Day 913

Till date I wonder what it must have been like for Saagar, to be diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and to be on Psychiatric medications. I have read books, watched documentaries and films to gain an understanding of it and I think I have an idea but maybe I have absolutely no clue.

Watching a clip of Paul Dalio, a young man living with Bipolar disorder and a film director brought clarity in 2 and a half minutes.

“When you get diagnosed, you go from experiencing what you’re certain is divine illumination. After sometime in it, you’re thrown into a hospital, you’re pumped full of drugs, you come down 60 pounds overweight, completely disoriented and they tell you, ”No, there was nothing divine. Nothing illuminating. You have just triggered a lifelong genetic illness which will swing you from psychotic highs to suicidal lows and you’ll probably fall into the 1 in 4 statistic unless you take the medication which makes you feel no emotion. If you imagine missing feeling sad, it’s the only thing worse than pain.”
So, it’s very hard for people to comprehend.

After a lifetime of building your identity, your place within humanity, you’re suddenly told that you are a defect of humanity. And to know that you’re not going to be the person you used to be and that you’ll at best be able to get by is … is life shattering. And the only labels you have to choose from are some kind of a disorder, Manic-depressive or Bipolar. So you scrape through every clinical book  trying to look for answers. That’s exactly what I did. Peeling through these books which were these diagnostic, medical texts where I felt like I was under a microscope and someone in a lab coat was judging me.”

Paul Dalio came across a book by Kay Redfield Jamison who is a world authority on Bipolar Disorder by way of having the illness and being a Professor in Psychiatry. The book is called “Touched with Fire”. He went on to write and direct a film by the same name.

Ref:
Paul Dalio:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUnkt7M-GCM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jr7vi4wLJI8
Film Trailer:

Day 907

IMG_0618

The national conversation on mental health and wellbeing is growing. Tackling stigma, raising awareness and providing help for people with mental health challenges sit on top of the agenda. Big names take the lead. Royals of state and sport speak up. Banners shine and flags fly high.  The CEO of Virgin Money, the main sponsor of the London Marathon speaks on national radio about her perinatal depression.

Heads Together Charity has been set up by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge along with Prince Harry to ensure that people feel comfortable with their everyday mental wellbeing, feel able to support their friends and families through difficult times, and that stigma no longer prevents people getting help they need.

Rio Ferdinand, Katherine Welby Roberts and many others come forward to make short films about their experiences of bereavement and depression. Jonny Benjamin gets awarded an MBE for his work. Newspapers and TV are more open to discussing these issues.

It’s happening. The seeds have been sown. There is hope.

Ref:

Calmzine. Marathon Special : https://www.thecalmzone.net/get-involved/calmzine/

Heads Together: https://www.headstogether.org.uk/

Jonny Benjamin: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/38477747/jonny-benjamin-how-i-went-from-suicide-attempt-to-mbe

Day 901

In the USA, the number of suicides in 2014 was 42,773. Of these, deaths by firearms were 21,334. So, approximately one-half of suicides are completed by firearm, accounting for two-thirds of all firearms deaths.

In the UK, the most common method used in the United Kingdom is hanging. Suicide using firearms accounts for only a very small fraction, possibly due to tight gun control. Only 4% of households in the UK possess them. Self poisoning and overdosing are the common methods used by women.

Removal of methods is one of the basic strategies for suicide prevention.

Details of suicide methods in the media have been shown to prompt vulnerable individuals to imitate suicidal behaviour. With this in mind, Samaritans recommend these media guidelines:

Avoid giving too much detail.
While saying someone hanged themselves or took an overdose is acceptable, detail about the type of ligature or type and quantity of tablets used is not. Avoid any mention of the method in headlines as this inadvertently promotes and perpetuates common methods of suicide.
Extra care must be taken when reporting the facts of cases where an unusual or previously unknown method has been used. Incidences of people using unusual or new methods of suicide have been known to increase rapidly after being reported widely. Reporting may also drive people to the internet to search for more information about these methods.
Remember that there is a risk of imitational behaviour due to ‘over-identification’.
Vulnerable individuals may identify with a person who has died, or with the circumstances in which a person took their own life. Never say a method is quick, easy, painless or certain to result in death. Try to avoid portraying anything that is immediate or easy to imitate – especially where the ingredients or tools involved are readily available.

The Golden Gate Bridge is identified as the scene of the most suicides in the world. Today a ceremony in San Francisco launched the building of a net to prevent suicides from occurring on the bridge. Excellent leadership has led this effort. Eduardo Vega explains beautifully how this leadership has impacted the decision to move toward a prevention of suicide on this world famous landmark in this video: https://youtu.be/bUSpiGOwoMk

Ref: Media Guidelines:

http://www.samaritans.org/media-centre/media-guidelines-reporting-suicide/advice-journalists-suicide-reporting-dos-and-donts

 

Day 885

Megan Clark is 19. She came out of anonymity to speak in support of the statement made by the judge on her rape case. Judge Lindsey Kushner, while sentencing the rapist, advised young women that they risk rape if they get drunk. It is well known that drinking seriously impairs judgement. Drunk young women make themselves very vulnerable. They are less likely to be able to defend themselves, remember the events correctly or be believed.

