Who are we...? We are supporting the national Time to Change campaign here in Leeds, challenging stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems. Breaking Barriers Magazine gives a voice to people with mental health experiences. This aims to improve understanding and to challenge stigma and discrimination.
The Time to Change Leeds team meeting Frank Bruno
This magazine has been created by the Time to Change project worker, Tricia Thorpe, and a group of passionate volunteers. Their work uses creativity to engage with members of the public
How to get involved We’re looking for people with lived experience of mental health issues to talk to the public about mental health. This is the best way of breaking down stigma and discrimination.
to challenge stigma. Become a volunteer The focus of the campaign is ‘It’s time to talk’ It aims to create a climate where mental health problems can be discussed more openly; Breaking Barriers magazine hopes to kick start conversations about mental health in Leeds! Is the campaign making a difference? Since it launched in 2008, the Time to Change campaign has measured a 4% reduction in discrimination experienced since it launched in 2008, and a 2.2% improvement in public attitudes. Join the campaign to take part in the movement to reduce stigma and discrimination!
Join us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/timetochangeinleeds Twitter @changeleeds Have you got a story to tell? Contribute to the next Breaking Barriers magazine or do a video blog. Challenge stigma You can do something now to help end mental health discrimination. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
Contribute on our new website by blogging at https://www.timetochangeleeds.co.uk 2
Contents Page 4-5
World mental health day 2012 Going nuts
More than just... Mindy talks about her depression
Light and Sad What is S.A.D like for me...
My story of hope What have i got to be depressed about?
How time can change Sabrina tells all
Me, Myselves and I Julie Bagwash talks about her creativity
Itâ€™s now or never.... How stigma affected Alison
Stress in Practice The affect of stress in the work place
Selective eating disorder As long as I can remember Iâ€™ve had a different relationship with food
Selva Sound Young carers rap
Listen up Leeds New website gets young people talking
Leeds Wellbeing Web Finding your voice in community reporting
Going Nuts......!!!!! World Mental Health Day 2012 Celebrating World Mental Health Day in one of Leeds busiest shopping arcades, the Victoria Quarter World Mental Health Day, and is a day to bring people
ashamed of anything they are experiencing. We felt the
together to talk about their feelings and experiences.
tree was a way of ‘branching out’ to people and created
How did we celebrate in Leeds this year? Well, we
a wider understanding about World Mental Health Day.
assembled a 6ft tree in the centre of one of Leeds busiest
Many of the leaves were words such as ‘happy’, ‘fed
shopping arcades. Does that sound nuts? You got it in one.
up’ and ‘excited,’ but we also found a handful of people had written anonymously some of their worries and
Young Minds is the UK’s leading charity committed to
experiences. This showed that more people want to share
improving the emotional wellbeing and mental health
their thoughts openly and want an outlet to vent their
of children and young people. Time To Change Leeds
feelings. After speaking to some members of the public
teamed up with them to create a ‘nut tree,’ a special
it was noted that many people didn’t feel comfortable
designed wooden tree, along with wooden branches,
speaking of bad feelings and thoughts, but after speaking
which would stand for the day in the busy shopping
to the volunteers and writing down difficult feelings, they
area. We hoped it would encourage the public to share
began to understand the importance of talking openly.
their thoughts and feelings surrounding mental health. Volunteers spent the day speaking to local shoppers,
“Feel lots happier today - it’s good to talk”
encouraging them to speak about how they were feeling. Whilst World Mental Health Day was a day for everyone to
“I feel zoomy pitchoomy”
come together and talk, it also highlights an ongoing issue of the stigma surrounding mental health.This event enabled us
The idea of a ‘nut’ tree was to make a stand against the
to create a positive visual symbol to help tackle the stigma
stigma surrounding mental health. Creating our own spin on the term ‘Nut,’ various images of nuts were hung from the tree in order to show a light hearted approach to what can be an offensive and discriminatory term about mental ill health. Using brown pieces of paper to represent ‘leaves,’ two volunteers dressed as squirrels to encourage members of the public to hang their note on the tree.
