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Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

National Time to Talk Day – 4th February 2021

14051A45-8115-4BCE-8AB2-E60DE0A4DDFBThe aim of Time to Talk Day, which started in 2007, is to get everyone talking about mental health.

The pandemic means that conversations about mental health are more important than ever. Lots of people are experiencing anxiety and fear.

Many people, especially children, are finding the uncertainty of not knowing when schools will be open again very difficult. Others are worrying about their jobs or if a business they have worked so hard to succeed in will survive. 

Whatever someone’s situation, a small conversation about mental health can make a difference. The more conversations we have, the more myths we can bust and barriers we can break down, helping to end the isolation, shame and worthlessness that too many of us with mental health problems can feel.

So, reach out to a friend or family member you know who is struggling. A text or a phone call could really help them. Small acts of kindness or concern can make a big difference to someone else. 

Don’t forget that if you are feeling overwhelmed, you can reach out to your GP, local mental health services, or other organisations, and ask for some help. Here is the link for more information.

If you want to know more about this year’s campaign you can watch the live events or catch up on any you may have missed here.

At 6pm tonight you can tune in to Story time with Sophie Ellis-Bextor @sophieellisbextor on Instagram to hear her read Ruby’s Worries by author and illustrator Tom Percival. The picture book story follows Ruby’s journey as she tried to get rid of her growing worry.

In the meantime, why not watch the video about the campaign?


Surviving the Election Result

Almost every disabled person I know is devastated by the UK election result. We had hoped for a socialist government that would not only end austerity but dramatically improve disabled people’s lives. 

We desperately need a new compassionate benefits system. We campaigned for the UK to sign up to the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People. We lobbied for improved and properly funded social care with a guarantee of Independent Living for disabled people of any age.

But none of those things look possible in the next few years. So how do disabled people prepare for the future?

As one of my wisest friends posted on her Facebook wall last Friday morning; ‘Don’t mourn, organise’. She is right, that’s the only way we can survive.

So here are some ideas:

Join your local disability group or Union

There will be lots of campaigning needed in the next few years. Being part of a supportive group is great for making new friends and finding other people who understand what you are going though.

All unions have retired members sections and Unite has a Community Section that in many areas throughout the UK has regular meetings and lots of activities and training. 


We can all use new skills – you can learn via your Union or via your local disability group. If they don’t have any training available, ask for the training you need. Learning more about how to claim ESA, PIP or UC is likely to be useful for you and for someone you know. It’s always easier to help someone else fill in a DWP form than do your own. 

Get a Benefits and Work subscription, it’s invaluable. They produce the best, easy to follow guides on how to claim. The first year subscription costs £19.95. If that’s more than you can afford, why not share the cost with a friend. A repeat subscription is usually 40% cheaper.

Help or support other disabled people

Whilst up-skilling can help you do some practical stuff around benefits, all of us have other skills we can share. Teaching crafts, passing on recipes, helping with internet skills, the list is endless. I’ve done genealogy for friends in return for a spare ticket to an exhibition I wanted to see. 

Think what you can share and what help you might want.

Focus on spending time with ‘your’ tribe

Friendships were made or lost over Brexit and the same is likely to happen over this election. It’s very difficult to find real support and true friendships amongst people with radically different political views and values. 

Choose your friends well, make sure they are positive people who can support you and won’t do you down or disrespect you. 

That advice applies to family members too! Ration your time with those who stress you. 

Practice self care

This is the most important way of looking after yourself. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself a treat – there’s so many sales on right now – you can treat yourself to some of your favourite bath or shower gel. Maybe you would prefer chocolate? If a special liqueur is more to your taste – cheers! Just don’t drink too much of it! 

If you are short of ideas – go look at Pinterest. Or join The Mighty a great community for disabled people, which has lots of great posts and ideas.  It might even tempt you to write your own post. 

Whatever you decide to do – be kind to yourself and others. 

Wishing you all a happy festive season! 

Do we really need more sleep in winter?

With the shorter days and longer nights it appears we could go into hibernation. That’s not always a good idea.

Melatonin produced by the pituitary gland regulates the body’s sleep and wake cycle. Lack of light causes it to produce more melatonin making us feel tired and sluggish.
Also, the lack of light during the winter months can cause seasonal affective disorder – SAD. If you think your depression increases during the winter months, it might be worth speaking to your GP. You could also consider investing in a Full Spectrum White Light panel. You only need to use it for a short time in the morning for it to be effective.
Medical advice is that the best ambient temperature for sleeping is 18°. I know that that is far too low for me and I’m sure that applies to others to. One of the joys of having a heating system controlled via an app is that I can boost the heating for one hour when I’m going to sleep. 
I set the normal daytime temperature at 22° I increase that by just 1° for an hour and that makes a big difference for me. There is no way I can go to sleep if I am too cold. That is not just about having winter weight pyjamas or making sure I have enough covers on my bed. It’s also about the temperature of the room.
certainly don’t enjoy the longer nights and shorter days, I’m much more reluctant to go out on dark evenings than on nice summer ones.
Whilst I’m fairly certain I don’t have SAD I know that I always want to sleep longer in the winter. 
When the air is too cold that also negatively affects melatonin production, causing it to disrupt our sleep cycles. However, if the air is too dry or too warm, that can dry out the body’s mucus membranes make us more susceptible to colds and flu.
The other reason that our sleep patterns may alter is that our diet differs in the winter from the summer. Christmas and New Year means lots of sugary, fat laden and high calorie foods. These foods impact the body, causing a hormone called leptin to increase. This can also disrupt sleep cycles. 
What happens then is that we can crave those leptin increasing food, sometimes not knowing when we are full. If we continue to eat like this, it effects sleep and we continue the vicious circle.
So how long should we be sleeping? 
I know I can easily sleep for 10 hours at night and when I was really ill sometime back, I often slept for 12 hours. Now I try to aim for eight hours because any less that and I really feel sleep deprived. I know many people who can survive on much less but most dont have disabilities!
Research has suggested that people who are sleep deprived gain weight. Because of the impact sleep has on glucose levels and regulating sugar, several studies have found that not having enough sleep could be a precursor to diabetes. There are also studies which show that not getting enough sleep can reduce life expectancy.
Good sleep habits to adopt:
1. Try to stick to a routine
2. Make sure your room is the right temperature for you
3. Try to turn off tablets and phones an hour before bedtime 
4. Do something different to relax before sleeping 
5. Get some natural daylight exposure every day or use a           SAD light panel 
6. Try not to eat for 3 to 4 hours before bedtime

