World Mental Health Day 2016

Knowing the value of good mental health after having experienced the disruptive force of losing it, is a great reason to keep the relevance of World  Mental Health Day, October 10th, in mind.

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My experience with acute distress which led to diagnosis and treatment I’m now pleased, and proud to say is well behind me.

Each year that World Mental Health Day  comes round I find time to reflect on that experience 16 years ago, and how it changed my life and also just how far, despite it’s residual effects, I’ve come.

I feel compelled annually to both reflect and contribute a written piece as witness to the value of good support, and attest to the value of  effective listeners and friends, when  one’s own emotional reserves may need ‘patching up’.

The theme of this years World Mental Health Day is two-fold,

Dignity and psychological first aid

Maintaining dignity after experiencing breakdown or trauma isn’t always easy but it’s an aspect of self-worth that’s important to strive for. It’s that inner core of being which aids us regain our sense of self when things get emotionally blurred, or practically chaotic, reminding us,

‘you do deserve to be well and have peace of mind’.

Dignity itself acts like first-aid, it can help people not to be cowed by negative or traumatic experiences.

The World Federation of Mental Health who are responsible for World Mental Health Day say that psychological first aid is primarily,

‘A humanitarian and appropriate response during times of mental health crisis’,

 

the WFMH also acknowledge that it not always situations of crisis which precipitate the need for psychological first aid.

Stress factors that occur either as a result of everyday pressures and mishaps that befall all, the more extreme aspects of mental illness that affect some, and pertinent to this years theme those global issues where major trauma , such as war displaces people from their loved ones and homes.

Some can be alleviated, their effects possibly reduced through particular interventions, the World Health Organisation have an extensive and excellent  report on proposed ways it can be addressed.

As respects individual mental trauma, professionals are the obvious first-aiders when its extreme or acute forms disrupt wellbeing, however it is also good to see WFMH acknowledge that telling our personal stories, related in informal ways, can also act as triage.

With that in mind they are encouraging people to share their own ways of coping with trauma and as an aid to manage their own incidence of trauma. They also give credit to the contribution of non-professionals who come to the aid of those who’s good mental health is disrupted.

On or around  World Mental Health Day,  people are asked to consider getting together with friends or family for ‘tea and talk’ and to use the occasion to consider making a donation to the Mental Health Foundation.

Making time for someone in distress so they can talk through it is a quick, low cost act of first-aid simply but effectively applied.

Put that kettle on! tea-and-talk-logo

Keep your conversations about ways to positive mental wellbeing fresh.

Finding effective personal strategies or accessing relevant available resouces can be a challenge, epecially if ongoing emotional/mental distress sometimes dints your dignity.

May World Mental Health Day find you with your dignity intact.

Sue Margaret

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Zine and heard!

As a part of a local library project, ‘Focus on Photography’, participants created an exhibition about ways of seeing their locality when about their daily routine

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they also made a ‘zine’.

The intention is to submit the zine which has the theme, ‘This is Me’ for the Love Arts Festival which starts TOMORROW. 5th October and continues until the 20th.

The annual Love Arts Festival, now in its 6th year has as its theme;

I AM

Not knowing, most of the time, quite what I am

….I produced the following zine which explained, at least on the afternoon I made it, …

‘This is Me’.

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I bought the tee shirt, because of its slogan, sometime ago, I was sure the right occasion for wearing it would present itself. Here it is on the zine during its first airing at the Zine Festival at the Left Bank arts centre.

Zine events have been trending on social media for sometime, not knowing quite what they were led me to attend the Festival to find out.

Lo and behold I discovered zines are in fact little different from pop art or rag mags of ‘old’,  or even older grass root publications.

Zines promote a d.i.y. ethic in the face of an array of corporate glossy magazine content, zines are not dissimilar to blogging in their  intent.

Zines and blogs put content publishing into the hands of amateur and professional alike.

Challenging the accepted norms or order of things has long held an appeal for me, though it’s never been an easy path to take, at times it has led to my state of mental wellbeing being in question.

….I will let the zine ‘say’ the rest of who I am….

At least that is, what I was one late summer afternoon in LS13! Keeping in mind that like the  British seasons and weather, I am susceptible to change.

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Mood change

One of our intrepid community reporters frequently finds low mood limits her motivation to keep active,  or track down local news stories. Fortunately West Leeds Dispatch are good enough to regularly host a news café in her neck of the woods, LS13,

‘it’s a great opportunity to share local ‘happenings’ and spark ideas for possible blog ideas.’

she says.

In the following two video clips she relates how a ‘lollipop’ has broadened her horizons and helped raise her low moods.

