Mental health: Primary school head teachers speak out about lack of support

Some primary school pupils are being repeatedly rejected for mental health support, BBC News has learned.

There’s been a near 50% increase in referrals to child health services from pupils aged 11 and under, over the past three years. But some children are on a waiting list for years before being offered help.

Three head teachers spoke to the BBC about the lack of support for children in their schools, click link below for video.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/education-49018831/mental-health-primary-school-head-teachers-speak-out-about-lack-of-support?fbclid=IwAR2s-5pelz-CLFHk_dNHe_J3VONa_DJR0PRrDwHqTqkJC4fro5G5CEnazRk

How Leaning Into Your Anxiety Can Help You Manage It

A woman sits on a cushion surrounded by tea lights, meditatingWhen people call my office looking for relief from their anxiety, I explain that we all experience anxiety from time to time because our bodies are wired for it. It’s a neurobiological response that we inherited from our ancestors long, long ago. It’s about safety. It’s unlikely it will go away with a few tools or strategies.

Anxiety peaks when we perceive danger. That danger could be concrete, like being in the path of a dangerous hurricane, where the risk of losing your property or your life is very real. Or the danger you sense might be less clear. Maybe someone’s voice, a smell, or a song brings up uncomfortable feelings, leaving you feeling anxious. You might be able to pinpoint what made you fearful and anxious, but sometimes you get anxious and don’t know why. When this happens, it’s probably because an implicit memory has surfaced.

WHAT ARE IMPLICIT MEMORIES?

Implicit memories are memories that are stored in our unconscious. Most of the time, we’re not aware of them. They’re usually triggered by something in our environment—a smell, a taste or sound, the way something feels in our hands or under our feet, or the way something looks. When they surface, our bodies react to the potential danger. We feel anxious but we’re not sure why. We might feel like our anxiety came out of nowhere. What really happened was the body sensed a danger that was buried deep in our unconscious memory.

So, how do we manage anxiety that is sparked by something we aren’t fully aware of? First of all, it’s important to keep in mind that anxiety serves a purpose. It alerts us to danger so we can protect ourselves. That’s why it’s not going to go away altogether. If we can be okay with the fact we will always have some anxiety, we can start to work toward managing anxiety when it feels out of our control.

BE CURIOUS ABOUT YOUR ANXIETY

Before you begin, know it’s important to take care of yourself while you explore what’s happening. Take some slow, deep breaths; drink a cup of tea; get out your essential oils and diffuse them. Burn incense or a candle that smells good and be sure you’re in a place that’s comfortable and safe.

The first step is to be curious about how your anxiety shows up. At first, try exploring how your body feels when you’re not anxious. As you get to know your body’s reactions to stress, you’ll start to become aware that your body tells you when your anxiety is ramping up.

Next, you’ll want to pay attention to how your body talks to you. You might ask yourself:

  • “Where in my body do I feel my anxiety? Is it in my chest, my shoulders or throat, my back or legs?”
  • “How is my body reacting? Is my heart racing? Are my breaths shallow and quick? Am I hot or cold?”
  • “Does my stomach feel like butterflies, or nauseous?”

Acknowledging that your anxiety will surface from time to time, sometimes for what seems like no reason at all, gives you permission to be with it and to be curious about it when it shows up.

The next step is to dig deep into what happens in your head. Your views about what’s going on can affect how you react when you’re stressed or anxious. If you assume the worst, you’re probably going to feel anxious. That’s why it’s important to be curious about how you interpret things happening to you or around you. Ask yourself, “What am I thinking right now? What meaning am I making around this event?”

If an implicit memory triggered your anxiety, your body will feel like it’s actually in the past, at the time the memory formed. You want to bring yourself back to the here-and-now. To do that, take a look around and name a few things you can see hear, smell, or touch. This is called “grounding.”

Lastly, explore how your physical reactions and your thoughts about the anxiety make you feel. Research has shown that naming feelings can help ease intense, difficult emotions. Naming emotions reduces activity in the part of the brain that senses danger, and activates the part that promotes problem-solving and curiosity. Try to pinpoint the feeling with your description. Instead of saying you’re happy or sad, you might say you’re feeling elated or rejected.

OFFER YOURSELF COMPASSION

It’s really important not to judge yourself when you investigate your anxiety. If you can, just note what’s going on and respond with curiosity. Ask yourself how you would respond if a friend were experiencing the same thing. Can you offer yourself that same compassion?