Sleep well everyone. 


The Phone Call

I have been fighting for almost 18 months to get my care package reinstated. According to UK law, if someone moves from one area to another their care package should automatically move with them. This gives people the security of knowing that they will not have to wait for a re-assessment and will continue to get enough care. 

The Care Act 2014 states that the new Local Authority has to continue with a care package for a period of at least 3 months before reviewing. So when I knew I was going to move to my current flat, I made the required phone calls. As I was moving from one Labour run Council to another I expected the process to be simple. How wrong I was.

Whilst my phone calls were logged in my new borough I was told that they they needed three months notice of a move. I was also told that they expected my old borough to pay for my care for the first three months. 

When moving within social housing as I was, it is unusual to get a months notice as I did. Very often a move has to be done within 7-14 days. My old borough, quite rightly, refused to pay for my care once I moved. 

Several very unhelpful phone calls happened. During one, I was told that as I had chosen to move I had no automatic entitlement to care. Explaining that I had moved area after almost 9 years of waiting to get an adapted flat didn’t seem to count. Eventually I was seen by an OT – occupational therapist and a social worker. The OT arranged to get my bathroom adaptations carried out, eventually. Click here and here for the saga.

The SW – social worker demanded lots of letters from all the medical professionals I had seen recently. Then I was told be they wouldn’t accept anything from my current GP as I was still registered with the GP where I used to live. They did not accept evidence from an out of borough GP. I was unable to change GP at that time as I was waiting for spinal surgery and needed continuity of care. 

I did give them permission to contact that GP, which they very reluctantly said they would do. I was horrified to get an email saying my GP informed them I did not need care. When I visited my GP she told me that no such request had been made and no such letter sent. She actually wrote a letter whilst I was with her completely supporting my need for a care package. The letter also stated no previous letter had been sent.

The SW used the “evidence” of the letter she claimed my GP had sent to refuse me care. I asked for a copy of that letter. Of course, I was refused it. I was told I had to ask my GP for a copy. Yes, a copy of a letter that did not exist! How bizarre is that.

Eventually I decided to contact my MP to ask her for help. She was quite horrified at what had happened to me. We made arrangements to meet so I could give her all my documents. Unfortunately shortly afterwards she suffered a family bereavement, so work on my case was delayed. 

Once my MP was back at work she was soon in contact with the Director of Social Services. I now have an email accepting I’m entitled to care. 

But when? How soon? I was contacted in April by another SW. I supplied him with my new GP details and the latest letter I had from my Orthopaedic team. Then heard nothing. 

My MP contacted the Director of Social Services again once she was re-elected. I had another email today – accepting they have done nothing since the April phone call. A response my MP has described as “pathetic!”  Evidently the letter is “too out of date” to be used. I only see that consultant yearly!

I also had a phone call from yet another SW today. It came when I had a neighbour here and I asked the SW to call back at a specified time. Surprisingly she agreed. It is that call which is the headline of this blog.

I was actually shocked that she called back at the agreed time. She seemed professional and wanted to hear what I had to say. But as the call progressed, I became more and more anxious. She constantly cross-questioned why I needed certain treatments. She couldn’t seen to understand that the surgery I had last year won’t enable me to walk around. (It was done to relive a trapped nerve and had had no impact on my back, neck or shoulder pain.) I knew this would be the case and have come to terms with that.

But, every time I’m questioned about why I can’t have this treatment or that operation it puts both my mind and body in a spin. Should I stop accepting how I am? What if there is some miracle surgery that will “cure” me? Have I not seen the right Consultants? I’m left feeling dazed and confused. It has taken me a long time – almost 10 years to get to the acceptance I now have.

I’ve learnt to live with my limitations and mange to enjoy what I can do rather than pining for what will never be possible. What right does anyone have to disrupt my psychological equilibrium? 

My physical reaction from the phone call was all the effects and symptoms of IBS. Several hours later I’m still feeling sick and my stomach continues to gripe. I’m just glad I don’t have to go out tomorrow. 

The next stage of getting assessed depends on the letter I get after I see my spinal consultant on Friday. Officially I shouldn’t even be seen much later this year. But because of my circumstances the surgeon has made an exception and agreed to see me. 

Update to follow……………

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