Guest blog: Mental Health First Aid for children and young people

2835959342_c55f01abc4_zTheresa May announced recently her commitment to invest in helping schools to recognise mental health issues in their students. A long overdue focus, says NICOLA MARSHALL

Having seen for the last five years the increase in mental health related issues in schools across the country, it is fair to say we are inadequately resourced to deal with this growing problem in our children and young people.

According to Gov.UK, over ½ mental health problems start by age 14 and 75% by age 18. Amongst teenagers the rates of depression and anxiety have increased by 70% in the last 25 years, and 20% of primary school children suffer from a low sense of wellbeing.

It’s no longer just academic and physical health we have to meet the needs of. There is an ever increasing sense of our children’s emotional needs being neglected. Of course, raising awareness in schools alone won’t change this situation. Our homes and support services need to be strengthened too.

In an average classroom, ten will have witnessed their parents separate, eight will have experienced severe physical violence, sexual abuse or neglect, one will have experienced the death of a parent and seven will have been bullied. – MHFA Website

Frightening statistics. Not just because they are terrible things to experience, but the amount of children and young people this affects. How much more do we need to be aware of the impact of these issues for those pupils within our environments?

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The even more worrying fact for me is that our education system and particularly our behaviour management techniques have not evolved over the years to accommodate the change in our students. Children who may have experienced early trauma are still measured against those who haven’t. Zone boards, detentions, exclusions, isolations – all compound the sense of shame, loss and rejection that they already may feel.

When we can move from behaviour modification to relieving anxiety, then maybe we can help and support those struggling emotionally in our schools and colleges.

So what should our response be?

We need to be aware of the mental health issues prevalent and how to meet those needs when we can. There are Mental Health First Aid courses available for educators to train in, of which we are one of the providers in this country through the Mental Health England qualification.

Another positive outcome is to work closer with other services and charities to support our children and their families in whatever way we can. It was encouraging to hear in the PM’s statement that a review of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services throughout the country will take place as part of this focus on mental health.

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As an adoptive parent of three and an educator of educators I wholeheartedly agree with Teresa May’s statement below,

For no parent should feel helpless when watching their child suffer. No teacher should feel ill-equipped to deal with a troubled pupil. No teenager should have to leave their local area to seek treatment. No child should ever be left to feel like their life is not worth living

Let’s hope these changes will truly make a difference in this area.

Nicola Marshall is a Founder, Educator, Adoptive Mother & Author. For more information on Nicola’s work visit www.BraveHearteducation.co.uk

Live the Dream and Tick off Your Bucket List One Item at a Time

Life is a huge and wonderful thing. The world is beautiful, vibrant and full of adventure that we can’t possibly see in a single lifetime. That’s just the unfortunate nature of life—that we won’t get to see things in a hundred years time, all the new technological advancements, the newest shows, the latest fashion trends and so on. They will all be lost to us when we eventually pass away, but should that prevent you from getting off your feet and into the great wild? Absolutely not!

4282581140_e716928bf7_zForming a Bucket List

Bucket lists are bittersweet things. Once you reach the end, it will almost feel like you have nothing else to see in life and that you can pass on peacefully, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Let’s face it, there are so many things to see, taste and hear in life that it would be an accomplishment to narrow it down to just a couple of things. Thankfully there are no limits to a list, and you can do pretty much throw anything you want onto a list with the help of some online word processing software or some kind of software to make and keep track of lists.

Think about all of the wonderful and amazing sights in the world and write down a few of them. The younger you are, the more excitement there is in the world and the more time you have to see all of it. Do you want to go parachuting? Do you want to try bungee jumping? Perhaps you want to see what it’s like on a cruise, or maybe you want to scale the tallest peaks in the world, or maybe you want to have an amazing wedding. Whatever it is, even if you aren’t sure if you want to do it or not, add it to your list.

29222359035_4210ff52cf_zTicking Them Off

Make it a habit of ticking off something from your bucket list at least once a week or once a month. You’ll be surprised at how easy some of them are. For instance, you could go bungee jumping in a city for a weekend trip with your friends and family, or you could take a weekend break to a quiet and romantic location with your partner. There are countless things to do and you’ll be surprised at how much time you actually have to finish your bucket list when you cut out procrastination and learn to love yourself and life.

