phones to go on Google Earth.


“It’s scary that little children as young as two can navigate the world of web independently,” he says. “We’re trying to delay it as long as possible.”


“People who wouldn’t normally express their views find it easier to do so on Facebook and Twitter and that’s a good thing. The downside is that it can cause isolation with people losing face to face communication.”

At what age does he think a child should have access to smart phone technology?


“I think multimedia technology is valuable in the classroom for capturing children’s interest; and some children are more responsible than others. But parents need to be able to regulate their behaviour online.

Despite his concerns, Dr Chidambaram would never advise a patient to give up social media. “It’s not a realistic prospect and there’s a danger that the person could disengage completely. I say moderation is key.”

I personally think primary school age is too young because it comes at a time when they’re learning vocabulary and social media can be a huge distraction.” As a specialist in autism and personality disorder, Dr Chidambaram also sees how social media can help those who have difficulty in communicating.

Monitoring a patient’s activity on social media, with their permission, can actually help clinicians like Dr Chidambaram gather useful supplementary information to make a diagnosis and formulation. It can also help pinpoint online bullying, body shaming, grooming and stalking which might be otherwise hard to detect.



FASHION STATEMENT? A new series of short films, cast, directed and produced by 14 -19 year olds could start vital conversations on this and other burning topics for young people.




If you laugh when people are called, fat, spotty, short, girly… you’re part of the problem. Fact: 94% of girls and 65% of boys are affected by body shaming (


alking about mental health can still be tricky between schools, parents and young people. Even among peers there’s often a nervousness about how to broach sensitive issues such as suicidal thoughts or body image. Yet young people say they’re frustrated at not being given a chance to say what they think or have a proper open discussion. Now mental and community health NHS Trust Mersey Care and The Life Rooms recovery and wellbeing centre have joined forces with Manchester School of Acting (MSA). A group of young actors have directed and starred in films that could be used to start vital conversations among young people. The Trust provided guidance on the issues, together with resources, equipment and the support of film maker Josh Woods. But it was down to the 30 teenagers to decide the topics they felt should be covered and make them champions of not only their


own mental health but to be the catalyst for wider debate among their peers. Steve Murphy, Head of Communications at Mersey Care: “The group told us what many young people feel. That adults sometimes think that they know best – and sometimes they do – but we know what works for us, please listen to us. “We wanted the films to generate more questions that we did answers.” MSA Principal Mark Hudson recalls plenty of heated discussion from the outset. “They told us ‘we’re passionate, this stuff is important, of course we’re going to fight our corner’. “We knew it would be a challenge, it was a gruelling schedule both in the studio and out in Manchester city centre. We wanted to tackle serious issues with upbeat messages. The group was constantly double checking to make sure the films were telling the story they wanted to tell. It’s a unique chance for them to become involved in the way the

“One young man told me: ‘Being part of this has made me realise how important it is to talk about how you feel, there’s no shame in having that conversation’.” You can watch all the films at Mersey Care’s YouTube channel.



Are you the servant or master?

Hits, likes, shares… is everything as it appears on your newsfeed?


People I haven’t met before…straightaway they think ‘he’s weird. Let’s not talk to him. I want to be loud, I wanna be out there but I don’t want them to know I’m hurt.

You get a knot in your stomach and you feel sick. I feel people look at me and think ‘she’s just a stupid teenage girl, upset about something stupid. 12

mental health is discussed in school and college, maybe even the design of adolescent mental health services in the future.”

I’m often the life and soul of the party but really I’m just trying to get away from the loneliness.

When one person doesn’t like you, you think ok I understand. But when it’s a few and it happens more often you think there’s something wrong with you… that’s really scary.


IS MENTAL ILLNESS A FASHION STATEMENT? There’s a fine line between people who are actually struggling or just playing the victim and self diagnosing…

It shouldn’t be a fashion statement… it isn’t a choice.

I don’t think people mean it to be a fashion statement… I think they just feel they’re missing out.

