‘Children and Young People’s Mental Health – Taking Early Action’ : title of a conference I attended today.
The hall was packed with 350-400 people, working for the well-being of kids as teachers, social workers, decision makers and others. Two speakers mentioned suicide in the passing – Rt. Hon. Norman Lamb MP, who lost his sister through this tragedy 2 years ago and Richard Andrews, who set up the charity Healios after experiencing serious difficulties in accessing support for friends and family affected by serious mental illness.
One of the professors spoke about the reasons for early deaths of people with mental ill-health. He attributed this mainly to physical problems such as hypertension, obesity and smoking related problems. Death by suicide wasn’t mentioned.
I learnt a lot, some of which I shall share in the next few days. A Green Paper is being drawn up to set out proposals for delivering better mental health support for children and young people. During one of the question times, I suggested that bearing in mind that suicide is the biggest killer of young people in this country, 2 things must be included in the Green Paper –
Suicide Prevention Training for all medical and nursing staff and students, just like CPR training, to bring parity of esteem between physical and mental ill-health.
Meaningful sharing of information about para-suicidal young people between medical teams, police, first-responders and families, in the best interest of the patient.
This remark was met with a stunned silence. The room froze. The chairperson mumbled something like ‘eloquent…’ and rapidly moved on to the next person.
Stigma lives here too. Inside the healthcare community.
Wonder what Saagar would have made of Brexit. He would have wanted easy access to France. He was a die-hard Francophile. He loved the intricacies of French language, food and wine, girls… He wanted to work there at some stage, to practice his French.
Trump would have been extremely amusing and concerning for him. I think he would have had fun making a cartoon character of him and imitating his mannerisms and speech. He used to mimic Bush Junior a lot, to our great amusement.
He would have had some strong and interesting opinions about gender identity politics and ‘safe spaces’ in Universities, which mean different things to different people. I was told that in his first year at University he volunteered as a student counsellor for LGBT students but in the second year he withdrew from that role. Did he not feel well enough within himself? Was that an indication that he knew something wasn’t the same?
Burning Middle-East, migrating populations, global tensions, towering infernos and erratic climatic phenomena – I wonder what he would have thought of all these things.
The passage of time is dragging me away from the point when he was alive. I grieve the widening gap between then and now. That time is receding further and further away like a very low tide. Physically, the current keeps flowing in one direction – away. Mentally, it dances, twirls and circles, touching many points over the past 24 years and gathering up as many gems as possible, folding them neatly and putting them away safely, to be revisited again and again and again… What if I forget everything? What if it goes too far away and then disappears? What if I can’t touch that time ever again?
“Work out how many vulnerable children there are in this country today…Four months, 12 experts, 500 pages and four spreadsheets later, and our answer is: we don’t know.”
The report produced by the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry into the abuse of children in the Island’s care system over seven decades was published yesterday. The findings were shocking:
Having their hair forcibly cut off
Having their mouths washed out with soap
Spending long periods in an isolation room
Having fat from a frying pan poured over them
Being punched and slapped
Being sexually abused
Live electrical wires applied to legs
Being hit with a pre-war army stick with a metal end
Being beaten with nettles as a punishment for bedwetting
The “Jersey way” is a term used to describe a system where “serious issues are swept under the carpet” and “people avoid being held to account for abuses”. However, Jersey is not the only place in the world where this has been happening and still carries on.
Studies show that children and adolescents in care are at greater risk of suicide and attempting suicide than those who are not in care. Rates of suicide attempts and hospital admissions within this population were highest before entry into care and decreased thereafter. Health and social care professionals should be made aware of this research. The care home experience is a prominent risk marker for suicidal behaviour among teenagers and young adults.
Many years ago in India it was traditional to keep the best nibbles like almonds and cashews stored away, for guests, often under lock and key. I understand the same practise was common throughout the middle east and in many house-holds in Europe. Although in Europe it translated to the best whiskey and brandy.
Many of these traditions have their roots in the honoured position of a guest. In Hindu belief system, God can arrive at our doorstep in any form and hence it was imperative to treat all guests, friends or strangers with great respect.
This attitude is not limited just to things. It sometimes transfers to people. While there is nothing wrong with honouring others, it does not have to be at the cost of dishonouring ourselves or those closest to us. Things may be in limited supply but love and respect are not. It’s not unusual to see people treat their friends in the best possible way and their spouses and children in the worst. Everyone else’s mistakes are easily forgiven but slightest mistakes of close family members are made to look far worse than they are.
