Kay Warren on Grief and Facing Mental Illness

Kay Warren & Matthew WarrenKay and Rick Warren lead the most recognizable church in the world—Saddleback Community Church in Southern California. And that made the 2013 death, by suicide, of their youngest son Matthew all the more painful. In the aftermath of the tragedy, they were targets for malicious criticism and brutal cynicism. But out of the darkness of their personal journey through grief, they emerged to help focus the church’s attention on the stigmas surrounding mental illness.

Rick Lawrence has a fascinating interview with Kay for Group Magazine, you can find at youthministry.com.

Archbishop of Canterbury signs letter seeking equality for mental health

Justin WelbyA campaign to raise awareness of mental health issues was launched today, backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, former Olympians, military officers and senior business figures.  More than two fifths of adult men under the age of 45 have considered taking their own lives, a YouGov poll has revealed.

Two hundred celebrities, politicians, business leaders and more have signed a letter calling for equality between physical and mental health in advance of the government spending round.

The new campaign is being led by Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat former health minister; Alastair Campbell, the former Downing Street director of communications; and Andrew Mitchell, the former Tory Cabinet minister. Each has faced mental health problems himself or in his family.

It calls on the government to address the historic inequality between mental and physical health, highlighting lack of access to treatment, lengthy waiting times, inadequate crisis care, use of police cells and the 20 year gap in life expectancy between those with mental health problems and the rest of the population.

The signatories say:

“We ask for the same right to timely access to evidence-based treatment as is enjoyed by those with physical health problems. We accept, and urge ministers to accept, that this will require additional investment in mental health services.  Ministers have accepted that whatever improvements in attitude may have been made in British society, those who experience mental ill-health still do not get a fair deal from our health services. In effect they suffer discrimination in our publicly-funded NHS. This must be addressed.”

 

Support for children’s mental health must move into the 21st century

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The Children’s Commissioner for England says most children are looking to the internet for information about mental health issues. She has called for young people’s mental health websites to carry a ‘health warning’ with some sort of kite mark system to guarantee the quality of the information given, but she says more help and counselling should be provided in schools and youth clubs.

Young people want trustworthy information about mental health issues and also more accessible drop-in mental health support. Research found that young people are more likely to seek help about mental health issues from a friend (50%) than a parent (43%), mental health professional (40%) or doctor (40%). Only 18% would turn to their school nurse.

A new animated guide to mental health care care in England was launched ahead of World Mental Health Day by the Kings Fund; exploring the mental health services and how they work alongside other health and public services.

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Candlelit Vigil in observance of World Suicide Prevention Day

I have been asked by a local Police Officer to publicise this event – there will be many more people than any of us realise affected by what this is all about.

If you know of someone who has been affected by suicide at any time – please pass this information on to them.

World Suicide Prevention Day

Attending church is the key to good mental health among older Europeans – study finds

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A press release from the LSE reports new research showing that attending church is the key to good mental health among older Europeans

A study of depression among older Europeans has found that joining a religious organisation is more beneficial than charity work, sport or education in improving their mental health.

The surprising findings from a study by the Erasmus MC and the London School of Economics and Political Science also reveal that political and community organisations actually have a detrimental impact on the mental health of older Europeans on a long term basis.

In a study of 9000 Europeans aged 50+ over a four-year period, researchers at Erasmus MC and LSE looked at different levels of social activity and how they influenced people’s moods.

LSE epidemiologist Dr Mauricio Avendano said the only activity associated with sustained happiness was attending a church, synagogue or mosque.

“The church appears to play a very important social role in keeping depression at bay and also as a coping mechanism during periods of illness in later life. It is not clear to us how much this is about religion per se, or whether it may be about the sense of belonging and not being socially isolated,” he said.

The study showed that joining political and community organisations only provides short-term benefits in terms of mental health and seems, in fact, to lead to an increase in depressive symptoms longer term.

“Participants receive a higher sense of reward when they first join an organisation but if it involves a lot of effort and they don’t get much in return, the benefits may wear off after some time,” he said.

Similarly, the study did not find any short-term benefits from sports and participation in other social activities.

According to the recent Global Burden of Disease study, the incidence of depression among older Europeans ranges from 18 per cent in Denmark to 37 per cent in Spain.

While the sample sizes were small, the study by Dr Simone Croezen from Erasmus MC, Dr Avendano and colleagues also threw up some unusual findings:

  • Southern Europeans (Italy and Spain) have higher rates of depression than older people who live in the Scandinavian countries (Sweden and Denmark) or western Europe (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands);
  • Depression may have less to do with the weather and more with other determinants, such as economic wellbeing or social relationships;
  • Northern Europeans are more likely to play sport than their southern counterparts;
  • Southern Europeans do not tend to socialise beyond their family networks and less than 10 per cent take part in either voluntary work or educational/training courses.

Previous studies have found that people who are involved in the church, clubs, sport, political groups and voluntary activities enjoy better mental health than the rest of the population. However, little research has been done on whether any of these activities in themselves actually cause happiness or whether people who are happy to begin with are more likely to engage in these activities.

“Our findings suggest that different types of social activities have an impact on mental health among older people, but the strength and direction of this effect varies according to the activity,” Dr Avendano said.

“One of the most puzzling findings is that although healthier people are more likely to volunteer, we found no evidence that volunteering actually leads to better mental health. It may be that any benefits are outweighed by other negative impacts of volunteering, such as stress.”

Social participation and depression in old age is published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. It is authored by Dr Simone Croezen (University Medical Centre Rotterdam), Dr Mauricio Avendano (LSE Health and Social Care), and Dr Alex Burdorf and Dr Frank van Lenthe (Erasmus MC).

