Monthly Archives: July 2014

A celebration of wellbeing for the young people

I am not so young anymore, well that’s at least what I think, but tomorrow I am hoping to experience a great festival that not only celebrates what its like to be young, but also celebrates well-being for young people. The festival is called the “Happy Heads” festival which takes place over at the Maudsley Learning centre.


Now even at my age, I admit I sometimes struggle to understand the concept of well-being and how it can benefit our lives in an ever chaotic world. So can you imaging the challenges for young people today?

Never has being young in the UK presented so many difficult challenges for young people. although I hope not to write a blog that starts off so grim, but I do want you to be aware of what young people have to go through these days.

Asked to do more for less

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When I was in school or college, things were fairly simple. I would just try get the grades, get the job and get on trying to make a living. I admit things were not always so easy, but fast forward to the present.

I look around and wonder what its like for young people and I am taking of the age range from perhaps 14 to 21. I wonder how much pressure the educational system is placing on your people, because hence a lot of pressure is being placed on the educational system. Even now in the UK, there are a lack of teachers. So in a competitive world, young people are having a lot more pressure placed on them.

Difficultly understanding oneself let alone understanding what others request of you

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This is something I could almost relate to. For those who are young it is not always easy to understand yourself, let alone trying to figure out what people require of you. I could state that even at my age, I do not fully understand all the things I do and yet when I look back when I was a lot younger, I can appreciate how far I have come with all the pressures placed on myself. Understanding our place in society while we are young seems to be common in every generation and to be honest, this generation is no different except with one big issue.


There is so much information, from mobile phones, tablets, the news, computers and even from the Internet. More storage, more memory and more speed. Never before has young people have access to so much information, but the problem with information is that it needs to be processed before we can understand it. Place the quantity of information in an ever changing society and the pressures on young people multiply.

Connecting with others takes time

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For every age be it old or young, connecting with other people takes time, but I suspect that when you are younger, connecting with other people may take just a bit longer. When you are young, the idea of trust is vitally important. Being young means you place yourself in situations that you perhaps have not experienced before, because your emotions need to be guarded. This is a tough situation to be in if our connections go wrong and it takes a long time for a young person to heal when they older. Connecting with others be it through your peers, friends, family or the community presents a tough challenge in today’s times.

Community struggles with who belongs

All communities have their own problems and challenges, but I find that in today’s times the community seems to be more distance. Perhaps the community seems fragmented. I do admit we have “peoples days” and “festivals” and celebrations, but after those are over, what is the legacy?

I am not saying there is an easy fix, we all need to get on and try and do our best, no matter what is asked of us, but its harder to do this when you are young person these days. I can only sympathize with them, I feel it is so important to give young people a voice so they feel they are part of the community for far too long adults like myself try and speak for young people and try to second guess their problems, which I suppose is what I am doing right now.

Learning how to cope

Coping through the tough times can be difficult. Coping through the tough times when your young can be a far more difficult challenge. With the advantages of age and experience, if you have coped through emotional difficulties before, then its often the case that you have learnt how to cope and you can see things through.

When you are young, the territory can often be new. Of course there are resources available to try help young people to cope with the emotional and physical stresses of their life, but so much can be at risk when new emotional challenges present themselves to a young person for the first time.

The pressures of technology

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Perhaps out of all the problems mentioned so far, this one is the most unique and the most critical. As soon as I step outside into the neighbourhood, it won’t take long to find someone’s head buried in their mobile phone, or if you get on the tube or bus, you can see someone using their tablet. Technology has given us many advantages and benefits in connecting to each other and sharing things through Facebook or other social media, but there are problems as well…what could they be?

As for one, it is so much easier to just stay at home and play games, education is so much easier off the internet. The pressure to keep pace with new devices is an added weight this all costs money and young people can loose out as since they are busy connecting to social media, there is a trade off in not being able to connect with the environment or friends. Every new generation has their challenges, but technology places a new challenge never seen before and shows no signs of slowing down.

Physical health

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On this topic, young people’s physical health has taken a tumble and this has probably fed off from the problems of technology, connecting with the community or struggling to cope. I am not stating all young people’s physical health suffers, but the pressure to avoid exercise has increased due to the age where its harder to feel safe in parks, its easier to connect with technology, the food we eat has become cheaper, but can also be more unhealthy. One thing I have noticed on travelling around on the buses in the afternoons is the amount of fried food packages left lying around. Perhaps young people are not to blame as such food has become so cheap to buy, but all this takes their toil on young people’s physical health. There has to be a price to pay.

Financial problems


This is hard to avoid and yes financial pressures are all round, but with young people they have to rely on their peers when it comes to financial situations. As we all know, good finances means more choice, that being more choice on what we can do, more choice on how to cope, more choice overall. Yet, never has it been so hard for young people to get into work after they have left education, it is a struggle for young people to get that choice if finances are so hard.

Wondering about the future

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This is not always a problem, but the future is hurtling towards us at an increasing and frightening pace. If you are old or young, we tend to worry about the future, but for those who are young, it must be difficult to wonder how the future will turn out, especially if you lack the means to control your own destiny. We all do this, we wonder how long we can connect with our families and friends, we wonder where we will live or wonder if we will move into a different interest.

It does not help when we spend so much of our lives doing so much, that there is little time to wonder if we are living right. Can you imagine the situation for younger people?

Bullying problems

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This happens to all ages, old or young. There are many types of bullying, but being bullied when you are young can cause so many difficult problems. Lets not beat around the bush here, bullies are cowards and there is no doubt about it, but the situation is the same, bullying still carries on, bullying is the hidden menace in schools, in colleges and outside in the play areas, out on the streets. Young people, especially those who are bullied face a difficult choice, will they get that support if they decide to tackle the bullying? I am not saying there is a perfect solution to this issue, I am just pointing out that this is one of the pressures young people experience today.