I have learnt to honour myself and those close to me as much as a guest. Said ‘God’ resides in me and my dear ones too. Besides, I love almonds.
Somewhere in the sea
Are you waiting for me?
In that expansive blanket
I am waiting for you
I’ve cried these tears
They’ve made this sea
And now I cannot find you
In this sorry mess of blue.
I’ve swam to the edge to reach This tip
Of nothingness where you left your shoes for a dip
From which you haven’t returned
And now I’m left tracing
Across this sparkling blue
Where has it taken you?
My love was pure
It held no bounds
And yet nowhere, anywhere
Can you be found
I try to search with frantic eyes
Where I can turn back the fate
Of your demise?
I hold your shoes pacing
Wont you be out soon, cold,
and need your soles?
I am here, a lifeguard
Supposed to protect you
Against these waves of blue.
I pray to the Gods and the earth and the creators I don’t know
That they can bring you back here to this spot where I bow
I’ll protect you better
Against this tide that pulled you out.
If I can’t find you then what is my life about?
I’m so sorry, my angel
But I’ll never give up
I’ll wait here forever till this blue dries up
I’ll sit here searching until you come back.
In ancient Japan it was believed that God lived in the evergreens. That is why they used it as the tallest and the main component of their flower arrangements. God was the invisible line that passes vertically through the centre of the arrangements. So said a senior faculty of Ikebana, Prof. Kurata at his lecture/demonstration this morning.
Three hours of his talk equalled a year’s worth of learning. He went on to show how nature outdoors is depicted through flowers, leaves and stems indoors. This bamboo vase represents a cliff side and the alcove within it denotes a cave from where plants are emerging towards light, the spectator. Pictures don’t do any justice to the space and the movement created by the study.
He spoke of beauty. When hidden, it carries intrigue. When hidden, it allows for imagination to flow. When hidden, it can be the most beautiful thing in the world. This is an example.
The shape of the container and the simplicity of the materials combine to create elegance.
Rikka is a form that captures a landscape. Each part of it signifies something, like receiving, flowing, supporting and carrying. It has mountains and rivers within it. Find them if you can.
Clever use of angular shapes and bright contrasting colours to create an uplifting happy slanting mood.
I swear diagonally, Bro.
The world is sort of round and so is this. Rounds within rounds. Wheels within wheels. Keeping to the theme. Cheerful asymmetry.
Must be Spring
This last one was for the youngest member of the audience, a 3 year old girl. Playful bobbles and wires hanging out happily with an orchid in a blue bottle of gel balls.
Wonderful to see a true genius at work! It’s calming working with flowers, stems, branches, leaves, berries and grasses. Being with nature. Breathing. Learning. Smelling in the subtleness. Letting the imagination flow. Allowing the Self to heal. Letting go. Dissolving.
“Helping others is the way we help ourselves” -Oprah Winfrey
Simple ideas change the world. A Clinical Psychologist, Dr Charlie Howard was taking a walk around her area. Having recently had a child, she was looking for her next “thing”. She asked random people what would make a difference in their community. “A Problem-Solving Booth right here on my street” answered a young man in the queue in a sandwich shop. “A place where people can go with the stresses in their head and where we can help each other”. The idea was genius and Charlie’s head built on it quickly. “Maybe we could try one here?” Charlie suggested, “we could do it together”. The young man smiled at Charlie and said “yeah maybe” and then his phone rang and he ran off down the street. No one knows his name and no one has seen him since. He probably has no idea just what his throwaway words have since inspired.
Problem-Solving Booths are a great way to bring members of the community together to have conversations that they might not otherwise have, by helping each other with their problems. One chair is for the “Helper”, the person listening to the problems. The other is for the “Helped”, the person describing their concerns. The aim of the Booth is that people swap roles regularly as we all have both the potential to have problems as well as to offer help.
Thrive London is a citywide movement for better mental health for Londoners supported by the Mayor of London and the London Health Board. Problem-Solving Booths have become the local arm of Thrive and we’re working out what they are, what they do and what they can do, with everyone we meet from street to street, borough to borough and organisation to organisation. It’s cool.