How’s your mental health?

October 10 is World Mental Health Day. It’s celebrated every year. This year’s theme is Mental Health in the Workplace and seeing that I work in the Mental Health Service, I’ve been very busy planning events to commemorate this day.

There’s still a lot of stigma and misconceptions about mental ill health but it’s getting better. We’re probably where cancer was in the 80s. When people have a physical ache they often don’t mind saying so but with mental aches they feel less inclined to share.
Like the physical aspect of health, mental health is a spectrum. Headlines about ‘psychotics’ and ‘sociopathic killers’ may ensure more clicks online or sell more gossip mags but the unsexy truth is that only about 1 to 3 per cent of the population experience severe and enduring mental ill health.

So for the majority of us and the people we come into contact with every day like friends, relative and co-workers what we’re really talking about is stress, anxiety and depression. Recovery from these is very possible and though medication can help, talking therapy is increasingly the first line of defense.

Our mental health is at risk just as our physical health which is why we do pap smears, mammograms, fasting blood tests, cholesterol tests, endoscopies, colonoscopies and x-rays; and donate blood.

At work we’re using a framework called the Wheel of Wellbeing which was developed by the South London and the Maudsley which is a Mental Health service within the UK National Health Service.

WoW focuses on 6 domains. It is a common sense tool for prevention of mental ill health and improving wellbeing. https://www.wheelofwellbeing.org

My idea of wellbeing is being on Mayaro Beach – see picture above but I can’t always be there, so this World Mental Health Day, I’m doing the following:
• Using WoW to check my wellbeing
• Asking at least one friend or colleague how they are and going beyond when they say they’re fine
• Challenging any outrageous and often erroneous depiction of mental ill health – it could be a comment on a FB post or a discussion with a relative.

Would you join me? You could save some lives and one of them may be your own.

How’s your mental health?

Irma – some thoughts and a suggestion

Antigua, Barbuda, St Martin, St Maarten, St Barts, Anguilla, St Kitts, Nevis, British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bahamas, Cuba..

Sounds like the DJ at a soca fete asking revellers to show their national colours or the shortlist for a honeymoon location. Instead these islands were pins in a meteorological game of skittles.

My twin-island place of birth was spared…this time. But the hurricane season is far from finished so it’s worrying if you have connections in any of the aforementioned or the following countries: Jamaica, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, Grenada andTrinidad and Tobago. As Irma moved on to the USA, the dread continued as thoughts turned to more friends and family.

It seems impossible that many of these tiny islands are autonomous states. Wouldn’t it be better if they were united, a federation of sorts? But that is an ‘f’ word which stirs up unpleasant memories of the past, colonial and early post-independence. Caricom, based on the EU, is a model for how this could work but in light of Brexit, it may be just as well that closer political ties have not been sought. Additionally, others would point to the fluctuating fate of the West Indian cricket team as a reason to not think of more formal ties.

These economic and political drivers cannot ignore the immense pride citizens feel in being independent of the ‘mother country’. A fact supported by the continuous agitations for independence on some of the French islands. Yet the Dutch and French responses have been praised while the UK government has been criticized for its lackadaisical approach to its territories. Though, I wonder if there are leaders or citizens of countries, which have no automatic right to help from former colonial masters, who are wishing that these rights could be reinstated at a time like this.

Solutions to these issues come easy when the discussion occurs among friends from the Caribbean diaspora in a British back garden and lubricated by generous servings of rum. Talking is easy, action is more difficult but is needed in the aftermath of this tragedy that has shattered so many lives.

I feel small, helpless and ineffective in the face of  calamities like Irma. Research has shown that 24 hours news coverage has desensitised many of us to the plights of others. But I know that if such a life-changing event happened to me, I would want people to imagine my pain, feel my incomprehension and be moved beyond inertia and do something. I would want them to help me. Wouldn’t you?

So what are we going to do?

Summer Reading

Still at work but pace is a bit slower, so have had a few daily coffee/book breaks. In the evenings there’s neither ferrying of kids to and from school/activities nor homework and having 7 days off work at the end of June to the beginning of July for Eid-ul-Fitr have helped.