Educational problems

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I have mentioned the problem of education in some of the points that I have raised earlier. We are all born with unique gifts and talents, but now days I am not afraid to state that the education system places so much more on our young people in order for them to be successful in society, but what if you struggle with education when you are young these days? Do young people still belong in a society where getting ahead means so much? What about those whose interests or values are not entirely on education?

Coping with discrimination

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In today’s society we are all different, I am proud to live in a society where we can learn so much about different cultures and celebrate them. We are a more tolerant society in the UK, but this is not always the case. There are times when people will point out differences as if they are weaknesses, there are times when its easier to pick on younger people because they may lack the experience to defend themselves. There are times when being young is a stigma in society itself. We live in a society of labels, there is no easy way to get away from it. Sometimes I notice that young person people can be associated with trouble making, being ungrateful or just not learning fast enough. As a young person, how easy can it be to cope with discrimination?

I am sure I have missed out so many things which young people can experience, but I certainly am eager to find out ways how young people can battle these issues and challenges. With each subject I have pointed out, if young people are not supported then the risk can cause damage to their well-being, be it mental or physically. We all have our part to play and we must not let this happen, but pointing out problems is only half the battle. What are the solutions? what ideas can be of use? How can young people be empowered to face these challenges with the skills required of them?

A celebration

I have mentioned this before and I am not afraid it again. I cannot speak for young people and it is of the utmost importance young people have their own voice. I can only speculate what difficulties and challenges young people face in today’s fast moving world. However one thing I have noticed ever since I have started visiting events and festivals is what is celebrated for young people’s well-being?

I have probably been to and review around 60 events and very few of them are geared to young people, but tomorrow on the 26th July 2014. I get to check out the Happy Heads festival, where many partners and sponsors aim to celebrate well-being for young people. Each partner has played their role in working with young people to face the challenges and issues I have pointed out earlier and to get an idea of who I am talking about let me list them for you.

Together we Can
Maudsley Learning
Raw Material
South London and Maudsley
Guardian Masterclasses
Millwall football
Dance United
Young Minds
Timebanking UK
and I am sure many more that I have contributed or will be there on the day.

Looking at their HappyHeads site, one thing that has stood out are the five ways to happiness, which can be aimed at young people. What can they mean? and how can these ways help us in order to achieve happiness? Of course these are my views and perhaps I may misunderstand some things, but I felt its important to give our views because we can all learn from each other.


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If we take the time to connect to each other, then connection can bring understanding, connection can bring unity, connection can bring belonging and so much more. As a society we can be separated for so long, we often wonder if connecting to anything but our mobile apps is worth the trouble, but now more than ever is connecting so important in a world where its easier to keep our distance. Connecting is what makes us a community, connecting is what makes the community stronger not only for people, but for younger people who are an important part of the community. Connecting to any one is not something so easy and its probably not the only solution to many challenges young people may face, but connecting can lead to happiness.

Taking Notice

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What ever we notice can lead to many things, noticing is a rather general activity, but what happens if we gear or aim what we notice into something that can lead to happiness? What happens if we notice that we are breathing….that’s it, stop just there and notice you ARE breathing, notice you are alive. Do you notice your problems you were worrying about melt away for a moment?

What happens if you notice the glass being fall full than being half empty? You can begin to now understand it is what we notice that can lead to happiness and happiness can lead to us coping with the issues I have raise earlier on. I am not stating this thing is easy, but whatever we notice can be a powerful tool for young people.


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Giving can be one of the most powerful and personal things a person can do, although the act of giving is not in the gift itself, it is the action of giving, the time it takes to make the decision to give rather than receive or wanting that is most humble. When we give, we state to others that we are there for them, we connect with them, not just to make us happy as that can sometimes be self serving, we give because we WANT to help others be happy in their situation. It need not be a physical or material gift, we can give in so many ways and many of us to do not even realize we give every day.

Young people give all they have got and do not realize this special resource, while others do not know the powerful of giving and how it can heal not only others, but ourselves. Giving can and often does lead to happiness in ourselves.


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There is no way of getting away from Learning, be it from educational to awareness or learning how to get ahead, but you do not have to be a triple “A” student to value the skill of learning. We are learning every day no matter what talents you have, but the situation is do you know that you are learning? So much pressure is placed on young people to learn a resource and if they fail to make the grade, then they feel put off from learning, but this is a big mistake. Learning should be about learning something we find of value to ourselves as well. Every day, every hour, every minute we learn something and this should be celebrated. Learning can lead to happiness.

Being Active

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This probably one of the most important things that a young person can value. Being young is about energy, movement and creativity. I can tell you for sure when you get to my age, that being active is important, but a whole different ball game. An active person has a chance to get out there and use their bodies to help with their wellbeing. Its not always about Minds, our body is important as well and if our body is not in good shape, our minds can suffer. This is also visa versa, we need to celebrate and use our bodies to be active, especially young people. So being active can lead to happiness.

Happiness is not the only thing to help young people in a difficult world, but it is an important thing to help young people. Happiness can help our wellbeing and should be celebrated, especially for young people who are under more pressure more than ever before. I hope tomorrow I will experience each of the 5 ways to wellbeing and blog about what I have seen.

Thanks for reading through my blog post.  You can find out more about Happy Heads festival here…

Review on Healthwatch Southwark “Social Care” Event

Welcome to another blog post from my carers blog site. As usual I sometimes check out events to do with Mental Health, wellbeing events and carer’s events. I do not mind feeding back what I have picked up from these events. So on the Tuesday 22nd July over at Cambridge House in the London Borough of Southwark.

