*Special Guest Writers*

The Mentally Wealthy ‘Bonk’ on writing it all down. A Poem #TimetoTalk

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A Guest Poem from Dickie, aka BONK…


The thing with mental health and trying to write about it, is a curse,

It sometimes makes me wonder if it makes me feel much better or just worse,

Opening my mind to a flury of mad wisdom and inner chatter,

As I listen hard to understand the voices as they prattle and they clatter,

When my brain goes pop and I’m left here just shaking and twitching,

Pacing up and down, wearing a path back and forth from the kitchen,

Scratching and trembling I find it hard to understand and feel the flow,

Asking for answers to questions I don’t understand or really want to know.

They say it’s the creative side, unlocked I can explain why I’m insane,

But it doesn’t make much sense when the voices start to say that I’m to blame,

It’s hard for me as it hurts deep inside and spins my world apart,

So I’m writing this stuff down though it’s hard to catch the meanings as they dart,

Deep inside my head and running pictures like a movie though my soul,

Short circuiting my feelings and making me feel shit their only goal,

So I welcome both the duvet and soft fluffy pillow neath my head,

Cold drink beside me and a slightly open window by the bed.

Let in some light so I can see what’s real and what is not,

Searching out the boundaries ignoring that I’m cold and then I’m hot,

But my head it starts adjusting following days of heavy trouble and unrest,

It’s good that I could capture all these feelings as they spill out across my chest,

I tell myself to not stay down just take a little break and ease right back,

I know that I’m to far along to throw in all the towels and to crack,

Just need some time to get back where I was and give a damn,

And all the love that’s out their, from the people who believe in who I am,

Let my head drift off as I lay there finding strength to be once more,

The funny, laughing Bonk they know, the one who like a bird can really soar,

I’m floating now, my head is cooling down, and lost its frown,

Capturing these moment as they happen and then try to write it down.


I hope that this makes sense for those who’ve never been lost inside your head, the picture just a load of static on the screen.

Love and Best Wishes

Dickie (aka BONK)

A bit about me, from amazing #Bipolar Poet ‘Bonk’….. #MentalHealth

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  1. Dearest Fellow Mentalists,

'Bonk' as illustrated by Crippen Disabled Cartoonisthttp://www.crippencartoons.co.uk/
‘Bonk’ http://www.crippencartoons.co.uk
  1.  I’ve been Invited by Dawn to write a little piece about, who and what I’m all about….

Seven years ago I was diagnosed as being Bipolar!!  After nodding at the doctor as if knowing exactly what it was.. I dashed for the Google search bar and in short after a roller coaster ride of new medication, one after another, and more MH Admissions than I care to remember,  I began my quest for creating new things. After redesigning my house more times than a Blue Peter project I stumbled upon the fact that most things I wrote ended in a cheeky poetic verse.

Dave Lupton (aka Crippen), a disabled cartoonist, is also my Dad.  I used to dream of being as creative as him. I found writing helped me to vent ‘pent-up’ frustration. I applied to Disability Arts Online to become an online blogger for ‘mental health’ to help others better understand  what is that us so-called ‘nut jobs’ are really all about!  About a year ago  ‘Bonk Bipolar‘ was born… The character comes from Crippen cartoon strip called the Criptarts and Dave (Dad) said I could bring him to life. Since the first blog on DAO I’ve kept it going on a regular basis with assistance from Dad helping me to sub edit and illustrate my work.

In August last year I received a call from Colin Hambrook editor of DAO, telling me there was a memorial service in London to remember the 10600 people killed at the hands of Atos. He told me that many poets and people in the disabled world would be there and asked would I like to read one of poems!!!  Eeeeeeeek!  I accepted the challenge and what an experience it was to be able to share Bonk’s world’s out load with a supportive crowd listening in.

Since then I’ve  been dedicated  to the fight against Atos and I felt it was  Bonk’s job to stand and fight on and for the behalf of the many. I feel that being a voice of the ‘weak and vulnerable’ is where I currently stand, not because of my personality or illness, but because of what this Government is allowing to happen to people like me,  and I welcome anyone to come along stand beside me.  I’m dedicated to the Atos demo on the 19th of Feb at present so excuse my artistic flow as it dives  towards some politics, and dark reading.

Thanks for reading my first Mentally Wealthy blog, please take time to read one of my poems (below).

I hope I’ve made some sense..

And a massive thanks to Dawn for giving me this opportunity and to everyone involved in supporting my work so far..


Dickie (Aka Bonk Bipolar) xxx

“You ask me why I write in rhyme, do I really do it all the time?
Why I communicate in verse, does it make my thoughts seem terse?
What’s the reason for this style, easier my thoughts to file?

My poems they need to be compact, to cram in feelings and some fact.
Condensed, distilled, more punch it packs, I have to keep it on the tracks.
But then my verses can be dark, beware the bite that’s in this bark.

My anger it just spills right out, and then my poems become a shout!
All those feelings locked away, it becomes so hard to say,
what I really feel inside, where my secret thoughts all hide.

But with verse they seem to fall, from between my lips they call,
faster than the speed of thought, in my poetry they’re caught.
Feelings strung out in a row, like a life-line you would throw.

Perhaps that is the reason why, I think in verse no tongue to tie.
Then it’s rhythm to the fore, feelings knocking on the door,
waiting for my mind to turn them into images that burn
like a candle in my mind, spilling light as words unwind.

Into doggeral and worse, into badly fractured verse.
But it becomes what I can show, all my muddled thoughts that grow,
into something you can see, which in the end is really … me!”

You can see me here:

Judith Haire says Schizophrenic? Are you sure that’s what you mean?

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I was flicking through a women’s magazine and came across one of those celebrity interviews which I started to read.  I did a double take when I saw…..”I just have this schizophrenic thing with chocolate and cake.  My sweet tooth has to be satisfied”.  What on earth does that mean?  I emailed the magazine and they don’t know what it means either so I got nowhere.  It’s worrying that a national magazine would print something it didn’t understand.  Can I be the only one who finds the use of *schizophrenic* in this context totally wrong?  I believe *schizophrenia* to be a useless, damaging and stigmatising word and I would ban it if I was able.  If you’ve been diagnosed with *schizophrenia* you are likely to  face ignorance stigma and discimination – you are also likely to be terrified by auditory and visual hallucinations, and other distressing and life affecting symptoms.  The medication given for the condition is harsh with sometimes devastating side effects and the condition can be single episode or it can be life long.  This is why it is not funny to use the word out of context.  Politicians have called the economy *schizophrenic* and people will use the word *psychotic* where it does not belong and they clearly have no understanding of what the words mean.  I imagine the celebrity interview example I gave could upset someone suffering with *schizophrenia*; it could make them feel belittled and stigmatised.  Using this word out of context highlights the ignorance surrounding mental illness and flies in the face of the sterling work carried out by Time to Change http://www.time-to-change.org.uk and others.  As I’ve often said, the script writers of our soaps need more guidance to prevent them using stigmatising language and so too do our journalists and it’s not acceptable for journalists to bandy the word *schizophrenic* around in the wrong context while admitting they don’t understand its use…..and not understanding how unhelpful it is to the one in four of us who’ve experienced a mental health problem or who are experiencing one.  We need support compassion and understanding not ignorance and non acceptance.  What do you think?

Hearing Voices? It’s OK, It’s Part Of Who We Are

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In my 30’s my life was turned upside down by a huge psychotic breakdown.  I was terrorised by auditory and visual hallucinations.  The voices I heard provided a relentless commentary on what was happening in my mind.  I link my psychotic episode to traumatic events during my dysfunctional childhood and first, abusive marriage.  I am in no doubt about this and challenge those who say “it would have happened anyway” because in no way was it biological in origin.  I first heard voices at 14, just after the death of my grandmother.  I was anxious and depressed and my parents took me, without telling me, or asking me, to see a white coated Child Guidance Specialist.  I was terrified.  I said nothing about my troubled home life and was sent away with a prescription for Diazepam.  Later at 16 I was given anti depressants. To think I was labelled a ‘psychiatric case’ so young is so wrong.  I later accessed the notes the “Specialist” had sent to my GP and was horrified to see so many derogatory and stigmatising comments about me.
  As an adult I felt angry about how I’d been treated and decided to write an account of my childhood and of my descent into psychosis and in 2008 my memoir ‘Don’t Mind Me’ (Chipmunka) was published, and in support of what I’d shared I set about raising awareness of mental illness and of voice hearing and saw for myself how much stigma was associated with both.
Voice hearing is not necessarily a sign of mental illness – it can be related to trauma, stress, as well as to anxiety, depression, psychosis.   Dutch findings (2006) have suggested 1 in 25 people hear voices and many have no history of mental illness.  Since I’ve been working to raise awareness of voice hearing I’ve been struck at how much fear surrounds this and mental illness in general.  It’s the connotations of white coats, strait jackets, lunatic asylums I think and mental illness is often unfairly associated with violence.  So I have not noticed much reduction in stigma but have noticed the subjects of mental illness and voice hearing are discussed much more nowadays.  Campaigns such as Time to Change www.time-to-change.org.uk works constantly to reduce the stigma and since Members of Parliament have stepped forward to talk about their own mental health problems, it supports the notion that mental illness can happen to anyone in any walk of life
Unfortunately mental illness is an illness you cannot see and the media capitalise on its mystery by the use of sensationalist headlines and screaming out “nutter”; “psycho”; “loony”; “crazy”  Our TV soaps could do more to reduce the use of similar language in the scripting as they are an ideal vehicle for the portrayal of mental health storylines and should be careful to make sure everyday conversation does not lapse into stigmatising phrases
I am enraged that we still use the word “schizophrenia”.  To me this word is as damaging and as stigmatising as the diagnosis itself.  What does “schizophrenia” mean? Nothing.  It is a useless label. More funding must be given to mental health to reduce the unacceptable waiting times for talking therapies and to make more therapies available
I believe all mental illness is mental distress and is a reaction to trauma.  Trauma impacts on brain development and the outcome can be mental health problems – there is nothing biological about it.  Social deprivation, sexual, physical and emotional abuse all play a part in causing anxiety depression psychosis – voice hearing can be directly linked to trauma and unfortunately the medical profession are all too quick to prescribe medication, which does not always help voice hearing but does deliver some awful side effects
I am not an expert on hearing voices but do have a personal interest.  The likes of Rufus May, Peter Bullimore, Eleanor Longden, Dolly Sen, Jacqui Dillon all work tirelessly to de medicalise voice hearing and show how it is possible and practical to live with the voices and how they are not to be feared but to be welcomed as insightful and mindful
There is room for change and improvement; it is down to the Government to provide more funding to the NHS and to the many self help groups who work with voice hearers and still much has to be done to reduce the fear surrounding mental illness and educate people into accepting there is no shame in hearing voices or having an illness – the psyche is fragile and the NHS has to provide more therapists who can help us to heal.