You also need to consider financing options because let’s face it, not everyone has the money to go on weekend breaks and trips around the world. You will need to save money, but if you have expensive trips or ideas then you can always look into something like homeowner personal loans. Although not the best option, it’s a safe way to get an injection of cash to fund something like a wedding trip or a much-needed family holiday.

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Regardless of how large or wonderful your bucket list is, don’t forget to experience it with your friends. Although they might not have the same aspirations as you, sharing the moment with loved ones and friends is a rewarding and heartwarming experience that you can record thanks to smartphone cameras being able to take videos and pictures. Save your memories online and share them with friends to immortalise the moment.

Come fly with me – travel with a mental illness

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Last year I attempted to board a flight to Ibiza but had to check out last minute due to some mild hallucinations (thinking I could see people from the past). I’ll admit, it wasn’t very well planned on my part – the flight from Manchester airport was on a Friday night and of all the places to visit I’d chosen the party island… well, I hate crowds and rowdy hen parties!

It’s actually not uncommon to fall ill sans flight – there’s been a paper in Psychiatric Times recently that looks into the subject of travelling with a severe mental illness. The paper says that 20% of travel incidents have been described as psychotic and according to WHO severe mental illness constitutes 1-3 main health crisis in air travel.

The stresses, lack of sleep, crowded airports and culture shock are all known triggers for schizophrenia or psychosis. However, I’ve since made successful trips to Barcelona, with my partner, and to Scotland by train, alone.

Here’s some tips that helped me:

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MEDICATION, MEDICATION, MEDICATION, THAT’S WHAT YOU NEED!

It’s crucial that medication is factored into travel to prevent relapse. As luggage can sometimes be lost you can take medication in hand luggage to keep it near at all times. For the stay a pharmacy can sort out a scheduled pack of medication for each day. Don’t forget to order any repeat prescriptions in advance to cover your time away.

INSURE FOR THE BEST, INSURE FOR THE WORST

Mind have produced a detailed guide to travel insurance for mental health which is available freely on their website.

RELAX, JUST DO IT!

Try tested ways to relax during, before and after your journey: camomile tea, lavender oils, deep breathing, and listening to soothing music on your headphones all help. When I flew to Barcelona from Liverpool there were even leather recliners with massagers built in to aid relaxation.

WHY EVEN BOTHER TO TRAVEL, YOU ASK?

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A holiday abroad or at home has numerous benefits such as achieving goals, hopes and dreams. Learning about new cultures and switching primary identity from service user to tourist.

With tenacious preparations, travel buddies, rest in-flights, plenty of water and avoiding alcohol; travel with severe mental illness is a very real possibility!

13 things you need to spice up your sex life in Metro!

Read my piece in Metro now...

‘I’ve got the toys to turn your body out,’ cooed New Power Generation vocalist Elisa Fiorillo on Love Machine, a track from Prince’s 12th album, Graffiti Bridge.

Of course, Prince was a veteran of the vagina and a master in the bedroom so we’d all do well to take note – sex toys take things to another level of multiple orgasms.

For example, a butt plug can fulfill a woman’s fantasy of being taken by two men simultaneously. and, at the same time, tightening the vagina for him.

And a dog collar can be decorative or the source of humiliation.

My personal favourite is the feather tickler – it has me bouncing off the ceiling in an insatiable frenzy of sexy fun.

If you haven’t tried a toy before, use lashings of lubricant, don’t be shy and don’t play the part of a shadow – let your inhibitions go and let it drink you till dawn.

1. Erotic literature

Get in the mood with some seductive literature.

Forget 50 Shades and go with something classic, such as Georges Bataille’s ‘Story of the eye’ – a study of human desire.

Story of the Eye
(Picture: Penguin)

2. Dog collar

Make sure it has a ring on the front to lead you to the bedroom and don’t forget to get on your hands and knees.

collar
(Picture: Coco de Mer)

3. Molecule 1

Use fragrance that works with your pheromones like Escentric Molecules’ Molecule 1, which is now widely available.

Tribute 8 do a wonderful homage version for a fraction of the price.

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4. Dildo

Get back to basics with a classic dildo.

We all know and love the Rampant Rabbit for its added clit stimulation and if you haven’t tried it yet head to Ann Summers.

rampant-rabbit
(Picture: Ann Summers)

5. Vibrating butt plug

Slightly less known but profound nonetheless.