The paper will be available here.

Getting stuck between social care and CAMHS

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The UK has a world-class public sector, education is good, and the NHS is outstanding. But one area that consistently seems to let young people down is those who get stuck in-between social care and Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).

 

In our austerity climate there have been cuts to both children’s social and the CAMHS service. In addition both services are locally using more agency staff to cover the current gaps they have within their teams. This certainly provides a lack of consistency for young people and their families, but I believe that the problem is not solved by more money, and capacity staffing. Simply pouring additional resource into a dysfunctional system would not automatically produce the best results for our vulnerable children and young people. Instead it is time to consider a radical overhaul of how, when and by whom child protection and statutory mental health services are provided.

 

Too often when a child is suspected of having mental health concerns such as depression, suicide, ADHD, on the ASD spectrum then social care, often believe it is the responsibility of CAMHS to take the lead with the family. Yet CAMHS, often rightly, will point out that whilst the mental health concerns has a significant impact there are other major factors at play in the life of the young person. Instead of two agencies working together to support a young person and their family they spend their time blaming cuts on the lack of staff and resources and spend meetings with other professionals passing the buck as to why they can not help the young person.

 

All this does is lead to a situation where a young person who is on the border of a Tier 2 to 3 threshold is propelled to the top end of Tier 3 if not into Tier 4 as no agency takes responsibility to support and invest in the young person and their family.

 

I can think of several families that I’ve worked with for whom this tension between social care and CAMHS has actually worsened the situation, and certainly not helped the young person.

 

I sit in meetings where I want to stop and shout: “Enough is enough!” Surely we can find a way to do something between us to support this young person and their family.

 

As is often the case though in a large organisation the staff at the meetings don’t have the power to be able to change the situation – what we need is county managers and health commissioners working together for the benefit of young people and their families and enabling their staff to do the same.

Eric Pickles tells survivor of alleged child abuse: ‘Adjust your medication’

Eric Pickles

I was amazed to read in the newspaper that Eric Pickles told a survivor of alleged child abuse to “adjust your medication”.

The minister for Communities and Local Government told a survivor of alleged child abuse to “adjust your medication” when she accused him of ignoring her.  He made

the comment in a recorded confrontation with constituent Teresa Cooper earlier this month. Ms Cooper was one of at least six women who say they were drugged as teenagers at the Kendall House care home, Kent, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, whose children now have genetic defects:

Confronting Mr Pickles, who is her constituency MP, she said: “Nothing has changed on the Kendall House abuse. Only you have ignored it. You have ignored it.” Pickles then interjected, shouting: “just, just, adjust your medication”.

Below is the transcript of the conversation and below that the audio recording of the conversation.

Teresa Cooper: you need my signature for…

Eric Pickles: you’ve consistently…  you change your na [unfinished word]… you’ve changed your views…  You give me different stories.

TC: Different stories?

EP: and before I act I need your signature

TC: different stories.. its been proved publicly

EP: [aside]sorry about this

VOICE: no .. its okay

TC: we’ve got all this stuff its been proved publicly and its you – you tell different stores – nothing has changed on the Kendall House abuse? – only you have ignored it.  You have ignored.  You have ignored it.

EP: just, just, adjust your medication

TC: no you…. I am not on medication right, but you need to be, you ignore child abuse and people should know about it.

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The two met while at a wildlife event in Ongar, Essex, on 14 September and Ms Cooper recorded the conversation. Ms Cooper, 46, said: “I was shocked to be honest. He’s implying I’m mentally ill which is really rude of him because people do have mental health problems and they should not be spoken to that way.”

She added: “The Conservatives say ‘we need to change attitudes about mental health’ but clearly they need to start with Eric Pickles.”

Mr Pickles’ adviser said that the comment  was said in “the heat of the moment” and was his way of giving a blunt piece of advice. Mr Pickles had corresponded with Ms Cooper about some of her concerns but she claims she has been trying to speak to him in person for 16 years.

Mr Pickles said: “It was never my intention to insult Teresa Cooper. I was giving her a frank piece of advice in private.”

Unsurprisingly Mr Pickles has been criticised by a wide range of organisations and individuals including Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind:

“It is disappointing that a minister would use language that can feed the prejudice around mental health. We would encourage everyone to really consider the impact of using mental health language in a way that could contribute to fuelling stigma.”

I believe that Mr Pickles should offer a full unreserved public apology to Teresa Cooper – we shouldn’t have MPs let alone Ministers using language like that.

Work Hard, Rest Hard

Kevin DeYoung has written a blog post on working hard and resting hard – I’ve got much more serious in this in the past year or so.  It has made a big difference in my mental health:

People like to say life is a marathon, not a sprint, but it’s actually more like a track workout. We run hard and then rest hard. We charge a hill and then chug some Gatorade. We do some stairs, then some 200s, and then a few 400s. In between, we rest. Without it, we’d never finish the workout. If we want to keep going, we have to learn how to stop. Just like the Isra­elites had in their calendar, we need downtime each day, and a respite each week, and seasons of refreshment throughout the year.

Which is why it’s so concerning that our lives are getting more and more rhythm-less. We don’t have healthy routines. We can’t keep our feasting and fasting apart. Evening and morning have lost their feel. Everything is blurred together. The faucet is a constant drip. Life becomes a malaise, until we can’t take any more and spiral into illness, burnout, or depres­sion. We can’t run incessantly and expect to run very well.

Read the rest here.