This Week in Mentalists: The 2012 Winners and Runners-up Edition

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Hi everyone. It’s Amanda here from Beauty From Pain Blog.

Sorry this is coming to you so late in the weekend. I was being my usual procrastinating self!

Now I’m sure you’ve likely seen the announcement of the This Week in Mentalists Awards 2013. (If you haven’t, do please check them out, and get nominating.)

In doing this week’s round-up, I thought ‘why not go back and check in with some of last year’s winners and runner-ups?’ Let’s see what they’ve been up to and how they’ve been lately.

So here goes.

Firstly, I’d like to say that I do look forward to this year’s TWIM Awards, but in my eyes, everyone involved in the madosphere community is a winner, as we all play a part in it.

To begin with, an insightful post from Falling Short of Perfection on Acknowleding the Assistance the ED has given.

I think it’s also ok to thank the eating disorder for the role it has played. If for no other reason than to come to peace with it, and ultimately come to peace with my own journey that this illness has taken me on.But the reality is that the eating disorder has given me things I couldn’t have gotten from anywhere else; and I think it’s ok to acknowledge and accept that. The ‘benefits’ of the eating disorder certainly don’t outweight the costs and the negatives and that is why I am choosing to work hard at recoevery. I’m expecting to be slammed down by other eating disorder advocates, who direct all the negative energy at the eating disorder. I think it’s important to get angry at the eating disorder and not the person, but I also think it’s important ot accept that the eating disorder wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t some kind of benefit coming from it.

For me, the benefits have been;
– It aided my dissociation from the trauma
– When I have restricted I’ve felt disconnected to my body and haven’t been able to feel the physical pain that I get from a physical illness that I have
– When I’ve been in situations that I’ve felt are out of control, it’s made me feel like I’m in control of something;
– When I’ve been restricting, I initially get a lot of energy which initially I can delude myself into thinking made me feel like I’m in control of something.
– When I’ve been restricting, I initially get a lot of energy which initially I can delude myself into thinking will last and that I can get a lot done and that feels good.

But in case there are any young people reading, who are just at the start of the illness – I’m not sure it will make much of a difference, but just in case it does, here is a very condensed list of what my eating disorder has taken from me. I’d write everything, but I’m sure you’d get bored by page 0.5/23123701841371283372.

– My dignity
– Many relationships
– Many opportunities
– My capacity to study (currently) and reach my goal of graduating by the time I was 24.
– My capacity to work at the moment in a job that I love
– My health
– Very nearly my life
– Special celebrations and times with friends; because I couldn’t go to people’s birthday parties or dinners or hang outs because I wasn’t well enough/was too anxious/was in hospital/my head wouldn’t let me.
– Little things like spending time in the sunshine, reading books, enjoying life.
– My ability to creatively write
– It’s caused huge health issues; some permanent, some resolving, some my doctors and I hope will resolve but it’s a wait and see game and that’s really scary. I had reasonable health prior to becoming unwell and now I’m not only left with the lingering physical effects of the eating disorder, but also with the guilt and shame that I inflicted this damage on myself.
– The final years of my childhood
– My adolescence
– My young adulthood
– My mental health
– At times my freedom

I think it’s ok to say thank you to my eating disorder for being there when I needed it. But I don’t anymore, and my recovery means that I can say thank you, without the need to stay with it out of guilt, attachment or any sense of oweing it anything.Of course it won’t be that simple, but I am making steps.

I loved reading the hope in this blog post, and it also give me a lot more insight into eating disorders.

Werehorse describes why she would never voluntarily go into hospital again

I would have a tiny, cramped bedspace in a room with four other people, with only the privacy afforded by a thin curtain and nowhere to get any peace and quiet. If I woke up in the middle of the night, or very early in the morning, as I often do,

I wouldn’t even be able to turn the light on, let alone have a drink and a smoke.I would only be able to go down to the garden for a few minutes every hour, and sometimes not even that if the staff were busy. I wouldn’t have access to a computer or the internet, and I wouldn’t be allowed to do scraperfoils, which are providing my main distraction at the moment, because the tool would be judged too dangerous.

The only activities available would be sitting on the uncomfortable furniture watching television, usually the soaps, which I don’t like, or colouring in children’s pictures with cheap felt-tips that are running out of ink, or completing the couple of ancient jigsaws with many missing pieces that I have already done several times on previous admissions. And maybe the occasional card-making session or Recovery group, complete with patronising tips on how to problem-solve, and set small goals, and eat healthily.

The only food on offer would be disgusting, when I am already having problems with my appetite.I would be even less likely to have a shower or wash my clothes than I am at home, and no one would notice if I didn’t.

The staff would rarely speak to me except to call me for meds. I would feel caged, trapped, imprisoned behind that locked door..

This is a post that I, for one, can certainly empathise with.

While psychiatric hospital can play a helpful part in the recovery process, Werehorse paints a vivid and accurate description of quite how bleak a psychiatric ward can be, and how it can be less than helpful at times.

Lottie at Just Me, Nobody Else, Just Me gives us a very brief update

So when did I last post?

*scratches head*

I don’t know

Things have been bad, I have spent most of July, August and September as an InPatient than at home, due to being initially “Manic” and then “severely Depressed” (according to the psychiatrist who initially sectioned me the first time, the last admission was informal, but not really, it was one of them if you
don’t stay we will assess you under the mental health act and more than likely you will be on a Section 3)

My mood is predominantly low/depressive and I can’t shake it, but there is a huge restlessness as well, I can’t sit still for very long and when I do my legs are doing that annoying tapping thing It’s like Im anxious of even my own company. I’m not sure what’s going on tbh

Sorry, I wish I could give more of a better update, but I just don’t really have much else to say

Lottie, it’s clear from your post how tough things are for you right now – and have been for quite a while. I don’t have any words of wisdom – I always wish I did – but please know that we are all willing you through this, and despite how it feels, and the fact that it likely makes little difference, please know that you aren’t in this alone.

Bourbon checks in , and describes a situation with his sister.

Hi all,

I’m really sorry I have been totally slacking in

1.) replying to any comments you leave me and

2.) leaving comments on your blogs.Truth be told I’m not really very present in my life at the moment really.

Things are very raw emotionally, truths are staring at me in the face, and a lot of the time I just do what I do best: dissociate from it all.A lot of the time I find it hard enough just opening my mouth to speak to my housemate, or writing a simple text to one of my friends.

I think perhaps I have gone a bit into maximum self protection mode.It is my sisters birthday in two days and we haven’t spoken since I cut off contact with the parents and she made it very clear she was on “their side”. I have been in constant debate with myself over whether to expose myself to her (like I did with the mother recently) and send a happy birthday message. Though a ‘happy birthday’ message seems a bit anaemic really given the circumstances but I am not prepared to get into conversation with her when I know she has been brought up to basically regurgitate the mothers beliefs and truths.

Either way, whether I write her a message or not, I feel like I am going to be under attack. If I do write a message then she has the means to write back and that is, quite simply, dangerous. If I don’t write a message then I imagine I will be cursed by the ‘family’ for being so bitter and family-destroying. And when I say cursed I unfortunately mean in the literal sense. The supernatural beliefs about my mothers ‘powers’ have unfortunately been stirred by the contact with her and Cat wholly believes that the email the mother wrote to me is purposefully laced with trigger words. I haven’t yet asked her which words (aside from the obvious: you have demons) because it makes me feel nauseous just contemplating that my mother can be that manipulative and cruel, even if just unconsciously.

So yes, chances are I won’t be writing anything to my sister. But it has put me on edge. Hopefully, weather/phobia permitting, Cat and I are going to abandon the therapy room tomorrow and head to the woods for a bit of ‘normal time’. Hopefully it will succeed in getting me outside of my head for a bit so I can get some distance from these mixed up thoughts from the past. My life has slowly crept back to being 99% trauma processing; how quickly I let fun and normality slip through my finger tips. It is time to get a hold on it again.

Bourbon, that does sound like a very tricky situation with your sister. I know how much of an negative impact sensitive family situations can have on our mental health, and this is something that you clearly have recognised.

I’m really hoping for you that you do get a hold on that fun and normality again.

My Crazy Bipolar Life wonders if she has made progress with CPN#2 at last

So this morning I got a phone call from CPN#2 who said she was calling me for two reasons. One was to find out why I didn’t attend my appointment with her last week and the other because she had the notes from my A&E visit on Sunday night in front of her.

This is unusual for her to phone me for missing an appointment and also unusual for her to phone me because she’s seen I’d attended A&E. I couldn’t help but wonder if she had read that my support worker had taken me there at 11pm on a Sunday night and maybe the A&E nurse wrote something on the notes about how unhelpful I’m finding my appointments with CPN#2. Maybe the combination of both finally made her decide she better at least phone and appear as though she gives a shit… either way… she called.

So her first question to me was about my non-attendance of appointments. I could feel my heart suddenly beating super fast and hard in my chest, a huge wave of anxiety came over me because I knew this was my opportunity: be honest with her but not know how she’ll react – or – make some excuse up and let her carry on thinking it’s ‘me’ not ‘her’. There was a lot of noise in the background and CPN#2 said she could barely hear me so was going to move to another room and call me straight back. I used those two minutes to quickly decide whether or not to be honest with her and what the hell to say.

My phone started ringing again a few minutes later and with a deep breath I said I wanted to try and explain what was going on. I wanted to be polite about it, I knew if I started going on about all the little annoying habits she has like “setting an agenda” and the stopwatch app on her phone running all the way through our appointments I would just end up getting angry, sounding silly and not achieve anything. So instead I explained (as calmly as I could) that I felt she was only willing to discuss this Compassionate Mind therapy with me and that any time I have tried to divert away from that to talk about how I’m feeling or how my mood is, she’ll stop me in my tracks and say “this isn’t on our agenda”. I was getting the feeling she was going to start being all defensive so I added in that I *did* want to try and learn the Compassionate Mind stuff because it seemed like a positive step in the right direction… i.e. something that will help me in the future whereas going back to talking about self harming, low moods, etc seemed like a step backwards. This seemed to balance things out a bit as I came across like I was willing to take some responsibility for not opening up to her or being honest with her.