I decided to check out Southwark Healthwatch event on ” What’s happening in Social Care in Southwark – now and in the future?”.


The event lasted from 4:00 pm till 6:30 pm and there was lots on offer, plus plenty of time to contribute and get our views across. Before I continue, you may wonder what on earth is Healthwatch all about?

Healthwatch helps to give people a powerful voice locally and nationally. At a local level, local Healthwatch will work to help local people get the best out of their local health and social care services. Whether it’s improving them today or helping to shape them for tomorrow.

Healthwatch is the independent consumer champion created to gather and represent the views of the public. Healthwatch plays a critical role at both national and local level and will make sure that the views of the public and people who use services are taken into account.

Each borough across the UK has its own Healthwatch and not all Healthwatches have the same problems or work the same way, but their main focus is getting the people’s views via the right channels and helping sign post people to the correct health organisations. Healthwatch also a lot more than what I have mentioned, but please check out Healthwatch Southwark‘s site when you have time.

So going back to the event on “Social Care in Southwark”, what was in store?

Social Care Event

Luckily we were told the agenda before the event, plus copies of the agenda were placed nearly on the tables. I must admit, even though I could not get any shots of people in the audience. The event was well attended, I think around 60 to 70 people came to the event. Quite a few of them being active members for their organisation. Here is a list of representations at the event.  I have also taken the time to add a link of each organisations site.

Community Action Southwark – Umbrella group for voluntary sector groups in the borough.
Healthwatch Southwark – Here to make sure your views on local health and social care services are heard.
Local residents – Residents of Southwark who attended the event.
Metropolitan – Might be reps from the police.
Lambeth and Southwark MIND –  Independent charity run by people who have personal experience of using mental health services.
Anchor –  Provide a range of housing support for older residents in Southwark and beyond.
Blackfriars Settlement – Multi-faceted educational charity operating in North Southwark
SLaM – South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust
Southwark Council – Council to Southwark Residents
Cambridge House – provide both a Law Centre offers confidential advice, assistance and representation.
Southwark Carers –  provides information, advice and support to Carers across the borough.
Cooltan Arts –  mental health and arts charity that believes mental well-being is enhanced by the power of creativity.
Southwark Irish Pensioners Project – Provide a lifeline to hundreds of elderly, vulnerable and isolated Irish people in Southwark
Southwark Deaf Group – Support for Deaf People around most daily living issues.
Latin American Disabled People’s Project – Run by and for disabled Spanish and Portuguese speaking people living in London.
Eritrean Orthodox Church and Community Centre – Eritrean Orthodox Christian Community Church.
Latin American UK forum – Helps support Latin American’s living in the UK.
Southwark Disablement Association – SDA is an organisation of people with seen and unseen disabilities which supports disabled people
Latin American Womens Rights Service – supports Latin American women in the UK
Anjel 2000 – Supports Organisations and Individuals in the Health and Social Care Sector.

If I jump into the agenda of the event. We had the David Cooper who is the Chair of Healthwatch Southwark open the event.

David Cooper

Next was the Manager of Healthwatch Southwark “Alvin Kinch” explain more about what Healthwatch Southwark is all about.

Alvin Kinch

After that, we have the director of social care “Alexandra Laidler” present to us about the challenges and developments of social care services in the borough of Southwark.

Alexandra Laidler

Once the speakers were finished, we then moved onto a quick question and answer session, which was followed by group discussions on a scenario and then each table fed back to the audience on their findings.

After the findings, we then were treated to a free dinner, which was very healthy.

So what I ll do is give a quick break down or pointers from the event.

First David Strong presented on the projects Healthwatch Southwark are doing and what they have been up to during the past 6 months. David also mentioned that while Healthwatch southwark are so busy working on the 4 targets for the people in southwark, these being the following

Access to GP services
Access to Mental Health services
Sexual Health Services, specifically HIV
Social Care


So the last part mentioned being social care was Healthwatch Southwarks aim to get our views and collate them into a report.

David Asked an important question “What happens when individuals do not meet the means-tested threshold to receive care and support”?

How can they pay for social care?

We then had Alvin explain a bit more about what Healthwatch Southwark is about. She went through the following being.


– How Healthwatch listens to people’s voices on matters of health services.
– How Healthwatch Southwark sets up focus groups, which they have been doing throughout the year.
– How Healthwatch visits services.
– They then produce a report on what they find.
– They also visit older people’s services.
– Plus when people contact Healthwatch, Healthwatch southwark can advise or signpost.
– Healthwatch Southwark does “Enter & View” training, but I think also many other healthwatches do this.

During the event, there was a mention of the New care act 2014, which I hope to cover one day.

Next up was Alex Laidler who is the Director of Adult Social Care at Southwark Council. She spoke about how cuts presents a difficult problem for social care services in the London Borough of Southwark. Alex also mentioned more on “The Care Act” and “The Children and families Act”.


Alex spoke on how cuts will drive services to integrate with each other. This is where Southwark Council seeks to develop its Health & Wellbeing Strategy.

Southwark’s Health & Wellbeing Board have set up three priorities in order to deliver better health and care outcomes for the residents of Southwark, which are

– Giving every young person the best start in life
– Building healthier communities
– Improving the experiences of the most vulnerable residents and enabling them to live more independent lives.

Alex moved on to talk about how Southwark council and Southwark’s CCG strategic approach to integration. One of the points raised were how Southwark Council and the CCG have agreed their “Better Care Fund” where £22 million will fund schemes to support people to live at home and avoid hospital and A&E care.

The director of social care for Southwark then highlighted Southwark Council’s Social Care Priorities. I ll point out two being

– Develop diverse, innovative and adaptable health and social care
– Personalised health and social care services that are able to follow a resident through their lifetime.

