Month: August 2010
Wishing you ALL a peaceful summer!
Just Popping Off For Some Relaxation
Thanks for your time these past months!
Medieval Ipswich church saved to become wellbeing centre
£3.5m plans to save Ipswich’s magnificent medieval church St Mary at the Quay, by transforming it into a mental health wellbeing centre are taking shape thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) development grant of £68,500, it was announced this week.
The development funding enables the East Suffolk Mind, the charity committed to improving the lives of people with mental health issues and the Churches Conservation Trust, the national charity protecting historic churches at risk to develop plans to save this Grade II* building.
ESM and CCT can then compete for a full HLF £2.8m award to bring the plans to life. The shared vision of the ESM and CCT is to bring St Mary at the Quay back into the heart the community as a wellbeing centre that everyone can use. St Mary at the Quay was closed in 1973 and is cared for by the CCT.
The transformation of the historic church will allow ESM to use the therapeutic value of heritage, arts and creativity and the unique environment and rich histories of this beautiful and restful building to help everyone improve the wellbeing of their mind, body and spirit.
Set in Ipswich’s regeneration area, a transformed St Mary at the Quay will provide a space for all the community including a workshop, performance and exhibition area for heritage and arts activity and learning as well as areas for alternative therapies; reflection and contemplation.
The building will also become a meeting point, where people can come together to learn, explore and exchange in activities touched and influenced by the unique heritage of the building and the site.
The CCT and ESM will also be partnering with New Economics Foundation – an independent think-and-do tank that inspires and demonstrates real economic well-being – to develop a new academic study that explores the links between beautiful buildings and the positive effect they have on our wellbeing and state of mind.
Robyn Llewellyn, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said: “This is a really exciting project which makes interesting links between heritage and mental wellbeing. The Heritage Lottery Fund’s initial support gives the green light to East Suffolk Mind’s development work. Whilst this is just the beginning of the journey to secure a full grant, we hope that by providing some additional upfront money they will be able to progress plans over the coming months.”
Jo Searle, East Suffolk Mind, said: “Mental wellbeing impacts on us all. The plans for St Mary at the Quay will help reduce the stigma attached to mental health issues by providing a space and services for everyone to address their mind, body and spirit.
“We are delighted that this project is being supported, and look forward to continuing the development work with the Heritage Lottery Fund and ultimately to deliver this innovative partnership project which will see both the rejuvenation of a building of such significant heritage value, and the provision of new and exciting well being opportunities for people in Suffolk.”
Loyd Grossman, Chairman, The Churches Conservation Trust, said: “We are thrilled that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given its support for our project at St Mary at the Quay. Not only does it enable us to save this historic church for future generations by bringing it back into the heart of the community but also provides an opportunity to explore the beneficial links between heritage, beautiful buildings and mental wellbeing.”
All frontline soldiers ‘to get psycho-screening in bid to cut combat stress’
The long-term impact of experiences in battle is not fully known and could leave veterans vulnerableBy Matt Chorley
Sunday, 1 August 2010 British troops in action: their psychological stress is described as a ‘timebomb’
Troops leaving the Armed Forces may be put through psychological profiling in a new effort to identify those at risk of developing mental disorders linked to their experience on the frontline. The Secretary of State for Defence, Liam Fox, who has described the impact of mental illness among service personnel as a “time bomb”, believes developments in science means more could be done to stop the most vulnerable “falling through the safety net”. Some 180,000 troops are thought to have been deployed to the two conflicts since 2001. The long-term impact of their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan on those who return to civilian life is not known; in some cases, symptoms from past trauma may not emerge until many years later.
However, Combat Stress, the ex-services mental welfare society, reports a 72 per cent rise in referrals in the past five years. On average, veterans are waiting 14 years between discharge and seeking the charity’s help. Comparisons to US forces show Britain has not yet experienced the sharp rise in serious mental conditions and suicide rates seen in America.