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(Picture: Bondara)

6. Gagging ball

Give in to humiliation with a ball strapped to your mouth – the ultimate in dom/sub role play.

(Picture: Coco de Mer)
(Picture: Coco de Mer)

7. Feather tickler

Be a tease after the strip with a feather tickler to drive your partner to the brink of ecstasy.

(Picture: Coco de Mer)
(Picture: Coco de Mer)

8. Nipple and clit clamps

Pinch the nipples and clitoris for some pleasurable pain.

clamps
(Picture: Bondara)

9. Leather paddle

If you’ve been a terribly naughty girl or boy and insist on being punished, try a leather paddle to teach you a lesson.

(Picture: Coco de Mer)
(Picture: Coco de Mer)

10. Latex mittens

For some fetish couture, try some black latex gloves and go fingerless to allow full ‘Roman fingers’ (or finger’s that roam).

(Picture: Coco de Mer)
(Picture: Coco de Mer)

11. Hand cuffs

For BDSM pleasure after hours, try some hand cuffs.

If you’re wearing them, try to wriggle out.

12. Mask

Stimulate your senses of touch by going all the way with a blindfold on.

13. Prostate massager

And finally, I’m delighted to introduce you, gents, to the Aneros Helix Syn – a massager that caresses the prostate.

(Picture: Harmony)

Sip Sip Hoorah – it’s the luxury liquor from Yorkshire!

Ay up! It’s a ‘boot time for a winter tipple…. from the back growths of Northern Yorkshire!

gooseberry-gin

Yes, that’s right. The proud Yorkshire business, Raisthorpe Manor, has produced a gorgeous Gooseberry Gin Liqueur that bagged a gold star in the Great Taste Awards last year – made with love from scrumping in nearby hedges.

The drink boasts the flavour of gooseberries and the character of the fruit, and it also comes through with little bursts of green acidity – adding a splash of colour and tutty fruity to the bleak winter landscapes.

Movers and makers (and cocktail shakers?) Raisthorpe Manor Fine Foods is run by husband and wife Julia and David Medforth in deepest darkest North Yorkshire. The conception of their food and wine venture started out with humble (or crumble?) beginnings: with Julia foraging for fruit in nearby hedges.

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Raisthorpe’s Damson Port was one of 125 British products out of nearly 10,000, that picked up a trio of Gold awards at the as ‘the Oscars of the food world’ last year.

The Gooseberry Gin makes a good after drink for a roast dinner and a more luxurious and knowing nod to the North than your average Yorkshire pud.

Happy winter everybody!

 raisthorpemanor.com

Why schizophrenia need not rob us of a life in academia in The Guardian!

After opening up about my mental health problems, I received the help I needed to do my lecturing job well, writes Erica Crompton in The Guardian.

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On an autumn afternoon in 2009, I was fired from my job as a university lecturer. I hadn’t declared my schizophrenia on an application form and this was treated as gross misconduct. Many years later, I returned to the lecture theatre – but this time I was open about my condition, to a much more positive response. I learned an important lesson: that if I’m open about living with a mental illness, I can receive the support and help that I need.

I’ve since continued to work and have found it good for developing my sense of self-worth. I’m not alone in experiencing this. Elyn Saks, who also happens to have schizophrenia, is a remarkably high achiever. She first fell ill in 1977 and joined the USC faculty in 1989. She is now a tenured professor of law, psychology and psychiatry and behavioural sciences at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law; adjunct professor of psychiatry at the UCSD School of Medicine; and on the faculty at the New Centre for Psychoanalysis.

For Saks, who has also authored a book about her experiences of schizophrenia called The Center Cannot Hold, work has been key to recovery: “When I’m writing an argument or counter-argument, the crazy stuff recedes to the sidelines,” she says. “Work gives me a focus and a sense of self-esteem. And for me it is the last thing to go. As I have come to say, my mind is both my best friend and my worst enemy. Being an academic with schizophrenia has been largely positive.”

She wasn’t open about her condition at first, though. “I was closeted the first two or three years at USC. I then self-disclosed to four people pre-tenure; then another six post-tenure; and of course to the whole school on the publication of my memoir,” she explains. Her story ended up reaching even further when it became an opera.