BRING ANXIETY OUT INTO THE OPEN

Do you see what’s happening here? Instead of pushing the anxiety away, yelling at yourself for being anxious, or trying to ignore the feeling, you’re leaning into it. You’re beginning to get to know it better, you’re approaching it with some compassion, and you’re allowing it to be there while you investigate. As you go through this process, you might find the anxiety begins to lessen. Anxiety loves secrets and hiding, so bringing it out into the open can reduce its power.

Acknowledging that your anxiety will surface from time to time, sometimes for what seems like no reason at all, gives you permission to be with it and to be curious about it when it shows up.

Reference:

University of California-Los Angeles. (2007, June 22). Putting Feelings Into Words Produces Therapeutic Effects In The Brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070622090727.htm

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Nottingham Pride 2019

We are incredibly proud to be part of #NottinghamPride2019 and will be hosting an information stall during pride this weekend.

If you see us please come and say hi! We’d love to meet and chat to as many of you. Our lovely team are on hand to provide info and answer questions.

The Pride parade will start on the corner of Lister Gate in the city at 11am and finish on the ‘rainbow road’ in Broad Street.

The city centre will be decorated with over 100 rainbow flags, provided by local print suppliers Fast Graphics and John E Wright.

“Nottingham is a diverse city that celebrates equality, inclusivity and respect. We want all of our citizens to feel supported and are proud of our diverse LGBT+ residents.”

As soon as the parade comes to an end, the Sheriff of Nottingham will kick off the afternoon celebrations at 12pm with a speech on the main stage on Heathcoat Street.

There will be over 40 stalls along Heathcoat and Broad Street with opportunities to chat to local businesses, visit the free glitter make-up tent, learn about LGBT+ history, do a spot of shopping and find out more information about the essential services on offer to LGBT+ people across the city.

A packed entertainment programme will continue on the main stage up to 6pm, followed by a vigil and then a variety of after parties to choose from – some ending as late as 7am.

Pride stage line up

12:00 – Sheriff of Nottingham (Speech)

12:10 – The Scream Queens

12:30 – Smashby

13:00 – Tash Bird

13:30 – I am Questioned

14:00 – Kitty Tray

14:45 – Michaela Weeks

15:15 – Franx

15:45 – Scream Queenz

16:00 – Surely Bassey

16:30 – Sybil

17:00 – Betsy

17:30 – Alison Jiear

18:00 – Vigil

18:45 – Event close

Happy Pride everyone, Harmless team x

Behind the Scenes – A day in the life of a Suicide Crisis Support Officer

Over the next few months we will be bringing you a series of interviews ‘behind the scenes’ from different team members. We hope these interviews will show what happens behind the scenes and give a more personal side to the work that happens in both Harmless and The Tomorrow Project.

Our first interview in this exciting new collection is from Bevan. We hope you enjoy it.

Meet Bevan…

Q: What’s your role at The Tomorrow Project?

A: I work as a suicide crisis support officer and also in sustainability and data collection. My main role as a support officer involves seeing people in crisis, at risk of suicide or thinking of suicide in some way. This role takes up four days of my week and then one other day is data collection, data analyses and service evaluation…..which is quite fun!

Q: Can you tell me a bit more about the importance of data collection?

A: At the moment we have a lot of data collected from the past several years which we are compiling into something that we can get some information from, rather than just a big list of numbers. I’m going to be looking at themes such as: who presented to the service, who’s improving, how much are they improving etc. This is ahead of the IASP conference in September (The International Association for Suicide prevention) which we will be presenting at.

The data collection allows us to understand why some people might not be improving, so we can look at what we can do better for people who are presenting at the service, or if there’s more women than men despite the fact men tend to complete suicide more…why is that? The data might tell us something about the service that would make it more accessible for men and certain at risk groups. That’s something I’m going to be exploring over the next few months.

Q: What age range do you support?

At The Tomorrow Project we don’t have anyone age range, we support people from 0-100! There is really no exclusion criteria for The Tomorrow Project around age etc, only around clients who already access secondary mental health services.

Q: Where are you based over the week?

A: I work in Nottingham four days over the week and East Leake one day. On Thursdays I go to East Leake and that means people across the country or out of city will be able to access support and find it easier to attend.

Q: Can you tell me an example of how a session with you might look?