We’re all becoming obsessed with labels and being seen as different. 13

WE WILL REMEMBER THEM In a room at the old Walton library, now Mersey Care’s Life Rooms centre for recovery and wellbeing, a small group of men and women, gather for an art session.


t’s part of a pathway programme for veterans graduating from Tom Harrison House, a military veteran addiction recovery centre. The programme content is decided by participants. Anthony Muldowney – a former army ‘slop jockey’ (chef) had a hard time when he launched the group. Until he told them he was a veteran – “then they stopped seeing me as a stiff in a shirt…” he recalls. There’s an unspoken acceptance, the military vibe is strong.“You can feel it. They just want a break, to chat, laugh and joke. They often feel they’ve been let down and forgotten by the forces they served. They just want to be able to talk with people who have the same lived experience.” Social isolation can begin a spiral of despair and frustration. Andy (not his real name) has spoken openly to the group about being sectioned and heavily medicated after sinking into a deep depression. Veterans are notoriously private, it’s a huge breakthrough. “They put on a front in public” says Anthony. Here they don’t feel they’re being analysed. He’s become a totally different person since he first came here.”

Ideas for sessions are discussed among the group. Anthony’s suggestion of a session on bereavement was quickly dismissed as ‘too heavy’. It wouldn’t have been easy anyway for him – he’d received news a few days before of the suicide of a close army colleague for whom civvy life became too much. “It was so upsetting to think we’d trained together and the work we’re doing now might have benefitted him.” The strength of forces camaraderie is being replicated in the group. Anthony recalls the moment a group member with autism presented his creative writing. “It took a lot of courage and the others recognised that with their cheering and applause.” The programme includes support for training and looking forward, employment. Anthony says every workforce should include ex service men and women.” “They’re never late; they’ll very rarely take time off sick. They’ve been trained to problem solve, to deal with crises. They just need time to adjust and through this programme we’re making sure we don’t forget them by helping them move on with their lives.”

Anthony Muldowney - a former army ‘slop jockey’ (chef)

You can find out about First World War centenary celebrations at: Mersey Care events are at



Kate with fellow veteran Andy Cooke at Liverpool charity Veteran HQ

Kate joined the army in 1986. She was just 17. “My stepfather didn’t give me a choice. I turned up at the Women’s Royal Army Corps barracks at Guildford in Doc Martins, fishnet tights with holes and a pencil skirt – well it was the 80’s!” CONTINUES OVER...






ate loved army life – even being rescued on her 18th birthday after getting hypothermia during an expedition to the Yorkshire Moors. Then, at just 18, this gentle kind faced woman was subjected to what she calls a ‘sexual trauma’ at the hands of a soldier – someone she thought was a friend. She didn’t report it – that wasn’t the ‘done thing’ back then – but a soldier from the investigations team saw her crying privately and insisted she press charges. Her attacker was court marshalled, she had to describe the experience in detail before a brigadier and two other senior officers, all men. They concluded that while she’d clearly said ‘no’ he ‘didn’t appreciate what that meant’. He wasn’t convicted. She found out later the same thing had happened to at least two other women.

I used alcohol to blot out the pain. Although Kate had support from her female sergeant major the experience had a devastating effect. She devoted herself to retraining so she could move to another battalion. But the mental scars stayed. “I used alcohol to blot out the pain. The drinking culture in the forces made it easy. Lots of soldiers had problems but no-one would admit it and there was no help.” After eight years, married to a civilian and expecting a baby, Kate left the army. Five years on her husband left, Kate was broken. She began drinking again.



Struggling to manage Kate took money from her employer, first to pay bills but then more and more. She was convicted in 2016 and spent eight months as an open prisoner at Styal women’s prison.

Kate says it’s helped her move on.”I’ve learnt how destructive my behaviour was, that I don’t need alcohol to function. It’s helped me admit my failings and how to move forward.”

While there she was asked to set up a group for ex forces women prisoners and their families. She contacted Veterans HQ, a veteran’s charity in Liverpool, for advice. They have a New Beginnings programme, and on her release they found her a flat to rent, helped with furniture and gave her basic provisions – that support she says is still ongoing.

She is back volunteering with Veterans HQ and the charity X Roads based on the Wirral, which provides supported housing and ongoing support for veterans with addictions. And she’s looking to develop the catering skills she learned in prison and study mental health and nutrition at university.

As a volunteer there Kate was referring veterans with addiction problems to a recovery programme at the charity Tom Harrison House. She realised she herself was in need of help for her addiction.

But Kate has new fears – for fellow veterans still struggling in silence.