The judge’s statement was interpreted by some as ‘victim-blaming’.

I think it’s common sense. I have great admiration for this young girl for coming forward and speaking from her experience. It must have taken courage.
In no way does it absolve the attackers of  what they did.
It’s about taking care of ourselves. The lessons are there if we are willing to learn. It’s much better to learn from other people’s mistakes.

In an ideal world no one would steal, rape or cheat. In the real world they do. That is why we lock our doors, install burglar alarms and have heavily protected bank accounts.
Freedom comes with responsibility.

There is mountains of evidence to say that there is a significant increase in mental illness in women who have been physically or sexually assaulted in childhood and adult life. The harmful effects of abuse can continue to contribute to psychiatric illness for many years.

Ref:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/28/rape-victim-says-judge-warned-women-drinking-heavily-right/
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673688916005

Day 884

“Hi. My name is Joe
And I work in a button factory
I’ve got a wife
3 kids
And one day my boss said to me
He said, “Joe?
…Got a minute?”
I said,”Yes.”
He said “Push the button
With your left hand

Repeat….right hand
….left foot
….right foot
….head
….tongue

It was like being a kid again. The Theatre workshop at the Dragon Café let loose my imagination and opened up a whole new world of possibilities. I was part of a community full of great ideas, all of which were real in that room. Colourful currents of creative juices were flowing, intersecting and mingling within that sacred space. Every suggestion was validated, every feeling acknowledged. I felt safe and uplifted. For that one hour I could be anyone, anywhere with any story.

If I was an object, I would be one of a pair of 5 and a half inch long ear-rings with turquoise beads and feathers.

If I could change the world, I would say to you, please listen.

The interaction induced empathy. For a few minutes, each of our characters felt what it must be like to be in the other one’s shoes. We formed strong connections and had great fun.

I can see why Drama therapy works in schools, prisons, mental health centres, businesses and hospitals. It is an instrument for change, individual and social. It can help us work our way through a problem, discover some truths about ourselves, understand the meaning of images that resonate with us and explore and transcend unhealthy personal patterns of behaviour.

Saagar was a natural mimic and actor. Every time he auditioned, he bagged a good role. Predictably, he played one of the 3 wise men in his primary school nativity play. Then, he was Badger in Wind in the Willows. His last school play was Of Men and Mice in which he played the character of The Boss. He loved the team aspect of putting a production together. The last play he watched was ‘Book of Mormons’.

He was a star and still is.

IMG_0650

Ref:

http://playingon.org.uk/playing-on-at-the-dragon-cafe/

Day 873

It’s Thursday.
It’s the 16th.
It’s March 2017.
Exactly 29 months.
2 years and 5 months.

I am in the same part of the same hospital, doing the same job with the same people as I was on that day. I am taking a break in the same clutterred coffee room where Saagar visited me a few months prior to his death.

Today, I sit here reading the House of Commons Select Committee Progress Report on Suicide Prevention. It informs the Government’s strategy on the same.

In a nutshell, it clearly states – Suicide is preventable. Current rates of loss of life in this way are unacceptable and most likely under-reported. Even though 95% of Local Councils have a Suicide Prevention Strategy, its implementation is very poor. We must have a way to reach those at risk but not in contact with health services. It commends the work of the voluntary sector. It identifies stigma as a big hindrance. It emphasises better targeted training for frontline staff, medical students and GPs. It expresses disappointments at the poor follow-up of patients after discharge from psychiatric services, at poor information sharing with families and poor funding/staffing of services.

It identifies self harm as the single biggest indicator of suicide risk. Poor psychosocial assessment and safety planning of these patients possibly contributes to a high rate of suicides. Proper support for bereaved families should be an integral part of suicide prevention. Irresponsible media reporting is damaging. Coroner’s need to call a suicide, a suicide.

All the things that we have been saying for all these months!
To think that at least 15,000 more suicides have already taken place in the UK since Saagar’s death!

Report:
https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/health-committee/news-parliament-20151/suicide-prevention-report-published-16-171/

Day 867

Kooning
(The Attic, by William de Kooning)

In the 1920s, a Russian film director, Lev Kuleshov filmed a male matinee idol staring in turn at a bowl of soup, a young girl in a coffin and an elegant lady reclining on a couch. The actor got rave reviews from the audiences on his ability to effortlessly evoke hunger, grief and desire in the film. What they did not know was the fact that the director had used the same shot of the actor each time, just cut to each different object.

Humans have an innate need to impose order on the world. If we are presented with disparate images, we will try to assemble them into a meaningful order. It we are given a bunch of jumbled unrelated words, we will try to arrange them into a sentence that might mean something.

In the mid-twentieth century, Wiiliam de Kooning emerged as one of the pioneers of Abstract Expressionism. His art is known to put brains in a tizzy, desperately trying to order and make sense of the shapes within. Faces? Animals? Semi-clad human forms? Women? Doors?

ExcavationdeK
(The Excavation, by William de Kooning)

Maybe life is the same – unrelated images randomly juxtaposed, the human mind desperately struggling to make sense of them.

Ref:

William de Kooning: http://www.theartstory.org/artist-de-kooning-willem.htm
Kuleshov effect: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gGl3LJ7vHc