Alex then talked about Southwark councils objectives for

Older people when it comes to social care.
Mental Health in the social Care setting
objectives for Learning disabilities & Autism.
And also Carers.

I ll point out a few of the objectives mentioned for carers

– Improving information and advice for carers
– Developing an outreach programme to reach carers at an early stage
– Young carers programme to offer support for young carers
– Expanding the provision of personal budgets for carers
– and many more points presented at the event

After Alex’s presentation, we heard quite a few good questions from the audience and representatives.

One question was about how difficult it is to know about personal budgets or even how to get a personal budget if suffering mental health problems.

Another was on how more awareness is needed for the Deaf community, plus the lack of interpreters.

A good question from the reps was on the financial situation of carers in Southwark.

After the Q&A session, there were the “Round the table” discussion. Each of the 7 tables where given around I think up to 3 scenarios focusing on Social Care problems, which we then fed back at the end. I found the discussions quite informative and education, since I admit I do not know much about social care problems.

Here were the points that were fed back at the end of the discussions from each table.

– There can be a problem when it comes to understanding what the person wants regarding social care, a lot can be down to the assessment criteria.
– The council should support and develop deaf people on some services.
– There is far too short time on discharge plans for Mental health users
– People need more control of social care services, there needs to be more choice.
– Social care assessments should be integrated
– carers needs support especially when the caree does not make their own support needs known.
– Discharge plans can and do often go wrong

After the lengthy discussions and feedback session, attendees were treated to a light meal, which I very much appreciated.

So how did I find the Healthwatch Southwark event?

* I felt the information presented at the event was relevant to its issues, but we will have to see how the health services act on the queries and questions.

* I was giving the opportunity to participate and even had the chance to feedback and share my experiences, this is critical to any focus group or event. Such events should be inclusive.

* The event made me understand the importance of giving my views on local health and social care services, if you do not give your views on health services, then its difficult for organisations to measure their effectiveness. Plus being able to give your views on health experiences is empowering, since I am sure that in the past, people were ignored, especially the most vulnerable people in the community.

* I felt my knowledge of Healthwatch has increased and I hope your knowledge about Healthwatch Southwark has increased as well.

* The knowledge of the speakers were very good, although I would have liked just a few more speakers, but I could understand the lack of time allocated at the event.

* The venue being Cambridge House was excellent and I certainly enjoyed the healthy food that was served.


At the end of the event, we congratulated Alvin Kinch on how much she has contributed to Healthwatch and LiNK, she now has moved to a new role with Healthwatch England and I hope Alvin will continue to contributed much more to engaging people’s views on health services.

Well Done Alvin

As a carer I felt it was important to attend Healthwatch events not only to get my voice heard or spread knowledge of the event, but also listen to other people affected by the health services. They have very important things to say and Healthwatch is there to collate their views.

Carers and the importance of Recovery Colleges


Welcome to another one of my carers blog posts. My name is Matthew Mckenzie and I am a carer for someone suffering mental health difficulties. I feel its important for carers to speak out more, so that way we won’t risk being alienated, isolated and disregarded. We carers and families give so much to society, but as yet we still plod along trying to cope with caring.

One thing I noticed about being a carer for so many years is the problem of being thrown into providing care without any idea what I am doing. I questioned myself on the following over the years.

– Am I providing care correctly?
– Wondering if I am sure if things go downhill it was partly my fault
– What is my caree thinking about how I am trying to support them?
– How am I looking after my own care needs?
– What support should I be getting?
– What happens if I get stressed in trying to talk to my caree?
– How should I react if my caree gets upset with me?

I feel that if you are a carer reading this, then all these questions must have come across your mind at some point in your journey. I am not stating that caring is the toughest job in the world, but at times a carer can be out on a limb, a carer can sometimes end up relying on guess work. This is not often the best situation to be in and I feel more support should be offered to carers in understanding their role and providing adequate care without neglecting themselves.

Well over the years I have learnt quite a few things from carers support groups that I have attended in the past and that I still do attend, one of the things I had learnt at these groups were courses that can help carers.

Some of the information about courses carers can attend came from the group leader, sometimes other carers passed on such information via word of mouth. Eventually I plucked up the courage and decided to enroll on a day course on understanding mental health from a carers perspective. I never looked back and the course had helped me immensely.

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Fast forward to 3 years in the present and I found myself attending more courses regarding carers of those suffering mental health issues or those with lived experiences. These courses ranged from a couple of hours to evening classes spanning 2 months. Maybe one day I ll blog about how I found how helpful those courses were.

Eventually I found out about recovery colleges, at first I thought such colleges were only for those suffering mental health problems. I checked out the course list from the “Central and North West London” recovery college site and found out some of the courses were useful for carers, but the problem was that I was not from that area, so I felt a little disheartened, however if you do use Central and North West London services then please check out their recovery college site at

So then since I am over in South London, what could I do to educate myself and help in my own recovery as a carer? Eventually I found out from “South London and Maudsley” that they have their own recovery college. It was not long before I was browsing through their prospectus which can be found here

SLaM Recovery logo

I eventually found several courses that was interesting for my field, but one course stood out more for me than the other courses off that prospectus. This course was called “Carers Communicating for Change”. The workshop states the following.

“This workshop focuses on the importance of communication within the caring role.

Sharing experiences and increased knowledge of mental health issues can help to reduce anxiety for both the carer and person experiencing mental health difficulties.”

Without a moments notice, I booked myself for this course and you know what was even better? This course was free. I could not believe it! Although quite a few courses are free for carers and some of them might not be free, but its usually good to start with the courses that are free; mainly because I feel carers struggle with finances almost every day.