“feeling positive today, a little anxiety” During the day we managed to get over 60 people to contribute to our tree, making it look bright and colourful. At the end of the day the tree stood to represent a collaboration of many walks of life sharing openly some of their feelings and opinions. It symbolised the importance of people being able to share their feelings and to not feel
Seonaidh describes how see felt playing on World Mental Health Day Wednesday 10th October took us to the Victoria Quarter to celebrate World Mental Health Day with much colour and vibrancy. As the stalls were being set up, the volunteers tuned in to BBC Radio Leeds,to listen to volunteers Mindy and Christian talking about the event withWes Butters. We were joined by Inkwell craft cafe, Leeds City Council, Touchstone and Leeds Mind. Live entertainment was provided by Foxwood steel bandits and one of our own volunteers, Seonaidh. Seonaidh Matheson and Phil Snell, playing the fiddle and guitar respectively, go under the name Celtic Duo. Seonaidh describes their music as “a mixture of Scottish, American and Irish traditional tunes”. “I don’t normally get nervous but on the day I felt exposed something about playing in front of people I know”, she said. “Playing music is an all-consuming, emotional experience for me. It’s a way of working through things in my mind”. When asked what she gained from taking part in the experience, Seonaidh replied “Time to Change Leeds volunteers are a creative bunch, we have photographers, artists and actors, I really enjoyed being able to do my thing as a musician. It was the first time that Phil and I had played together outside of a band. He isn’t part of the mental health community but he came along and supported us without hesitation – I feel that’s really important”. The event saw the public engaging with interest throughout the day.It proved to be a great opportunity to raise awareness of the Leeds mental health community by collecting photo, audio and video pledges. We talked to people on a broad range of subjects from the aims and objectives of the Time to Change campaign to people’s personal experiences. All in all the day was a great success,not least for Seonaidh who says “Due to the collaboration with Time to Change, Phil and myself have been working together on some new material”. By Sabrina & Christian
More than just
Trying to explain how I feel, feels like a chore and sometimes like I’m making excuses for being the way I am. This makes the negative feelings stronger. Feeling low is one aspect to it, but trying to figure out why that is is the hard part. Explaining to someone who has no experience of depression is difficult, I find myself having to attach reasons which doesn’t help me but rather make me look further into why I’m feeling like I do and consequently makes me feel worse. Being able to say I am depressed without having to explain why and for people to accept that would help me in my recovery. I have my toughest time around winter. I have associations with this time of year, along with the lack of light, that make me dread these months, October is the hardest month. I lost my father two years ago and almost lost my mother a year later. This triggered the latest episode of depression, which I’ve been recovering from for over a year now. I have good days, mostly around people I feel comfortable with. I have a wicked sense of humour, laughter is something I don’t take for granted, and I always try to lighten the mood. I realise I can sometimes be inappropriate with my jokes, but I think it’s my way to cover up any bad feelings I may have and to lighten the atmosphere. I spend a lot of time on my own, not through lack of friends, but through choice. I’m stuck in my ways, I like my routine and my own company, which is strange for a depressive to say. But I’m a creative depressive, I enjoy photography, watching the world and making beautiful images. I can spend hours filling my time being creative. I have changed a lot in the last few years, I understand myself a lot more now. I used to drink a lot socially in the attempt to be liked and make friends. Looking back this was the loneliest part of my life, I wasn’t good friends with any of these people,
The pub was just a common place for drinkers to be together. I’ve stopped drinking now, and have realised people can like me for myself and I don’t have to have a million friends to prove this. I have a close group of people I trust and spend time with and this has really helped me to remain focused. I still have bad days, which I call my episodes. I sometimes don’t realise I’m having them until it’s too late. I become distant and withdrawn, unable to focus and even the easiest task becomes a challenge. I think too much, and panic and worry I won’t be able to deliver to my high expectations. This makes me feel exhausted and like I’m just trudging through life, at any time about to collapse. All I want to do is sleep. My brain keeps thinking about the next thing I have to do, whilst I’m still involved in the current thing. I become anxious about having enough time and whether it’ll be good enough, and all this worry just feeds into a viscious cycle of depression. And deadlines loom closer. I had an episode at work, where everything got too much. I was tired. I broke down. My boss was sympathetic, but I don’t feel he understands. I found myself apologising for the way I was, which made me feel more negative about everything.
Volunteering for Time To Change has helped me tremendously. I feel part of something, and I don’t feel I have to apologise for being me quite as much. The positivity of working with different people with different experience is what had keeps me on balance. It’s amazing what your environment can do to create a positive mood. We undervalue our wellbeing, but productivity would be much higher if we placed a higher priority on it.
It’s not just all in my head, depression is a real illness and finding ways to cope and deal with this reality keeps me strong. I’m a positive person, I don’t like to dwell on bad things, but sometimes I can’t help it. Knowing what works for me is vital. Photography and creativity is my tool of recovery, being with positive people is another. I know I’ll have dips now and again in the future, but the days when I’m not dipping are my best days and I produce my best self, they’re worth looking forward to!
Spring Exhibition – Get involved
In Spring 2013, with Time To Change Leeds, Mindy Goose will be curating the first open call exhibition at the popular city bar, Hedley Verity. Featuring work from artists across Leeds, the exhibition is open to anyone from the local area. The theme for the exhibition is Wellbeing and how art can help to improve your mental health. The theme can be interpreted however you want, but please keep it clean. If you want to get involved then please drop Mindy an email for more details: email@example.com We will be taking submissions from now till March 31st 2013. You will be able to sell your work during the exhibition if you choose. We shall be collecting a 20% commission charge on any work that is sold. This will be shared between the charity CLIC Sargent and Time To Change Leeds Mindy was the winner of the first Love Arts Award for Visual Artist. She is graduate of Leeds College of Art.
Mindy Goose ©
LIGHT & S.A.D
Volunteers at Time to Change Leeds have set up an interactive blog to raise awareness and support for those experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder. They invite you to join us in exploring our relationship with light over these winter months.
What S.A.D. is like for me When most people are enjoying July and August, months traditionally known for sunny weather, rise in temperature and happiness, I’m already starting to think about the dark that is coming. In the back of my mind, there is already a black spot growing steadily, day by day. The countdown has begun, by September there’s a distinct change in the air and my energy levels start to plummet. The ‘daylight’ starts to shorten and my need to take ‘naps’ start to increase.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is still a controversial subject because people who are affected by depression in the winter months are certain it is a genuine condition despite continued uncertainty from health professionals. My mood starts being extremely low, I’m already dealing with bi-polar, so this extra lowness doesn’t help! The bright colours in the world around me start to have a dimming effect, which proceed to turn to grey, dark colours, the colours that start to take over my mind. Also, from September it’s like I’m starting to sink into a bog of nothingness. It starts engulfing me. By November it’s almost up to my neck, blackness all around me and I’m ‘stuck’. By this time I’m crying on a daily basis, I feel so wretched about my life, I’m tired, tired of ‘being’. I constantly wonder my reason for existence, although I must point out that I don’t feel suicidal, but my mind questions it over and over.
