On our show last week we interviewed Vanessa Smith from The Brigette Trust on their work supporting hospice patients and carers in their own homes and how they work with our featured charities St Cathetine’s and Princess Alice Hospices. We discuss various areas of mental health and hospices as well as play some good music. Click the link below to listen back on Mixcloud.
This week’s show consists of an introduction to our new featured charities St. Catherine’s Hospice and Princess Alice Hospice. We have an interview with Kathy Birch, the Day Services Manager at Princess Alice where she discusses what a hospice is, the services they offer in the community and their new project ‘Man Shed’ for men who are bereaved after caring for ill partners or wives. There is also discussion around the interviews, mental health in the run up to the election and music. Please add any thoughts or comments on any aspect of the show.
Whilst promoting other people, I sometimes forget to promote myself. Here is a link to the radio show I co-host. On it we feature a charity for six weeks and discuss what they do and who they help. We have been discussing mental health for the past few weeks and there is music to boot. You can listen to it on the link below and if you like what you hear, please let others know. Feel free to comment on anything that is discussed.
You can also catch the show live on Friday nights from 9.00pm on http://www.surreyhillsradio.co.uk/
Take care buddies,
On the Daves of the Week radio show I co-host, I had the good fortune to interview and learn about a young gentleman called George Hunter and his lovely mum Gillian who have set up the My Tie Diary campaign to raise awareness of mental health. As this subject is close to my heart, I wanted to give George some much deserved promotion.
George is 17 years old and he has decided to promote awareness of mental health in a rather unusual, yet very inventive way. George is wearing a different tie everyday of the school year and his campaign is based around the concept that no-one should feel alone when dealing with mental health issues and that it is fine to talk about this subject without feeling ashamed.
The ties come into it in a few ways. The different ties represent that we are individuals and that not two people are alike. George also uses the ties he is sent to sell in charity shops to raise money for Mind and Young Mind and also has the plan to auction ties from celebrities to raise money for a befriending scheme for the Mary Francis Trust.
I won’t give too many more details, as I am going to gently encourage you to pop over to his webpage and look for yourself. While you are there, if you feel inspired to donate a tie or donate money to the scheme you are in luck, as you can do both of those things on the webpage. Lastly, I would ask that you help spread awareness of what George is doing and what he hopes to achieve.
The link for the webpage is below.
As mentioned at the start of the post, I interviewed George and Gillian on the show, and if you would like to hear it you can do so on Mixcloud on the link below.
The interview starts at 26.51 but if you are feeling generous, you can listen to the rest of the show to boot.
Finally, you can listen back to past shows discussing charities, mental health and more on Mixcloud by searching for Daves of the Week.
As part of the radio show I am volunteering on, I have been carrying out interviews with members of staff and volunteers from charities. As a result of these, I have been pondering issues around mental health and thought I would explore some concepts further on my blog. One issue that came up from a recent interview was about speaking up about mental health issues in the workplace.
In the interview I was told that at a recent Bi-polar conference, one person in attendance stood up and asked if they should admit to having a mental health issue at work or whether they should keep quiet for fear of losing their job. When I heard this, I could not understand how this is allowed to continue. How can people be afraid to say they suffer from a mental health issue at work because they are scared of losing their jobs? Surely this is wrong on so many levels?
I decided to do some research and look into the issue. What I found did surprise me. According to recent research from Mind, 1 in 5 people that admit to suffering a mental health issue at work either lose their jobs or are forced out in other ways. Take that in for a moment. 1 in 5. I think one of the reasons I find this statistic so odd is that I spent ten years working in a care setting, so I am aware of equality and discrimination legislature. Surely this comes under the heading of discrimination? It does. Depression for instance is considered a disability, so it would be discrimination to fire someone for having depression. I believe the problem would be proving that a person was fired for depression and not for other reasons, whether those reasons are real or not.
Another reason I found this hard to take in was that a charity I worked for was nothing but supportive of me during time off from work for depression and my return to work after it. This gave me pause to think as it is sometimes easy to only focus on the bad and not realise the good that occurs. So, I think it is only fair to mention that while some companies lack in areas of supporting mental health, some do a very good job and deserve the credit.
