The importance of community spirit

Welcome back to the first blog post of 2018. It has been a while since I last wrote a post, the last one I made was on the fantastic arts event held over in London borough of Lambeth.

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So it is now 2018 and a beginning of new year, with new opportunities, challenges and awareness projects to raise regarding unpaid carers, mental health events and topics about psychology. Some people wonder why I have created such a blog site and why I cover mental health events and carer forums. I feel these specific issues need a lot of awareness raising. Mental health still struggles to get a decent platform and any help I can contribute to the awareness of unpaid carers and service users should continue.

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Mother comforting Daughter who is unwell

The thing is though, it is not just about service users or carers, its not always about mental health staff who work tirelessly to support service users and their family. It is not even always about psychology or psychiatry. I feel the larger aspect is community. I feel no matter how near or far, we are touched by mental health.

It is unfortunate that those around us only notice mental health when they see mental illness at its chronic form, either when someone is suffering psychosis, bipolar or a serve eating disorder, but we cannot overlook that each and everyone of us have mental health. We all can feel down at times, we can feel stressed and angry, but if we take that to another level then we are not too far from challenging mental health.

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Its not enough to say mental health effects everyone and that we should be proud of combating mental illness, we need to involve the community to learn about mental health and involve the community to understand wellbeing. The divide needs to be closed where those who suffer mental illness are kept hidden away while others who are coping well continue on hoping they will never have to face mental illness.

I hope to raise the importance of the inclusion the community, where the community can get the voice and speak about what is affecting their mental health and how physical health is tied with mental health. It might seem we are different and unique, but no matter what we are exposed to, mental health affects us all.

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If we can work together as a community and share the common apsect of wellbeing, so many great things can be arheived. People will always remember those who go out of their way to show understanding, education and most importantly kindness.

We should never forget community. Here is to a healthy 2018 for body and mind.

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STELEO Art Exhibition

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Welcome, on this blog I talk about the art event that took place over at The Coffee Lovers Cafe’. The art exhibition was a joint work of the patients / service users of the STEP and LEO mental health team.

If you wish to see the video version please click the video below

A bit about The Coffee Lovers Cafe. The Coffee Lovers Cafe is a lovely Moroccan themed cafe situated in Lambeth, the staff are friendly and the prices are very reasonable. If you ever get the chance, it is worth dropping by for the lovely atmosphere.

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The art exhibition title ‘STELEO’ was hosted by Arts therapist Paula Moclair who provides art therapy at South London & Maudsley. As I arrived at the Cafe, Paula greeted me and showed me some of the works on display. I was glad to be in from the cold and the warmth of the cafe certainly made a difference. Plus there was lots of refreshments on offer.

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It was not long before some of the artists turned up to speak and present some of their work. First to chat about her work was Marian Saidik who produced the work “Hub of Roses”.

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Mariam mentioned that the work produced made her happy and felt the work’s aim was to be a gift to others. She started art at a very young age, but has interests in the environment, language and fitness. Mariam explained to me about the use of colours and the importance of expressing the art work.

Paula then spoke to me about her art, each of her art work had a theme and focus. The first work shown was titled “Lurly-Lurley”, which seems to express the use of words and the relation with her sister.

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Paula then spoke about three other pieces of work shown here. One showing the toliet and her cat focused on the patron saint of miracles. The other picture shown in blue was to do with Yoga and the last being about the experiences with her sister at a young age.

Soon I spoke to another artist who talked about the flower they made and how they liked flowers, plus the flower represents life

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The next service user spoke about the work she produced, which I noticed a visitor spoke kindly about. The visitor felt that the patterns from the work produced called out to him. When I asked the artist to explain more about her work, she mentioned how she enjoyed creating patterns.

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More artists arrived and spoke about how Paula helped them produce the work and how they appreciated the help. They felt that art was a positive force in their life and a good hobby. They was not too worried about their art work selling since they could always take it home later.

The artist also showed more of his work off his mobile phone.

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Near the end of the art exhibition we got to hear from the art therapist who explained the latest developments from the past year and how it was good to see people’s work framed. One of the artists also spoke about how good it was to see his art on show and how it overwhelmed him.

I also made a speech stating that I was proud to see the end results of all the hard work patients and staff from the LEO and STEP team had put in and I was happy to see the end results of the funding by the Mausley ‘Lets Smile’ charity.

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All in all, the event inviting, inspiring and it felt great to talk to friendly people. I hope more work can be produced for the next exhibition.

Lewisham MH Carers forum November

133Welcome to the November update of the Lewisham Mental Health carers forum for 2017. This will be the last forum for 2017 until January 2018. The carers forum has been running in Lewisham for some years now and there has been some minor problems, but many successes.

For the November forum on the agenda we had feedback from South London & Maudsley regarding carer queries from the October meeting. The patient information officer did a great job in notifying the involvement lead, information manager and engagement lead regarding carer queries.

  • Most queries centered on providing SLaM’s carer Handbook for GPs.
  • The trusts progress on Triangle of Care
  • Compliments regarding the trusts new carers handbook
  • Plus engagement from the Head of the acute pathway to the MH carers forum in Lewisham.

I gave feedback to the attendees to the forum and all who attended were delighted with the effort the trust took to engage with involved carers.

For the November MH carers forum, we had a carers lewisham advocate update the forum members on what Carers Lewisham is doing for carers. There was other updates on

  • Promotion of the MH Carers forum.
  • The upcoming Carers Lewisham AGM.
  • Update on the 4 carer areas.
  • Print out of the latest Carers Lewisham Newsletter.

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We also discussed who is attending the carers forum for the new year, which can help with setting the agenda so other carers know what will be discussed.