That does certainly sound like progress! From what I have read, that progress would not have happened without your honesty, so a big well done from me!

Charlotte at Purple Persuasion tells us of Five hot buzzwords in the future of mental health

Yesterday I attended a day at health charity The King’s Fund on the future mental of health in London. The event was for stakeholders (which basically means people who are invested in the process of planning services) and attenders included managers and professionals from Mental Health Trusts, commissioners (the people who decide what services are needed and who should be paid to deliver them), local politicians and a really good showing of service users and carers from Rethink and Mind.

The aim of the day was to decide how mental health in London should look in five years time – what we should be doing more of, and what should become things of the past.I learned a lot about what current priorities are for the people who plan and deliver the services we use.

Of course, no event about the NHS would be complete without buzzwords and although this was a London event, if you live in the UK these buzzwords will shaping a service near you. There will be opportunities to get involved, but we need to be on top of the jargon used in the mental health field if we’re going to have our say. Here’s my attempt to decode some of the buzzwords, and think about what they might mean for us.

The five buzz words are:

  • Parity
  • Peer
  • Recovery
  • Intelligent data
  • Integration

and I hope you will head on over to Purple Persuasion and read more about them and what they might mean for service users.

The Masked AMPH gave us a list of abbreviations and other jargon used in his blog.

I try to avoid using too much jargon in this blog, but I inevitably have to use acronyms and abbreviations for brevity if nothing else. So here’s a list of acronyms and other common terms that crop up, with explanations. Any legislation referred to is British (or more specifically, referring to England and Wales, as Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own Mental Health legislation.)Many of the explanations are highly simplified. If you want to know more about a particular topic, you can search the blog using the blog search box, or look up the Labels on the right hand side of the blog.If I have left anything out, or if you want any further explanations, please leave a comment.

AMHP: Approved Mental Health Professional An AMHP can be a social worker, occupational therapist, mental health nurse or clinical psychologist. They have the power to detain people in hospital under the MHA.

Appeal Patients detained in hospital under Sec.2, Sec.3, Sec.4, and Sec.7, and those subject to a CTO, have the right to appeal against their detention. Their case is then heard by an independent Mental Health Tribunal, who have the power to discharge the patient from detention. Anyone who appeals has the right to free legal representation.

ASW Approved Social Worker The predecessor of the AMHP. Before 2007, only social workers could detain people.

As you’ll see, I’ve included only the ‘A’ list here, so I do hope you will pop over to The Masked AMHP for the full list. A very handy reference tool!

On Beauty From Pain Blog, Katy performed a similar task, with a guest post of a Mental Health Jargon Buster , in this case listing a lot of the more informal but widely used terms we see used on social media.

Hi, my name is Katy. I’m a friend of Amanda’s, and I asked if I could write a guest blog post using Beauty from Pain Blog. So a little bit about me and why I’m doing this post.

I’m not new to mental health issues but I am new to getting support from a Community Mental Health Team, frequent admissions, and more importantly in the context of this post, new(ish) to twitter.

When chaos ensued last year, I turned to where I knew people would understand, and that was twitter. It was such a relief to find so many people with similar issues, who I could ask questions to and could just have a chat and giggle with.

However, what confused me at first and still does occasionally, is all the abbreviations or acronyms relating to Mental Health which are used both in the real world and online.

Experienced online networking aficionados will know all the following terms I’m sure, but if you’d like to learn the basic terms so tweets, posts and even real life paperwork make more sense, here’s a list.

AMHP – Approved Mental Health Professional
Ana – Anorexia
AD – Antidepressant
AP – Antipsychotic
ASP – Antisocial Personality Disorder
AvPD – Avoidant Personality Disorder
BD – Twice daily, referring to prescription medication (from the Latin bis in die)
B/P – Binge/Purge
BPD – Borderline Personality Disorder

Again, this is only a sample of some of the terms included in the jargon buster, however I do hope you will head over to Beauty From Pain Blog to see the full list. It’s a very useful list, so a big thanks to Kay for compiling it!

So, that’s a round up of some of the winners and runners-up from last year’s blogs and what they have been up to lately.

I am very excited about this year’s TWIM awards. I have no doubt that we will see many familar blogs nominated, but I do hope that you will nominate lots of newer blogs also.

So that’s it from me – until next time.

Let’s make sure it’s this side of Christmas, as ‘Merry Christmas’ isn’t something that I want to be wishing you just yet! :)

@JudithHaire comments on Ken McLaughlin ‘Our brains aren’t moulded by abuse.’ #MentalHealth #ukmh

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Author and Campaigner Judith Haire says:

“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the moment. Oliver James makes a valid point about the link between child abuse and psychosis. He isn’t the first, and won’t be the last..
But that doesn’t mean people who were not abused and become psychotic are any different from those who were. IMO neither has a *psychiatric* illness.
Both suffered some adverse life event whether emotional distress, sexual or other abuse and both became psychotic.
Psychosis (and I know what I am talking about I’ve been Psychotic) is a safe place to retreat when conditions and emotions are too intolerable. The Psychosis is the voice! We speak through our psychosis and when auditory and visual hallucinations are studied in a sensitive way,they can reveal the story of what happened to that person. All this time picking this issue to its bones – stop it please stop it, give your energy instead to helping poor souls who become psychotic and please don’t insult those of us who were abused by saying the OUTCOME was nothing to do with abuse it was somehow our fault, our brains. Please.”

Judith Haire www.judithhaire.com author of Don’t Mind Me.

A note and a heart felt plea from Mum and #MentalHealth campaigner Lynn (@SignSaveLives) #ukmh #wca #disability

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A note and a plea from Lynn Blackmore:
“Please would people kindly sign this petition which ends 20th March.  I have tried very hard to get this to 10,000 signatures but there seems to be apathy when it comes to signing it. I feel if this we’re for a basket of pretty kittens the signatures would have been there in a week like the badger petition, yet human beings who suffer mental ill health don’t seem to count as much in the publics eye!  My son who suffers from schizophrenia, has been in a psychiatric hospital now for 31 months, yet he’s being hassled by ESA, WCA, DWP, asking him if he’s fit for work!  This is crazy, and the bullying of the mentally ill and vulnerable has to stop! All I can do as a distraught and worn out mum now, is beg you to PLEASE sign this so I at least get this to 10,000 signatures, because the Government then HAS TO AT LEAST ACKNOWLEDGE THIS PETITION!”

Here’s a link to Lynn’s petition. With PIP (Personal Independence Payments) seemingly overlooking mental illness it is vital people act. Tie is running out for this petition. There are 23 days to get just over 800 people to sign, how hard can that be folks?

imagesClick here to sign

Interviewing Liz Crow, on Art, Activism, Disability and Roaring from a bed. It’s new, it’s exciting. #beddingout

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Photo Credit:http://www.bbc.co.uk/ouch/interviews/13_questions_liz_crow.shtml
Photo Credit:
BBC (ouch)




Dawn:  Liz, I know many people who are aware of your work but for those reading my blog who may not have come across you before tell us a little about yourself.

Liz:  I’m an artist-activist and I work with performance, film, sound and text to portray hidden lives in order to raise difficult questions, spark debate and, ultimately, to trigger change. Projects include a film on the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo who wore corsets because of impairment, to the tale of a young girl with 13 toes, to a radio diary of my own border-crossing experience of visiting Mexico for unorthodox medical treatment, to Resistance, a film-based installation about the Nazi programme of mass-murder that targeted disabled people. My work ranges from the confrontational and provocative to the much more gently questioning.

I founded Roaring Girl Productions (RGP) in 2000, a creative media projects company which combines creative work with practical activism, taking audiences beyond spectatorship to look at how they can be a part of creating change. RGP is basically me, expanding to up to 50 people in the middle of a big production, and it came about because sometimes its easier to fund and distribute work under a company name. I/we have produced a whole range of films, performances, etc, as well as developing new approaches to film and performance accessibility, and trying to model inclusive working in our own productions. There’s lots more information at www.roaring-girl.com

My creative work comes out of a history of activism, ranging from access projects to bus blockades. A long time ago, I was incredibly lucky to find myself in a workshop run by two disabled women who were political activists. They talked about something called the social model, that split impairment and disability, pointing out that disability is created by the social structures that exclude us. It was as though somebody was suddenly talking a language that I recognised, that if disability was socially constructed, then – wow! – that also meant it could be unconstructed. For me it was the most liberating moment I’ve ever experienced and it changed profoundly how I see the world. And even as I’ve realised over time that our lives can be more complicated than that, the social model continues to be pivotal for ending a sense of self-blame and finding a direction and starting point for social change.

Your work is very powerful, for example you dressed as a Nazi and took to the Fourth Plinth in 2009, can you explain what inspires and motivates your work?

Liz-Crow-plinth.jpg338x512.07Resistance on the Plinth  (www.roaring-girl.com/productions/resistance-on-the-plinth) was part of Antony Gormley’s One & Other project, in which 2400 people over a period of 100 days each had an hour to do their thing on Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth. It coincided with the launch of the tour for the Resistance installation about the Nazi programme that targeted disabled people, but also with the 70th anniversary of this almost hidden history. I decided to mark it, but also to draw attention to the messages it holds for us today, where the values underpinning the history are still very much around. When I started work on the Resistance project, I had not expected to see disabled people’s situation become worse, but there has been an onslaught – from benefits reform to the rise in hate crime, the rush to legal rights for disabled people to assisted suicide to the increasing exclusion of disabled children from mainstream schools – that the messages contained in the work seem to be even more urgent now than when it began to tour.

(picture credit Disability Arts Online)

You have been very open about your feeling on the current wave of cuts to welfare benefits. How have these Government measures impacted on your life?

They’ve had a huge personal impact. Like thousands of others, I spent months waiting to be called to apply for ESA, dreading the brown envelopes landing on the mat. I was put in the work-related activity group, where I was to be prepared through activities I couldn’t do for work I’ll never do. I waited another 11 months for tribunal, which found in my favour, meaning I’m safe for now, but knowing the whole process could begin again at any time. For me, this is the greatest personal toll of all: that over years, I’d built up a small and fragile security and that has been taken away. Of course, DLA/PIP is yet to come and I fear losing my accessible van as well as my funding for personal assistance, which is what’s kept me living life in my own home for the past 20 years. Then again, I know people who are way more threatened by these changes than I am.