Working it out

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She notes, however, that when it comes to achieving high she is not one of a kind. “People often tell me that I’m unique. But it’s just not true,” she says. For a paper on psychiatric services, she interviewed about 20 people with high-functioning schizophrenia, including high-flying doctors, lawyers and a chief executive. She says: “Our subjects described techniques they’ve developed to manage their symptoms – anything from challenging their problematic thoughts to manipulating their surroundings to engaging with spirituality.”

Stephen Lawrie, professor of psychiatry at the University of Edinburgh, agrees that hiring and working with people with schizophrenia is beneficial to their recovery. Through the Scottish Mental Health Research Network, his department works with people with schizophrenia, and other illnesses, to develop research ideas and projects that would be interesting to and acceptable for patients.

Lawrie suggests that work can help people feel useful and valued, while also helping others to appreciate the difficulties facing people with schizophrenia and their strength in the face of adversity. He says: “There are many benefits to employing people with schizophrenia. In general, if anything, people with schizophrenia are more kind, caring and considerate than the general population.”

There is also good evidence from clinical trials, he says, that a scheme called individual placement and support – which gets people into competitive employment with training and support on the job – can help people with schizophrenia get jobs and keep them. “By giving people jobs, employers would contribute to an increased understanding and acceptance of the condition,” he adds.

An example of such inclusive practice can be found at the University of Westminster, which hosts a Recovery College tailored to people living with mental illness. A peer support worker, someone with lived experience of mental illness, will work with professional staff to deliver training programmes to improve lives.

Francesca is one such senior peer support worker. She says working at the university is an opportunity that is beyond any expectations she had when she was unwell: “During my time in hospital I thought a lot about wanting to use my experience as a way of supporting others in future, in order to help them feel understood and less alone. At the time I never thought this role would exist… Doing this work gives me a sense of purpose, and has given meaning to the difficulties that I went through in the past.”

It also ensures she stays on track and practices self care. “I believe that my role keeps me motivated to keep well and look after myself in order to support others in doing the same,” she says. “This responsibility has added huge value to my daily life and future aspirations.”

 

Other universities use mental health first aid training courses to equip staff for dealing with mental health crises among colleagues and students. Caroline Hounsell, director of product development and partnerships at Mental Health First Aid England, says: “Academic staff are facing increasing working hours, with less resources, and more demands – which is taking a toll for those working in higher education. Our training seeks to support staff as well as students, because we recognise that both communities are facing unique challenges.”

Hounsell says there is a real need to educate people on how to spot the signs and symptoms of mental ill health and how to best support someone who might be experiencing difficulties.

None of this support was in place when I was lecturing and struggling with my own mental health. But I’ve kept in touch with one or two of the students I worked with during my ill-fated lectureship. One told me that I was the best lecturer she had, and her mother even took me out to lunch recently. So it’s important that people with schizophrenia have hope that they can achieve their ambitions and goals – greater recognition among universities of the need for added support is certainly a welcome development.

Join the higher education network for more comment, analysis and job opportunities, direct to your inbox. Follow us on Twitter @gdnhighered. And if you have an idea for a story, please read our guidelines and email your pitch to us at highereducationnetwork@theguardian.com

Down on the ‘free-for-all’ farm that offers a spiritual twist in Positively Scottish

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“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.” – Albert Camus.

For me, the invincible summer can be found in Lesmahagow, some 25 minutes south-east of Glasgow, just off the M74, writes ERICA CROMPTON, in Positively Scottish.

Here I discovered a spiritual eco-farm retreat through Worldwide Opportunities for Organic Farming (WWOOF), a global collection of farms where you can work the land in exchange for accommodation and food.

The Krishna Eco Farm in Lesmahagow, or Karuna Bhavan, is home to a community of over 30 people, made up Hare Krishna monks, families, volunteers and the wider Krishna community.

It sits atop a steep hill. If you’re coming by bus and walking here, expect to feel the burn as you reach the entrance. To begin with, you’ll find a navy and white sign letting you know you’re in the right place and acting as a gate to the women’s ‘ashram’ (ashram meaning home in Indian, where the Krishna religion originates). It’s in front of the men’s ashram (the two houses are divided as that sort of thing isn’t allowed here on the sacred grounds).

thumb_img_0997_1024Accommodation is basic, and shared, but often there aren’t many travellers stopping over so you may find you have a room to yourself like me. The heating is on, and my abode for the next five nights is stencilled with elephants and peacocks with plenty of floral fabrics in a rainbow of pastel and primary colours. I could be in India with all this 1970s wicker furniture and wooden floors…although a glance outside at the plump and heavy Scottish rainclouds reminds me I’m not.