FIRST FEMALE GRADUATE She’d already had Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and a stay at the veterans ward in Clock View – ‘a blessing as everyone is in the same mindset’ – and was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as well as severe depression and anxiety. She has since become the first woman veteran to graduate from an addictions recovery programme at Tom Harrison House which works with the addictions team and Life Rooms team from Mersey Care.

• Our self help guide – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is available online, by download or you can watch a video:


“ I don’t think I’d be where I am without the army; but once you leave the door is shut and although my PTSD is personal – I’ve not even been to a war zone - there are men and women out there who’ve given years of their life, seen horrors, lost limbs, suffering mentally with little or no support. It’s so sad that this programme is the only one of its kind in the country – I’m sharing my story for every veteran out there alone.”

I was referring veterans for addiction problems – I realised I needed help myself...



Suicide is becoming endemic in the world of fashion. MC spoke to fashion designer Roberto de Villacis about how his beloved industry is affected and why he’s joining forces with Zero Suicide Alliance to raise awareness of the issue. Roberto de Villacis


oberto de Villacis is couturier to the stars. He counts Carrie Underwood, Johnny Depp, Katy Perry and Britney Spears among his A-List clientele.

He can sadly also count too many people within the industry who have taken their own lives. Designers Alexander McQueen and Kate Spade, model and former wife of Roxy Music’s Bryan Ferry, Lucy Ferry, and Roberto’s close friend and inspiration, Isabella Blow, all died by suicide. But for the love and support from his family, Roberto could have become another statistic during a 10-year-long fight with depression brought on by the “pressures of the business.” “I thought if I killed myself how would it affect my family – one suicide affects up to 60 people – and what would happen to all the charities I support. I couldn’t do it.”

If you want to help save a life you have to talk and reach out, it’s not normal to ignore it. Instead he’s doing something about it by working with Mersey Care and the Zero Suicide Alliance to raise awareness and funds through his “romantic crusade”, Glamour Saves The World (well almost).


Roberto is clear – the fashion industry doesn’t want to talk about suicide. Kate Spade, who built a fashion empire on her signature handbags, suffered with manic depression, but is reported to have refused to get help, in case it damaged her brand.

“If you want to help save a life you have to talk and reach out, it’s not normal to ignore it.” says Roberto. Alexander McQueen, he says, became a victim of his own success. “He was an artist who got crushed by the system. I think the pressures of his situation, his sexuality, his business and the pressures people put on you got to him. They want your craziness and avant-garde qualities, but then they want to filter your concept into a single handbag - if you can’t do that they throw you out.” Isabella “Issie” Blow was a Tatler magazine editor. The muse of hat designer Philip Treacy, she is credited with discovering the models Stella Tennant and Sophie Dahl as well as designer McQueen. Roberto says Isabella suffered from a “Cinderella complex” and felt the fashion world had treated her very badly. She attempted suicide more than once before her death in 2007.

His latest work of art fusioned with fashion is inspired by Issie. The pair became friends in the 90s and when she was in a sanatorium he offered to design her a dress to cheer her up when she came out. “She couldn’t believe that I wanted to do that for her,” says Roberto. “She was a delicate flower and creative people have to be treated nicely. We’re not a commodity.” Roberto’s creations are much sought after by stars including Katy Perry (left)

Alexander McQueen was famed for his expensive dresses, with some costing up to £250,000. But Issie wanted one even more extravagant. “She said ‘make me a more expensive dress than McQueen’s. $1 million, no $2m, or $3m’. I agreed and we made an arrangement to meet at a wedding of the Modi family at the Maharajah’s Palace in India.” CONTINUES ON PAGE 20.


You’re always thinking ‘how do I look?’ even off camera in your day to day life... it’s the power of the image.

We need to get the conversation flowing… to get voices heard.

But Issie never showed. She had fallen into a deep depression and killed herself shortly afterwards.

without Borders/Suenos sin Fronteras/ TOY charity for orphans and underprivileged children.

Roberto never made the dress, but was inspired to create eight dresses in her name, to represent the seven continents and the sea. The collection will be revealed in July next year.

As creative director and fine-artist Roberto’s mission is to raise consciousness ‘to enlighten, entertain and embolden our spirits’ while bringing realistic help to those in need.

He now dedicates his life to creating art and making the world a better place through his United Aliens Artists Foundation (UAA).