In the early stages of benefits reform, witnessing the distress of thousands who were called in before me, I lay low. It seemed safer not to be seen. But, with time, the activist in me decided to answer back; it’s not risk-free, but it feels easier to speak out than it does just to be afraid. I realised the night before my tribunal – this frightening, looming legal process – that almost quarter of a million people had been put through it in the previous year alone. I am wondering when wider society will become so outraged at the inhumanity being done in their name that they will demand a halt to it; I suppose that is our campaigning task: to bring them to that point.


The Campaigning and Activist Community can become a little twitchy when Activism and Art combine, how do you feel the two subjects fit together and what words do you have for people who aren’t quite sure how to approach your work?

There’s a suspicion from some campaigners and activists that art is a diversion, a detour from our campaigns, but campaigning and activism succeeds or fails on its ability to communicate, which is what art does best. Some of the most effective direct action, whether or not its participants call themselves artists, has been pure theatre (the early bus blockades providing the most surprising and televisual image of disabled people that communicated the issues at a glance) and music (such as Johnny Crescendo’s Choices and Rights) has provided anthems that have united a movement. To be effective, we need to use every tool at our disposal, and that includes art!

Art can encapsulate ideas, asking questions and presenting viewpoints not seen elsewhere. It can give glimpses into other people’s lives and broaden our view of the world. Artists are good at communicating, at raising difficult questions, and at exploring creative alternatives. Art can make us see and think differently, make an emotional connection to audiences and go on working long after the piece is officially over. We can only make change for the things we know about; for me, the most exciting art brings to light lives on the margins and invites the onlooker to become a part of creating change.

How to approach my work: Mostly I hope people won’t get caught up in what they’re ‘supposed’ to think or say or understand! My work is relatively direct in its meaning, but it’s also there for the audience to take from it whatever is useful to them and this will be different for different people. A work might be a keyhole to an experience outside someone’s own, their own experience made visible, or a way for them to make links to aspects of their lives they’d never connected before. I hope my work does some or all of raising questions for audiences, getting them talking, making connections with each other, maybe shifting how they behave or motivating them to take a stand. In the end, I put the work out there, hoping that it will give something of value to other people and that, their own lives or campaigns, they will use it.

You have a particularly exciting new exhibition this Spring. Can you tell us the history behind your new installation?

 Bedding Out is a response to the welfare benefits overhaul. For 48 hours round-the-clock, in an art gallery, I will be taking to my bed, exhibited behind a red rope barrier.

I live a life in two very separate parts. The public self tries to be bright and breezy and happening, and people assume because that’s what they see of me, that’s how I am in the rest of my life. Then there’s the private self, which wins no friends or accolades, where I spend most of my time at home, a lot of time lying down and quite a lot in bed.

This is the self which I have become very expert in concealing. And whilst it has kind of worked for the past 30 years, in the face of benefits changes, it is no longer tenable. Instead, this new system demands a reversal, requiring me to parade my private self to justify support.

In Bedding Out, I will take my private self and make it public, performing the other side of my fractured self, my bed-life. It feels dangerous exposed exciting, and more necessary than ever before. Since the public me is so carefully constructed, so consciously performed, this will be a kind of un-performing of my self. With this work, I want to make a twilight existence visible. But more, I want to show that what many people see as contradiction, what they call fraud, is only the complexity of real life.

At points throughout the performance, members of the public will be invited to Bedside Conversations, gathering round the bed to talk about the work, its backdrop, its politics.

Last autumn, at a previous version of this performance, I was contacted by several people delighted that the work was making them more visible, but too ill to attend in person. This time, Bedding Out will use social media to involve absent people around the world virtually.


(photo credit: Trish Wheatley)

What would be the most pleasing outcome for you from this new piece?

One of the things that Bedding Out can do is to can portray the human story set within its broader social context. The work is not just about me, but is a symbol for the thousands of people who live a bed-life. There is something about playing it out in a public space that goes deep to the heart of what that life means. It is a chance to raise more challenging questions by setting the bed-life overtly within the present, very difficult political, climate.

My hope is that people will come and see it, pitch in via social media, use it to talk to people new to the issues raised, use it beyond the gallery space and after the performance is over. I hope that Bedding Out will become part of the much larger conversation of disabled people, supporters, the Sparticus campaign, DPAC, Black Triangle, UKUncut and others; and that by using a wide range of approaches we can be effective in reaching many more people.

I’d like it to reach the people who most need to be exposed to the ideas in Bedding Out, but that’s a collaborative thing and it will take other people – your readers! – to get the word out. My hope is that all these voices combined can inform the public to a point where their outrage forces a change in benefits reform and cultures of work towards a system that is humane.

How can people get involved and learn more?

Bedding Out is a 48-hour round-the-clock performance starting at 2.00pm on 10 April at Salisbury Arts Centre and on the world wide web – with lots of ways to get involved!

 Via the web: You can watch Bedding Out throughout the 48 hours at www.roaring-girl.com

Bedside Conversations (duration 40 minutes) will be live streamed with audio, BSL interpretation and live subtitles: Wed 10 Apr 2.00pm and 6.00pm, Thu 11 Apr noon (via Twitter) and 3.15pm, Fri 12 Apr 10.15am.

On Twitter (@RGPLIzCrow #beddingout):

You can follow the work – and join in! Use the all important hashtag #beddingout. And I’m so excited that you, Dawn (@quinonostante) are going to be ‘tweetmeister’ for the project, tweeting in the weeks leading up to the performance and throughout the 48 hours. Tweets will include live updates on the performance, audience reactions and Bedside Conversations, as well as responses to individual tweets. And there will be an all-Twitter Bedside Conversation on Thursday 11 Apr at noon.

In personIf you’re in Salisbury, come to the Arts Centre! Opening hours and access information at: http://www.roaring-girl.co.uk/productions/bedding-in/show-times/

As individuals or groups:

We’re beginning to hear from individuals and groups internationally making plans like these:

  • To pitch in to the twitter feed – give their response to the work, talk about the issues raised – and join in the twitter Bedside Conversation
  • To stream the work continuously in the background of an event or conference
  • To watch a Bedside Conversation in a disabled people’s organisation, student seminar or other group, discuss it, tweet it, blog it
  • To use the work as a trigger to produce their own art/performance/activist piece, etc.

This is an experiment: we’re not aware of this kind of virtuality, with this level of access, having been attempted before. We’re hoping the tech gods will be with us and we would love you to be a part of it. The work is there for you to make use of. There are no rules on how to use it so please adapt to your particular interests and circumstances – but do use it!


Before this interview we chatted about how it’s not really long ago that physically disabled and mental health campaigners were two distinctively separate groups yet that we’d both recognised a huge shift in this over the past couple of years? It’s clearly a hugely positive transformation and has opened some inspiring discussion. What you you attribute the change in attitudes to?

Sometimes good surprises emerge from bleak times. Even for those of us active within the disabled people’s movement have found our personal stories and ways of living consigned to the margins, so that full inclusion has been missing. The benefits onslaught, coupled with hate talk in so much of the press, has meant we can’t afford to be silent about those experiences anymore. As we’ve spoken out, the connections and overlaps in experience that were always there – the kind of themes I’m working with in Bedding Out – have become apparent and this brings the possibility of our becoming a much larger and more effective supportive and campaigning voice.

Without sounding all Pollyanna – and I so wish we had never had to face recent events – I am in awe of the strengths that have emerged over the past couple of years – the skills and strategies, new alliances, deep compassion, organisation and resilience. I believe these strengths have partly emerged from this greater diversity of people, not only on the basis of impairment, and this bodes well for our future as a more inclusive and comprehensive campaigning movement.

What’s next for Liz Crow?

Oo, well, it’s surprising how exhausting 48 hours in bed can be, so a good long recovery time, out of public view! I’ve been asked to take Bedding Out to Edinburgh Fringe in August. Then I hope to spend some time dreaming up the next project…

‘Only A Tenner.’ David’s Journey Into Exclusion. #Poverty #Unemployment #mh

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This short piece follows a conversation with a chap I met on a bus. I hope I have represented David’s feelings and words correctly in this semi-fictional story of his journey into exclusion from the world of Dine for 2 for a £10.

(All details of benefits, work experience and final thoughts, are in Davids own words, and reproduced with his permission)

And it was busy, absolutely packed even. A tangle of shopping trolleys their distracted drivers intent. They tutted, sighed and grabbed at shiny packets and colourful boxes, and I just had to know, even if that knowledge would leave me desolate, so I ventured in. How they grunted as I slowly looked over the shelves, shamelessly savouring the names of dishes on offer; spinach and ricotta chicken, finest beef meatballs in spicy moroccan sauce, corn-fed whole chicken. Salivating at side dishes of layered winter vegetables slathered in garlic butter, garlic, rosemary potatoes, creamy mustard mashed potatoes. An array of moutwatering deserts; sicilian lemon cheesecake, millionaires chocolate pots, creme brûlée, and to top it all off a choice of wines from well heeled vineyards.

And you could have it all, well almost, a main course, a side dish, a desert and a bottle of finest, enough for two people, for only a tenner, ten pounds only.  Thus they kept arriving and taking and filling their baskets and trolleys with a feverish anxiety, fearful they’d miss out. 

So I drifted away, melted back into the background, my curiosity sated, my sense of hopelessness compounded. I waited for my bus back home, the M & S free bus. I had a £1 sausage roll in a small bag, proof I’d been a customer, been well off enough to grace their floors, an illusion I couldn’t really carry off.

Only a tenner, £10,   t e n  p o u n d s,  how can a sum so small appear so huge? It never used to, back when I’d head for my local supermarket each Friday, load up a trolley with food and booze to last a week, thinking nothing of splurging £30 on a decent bottle of malt, and loading it full with finest fruit and veg, half of which would find its way into compost, uneaten, because I’d ate out or bought take-aways.  That was when I worked, when I had cash, before the company I worked for went bust, before I realised that at 59 not many people jobs have your name on them, and it’s not for want of trying.

JSA, I get JSA, a benefit, how odd that we call giving someone only £71 a week a benefit. I’d never been unemployed so wasn’t prepared for the shock of just how difficult it was.  I’d laboured under that illusion that those in receipt of benefits were having a whale of a time at my (tax paying) expense, how ignorant I feel now as I struggle to manage on this money.

The energy company take £14 a week directly off my JSA because I got into fuel debt last year.  I had some council tax arrears when I first became unemployed, and they snaffle £3.50 before I even get paid.   It costs me £2.85 return to get into the town where the jobcentre and library are, I have to seek work and it costs around £10 a week. After paying my water, TV licence I have £33 a week to feed and clothe myself. 