One theory is that light stimulates part of the brain called the hypothalamus. This controls your mood, appetite and sleep. All of which are affected by the condition. The lack of light during the periods is also reported to affect production of the hormones melatonin and serotonin. Lack of these affect mood, appetite and sleep. The body’s natural body clock is also affected, disrupting digestion, sleep, mood, appetite and energy. By this time I really have no interest in my self or self care. I avoid friends and acquaintances, preferring the safety of my own home, my little safety haven away from the world. I’m fortunate to live a ten-minute walk away from a parade of shops, so I don’t need to go to supermarkets and interact with other people. I spend more money for this ‘convenience’. I crave carbs and sweets, which does affect my financial budget, but I need to survive. My only respites are when it snows, when it’s freshly settled and everything looks so white and bright, I’m immediately lifted, I can breathe.
It is estimated that 94% of GPs recognise S.A.D. as a medical condition and around 72% of those would recommend light therapy. At Christmas, I love all the lights and sparkle. I have collected a considerable amount of lights under my belt over the years, and this, for some reason helps. After Christmas is over, I am plunged back into the darkness, into ‘existence’, until late March, early April, when the first signs of colour start to appear outside in the world and begin to appear in my mind once again. By Wendy Research by Sabrina
Submit your images, thoughts and blogs We’re inviting you to take a look at your relationship with light this winter, how does it change? And does the change in light make you feel differently? Do we need natural light and how can we understand the severe implications this has for those expeirence S.A.D? Submissions will be checked before publishing but any photos, texts, discussions or links are welcome.
Image by Mindy Goose ©
My story of hope The stigma around suicide by Paul I was sitting in the staff canteen at work when a collegue was flicking through a newspaper reading a article about a man who had commited suicide.
What have I got to be depressed about? By Paul
He turned to me and said “I dont know how anybody can be so selfish leaving behind a wife and family”. My heart sank in hearing these comments as I have attempted suicide myself. I struggled to hold back the tears but I said nothing. I can understand how families struggle to come to terms with the aftermath of losing a loved one but also I feel people need to be more understanding as to the reasons why someone may choose to end their life. I have twice attemped suicide. These were at times when I was feeling low and isolated and felt I had nobody to turn to. How do you tell a family member or friend that you wake up every day with thoughts of suicide? It is easy for people to sit in judgement of others and simply dismiss suicide as selfish. However it is rarely known the inner torment someone has been suffering. Mental ilness is invisble. When I attempted suicide people would say it was just a cry for help. I found this quite patronising. I truly just wanted out. I strongly believe that times are changing and people are beginning to open up about mental health stigma and discrimination. I think that my collegues views did not reflect everybody’s opinion and I hope that people would show compassion and support towards someone who attempted suicide.These days things are a little easier and I can begin to feel more optmistic about the future. I hope people can identify with my story. All I ask is that people are not so quick to judge people that commit suicide.
This is a question I asked myself over head. After all I had a happy childhood, circle of friends, yet somehow I felt so looking in on the world. I have always
and over again in my a close family and fab alone like an outsider been quite a shy guy.
The first time I noticed something was not right was on a lads’ holiday to Tenerife back in 2010. We were enjoying another night out on the town and then like a bolt out of the blue I got what I can only describe as a overwhelming sense of sadness and loneliness I guess I felt lost. We walked back to the apartments but I couldn’t take it any longer. I broke down and burst in to tears unable to control my emotions. Obviously my friends were all concerned, ‘Is everything ok Paul?’ but I brushed it off and blamed it on the alcohol. Nothing more was mentioned about that night. We returned from holiday and I carried on with my everyday life, but over the coming weeks and months the feelings continued and in fact intensified, I just struggled along. I had the occasional day where I would feel a little better and thought this was a glimmer of hope.Then almost six months later at work I could feel my thoughts racing and felt really unaware of what was going on around me. I called my supervisor to one side and asked to see her. I then poured my heart out to her and to my surprise she reacted in a fantastic way. I felt a sense of relief she didn’t judge me or label me a ‘freak’ or any of the other things that I had been dreading. Since then I have been able to seek medical help to tackle what I call my demons. I have opened up to friends and family and on the whole they have been helpful and supportive. During my worse stages of depression and anxiety I attempted suicide and self harm I felt disconnected from the real world, sad, lonely, isolated and scared. Suicidal thoughts filled my mind on a daily basis. I tried so hard to hide my feelings from everyone around me. I could never be seen crying, after all, we’re
taught as men that crying is a sign of weakness. Everything around me looked grey, it was as if I no longer saw in colour But then one day I woke up and looked out the window and suddenly the grass was green and the sky a beautiful blue. Was this a sign that I was maybe on the road to tackling some of my problems? I wasn’t sure how I was going to tell my story but I want this to be a message of hope. It’s not easy going through depression, after all nobody can see there’s anything wrong.They perhaps think you’re just being miserable or off with them. But for me finally opening up has really helped. I think that before I had put a barrier up. Since being open and honest with people I have found that two of my close friends had actually also battled with depression. Finding out about Time to Change through a
link on Facebook as helped enormously. My next step is to get more involved and attend events. I hope anybody reading this can identify with my feelings. Its still a battle for me some days, I feel like running away and hiding. But my message to anyone going through a mental health issue is keep going. Never give up hope and realise that you don’t have to go it alone. There are people and organisations that want to help. There isn’t always a reason behind depression it just is.