 

Mental Health Awareness week 2016

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This week is Mental Health Awareness week. For anyone who is often emotionally/mentally less than well, it’s a useful time to reflect on how the annual event might help.

Well acquainted since childhood of the shaky mental health of people close to me, and then subsequently my own brush with ‘breakdown’, I might as a result, claim to be ‘aware’. I try to remain mindful however ,that there is much to learn from the experience of others.

Disclosing aspects of my episodes of emotional/mental ill-at-easness feel like a risk ,but one I usually take. It’s also an opportunity to reaffirm that it’s just one aspect of my life experience, and one of which I’m not ashamed.

Frequently, and especially this awareness week, I find myself still reflecting on the ‘language’ the ‘powers that be’ would label the experience of emotional/mental ill-ease, and I assert that emotional response is an appropriate one in a ‘world gone wrong’, and therefore not necessarily a treatable behaviour. It’s useful to remain aware!

The theme of this years awareness raising is relationships. The organisation Mental Health Foundation have a lovely set of free downloadable logos which highlight the different aspects of the value of our relationships, see here

May is also National Walking Month …..strolling with friends new or old is an ideal way to build on any existing relationships , or make new ones. Here is a site for some walking suggestions. Often times people with a common interest just meet up informally , and within our group we’ve been privileged to do that. You can read here about one such occasion.

I lead a sedentary life for most of the winter months but usually get motivated to restart some brisk walking in April. Spring was late this year so getting out seemed harder but May blossom was my wake up call to ‘move it’, as was my good neighbour’s invites to join with her for an occasional walk after work……a welcome gesture.

In an age when relationships appear to be increasingly carried out in cyberspace, and many irrespective of age report feeling isolated, I find the physical proximity of relationships ever more important. Perhaps this week is a good time to think over ways our relationships might be mutually rewarding.

Cheers, Sue

 

Ancient and modern methods to wellbeing

Daniel has been contributing his poems and blog posts to the Wellbeing Web for two years, we recently spoke together about the many things he does that aid his wellbeing. Our informal chats revealed the intriguing blend of ancient and modern techniques, and pastimes which Daniel uses to keep positive.

The first of our chats took place during our trip to buy essential oils and joss sticks that might help our respective current mood.  Among the blends we chose was myrrh, known from ancient times for its medicinal and spiritual healing properties. When we next met to conclude our discussion we burned the myrrh.

People have been orating and writing poetry from ancient times as their muse inspired. Daniel’s recent such musings, ‘Road of Joy’, was his latest blog post. Daniel combines poetry, the ancient means of expressing thought and feeling with the modern art of blogging. Previous discussions had us pondering how and in what way we considered thought and feeling.differed, hindered or helped us in our wellbeing. Lets see if of the things Daniel engages with give any hints if we reached a conclusion.

I like spending time with close friends, playing and listening to music, meditating, consulting the I Ching, reflecting on Zen,Tao and Buddhist philosophy. In addition I take part in a variety of skill based and healthy living courses at Inkwell and Swarthmore Education Centre,  this last twelve months it has included; creative writing; short stories, poetry writing, web design, group Alexander Technique sessions, and art classes. Workshops at Leeds Mind have also helped me with my confidence and to work on relaxation techniques.

Knowing very little about consulting the I Ching, I asked Daniel to describe the practice and how he feels this helps him.

The I Ching is an ancient Chinese book which traditionally is consulted by use of either throwing coins or willow sticks to determine which of its 64 hexagrams to read. It is similar to the way some Christians use bibliomancy when seeking guidance. After opening the bible  at random any text found there is taken as a guideline for resolving a particular issue that may be troubling the person.

I use coins when I consult the I Ching, I feel this works on the principle of synchronicity, enabling and revealing advice and information from the book in a way I find profound.

Daniels musical interests include his playing keyboard in the band Burning Skies Revolution

and he explained what about this is enjoyable, and how he deals with any ‘nerves’ when performing at gigs.

 I find playing a musical instrument raises my spirits, which is cathartic. Socializing with other band members during the nine years we’ve been together is beneficial, and it’s helped me not to watch too much telly.

As a kid I liked listening to electronic music and had a keyboard bought as a present. Earlier this year it was highly enjoyable to see the band Icebreaker, who play electronic music, at Howard Assembly Rooms, and I reviewed it for the Wellbeing Web see here,

I can read music  a bit but mostly play by ear.  Jamming at our weekly rehearsals or on other occasions when me and my mates are just relaxing is fun.

