Tag Archives: wellbeing

Wellbeing skills for Carers, Families & Friends – Kingston

For carers over in the London borough of Kingston. There are sessions aimed at unpaid carers which are informal and friendly. The sessions give practical ideas and tips, based on the latest scientific research to increase resilience, improve wellbeing and manage stress and anxiety levels better.

Please see poster below for more information or contact communitylearningkae@kingston.gov.uk

There is also a link below and the scan code


New poems by Matthew McKenzie

Here are two more poems from my upcoming book “The Poetry book of mental health caring”.

The first poem focuses on wellbeing for carers who are caring for someone suffering mental illness. To be fair it does not actually have to be mental illness, but the main point is the person is thrown into becoming a carer.

The next poem is more psychological. The poem called “The Mirror” asks the carer to reflection on their identity, especially when the carer is judgemental about themselves. I certainly was very judgemental about trying to provide unpaid care and at times I still am critical.

A community that cares is a good one

Welcome to my latest blog. As a reminder my blog posts focus on mental health carers, what I mean about that is highlighting the caring experiences of those caring for someone with mental ill health or mental health needs. This latest blog post is about community, because when all is said and done for health and social care, it is how the outcomes impact the community.

Some would say to test good quality wellbeing and a caring community, you can literally pick an area in town and stand there to observe. If you see run down apartments, no one talking to each other, anti-social behaviour, lots of noise and people seeming unwell, then this is a prime example of a community in trouble. When we notice such things, it does not take long to think to ourselves who is responsible for all of this?

I am not saying that all communities are like this, but it is worthwhile to experience what I am mentioning. Of course don’t do this at night especially if the community is known for trouble. Perhaps you might be thinking to yourself, why is Matthew raising this in his blogsite? What has all this got to do with caring?

Well as you can see by my blog title “A community that cares is a good one”. The thing I am trying to point out is because we focus on caring being a personal and private experience. We make the mistake that caring only exists in small confined spaces. We also tend to think that caring can only be applied to those who are unwell and once that person has recovered, then caring can stop. This again does not take into context the importance of caring.

Caring in itself can be applied to so many things, not just the person in themselves, but to caring about the environment, caring about ourselves as in our own wellbeing, caring for the importance of education and caring for community. Make no mistake I am not saying to care about everything, since we do not care for racism, isolation, blaming others or being a general nuisance to others. It is what we care for that counts.

I am fully aware that caring for others, especially those close to us is not a forgone conclusion, since there are many challenges that needs to be worked upon, especially with the new Health and Care Bill 2021 (see my online carers newsletter for more detail). I urge those who are caring, carer reps and the general public to take interest in such bills because it will affect us all.

Going back to the idea of caring in itself, we must take note that a caring community cherishes the importance of not only strengthening caring for others but in caring overall, where a society brings caring about those close to us towards caring for the good of all of us. This is not a simple tasks and almost seems like a utopia because we all have different aims and agendas and I expect those to clash as people do not often see eye to eye, but not all communities are alike, if we find a bad community, then it cannot be the case ALL communities are bad as some are better off, we cannot also think that it is just down to money and resources, because there are people out there working very hard to bring out the best in their own communities.

What is wrong in wanting to live in a community that will reduce isolation, improve health and wellbeing, easier access to social care, less noise, pollution and anti-social behaviour? All these wants and desires being out the best in ourselves and makes us happier in the long run, but we need to understand this cannot be done without the emphasis on care or our mental wellbeing is at risk.

In the end, we are all responsible.

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.

family at sunset

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.

Young couple gets counseled by a doctor

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.

Lewisham Mental Health & Wellbeing Event 2017

smallerWelcome to another blog post from Matthew Mckenzie a mental health carer in South London.  Hope you are enjoying my site so far, so feel free to check out some of my other creations, that being my YouTube channel, twitter channel, mental health newspaper and audio.

On the 14th of February i attended the Lewisham Mental Health & Wellbeing day 2017 “What Keeps Me Well?”.  Which is a very important topic regarding mental health and wellbeing. The event lasted from 10:00 to 4:30 pm and was held over at Lewisham Town Hall.

The Mental Health & Wellbeing day was held in conjunction with
Lewisham CCG
Lewisham Council
South London and Maudsley NHS Trust
Various community groups and charities (sorry if I have missed any out anyone)

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Top 10 mental health tips for the new year

2017 goals list on napkin

Happy New Year!! Welcome to another blog post from a mental health carer. This time I am going to write about what could help you for 2017.

I do not know if 2016 has been a good or bad year for you, but what better than to have a clean start for 2017.  On this blog post I will provide 10 basic mental health well-being tips that could be useful for a new years resolution.

If you want to see the video version. Please click below

Continue reading

Review of the Lewisham Mental Health and Wellbeing Day

Matthew MckenzieHello again and welcome to another blog post on a carer’s perspective on mental health and wellbeing. Talking about those two last points, there was a mental health and wellbeing day on the 20th of November over at the Catford Civic Suite in Lewisham.




The Lewisham Mental Health and Wellbeing Day is presented by the NHS Lewisham CCG, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and Lewisham Council.


I just had to attend the mental health and wellbeing event, this is because I am a carer of a close relative suffering mental ill health. Last year I was lucky enough to chair the 2013 event and perhaps I ll place the video of that event later on in this blog post, but what was in store for us this year?

Well this year the MH and Wellbeing stakehold event wanted to concentrate on the service user/survivor aspect. So we had Carmine De Rosa chair the event. Next was a Mental Health commissioning update for 2014 and this was presented by Pamela Martin, GP Mental Health Lead for Lewisham CCG.