However, it seems that some companies actually nurture a negative attitude to mental health and discourage people from talking about it and the threat of losing a job due to a mental health issue is not implied. The reasons that having a mental health issue is viewed negatively are too varied and vast to include in this post and it might be something I look at in detail later, but for now, let me say that I think this is wrong. Not exactly a grand surprise, but there we are. I will focus on this from a business point of view to keep it in context.
In terms of money, the WHO suggests that £26 billion is lost to the economy each year as a result of absence from work due to mental health issues or people who, and I think this is an interesting phrase, are ‘sickness present’, in that they are at work but not performing to their full potential. £26 billion is no small sum and it makes sense to me that it is in a companies interest to improve the ways it supports people with mental health issues in terms of reducing the overall cost it involves.
It also makes me think of the responsibility employers have in terms of what causes the mental health issues in the first place. Now, I am not laying this solely at the door of businesses and I fully acknowledge that the reasons for mental health issues are wide ranging. Yet we know that stress is a key contributor to mental health issues and that work can be a huge source of stress to many people. It seems fair to me to say that work can be a factor in people developing mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, so it makes me wonder if there is a moral responsibility from companies to support members of staff that have potentially developed mental health issues as a result of their work.
In terms of fairness, I do wonder about how much people with mental health issues help the companies in return to manage their own mental health issues? I accept that it is not always easy to manage a condition such as depression but in order to be balanced, I feel the need to admit that I did not take care of myself as well as I should have. Long periods of denial that I even had an issue, not wanting to see a therapist, stopping anti-depressants mid-course etc etc etc. I realise now that this was not in my best interests, but that is the kicker isn’t it? When you are depressed, it is so much harder to do the things that are good for you. Or I found this to be the case for myself.
This is where I feel I am heading into tricky terrain. I get an alarm bell in my head that makes me think that I am getting close to saying something negative about people with mental health issues and I should not do that. As someone who has suffered from depression, I feel scared about saying anything negative about others who have mental health issues. Then I wonder if I am actually being negative or do I simply feel that way? Or is it actually fair to say that people who are being paid to do a job have a responsibility to take all appropriate steps to manage their issues?
As I say, tricky terrain. There seems to me to be a cycle that looks hard to break. A member of staff is scared to speak up about their mental health issue as they fear losing their job. While I see that this is an understandable fear it does make me think how can a company support a member of staff with their mental health issue if the person does not tell the company in the first place? Or what if the person suffers in silence for too long and the effects are worse than they could have been if dealt with earlier?
Then it comes back to the understandable fear of losing a job due to speaking up as this can happen in reality. I do not like to think it does, but that does not change the reality of it. I have also read several accounts of people simply not realising they are heading towards to a mental health issue until they simply cannot go on anymore. I do not see this as the person’s fault but I do have sympathy for an employer as it seems a difficult situation to resolve or support with as the person they could be supporting may not know they need it in the first place.
I think this is the hardest area to resolve as I am not sure where to start untangling the thread. People are scared to speak up. I get that. I have done that. Yet, in the long run, how is this going to change otherwise? The issue of mental health is not going anywhere and nor should it. The next step seems to be difficult. If awareness of mental health issues is to be raised then people need to speak up yet people are scared to speak up for fear of the consequences whether they are real or imagined. I am not sure how this cycle is going to change.
Then I remember that I am living in a world that is constantly changing and that while the situation is as it is now, it might not be the same in a year’s time. Change can happen fast but in the present moment, it might not seem like it is happening fast enough and that may be the case. Yet, if we looked back in a year’s time to now, we might see that the situation is getting better.
In conclusion I think that some companies need to be challenged if they are creating a negative attitude to mental health issues. It is just plain wrong. I also believe that more credit needs to be given to companies that already do good work to support their staff or moving towards improving. As difficult and painful as it is, I consider it a very important step for people to speak up. I simply cannot see another solution in the long run.
The reason I say this is that I think the way this situation can improve is by the two sides to meet in the middle, or at least start to move in that direction. A company should support the member of staff, but they can only do that if the member of staff tells them. The more people speak up the more people will feel comfortable speaking up. I know this is a simplification, but I cannot see how else this can be overcome.
Of course, if you have any thoughts or ideas, I would love to hear them.