I love my Kindle,yet, there is still nothing like cracking open a paper book –  the smell, the feel, the look of the cover and a personalised inscription by the author. Having heard the author read from the text in your hand and give an insight into their writing alchemy heighten the thrill.

Last March, I attended the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature, just as well given the …but that’s another post…maybe.

After every talk I attended, I had to know the fate of these characters, I bought the books and lined up to have the authors sign them. I was on a high for days after. Months later and reading the books, I’m having multiple highs as I lose myself in their words and worlds.

In the last few weeks I’ve read:

  • Coming Home by Annabel Kantaria
  • A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale
  • The Kindness of Enemies by Leila Aboulela
  • Me, You and Tiramisu by Charlotte Butterfield
  • The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange

And though this writer was not at the festival, I got her book because the title and the cover intrigued:

  • A Cupboard full of Coats by Yvette Edwards

They are all strong contenders for my recommended read to our book group when we reconvene in September.

In a couple of weeks, we’ll be heading to Blighty and I can’t wait to lose myself in Foyles in Westfield, Stratford and in the charity shops’ book sessions. I’ll treat myself to a few ‘real books’.

Until then it’s back to the Kindle.

What are you reading this summer?

Happy Anniversary

7 years, in which I have:

  • Doubled the number of my sons
  • Realized that as my friend Chris says, ‘a place changes you more, than you change a place’
  • Lived the longest at the same address
  • Reckoned that home is where you make it, preferably with your family
  • Said more hellos than I have ever done in my life
  • Bade farewell more than I have ever done in my life, with the exception of when I left my twin-island birthplace
  • Overcome many preconceptions yet developed a few more prejudices

7 years since I landed in my desert place, I’ve learnt so much and am still learning more each day as this experience constantly amazes, thrills and infuriates me.

7 years today, my husband, son and I started an adventure… to be continued…

What are you celebrating?

Derek And Darcus

 

It saddens me that I learn so much more about some people after they have died

Things I wished I’d known while they were alive

So maybe just maybe I could have met them and had a chat about them

Still reeling from Derek Walcott’s passing, I am confronted by that of Darcus Howe

Two men who through their lives proved that the pen could be mightier than the sword

That discourse, ongoing, changing and cathartic was a human ideal

That poetry and politics, which often people say they don’t do or get, have a firm place in our lives

Rooted in the Caribbean but international in their presence

Blazing trails and inspiring

By no means neither good nor perfect but that was never the intention

As spirits as in body, their legacy echoes

To thine own self be true

Do you dare?

Let the Music Play

The first time ever I heard … Al B Sure’s version of ‘Killing Me Softly’, I swooned over the song…and him… rolled my eyes at my parents’ protestations that the Roberta Flack version was superior. I was young enough in the 90s to appreciate the Fugees take on the same song.

Once, and then several times more, in a lifetime, you may find yourself steupsing (sucking your teeth in disgust/despair/disagreement) at a diluted, less vibrant version of a tune you once rocked/cried/loved to.

There has been many a crime perpetrated against the ear masquerading as music. A single arbiter is inconceivable as we are so wonderfully diverse in our taste.  After all some of the best insults are those pelted by one ‘great’ to another: Ballet composer Tchaikovsky said that the lullaby-writing Brahms was ‘just some chaotic and utterly empty wasteland’ –   proof that this is not a recent phenomenon.

For the most part, I’m tapping my feet, nodding my head and thinking the music is in good hands. I’m especially sweet-eyeing (winking at) Ray Blk and Abra.

This post was inspired by listening to http://music.britishcouncil.org/the-selector.

Who’s got you grooving?

 

 

That 80s feeling

Thanks to a friend’s 30th birthday party, I had the chance to relive my teens. Decked in lace, acid wash, mismatched-more-is-more jewellery, neon green nails, fuschia lipstick and a big gold hoop with a key dangling a la Ms Jackson and I was the ‘illest’. In classic role reversal my older son asked me where I was going dressed like that.

It may be the decade that the Style Police would like to give a life-no-chance-of-parole sentence. But while bopping along with MC Hammer, Madonna a la ‘Like a Virgin’ video, Princess Leia, one of the models from the Robert Palmer videos, Elliot and ET and a Rubik’s cube, I concluded that the 80s gave great grooves.