A: Something I like to emphasize quite a lot with clients is the relationship we have, rather than trying to force someone out of suicide crisis. Instead of forcing someone through crisis and trying to convince them not to take their own life it’s more about understanding from their perspective why they want to take their own life, or why they might be considering suicide. Personally I think that’s the best way forward, I think if we are trying to force someone to move through crisis I don’t think it works. Comments such as “just move on, come on, just get better!”, I think disregards how people are really feeling. We sometimes have to go along with people around their journey and often that does lead to recovery. We would look at reasons why someone might want to take their life, working from an emotional and practical perspective. I have the opportunity to work from both of those angles so rather than just looking at the emotional I can support someone who might also be struggling with issues such as housing. If their situation is difficult and isn’t changing it’s very unlikely that anything else will really permanently change, if a person is constantly going back to the same environment of stress/distress etc. So working from both perspectives of practical and emotional support…and I really do enjoy that. It lets you look at suicide crisis from more of a broader way.

I don’t like to force someone out of crisis, I stand with them. Often people are quite ambivalent about life or death, something might be pulling them more towards life or something might be pulling them more towards death. My job in some way is to minimize the death pulls and maximize the life pulls. What that sometimes looks like is just talking and listening, and trying to understand from their perspective why something is pulling them towards one thing or the other. A lot of my sessions are just talking either about life in general, or about their friends/family/interests, and sometimes it’s quite intense around suicide prevention. I guess a skill I hold Is adaptability, not every client is the same, not every session is the same and people are different and also in different stages of suicide crisis.  Some clients are imminently in crisis and then some people are just entering the beginnings of thinking about suicide.

Q: It sounds like some really challenging work and I’m wondering what you do to keep yourself safe and what do you do for self-care?

A: We get supervision in the service which is fantastic. I have really wonderful colleagues who all understand the stress that can come when working with clients who are highly distressed. I think especially with TP (Tomorrow Project) crisis, everyone we see in some way wants to die or take their own life. Part of this work means I get to help people through from presentation to discharge and that’s really nice. I see people come in in distress or in crisis, it’s one thing to want to end your own life but another is knowing that you can get through it and with the right help they will. Colleagues, supervision and seeing people get through it is really helpful for me. Outside of work I really like playing video games, watching Netflix and going to music festivals.

Q: What made you want to work in suicide crisis or in the field of mental health?

A:  I guess for me, suicide is something people talk about in quite an abstract way sometimes. Especially looking at research, which I think can sometimes be quite impersonal and theory driven “this is why people do this, this is why people do that”. I think that’s great having theories and understandings of suicide as a process, but with that said I think it can take the person out of it. Research can be quite clinical, quite cold, talking about a really difficult topic in quite a sterilised way and I think for real suicide prevention people need to be involved. We need to understand suicide from not just a research perspective but from actually working with people who are experiencing this every day.

I think suicide prevention can sometimes become quite an abstract thing. People often say “we need to stop suicide” and share things on Facebook, which I think is good, suicide awareness is good but I think we need to sometimes step beyond just sharing posts and actually do sometimes about it. I’ve worked here for three years and I like to think I’ve helped some people in those three years but I guess I’m only one person and one service and this needs to be more of a nationwide thing across the country, not just Nottingham and the East Midlands.

Suicide prevention I wanted to work in because I just seemed to me the right more, something I wanted to do and really interesting and worthy thing to do with my time.

Q: Final questions to end with a bit of fun! What is your favourite cake and least favourite food?

A: I have recently become a fan of carrot cake, I love it! Pickled onion for sure! Not a chance! Never again.

 

A huge thanks to Bevan for making time for such a content rich and educational interview, we really get a sense of how passionate you are about your role so thank you for sharing that with us. 

If you have ideas or suggestions for future interviews please drop us an email at info@harmless.org.uk, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

To cure my chronic pain, I had to learn about the links between mind and body

Chronic pain is an ongoing epidemic. It debilitates around 28 million adults in the UK alone. Yet society seems to have grown comfortable with there being no cure. Perhaps this is because we have been searching for the wrong type of answer, in the wrong place.

I should begin by briefly explaining my own experience of chronic pain and what, seemingly against the odds, has helped me find relief.

After graduating from university last summer, I suffered a repetitive strain injury in both hands while doing a temporary office job. I stopped being able to work and had to put on hold my pursuit of a career in writing. I couldn’t use a computer, write with a pen or even eat with a knife and fork without severe pain. I underwent months of physiotherapy. This helped build my confidence slightly, but the pain continued. I was repeatedly told that I needed to change my posture including how I sat, stood, walked and slept. As a result, I became hyperaware of my body. The pain began to spread to my neck and arm. Diagnoses including scoliosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, thoracic outlet syndrome and pinched nerves were proffered and I was given exercise after exercise while receiving conflicting medical advice. The problem was affecting every part of my life and I needed to find answers.