A study by King’s College London earlier this year found 4 per cent of British armed forces suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but 20 per cent had symptoms of common mental disorders. Research of 10,000 soldiers showed 13 per cent were misusing alcohol, but those who had served in Iraq or Afghanistan were 22 per cent more likely to abuse alcohol than those who had not.
But Dr Fox is damning of the service offered to those suffering from mental health problems and is concerned about the unknown impact of the recent conflicts on the state of veterans’ health, especially those of reserve forces. “There is an excess vulnerability there which we will pay a very high price for, and if we are not careful and we do not try to identify people who might be at risk, we will be as a society potentially sitting on a mental health time bomb,” he warned.
Plans are being put in place by the Ministry of Defence to set up a clinical trial of post-deployment screening, which would examine how effectively those who have been adversely affected can be identified and provided with help as early as possible. “In this country, frankly, the quality of care we give to people with mental illness we simply would not accept for any other sort of illness that afflicts one in four of the population,” Dr Fox said. He believes it is a “measure of how civilised we are as a society” how the most vulnerable, including those with mental illness, are treated. Too often it is a “Cinderella service” in healthcare because “they are the very people who will least be able to complain or least want to make their voices heard”.
Conservative MP Dr Andrew Murrison, a former medical officer in the Royal Navy, who served in Iraq in 2003, is conducting an independent study into the health of serving personnel and veterans, with a particular focus on mental health. Ministers have received his initial findings, and full publication is expected shortly.
Ministers are particularly concerned that there is not enough co-operative working between the MoD, the NHS and social services. It could mean dropping what Dr Fox regards as “some of the less than justifiable medicals at the point of discharge from the Armed Forces”, to examine advances in science and move towards “psychological profiling to see who might be most vulnerable and to proactively follow them up rather than waiting to see if they fall through the safety net”.
He told the Commons defence select committee he is particularly concerned about troops from the reserve forces adjusting to an abrupt return to non-military life. “If you are coming home with a group of comrades who have been through the same experience, at least you have people to talk to who have been through the same thing. If you are in the reserves, you can be in Helmand on Friday and you can be the milkman in Dorset the next Friday, on your own with no one to talk to, and potentially an uninterested population that cannot understand.”
The MoD provides community psychiatric nurses in Afghanistan to provide care and treatment on the frontline. There are also two UK-based teams of psychiatrists and mental health nurses who are available to deploy to Afghanistan at short notice. Across the UK there are 15 military departments of community mental health across the UK.
Labour MP John Woodcock, a member of the defence select committee, said spending cuts in the public sector should not hamper work for veterans. “We do absolutely need to do more. Our duty to the troops is fundamental. The resources have to be found.”
The Labour government set up community mental health pilots for veterans at six NHS trusts across the UK. The MoD is also working with the charities Royal British Legion and Combat Stress to promote the specialist support available to veterans.
A spokesman for Combat Stress said: “Efficient planning of veteran services and joined-up working between statutory and voluntary sectors are crucial if service providers are to rise to the challenge of meeting the mental health needs of British veterans.” A good model has been established in Scotland, where public bodies, veterans and charities work more closely together, he added. Combat Stress has launched a fundraising drive – the Enemy Within Appeal – to raise £30m for mental health services for veterans.
Mental breakdown Martin Webster
Corporal Webster filmed a group of fellow British soldiers chasing and beating four Iraqi youths. Webster could be overheard laughing and saying, “Oh, yes. Oh, yes. You’re going to get it.” He resigned from the Army soon after the film was broadcast round the world. A documentary, Diary of a Disgraced Soldier, followed Webster for 18 months showing his post-military life in which he contemplated suicide and found himself homeless. His PTSD causes him to have a split personality: he talks of Martin – the normal guy – and Webby – who does all the mouthing off and unpleasant behaviour.