And I exist. Do I cope? Not really. Do I have hope? None.  Do I feel angry? Only at those who refuse to see the human cost of poverty.”

“This spiteful #obesity stuff is such a low blow” – read Gina on #MentalHealth meds and weight gain. #ukmh #mhuk

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Hello Dawn’s Readers

My name is Gina. I’m writing today about an issue which affects me, I am overweight, in medical terms I am obese.  I weigh 18 stones and am only 5ft 6.

Yesterday I was talking to some people I meet with weekly who have similar issues with their weight, we found we all had one thing in common, we are all on medication for mental illnesses. I have a diagnosis of schizophrenia and for many years spent time in and out of hospital when my symtoms became completely unmanageable. I’m 49 now, and I lost years of my life to hospitalisation.  I was treated with the most brutal medications, one of the most difficult to manage for me being Chlorpromazine which is an anti-psychotic. It was a medicine which helped control some of the symptoms which affected me the most badly, but it was also responsible for the most physical damage to my body over the years.

I used to be a size 10-12 in clothing, my wedding photos show me glamorous and smiling with a tiny waist, and even following the births of my two girls I retained my figure. Within 3 months of talking Chlorpromazine I had gained 3 stones and by the end of the same year was wearing clothing size 24.  Over the years this fluctuated but I never regained my figure.  The doses of medications I have to take daily mean I am genuinely quite lethargic and find it hard to get up and pop to the gym. I don’t stuff myself with crisps and cake, I can’t because as a result of both the medications to treat my illness, and my weight, I have developed Diabetes Type 2.

We were talking about weight issues yesterday because the Government propose to impose a benefit fine on the obese unless they agree to get in shape. We couldn’t believe how cruel this was and how uniformed. Someone mentioned that even in hospital, when people are very unwell and when medication is usually increased there is no consideration of the effects on the physical health of the patient, and weight gain was the most common complaint people had. Some said they had gained over 2 stones in hospital and said it really affected their recovery and self-image.

I wrote this for Dawn’s blog because I just want people to realise that we are vilified enough already by society because we have mental illnesses, this spiteful obesity stuff is such a low blow to people whose self-esteem is really fragile.

I would like to help Dawn raise awareness of this issue and would like it if you would comment and share.


Thank you for reading,



Liam’s View – being #disabled in today’s Britain. #ukmh #disability #wca

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Liam’s view in Liam’s own words.

“A Personal View on my life as a Disabled Person in Today’s Britain
It’s 4:20 am on the third night in a row without sleep; nothing unusual for me as sleep is rapidly becoming an aspiration rather than a normal part of my life.

I have COPD and a, currently undiagnosed, neurological condition both of which have manifested in the last two years and I spend every waking hour worried about my future. I dread the idea of being institutionalised, not being able to have any quality of life and gradually turning into a vegetable. That would be bad enough but what really terrifies me is that I am being de facto criminalised for being ill.

The tactics being deployed against me are truly awesome in their vindictiveness, lack of compassion and, what I perceive as, ideologically-inspired hatred.

I am being subjected to the treatment well known to those who have suffered at the hands of tyrants down the ages.

I am dehumanised; no longer a human being or a citizen, not a father, brother, mother, daughter I am a ‘scrounger’, a ‘skiver’, one of the ‘arbeitscheu’. I am not worthy of respect as I am no longer a member of society but a ‘cost’ to be borne by the ‘taxpayer’.

I have no control over any aspect of my life whether that be housing, income, medical treatment and myriad other things that most people take for granted.

The laws, rules and regulations; the hoops through which I am increasingly forced to jump are not built upon any rational basis. My disabilities are not medical or social they are political. Those who, in theory, are supposed to act as my advocate are not putting forward my case as one of the people on the receiving end of the treatment being meted out but are putting forward the case of those making the laws and writing the rules and regulations. The Minister for the Disabled, whoever currently holds that position, should be renamed The Minister for Controlling the Propaganda Related to the Disabled. The Minister in overall charge of the Department for Work and Pensions is extremely happy to put out briefings to the Daily Mail or the Sun about a benefits cheat but whenever someone dies because of the failings in the system the stock response is trotted out: ‘We cannot comment on individual cases’. Just in case they haven’t noticed yet; WE ARE ALL INDIVIDUALS.

Every single day I await the arrival of the envelope with the four letters on the outside that tell me I have a 50/50 chance of being consigned to absolute destitution: ATOS.

A few weeks ago I received that letter and I don’t know whether it is before or after Xmas that I will be forced to attend the local branch of Lourdes to be ‘assessed’ by someone in whom I have no trust whatsoever as part of a procedure which is not flawed but designed to be the way it is, not by medical experts in consultation with the disabled, but by an investment banker and politicians whose motivation is purely ideological.

If I fail the assessment and the decision-maker rubber stamps that assessment, as is far too often the case, then I will not receive JSA; I will, for between six and nine months, be expected to support myself without a single penny of income from any source whatsoever. I cannot sign on for JSA because I am not able to honestly state that I am fit, willing and able to look for work because I can only sign that document if I am able to accept whatever work I am offered – there is no gradation built into the system it is 100% or nothing.

I am being stripped of my right to appeal until the DWP have ‘reconsidered’ any adverse decision but whilst they are reconsidering they immediately remove my ESA/DLA which means I also immediately lose any housing benefits, council tax benefits, free prescriptions. IMMEDIATELY lose ALL income.No grace period in which to renegotiate or end contracts, talk to creditors, look for somewhere else to live. ‘Computer-says-no’ bye-bye you’re on your own. Naturally the reconsideration also takes no account of my needs as there is no time limit on how long it can take and the timetable for the appeal doesn’t start ticking until it’s completed.

How many people have to live every single day without knowing whether they will have any income from one week to the next? It is this fear of losing my income that means I do not use my disability benefits in order to help me live as normal a life as possible but put as much as I possibly can into the bank to try and build up a fund to get me through any period when I am without income as I am put through the system but it is really a futile thing to do because I can be given my benefits back after the nine months it takes to wade through the backlog of claims only to find that I am, within weeks, being called for reassessment.

As is the case I, along with many others, have symptoms which are exacerbated by stress; my breathing becomes more laboured, my tremor more pronounced, my limited appetite and lack of sleep become more the norm than the exception. It would be harder to design a system more efficient at increasing stress than one based on arbitrary ‘descriptors’ with no guaranteed period in between testing.

I would like to think that the system will improve but all attempts at a rational discussion have been rebuffed, not on issues of fairness, efficiency and accuracy but because the Minister has set a timetable to push through the ‘reforms'; he’s not interested in the effects of the ‘reforms’ just that they meet his arbitrarily imposed time-scale.

Like most tyrants the one thing this government is taking away from me is the one thing without which everything else falls.

They are taking away my hope.”

“We were once a society that celebrated the freedoms earned by #disabled people, now we are a society that spitefully celebrates taking away those freedoms.”

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Sue J says

“Our capacity as a civilised society for caring for our most vulnerable citizens has been deliberately destroyed by the Coalition. This punitive approach towards vulnerability and systematic theft of our tax payers money has been “justified” by the most hateful propaganda campaign, headed by Iain Duncan Smith, Mark Hoban, Chris Grayling and David Cameron, amongst others, with the support of the press. Lies and stigmatising language are used to demonise the poor and vulnerable. Words like “feckless” “idle” “workshy”, “scroungers”, and not ever the truthful description – “vulnerable” – are written over and over again, with the sole intention of creating folk devils and generating public moral outrage and hatred.Hate crime directed at the disabled has risen steeply as a direct consequence of this hate inciting media portrayal of the “fraudulent” sick and disabled person, who is somehow much better off that anyone else, at the expense of the hard working tax payer. Sick and disabled people are no longer allowed a social life, a decent standard of living, a car, a holiday or anything else that “normal” people enjoy because, they have been described over and over as a “burden on the State”.

That many of us have also paid tax is forgotten the moment we become “disabled”. Being sick or disabled, of course, entails the humiliating ritual of proving we are “genuine” and “deserving”. But being “genuine” is conditional upon our very lives becoming public property and being open to a barrage of endless hateful restrictions and sanctions from both members of the public, from the government and media. We were once a society that celebrated the freedoms earned by disabled people, now we are a society that spitefully celebrates taking away those freedoms. We need to ask ourselves what kind of government would employ such deplorable and inhumane tactics to justify their deplorable and inhumane actions.”

“Hear Hear” Sue… 

Guest Post from Tom… “For 10 years I worked for the #DWP, but now I’m one of those people in receipt of benefits.”

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by Tom H

‘I’m one of those people, the unemployed and I am in receipt of benefits. I’m neither “feckless or “work shy” as the press and the government would have you believe. I am ill. I wasn’t always this way. For 10 years I worked for the DWP, I was the person you saw if you needed a social fund loan, a crisis loan, a replacement giro. I saw a lot, and  I saw such misery, but I blocked it out, I believed that most of the ‘scroats’ turning up for their so-called “lost in the post giros” were the dregs of a welfare society. Even when I had to refuse loans for something I took for granted, like a washing machine, because it was classed as a non-essential item, a luxury, I had little sympathy. When I had to question a 79 year old man about what he’d spent his savings when he arrived in tears because his payments had stopped I felt no empathy. 

Suddenly my life changed. My wife was killed in an accident and I was devastated  I couldn’t work, the grief was overwhelming. I could barely look after our son, and I suffered a breakdown.  We lost our rented home, my health was so poor I left my job and life was grim. I had to claim benefits. I knew the system, thought I’d be clinical about the process, but I wasn’t. I felt humiliated. Staff, people who knew nothing about me, were judging me, deciding what I could have, and what I couldn’t. I was suddenly shocked to find myself knocking on the windows asking for social fund help to move house and buy new furniture. I suddenly experienced the exasperation felt upon hearing I could only have £250, and no-one understanding it just wouldn’t be enough. I found myself, a single parent, sitting in an office with my peers, but these people were just like me, dependent upon handouts which barely made a difference.

My entire life had changed. I couldn’t afford the things we’d taken for granted before my wife’s death and before I was dependent on benefits. I wasn’t housed by the local authority, they had a rule that because I’d fallen into arrears I was ‘intentionally homeless’, crazy when you consider I’d gone from a joint monthly income of £2600 to benefits only, and couldn’t afford the £800 rent. I was still in the private sector. I had to borrow £1000 to cover a ‘bond’ and ‘fees’ for another place, but at least housing benefit paid the £530 rent for our two bed flat. I couldn’t afford the phone, or insurance, or my dental plan and planning for the future and holidays were just unimaginable. My car had to go when the MOT became due, I couldn’t afford the repairs. I was suddenly aware of the bleakness of being part of the welfare system. It wasn’t ‘free tax payers cash for a good life’, it was a make do, and then, only barely, existence. 