On the 14th of July 2014, I managed to attend the course, although I arrived a little late due to a train cancellation. The course was held over at the Maudsley Learning Centre, which is a lovely building centered on health and wellbeing events, courses, seminars and community get togethers. You can check out the Maudsley Learning site here

Maudsley Learning Centre

Continuing about my experiences on the course, I arrived to hear the course leader talking about how carers need to watch out for the pitfalls when they are communicating with others, especially with who their care for that being the “caree”. I then thought to myself “Hey! this sounds right up my street”, and I began to sat down and listen.

The course co-lecturer was showing slides of different animals off the screen. Each animal resembled different characteristics of communicative behavior.

I remember some of them animals shown as :-


I am sure there were a few more animals, but those are the ones that stuck in my mind, but why animals? Well for a start we can easily recognize animal behavior and if I go through those I have mentioned, you can slightly understand how useful the examples were

Ostrich – Tends to bury themselves in the sand ignoring caring issues
Rhinoceros – Does not negotiate and always takes “charge” with directing questions, causes others to fear them.
Kangaroo – Protects the caree and does not allow self recovery or motivation
Dolphin – The perfect balance, supportive and understanding.

I will not go on too much about the course because I might end up spoiling it for others who may attend the course some day, however one of the key benefits of this course is that it allowed carers to speak about their experiences. The good point of this is that I learnt from other carers experiences and there were several times where I spoke about my own caring experiences. This is where I felt that I could relate to other carers, where I do not feel isolated every so often in the community or in society.

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Another thing I liked about the course where the exercises where we could experience the difference between directed questions and open questions. I still need to work on how to ask open questions, but they are very important in communication skills. I felt the 2 hour course was a great asset for my caring role and hope they continue to run such a course for the next semester.

Recovery colleges seem to be starting up around many mental health trusts, so if you are a service user, carer or even staff member, it is worth checking out such colleges. My reasons for attending these colleges are :-

– They can aide in recovery as a tool
– You can learn about the course and also learn about yourself
– They are a great networking opportunity
– They are usually free
– Courses are geared to your situation

I am sure there are a lot more things I have missed out off this list, but you get the picture. I hope to attend more courses soon even if they are not held at recovery colleges, perhaps I ll feedback on my blog how those courses turned out.

Mental health scheme to help Lewisham’s pupils ‘before they fall’

A new mental health project will help school pupils in London to deal with their problems and worries after receiving a £500,000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund’s £75m HeadStart programme.

The development funding means that pupils in Lewisham will take part in a pilot project in the new school year. The local partnership will use this pilot to work up long term plans that could benefit from a multi-million pound share of HeadStart funding.

 A previous YouGov survey for the Big Lottery Fundrevealed that 45 per cent of children aged 10-14 have reported being unable to sleep because of stress or worry, with fifty nine per cent saying they feel worried or sad at least once a week. However, only around 25 per cent of young people needing treatment for mental health problems actually receive it and usually only once they reach 18[1].

The HeadStart programme aims to develop ways of dealing with mental health issues before they become deep-rooted problems. Focussing primarily on schools, the HeadStart partners will offer a range of approaches, including peer mentoring, mental health ‘first aid’ training, online portals and special resilience lessons helping pupils aged 10-14 feel they have support at in the classroom as well as at home and tackling the stigma that can often surround the issues of mental health.

Lyn Cole, Deputy England Director of the Big Lottery Fund, said: “We know that around three young people in every classroom suffer from a clinically diagnosable mental health disorder and this is a desperately sad situation. HeadStart is all about catching our young people before they fall into a trap of mental and emotional turmoil that may affect them all though their lives. This development funding means that children in Lewisham will play an important role in helping other young people get emotional support at a key stage in their lives.”

Councillor Paul Maslin, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People at Lewisham Council, said: “We are very excited to be part of this pilot project. Making the journey from teenager to adulthood is an important stage in young people’s lives and some will find it easier than others. So it’s important that where we can, we build mental and emotional resilience in those young people who may find the journey more difficult. I look forward to seeing the results of this project and how the involvement of young people in Lewisham has contributed to this important initiative.”

For more information about HeadStart you can contact Healthwatch Lewisham at or

Sacrifice….the thing all carers do in their role

Welcome to another blog post on caring by Matthew Mckenzie a fellow carer who is still caring. My main aim of this blog is to give my thoughts and philosophy about carers, especially mental health carers. Although I do stray outside the field onto general carers since some aspects of caring are very similar.

Daughter caring for mother

If you check out my categories on the right hand side of my blog, you will see my posts on “Carers being there for their loved one or caree”. You can also see my views on “Acceptance” and many other posts about caring. I must warn you though that some of my blog posts can be hard hitting and if you are in a caring role that is asking much of you, then please take heed, because I do not want to upset people. The role of caring is very emotional and this blog does try to press the issue.

Another point to this blog is to educate. I want to educate the public, organisations, and other carers and health professionals on what carers go through. Carers go through a lot of stigma, it is true that families can hide in shame if they are caring for someone especially if their loved ones have mental illness. I have experienced people in the street say nasty things about who I care for and at times I admit it shames me. However the shame is not about who I care for, the shame is reserved for my neighbourhood, my community in fact society in general.

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What makes a community turn around and find humor or ridicule on those suffering mental health problems? Why is it that carers and families stay silent and care in isolation when they find out the hard way there is lack of support for them, be it emotionally, physically or financially. Perhaps these issues are for a sociologist to look into, we are now practically a global community affecting each others lives in so many ways, but at the same time never have we been so isolated amongst ourselves as a local community, there is not enough time, not enough money or enough resources to check up on our friends, families or neighbours because we need to make our mark, we need to get ahead.

