Feeling prickly #WMHD2014

Today is World Mental Health Day 2014. As ever I’m a little uncertain and sceptical about the actual impact of awareness raising days, but genuinely believe we’ve a long way to go before discussing mental health is truly easy and accepted in society, so thought I’d add my two pennies worth. Today I’m feeling prickly.


I feel fortunate that I’ve never really had a particularly bad period of mental health in my life, I have however had several prolonged episodes where life has been incredibly stressful, and as I look back at it now I was under immense pressure (self-imposed and from other factors) to perform to a certain standard.

There was a period when I was writing up my PhD when I was very stressed, but I felt it was normal, I almost expected to be so.

Then there was a significant relationship breakdown and my Dad getting sick, that was a particularly difficult six to twelve months.

Then there have been challenging periods at work where we’d undergone restructures, making people redundant, reshaping an organisational vision, merging with others with competing agendas, until eventually I decided to quit my job and go it alone as a freelancer.

If I’m honest the freelancer bit came later, I had no idea what I was going to do when I quit, I just knew if I didn’t stop the ever mounting pressure and remove one source of stress, I was most likely on a path to self-destruction. As it happened my Dad died my last week in work, so then life had no structure or shape and all of a sudden stress was replaced with grief and loss. I’ve blogged a few times about what that feels like:

Life is short and death isn’t rational or fair.

There is no rhyme or reason, we all have good days and bad days. Some of us are lucky enough to get some warning and chance to prepare for death and I’ll always be grateful that we knew Dad was dying, but you can’t really prepare for grief. It’s raw and real and visceral and painful. That pain lessens as time goes on, or maybe it doesn’t and instead our ability to live with it and accommodate it just increases, I don’t know which.

I’ve also blogged quite a bit recently about the #JusticeforLB campaign that I’m involved with. This week it became apparent that Southern Health have been surveilling Sara’s blog, which led to this post from Anne Marie Cunningham about the ethical implications and this one from Tim Turner on the data protection and FOI elements. It is somewhat ironic that after promoting heavily their new listening app, while having hundreds of stories without any changes on Patient Opinion, on World Mental Health Day they’re giving advice on mental health, while being solely responsible for the prolonged and relentless attack on Sara’s mental health.

Some days I wonder how much more stress Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust can put Sara and her family under. I really feel like it’s time that someone stepped in and stopped this. She’s endured bullying and harassment from the CEO, lies from the Chair of the Board, and all she wants is to get justice for her son and all the other young dudes. Is that so much to ask?

I’m going to finish this post with an animation made for the #107days campaign that captures what life is too often like for people with learning disabilities when they experience poor mental health. Watch this and see whether you’d be happy if it was you or someone you loved:

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