You don’t have to be devout or don the tangerine robes to reap the spiritual benefits here, though many do after escaping the rat race or leaving behind troubled pasts. The WWOOF scheme means you can help harvest crops for six hours a day, five days a week in exchange for a bed, and the meals (much of which are made from the crops here).

13423885_10154315812036907_5156835934155131328_nVolunteers are a staple in the running of the temple. Head gardener Bhakti Vinode (above) says: “Labour on the farm has helped us in a big way and we couldn’t cultivate the amount of land without the volunteers – we’ve been depending on them and they bring life to the farm.

“Personally I feel enthused when I see things growing. I work hard to cultivate the land then plant the seeds, so it’s nice to see the seeds germinate after all the hard work. I feel I’m doing something for the world, like I’m contributing. Everyone needs food so I like to grow food and teach others how to grow food. We can feed the hungry but we also have to educate people how to grow food. Growing food gives me a purpose in life.”

Earn your keep, take a working holiday, or stay as long as you want while you get back on your feet if unemployed or homeless. It can even help those with mental health problems, says Bhakti. “We do some horticultural therapy here too. People with mental health problems come along and we encourage them to grow food as it makes them feel more positive.”

For those who don’t want to do the farming, you can pay £10 a night for the same deal and explore the surrounding areas. However you’ll be still be expected to observe the house rules, such as no alcohol, no meat, and no sex.

thumb_img_1060_1024Those rules are keenly observed by the monks and you can’t miss them dotted around the grounds in their orange robes, sometimes chanting “Hare Krishna”. They mostly cut lithe, warm figures with their shaven heads fully focused on their work. The farming is also known as ‘Bhakti yoga’. It’s done with devotion for the Hindu God Krishna and forms a crucial part of the devotees’ lifestyle.

Bhakti takes his spiritual name from Bhakti yoga. Of the practice, he says: “Working on the land keeps me fit and it helps regulate my life. I have to be there every morning to water, feed, and weed the seedlings. Most important is I love what I do. Practising Bhakti yoga means I grow food with love and whoever eats the food feels the love while eating.”

You’ll often find Bhakti working in one of two large greenhouses that sit aside the women’s ashram, a little further up the hill and framed by a winding path to the temple right at the top.

Chanting, meditation and yoga take place in this colourful and diminutive temple with intricate carved deities covered in garlands which are made on-site with the marigolds that Bhakti and the volunteers’ harvest.

The marigolds only add to the colour to the site. I also visited this summer for the Hindi Festival of Lights. With monks and friends, we threw coloured paint at each other while singing and dancing. The best part was sitting in the farm grounds around a campfire with sheep until late. But it’s not uncommon for a devotee to rise at 2am to start their mantra rituals.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner follow the early birds at 8.30am, 1.30pm and 7.30pm. The food is all vegetarian and much produced on site, such as the spinach and the potatoes. They call it ‘Prasadam’ and it tastes a little like curry – think saag paneer rather than vindaloo, as it’s all very mild.

Of the food, Bhakti says: “Prasadam means everything to me. It’s spiritual food, and when I eat it, I feel the love! I like to serve Prasadam to others. The Beatle George Harrison said he hopes in the future there will be Prasadam restaurants and takeaways on every corner and I can see that happening in the future, because it’s great food.

“Everyone that comes to the Krishna eco farm gets Prasadam and it’s always such a nice occasion sitting and eating it together – it’s enthusing to see after growing the crops and makes me feel happy and peaceful while bringing the love out in my heart. It’s so easy and everyone can take part.”

I, too, took part. Healthy eating was welcome on my stay and after five days without coffee, booze, and meat I do feel energised and not a little lighter (it must be all that bending and stretching over the spinach).

Sanctuary and peace don’t cost the earth on the Krishna eco farm. So free-loving, colourful summer vibes can live on through the wildest of winters.

For more information on the Krishna eco farm, go here.