People’s Forum Newsletter Summer 2016
The People’s Forum is run by and for service users and carers. We meet to discuss mental health issues on the Second Wednesday of each month at 10.30am.
Call Helen to find out more:
Tel No – 0116 262 7952 / email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Learning about Victim First
At May’s Issues Group meeting People’s Forum members were interested to find out more about the work of Victim First from one of their case officers.
Victim First is a free, independent and confidential service offering support to those who have been affected by a crime – the victim, relatives and witnesses. Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland is a safe area to live, but when a crime does happen it can have a huge impact on the lives of victims. People can be left feeling traumatised, vulnerable and afraid.
Every victim of crime has the right to help and support following their experience. Victim First offers support that meets the needs of the individual for as long as it is required, and acknowledges that every case is different. It should also be noted that Mental Health Practitioners are available at the Victim First offices Monday – Friday.
The police officer dealing with a case will ask if those involved want to be contacted by Victim First, or direct contact can be made if you decide you need their service.
To find out more visit their website www.vicitmfirst.org or if you have been affected by crime and need support call 0800 953 9595.
Why Support for Carers Matters or Learning the Skills to Stay Well
A Loughborough carer has submitted her story about her own struggles with mental illness, the VCS services that have helped her and how she now works to stay well.
The challenges of caring for others and yourself
For me, probably the hardest aspect of being a carer is the knowledge that I have no power to fix a problem that is having such a serious impact on someone I love.
I think, as I have heard from other carers, people who are in the middle of a mental health crisis can behave in ways that can be very challenging for the carer – which means that they are probably hardest to help when they are most in need. For a long time, I had a real sense that life would just have to be “on hold” until he fully recovered. I really could not see a flaw in that thinking.
Though I don’t make any claim to have this sorted, I think what I have learned is try to take each day as it comes, and to make small choices to do things that help me like my life and to help my husband do things that I think will help him to enjoy his life – a little more. For us, this is just little things like going to a film or watching a football match at a pub (if it is his favourite team and it is not on the telly) – just little things that make him or us feel well treated.
We also try to make sure we take care of the big stuff – which is looking after medication, prescriptions, appointments with the GP or psychiatrist, and the rest of life’s dreaded admin ….money….DWP….taxman…. etc….sometimes we have needed help with this stuff (and it has been available – we just needed to get the courage to ask the questions).
As a carer I have been on a number of courses. For me, the ones that I have valued the most are the ones that have taught me things I would not have figured out for myself or would not have had the same impact if I had read them in a book. They are also courses that have helped me change, even a little bit, the way I think about things day to day – in a positive way.
Caring with Confidence
The caring with confidence course came at a time when I was finding the caring role overwhelming and exhausting. The illness had hit a bad patch which seemed to have
lasted for a long time. The instructor said, “Here – hold this glass of water. It’s easy. Stay there. I will come back in 24 hours and see how you feel then. We would need to call the
ambulance.” I do sometimes feel guilty about not feeling stronger. His comment has stayed with
me and I don’t blame myself quite so much for the times when I find it difficult to cope.
The instructor also said – even if you are stuck in the house you can always get a bit of exercise. When he turned the kettle on he used to sing “The Grand old Duke – he had 10,000 men” and he marched vigorously through the rest of the song. I never do that particular exercise but when I turn on the kettle, I sometimes think of him and it still gives me a giggle.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
There was a CBT course at the Moira Centre in Loughborough in the evening. Carers and service users were all welcome.
The course taught me to question my fears instead of investing in them and building on them. Scary thoughts occur to me and sometimes I can now allow them to fly out of my head as quickly as they come in.
I used to have the strange notion that if I thought very hard about every negative possible event, I would actually be far more prepared for it when or if it happened. I learned from the course, both that I was doing it, and to evaluate the likelihood of the disaster actually happening. If in all probability it was extremely unlikely – I would just let it go. Mark Twain said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” Now I know I think I know what he meant!
I am sure I have had many moments of many days since that course which have been far easier as a direct result of what I learned. I can also remember thinking I actually needed someone to say these words to me. For me, reading this in a book would not have had the same impact.
I also learned one negative thought usually leads to another – and your body physically reacts to the negative thoughts, which then fuels more negative thoughts and feelings. I knew then I needed to learn how to be careful about what I think about. I can’t say I do this all the time or even most of the time, but even if I remember it sometimes – this was worth learning. I also realised that what I do and think first thing in the morning often has an impact on how I feel and what I do the rest of the day. Again, I don’t think I would have sorted this out for myself.
Worth It project – (I was signposted to this course by RETHINK)
I learned – DO NOT DEFINE YOURSELF BY THE THINGS YOU ARE NOT GOOD AT.
This does not mean you cannot acknowledge areas of weaknesses. I needed to think about what I am actually good at and try to build on that. If I am thinking about myself or speaking to myself in a way that I would not dream of thinking or speaking about someone else, I know it is time to ease up. I need to learn how to be kind to myself and give myself a break. It is important to recognise and appreciate my own strengths.
I am now nicer to strangers. I am also sometimes nicer to family members! I have also learned the power and importance of making a nice comment or gesture. If I am thinking something nice about someone, I try to say it.
If someone says something nice to me, I try to accept the compliment and not argue with them but appreciate it for how it was intended.