During the forum Lucy Phiri who is the trust’s new modern Matron for Croydon and modern matron lead for carers dropped by to tell carers about what a modern matron does. Carers who attended were updated on the importance of quality on the wards, looking into CQC actions and engaging with families and carers. We found who are the 4 modern matrons for each of the 4 boroughs.

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Queries from carers were on if there is or will be a deputy for carer leads because if a carer lead is unwell or moves on then it is hard to continue a carer focused role, e.g. chain of command breaks down for staff and carer.

Other queries were carers having trouble getting a carers assessment if their ‘cared for’ is not engaging with the services.

Lastly, the good news is that carers were happy to hear that there will be a new carer lead forum/network starting up and the Modern matron will take up some of our queries to the meeting the next day.

Why you care

Mother comforts her teen daughterIf you are a non paid carer of someone suffering from mental illness, there will be times that you question yourself on why you care. Especially during the toughest part of a crisis. It might be that you constantly fear loosing that person through an eating disorder, addiction or psychotic episode. It may be that you are having difficultly getting your point across to mental health professionals especially when the NHS is in its time of crisis.

You may question not only the reason why you care, but question your own well being.

Being a non-paid carer is vital not only for the person being cared for, but for the community. Each community thrives on people want to help each other out, after all isn’t that how communities work? We share all things in common, we all want to get along and wish the best for each other. It is unfortunate that life is not always fair, there will be that special someone struck down with mental illness that non-paid carers would have to fight for.

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Carers would like some assistance especially if they are struggling to make ends meet, it need not always be financial assistance, but recognition and hearing the carer can go a long way to improving engagement with the family.

I have been through the situation many times on if I was making the right decision, especially if I am having to try block my loved one’s decision or advocate for them, which might not always be in their interest. However I know in the long run, it would make big difference. I know in the long run it showed I really cared and that everything would turn out alright. My efforts as of this time did pay off.

Still there are many carers of those suffering from mental illness who still doubt themselves. Non-paid carers can be up against a mountain of red tape, lack of information, misunderstandings, lack of support, failing relationships and mental/physical turmoil themselves. It is true the mentally unwell person is getting the worst of it, but the carer struggle should not be ignored or discounted.

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There are carers out there who can speak their mind and getting things sorted out quickly, but the majority of carers silently cope and continue on until they reach that breaking point. If you as a non-paid carer question why you are caring for someone close who is unwell, just think this to yourself, you do this because “YOU CARE”

Self Care Week

SCWwebbuttonlg2017Welcome back to another health awareness video. I have been gone quite a long while, but that doesn’t mean I have not been very busy. I usually am involved with many carer forums and groups in and around south/south east London. I try to raise awareness of unpaid carers who look after someone suffering from mental illness.

 

To see the video version, please click below

However there comes a time when we need to look after ourselves, be it if we are caring for someone or trying to care for ourselves. This video looks into Self Care week, which runs from November 13th to November 19th. The theme is Embracing Self Care for Life. Self care is about keeping fit and healthy, understanding when you can look after yourself and also when to askfor advice from a GP.

If you are unwell or suffer from a long term condition then it is very important you find out as much as you can in order to support yourself. Self care need not be so difficult if you know what you are dealing with.

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Across the UK many suffer needlessly when dealing with weight problems, lack of exercise and stopping smoking. Getting information or attending events can be useful in combating unhealthy lifestyles. If you are caring for someone, you can easily fall into the habit of not paying much attention to your own health needs. It is an easy mistake to make especially when you have little time for yourself.

From the self care forum website, there are tips and advice not only for yourself, but for GP surgeries and pharmacists up and down the UK. It is a massive drive to get the population healthier and combat damaging habits to our health.

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You can find out more about Self Care week from the Self Care forum on http://www.selfcareforum.org/events/self-care-week/

Remember if you cannot find time to self care for yourself, think of how hard it would be for you to care for someone else.

September update of the BME carers forum

IMG_20171027_115343This blog post is an update of September’s Lewisham BME carers forum. This is one of the four carer forums I am involved with and it is held over at a community centre called Family Health ISIS. The BME Carers forum was set up to provide a platform of engagement, empowerment, updates and issue raising out in the community.

It is important to note that the forum focuses on black African & Caribean carers who support/care for those suffering from mental illness. This is also one of the forums that has a mixture of carers and those with lived experience.

For September we were forunate enough to have engagement from Lewisham & Bromely Healthwatch. Marzena the community engagement officer came along to speak about what Healthwatch is all about and their mission to let others know about the health services available to them. Basically Healthwatch works to help local people get the best out of their local health and social care services.

As in the name, Lewisham & Bromely Healthwatch are covering two south east London boroughs, so they have a large area to cover.

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I felt that it is important all four of the carer forums have a link to their local healthwatches because many issues raised in the forums can be of great importance to such community organisations. It is important to note not all healthwatches are alike and they tend to work differently in each borough.

Marzena updated the forum about health services in the borough of Lewisham, but also spoke about the duties of healthwatch and what meetings they attended. Healthwatch have stronger connections to the health commissioners and other health and wellbeing committees.

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There was many passionate discussions about the issues members of family health ISIS are going through and I hope other guest speakers can work with the forum to tackle such problems.

Marzena also spoke about looking after your health and mentioned diabetes groups and support.  Healthwatch promoting diabetes peer support groups in the area.  Healthwatch also gave away some free products such as pens and hand sanitizers.

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I am grateful for Healthwatch for taking the time to engage with the BME mental health carer forum and hope they can attend the Lewisham Carers forum next year. Healthwatch also have offered to return to this forum in the new year.