“The fashion industry has to start talking about suicide. Creative people are usually very sensitive. We have to let these people know we are concerned about them. Reaching out through ZSA and in other ways could help save lives.”

It was founded in 1997 originally as an art and fashion collective in London-ParisMilan with guest artists Donna Trope and Brit Pop Art stars, the Chapman brothers, Gavin Turk, including uber fashionistas Verushcka and Jodie Kidd. United Aliens Artists Foundation is now established in the USA as a non-profit foundation focusing on art for a greater social cause in conjuction with the Dreams

• Zero Suicide Alliance, an alliance between bereaved families and NHS trusts around the country, wants suicide taken seriously. The plan is to encourage one million people to take online training to be able to spot potential suicides and prevent them. Visit:



5,821* people died by suicide in the UK, over the course of a year, that’s nearly 16 people EVERY day. 20


Source Samaritans Suicide Statistics Report 2018


LENTIL AND VEGETABLE SOUP WHAT YOU NEED 10g (½ oz) butter or oil 50g (2oz) onion 50g (2oz) carrot 50g (2oz) leek 50g (2oz) celery 50g (2oz) red lentils Pinch of thyme 400ml/ 1pt vegetable stock

WHAT TO DO • Roughly chop the vegetables • heat the oil or butter in a saucepan • add the vegetables and herbs, and soften without colouring • add the lentils and stir


AUTUMN SOUP Steve Otty trains the chefs of the future at Hugh Baird College in Bootle. His warming lentil soup is a bowl of goodness.

• gradually add the boiling stock and stir to the boil • simmer until vegetables are soft • add more stock if required • blend to a puree and correct the seasoning. 21


Steve Otty chef lecturer at Hugh Baird College Bootle.

TAKEAWAY? I’LL MAKE MY OWN THANKS Paul enjoyed a healthy takeaways cookery course so much he enrolled again - and introduced a friend. Their chicken dish, based on a famous brand that comes in a bucket was, says Paul “impressively similar to the real thing, but with a fraction of the calories.”


Paul (opposite left) and George’s takeaway tastes ‘impressively similar’ to a well known brand but with a fraction of the calories.


aul’s long time friend George is on a budget. “I love takeaways but the course gives you confidence to do your own and add your own twist.” Anthony Muldowney, chef lecturer at Life Rooms, says people are seeing the value of replacing their high street favourites with lower salt, sugar and fat options. But what IS the issue with processed food? “Our bodies know what to do with natural

foods, but not chemicals, so keeping it natural will help us enjoy our food more, keep well and lose weight. I buy the ingredients from the supermarket nearby on the day to prove how quick and easy it is to create your own takeaway.” Feedback from the course has brought about the Weight to Go programme which runs at Life Rooms Walton and Southport.

Our bodies don’t know what to do with the chemicals from processed food.

• Our self help guide – Food for Thought is available online, by download or you can watch a video:



FIZZY DRINKS? NOT FOR US Parents and kids are learning together about labels, lunchboxes and life changing habits. Sue Ormesher went along to find out how it’s changing things for families. 24


early half of children are perilously overweight in some parts of Britain with statistics showing that many children’s weight increases as they go through school. Yet parents striving to do their best are hindered by the ready availability of sugary fatty treats and takeaway foods. TV and computer games are the favourite out of school activity for many children. The National Childhood Measurement Programme weighs and measures children in reception and again in year six to assess if they are in the healthy weight range. School nurses who help to administer the programme in primary schools report frustration among parents trying to provide their children with a healthy lifestyle battling factors out of their control. Wellbeing Advisor Alison Griffin said: ”One mum told how she puts fruit and healthy snacks into her children’s lunch boxes every day, only for her children to swap them with friends for crisps and chocolate in school.” Mersey Care’s Healthy Families project has seen families come together for a course covering everything from cooking healthy meals, reading food labels, to shop smarter and getting more active. Shabir Ahmed (left) took part with his five year old son Mohammad. “His school wrote to us to say the school nurses felt he was a little overweight and told us

I picked up a fizzy drink and my kids said no we don’t want that! about this course. We’ve been to nearly every session and it’s taught us to check food labels first before giving them to him.” Mum of two Sara no longer buys large amounts of crisps and biscuits since realising the fat and sugar content. “We drank lots of fizzy drinks but now we drink water. We went shopping recently and I picked up a fizzy drinks can and my kids said ‘we don’t want that!’” Source: Public Health England.