Strange as it might sound, I wanted there to be something wrong so that the pain I was experiencing would be recognised and, hopefully, treated. I had tests done for various diseases, and to detect muscle or nerve damage, but nothing was found. Confused looks on the faces of the medical professionals I saw only increased my own emerging self-doubt.

Eventually, I was told that I had chronic pain, that there wasn’t a cure and I would have to learn to manage and not aggravate it. This was deeply depressing, not only because I wanted to be able to write. As anyone who suffers from ongoing pain anywhere in the body knows, it can make even the most basic daily tasks a huge challenge. My condition was finally described as work-related upper limb disorder and it was concluded that I had developed a resistance to repetitive work, which seemed nonsensical and felt wholly unsatisfying.

It was only when I began to understand that the mind and body, rather than being separate, are intimately connected, that things started to finally change for the better. I had been aware that stress could sometimes induce physical symptoms such as headaches, but I would never have believed that psychological factors could be the cause of such severe, scary and concrete pain. It was only at moments of peak desperation that I was able to entertain this idea. My symptoms were definitely real, but they were also mysterious; they moved around and the intensity of the pain varied from day to day. I would describe the sensations I experienced as burning, pressure, sharpness and tingling.

So what was going on? First of all it is important to know a bit about how pain works. Acute pain is a helpful process that occurs when there is an injury or illness. It gradually decreases and dissipates once healing is complete. If pain persists after three months, it is deemed chronic. Chronic pain doesn’t always originate from an injury, and, if it does, it can continue even once healing is complete. What this tells us is that the driving force behind it is the brain.

But that doesn’t mean it’s “all in the mind”. Far from it. Chronic pain is associated with physical changes in the brain at the cortical level. These changes can produce something called “central sensitisation” – where the nervous system goes into overdrive and previously normal sensations generate intense pain. A whole vocabulary goes along with this: allodynia is the term for when non-harmful stimuli, such as a light touch, results in pain. In hyperalgesia, harmful stimuli produce heightened or prolonged pain.

Why do some people experience chronic pain? We don’t know for sure, but studies show that particular psychological and personality traits are risk factors for chronic pain conditions. Some vulnerable individuals, they suggest, learn to filter emotions and actions “through the lens of pain”. An interplay between early lifetime and environmental and epigenetic factors appears to be at work.

Once you understand that the mind and body are not separate, it seems plausible that, if pain tells us when there is something wrong physically, it can tell us when there is something wrong mentally too. I decided to listen to my body and integrate that with what was going on in my mind. After much research and finding the right help, I set out to heal emotionally. I stopped taking pain medication, stopped physio and started moving how I used to. (I want to stress that no one should take any steps to alter their treatment without consultation with a doctor.) I considered potential repressed emotions from life events, including in childhood, and used different techniques to explore them all. This enabled me to acknowledge things, feel them and sometimes let them go. As my fear and pain levels gradually decreased, I began to resume normal physical activity, including writing and typing. It is not easy to access feelings that our brains, in simple terms, may have pushed aside and replaced with pain. But it comes with great rewards and a sense of empowerment.

The way I came to understand all this happened to be through a book, The Mindbody Prescription by Dr John Sarno. Others might be influenced by a sympathetic doctor, a news article or even this piece of writing. I’ve almost completely recovered – a dramatic shift after eight months of debilitation. I will keep practicing the techniques I’ve learned, and studying the science, since I’m aiming to get back to full health.

Pain is complex. Sometimes, even when it’s long-lasting, it can be a sign of ongoing injury or undiagnosed disease. It’s important to seek medical advice in order to exclude potentially dangerous conditions. I’m aware that even in cases, like mine, where there isn’t an underlying structural problem, it might be difficult or impossible for others to replicate my experience. I simply hope that mounting evidence will demand a change within the practice of conventional medicine: most importantly a change in the way patients’ conditions are explained to them, one that means they aren’t made to feel hopeless, or crazy.

We have come far in trying to remove the taboo around mental health, so why not take a step further and join the “mental” to the “physical”? The prize would be that many chronic pain patients might start to feel a little less lost and, hopefully, find the tools they need to begin to heal.