After Pamela’s talk came the presentation from Sarah Yiannoullou who is the Managing Director from NSUN (National Service User Network). Her talk was on inclusion, involvement and influence of those using the services and the NSUN 4PI standards.


Then last to speak was John Ryan talking about an alternative view of the Mental Health system, John is a comedian and his talk certainly lightened up the mood since we all know Mental Health can be a difficult subject to discuss.

Still, the event was not just about talks, throughout the day from 10.00 am till 4:00 pm the event numerous workshops, stalls, wellbeing activities, refreshments and a chance to network and most importantly gain information to aid in recovery or getting support in caring. I also noticed some members of the public attended to try find out what mental health is all about.


Unfortunately I cannot go into so much detail about the event this time, but why is this? Well for one I was recovering from a horrible cold, so I could not gain access to the talks or workshops because I kept coughing and sneezing. Secondly I do not want to repeat what is found in booklets about the event, I perfer this blog post to be about how I experienced the event and what I got up to most of the day.

Well on that sunny morning as I entered the Civic Suite, I was greeted by friendly staff who signed me in and handed out the agenda and activity information for the day. I then explored around the building and watched the impressive presentation slide of the wellbeing event.

Unfortunately my cold was getting the better of me so I had to sit down and gobble up some oranges kindly left for visitors to take. I was then greeted by Gráinne from Lewisham CCG and a few others who were glad I attended the event.

Eventually the public were called into the main chamber to hear the talks and I also went in for around about…..5 minutes before I started coughing and wheezing again. I just managed to get some of the talk where they presented on improving recovery and challenging mental health labels in order to reduce stigma.


Soon I had to head back out to the waiting area and check to see if I could go back in the conference chamber, but it was no good so instead I took a trip to Civic Suite’s Lower floor. There were a vast array of stalls and I could not visit them all, but I ll explain what stalls took most of my attention.

The first stall that took my attention was SLaM Stall or the South London and Maudsley Stall. I could see many booklets and information about the mental health trust and also more information on how to become a member of the trust. I also picked up a flicked through SLaM’s latest newsletter about the Happy Heads event, which is an event aimed at teenagers to promote mental health and wellbeing. I think I did a blog post about that event.

After a while I tried again to enter the conference chamber and just caught a bit of the talk by NSUN on the 4PI standards, but what is NSUN all about? NSUN stands for National Survivor User Network and is a network for mental health in England. NSUN gives and promotes a powerful voice for those using the services and their carers, but they also do a lot more.

The talk was about how their work has led to the development of the 4PI framework for involvement: a simple, yet robust framework around which to base standards for good practice, and to measure, monitor and evaluate involvement.

– Principles
– Purpose
– Presence
– Process
– Impact


Involvement of those using the mental health services is critical not only in aiding in recovery, but reducing the isolation felt by those using the services. At the core of mental health services should be the service user perspective. Such implementations are of course not an easy thing to archieve, but must always be one of the aims of any mental health service provider.

Again my cold played up on me and I found myself beating a hasty retreat back to the lower floor again to view some more stalls. The next stall was impressive and this was the lewisham healthwatch stall. Healthwatch is an independent consumer champion that gathers and represents the public’s views on health and social care services locally or nationally. The most interesting document I picked up from this stall is their report on one of SLaM’s units, which I flicked through. What came to mind when I went through the report was transparency and cooperation with other independent organisations.

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The next stall I visited was the Samaritans stall, I have spoken to the Samaritans several times on many events. Basically the Samaritan’s are a registered charity aimed at providing emotional support to anyone in emotional distress. I spent quite a long time on this stall swapping ideas and networks, because one of their staff is a member of the Lewisham mental health connection, which I am also a member.


The next stall was on IAPTs (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies
), which offers a range of psychological therapies to adults 18 years and over. I glanced over a few of their leaflets to take home and read, plus I have been on many IAPTs courses in the past.


Eventually I wandered over to chat to a the SLaM’s carers support officer who I have known for many years, she was busy minding the SLaM’s Family & Carers information stall and I could see the purple family and carer booklet which I was lucky enough to contribute to. The Mental Health Trust aims to support carers as much as they can and this stall shows they are working hard to help carers of those using the services.


After visiting the SLaM Family & Carers support stall, I moved on to the Carer’s Lewisham Stall and spoke to Jey and her new volunteer who specilises in dementia support. I picked up one of their leaflets, which was very colourful and flicked through it. As a carer, I have been using Lewisham Carers a long time.

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Then next stall was on “Community Connections”. Community Connections is a development and access-facilitation project with a preventative health and wellbeing focus. I picked up one of their leaflets which was on a wellbeing story, just on the focus for the day. Soon I moved on to another impressive stall which is the SmokeFree campiagn for lewisham.


I eventually I ended up at the MyHealthLocker stall. This stall is about self empowerment using technology to monitor your own health and allow doctors and even carers to aid in your care. myhealthlocker allows you to have control over your health information. Service users can access their care plan from the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, keep track of how they are feeling, access resources and tips on staying well and manage their health and wellbeing. I was given a free T-shirt for attending the stall.

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The next stall I spent talking to the staff for a while in order to catch up with them. This stall is about the Lewisham Mental Health Connection are group of people working in the voluntary sector who are committed to improving mental health in Lewisham.


After a few more visits to some stalls, I ended up back in the upper floor to have some nice carribean lunch and continued to network with many others.


Unfortunately I missed out on the workshops and more talks, but I guess its impossible to be everywhere and considering I had a cold, I really enjoyed the day. I can’t wait for next years event.


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…http://happy-heads.org/index.php?page=10