For more information on the Healthy Families team check out



• to avoid added sugars at

• swap breakfast croissants for

breakfast – sweeten with fruit instead of table sugar (e.g. adding a mashed banana to porridge or cereal instead of sugar) • swap a chocolate bar for a chocolate rice cake • stick to just one 150ml glass of fruit juice a day.

FACT FILE • The recommended daily sugar

toasted tea cakes or bagels

allowance for four to six year

• swap cheesy sauces for tomato

olds is 19g (five sugar cubes).

based sauces in pasta • avoid adding extra oil or butter when cooking.

There is 61g of sugar in one 471ml bottle of Frijj Brownie Shake • The recommended daily fat


allowance for seven to ten year olds is 22g. There is 30g of fat in a Hollands sausage roll.




Family health nurse Michelle with parents Ali and Jess and their son Isaac.

FAMILY NURSES – SOMEONE TO CALL ON... Jess was 17 when she found out she was pregnant with baby Isaac. Having dedicated family nurse Michelle Martin meant Jess and partner Ali had someone to help them through the minefield of new parenthood. It helps having Michelle - I didn’t have a clue what I was in for! If I have any concerns, during the pregnancy and now about Isaac, I phone her straight away and she tells me what to do.” Family nurses work very closely with other health and social care professionals from social workers to GPs and enhanced midwives. Michelle: “We’ll make the calls, sharing information if things need to be shared. We’re always chatting with the family, so we see when they need help with other areas. Whatever their agenda is


we help them reach that network of people and bring them all together we’re that one person the family can ring and we’ll co-ordinate things for them. Dad Ali loves the security of being able to call on Michelle. “It’s at any point, at any time of the day. It’s like having your own unit, and because she’s been supporting us for so long with this we know what to expect. We like it.” Find out more about the Family Nurse Partnership at See more from Michelle and the family at Mersey Care’s YouTube channel.

More than one million children in the UK miss school due to a long-term illness. For teenager Lewis Hines (right) long hospital stays and needing 24 hour care meant he missed out on all the normal things boys his age enjoy – including friendships. And that’s what inspired Lewis’ award winning social media platform - Friend Finder, which links children in his situation and organises events – including a prom night for disabled teens and their carers. “Every time I started to make friends at school I’d end up back in hospital. By the time I returned the friendship group had naturally moved on and I found myself having to start all over again. I want to prevent any child from feeling that awful loneliness and isolation that I felt.”

OTHER SUPPORT FOR FAMILIES Be My Eyes ( – a free app that connects people who are blind or have low vision with sighted volunteers for visual assistance through a live video call The MOMO One app gathers and communicates the views of youngsters who use health, social care and education services while MOMO Express caters specifically for young children and those with a learning disability. (not to be confused with the widely-publicised self-harm game)


Photograph courtesy of Kan Lailey

REASON TO BE NERVOUS Jackie Rankin on the launch of Matt Haig’s new book: ‘Notes on a Nervous Planet’


hy do so many people feel information overload like never before? Or do we just have different pressures than our parents and grandparents? Writer Matt Haig’s new book is touted as ‘a personal and vital look at how to feel happy, human and whole in the 21st century.’ ‘The world is messing with our minds’ says the blurb. How can we stay sane on a planet that makes us mad? Or feel happy when we’re encouraged to be anxious?

Why do so many people feel information overload like never before? The launch, hosted by Waterstones is in a city centre bar with twinkly lights – the venue has gone all out to create a relaxed ambience. But there’s both tension and an unspoken bond among the audience – a waft in the air that carries the message ‘we’re all in this together.’ It’s the message that underpins Haig’s hour long conversation with Time to Change Director Sue Baker. Technologies, social media, marketeers, ourselves, are stopping us connecting with real people in real time he says. We’re connected but alone.

Building resilience is vital. He clearly abhors the ‘incessant process of constant testing, looking ahead, and teaching only to get to the next place’, which is killing learning for itself. “If getting a good grade involved smoking 70 cigarettes a day parents would say ‘it’s not worth it’. It’s said pressure is character building, all worth it in the long run. But maybe we should embrace uncertainty.”