Public performance isn’t something I ever envisaged the band doing, it only happened because we stood in at short notice for another band. Although I get nervous before a gig, my confidence is helped by both the social support of the other band members, and by keeping in mind that I’ve done it sucessfully on previous occasions.

Daniel acknowledged that like most of us keeping active and remaining positive are beneficial for our wellbeing, but that it’s not always easy to remain upbeat. I asked Daniel when the ‘going gets tough’ which of the things he lists is he best able to hang on to.

I’d say it’s the things I can easily access at home, or close to home  that help me if I get down. Contact with my friends who live nearby, and the meditation on ancient philosophies and techniques which I can do at home are my mainstays. In recent years however access to modern technology via the internet and my smart phone have also  helped.

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Discussions with Daniel about wellbeing didn’t reveal a clear divide between thought and feeling, except perhaps that they are flip-sides of the same coin. We might sometimes find ourselves relying more on one side than the other but Daniels use of ancient and modern techniques shows he does much to keep them well balanced.

Sue Margaret

 

Poetry slam

Winter nights sees me pretty much grounded for their duration, and with each year that passes the need to get active after them, becomes ever more apparent. Getting out and about keeps me physically and emotionally better, and attending the Headingley Literature Festival each March is often one of my first Spring evening jaunts.

LS6 always seems to buzz but the festival gives it that extra vibe. The programme of events is always extensive and varied, many events are free, of those that aren’t, they’re reasonably priced. This year’s theme was ‘Something Else’, and concludes on April 2nd  with, ‘Own Your Words’ …advertised as a poetry slam, see details here.

So far I’ve only managed to attend one of this year’s events, this too was also billed as a poetry slam, and named, ’One City – Many Voices’. For an entrance fee of £4 we were entertained by the internationally renowned poet, Lemn Sissay.Lemn Sissay

I’m not sure when the slang use of the word ‘cool’ became so commonplace. I don’t recall it being used in ‘my day’, and don’t feel comfortable saying it, BUT writing it occasionally seems expressive?,,,,Lemn and his performance were….. cool!

The word slam in ‘poetry slam’ is also slang, but this too I find expressive. It was used initially to describe a competitive poetry event, and was coined by Bob Holman. ‘a poetry activist and…slammaster’ who called the movement “the democratization of verse”…..he also said

The spoken word revolution is led a lot by women and by poets of color. It gives a depth to the nation’s dialogue that you don’t hear on the floor of Congress

The ‘One City – Many Voices’ poetry slam wasn’t competitive, but those who performed alongside Lemn were a group of talented wordsmiths from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. They were pupils of Leeds City Academy and Ralph Thoresby High School.  The flair and conviction of their words was astoundingly good. The young people had been coached by local writer and poet Michelle Scally Clarke.

Michelle told us how when younger, she’d struggled academically because of her troubled life, but she liked writing poetry and after sending some to Lemn, he’d encouraged her to continue. Ms Scally Clarkes’s performance, and presence were impressive. The Academy’s, Head of English, was an equally animated and motivational speaker, he spoke of the personal hurdles he’d overcome to be so. The teacher told us of his difficulties with a speech impairment and shyness when young, and then when older in a southern University, he’d faced ‘teasing’ for his Northern accent. I’m sure his and Michelle’s commitment and mentoring skills were a huge factor in the pupils finding their words and voice.

Most of the young performers displayed a confidence, beyond their years, they recited forthrightly, the young compere was dynamic and as an introduction demonstrated his moonwalking. The focus of the students poetry topics revealed many difficulties in their personal lives, they were angry at injustices they’d faced, but this seemed to spark the passion to expose it.

Though I like performance poetry, my preferred way of ‘hearing’ poetry is to read it silently to myself. Poets performing their own work however are most likely best able to add the nuance, or inflection which conveys their intended message. Lemn is a charismatic performer and he described writing poetry as ‘playing with the spirits’, that point alone inspired me to write about the poetry slam. Hopefully we who only listen to or read it, get to commune with them too.

Of the poems Lemn read, the following one stayed with me, as it spoke of the rejection he’d suffered. The poem also illustrates how when we’re a child, what it’s like to live in the land of ‘giants’ who sometimes get perplexingly angry. It was clear Lemn wrote the poem from experience but it wasn’t until after the event I found out just how difficult his childhood was. I also discovered that he’s an MBE, and whereas I claim letters before or after someone’s name mean little to me, I might have felt a little shyer inviting him to a World Poetry event elsewhere, or about his fee! Lemn, as the cliche goes, appeared to have ‘no edge’ and graciously, whilst not exactly accepting the invite, managed to appear not to rule it out.