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6 Signs You Need A Mental Health Day

It’s not usually hard to tell when you need a sick day from work — but the signs you need a mental health day can be a lot harder to spot. If you’ve got a fever, for example, staying home for the day is a no-brainer; however, when the symptoms aren’t physical, it’s easy to convince yourself that it’s not that bad and that you should just go into work.
 
However, just because the symptoms of emotional exhaustion don’t manifest in the same way the symptoms of, say, the flu do doesn’t mean they’re any less serious — and learning to pay attention to what your body and mind are telling you is instrumental for your wellbeing.
 
 
Of course, it’s not exactly surprising that so many of us are unclear on when a mental health day might be in order; our culture’s attitude towards mental health tends to both stigmatize and minimize our emotional and mental pain. When combined with the puritanical nature of the American professional world — we work more and longer hours, we take less vacation time, and we retire later than pretty much every other country in the world — the situation results in us feeling the need to push through continuously, even when we could benefit from a day off to recharge. No wonder we can’t always tell when we need mental health days; our culture has taught us that we shouldn’t need them, and if we do, that we’ve failed in some way.
 
But there’s a direct connection between our mental being, our physical being, and our productivity at work. Research has found that when we’re stressed, anxious, or depressed, our physical health suffers and we get less done — which means that mental health days are essential when it comes to taking care of ourselves.
 
If you recognize any of these six signs, you might think about taking a sick day for your mental health:
 
1. You Overreact To Minor Issues
 
“Overreaction to minor things can be caused by anxiety, immaturity, tendency to bully, or being bullied,” Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist, relationship coach, and creator of Your Happiness Hypothesis Method tells Bustle in an email. “You have to identify the source of what is causing it in order to deal with it in a way that makes sense for you.” So, if you find yourself being unusually short with people — both at work and in your personal life — or having a disproportionately irate response to relatively minor inconveniences, it might be worth taking a mental health day. “If you snap at everything, you may need to walk away from the things that are irritating you,” says Silva. “Regroup and allow yourself the time to reset.”
 
2. You’re Tired All The Time
 
It’s no secret that stress, anxiety, and depression can result in difficulty sleeping — and sleep problems can, in turn, increase stress and anxiety: According to the Anxiety And Depression Association Of America’s Stress & Anxiety Disorders Survey, around 75 percent of adults who suffer from sleep problems due to stress or anxiety say that they deal with this very issue. The whole thing can become a vicious cycle, with exhaustion feeding stress and stress feeding exhaustion. If you find you’ve suddenly developed insomnia, it may be an indication that you need to take a day to recharge.
 
However, sleeplessness isn’t the only form that sleep issues can take; as licensed therapist Whitney Hawkins of the Collaborative Counseling Center pointed out to Healthyway in 2017, it also might manifest as “sleeping excessively.” If you find yourself wanting to crawl into bed as soon as you get home from work each day, that, too, might be a sign that your mental health could use some TLC.
 
It’s also worth noting that sleep issues might not just be a symptom of poor mental health, but rather a cause. According to the Harvard Mental Health Letter, there’s a strong correlation between sleep disorders and mental health disorders; as such, if you find you consistently have trouble sleeping, you might think about visiting a doctor who specializes in sleep disorders. Treating the sleep issues could very well help your overall mental health.
 
3. You Cry More Than Usual
 
Whether you’re normally a crier or not, getting unusually teary — particularly if you’re otherwise still able to function — can signal to you that you’d benefit from a bit of a break, according to Clarissa Silva. The Mayo Clinics further notes, “Stress may trigger crying jags, sometimes seemingly without warning. Little things unrelated to your stress may leave you in tears. You also may feel lonely or isolated.”
 
Silva suggests taking control of your emotional health by speaking with a mental health professional about what might be going on in your life; in fact, that might be an excellent use for your mental health day. “[They] can help you heal from pain to a more productive you,” says Silva.
 
4. Focusing Is A Struggle
 
Do you feel scattered or like you can’t zero on anything without getting distracted? Are you forgetting things or misplacing items more than usual? A mental health day might be in order — and, indeed, you might even think about using your mental health day to get back on top of things without the pressure of needing to work around your normal, day-to-day commitments.
 