HOW DOES HE EQUATE THAT TO HIS OWN KIDS? “I wouldn’t put unnecessary pressure on them; I’d far rather they failed their exams than become ill; learn that nothing is the be all and end all. Care for the child; make them feel content with themselves.” Both the book and the talk are humorous and sobering in equal parts. Haig touches on everything from supermarkets (he hates them) to Piers Morgan (who famously called Haig a precious snowflake). Someone in the audience asks what difference being alone at his lowest might have made. (The unstinting support from partner Andrea and his parents is well documented in both this and the first book, Reasons to Stay Alive). “It’s nice to have people you love, but when you get into the real depths you still feel like you have no-one, you’re on your own, you can’t help it.

If you’re struggling and could do with a listening ear, you can speak to the Samaritans for free at any time of the day or night on 116 123. Alternatively, email or visit the website ( to find a list of local branches.

Matt Haig

“When I was at rock bottom I was in a state of terror. But in that darkest place, I found the rock; in that moment I suddenly realised what people mean about a soul, an impenetrable life force within me. You need moments of crisis to find it’s there.” And to someone asking for advice on feeling hopeless at that moment? “I’d say ‘you may be ill but you’re not going to stay in that moment, you’ll have a million different lives.’” Whether it’s the Matt Haig effect or a 21st century sea change for the better, we’re talking more - and that’s powerful.

REVIEW Reasons to Stay Alive documented Matt Haig’s recovery from anxiety and panic attacks. In this book he wanted to explore the links between what he feels and the world around him. It’s a collection of observations, most learnt from doing things the hard way and, by the author’s own admission, not always getting it right. There’s research to add weight but its strength is as an offering of short digestible bursts of common sense – a sort of pick up and put down self help guide... and a good one at that. Notes on a Nervous Planet and Reasons to Stay Alive are published by Canongate Books Ltd and available from Waterstones stores or online: @matthaig1



Health anxiety – when you spend so much time worrying you’re seriously ill, or about getting ill, that it starts to take over your life – is on the up.


eports from the centre for mental health at Imperial College London say up to 2% of the population have ‘pathological health anxiety’ or hypochondria as it was once known. Catherine O’Neill, services manager at Anxiety UK, says the disorder is one of the most common reasons for calls to the charity’s helpline. Metro blogger Hattie Gladwell developed it after being ignored for so long and eventually falling critically ill. “I panic at the slightest bodily sensation, and can fly into a panic attack easily, convincing myself there is something seriously wrong. One of my main fears is that I am going to fall critically ill again, nobody is going to pick up on the symptoms, and then something bad is going to happen.”

It can take over a person’s life. They focus on and check for symptoms excessively, constantly seeking reassurance from websites, friends or their GP, having tests. Reassurances from friends or professionals only give short term relief and can even make things worse – the person may decide the professional hasn’t looked into the situation deeply enough. But if the GP refers for further investigation it heightens their fears and anxiety and makes the symptoms worse. This reinforces their suspicions that they really are ill, the anxiety keeps building and the cycle continues. They may choose to avoid any contact with illness, staying off the internet, watching health related programmes, or even visiting people in hospital.

WHAT CAUSES IT? Some people are predisposed, others develop health anxiety as they get older. It could develop after a genuine health scare, or hearing about a missed illness in a friend or family member having a serious illness. Being a carer or losing someone can also be a big trigger, it reminds us of our own mortality.”


GOING TO DIE MC magazine asked Lorna Higgins, a therapist with Talk Liverpool to explain health anxiety. “It’s normal to be concerned about your health sometimes. But someone with health anxiety is in a constant cycle of thinking they either have a serious illness or are going to become ill – it makes them anxious which can make the symptoms worse, further reinforcing their worst fears.


WHEN CAN THERAPY HELP? “If the anxiety is overwhelming and taking up someone’s thoughts for the entire day, if the constant checking is stopping them functioning normally, it may be time to get help. It’s so common yet people don’t often seek help. I think there’s a fear that we’ll say it’s all in their head, when to them it’s very real.”

HEALTH ANXIETY Support for you

• Help yourself – our self help guide on health anxiety can be read online, downloaded or watched as a video:



“Cognitive Behavoural Therapy looks at how and why we think about things in a particular way that becomes an unhelpful cycle.