My health fluctuated over the years and I was eventually found to have a major depressive illness with anxiety. I wanted to get back into work, and I did, into a supervisory role in retail which lasted two years, and I began to enjoy life again.

Last year I had a minor stroke, from which I am slowly recovering. My son is at university now, forging his own path in life. I’m still in our two bed flat, the place he calls home, and which has been now for over 8 years. I don’t work at the moment, my depression has been relentless since my stroke, and my medication is effective, but it’s side-effects crippling. 

I feel suicidal most days, and as someone who didn’t cry easily, find myself wracked with the grief of loss and hopelessness. I know I’ll have to move, the reduction in housing benefits because I have a spare room now my son is at uni, means I can’t afford to stay.  I have neither the physical or mental energy to undertake another move. I can’t afford to move. I can’t face another Atos interrogation, I’ve no wish to bare my soul again and again for the pittance which keeps me fed. EDF energy are taking £32 a week from me already for fuel direct as last winter, after my stroke, I used the heating a lot. This isn’t a life, it’s an existence, but not a life, and nothing compared to what I had less than 10 years ago, then my fridge was stocked, my house welcoming and warm and the promise of an evening out was a regular routine. Today I’ve coleslaw, margarine, economy sausages, eggs and bacon to look forward to until ‘benefit day’ and a quilt wrapped around me. I chose a computer over a TV when the TV gave out last year, it’s my contact with the world. 

I don’t want people to pity me, it’s a story which will be familiar in variations to many other people, I just want people to understand I didn’t ask for this life. 10 years ago I had no understanding of the crippling illness, depression. I believed the country looked after it’s disabled by giving them cash, free parking and all manner of ‘goodies’ which I was working 40hrs a week to pay for. I believed all the hype and because of that I had no empathy for the people I saw.

I have a plan, and it’s final. When the time comes that I’m forced to move from my home, or when they say I must go work in a scheme where I get paid nothing to work alongside a fully paid staff member I will die, and it will be my ‘choice’ not to live in a society which demeans and punishes me for being unwell. It will be a relief and a release.’

Should men embrace feminism?

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This is a worthwhile read… ponder away…

Originally posted on The Not So Big Society:

Just recently I’ve been marshalling my thoughts about the male view of feminism. Should men engage with feminism, take an active part in it, even call themselves feminists? I’ve come to this topic at least partly as a result of a bizarre, distressing sequence of events that happened to me over the past year.

First off, I’ll present a dissenting view. Stuart Sorensen is a blogger with whom I rarely disagree. His training resources and opinion pieces on mental health are of consistently high quality, and he is clearly a very decent guy who cares passionately about improving the care received by people who use mental health services. But if I agree with him on mental health, I have to disagree with his views on feminism.

I support the rights of all people but because of reactions such as this I and a great many men cannot support feminism…

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*Special Guest Blogger*: ‘Mental health: Who is speaking for whom?’ from Mark Brown, Editor, Style Guru and All Round Decent Geordie Chap. #mhuk #ukmh

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A big thanks to Mark Brown, editor of One In Four Magazine, for this powerful, thoughtful post on being ‘inclusive’ when representing mental health, the people affected by it and those inspired to make change.  You can follow Mark on twitter @MarkOneinFour. 

‘Mental health: Who is speaking for whom?

We’re at a funny old time in mental health.  To quote Charles Dickens ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times’.  We’re living through a period where every bit of news that’s positive for people with mental health difficulties seems to come balanced by a bit of bad news either about mental health services specifically or about the state of our country, economy or government.

Through the growth of blogs, social media, campaigns like Time to Change and even publications like One in Four we’re seeing a greater visibility for people with mental health difficulties and our ideas and experiences.

Once, before we all started blogging, tweeting, facebooking and organising the main voices about mental health were the voices of either medical professionals, well meaning (or otherwise) politicians and major charities.  They were mostly voices that claimed to speak on our behalf.  Now the internet and access to the platforms it creates for sharing, discussing, organising and making things happen has challenged that in fundamental ways.

Where once we might have been happy to contribute to a service user involvement opportunity or to take part in a consultation, more and more of us are making a space where our voices, opinions and, as importantly, our actions can be seen and heard.

Where once there were a few voices lucky enough to make it on telly or into the paper, now there are thousands in the public sphere across social media, all reporting from the frontline of life with a mental health difficulty.

That’s obviously a wonderful thing and a step forward.  It does, however, present us with some challenges, too.


As individual voices speaking from our own experiences become more numerous, so too do the range of experiences and ideas that are available for debate and comment.  We’ve been so used to other people speaking for us that we sometimes forget that someone writing a blog, adding a comment or chatting on twitter or writing for a magazine isn’t a person speaking from a position of authority but actually just another person with mental health difficulties sharing their views or experience.  So we go in all guns blazing and start attacking people who are more similar to us than they are different.

It’s sometimes tempting where someone’s experience or opinion differs strongly from our own to accuse them of ignoring our opinion or, even worse, of not telling the truth.  We, in effect, forget that we’re conducting with other people with mental health difficulties.  They think they are advancing opinion based on their own experiences, we accuse them of trying to speak for other people.

The more different voices about mental health there are in the public sphere, the more plain it becomes that while there are many things that people with mental health difficulties experience that are similar, there are as many ways that someone’s experience may differ. People who experience schizophrenia have different experiences to people with depression. Older people have different experiences from younger people. What happens in Devon isn’t neccessarily what happens in Dorset, or Glasgow, or New Orleans. Beyond those differences who you are influences how mental health difficulty impacts on your world.  Your economic circumstances, your religious or family background, your political beliefs; all these things will shape how you experience mental health difficulty and how you feel about it.

We have to make sure that we’re always open to discussing this whole mental health thing with people who don’t have the same experience we do.  We’ll never find out what all of us agree on if we just focus on where we disagree.

A political movement is one where lots of different experiences choose to focus on trying to get somethings to happen to happen.  They don’t all have to have had exactly the same experiences or even have all the same ideas.  They move forward on what they all agree upon.

If the things that are focused on aren’t the same things they are passionate about, especially if those things are not issues that have a widespread footprint in debates people make the mistake of seeing this as actively and on purpose excluding their voices.

I think it’s legitimate to level criticisms at large organisations that speak on behalf of people with mental health difficulties and also claim to be inclusive, in general, of all people with mental health difficulties.  I find it a bit more problematic when we’re talking about smaller groups and individuals.  I always think of it like this:  It’s entirely appropriate to lobby Parliament to pay attention to issues as Parliament, in theory, represents the will of the people.  It’s not so OK to turn up at a local knitting group and declare that because they don’t also do kite making they are actively excluding kite makers from public life.

What’s lost there is respect for people making different choices and in it’s place is the idea that people doing different to you and coming to different solutions is somehow those people trying to rub out the ideas and experiences of someone who feels differently.  In other words, a different experience or opinion is taken as an attempt to delete or negate your opinion – ‘If you are different from me, you are trying to erase me’.

As campaigners, bloggers and activists we have to make sure that we are enabling a wider debate to take place while also making sure that we can find ways of moving forward.  We have to respect different opinions and experiences and find common ground whilst also remembering that no one can ever produce something that will make happen everything that every individual thinks should happen.


If you are claiming to speak on behalf of a larger group of people with mental health difficulties, the best way of making sure that what you say about mental health represents them and their ideas is to actually talk to them.

People in the past have asked me what right One in Four has to speak for people with mental health difficulties.  I always say that it doesn’t.  One in Four is a magazine written by people with mental health difficulties that speaks to people with mental health difficulties.  To do that we try and put together a magazine that has interesting and useful stuff.  Sometimes that’s things we think you should know.  Sometimes it’s things we think you’ll enjoy.  Sometimes it’s things we think will challenge.  We’re not trying to sum up every single experience and idea of mental health difficulty in one place.  We’re something you might want to buy and read, not something that is trying to represent you.

It’s the same for the majority of bloggers, tweeters, campaigners and activists.  They’re all trying to do something helpful, useful, enjoyable, challenging or provocative.  They’re all entitled to their own view of what mental health means and what we can do about it.

Even if we don’t agree with them, it’s always better to extend charity and respect, otherwise we’ll use up all of our piss and vinegar fighting with each other and we’ll have nothing left over with which to change the world.

Sadly, no one can be all things to all people. No movement can please all of its members all of the time.  No group can represent all experiences and situations equally and get things done.

When it comes to an area as diverse as mental health what we need is more acceptance of different views and opinions, not less.  We can listen to each other without necessarily agreeing.  We can talk about different points of view without betraying our own.  We can promote people taking different approaches even if they aren’t the approaches we could take.  We can create a climate where big ideas are debated and minority voices are heard rather than just being ‘included’ by tokenism.

I’d rather have ten black mental health bloggers than ten people who aren’t black adding “and black people have different experiences of services” at the end of every post they make about their own experiences of mental health services.  The same goes for any other group that may be under-represented in mental health debate.

We should be doing everything that we can to create spaces for people to speak for themselves.  And I think that’s what is already happening.


A third challenge that an increase in different and differing voices in mental health brings is one that we’ve always had with One in Four:  No one can do everything all at once.  Every one time you choose to publish a article about a particular  issue, there are a thousand things that you could have published an article about instead.

People can feel very upset, rejected or angry if their particular issue isn’t included or referenced.  I see this happening in mental health all the time where people who decide to focus on one particular issue are criticised for not covering an issue that other people think is more important.

None of us can do everything or focus on everything all at once.

All of us are impatient to get things sorted out as quickly as possible.  We all have to decide where to direct our time and effort.  For someone to focus on an issue close to their heart is understandable.  They aren’t the government, they aren’t a big charity, most of the time they aren’t even getting paid.  In our enthusiasm and passion to make our point we can often end up savaging someone closer to us rather than learning from them, while we let the real subjects of our anger off the hook.

It’s always easiest to battle with other people with whom you share similar issues than to battle with the people in positions of power who could do something about those issues.  Always.

As individuals few of us have the time or the resources to come up with something that will encapsulate the experiences of all people with mental health difficulties and change their situation.  We have to avoid attacking other people for not having all of the answers or for focusing on one small particular part of the problem.  Lots of little things can sometimes add up to a big thing.

