Thursday, 17 May 2018

Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 - 5 Tips


It’s a short post, as I’ve had a busy few weeks and I’m currently laptop-less so attempting to blog on my phone. But, it’s a topic I feel massively pattionate about and wanted to contribute even a short paragraph to the many fabulous awareness raising things people are doing for MHAW 2018.

It’s a fact that’s constantly in the media; 1 in 4 people suffer from mental health problems. It’s a fact that I personally believe is actually a lot higher but due to the stigma still surrounding mental health disorders a lot of people still don’t, or can’t, talk about it. And it’s something that needs to change.

‘Mental health disorders’ can have whole variety of symptoms from anxiety to psychosis but the actions which these disorders make the person take to either numb the condition, symptoms of a flare up/attack or if the person can’t cope ranges from panic attacks to suicide. It’s a huge area.

I, for one, have started being a bit more open about my mental health in a hope that it can help others through it and I understand the challenges you face talking to people. I’ve been mentally ill for 10 years now and have had to have intensive therapy, long hospital admissions and a huge support team to keep me stable. I’m currently coming out of (touch wood) a blip which required one of the crisis home care teams to step in for a few months but every time I’m learning more about how I can deal with things myself and also how to ask for help.

So, here are my top 5 tips for if you are struggling with any mental health disorder:

1) Write a diary. The most important thing I ever did was a mood diary. I scored my mood and anxiety out of 10 each day. I also scored my pain and fatigue out of 10 to prove to the doctors it wasn’t ME related, it was a separate condition. It was so useful reflecting on and bringing to appointments - especially drawing a graph at the end of the month.

2) Notice the time of day/night you struggle and come up with plans and distractions to help you. I have major problems in the evening so I come downstairs with my family and have a tv series to watch. I have extra medication if needed to calm me and craft to keep my mind busy but relaxed.

3) Get help, and if someone won’t help you, go ask someone else. I can’t stress this enough. I became very very poorly when I didn’t get the correct psychological treatment and now if I know I’m dipping I will let every medical person know until something is done before it gets to a stage I can’t manage. If it’s a case of your GP, change. If you’re waiting for something like Talking Matters and it’s 6 months and you’re bad, go back down and sit at the doctors. See what charities like MIND are available in the area. Look at charitable mental health groups and try get a plan in place before you get to the stage of not caring.

4) Have a crisis plan. What to look out for, who to contact, what you’d want to happen and any other useful information.

5) Last, but not least, talk to someone. Friends, family, GP, Samaritans... Just talk.

And a final note, be kind. Mental health disorders are invisible and you usually have no idea how badly people may be suffering. Everyone needs a little love and support.

Kate x

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Community Champions Award


Earlier in April, I got a surprise certificate through the post saying that I had won a 'Community Champion Award' from my MP. With this, myself and a guest (dad was the lucky chosen one this time!) got to attend an afternoon of celebratory drinks at Warwick Hall.

I had never been to Warwick Hall before but it was an absolutely breathtaking venue and the drive along Hadrian's Wall to get there was lovely. It's recently been renovated and the standard really is very high, so I felt very lucky to be there! We were greeted by Guy Opperman (and complimentary champagne - win!) then left to mingle with guests. What many people can't quite believe with me is that I actually (despite my rather bubbly exterior) have bad social anxiety so mingling situations are often really difficult for me. Dad and I stood stood for a good ten minutes with the whole 'should we approach people/can we get the wheelchair through/what do we say' until I saw this wonderful guide dog puppy from across the room and pretty much got the whole room rearranged to get my chair through to meet her. Her name was Abbey and her fantastic owner put her on my lap where she stayed for the next 20 minutes and I fell in love. That relaxed me quite a lot so I started talking to a group of women (mainly about dogs!) until Guy did his speech.