Though childhood rejection wasn’t an obvious contributory factor in my angsty youth, it’s something many experience at some time, either as children or adults. Making it easy perhaps to identify with the boy in the poem who was misunderstood, and imputed with wrong motives.  It is only as an adult, and lately, that I’ve come to recognise the insidious ways certain groups are marginalised. If we find ourselves amongst them, choosing to re-frame the experience, see it as an advantageous place from which to act, gives the freedom to draw up inspiration from ‘that wellspring of creativity’.¹

Suitcases and Muddy Parks by Lemn Sissay

You say I am a lying child I say I’m not you say there you go again

You say I am a rebellious child I say no I’m not you say there you go again

Quite frankly mum I’ve never seen a rebellious child before and when my mates said jump in that puddle and race you through the park (y’know, the muddy one) I didn’t think about the mud.

When you said why you are dirty! I could feel the anger in your voice I still don’t know why. I said I raced my mates through the park. You said it was deliberate. I said I didn’t I mean I did but it wasn’t. You said I was lying, I said no I am not. You said there you go again.

Later in the dawn of adolescence it was time for my leave

I with my suitcase, social worker,

you with your husband, walked our sliced ways.

Sometimes I run back to you like a child through a muddy park, adult achievements tucked under each arm, I explain them with a child-like twinkle, thinking any mother would be proud…

Your eyes, desperately trying hard to be wise and unrevealing, reveal all.

Still you fall back into the heart of the same rocking chair saying

There you go again.

And I did.

And I have.

,Sue Margaret

1. Bob Dylan in interview.

Blog header

You might just notice we have changed our blog header to a bold, sunny colored sunflower. The sunflower photograph was taken on Milan’s allotment, it was a fine 6ft specimen, that he’d grown with the help of some good wholesome manure.

Here are some details about sunflowers which might be of interest. That the flower generally prefers  to bloom facing East is hardly surprising, but in this case very apt, for Eastern philosophy and gardening are just two of the many things Milan does to aid his wellbeing.

Milan has also suggested we have a survey, or friendly competition about which header image you, our readers might consider as particularly relevant to our blog aims and theme, (read more about this and Milan’s allotment here)

Your voice on keeping well in Leeds”.

Plenty of scope then! for there are as many ways to wellbeing as there are people who share their stories and tips that help. We plan to organise the survey soon, and we’ll be sure to keep you informed as we’d like you to submit your photographs for a potential new image later in the year. In the meantime enjoy the sunflower.

Our erstwhile header with its rather grand looking lemur photograph, was taken by Christian Smith. Christian who has bloggged for us, is a keen photographer, with a eye for both the quirky or commonplace scene. Christian’s photograph of the posey lemur who seemingly reminded us….’and breathe’… has graced our blog header for some years. The connection between it and the aims of our blog, “Your Voice on keeping well in Leeds”, might not have been immediately apparent,  however the Lemur was a …Leeds lemur! ….A Roundhay Park, Tropical World lemur, to be precise.

In it’s natural habitat the lemur has behaviour which singles it out from other mammals, like most animals it’s natural poise aids its alertness, and enhances it’s survival. Poise is something we humans might emulate as we often lose it after early childhood. By retaining our poise we too can become similarly honed for either dangerous or pleasurable encounters.

Leeds Parks like Roundhay Park with it’s Tropical House, and numerous cafes is the backdrop for all kind of pleasurable encounters. Here is a dizzying 360 degree visual tour of the boating lake taken from the boating house. It’s easy to imagine on some balmy Summer afternoon or evening a luncheon party, or tryst.  Here you might see Common Warblers at dawn (no not the local male voice choir), occasionally you might see rarer breeds.

Leeds is teeming with spaces and places for leisure and information resources which signpost them. The Tourist Information Centre is one such, and was recently re-located from the train station to the Headrow, on the lower ground floor, (under The Tiled Cafe) at the Central Library/ArtGallery building. Opening times:

Monday – Saturday 10am – 5pm
Sunday – 1pm-5pm

Apart from having oodles of leaflets, the centre has ipads available so that you can research on-line, places of interest to visit in and around our metropolis. The afternoon I visited this airy and spacious resource, I had the place mostly to myself as you’ll see from these snapshots.

Watch out this month also for the reopening, after extensive refurbishment, of another of our Leeds very special country estates at Lotherton Hall. The estates bird garden was the setting of more of Christian’s stunning images, (spot the lemur). Christian was kind enough to give permission for us to link these as they also include intimate family photographs, poignantly they depict his late father, Alexander, sadly missed.

Sue Margaret