Alcohol abuse and violence Danny Fitzsimons
The former soldier is awaiting trial in a Baghdad jail for allegedly murdering two fellow security contractors. He said he had drunk more than half a bottle of whisky. His lawyers claim he acted in self-defence and was suffering from PTSD, so wasn’t fit to have been employed by British security firm ArmorGroup. Fitzsimons had been receiving psychiatric treatment since 2004, when he was still in the Army. He was consulted again in 2008 and 2009, with a psychiatrist confirming his condition had worsened. The last diagnosis was made two months before he was hired to return to Iraq.
Suicide Peter Mahoney
Mahoney, a father of four, was a long-distance lorry driver and reservist, employed by the Army as a specialist truck driver. After 13 months in Iraq in 2003, ferrying medical supplies and injured soldiers between the frontline and field hospitals, he returned home a shadow of his former self. He became short-tempered and made outspoken racist comments. Increasingly, he sought solitude before finally taking his own life. It wasn’t until his wife found a ripped-up leaflet about psychological trauma caused by war – issued to soldiers by the MoD – that she realised her husband had been suffering from PTSD.
Homeless and convicted John Dale
Sergeant Major Dale was discharged after 20 years in the Army in 2009, on medical grounds. He had been traumatised after clearing a building in Basra in March 2003, only to find it was a family home and seven children had died in the attack. On returning home he battled with alcoholism and nightmares. He felt he was a danger to his family, and so invented a story about wanting to kill his wife in order to be jailed. His conviction meant that his war pension was stopped, resulting in the couple losing their home and having to camp in the back garden of his brother-in-law’s house.
Victim turned saviour Bob Paxman
The founder and chief executive of the charity Talking 2 Minds is a former sufferer of PTSD. His illness developed once he had left the SAS; during one episode he drank a full bottle of whisky and put a loaded pistol into his mouth. Paxman credits his recovery to the charity’s co-founder, Mick Scott, whom he met while still working in Iraq as a security adviser. Through sessions of talking to a like-minded person who could understand his experiences, he found his nightmares and flashbacks ceased. Paxman has since helped out 200 active-duty soldiers and veterans who suffer from PTSD.
Unable to work Alex Webster
The Lance Sergeant served in the Scots Guards for 10 years between 1990 and 2000. He was sent to Iraq for the first Gulf War and completed three tours of Northern Ireland, where he was hospitalised for 18 months by a crash. In 2002, however, he joined the Territorial Army and was deployed to Afghanistan where his vehicle was hit by a rocket grenade. He has ongoing surgery on his back, flashbacks, anxiety and temper problems. He has now set up a project to help similarly affected servicemen and women.
Andrew Watson Less than three years after he was discharged from the Logistics Corps, Andrew Watson jumped to his death from the block of flats where he lived in south London. Serving in Iraq, he had seen two friends blown up by landmines in Basra and had to move their remains. Similarly, the 25-year-old private had to endure carrying dead babies out of war-wrecked buildings while on duty. Even on leave, there was no respite. The man who replaced him in Iraq was blown up. The death shook him terribly. In July 2009, TV footage of the coffins of eight colleagues who lost their lives in Afghanistan pushed him over the edge: he is believed to have timed his suicide with his 5am army roll call.
N-Dubz star is example of how having a parent with mental Illness is not a barrier to achievement. But feels there’s not enough support for young carers.
I pray that I haven’t inherited Mum’s mental illness, by N-Dubz’s Tulisa
By Nikki Murfitt
Last updated at 10:16 PM on 31st July 2010
When N- Dubz singer Tulisa Contostavlos is on stage, her confidence is obvious. But what most of the fans of one of Britain’s hottest bands do not know is that the 22-year-old’s success in music saved her life.
At the age of 11, she was thrust into the role of primary carer for her mother Anne, now 50, who suffers from schizoaffective disorder. The condition, which affects one in 200 people, is a combination of a serious mood disorder – in Anne’s case bipolar – and schizophrenia.
Moods can swing from deep depression to extreme elation while at the same time causing sufferers to have hallucinations, or even make them paranoid that inanimate objects such as a television are trying to harm them.