Photo by Tricia T ©
Once you choose hope, anything’s possible. –Christopher Reeve
How Time Can Change
As someone who has a mental illness, I have had my fair share of ups and downs. One of my lowest periods was less than 12 months ago, when I was admitted to the Becklin Centre.
was not pulling through but sinking further into the depths of despair. I was suicidal, to the point of planning how to end my life. I felt like I could not talk to anyone, not even my partner, whom I lived with at the time. It was at this point I realised I needed help. I do not remember how but I ended up at the Accident and
I remember feeling low in every possible way. Mood, self esteem,
Emergency department, waiting to see someone from the
concentration - it all felt non-existent. I was used to feeling this
Crisis Team. The longer I waited the more scared I became.
way at this time of year due to particularly painful memories.
Scared of how I was feeling, the feeling of not knowing what
However, this time it was different to previous years. You see, I
was to expect, even of my own shadow. I also felt really lower
in mood. I felt I needed protecting from myself. When the Crisis
weeks. I have had two more admissions since then. One lasting
Team confirmed that a hospital admission was the safest option, I
nine days and another lasting five weeks. Each admission is as
felt both relieved yet scared. Relieved because I knew instantly I
scary as the first.You think you know the score but just when
would be safe, yet scared of going into unknown territory.
you need it, your memory blanks out. It is this that makes it scary once again. However, each time is different. You meet
As I entered the secured ward, a mental health nurse and a
new people, forge new friendships, and learn new coping skills
support worker met me. They were friendly and tried to put
and new skills in general. During my longest period in hospital,
me at ease as quickly as possible. As it was nearing midnight,
I decided to join the pottery group, in the therapy suite. Even I
most of the other service users were in their rooms, making
surprised myself at how relaxing and enjoyable it can be.
the ward very quiet. The reception area was dimly lit as well as the corridors. My initial thoughts of a psychiatric ward where
I feel that the more people who work towards diminishing
immediately destroyed by what I saw in front of me. I had
stigma and discrimination, the quicker the message will get out
envisaged doctors in white coats and row upon row of beds.
there. I would like to consider training to be a mental health
Instead the staff wore dark blue uniforms and each service
nurse in the future, but one step at a time.
user had their own room for privacy. Everyone was allowed to
walk around the ward freely. When a service user is first admitted, they are shown around and staff can answer questions. I was once again reassured that I would be fine as the ward was staffed 24/7. As I had not taken any personal belongings with me, I was given a nightgown for
What Leeds and York NHS Partnership Foundation Trust have to say..
over night. The usual formalities of form filling, seeing the doctor, searching for anything I might harm myself with were all gone through in a short amount of time. As a new admission, you are
Coming into a ward environment during an already distressing
kept on 15-minute observations and prohibited to leave the
time can be a little scary particularly for people who have
ward. I was given the choice to sleep with my little light on or
never been in hospital before. The staff aims to make this as
have the staff shine a torch through the window in my door. I
comfortable as possible so it’s great to hear from someone
opted to sleep with the light on, as I did not think I would sleep
who feels that we made you feel welcome. I hope that your
much that night.
story will help others who may be worried about seeking help when it is needed.
In the morning, the ward was a busy place, It was a very scary place at this point. It seemed like there was a routine of medication,
Each inpatient ward holds regular Your Views meetings where
then breakfast, although some service users opted for breakfast
people are encouraged to share ideas for improvements. A
then medication. You then find something to distract yourself
lot of work has been done to improve the menu choice for
with, maybe a 1:1, a group that may be running, talking to visitors
people but if service users have comments or suggestions for
or each other. I just wanted to hide away. I think I did for the first
few days. I barely remember much of it to be honest. Thank you for telling us about your experience – I’m sure this The grounds have a couple of separate secure gardens, which
may help to reassure others and dispel some of the myths
are for male/female use. They are separated for privacy I think.
about mental health wards. The views of people are really
There is a general area in the middle of the building, which has a
important and help us to improve upon what we do and how
greenhouse, a faith room and is mainly used by those who smoke,
we do it.
although it is open to all. If the ward was quiet and the weather was nice, a support worker would take you round the grounds
Recovery & Social Inclusion Team
or to the hospital cafe for a coffee. It was good to get some fresh air now and then, when cooped up on a stuffy ward. I was in the Becklin Centre for three weeks. I was discharged into the care of the Acute Crisis Service as a day patient for a few
Me, Myselves and I I have written this article using the word ‘myselves’ repeatedly. This is not a spelling error. I always refer to mysleves in the plural because there is more than one of me.