Heidi Eastell– who was working with the Worth It project- is a trained life coach. She addresses self-esteem. She is generous and positive and when I am hard on myself I can often imagine her saying don’t do that to yourself. As a result of her input, I began to reevaluate my strengths and applied to train as a counsellor for Victim Support. I was a volunteer for them for two years and found it a challenging and extremely valuable experience. The feedback I had from my work was positive and mattered to me.
Heidi, also addresses habits. I never really thought about habits. I just saw things as something I did everyday because I needed to do it to get through the day. She has helped me to change some negative – and very deeply ingrained habits. (I have more work to do on this!) She said something about creating “new neural pathways”. This was important because I began to realise that – even at my age – personal change is possible – (light bulb moment for me!)
Learning to stay healthy – both physically and mentally
I have also lost a lot of weight over the last few years (but only half of what I need to lose) This is actually as a result of a combination of CBT and the Worth It project.
Practically speaking I begin with a very specific healthy breakfast – porridge, with skimmed milk, fruit and a very good cup of coffee. This is now a habit and it has helped. Because I have made the effort to start the day with a healthy meal, I don’t start the day by eating the wrong thing or the wrong amount. I used to skip breakfast, and then nibble on rubbish and then berate myself. This invariably led to more grazing and comfort eating. The fact that I am now dealing with this is helping me to improve my self esteem and fitness. Again, I don’t feel that I would have been able to
get this insight from a book.
I had a difficult situation which “got in my head”.
Very fortuitously, there was a mindfulness meditation course being run by Support for Carers. I learned how to focus on the present and become aware of intrusive thoughts and not to block them out but to somehow turn down the volume on them.
It is impossible for me to describe all the benefits this course has had on me but I can certainly say it made something that for me seemed overwhelming and insurmountable, possible to deal with. I do wonder if I had not found myself in such a difficult position at that time, whether I would have been as prepared to really listen and learn from the practice that was on offer.
Tools for a bright future
I can clearly remember the early days when I was fed up with “tool kits” I wanted someone to fix the problem, not tell me how to live with it! But now, I think tool kits are pretty useful things. IF even a small part of my day is better for the things I have learned, then it was worth doing – and (hopefully) these improvements will carry on for years to come (and they do not involve medication).
My best courses for tool kits were the CBT course, the Mindfulness Course, and the
“Worth it” project.
I have also had the huge benefit of peer support from other carers and service users I have met through my involvement with Support for Carers, SUCRAN, People’s Forum, Loughborough Well-being group at John Storer House and Rethink.
I have now joined the gym (Charnwood Leisure Centre). I have a routine that involves getting out of the house, becoming more fit, and networking with friends. There is a particularly zany aquazumba instructor who has a knack of getting people moving and putting them in an infectiously good mood. There must be nearly 60 people in the pool sometimes. The eldest is 91. The youngest is probably about 18. It is safe to say, this was not something I would have signed up to a few years ago, but now I enjoy it, and I can only hope if I carry on doing this long enough, it might turn into something I can call a habit. I have had a contribution from the Carers budget to help me pay for this and I have to say, it has mattered and I am very grateful for all this has meant.
Editor – our thanks for this personal story which was written for VAL’s Mental Health Awareness week activities.
In the river is a smooth smooth stone
Its edges have been worn away by the eddies
The water glides by innocuously
But the stone begins to disappear
Until all that remains
Is a grain of sand
Lost in the river bed
In support of arts in mental health – by Christine
I am a big supporter of art in mental health but I am told there just isn’t enough money in the NHS. From what I have witnessed the results are an amazing experience.
An artist, a very good painter who had past mental health issues was only too pleased to give time to an art class with a difference. She’d been set the task for a mental health display. What she did was draw a very large outline of the human brain. In her class were a number of individuals with mental health issues.
She then drew lines at random across the outline thus dividing the brain into sections, one for each person there. Then she explained (she was so good) how she wanted each person to think of something that they could not find the words to explain and she would help by pencil drawing the outline for each person to fill in.
It was truly amazing watching people slowly opening up. Such pain was coming out in simple art form and by having an excellent artist the final painting was truly amazing. I was overcome with what I was hearing and seeing. One person asked for a tear drop – he told me that he painted the tear drop because that was how he felt inside. I made the suggestion that he draw a window in the tear because today in telling me he had started to see through his window of tears, and he did.
The day had a huge impact for those who took part and we were told the painting would be put on view. This would have been an opportunity for consultants and nurses to examine and feel how and where each person was coming from, how painful they were feeling and to give a real insight into mental health – sadly this opportunity was missed and an abstract work was painted over the top of our image to be displayed instead – what a waste.
Up the City
Leicester have won the cup!!
White and blue everywhere
Fans shriek in delight
Chanting fills the air
The team appears on their bus
The noise swirls
The cup is hoisted up
For all to see
Leicester are top of the League
Congratulations to the Foxes from the People’s Forum
Your opinions matter
The People’s Forum is currently involved in a number of pieces of work
- Better Care Together
- Developing future mental health services with Adult Social Care
- Developing a telephone app
- Co-production of services
- Mental Health Services for Older People
If you would like to speak to
Forum members about some
of this work please email
or call 0116 262 7952.