Anne’s episodes were punctuated by enforced hospital stays every few months. The rest of the time she focused all her attention on only child Tulisa, and demanded her daughter become a recluse with her in their one-bedroom flat in a rundown council estate in Camden.
Her dysfunctional childhood has led Tulisa to speak out on mental health in a new BBC3 documentary about her mother.
‘Mental healthcare in this country is much better now, although we still have a long way to go,’ says Tulisa. ‘Too often people like me are just left to get on with it.
‘But there are support groups for young carers now, which is a huge step forward because one of the worst things about dealing with my mum was how helpless and alone I felt at such a vulnerable age.’
Tulisa describes how it was ‘a living hell’ at times and how she felt ‘suffocated’ living with a mentally ill mother.
‘The doctors didn’t seem to be able to stabilise my mother’s moods and I felt myself being dragged further and further down by the environment I was forced to live in. Music and my dream of becoming a success was all that kept me going through those very dark times,’ she admits.
The singer was five when Anne, also a musician and singer, was taken away to hospital.
Talisa admits that the irrational behaviour of her mother, pictured with her above in the BBC show, had a big impact on her childhood
‘My parents were arguing and I remember the police and ambulance lights flashing outside as my mum was taken away to the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, North London. I knew something was wrong because everyone around me was upset but I didn’t understand what was actually going on.
‘I visited her in hospital and she seemed distant, not like my mum at all. But she came back home after a few weeks and life seemed to get back to normal,’ says Tulisa, whose father Steve, 51, was a sometime member of British rock group Mungo Jerry.
The causes of schizoaffective disorder are unknown. Doctors do know that, as with most mental illness, there is a chemical imbalance in the brain. They are less certain whether environmental factors such as stress trigger the disorder.
Unfortunately for Tulisa, Anne’s condition was not accurately diagnosed until 2007. Doctors previously diagnosed her as bipolar, a condition also known as manic depression. As a result she was given anti-depressants and Valium, a drug used to help with anxiety but ineffective in helping the symptoms of schizophrenia.
Tulisa was just nine when the reality of her mother’s illness hit her.
‘My dad left home and it triggered one of her episodes,’ she says. ‘One minute she’d look all mournful as if someone had died, the next she’d be angry and aggressive, smashing cupboards and shouting. I wasn’t allowed to turn on the TV because she thought it might harm us – the same with the hot water.
‘It was impossible to have a conversation with my mum because she’d drift off into her own little world, but at the same time she didn’t want me to go out and leave her so I couldn’t even escape to a friend’s house. I was like a prisoner in the flat with her.
‘Inevitably, she went into hospital again and I stayed with my mum’s older sister, Louise. She had children of her own and it was felt she was more able to look after a young girl.’
It was a pattern that was to repeat itself at least once a year throughout Tulisa’s teenage years.
‘I used to dread my mum getting better and coming home because it would mean I’d have to leave my aunt’s house where I felt safe and happy and normal, and go back to living with someone whose mood could change as quick as flicking a switch.
‘We lived in a tiny one-bedroom flat so there was nowhere to escape to whenever my mum became ill. The family tried to be supportive but my mum didn’t want them interfering in our life and she made it very difficult for them to help.
‘As a result I often felt isolated. I was 11 and my mum expected me to be her emotional support but I didn’t really understand what that was. It was incredibly tough.’
Tulisa on stage with her N-Dubz bandmates Fazer and Dappy
But by the time Tulisa reached the age of 15, she began to rebel.
‘I would always know when my mum was about to have an episode,’ she says. ‘She’d make dinner and the meat would be raw. She’d be lethargic one minute and then cleaning around the house unable to stop the next. I’d phone the hospital, explain her symptoms and they wouldn’t want to know. I was young and they didn’t take me seriously even though I was my mum’s carer.
‘In the end I’d have to take her to A&E to try to get her admitted. But often by the time I got back home from school the next day, the doctors would say they’d done an evaluation of her and she was fine to go home.