By Julie Bagwash
My creative journey began back in 2004, when after years of services only going on about my negative behaviour and consequences, finally someone nurtured something positive in me. I was finally diagnosed with having personality disorders and complex post traumatic stress disorder at the age of 41. Before this diagnosis I was told that I suffered from depression throughout long periods of my life. Professionals first noticed my self-harm when I was 14 years old. There have been many traumatic events and negative experiences throughout my life, which lead me to perceive the world very differently to how others see it. As a child when I could not cope with the harsh reality of the real world I would submerge myselves in the underwater world of Jacques Cousteau on the TV. The vibrancy of colour and the warm safety of the waters was a safe place for me to
immerse myselves in and dissociate from reality. This was and still is a coping strategy I use today to keep safe when struggling to engage or connect with the world around me. Part of my disorder is that I have two prominent personalities that I have to deal with every day. There is the two-headed monster, which is my internal destroyer, and when that rears its ugly heads all the negative and darkness engulfs me. Then there is the mermaid my inner child and when she surfaces it is time to reconnect and play. I do this through my art. My personality disorder means that I struggle to contain thoughts, feelings and emotions and therefore find it difficult to connect with them If I do manage to connect then it’s the containing of those emotions in a way that isn’t self defeating/ self harm/ negative behaviour. I spent my fortieth birthday strapped to a bed in a hospital in Mallorca Spain. I was on that bed for four weeks and I truly felt this was the end of my life. Here I am though coming up to my fiftieth birthday next May and instead of my life ending I feel it has just begun. Only now in my forties have I found the real Julie. The Julie who is allowed to express herself and not have to keep all the pain and deep sadness to myselves. I have at last got a voice and my goodness, do I make use of it. No longer will I allow myselves to be ashamed of who or what I am. This is me the complete package. Lke it or lump it, it’s your choice.
In 2003 I was referred to The Retreat in York to a specialised unit for people with personality disorders. It was here that they nurtured the positive. The Retreat suggested I went to college to do a foundation course in art and design. I was still very ill at this point but I challenged my demons and went with the support to help me. I managed to achieve a distinction at college and believed it was because I was the token “mentalist” in the group. I couldn’t perceive that I could achieve anything so would not allow myselves to connect with this positive. I went on to do a BA with honours in Fine art at York St John University and then on to do a Masters in Fine Art. This has been life changing as I have found a really good way of expressing myselves through the creative arts. When I wake up with negative thoughts and feelings now, instead of turning to self-harm I can interpret my thought process creatively. This has been a huge help in calming down the negative and using positive means to self-express. I now use my own creative journey as a tool to guide others with personality disorders to connect with their own inner child and be playful and spontaneous through the arts to communicate to the outside world. If anyone looks at my art they will see it is very childlike as I believe it is that inner
child that didn’t have a voice that is now allowing herself to come out and play . I work for a Personality disorder organisation called Emergence. Part of my work with them is as coordinator for Creative Personalities Yorkshire & Humber, which is a project to help those with a diagnosis of PD to get involved in the arts through various formats including workshops, exhibitions, cinema groups. I work with other services to support people at any stage of their journey to connect with and engage with the arts, for example, creative workshops at York art gallery and a cinema group in Leeds. I recently worked within the prison system to support offenders to express themselves through the written word. Since connecting with the real world again after a lifetime of dissociation I now see the world around me. I connect with and notice the little things, things that in everyday life we tend to ignore or not notice. Its like a whole new world exists though I still go into my own aquatic world of safety if I need to.
I still struggle immensely with very low self esteem but I now allow mysleves to exist through my art. That is a huge step forward and one that can only be built upon.
If you would like to know more about my work please visit my website: www.juliebagwash.com If you would like to know more about the work I do with Creative Personalities please visit: www.emergenceplus. org.uk
I do still struggle immensely
All images by Julie Bagwash ©
It was now or never I had to tell him, I was one of those mad people, he joked about. You don’t realise how stigma will affect you until it does. I have had to deal with mental health problems for many years through college, and most of my working career.
eight weeks down the line in a reasonably serious relationship. It was now or never...I knew I had to tell him I was one of those mad people he joked about. I felt sick at the thought, but knew that there was every possibility I could get unwell again. I really liked him and before it could get more serious he needed to know.
There has been many a time where I have experienced stigma but had been protected by the safety of being in a relationship, engrossed in my family and children. This safety net I took for granted and never really felt anyone needed to know. I found myself hiding it from some people, especially new acquaintances, new friends.
I remember so vividly the fear, the sick feeling I had. I didn’t know how to tell him or where or when. In the end it was after he made a joke that I came out with it. “I have been sectioned under the Mental Health Act and I’m not mad” . His response was to laugh...he actually thought I was joking! It took me a good 10 minutes to convince him that his perfectly sane girlfriend was one of those nutters he assumed to know so much about.
It was a part of me I wished to keep quiet, I didn’t want to be anything but normal, afraid people would see me differently. That they would look at me with pity or think I was an attention seeker. After a particularly bad bout of depression which required a three month section under the Mental Health Act, I realised just how people react. I only had three visitors in those three months. My husband at the time was faced with people telling him to leave me. Even my in laws suggested if I didn’t get better the children would be taken away. I never really thought that this was stigma at the time, just what was to be expected, something I somehow deserved. I got through this time and a couple of years later got myself back to work. I decided with my new found experience I would no longer work with children with learning disabilities and instead work in the mental health sector. I applied for a health support worker position. I got it and started to rebuild my life. I still got unwell at times but each time helped me grow stronger. I thought the fear of stigma was long behind me. I was wrong. I found myself in the position of being single mum of two. I never really thought about a new relationship or what that would mean. The unexpected happened and in time I met someone ‘normal’. Discussions happened, he wasn’t aware I had mental health issues. Why would he? I was well and a normal person. He knew I worked in mental health services and made many a wise crack about people with mental health problems. This only had me work harder at not letting on. However we found ourselves
He left my house not long after. I thought he isn’t coming back. I cried and thought about how I had never contemplated what it actually meant to tell someone you have a mental health condition. I realised truly the stigma attached to such an illness. Not long later he returned, gave me a hug asked a few questions and seven years later we are married with two more children. I had successfully changed a mans attitude to mental health, helped one more person realise mental health is not always what you think. He has been there for me and supported me even during tough times. And for that I am glad. So if you’re ever afraid that someone’s attitude to mental health means you can’t open up, don’t be, sometimes it may just work out better than you hoped. Attitudes are bred from media and sensationalised stories. Information and talking about these issues is how we change these stereotypical views.