At Psychology Today, licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist Amy Morin suggests three ways to use a mental health day: One, of course, is to take some time to practice self-care and recharge your batteries (which is what most of us probably think of when we think about what it means to take a mental health day); however, the other two involve focusing on attending to specific things you need to address. Writes Morin, “If you’re behind on your bills and taking a day off to tackle your budget could help you feel as though your back in control, it may make sense to take a day to address it so you can reduce your anxiety”; or, she continues, you might spend the time on “[attending] appointments to care for your mental health.” Says Morin, “Whether you need to see your doctor to get your medication adjusted or you need to schedule an appointment with your therapist, taking a day off to address your mental health needs is instrumental in helping you be at your best.”
 
5. You’ve Been Getting Sick A Lot
 
There’s a huge body of research that supports the idea of a connection between stress and physical illness; indeed, commonly-given advice for dealing with one often relies on reducing the other: If you think you’re getting sick, try to cut down on the stress in your life, while if you find yourself getting sick a lot, try to figure out if you’re suffering from more stress than usual.
 
The reason has to do with our immune system’s reaction to stressors. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, the same cells that help protect us from threats by raising the alarm to our bodies can weaken us and make us susceptible to illness if the stress response becomes too overwhelming. So, if you’ve been getting sick a lot — a sniffle here, a cough there, with a new one developing seemingly almost as soon as the last one goes away — it might be your body telling you that you’ve got an excessive amount of stress in your life.
 
Without some time to recover, you may eventually crash — and crash hard. Taking a mental health day, however, might help mitigate the issue.
 
6. The Weekend Isn’t Enough
 
It’s true that wishing the weekend were longer is a common occurrence; we’ve all done it at some point. But what if the weekend isn’t enough? What if your job frequently has you going to work on weekends even when you’re not supposed to be in the office? What if you’ve just been spending each weekend worried about what you’ve got on your plate in the coming week? That might be preventing you from actually using the weekend to recharge — which means that the stress is just going to keep adding up. As Emily A. Williams observes over at Hello Humankindness, if you often spend the weekend “in work mode instead of relaxation mode,” then “Monday might be the day to reset.”
 
If you need a few pointers on how to request a mental health day, this should help. Take care of yourself, OK? You’re worth it.
 
https://www.bustle.com/p/6-signs-you-need-a-mental-health-day-9116919

Prescribing social activities to lonely people prompts ethical questions for GPs

GPs in England will now be able to prescribe social activities to their patients, such as dance classes, art groups, walking clubs and volunteer work, as part of the government’s ground-breaking new loneliness strategy. This social prescription initiative funded by the NHS, which has been piloted in South Yorkshire and elsewhere and is now used by approximately 25% of GPs, will expand nationwide by 2023. Although there is no fixed model for social prescriptions, GPs will typically refer patients to intermediaries known as “link workers” who will facilitate access to local social activities as well as community-based therapeutic services and practical support.

This initiative, endorsed by the Royal College of General Practitioners, is certainly eye-catching. But is it ethical? As moral philosophers, we ask not just whether the consequences of an initiative are acceptable, but also whether the initiative respects and honours people as people.

One danger is that social prescriptions are dismissive and paternalistic toward people. Being given a social prescription might feel like being prescribed broccoli on the NHS. It might seem to trivialise the pain of loneliness as something easily solved with some chat, the social equivalent of eating more greens. If a GP gives someone a social prescription, he might leave her office feeling more disheartened and incompetent than when he walked in.

Yet, having a doctor not just advise, but prescribe regular social activity could also be a powerful motivator. According to social neuroscientist John Cacioppo, people who endure chronic acute loneliness have to combat the withdrawal and passivity that come with feeling threatened. They need a safe place to test out the uplifting sensations that come from simple moments of social connection. With a prescription in hand, they might be better able to take the baby steps necessary to reintegrate.

The stigma of loneliness

It’s also possible that by medicalising basic needs for positive social contact, social prescriptions risk heightening the stigma of loneliness.

Yet, we believe a medical solution offers some advantages. It normalises the fact that some people need help integrating, just as some people need medicine to treat ordinary ailments. A medical response lessens the impression that loneliness is a person’s own fault, and so can help to reduce its stigma.

What might reduce the stigma more, however, is a flagship policy that expands people’s opportunities to be meaningful social contributors.

The fact that the new loneliness strategy lacks such a policy is striking. As economist-cum-happiness-czar Richard Layard points out, a critical element in getting out of loneliness is feeling useful to others. It’s vital that connections involve contributing to others’ well-being, and that the government invest in strategies that can foster that sense of supportive purpose.