For us carers, perhaps some of us may feel left behind wondering, what have we sacrificed? What is the price that we have paid? What is the reward for sticking by our loved ones suffering mental illness, which could be our sons, our daughters, parents, relatives, friends or neighbours. For carers out there, do we not leave our own mark on society? Or do we remain forgotten as with those suffering mental illness living in isolation.

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I often wonder to myself as a carer what is the price one pays for caring and I have already mentioned it. The price is sacrifice.

If you are a carer then I am sure you have taken the time to be there with your loved one or caree to help them through their darkest moments through their illness.

If you cared or are still caring and your emotions have been fraught when your caree lashes out at you due to their frustration of being helpless and relying on you, then I feel its safe to say that you have sacrificed your emotions to keep things together.

Maybe you have spent beyond your limits to provide care for someone in order to keep them well. Even though you are not receiving much financial support yourself, you continue to spend because you care, and yes this is also sacrifice.

Have you stopped work in order to provide care because you know support will not come and your reason for life is to be there for your loved one? Well that’s sacrifice. I can almost understand why carers back away from the material or financial things in life, because they cannot bear to be apart from the person that gave them a reason to strive on in this existence.

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Perhaps you have invested time and energy for your loved one or caree by travelling to see them when they are isolated by their friends or community who only stick with someone when the time is good, but when things go wrong who is there for them? Its YOU. Yes YOU!!

It is you who sacrifice your resources because you care.
It is you who took the time to be with your loved one when no one else wanted to know.
It is you as a carer who spoke on their behalf because they could not speak for themselves.
It is you as a carer that took the emotional, financial and energy draining blows that no one else can see.
It is you as a carer that remembers how your loved one used to be and you that hope there is some form of recovery.

YOU sacrifice your career, your time, your social life, your emotions and even your own commitments, because you CARE.

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It might seem like bad news, I mean when you look closely at the word sacrifice, it seems to state that we are giving up something that we do not want to let go, but maybe on the flip side of the coin, does sacrifice need to turn out as a disaster? Does sacrifice have to be the worst thing a carer can do?

To sacrifice something in the world of caring has its benefits, it has its values. Some carers do not even notice what they are sacrificing and I ll come on to that in a moment. Taking time even if its only for a moment each week or day to be with someone you care for shows how far you have come to be a human being.

Have you heard the expression “We are human beings, not human doings?”.

As you know, we live in a capitalist society, for this society to work we all need to spend and buy things, but for that to happen we need to earn first, and for us to be earning we need to be doing something.

The cost of living in western societies has risen dramatically and continues to rise, so we all have to be doing much more than we use to in order to earn or even survive. The more the cost of living rises, the more we have to do, but wait!! We soon end up as human doings, we do so much in order to earn, in order to consume and capitalise as much as possible, but in this maze of confusion, where is the human beings in our community? in our society?

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Has it not occurred to anyone that we are not on this planet forever? no matter how many material possessions we buy, we just cannot keep them forever. That job we are trying to hold down will eventually move on to someone else when we get older. So there is something of major value in our short existence on this planet and this is Time.

Since time is so short, it is of value and quality to us all, the use of time can lend itself to our emotions and what we experience. We need to realize that we exist only for a short time and the materials and objects will go on longer without us. So my conclusion is we must leave space for “our being”, that focusing on being in the present.

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To spend or sacrifice our time and energy for other human beings or our loved ones is the greatest gift anyone can give. So it seems carers are a pinnacle part of this situation.

Yet us carers are in a battle, not only struggling with time slipping away from us, but also from those who depend on us. Society sometimes forgets that in order to be more civilized, it needs to look at those who care and make society what it is. I admit society needs contribution from all especially in a capitalist world, but it is a bad idea to under value caring in the community.

You see it all starts with each of us, if we have families we will soon see that TIME will slip away and we ourselves will become caring or be cared for. Each family belongs or should belong to the community where the community can have the resources and support to value carers and thus the community becomes a caring community.

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The value of sacrifice is that carers set an example to the community. We carers set the example of what its like to be a human being, not a “human doing” even though we are all pressured to be doing so much that we sometimes do not care for ourselves.

Other benefits of sacrifice is we leave a legacy, this legacy cannot easily be removed. Time is the final master and what is left is our actions. I have hope that people will remember what you have done as a carer and that they have sympathy and respect for what you do or have done.

Not everyone can or wants to be a carer and perhaps that is OK, but us carers need to speak out and remind others that caring is a vital part of the community and society.


The limits of sacrifice.

There are times when I wish as a carer that we do not have to sacrifice so much. I know every day that a carer gives up their Job, emotional and physical health to provide care, but why?

Is it not hard to see why carers do this because support or resources are lacking? Would it not be an easy thing to do to just sacrifice so much in order to provide care? Think twice about this, I am sure the answer is no, this is not an easy thing to do. Alas I want to take time to warn carers or readers out there, that there are limits to sacrificing your time and energy.

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We as carers need to leave space for ourselves as well. I have been told this by friends, family, health professionals and even other carers. This is good advice from them, how much as a carer can you sacrifice? How much sacrifice is too much no matter how noble it is? Who will be there for you when the time comes for your own care? These are not easy questions and the answers are even harder to find.

Carers sacrificing so much need to know their limits, but what are those limits?

It is always a good time to stop and pause to think with our minds.
The golden rule is that you do not want to sacrifice so much that you cannot continue your caring role.
You do not want to burn out before your caree, although there are many cases of carers looking after each other.

Think carefully about what is being placed on the line.
What happens if your caree passes away, what will you do now?
You will need to pause and think ahead, where will you be in the community?

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These are not selfish things to think about as a carer, you need to exist for yourself as well as for others, we all need to find that balance, but as of this time I fully well know and understand that carers continue to sacrifice more than they should do, because we as carers are not fully valued, we as carers are not fully understood.