If we’ve spent ages battling big organisations and huge discriminatory ideas, fighting for justice where none has been forthcoming, we can, often by accident, turn the same tools and weapons against someone who really has no more power or influence than us.  We end up turning our peers into our enemies by assuming their different interests are an attempt to destroy us, rather than just a different focus.  We make people that are more like us than not into ‘the enemy’.

All three of the challenges that a huge broadening of the space for people to talk, share and debate mental health have the same solutions:  Promote discussion, value difference, work to find common ground and have respect, kindness and charity.

After all, how are we expecting to make the argument that society should be more accepting of us and our difference if we can’t even manage to accept each other?’

Mark Brown is the editor of One in Four magazine

Special Guest Blog: Stanley Popovich on ‘Managing Your Persistent Fears, Anxieties, and Stresses’ #mhuk #ukmh

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By: Stanley Popovich

Everybody deals with anxiety and depression, however some people have a difficult time in managing it. As a result, here is a brief list of techniques that a person can use to help manage their most persistent fears and every day anxieties.

When facing a current or upcoming task that overwhelms you with a lot of anxiety, the first thing you can do is to divide the task into a series of smaller steps. Completing these smaller tasks one at a time will make the stress more manageable and increases your chances of success.

Sometimes we get stressed out when everything happens all at once. When this happens, a person should take a deep breath and try to find something to do for a few minutes to get their mind off of the problem.  A person could get some fresh air, listen to some music, or do an activity that will give them a fresh perspective on things.

A person should visualize a red stop sign in their mind when they encounter a fear provoking thought. When the negative thought comes, a person should think of a red stop sign that serves as a reminder to stop focusing on that thought and to think of something else. A person can then try to think of something positive to replace the negative thought.

Another technique that is very helpful is to have a small notebook of positive statements that makes you feel good. Whenever you come across an affirmation that makes you feel good, write it down in a small notebook that you can carry around with you in your pocket.  Whenever you feel depressed or frustrated, open up your small notebook and read those statements.   This will help to manage your negative thinking.

Learn to take it one day at a time. Instead of worrying about how you will get through the rest of the week, try to focus on today. Each day can provide us with different opportunities to learn new things and that includes learning how to deal with your problems. You never know when the answers you are looking for will come to your doorstep. We may be ninety-nine percent correct in predicting the future, but all it takes is for that one percent to make a world of difference.

Take advantage of the help that is available around you. If possible, talk to a professional who can help you manage your depression and anxieties. They will be able to provide you with additional advice and insights on how to deal with your current problem.  By talking to a professional, a person will be helping themselves in the long run because they will become better able to deal with their problems in the future.  Remember that it never hurts to ask for help.

Dealing with our persistent fears is not easy.  Remember that all you can do is to do your best each day, hope for the best, and take things in stride. Patience, persistence, education, and being committed in trying to solve your problem will go along way in fixing your problems. 


By Stanley Popovich

Some people have a difficult time in managing their depression.  Sometimes, their depression and fears can get the best of them.  As a result, here is a short list of techniques that a person can use to help manage their depression.

One of the ways to manage your depression is to challenge your negative thinking with positive statements and realistic thinking. When encountering thoughts that make your fearful or depressed, challenge those thoughts by asking yourself questions that will maintain objectivity and common sense. For example, your afraid that if you do not get that job promotion then you will be stuck at your job forever. This depresses you, however your thinking in this situation is unrealistic. The fact of the matter is that there all are kinds of jobs available and just because you don’t get this job promotion doesn’t mean that you will never get one. In addition, people change jobs all the time, and you always have that option of going elsewhere if you are unhappy at your present location.

Some people get depressed and have a difficult time getting out of bed in the mornings.  When this happens, a person should take a deep breath and try to find something to do to get their mind off of the problem.   A person could take a walk, listen to some music, read the newspaper or do an activity that will give them a fresh perspective on things. Doing something will get your mind off of the problem and give you confidence to do other things.

Sometimes, we can get depressed over a task that we will have to perform in the near future. When this happens, visualize yourself doing the task in your mind. For instance, you and your team have to play in the championship volleyball game in front of a large group of people in the next few days. Before the big day comes, imagine yourself playing the game in your mind. Imagine that your playing in front of a large audience. By playing the game in your mind, you will be better prepared to perform for real when the time comes. Self-Visualization is a great way to reduce the fear and stress of a coming situation.

Another technique that is very helpful is to have a small notebook of positive statements that makes you feel good. Whenever you come across an affirmation that makes you feel good, write it down in a small notebook that you can carry around with you in your pocket.  Whenever you feel depressed, open up your small notebook and read those statements.

Take advantage of the help that is available around you. If possible, talk to a professional who can help you manage your fears and anxieties. They will be able to provide you with additional advice and insights on how to deal with your current problem.  By talking to a professional, a person will be helping themselves in the long run because they will become better able to deal with their problems in the future. Managing your fears and anxieties takes practice.  The more you practice, the better you will become.

The techniques that I have just covered are some basic ways to manage your depression, however your best bet is to get some help from a professional.


By Stanley Popovich

All most everybody worries about what will happen in the future. The prospect of not knowing if something good or bad will happen to you in the near future can produce a lot of fear and anxiety. As a result, here is a list of techniques and suggestions on how to manage this fear of dealing with the unknown.

Remember that no one can predict the future with one hundred percent certainty. Even if the thing that you are afraid of does happen there are circumstances and factors that you can’t predict which can be used to your advantage. For instance, let’s say at your place of work that you miss the deadline for a project you have been working on for the last few months. Everything you feared is coming true. Suddenly, your boss comes to your office and tells you that the deadline is extended and that he forgot to tell you the day before. This unknown factor changes everything. Remember that we may be ninety-nine percent correct in predicting the future, but all it takes is for that one percent to make a world of difference.

Learn to take it one day at a time. Instead of worrying about how you will get through the rest of the week or coming month, try to focus on today. Each day can provide us with different opportunities to learn new things and that includes learning how to deal with your problems. When the time comes, hopefully you will have learned the skills to deal with your situation.

Sometimes, we can get anxious over a task that we will have to perform in the near future. When this happens, visualize yourself doing the task in your mind. For instance, you and your team have to play in the championship volleyball game in front of a large group of people in the next few days. Before the big day comes, imagine yourself playing the game in your mind. Imagine that you’re playing in front of a large audience. By playing the game in your mind, you will be better prepared to perform for real when the time comes. Self-Visualization is a great way to reduce the fear and stress of a coming situation and increase your self-confidence.

Remember to take a deep breath and try to find something to do to get your mind off of you anxieties and stresses. A person could take a walk, listen to some music, read the newspaper, watch TV, play on the computer or do an activity that will give them a fresh perspective on things. This will distract you from your current worries.

A lot of times, our worrying can make the problem even worse. All the worrying in the world will not change anything. All you can do is to do your best each day, hope for the best, and when something does happen, take it in stride.  If you still have trouble managing your anxiety of the future, then talking to a counselor or clergyman can be of great help. There are ways to help manage your fear and all it takes is some effort to find those answers.


By: Stanley Popovich

What do you do when someone you know has to deal with persistent fears, anxieties, or even depression? Well the first thing you need to do is to get the person to seek the services of a professional who can lead them in the right direction and give them the help they need. In addition, here are some other techniques you can use to help the person cope.

Learn as much as you can in managing anxiety and depression. There are many books and information that will educate you on how to deal with fear and anxiety. Share this information with the person who is struggling. Education is the key in finding the answers your looking for in managing your fears.

Be understanding and patient with the person struggling with their fears. Dealing with depression and anxiety can be difficult for the person so do not add more problems than what is already there.

In every anxiety-related situation you experience, begin to learn what works, what doesn’t work, and what you need to improve on in managing your fears and anxieties. For instance, you have a lot of anxiety and you decide to take a walk to help you feel better. The next time you feel anxious you can remind yourself that you got through it the last time by taking a walk. This will give you the confidence to manage your anxiety the next time around.

Challenge your negative thinking with positive statements and realistic thinking. When encountering thoughts that make you fearful or anxious, challenge those thoughts by asking yourself questions that will maintain objectivity and common sense. For example, you are afraid that if you do not get that job promotion then you will be stuck at your job forever. This depresses you, however your thinking in this situation is unrealistic. The fact of the matter is that there all are kinds of jobs available and just because you don’t get this job promotion doesn’t mean that you will never get one. In addition, people change jobs all the time, and you always have that option of going elsewhere if you are unhappy at your present location. Changing your thinking can help you manage your fears.

Another thing to remember is that things change and events do not stay the same. For instance, you may feel overwhelmed today with your anxiety and feel that this is how you will feel the rest of the week or month. This isn’t correct. No one can predict the future with one hundred percent accuracy. Even if the thing that you feared does happen there are circumstances and factors that you can’t predict which can be used to your advantage. You never know when the help and answers you are looking for will come to you.

When your fears and anxieties have the best of you, seek help from a professional. The key is to be patient, take it slow, and not to give up. In time, you will be able to find those resources that will help you with your problems.


Stan Popovich is the author of “A Layman’s Guide to Managing Fear Using Psychology, Christianity and Non Resistant Methods” – an easy to read book that presents a general overview of techniques that are effective in managing persistent fears and anxieties. For additional information go to:http://www.managingfear.com/    

Q&As with Mark Brown 2: Mental Health and Work

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Originally posted on The World of Mentalists:

Last week, I asked Mark Brown about his experiences as founder and editor of the ground-breaking One in Four Magazine. We continued the conversation by discussing the balancing act between working and looking after your mental health.

 Zarathustra: How do you juggle editing the magazine with your own mental health difficulties?

Mark: I think that one of the secret or not so secret stories of One in Four is me the editor as someone with mental health difficulties. The question of how I juggle editing the magazine and my own mental health difficulty is actually the story of how I juggle editing the magazine, doing the rest of my job and having a mental health difficulty.

The answer is, I suppose, intimately bound up with mindfulness and the fine tightrope between giving yourself kindness and hating yourself for self indulgence.

Being someone who is basically the boss with my…

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Dear Maria Miller

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Originally posted on violetsdiary:

Dear Maria Miller,

I’m coming to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Eye Health and Visual Impairment meeting tomorrow (21 May 2012) to help explain the importance of Disability Living Allowance.

I understand you will be at this meeting, but I am not sure that i will get the chance to tell you what I want to say, or if I do get that chance, I’m not sure you actually hear me, so I thought I would write you this open letter on my blog.