The government could expand people’s opportunities to serve each other, for example by creating incentives for people to participate in community volunteer work or piloting mandatory community service. It could also work with the RSPCA to invest in re-homing more companion animals, or offer incentives to engage in family socialising by subsidising holidays with extended family members. Policies could also ensure that non-standard working hours don’t deny families shared free-time, and provide incentives for people to live with others rather than on their own.

Long-term bonds

Given that chronic loneliness is correlated with many health risks including depression, alcoholism, reduced immunity, suicidal thoughts, and even early death, a person who is prescribed social activity will be quite vulnerable. Yet, despite that, they will be instructed to go into a foreign setting with strangers. So, social prescriptions do come with risks: that other people won’t be kind and won’t provide a safe space to experiment in socialising. It will be key for GPs, link workers and community groups to manage such risks.

Even if social prescriptions are not unduly risky, they would be ill-advised and self-defeating if they corrupted the social bonds people could make through new activities. Some philosophers would question how sincere someone’s socialising can be if they are there on their doctors’ orders. But, a doctor’s referral need not have this compromising effect. Children must go to school, but that doesn’t corrupt the friendships they make there. We can be sincere in our social overtures even when a different motivation got us through the door.

It’s the end game that matters most. With a course of antibiotics, we aim to recover and stop taking the medicine. When it comes to social connections, however, we have deep interests in ensuring our bonds persist. If all goes well, a social prescription will continue indefinitely. This means that the providers of the dance classes, art groups, or walking clubs must have the resources to ensure people can continue their prescribed social activities after their NHS allocation runs out.

The new loneliness strategy is the beginning of a process. The government deserves applause for appointing the world’s first loneliness minister, Tracey Crouch, to take seriously the late MP Jo Cox’s crusade to uncover the hidden tragedy of widespread loneliness in the UK. It also deserves credit for tackling loneliness through cross-government proposals that are necessarily tentative and open to review, as more evidence emerges on the causes and remedies of loneliness.

For now, although we have raised legitimate concerns about the expansion of social prescription, we do not think they are unethical.

https://theconversation.com/prescribing-social-activities-to-lonely-people-prompts-ethical-questions-for-gps-105439

Thursday this week is predicted to be the hottest day in Nottingham since records began

The Met Office says the temperature is expected to reach an eye-watering 35°C in Nottingham this Thursday. That’s above the record temperature at the Watnall weather station (which covers Nottingham) since records began back in 1948.

It’s important to stay safe and hydrated in the heat, and NHS Chief Nursing officer tells us how:

While the effects of too much sun can affect anyone, some are more at risk to the danger of hot weather including:

  • Young children, babies, and the elderly, especially those over 75;
  • People with serious chronic conditions and mobility problems such as Parkinson’s disease or those who have had a stroke, and;
  • People on certain medications, including those that affect sweating and temperature control.

Ten tips for coping in hot weather

  1. Shut windows and pull down the shades when it is hotter outside. You can open the windows for ventilation when it is cooler.
  2. If you’re vulnerable to the effects of heat, avoid the sun during the hottest part of the day (11am to 3pm).
  3. Keep rooms cool by using shades or reflective material outside the windows. If this isn’t possible, use light-coloured curtains and keep them closed (metallic blinds and dark curtains can make the room hotter).
  4. Have cool baths or showers, and splash yourself with cool water.
  5. Drink plenty of fluids and avoid excess alcohol – water, lower-fat milks and tea and coffee are good options.
  6. Listen to alerts on the radio, TV and social media about keeping cool.
  7. Plan ahead to make sure you have enough supplies, such as food, water and any medications you need.
  8. Identify the coolest room in the house so you know where to go to keep cool.
  9. Wear loose, cool clothing, and a hat and sunglasses if you go outdoors.
  10. Check up on friends, relatives and neighbours who may be less able to look after themselves.

To find out more, search ‘NHS hot weather’ online.

Stay safe in the sun, the Harmless team x

 

A Prescription for the Soul

Reader, call to mind your favourite painting and visualize it clearly. Let your mind wander gaily between each hue and stroke; make yourself part of its composition. After swimming through this sweet moment of reflection, do you feel calmer? If so, you have just witnessed art’s tremendous power to soothe!