In Guy's speech he thanked everyone individually for their hard work in the community and it was amazing to hear why they had won the award. I was touched that I had in fact been nominated because of the work I am currently doing with Prudhoe Community Partnership as a Trustee on a project trying to make the town more accessible, and, he also mentioned my work as the founder of Project Parent. A lifetime achievement award was given out to Elsie, a fantastic woman who volunteers 'meeting and greeting' at Hexham Hospital and honestly is the most lovely person I have ever met. It was genuinely so amazing being in a room of people who are working hard at trying to make positive changes to people's lives and I got lots of lovely hugs/comments off strangers which was a bonus.

Overall, it was a lovely afternoon and I feel very privileged to be recognised as I know there are so many people who still do good things in their community who go unrecognised. I already have my next community ideas plans so I'll keep you in the loop!

Kate x

Monday, 22 January 2018

(Not Another) Blue Monday 22nd Jan - Debbi


You may have seen my 'launch' of the (Not Another) Blue Monday part of my blog last week. If not, you can see the post here but the general idea is to highlight the people who are doing 'good' in the community, many of whom aren't usually recognised. You don't have to have a crown, or have raised thousands of pounds, just knowing you're making a positive change is all that matters.

My first post is about a lovely woman called Debbi. You might recognise her; she runs the Fox and Hounds in Prudhoe. I first met Debbi when I used to go along to the pub for an hour every few weeks to see people - It didn't last a particularly long time but I enjoyed it. When I deteriorated and found out to get a suitable wheelchair, I would need to raise a substantial amount of money, Debbi (despite not knowing me very well and not seeing me for many months) was one of the first to offer to help me.

Debbi, with the help of a team of others, organised an awards night at the pub. There was live music, a raffle, food and even engraved awards for the winners. The pub was packed and I honestly had no idea how much they raised, I only was told that if they managed to sell £100 of tickets then Dan would wear a dress (which he did!) so I thought we might get £150. I had to leave after an hour because I was poorly but I got handed a note and started crying when I saw they'd already raised over £800. By the end of the night, they had raised a massive £1,100 towards my chair, which has given me so much independence and allowed me to get outside again.

And this isn't it. The reason why I've chosen Debbi as my first Blue Monday star is because she's helped so many people and continues to support local people and organisations each year. She held an awards night in 2017 which raised £600 for Prudhoe Castle First School. The Big Fat Quiz of the year raised £80 for Pulmonary Fibrosis and an afternoon tea raised £400 for the Children's Heart Unit. A beach party in 2015 also raised £1,000 for the Children's Heart Unit. Add this to the money they've raised for Jack & Jill's Nursery before it closed and we're talking multiple thousands of pounds.

There reason I think it's so amazing isn't just because of the amount of money raised. The amount of organisation which goes into running an event takes so much time and effort, from writing countless letters for raffle prizes to cooking food, so the amount of hours which have been put in to all of these events is really applaudable. Rio, one of her sons and is only 9, has already followed in her footsteps and sold cakes for charity.

So, next time you're dropping by the Fox (and what a better reason to pop along now...) do tell Debbi she's very much appreciated for what she does. Well done Debbi for being our first featured good'un.

Kate x

Friday, 19 January 2018

(Un)Employable Me


Over Christmas, I was watching a fantastic programme called 'Unemployable Me'. Every single episode was both heart warming and had me in floods of tears because it resonated with me so much. Disabled people are pushed out of society in general, with barriers constantly being built, then we get the blame for 'sitting on benefits' alongside a mountain of other claims.

What do we need? Support. We, as an 'ill' community can see it and quite frankly can't see why people aren't giving it to us. We need opportunities. And someone to actually believe in us.

I know it's difficult to get a job in general at the moment, but trying to become employed with a disability is about a hundred times harder. Firstly, you need to look for companies who will offer things like remote working, flexibility and small contracts (like a few hours a week). The area you can travel is drastically limited and the type of work you're able to do is also confined. 

Employers, and I am generalising (thank you to the good'uns!), find people like myself 'a bit of a headache'. Being disabled isn't just about putting a ramp out for a wheelchair. Illnesses are a lot more complex and it was shown in the programme that even saying you're disabled on a CV drastically reduces any job chances. How is that even possible.