Stigma is like a No Entry sign...
ÂŠ Emma Saynor 2012
Stress in Practice
I started to suffer from stress, I turned from being a good, reliable boss to one who tried to lock herself away. I abandoned appraisals as I felt I couldn’t give others support when I was so unhappy. When I asked for support I was told that I was doing a good job and didn’t need support, My request for support usually ended in a pay increase. When I told my manager I was having difficulty coping he told me everybody could cope if they put their mind to it.
I became more and more stressed and started drinking quite heavily. If anyone noticed that I was badly hung over when I got to work they didn’t mention it. Thankfully I was
I had a very successful career in the health service but turned from being a good, reliable boss to one who locked herself away. I was well respected, on various primary care committees, I was elected chair of the Practice Managers Association and I was frequently asked to do training sessions for practice staff and GPs. I was really happy in my work, the practice worked as a team and I was proud to be their manager. Time with my family was good and I considered myself happy. Then the senior partner retired.
The doctor who was next in line of seniority took over. He wanted nothing to do with the management of the practice but demanded high standards. He expected me to provide him with maximum income from minimal effort. He would sign a few cheques when he had time – after he had read his daily paper. The replacement partner became a bigger problem. He would randomly take time away from the practice for various reasons. I had been warned about this from his previous practice but the partners dismissed it as gossip. Unfortunately on these occasions I was held responsible for the extra work the other partners had to do in his absence, though I had no control over it.
never breathalysed, I might have been banned from driving. My husband was really concerned but he was having a hugely stressful time in his work so it was easy to hide my feelings and just go through the motions. I began to plan suicide. I travelled to work along the inner ring road and decided that I would drive at speed into one of the bridges. As I had a newer car than my husband I planned to use his car on that day. I sorted out documents so they would be easy for him to find. I tidied wardrobes and drawers, even my knicker drawer which was always a mess.
Whilst I was doing all this planning the stress at work was becoming intolerable. I was at the centre of a circle of complaints, the doctors wanted to see fewer patients and were reluctant to see “extras” or do home visits. Patients complained because they wanted a better service, they took their anger out on the staff, who were under lots of pressure from the doctors anyway. I was trying to do the annual accounts and was finding it difficult to concentrate. The troublesome doctor wanted me to formulate a five year plan and was in and out of my office continually.
The staff really needed my support. I was trying to hide my own problems as the attitude from the doctors was that I should just pull myself together and get on with the work. Staff who went off with mental health issues were denigrated so I felt compelled to hide my own issues. Trying to finish my accounts I resorted to putting a do not disturb sign on my door and locking it.
The day I broke will live with me forever. I went in at 7:30 as
I always did to make sure we had enough appointments for the day. An urgent call came through from a district nurse requesting an urgent visit.The doctor was on call so I phoned him at home and asked him to visit on his way in. He arrived in work more than an hour later, hadn’t visited but needed to check his emails first. He was then on the phone for the next hour, blocking one of the lines for patients. By 10:30 he had been in my office 5 times but had still not done the visit. As he left I put my head in my hands and wept, I don’t know who I felt more sorry for, me or the patients. After a good bawl I gathered my invoices and paperwork and told my staff I would be working from home and to contact me if necessary.As I was on my way out who should be heading to my office with another item for the 5 year plan, he still hadn’t done the visit and he was due to start surgery at 11.
I went home and requested an urgent appointment with my own doctor. He invited me straight in and I just broke down, between sobs I managed to say the words “I cant cope”. My own practice couldn’t have been more supportive, I was immediately given a sick note, medication, appointment with the doctor for the following week and an arrangement to see a councellor. I posted my sicknote but had no response from the doctors at work. The phone calls from my staff stopped. Whenever I thought about work I just wept, I was so ashamed I didn’t even tell my family that I had depression. I couldn’t contemplate returning to work. After six months they put me on half pay, still no communication – this just made me feel worse.
I decided my only option was to take ill health retirement, I posted the forms to the practice for them to fill in, no response. I had to make an appointment to go and see the senior partner to get the forms completed and returned – this just turned me to jelly. I had to have a psychiatric assessment before they would allow me early retirement, I was dreading this and the shame became unbearable, but my family rallied and pulled me through this difficult time. After what seemed like a lifetime my retirement was approved, a week later a box was delivered containing personal possessions from my office, I wept for days. They didn’t even put a personal note in.