One of the marks of a Masterpiece is the great serenity it contains – the Divine ability to transport us into worlds of breath-taking beauty when clouds obscure the beauty of our own reality. Recall the lavish scenes and decadent palette found in Boticelli’s work. When viewing The Birth of Venus, can you not hear the wind rustling the falling petals, feel the gentle waves lapping at your feet? Or envision Monet’s enchanting water lily paintings with their dappled light and soft swirls of muted glory. The works are alive, beckoning us to release our worries – your eyes are delighted and your Soul breathes a sigh of relief! Such is the mark of art that man returns to time and time again, century after century. Within these Masterpieces, the gentle Hand of the Great Spirit reaches out to comfort us.

And this power to restore is very real! An increasing number of studies have investigated the link between the happiness of the mind and the health of the body. The field of psychoneuroimmunology explores the ways stress and negative thoughts affect physical and mental well-being. It has been found that surrounding yourself with positivity and beauty has a fantastic ability to heal. In the instant you see a gorgeous bloom, your heart reacts and you smile. When you focus on the Good in life, you bring even more Goodness to yourself.

The healing power of art extends beyond enjoyment of existing work. The act of making art has long been viewed as a therapeutic way to cope with ills of the body and mind. A blank canvas or page is a place to pour out all of your strife and transform it into something magnificent, a gift worthy of sharing. To the artist, creation is your truest confidante, the one to whom you bear all of your secrets. It offers relief that no medicine can bring – a pure prescription for healing the Soul, and the renewal of health and joy!

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ana-tzarev/a-prescription-for-the-soul_b_3081436.html?utm_hp_ref=uk-art-therapy

Art Therapy Has ‘Clear Effect’ On Severe Depression, Research Finds

Art therapy has a “clear effect” on severe depression, helping some people to get back to work after time off, new research suggests.

During the research, conducted by Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, 43 patients with “severe” or “moderately severe” depression underwent an art therapy course.

Meanwhile a control group of 36 people with depression and symptoms of the same level did not take part in art therapy.

Activities within the therapy sessions included instructions such as: “create a picture of how you are feeling on this particular day.”

After 10 art therapy sessions, the patients who suffered from severe or moderately severe depression had shown more improvement than the patients in the control group, the researchers concluded.

TERRASPRITE VIA GETTY IMAGES

According to the researchers the majority of the participants were so affected by their depression that they were unable to work at the start of the study.

The individual art therapy took place in psychiatry or primary care and was conducted by a specially trained therapist.

Each session began with a short briefing and a relaxation exercise. After that participants created artwork with crayons and water colours.

“The materials were simple, allowing people to doodle and feel free to express themselves the way they wanted to, and then they would talk about the picture and its significance,” Christina Blomdahl, PhD at the institute of health and care sciences and licensed occupational therapist and art therapist, explained.

After 10 hour-long treatment sessions the patients had improved on an average of almost five steps on a rating scale used for depression.

Blomdah said this represents a large leap that entails a “considerable” change to everyday life, and sometimes it may also mean that a patient is able to return to work.

Anxiety, sleep, ability to take initiative and emotional involvement are some of the factors that are assessed. In the control group that had not undergone art therapy there was no definite change.

“The conclusion is that it was the art therapy that facilitated their improvement,” Blomdah said.

“Painting pictures based on themes and discussing the pictures with the therapist promotes self-reflection and brain stimulation that takes place outside of the conscious mind.”

Although Blomdahl’s study was based on adults, Mary­-Rose Brady, director of operations at the British Association of Art Therapists, previously told HuffPost UK art therapy can be particulalry useful for children struggling with mental ill health.

“We know that children who can’t understand or name their feelings are more likely to ‘act them out’, so art therapy can provide relief to a child whose only previous option was to dissolve into tears or have an angry outburst in response to overwhelming feelings,” she said.

“Art materials enable children to externalise troubling or confusing emotions, giving them form and enabling them to make links between thoughts, feelings and behaviours, perhaps for the first time.”

Debbie Thwaites, founder of art therapy charity Shine Again, explained how this works.

“One young boy I saw just wanted to paint poo,” she said.

“He wasn’t able to say ‘this person is making me feel like poo’, but he was able to get all the brown and black colours out, make a big mess and say ‘that’s what I feel like’.”

Based on the recent findings, Blomdahl hopes that art therapy will be used more extensively in healthcare.

“Based on evidence requirements it has been more or less scrapped by psychiatry, but this is one of the largest studies that has been conducted in this area,” she said.

“It is a step that may lead to more people being trained in it and the method being used again.”

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2017/11/09/art-therapy-has-clear-effect-on-severe-depression-research-finds_a_23271644/?utm_hp_ref=uk-art-therapy