Do you know what? It's sad. Because companies are missing out on passionate, intelligent people. Many people have gained higher qualifications and can't find work, but would be suited, and would be an asset in a job. 

My friends who are chronically ill who managed to get jobs, had to work so hard to make themselves known to get them. I'm not just talking about handing out CV's. Blogging, volunteering, running charities and then sending out emails even when jobs weren't advertised to see if anything suitable was available. Some people have a perception that all disabled people sit on their bums all day, but I've seen first hand how hard a lot of people work, and it's quite the opposite.

One friend, Pippa, actually just wrote a fantastic blog on this issue the other day here. And want to see a company which is doing it right? Check out Bear Hugs here who have just employed their first chronically ill remote worker.

Moving on, I wanted to write 5 reasons why you should employ a chronically ill/disabled person in your workplace. And not just to meet the equality act.

  1. We are truly passionate about working and making a contribution to society. 
  2. We are less likely to have sick days off (if the contract is suited to needs). All my friends who work, work incredibly hard even when they are feeling unwell. They battle through symptoms and have back up plans for if they really can't continue for the day ie work from home later on. 100% commitment.
  3. We will be an asset to any team. (As long as you give us the correct adaptations)
  4. We are as capable as anyone else. We have all learnt to adapt to our condition, know our strength/weaknesses and therefore can approach situations from a different angle if needed
  5. We have had extra life experiences which can be useful in a job. From volunteering, to generally dealing with illness (brilliant for HR!) we have all gained skills. 
I'm not saying put everyone in a job, some people are far too poorly to work but the issue here is the opportunities available. On 'Unemployable Me', all the participants were capable of doing at least part-time work but no-one would take them on and they were all fantastic people. People like myself, who are far too ill to hold down a proper job but would like in the future to work a few hours a week, just would like to see more disabled people excelling and suitable contracts becoming available.

Here's to hoping some more companies will jump on board and a massive thank you to those who support us as a community already.

Kate x

Monday, 15 January 2018

The start of (Not Another) Blue Monday


Ever since New Year, my mind has been running away with me. The more I tried to 'rest', the more ideas seemed to be brewing inside. I find it hard to switch off, but when I have ideas, I also find it very hard not to get excited or follow them through. This, was one of my ideas and I've spent the last few weeks teaching myself how I'm going to adapt it to my energy limitations.

(Not Another) Blue Monday

Blue Monday falls on the 3rd Monday of January and is known as officially being the most 'depressing day of the year'. Well, there's not a better day than today to start my idea for my blog.

Over Christmas I spent a lot of time, like lots of others, scrolling through social media platforms. And quite frankly, I didn't like reading most of it. Facebook was plastered with comments about how the local youths are now ruining the town. And from one comment, comes a snowball of negativity. Blaming parents, blaming organisations, even blaming buildings (yep). This is just one example. I've seen negative posts on all social media platforms about a whole range of subjects. All age ranges, sexes, ethnicities, disabilities - the lot. 

I'm not a one-man-band who's going to change any of that. But using this blog, I do want to shine a light on some good people who are doing things, which often are going unrecognised, in the community. Too often we jump on a keyboard to complain (and I am guilty for this) but we should also be praising those who are making a difference. 

Monday's are usually quite 'blue' anyways; usually as it's the start of the week and you have that  typical Monday feeling. Which is why, my  posts will be up on a Monday, to brighten Monday up (hopefully!). I can't promise they will be every Monday, they may only be once a month, but I have some amazing people ready to interview who are doing incredible things.

So, if you'd like to follow the interviews which I'll be doing, click 'subscribe' or check on my website on Mondays and click (Not Another) Blue Monday. If you're doing something good in the community and would like to be interviewed, do get in touch, my details are on my 'contact me' section. I'm not looking for people who have raise thousands of pounds, or have given huge gifts. I believe that the world can be changed one small act of kindness at a time.

Kate x