It took more than two years before I could even talk about work or drive in that direction. I became angry at the
have been able to speak about it. GPs need to recognise mental illness in their staff and their patients and really need to get behind the stamp out stigma campaign. By Anonymous More people than ever are calling in sick and quitting their jobs because of workplace stress. Figures seen exclusively by The Independent on Sunday reveal a quarter of people say they have quit a job because of an unsupportive manager, while 17 per cent have left because of excessive workloads. Nearly 20 per cent of the 2,050 workers surveyed by the charity Mind have phoned in sick to avoid work because of unmanageable stress levels, yet almost everyone lied about why they felt ill. Over-stressed workers are much more likely to blame a stomach bug or a headache than admit they are not coping with long hours, excessive workloads or bullying. These figures suggest hundreds of thousands of the UK’s 40 million workforce suffer mental distress as a direct result of difficult, uncaring and burdensome jobs. Many leave as a result. The existing stigma means there is still a huge gap between the number of people off work because of stress and mental health problems and those who feel able to admit this. At any one time an estimated eight million people of working age experience common mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, sleep problems or alcohol dependence. Health and Safety Executive research shows stress and mental illness is responsible for more than half of all working days lost every year. The economic impact is unequivocal: Mental illness costs employers an estimated £26bn a year. Symptoms such as poor concentration, low motivation and tiredness lead to less productivity, accounting for two-thirds of this cost, according to the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health (SCMH). Despite this, the vast majority of employers and HR directors have no idea about the mental health of employees. Half do not believe any of their employees ever suffer from a mental health problem, according to research by the employment charity Shaw Trust. http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/ health-news/stress-in-the-workplace-britains-16326bnepidemic-1974691.html Except from the Independent on Sunday 25th November 2012
Beat stress at work With an average of 40 days’ unpaid overtime a year, Britons work the longest hours in Europe. Long hours and a heavy workload can cause stress. In 2010/11 about 400,000 people in the UK reported work-related stress at a level they believed was making them ill.
destruction of a good career. I have managed to get on with life and volunteer with Time to Change Leeds. My life is full, happy and content but it’s only now, after 12 years that I
Selective Eating Disorder
As long as I can remember I’ve had a different relationship with food to most people; all around people’s plates were filled with colours, smells, textures and swirls that scarcely registered as food to me whilst mine was bland, separate and safe. For lunch I only ate peanut butter sandwiches, whilst tea alternated between chips, chicken nuggets (later veggie nuggets), omelette and pancakes. In teenage years I’d add cheese and tomato pizza to the list. This was not my preference but my safety range.Whenever I left this range the world changed.When my parents tried to vary my diet I could only try in vain to explain how devastating this was. They understood it was hard for me, they knew on one level I couldn’t help it but, for reasons I didn’t understand at the time, they kept trying. I really never wanted to thwart them, but every part of me geared up to resist. My arms would refuse to lift the fork, my mouth would refuse to close, my throat would refuse to swallow or my stomach would threaten to repulse whatever overcame my other defences. Whatever wasn’t “safe” wasn’t food.
My food fussiness is known as Selective Eating Disorder (SED) or Food Neophobia. Little is known about its causes or how widespread it is. It is sometimes associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), but can be caused by sensory processing problems (over-sensitivity to taste). The onset of SED can sometimes be traced to a food related trauma (such as choking) early in life.
Eating outside of the safety of home was a burden, whether at school, in a restaurant or at someone’s house, I was preoccupied with how I could avoid eating something I didn’t like. It was an obsession, so great was the panic when someone expected me to sit at the table and swallow whatever they put on my plate. Whenever I tried to explain this, I felt no one understood. Instead they mocked or patronised, told me off or starved me. Part of me might have felt they weren’t listening, but the greater part took their lack of understanding and turned it in on myself. There was nothing to understand, I was just defective and deserved no sympathy. This is how the world is, a lesson reinforced every time I tried to fit in. If I had a choice I would eat only chips, if I didn’t I would return my plate with almost everything left intact. It was humiliating being the only one like this and if no one could understand, the best I could hope was that they’d ignore it.
So I hid it as best I could, but as communal eating is so integral to social life I became a pariah. I couldn’t form relationships, pursue a career, or embrace life’s many adventures without crashing into my defectiveness three times a day. This inability to escape fed my depression; my anger at being lumbered with this random curse was directed inwards. It was easier to blame myself, everyone
else seemed to. My anger burns me out, I’m tethered to my eating disorder and forced to dance out its rituals every day. Sometimes I don’t even believe it’s a real disorder, thinking I was the only one made it seem unreal. But if it’s not really an eating disorder then what is it? And why did I pay such a high price to have it? Finally having a name for this disorder has been positive for me. I’ve been stamped with so many labels: fussy, awkward, childish and ungrateful, SED is the first label to recognise it’s not my fault, nor did it stamp on me.
think myself defective, that I can be different and still be a valid human being. I still find it hard to trust that people will understand, but I’m only just learning to explain it.
Finding out I’m not the only one is a huge relief, without the internet I would never have known. Selective Eating Disorder is not presently recognised by many professionals and there is almost no awareness of it amongst the general public. I hope this changes; I often think there must be thousands of people living with SED, completely unaware that others do too.