• constantly worry about your health • frequently check your body for signs of illness, such as lumps, tingling or pain

We start by encouraging people to gradually stop the behaviours that reinforce their anxiety by setting achievable goals. This could be to reduce the number of times they check for changes in the body, not to visit the GP as often.”

• are always asking people for reassurance that you’re not ill • worry that your doctor or medical tests may have missed something

It could be something really small – so if they suffer from headaches and are convinced they have a brain tumour, simply drinking more might resolve the headaches and the anxiety.

• obsessively look at health information on the internet or in the media

We do things gradually at the person’s own pace with the aim of getting them to the point where they no longer need assurance.” Read Samantha’s story on page 20.

• avoid anything to do with serious illness, such as medical TV programmes • act as if you were ill (for example, avoiding physical activities). Source: NHS Choices

GET HELP • NHS Choices – • Anxiety UK – • Mind and YoungMinds –

Health anxiety? Talk to us

Talk Liverpool is a free NHS talking therapy service. You can be referred to Talk Liverpool by your GP or another health professional. You can also self refer. Go to 29


I had headaches every day, my stomach hurt from constant retching.




amantha was constantly going to her GP. She was convinced every ache or pain was a symptom of a life threatening illness. “I had headaches every day, my stomach hurt from constant retching. And I always thought the worst case scenario.” “I didn’t have to give my name at the doctor’s, the receptionist recognised my voice! During one visit my GP said she thought I may have health anxiety. She suggested it may help if I talked to a therapist and referred me to Talk Liverpool. It was such a relief to finally understand why I felt like I did.” The 33 year old mum of four had had what she describes as ‘a terrible year’. She’s a naturally caring person and in 2017 she split her summer between her young family and supporting a close friend with terminal cancer. Soon after she lost

I still have times when I feel anxious about my health but now I know when it’s right to go to the doctor.

another friend, then another – all were around her age. Samantha and husband Stefan were then told a routine scan on their unborn fourth child had shown the little boy had a cleft palate. “We were allocated a specialist team even before Nathan was born. Babies with a cleft palate often struggle to feed. We were lucky, it was just his lip but he had to have surgery soon after he was born. “The trauma of that and losing my friends was too much. I began having panic attacks. When an attack happens you feel like you’re not there. It’s horrible.” Samantha is tearful when recalling the impact on her husband and three young daughters.

“The therapy really helped. Lorna explained that it was related to events and that I needed to take time out for myself – go for a walk, have a treat – sit down and read a magazine. She gave me techniques to manage the anxiety. She explained it like a graph; that there will be times when it goes up and peaks, but it’ll always go back down and the feelings will pass. “I didn’t realise at the time but I bottled up my feelings. I didn’t cry. We put so much pressure on ourselves to have perfect lives. Before I had therapy I couldn’t relax, leave a cup or plate on the table, I never stopped. Now I don’t feel guilty having a day where we all just take our time rather than rush round from one activity to the next. I still have times when I feel anxious about my health but now I know when it’s right to go to the doctor.”

“I was so engrossed that I couldn’t see that it was affecting them. I couldn’t even do the school run. The kids found it hard. Stefan was so supportive, but he knew I needed help. I knew it myself, but I felt so ill I was convinced there was something wrong. The physical symptoms are very real and as I became more anxious they got worse. I didn’t realise it was the anxiety that was causing them.




Thousands of children are sexually abused in the UK each year. We all want to keep our kids safe. That’s why the way we feel about people who have sexual feelings towards children is so emotive.


T Illustration: Ella Byworth

People are not born with the intention to harm others. But therapy is essential, to work on the roots of the problem and change the way that the person feels and thinks.

he consequences are unimaginable for everyone involved – physical damage, psychological pain, relationship and social problems, drug and alcohol abuse and criminality.

“Most of our patients have experienced trauma in their own childhood. This is often the root cause of their issues and it needs to be properly addressed if we’re to bring about psychological change.”

But while we often vilify, should we not be looking to help people who have these thoughts? Give them the opportunity to change; to stop before they offend and ruin lives?

She stresses that while people experiencing childhood sexual abuse rarely go on to offend, research shows a higher rate of childhood sexual abuse among those who do commit offences against children.