Over the past two months I have been carrying out interviews with members of staff and service users from two different charities for a featured charity segment on a radio show I co-host. On our show Daves of the Week on http://www.surreyhillsradio.co.uk/ we look at a charity for six weeks and promote their work and fund raising initiatives amongst other aspects of what they do. We have featured Combat Stress and are now with Mary Francis Trust. Aside from doing the interviews for the show, I have also found out a lot, and been made to think more about mental health as a concept. There has been too much to cover in one post, so I will explore different aspects in future posts, as well as new aspects when they come up.
One concept I found most interesting was from an interview with Patrick Volter CEO of Mary Francis Trust. In this he compared how people view their physical health as opposed to their mental health. Patrick spoke about how if someone has an issue with their physical health, they would not think twice about seeing their doctor. On the other hand, it seems people are less likely to take as much care over their mental health and see a doctor, for anxiety as an example. I can speak from personal experience of this being true. I resisted the urge to see a doctor about my depression for the longest time. I simply did not see it as connected to my physical health. This is why I think this is a good concept to be aware of. Emotional health needs as much care as physical health.
I wonder why people do this? What is it about feeling emotionally unwell that does not feel the same to people as feeling physically unwell? I think part of it is the way mental health is portrayed or thought of by the general public. Another part is how people with mental health issues think of themselves and what they think they deserve or need to help them cope. I remember thinking that I didn’t deserve any help as I was only feeling down, so I was as much as fault for not getting help as anything else. I don’t recall if I felt that I shouldn’t get help as being depressed was frowned upon by society, so I will not blame that as a reason for myself, but I do think it is a factor for others in not getting help when they need it.
Something I have learnt is that there seems to be an abundance of services to help people with varying degrees of mental health. Talking to the Mary Francis Trust, I have found that the range of services they offer is amazing. From minor to major mental health issues, there is something to help people in numerous ways. The same can be said for services like Samaritans; they are there 24/7 for people to simply talk to, but not everyone knows they are there. Which is why I will mention a request that came from an interview. If you are at a doctors or at the hospital and you know about services that might help people, let the doctors or nurses know because they simply might not have heard of the service before. Or if you know someone that might benefit from a service, then let them know. This is a very simple way to raise awareness and could potentially be of use to someone further down the line.
One of the things I find hardest to deal with when doing the interviews or talking about it on the show is the thought of people suffering in silence or for want of knowing about a service that could help them breaks my heart. I do applaud the drives in social care to confront and alleviate the isolation that people can feel when they have a mental health issue. To show them that support for them is available if they need it is a wonderful. I only hope more people find out about them and access them to make their lives better.
Another aspect I found out about was the struggle charities can have with the media trying to report aspects of their work in a sensationalist fashion. An example would be the reporting of a soldier with PTSD lashing out violently in public. The actual facts do not seem to matter as much as the juiciness of the story, which I find both sad and aggravating. Not only do charities have to try and raise awareness of what they do and the people they do it for, they also have to fight against a media that cares not for the details and more on the impact the headlines have.
Another example is the front page reporting of the German pilot who crashed an airplane into the mountain. Naturally, I have nothing but sympathy for the families and friends involved in this tragic story. It did bother and make me angry that the some paper’s front page headlines ran with ‘Madman in the Cockpit’ style reporting. Or I should say ‘reported’ depression as it is not clear if this was what he was actually suffering from or the reason he did what he did.
I think what makes me angriest is the concept that seems to come across of ‘He was depressed so he flew his plane into a mountain. This makes sense.’ It really doesn’t make sense. Did anyone think about this logic before they said it? Or what is worse, what if people thought about it and knew that it did not make sense and published it because it was inflammatory and likely to cause a stir. How does this widespread speculation help anyone, let alone someone who has any form of mental health related issues to see their conditions being portrayed in this way? Irresponsible does not even come close.
I think that mental health awareness is getting better, then I see the headlines from yesterday and I am reminded that there is a long way to go. Still, I have to hope in the long term it will become something that is understood more clearly, services to help people are more widely known and that people with mental health issues know that there are things that can help them. Until then, I will do what I can in my small way to help that come about.
If you have any thoughts or comments, I would love to hear them.
Take care buddies,