‘Sometimes I would spend weeks taking her back and forward to A&E and then finally they would admit her and she’d be in hospital for up to three months.
‘There were no support groups then and mental illness still had a terrible stigma that I think is slowly changing.
‘I started losing respect for my mum. She couldn’t take care of herself so I didn’t see how she thought she could take care of me.
‘If I wanted to go out with my friends, I did it because I felt I had no one to answer to. But she’d leave me 60 voice messages on my mobile, send up to 30 texts a day, phone all our family and even the police to tell them I’d gone missing or was misbehaving.
‘She didn’t want my friends in the house and didn’t want me to go out. I started missing school and got in with a bad crowd.’
Tulisa says she then became depressed and started drinking because the only future she could see was ‘more of the same. My life felt like a living hell and I couldn’t see any escape’.
She first attempted suicide at the age of 14 by swallowing a handful of painkillers. Three years later, and alone one night, she slashed her wrists.
‘They started bleeding really badly and the more blood I saw, the more I panicked because I realised what I was actually doing to myself.
‘I grabbed a towel to stem the flow of blood and called a friend who came and helped me. Luckily I’d only cut the skin, not the vein.
‘I know it was a classic cry for help and I decided I had to take myself out of the environment I’d been living in. So I went to stay with my dad, who also lived in North London. My dad knew what I’d been going through but I’d always chosen to live with my mum. Despite everything, I wanted to be there for her. I know my dad felt terrible for what I’d been through but he got really emotional and admitted that he just couldn’t stand the constant ups and downs of her mood swings and the paranoia any more, which is why he left.
‘Her mood swings were affecting him and making him so depressed he was becoming a different person. I totally understood how it had driven him to the brink and I know that he’s sorry he left me to deal with it for all those years.’
Tulisa spent almost a year living with her father and, along with support from her uncle Byron, N-Dubz’s former manager, she started getting her life back on track.
‘Because my uncle and dad were in Mungo Jerry, me and Dappy (her cousin and fellow band member) used to hang around the recording studios.
‘I loved writing songs and singing and I always dreamed of making it in the music business one day.’
N-Dubz went on to have hit singles with Better Not Waste My Time and I Swear. By the time Tulisa was 19, she already had a platinum-selling album under her belt.
She was able to buy a four-bedroom home in St Albans, Hertfordshire, and has thrown herself into a hectic schedule, determined that N-Dubz will continue to be a success.
But the best news has been that three years ago her mother was finally diagnosed with schizoaffective dis order and her behaviour has remained stable ever since.
‘I’m not sure if it was a combination of better understanding of mental illness, better community care or that my mum just struck lucky with the doctors, but finally they realised that her medication wasn’t working,’ says Tulisa.
‘They completely re-evaluated her case and she was diagnosed as having both bipolar and schizophrenia. Now she takes drugs to combat both. She’s good at taking them and for the most part she has been stable.
‘There are times when she’ll say mad things. I’m in the middle of decorating the house and I had a bottle of white spirit in one of the rooms. When she saw I’d left a lighter nearby she started freaking out because she was convinced something dreadful would happen.
‘But I can tell her to calm down and we can laugh about it now, whereas before it would have led to an argument. There are times when I get frustrated by her behaviour but at least now I have the space and freedom to escape from it.’
Tulisa admits: ‘Medical experts don’t seem to know for sure whether this disorder is hereditary. My own feeling is that everyone has the ability to become depressed or go to a dark place, and whether that could trigger the type of behaviour and illness my mum suffers, who knows?
‘I believe a lot of it comes down to how strong you are mentally. I have been through a lot for someone my age but it has made me strong and determined and I have to pray that is enough for me not to suffer the way my mum has.’
She adds: ‘No matter what has happened, I love my mum. She is happy for my success and I feel that for the first time in years I can have a more relaxed relationship with her.
‘They say blood is thicker than water and it’s true.’
Tulisa: My Crazy Mum is part of the Adult Season on BBC3, August 10, 9pm.