Wave after nostalgic wave washed over me. When the DJ rocked ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’, ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go’ and ‘Thriller’, I couldn’t help but be saddened by the loss of so many amazing artists.

If you haven’t listened for the longest while to Loose Ends’ ‘Hanging on String’ or Soul II Soul’s ‘Back to Life’ or Duran Duran’s ‘Say A Prayer’ or Lisa Lisa’s ‘Lost In Emotion’  or LL Cool J’s ‘I Need Love’,go get your youTube on.  I’m giving you a prescription for your current woes. Side effects may include the sudden desire to wear spandex and leg warmers, flowered jeans and jackets with lots of zips.

You’ll  remember a time when life was a bit more complicated because you were a teenager but with the excellent vantage of hindsight, you know it was a lot simpler as well because you were a teenager.

What songs were you grooving to back then?

 

New Year Resolution II

It’s just about 2 weeks into the new year..

How are you faring with your resolutions?

Maybe…

  • the list is too long
  • you need to prioritize
  • you need to choose 1 or 2 things max
  • if you succeed at this 1 thing you may feel motivated next year to do the other things on your list
  • you need some help and some accountability – talk it through with a friend or a professional
  • you need to represent your resolution with pictures and words (cue cutting up old mags or endless google searches)
  • it’s too cold
  • you’re broke
  • there’s left over cheese and sweets

Give yourself a break. The year is 12 months long.

You could make a new month’s resolution next month as they say it takes 21 days to form a habit and Feb only has 28 days.

Or you can make a 3 months resolution at the end of April and have achieved your goal by the time you go on holiday at the beginning of August.

Or you can wait until September and follow the academic year but do some research and planning in the in meantime.

Could your January resolution  be to take time to reflect on what you truly want to achieve this year?

New Year Resolution – Take I

I gave up making New Year’s resolutions a while ago as like many I did not manage to keep them a few weeks past the beginning of January.

Yet add some friends, the sea and some gentle pressure about camping and before you know it I’ve declared that I will camp overnight in the desert, possibly near the sea in 2017.

Allegedly, having someone keep you accountable is one of the recommendations for sticking to your resolutions. I made this announcement in front of 2 camping keen buddies, their hubby, my older son and my other half.

So I guess it’s time to add a tent, blow up bed, torch, etc. to the shopping list.

Who’s keeping you accountable for your new year’s resolution?

Sane ranting

I recently transferred to work in the Mental Health Service. Unfortunately like most parts of the world, Cinderella would feel at home. Fortunately, never mind a prince, there’s a team of clinicians and managers primed to change the fables that surround mental health care.

Like all good tales there are and will be advances and setbacks, villains and heroes, hopes raised, dashed and resurrected, tandem comedic and tragic moments and idealism balanced with a pragmatic approach.

I once had the experience of hearing from a recently appointed Department of Health policy advisor. He was addressing a crowd of people with over a thousand years of aggregated mental health experience without any deference or recognition of their experience or knowledge. My nurse colleague and I regarded each other with incredulity and sympathy. Why hadn’t they listened to the real experts during their ‘consultation’?  Why would I have to try and convince the workers at the coalface to implement something they knew was doomed to fail?

My personal Brexit was spurred on by being one of the maligned managers manically trying to implement ill-conceived ideas of politicians. And if I hadn’t already left, Hunt’s statement that introducing a general “manager class” in the NHS may have been “an historic mistake” would have had me considering claiming asylum in a foreign land.

It’s great to be in a place where my skills are desired and sought; my arrival to the department was greeted with joy and relief; and within days colleagues were asking for my help with getting things done.

In the desert, the West is often touted as the vanguard from models of healthcare to press freedom. I’m not a fan of blanket neo-colonialisation especially after seeing the front cover of an American magazine emblazoned with ‘Trapped With A Madman’  and a  headline inside  declaring ‘Kim’s Nightmare: Trapped With A Madman.’”

I guess the whole world has a long way to go when it comes to our mental health.

At this hectic time, how is your mental health?