I am visually impaired, so is my partner.  We are both registered blind.  We both work, although that shouldn’t be relevant, because DLA (and pip) are NOT ‘out of work’ benefits.  It is designed to cover the extra costs of living with an impairment or long-term health condition.

We have many concerns about the change from DLA to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and we fear the…

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Some benefits to having extremes of mood #bipolar #bipolarhope

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Originally posted on Rethinking Bipolar:

Thoughts on work at  Lancaster’s (Bipolar) Spectrum Centre, UK

Bipolar ‘disorder’ has to be one of the most fascinating disorders ever described. It is difficult to think of any other disorder where such a high proportion of those diagnosed are so keen to keep the label. This perhaps is less surprising when we consider that to stop being seen as bipolar we may need to:

  • be a lot less energetic,
  • work less,
  • sleep more,
  • be less creative
  • and most likely put on extra weight

– none of these things especially appeal to me.

When active we can all tend to over-estimate just how productive and creative we can be. To understand the true picture some rigorous level-headed research is needed. Yesterday the spectrum centre shared news of such a study. Here is an extract:

“It is really important that we learn more about the positives of bipolar as focusing only on…

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These bastards want us dead…

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Many people using psychotropic medication to maintain their mental well-being, are, as you say, prone to weight gain, not only that they often find they suffer co-morbidity issues as a direct result of the medication (and not lifestyle), with diabetes type 2 being the most common of these. On average people suffering mental illness die over 10 years earlier than average and that is quite often because physical symptoms are overlooked by the medical profession (especially heart related issues) because they are deemed as a symptom of someone’s illness – all in their mind!

For many sufferers attending GP/hospital appointments can be an ordeal in itself, and many go without physical health treatment, despite collecting prescriptions for many years for heavy psychiatric meds.

Similarly the rate of ‘smoking’ is higher in those with a severe mental illness such as schizophrenia.

Instead of demonsing folk, these GP’s and the Government should be ensuring that people are in the least offered help and assistance in smoking and weight management because many people reading the news today will feel disinclined to attend their GP if he’s going to add “It’s because your fat” onto the “It’s all in your mind” attitude before they’ll consider treatment.

As someone commented yesterday – tackle obesity, alcoholism and smoking within the NHS, Govt and medical profession before preaching to the masses.

Originally posted on Ron's Rants...:

And by us, I mean the chronically sick and disabled.

Doctors back denial of treatment for smokers and the obese, says the Guardian, going on to say that “Survey finds 54% of doctors think the NHS should have the right to withhold non-emergency treatment.”

Smokers I have little sympathy for – you made that decision, in the face of all the evidence that it’s not just seriously harmful to you, but to everyone around you, so I’m sorry, but you get to live with the consequences. And had I not lived, worked and socialised among smokers for most of my life, until the ban, I wouldn’t be anywhere near as ill as I am now, so sympathy is in very short supply.

However, a lot of people

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Are Landlords Breaking The Law When They Demand No DSS?

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Originally posted on the void:

Trying to find a place to live when you are on benefits can be near impossible.  Landlords already demand huge deposits, which few benefit claimants can afford.  Even then, claimants have to find a landlord who will accept Housing Benefit or  face being forced to lie about their financial circumstances.

This is one of the main drivers of homelessness. If you are unemployed, or on a low wage, and have no savings, it is near impossible to secure private rented accommodation.  Don’t expect the Council to help.  Unless you have children or can jump through the ever increasing number of hoops which means your Local Authority deems you ‘vulnerable’, then they are under no obligation to offer any help at all with housing..

The ubiquitous phrase No DSS is displayed in the windows of many Estate Agents and refers to their refusal to house benefit claimants.  Foxtons, one of London’s…

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Boris Johnson – The Joke That’s Not Funny Anymore

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Originally posted on the void:

It’s now over two years since Boris Johnson claimed he would not accept ‘Kosovo style social cleansing’ on his watch and then proceeded to do fuck all about it.

For new claimants the Housing Benefit caps, which place most London rents out of reach of the low waged, the unemployed, disabled people or pensioners, have now been in place for over a year.  This effectively ended the safety net of the Welfare State for Londoners in the private rented sector.  Under this toff Government, should you be made unemployed, or become sick or disabled, then in all probability homelessness will follow.

Street homelessness is already predictably soaring.  Charities claim this is just the tip of the iceberg with thousands of young people sleeping on friend’s sofas, in hostels, squatting or living in night shelters.

The Government’s response has been to introduce legislation to ban squatting, whilst Boris has raided the…

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**Special Guest Blogger** Lynn Harrison on: The Case of Laura Johnson #mhuk #ukmh #prison #riots

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Guest Blogger: Lynn Harrison –


The Case of Laura Johnson 


“Laura Johnson Faces Jail”
“A millionaire’s daughter who drove a gang of looters around London during the riots last August is facing a jail sentence, a judge has said”
Guardian April 5th 2012-04-06
On first impression this story appears to be one about class and indeed it has incited a media-fuelled debate around how a young woman from a privileged background came to be involved in the riots and what punishment is appropriate.
However, it emerges that Laura had a history of mental distress including self-harm and recent suicide attempts. It was whilst she was being treated at an inpatient unit that she began a relationship with someone who, came from a very different background with a history of drug-related and violent crime. It remains to be seen whether she willingly drove her boyfriend around South London whilst he and an accomplice looted Curry’s, Comet and a petrol station, at one point, it is alleged, even robbing other looters at knifepoint. Alternatively, this could be seen as a case of a vulnerable young woman, very depressed after the break –up of a long term relationship, falling for someone who manipulated her leading her to become involved in crime against her will. The jury didn’t believe that and Laura will be sentenced on May 3.
During a discussion via Facebook with other mental health survivors most agreed that, whatever the truth of this case, a custodial sentence is unlikely to be helpful for Laura.
Reading the many media articles about this case, the most shocking aspect for the journalists appears to be that a young person from a privileged background could be in this situation in the first place. However, for women (and men) generally having mental health problems and being involved in the criminal justice system is far from uncommon.
In 2010, Care Not Custody, a report produced by the WI as part of a campaign to highlight the plight of people with mental health diagnoses in the criminal justice system:
found that two-thirds of all prisoners had mental health problems of 4,300 women prisoners the incidence was, 4 out of 5.
Sadly, for Laura, as for many others, this could make things much worse with damaging consequences for mental health, little effect on reoffending and detrimental consequences on family life, relationships and future prospects. The WI campaign has been calling for an increase in community services for women and generally and improvements in mental health services as an alternative to prison along with improvements to mental health provision within the prison system and during offenders’ rehabilitation programmes.
The urgent need for improvements is also echoed by WISH (Women In Secure Hospitals) which states in its campaign Why Gender Matters:
“The treatment and care of women with mental health needs in hospital, prison and the community is being severely compromised by the widening gulf between policy and practice, and the lack of joined-up thinking between the Mental Health and Criminal Justice Systems. Despite extensive recommendations to move away from ‘one size fits all’ provision to address women’s diversity of need, women continue to report feeling vulnerable within a system that is inadequate at best, and abusive at worst. There is both a financial and human cost to the current situation. Women are falling through the gaps between systems and those with the highest support needs are dropped from statutory mechanisms when they are unable to engage with services.”
Of course, there are many questions still to be answered about the causes of the riots themselves, but, in this instance, if society wishes to focus on positive outcomes, can locking up troubled individuals like Laura, whatever background they may come from, be the right answer?

**Introducing Special Guest Blogger** Judith Haire: Taking #ChildAbuse seriously. #mhuk #ukmh

Posted on Updated on

Guest Blog Post for Dawn Willis from Judith Haire, 4 April 2012


Sadly, new NSPCC figures show most poeple wait over a month to report child abuse.  The NPSCC has recently launched a new campaign, Don’t  Wait Until You’re Certain which urges the public NOT to ignore that niggling doubt about a child’s safety.

In 2011 a record number of nearly 45,000 people across the UK got in touch with the NSPCC because they were worried about a child.

About half of these cases were so serioius they warranted immediate action.  But shockingly, the NSPCC’s helpline service has reported that 56% of these serious calls were from people who had been concerned about a child for at least a month.

And over a quarter had waited at least six months.

These figures came in as a new viral campaign was launched in partnership with the parents’ website NetMums www.netmums.com  The viral was seeded on YouTube, NetMums, Facebook and Twitter.

The films tells us that the NSPCC are there to help, whether  there is an uncertain worry or a definite concern.  They are experts and can advise or support you, and will take action if necessary

The message is if you are worried about a child, need advice or want to talk, DON’T wait until you are certain, call NOW.

Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulous said

“We know that one in five children experience severe abuse or neglect at some point in their childhood.  The impact of abuse can be profound and the longer it continues the greater the risk of long term physical and emotional damage.  This new report highlights the reality that children are suffering because these adults are waiting too long to report their concerns.
We are hopeful that this digital campaign will further break down the barriers that prevent people from contacting the NSPCC and in doing so will help protect more children”

Siobhan Freegard, co founder of the NetMums website said

“This campaign is particularly relevant to our audience as mums come into contact with other parents and children all the time and are therefore likely to come across situations where they feel concerned but aren’t sure if they are witnessing signs of abuse.

We also know that women are twice as likely to contact the NSPCC as men with their concerns.

People may be scared to pick up the phone because they think this will automatically result in something drastic like the police turning up and taking their neighbour’s children away but in many cases the NSPCC provides callers with help and advice without taking things further.  Its helpline counsellors deal with thousands of calls every year and will know the best course of action to take”

Please remember child abuse is very traumatic to a child and childhood trauma is a risk factor for psychosis.  Childhood trauma affects the brain profoundly.  One child sex attack was reported every 20 minutes last year police figures out today (04.04.2012) show.

23,000 children were reported victims in England and Wales in 2010/11 but fewer than 10% of cases ended in a conviction.  4973 alleged victims were under 10 and 1,472 were under 6.

Six times as many reported offences were committed against girls than boys

The NSPCC obtained these statistics in a freedom of information request  and they cover rape, incest and child prostitution across all 43 police forces in England and Wales

The NSPCC said a major effort is needed to protect children and boos the conviction rate

If you are concerned about a child  DON’T WAIT,  tell the NSPCC now. If you have concerns about a child and you want advice then contact the NSPCC free 24 hours a day on 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk or text 88858 or use the online reporting form at www.nspcc.org.uk

You can remain anonymous if you wish