I’m 27 now and my SED is not as severe as in my adolescence. I’ve built my confidence by learning to cook as much of my safety range as I can. I feel
By Daniel Kirk
more in control of food and slowly I’m expanding what is safe. When forced, compelled or bullied into trying new foods each bite shut down my confidence but when in control each bite makes the fear of the rest die a little more. But the biggest challenge is learning not to
We all know how important creativity can be in the journey of recovery for anyone affected by mental health issues. Over the past year, Sound Engineer Nigel Pease has set up a unique range of workshops through his company Selva Sound, engaging service users and carers across Leeds. As a carer for over six years, his passion for mental health combined with his considerable experience in education led to the creation of interactive sound workshops for therapeutic use.
In April, Nigel was invited to meet with a group of young carers at Time to Change Leeds, as part of a day of activities surrounding creativity. In just 30 minutes from a ‘blank canvas’, the young people developed their own rap on the theme of being a carer, coming up with their own lyrics, melody and chords with Nigel’s assistance. The resulting piece of music was uploaded onto SoundCloud (http:// soundcloud.com/selva-arts) allowing them to share it with friends and family, celebrating the fantastic achievement of writing and recording an original piece of music in a very short space of time.
The ethos behind the workshops is to bring together a group of people to create their own sounds or music (regardless of musical ability) through the use of music technology – reading poetry, recording a rap, creating a soundscape or capturing live performances. The workshops have been delivered in a number of settings and have proven to be extremely successful in bringing together groups of people experiencing mental health difficulties.They’ve had a really enjoyable time learning new skills and have got something exciting to show for it at the end!
LISTEN UP LEEDS! New website gets young people talking about mental health
Listen Up Leeds! has been developed by Space2, an organisation which runs arts-based health and well-being projects across the East and North East of Leeds, in partnership with NHS Airedale, Bradford and Leeds and Time to Change Leeds. Space2 and Time to Change Leeds worked with a number of Leeds teenagers and adults who have experience of mental health problems, to create films for the new website. Their experiences include bi-polar disorder, suicidal tendencies, panic attacks, post traumatic stress disorder, personality disorders and extreme anxiety. They all agreed to be interviewed in the hope that their experiences can help someone else. The site features powerful examples of their stories told in their own voices. Project Manager, Emma Hopkinson, from Space2 said: “This website is targeted at children and young people in order to prevent the development of negative attitudes towards people with mental health problems. We hope it will encourage more people to open up about mental health in order to break down stereotypes, improve relationships, and take the stigma out of something that affects us all.” According to the national campaign Time to Change, one in ten young people suffer from mental health problems. Depression, anxiety and panic attacks can be triggered by bullying, bereavement, loneliness or family problems or can simply be the result of a genetic condition. For people with mental health problems not being able to talk about it can be one of the worst experiences of being ill.
Sally Ann Robinson, aged 19, talks about coping with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder since she was a child: “My moods can be erratic and all over the place and sometimes I feel that I’m not connecting with people” she explained. “It can give you a sense of feeling really down about yourself and it can be hard to build relationships. It’s just something I have to deal with.” As well as personal stories, captured on film, the Listen Up Leeds! website includes further resources and information about where to access help. Many of the individuals interviewed talk about ways in which to get help,particularly trying to find someone you trust to talk to, going to see your GP and not ignoring the problem.
For further information about the Listen Up Leeds! visit
To find out more about the work of Space2 go to www.space2.org.uk
Leeds Wellbeing Web Leeds is beautiful
Ok I know it’s ugly too at times. At the end of the day it’s a city and like all cities you can find almost everything human here, for better or for worse. With Leeds Wellbeing Web we wanted to create a living document where people could record and share what it is we love about being here, what helps to keep us well, what are the tricks and bits of knowledge that we can pass on about surviving in this great Northern city. We wanted to make a resource that anyone who could access the internet could use to get ideas and inspiration. Last March we got John Baron, a Guardian journalist, to run a course at De Lacy House to teach us how to be community journalists. We used the People’s Voice Media training, and learned how to use a Wordpress blog, take and edit photos and film, and write our own news stories.
Photo by Sophie -Kirkstall weir
If you are interested in doing our next course, or have any other questions you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org You can also follow us on twitter @leedswellweb Or best of all check out the blog and sign up to follow it – you’ll get an e-mail everytime someone posts. And please leave your comments on what you find there! Looking forward to hearing from you, Terry Simpson
It was a lot of fun. I wrote up a record of what we did under the tile ‘Finding Our Voices’. In the Summer I ran a second course at Swarthmore – you can see the work we produced if you go to the blog and look at what we posted in August and September. Now we’re planning a third course in the new year to add to our group of 12 community journalists. It’s interesting what different people have done with the idea –if you look at the blog you get some ideas of the variety of stuff people have written about, from favourite places, to films about looking after ourselves, a firework display, art exhibitions, the joys of walking (both in the city and outside it), creative writing, singing, and reporting on various events that happened during the recent Love Arts Festival. It’s very open ended. What we have is a tapestry made up of all the different stories and points of view that we represent as individuals.
Photos by Peter
We’re aware that not everybody is familiar with social networking, and that it can be daunting and excluding, so we’re also thinking of a course that would help people who have little or no knowledge of computers, smart phones, blogging etc. If you like the idea of what we’re doing but don’t know how to get started, get in touch at the e-mail address Leeds Wellbeing Web is about having fun together. We try and focus on what’s good, what works, what we like doing. We don’t avoid talking about difficulties, but we aim to try and present possibilities. To me it seems that we’ve become a little community within the bigger mental health scene, and I hope that will continue to grow.
Next issue out June 2013 Please contribute now
Many Thanks to all that contributed with their stories and images