I wasn’t planning on turning this article into a trilogy, but then when it comes to mental health in the UK there’s plenty to say.

My interest  hasn’t been from choice as such but more of a spiritual persuasion and if i’m honest there’s still very much a love hate battle going on . I have been surrounded in some way or another throughout life by just about every mental health issue you can think of. I did everything I could to avoid it before coming to the conclusion I’m not the sole author of my life story and someone up there has other ideas.  Even on rare shopping trips out due to the limitation of M.E & Fibromyalgia I would often  find myself cornered by a stranger who would go from saying “hallo”  to suddenly blurting out their entire mental health life story from sectionings to psychotic drugs and back again.  

Of course I could’ve just walked away, only I couldn’t, despite part of me wanting to run and hide behind the curtains in soft furnishings, a louder part was telling me to stay, listen and help, and so over decades I developed techniques that I could use to try and be of some use rather than just stand with a gormless expression, my usual some would say? 

What I’ve encountered is so many people stuck in a system  they really don’t belong purely because they don’t realise they have a choice.  When a person suffers repeated trauma they often switch off, disconnect from themselves, they go through life on automatic basically believing whatever label they’re given, so when they end up in the one glove fits all mental health system, they end up stuck in a repeated cycle of self abuse & sectioning followed by  stronger medication without any question. It’s a band aid and a crutch but it doesn’t go anywhere deep or personal enough in giving someone the tools needed to get well again & turn their life around on a more permanent basis. In the future I’d like to maybe run trauma sensitive Yoga classes to help individuals find that connection again. 

I believe the mental health system in this country needs a major overhaul not only with how it’s accessed but also its approach with treatments. I recently spoke to lady who suffered abuse and mental anguish for many years but like a phoenix , has risen from the ashes and this is what this inspirational lady Caroline Powell had to say on Mental health & Homelessness:

Caroline Powell, A Slice of Happiness

“I started working on the Project  “A Slice Of Happiness” in November 2017  after  volunteering for the London and Slough Run Charity who inspired me to help those suffering. I’m now blessed to be working with four highly experienced facilitators in this field using a new psychological approach to the UK, The Three Principles: David Key (Also an Ambassador), Jacqueline Hollows  ( Founder Of Beyond Recovery), Susan Marmot and Liliana Bellini, together we facilitate the programmes which are group sessions covering 30hrs. The DJ Brandon Block has been volunteering in Watford for 10yrs with Homelessness and Addictions, and he is also  an Ambassador.

“We are all facilitating free of charge, Apprenticeships are at present being offered for free by David Keys, we already have local Organisations providing food for our sessions and Quakers Homeless London and W3RT are supporting us with a venue which should take us through to the end of June. The main focus for us at the moment is to raise awareness and get self referrals for those that need our support, with no cost to them. The vision is to create a community platform starting in Watford, helping mental health and self destructive behaviour which is organically grown solely by those who have been affected by Homelessness. We started our Programmes last September and the results for our test programme were very encouraging. W3RT  

“We have already offered two apprenticeships to past participants, and once we are at a level to become a registered charitable organisation they will have a new skill set which they can get paid for whilst helping others in similar situations. At present there is nothing in the UK that provides grassroots Psychological support at this level so we are excited to see where the path takes us.”

You can follow their journey and show your support via social media Facebook & Twitter 

On the 3rd January Watford MP Richard Harrington confirmed that two new mental health teams would be set up in or near schools to deal with mild to moderate mental health conditions in children and young people, and would work  alongside schools and colleges and these teams will be paid for as part of the £20.5 bn extra funding put in by the Government for mental health?  The NHS mental health services already set up in Herts are struggling and are in need of help, it seems madness (no pun intended) to set up two new teams?

Plus it’s a missed opportunity & a smack in the face to those Charities & organisations already established here in Watford helping young people, like Signpost for instance, who have been running for 44 yrs and are now in danger of closing?  If you’d like to help them keep going, you can show them your support and make a donation on their website.

As for  dealing with my own  frustrations at living with chronic physical illness for 29 years, it has been a somewhat comedic journey that has included: Going cross-eyed as I stared at a raison on the end of my tongue….it’s called mindfulness dear?  Walking around a garden staring at my feet for 20 mins, 20 mins?  When one of your prime symptoms is exhaustion? ….er, yes, it’s called mindfulness dear ?  And then there’s the putting my “frustration” in a red velvet bag and throwing it off a cliff?

“There there it’s all gone ?”

“But?…….”

“Ah, Sssh, it’s all gone remember?”

The DWP are no better, in fact their ignorance and handling of any conditions be it physical or mental is not only a disgrace it’s criminal. They operate on a “If it can’t be seen in the hours assessment it doesn’t exist” mentality, so as for anxiety ?  “The advisor didn’t note any sign of anxiety, 0 point.  When I suggested that in this time of mental health awareness it was a very ignorant & shocking viewpoint. Their response was that the advisor, a healthcare professional ( in this instance a nurse) had told them there was no trembling, shaking or sweating during her visit and that’s who they listen to. So in the DWPs  parameters that is  enough to deem  a condition, symptom as not existing?

As for unsafe swallow? “The advisor noted you were swallowing your spittle fine, also as mornings are better if you need to eat you can eat something up to midday. 0 points”.

At a time where DWP have been forced to admit 111,450  claims were closed due  to the deaths of the claimants I suggest some of that extra Government funding goes into training DWP staff in treating those with physical and mental conditions with respect, dignity and compassion?

Lastly, as for my own struggle with health and grief? they are all  normal emotions and i’ll just crack on and deal with them all as they ebb and flow, and if anyone wants me to put raisons on my tongue in future?  Please make sure they’re Chocolate covered.


Runnin on Empty is a Watford born writer and musician, a vegetarian she lives a yogic life here in Watford and can be reached on @runninonemptee