Take note that if you have had to sacrifice so much as a carer then I am with you, I have sacrificed a lot and I understand the value and price of sacrifice.

My blog on Carers Hub Lambeth Forum July 2014

Welcome to another carer blog post from Matthew Mckenzie a carer for someone with mental health difficulties. Now although this blog aims to express my thoughts on the world of caring, I often like to go to events and learn more about mental health or how carers can empower themselves.

It has been a while since I have been to a carers forum, in fact to be honest I mainly attend mental health forums especially ones over in Croydon, which are run by the HearUs Reach Out Croydon organisation. At the back of my mind, I am thinking to myself it would be great to find out where there are carer forums, although HearUs is also aimed at carers as well.

I also wanted to see what other boroughs were doing for carers and luckily through the social media, Carers Hub Lambeth were advertising many of their meetings and forums, which I desperately wanted to attend.

Carers Hub Lambeth were also happy for me to blog about the forum, so more information can reach other carers out in the borough of Lambeth especially on those who do not know about the forum or the services Carers Hub Lambeth can provide for them.

Carers Hub Lambeth Forum

As you might already know, there are around 6.5 million carers in the UK, there are also around thousands of carers the Lambeth hub have on their database and there are more hidden carers struggling out there. It is critical more carers out there get the information and support they need to carry out their role or give carers greater freedom within their roles.

One of the best ways to empower carers is through a forum, especially one aimed at carers. On Thursday 10th July at 336 Brixton Road, SW9 7AA.

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We heard from Lianna Etkind, Campaigns Officer from TRANSPORT FOR ALL giving an update on options for carers and the people carers care for on transport. We then heard from David Strong from the Disability Advice Service Lambeth on the Lambeth Carers Awards – Carers were consulted on what do we want from this annual event in order to celebrate carers.

The Hub Manager of Carers Hub Lambeth “Julie Mallett” gave a great introduction to the carers forum. Julie is a carer herself and has a large wealth of knowledge and dedication to carer services.

Julie Mallett

Julie talked about the latest Carers Hub Lambeth Newsletter and the recent Carers charity walk that was done at the end of may 2014, which raised around £300 for much needed breaks and outings for other carers struggling for time out.

Carers charity walk

One of the updates Julie mentioned was the “Social Care hub steering group” meeting, the co-production of Lambeth services with Carers & Service Users taking place in April and the next newsletter to be sent out in September.


There was also updates from the last Carers Hub Lambeth forum, where carers requested the Lambeth Hub concentrate in training workshops for carers, produce more information on carers rights and many other things.

After a quick update from the last Carers Hub Lambeth forum, Lianna Etkind, Campaigns Officer from TRANSPORT FOR ALL gave us carers some information about what “Transport for All” is about.

Lianna Etkind

“Transport for All” believes in a fully accessible, reliable and affordable transport network for disabled and older Londoners. They provide specialised advice, information, advocacy and training to both service users and providers of accessible transport in the capital.


Transport for All are based at 336 Brixton road, but feel free to view their website

Lianna Etkind told us about Transport For All latest campaign movements, but she also wanted to here from us carers the following questions.

1. If us carers had the resources and money, what would we do to change transport in London.
2. What as carers do we WANT from Transport

We discussed this as carers in each of our 7 groups and feedback to Lianna.

Matthew Mckenzie

I wanted cheaper travel for carers who cannot earn money so easily because they are busy caring for someone, the cost of travelling is increasing and effecting carers finances harder than ever. I also wanted to know if carers cannot get access to cheaper travel, then what benefits can carers take advantage of?




Other groups fed back on the following

– How can they get access to the Blue Badge pass
– How social workers should help people applying
– Cheaper travel
– Accessing transport without too much physical obstacles.

Lianna then took the time to talk about the following at the forum.

Map explanation

* Step free stations shown off the maps
* The difference between the what and blue wheelchair symbols on maps.
* The meaning of Ramps on the maps and their uses
* Uses of the “Taxi Card” and things to watch out for
* How to complain and also when to compliment about journeys
* Dial-a-ride booking
* The different types of freedom passes
* How “Transport for All” has done on their recent campaigns. Quite a lot of their campaigns have been done via the para-Olympics, plus their inquiry to the new Crossrail service.


After the advice session from Lianna, we then got to watch a film about how cycling can help in physical health and well-being. The film was from a group called “Wheels for Well-being”. Their site is

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Wheels for Wellbeing is a charity supporting people of all ages in south London to enjoy the benefits of cycling, regardless of any physical or mental barriers they may experience.

Since 2007 they have supported thousands of people to cycle in London.

Abigail Tripp who is the Community Engagement Officer for “Wheels for wellbeing” told us carers about how “Wheels for Wellbeing” advise and consult those who attend their sessions. We also had some good questions from the attendees at the group on if the bikes could fold and why they had to move from Brockwell Park.


One of the carers actually had been on their sessions and commented how they enjoyed the cycling benefits.

Next up was the Lambeth Carers Award. We had David Strong from the Disability Advice Service Lambeth present the following about the awards

David Strong

* What the “Lambeth Carers Awards” are all about
* How we need carers ideas on how the awards should be presented
* The different opinions other carers have mentioned about the awards


Next we have another group session on discussing and feeding back our views about the Lambeth Carers Awards. Most carers tended to want the awards to be spread out and to allow recognition among more carers.

We all then had a large free lunch treated to us by Carers Hub Lambeth.


Then to burn off the food, some of the carers took part in the “Chair Zumba” provided by Annia Krystyna from the “Zumba Gold” whose site is

Chair Zumba

I decided to speak to Cecelia Tsang, the Carers Hub Advice Case Work who is from “Age UK Lambeth“. I spoke to her about what things carers wanted help with the most and she mentioned it is usually about housing, benefits, charity access, advice and complaints.