A new initiative, developed by mental and community health NHS trust Mersey Care and Merseyside Police, is one of the first in the country where an existing NHS service partners with police to prevent sexual abuse.

“No-one wants to have these feelings. People are not born with the intention to harm others. But therapy is essential, to work on the roots of the problem and change the way that the person feels and thinks.

It is unique in the way it uses in-depth psychological therapy to produce long term change in the feelings that may lead to someone sexually offending.

To be referred (by a GP or any health or social care professional) someone must be over 18 and not have a conviction for a sexual offence (although the service accepts people with an indecent exposure offence, to prevent an escalation in their behaviour).

Dr Lisa Wright, the clinical psychologist heading the service says many of the people they meet with sexual convictions say they would have welcomed help to prevent them from acting on their feelings – but didn’t know where to go.

During therapy clients explore and identify the origins of problematic thoughts and feelings and engage in methods designed to change them. By Myles Hodgson

JAMES’S STORY When I was offending I didn’t think I was doing anything that bad….now I see things very differently.

“I was sexually abused by a family friend when I was little. I don’t want to use that as an excuse; there’s no excuse but it affected the way I developed and some of the sexual feelings that I had. When I was offending I didn’t really think that I was doing anything that bad. I was looking at pictures I didn’t think I was actually harming anyone. After coming to this service I see things very differently. “I understand the damage it does to victims. Those pictures were real children and I was creating the market for them. Although I didn’t touch those children

somebody did so that I could look at them, and that sickens me. After prison I could only see my children under supervision. They’re confused and upset about not seeing me. My wife had to put up with comments in the street. “The therapy helped me to understand why I offended. To re-process my own abuse and to change how it affected me. If the psychologists work with people before they offend they might be able to stop things going so far for other families. If it had been around back then I might not have ever gone on to look at those pictures.”

IF YOU ARE AFFECTED BY THIS ISSUE: You can ask your GP for a referral to the Prevention Service. If you are a current Mersey Care service user, you can ask your care team to contact us.

The ‘Stop it Now’ service offers anonymous help via their website and helpline.

0808 1000 900




CONSULTANT LIAISON PSYCHIATRIST One of the great things about this job is being able to help people who have very uncommon illnesses. 34


ne of the great things about this job is being able to help people who have very uncommon illnesses, complex conditions such as morbid jealousy. It’s a mystery and we have an opportunity to unfold it and provide the treatment the person needs. I’m an honorary lecturer at Liverpool University’s School of Medicine and I’ve been involved in teaching and examining undergraduates.

There are so many specialties in psychiatric training; my special interest is research in personality disorder, I’ve had my research published. Mersey Care has the edge in its work culture – there are so many leadership opportunities to people to develop special interests. There’s excellent training for consultants in everything from forensics to eating disorders. To find out more about working at Mersey Care go to our YouTube channel. For job opportunities visit


GOVERNOR PROFILE I’ve always enjoyed helping young people to get the most from their lives. As a teacher I taught in Cyprus and England and loved my pastoral care role – but I wish mental health had been taught back then.

I’ll do everything I can to prevent more young people taking their lives.


uilding up resilience and encouraging people to self care for their health is more important than ever.

As a Sefton councillor in Waterloo, I’m involved with a family who lost a son to suicide. They’re campaigning and I’ve promised them I’ll do everything I can to prevent more young people taking their lives. I wasn’t a stranger to mental health inpatient units myself. My mother had severe depression so I can empathise with families struggling to cope. The

environment and being meaningfully occupied is massively important, I’m a real nature lover and it bothered me that people in some secure hospitals don’t have access to open green space. I’m so pleased that the new hospitals we’re building are so much more therapeutic in every way. As children we were always outside in big groups; even as a teenager we’d go en masse into ‘town’ to watch the Beatles at the Cavern! Now I keep in touch through my god daughters – I watch the Kardashians so I’ve got lots to chat about when we talk!

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West

I’m passionate about striving for Perfect Care. I’ll never stop pushing for it to carry on. And let’s get more young people into nursing and other caring professions - let’s use their experiences to take us into the future... To learn more about our council of governors, go to




Contact details Got some news you’d like to share? Contact us at the following address.


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

MC Magazine  

Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust magazine.

MC Magazine  

Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust magazine.