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Next I went for a massage session to help relieve any stress or tension since as a carer myself, I have been going through a difficult period.


My last thoughts about the forum is that I hope more spring up around the other boroughs in London and I am sure to attend a few more.


I can only hope and wish carers take advantage of these forums, so they know what is going on, how they can contribute or benefit from the forums and be part of the community, which not only helps carers provide care, but extend the philosophy that caring communities bring us all together.

So no carer is left isolated.

My visit to Bethlem Sunfayre 2014

On Saturday 5 July 12-5pm I decided to visit Bethlem Hospital grounds to attend the Bethlem Sunfayre 2014.

Bethlem SunFayre 2014

The Bethlem Royal Hospital is a hospital in London, United Kingdom for the treatment of mental illness, part of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. It has moved three times from its original location, and is Europe’s first and oldest institution to specialise in mental illnesses.


Each year they hold the Bethlem Sunfayre where there are some of the stalls selling various wares, plus five zones. Each zone was highlighted as colour balloons.

The Blue area was for stalls, BBQ and music and entertainment stage.
The Yellow Area was for Art workshops, ceramic workshops and the Bethlem Gallery
The Green and Purple area showed the walled Garden
Another Blue area was the Archives, Museum and Cycling zone
Then the Red area being Community Centre, Complimentary therapies and cafe.

Being at the Sunfayre I had a great day out and took my brother along, although unfortunately it was raining on and off, but that did not spoil the Sunfayre much anyway.

As soon as I entered the hospital grounds, I saw the event was well attended and the closer I got to the stalls, the more I noticed how community focuses the event was.

The first person I spoke to was Victoria Northwood who actually knew me by name since I had visited the museum and gallery before. Victoria was holding the Bethlem Museum marquee and explained to me the latest developments on where the museum is moving to.


The new area for the Museum will have more space and seating for people
There will be more things for people to enjoy
Plus they will have an early tour of the museum, which I hope to attend.
Victoria mentioned that they will be over at the Dragon Cafe at some point to do some promotion and awareness.

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Unfortunately I missed the Mansions in the Orchard Tour, but I really learnt a lot from Victoria Northwood who was most helpful.

You can find more about the Bethlem Museum off their blog site, which is well worth reading at

After checking out some stalls, I came across the Croydon HearUs Reach Out Stall. Hear Us is Croydon’s Mental Health Service User Group which acts as a coordinating body to facilitate, and ensure service users involvement in, the planning, delivery and monitoring of mental health services in Croydon.


It was great to see them at the Bethlem Sunfayre and Barbra one of the staff of ReachOut was glad to chat to me on the latest developments of HearUs and what they were doing at the Sunfayre. You can find out more about Hear Us at

I then stopped to listen to some of the amazing music at the main stage section, where quite a lot of the music was songs with some Drum N Bass and some dance music. I noticed the songs reflected views on mental health, which drawed my attention, quite a lot of the lyrics focused on recovery and some songs were about understanding mental health.


The organizers were from a group called “Key Changes” who provide music engagement and recovery services for young people and adults experiencing severe mental illnesses including psychosis, schizophrenia, bi polar and personality disorders. Please check out their brilliant site here

I really enjoyed listening to the amazing music and wished I arrived earlier to listen to more tracks.

Later on after checking out some more stalls and talking to the stall holders I decided to visit the Bethlem Gallery to see what activities were going on there and I was amazed to see lots of people trying their hand at pottery. I was hoping to try some pottery myself, but since I arrived a little late to the Sunfayre I wanted to check out more at the event.

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I moved on to another part of the Bethlem Gallery to view the art exhibition by Martha Orbach. I chatted to the staff at the gallery about the exhibition before I moved on to the next section.

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After going through some leaflets and cards that displayed more information about the Gallery, I went over to the yellow section to see what other activities I could take part in. I ended up speaking to Michila Ross the Arts coordinator about the large drawing set, which was taking place in the middle of the room. I also took some pictures of the finished art displays, which were quite impressive.


Soon I moved off to the Red area and entered the complimentary Therapies area where Reiki and some bodywork was taking place. Unfortunately I was too late to book myself an appointment, but it was nice to know that therapies were taking place at the Sunfayre.


I then moved into the community center and spoke to who I think was Isobel Mdudu about their information stall on volunteering. She mentioned to me that volunteering is a great way to share your skills, experience and passion at the trust and that there were many benefits. You can check out more information on volunteering off SLaM’s site which is

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Next stop for me was back at the stalls.


I noticed one stall which mentioned “Beat”, I asked the stall holders if I could take a photo and they agreed, by the way “Beat” is the UK’s only nationwide organisation supporting people affected by eating disorders, their family members and friends, and campaigning on their behalf. They are also the world’s largest eating disorders charity. This stall was raising funds for the charity. You can find more about Beat here


The next stall was run by the “Mind & Soul community choir”, I have done a couple of blogs about the choir before. The Mind & Soul Choir was founded as a way of promoting mental wellbeing and reducing some of the stigma surrounding mental illness through singing.

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They are currently supported by the Maudsley Charity. Their patron is the Mary King. Tou can check out more about the choir here

Again as soon as I got to their stall, it was being packed away. I hope they managed to sell a few things.

I visited quite a few more stalls over the next hour like the “Riverhouse” stall, Some food stalls and the “Mind in Croydon” stall where they had some good information on quitting smoking.

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Overall I enjoyed speaking to people at the Bethlem Sunfayre and hearing their stories. Everyone had something interesting to say and even if I was not there to speak to people, I was glad to attend and also to learn more about mental health and be part of the community where I lend my support.

Bethlem SunFayre 2014

This event is something I enjoyed and I hope to visit the Sunfayre again next year.