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Why Are We Still Failing in UK Mental Health Support?

failing uk mental health support

 

In recent months, the news about mental health support in the UK has been, with few exceptions, overwhelmingly negative. Whether it’s NHS shortfalls and a lack of beds, which impacted patients who later died1; children with mental health issues facing “unacceptable”2 waiting times to get help; or women who find it difficult to access mental health services during the particularly vulnerable time of pregnancy3, the overarching picture looks bleak.

We are arguably far more enlightened on the subject of mental illness than we were 15 years ago, and politicians have been trumpeting their commitment to spend more money on services, and bring about parity in treatment with physical health. Yet it seems we are still failing, far too often, to help those who need it most.

The reasons behind this are (perhaps unsurprisingly) many and complicated. It’s generally accepted that the NHS is underfunded, with a fall in the proportion of GDP spent on health services and cuts to social care placing huge pressure on the service. Add to this an ageing population and the burden of treating long-term illnesses, and there’s even more strain. So the NHS in general is struggling, and mental health services are facing their own particular challenges.

Firstly, with raised awareness has come an uptick in the demand for services, as more people seek help. Secondly, mental health issues are on the rise, especially amongst young people. Finally, there’s been a worrying fall in the number of mental health nurses around to look after people4.  

We also have to consider the fact that no matter how far we’ve come in understanding mental illnesses – not looking at it as attention seeking, laziness, or something to be feared and locked away – there’s still an awful lot of misunderstanding and prejudice that can hinder treatment. People still tell hair-raising stories (even if they are very rare) of professionals making disparaging remarks or not taking them seriously.

Mental health problems can benefit hugely from early intervention. Take the example of someone who has started having panic attacks for the first time. They may well ring a ambulance or turn up at A&E, because the nature of panic attacks means that a large proportion of people who experience them will be certain there’s something physically wrong with them – such as a heart attack, or stroke. However, even if that person is absolutely certain they are going to die, they will probably be sent home without any treatment, because they aren’t in any ‘real’ danger.

This, of course, makes a certain amount of sense. Doctors have to prioritise the people who are actually facing a physical threat to their life. Yet it doesn’t help the person who is still convinced, each time they have a panic attack, that they are facing imminent death. This is a terrible state in which to have to wait for a GP appointment, and to potentially wait months more for therapy. Things become even harder if the usual medication prescribed in these cases doesn’t work for an individual, leaving them to battle the feeling of mortal danger all on their own.

The kind of delays which are highlighted often in the news could make the difference between this person experiencing panic attacks and then quickly recovering with the right support, or the anxiety becoming entrenched. Regularly experiencing panic attacks is mentally exhausting and upsetting, and leaves the body in a similar state to someone who’s been fleeing from a predator for days on end.

Without fast intervention, people can begin to self-medicate to relieve their symptoms. Some young people facing anxiety have started to abuse Internet-acquired Xanax5 and alcohol, complicating their illness and putting them in danger of addiction. The result is a vicious cycle, in which people are de-prioritised and face delays as health practitioners deal with the most difficult cases, and as a result become more difficult to treat themselves.

The commitment and hard work of the vast majority of those who work in UK mental health support is unquestionable, with many working huge amounts of overtime and facing stress and burnout themselves. There are simply too many people who need help, and not enough funds or resources to provide it. As Peter Kinderman, a clinical psychologist at the University of Liverpool, puts it: “The entire NHS is suffering and the mental health system is a large part of the NHS – and it’s suffering too. I think there’s been quite a profound change in the last 25 years, that people are now more willing to talk about their mental health, but we just don’t have the systems to respond to it.”

So what’s the solution? While we wouldn’t presume to have a panacea for this serious and complex issue, we do think there are ways to support mental health outside of simply allocating more money (which, ideally, would be the initial step). Firstly, although the demand for services has increased, we must continue to foster an open and honest atmosphere around mental health, so people feel able to discuss and seek help for their problems before they hit crisis point.

Secondly, we need to ensure that children – through schools and other societal programs, as well as reaching out to parents – get the best start possible, learning about self-care and being given the emotional tools they need to face the inevitable difficulties of life. Increased equality would help hugely in this, as poverty is a leading cause of chronic stress6, and discrimination is linked to stress and poor health7. Creating a more holistic education system, which values emotional wellbeing as well as academic achievement, and allows children the room to express themselves and follow their interests, could also help to protect their mental health.

Finally, people need to be aware of – and not made to feel ashamed of pursuing – the non-medical actions which can help them maintain their mental health. Self-care can feel like an ‘airy-fairy’ term, but small everyday actions can make all the difference to a vast amount of individuals. Like our physical health, small daily choices have a huge cumulative impact, and our physical and mental health are intimately connected. Empowering people to take actions which improve their own wellbeing could reduce costs to our overstrained healthcare system, and make our whole community healthier and happier.

 

1 https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/mar/06/lack-of-beds-and-staff-for-mental-health-patients-crucial-failings

2 https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/health/children-mental-health-issues-face-14563856

3 https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/apr/19/women-across-uk-denied-mental-healthcare-around-childbirth-say-doctors

4 https://fullfact.org/health/are-mental-health-nurse-numbers-down/

5 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-43431453

6 https://www.stand-together.org/toxic-stress-poverty-effects/

7 http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2016/03/impact-of-discrimination.aspx

 

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A Big Night Out With a Difference: World Meditation Day at Fabric 2018

World Meditation Day at Fabric

There’s only a few days to go until World Meditation Day 2018, on Tuesday 15th May, and we can barely contain our excitement! We are celebrating with a unique wellness event that combines meditation, music, sound bathing and amazing food and drink to create an evening of the most amazing natural highs. Here you can revel in an evening of fun that leaves you glowing, refreshed and walking on air – a wonderful opportunity for experienced meditators and curious newbies alike to experience a different kind of hedonism.

Located at the iconic nightclub Fabric in London, the event is in support of the mental health charity CALM, and we hope by introducing people to meditation we’ll be helping them to improve their own health and happiness.

“I was always a massive party boy and had many a debauched night in Fabric, but having realised there is a more balanced way to achieve my highs, and stay feeling good all week long, my team and I are spreading the meditation love with events and courses that are accessible and relevant for everyday folks. This is Manumission for the 21st Century”. Will Williams.

What to Expect

Guided Meditation

https://www.beejameditation.com/what-is-meditation/

World Meditation Day at Fabric 2018

Our founder (and the creator of World Meditation Day) Will Williams is committed to passing on the ancient knowledge of Beeja meditation in a way that is practical, enjoyable and relevant to people from all walks of life. It doesn’t matter if you meditate every day, or have never meditated before, under the guidance of Will Williams you’ll gently and effortlessly float into a state of pure relaxation.

 

This is made even more powerful by the fact you will be sharing this experience with a room of other people, a phenomenon that has to be felt to be believed – and World Meditation Day promises to be the largest group meditation that London has ever seen!

Akala

 

 

Gracing the stage this World Meditation Day is none other than BAFTA and MOBO award-winning hip-hop artist, writer and social entrepreneur, as well as the co-founder of The Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company Akala. We’re absolutely delighted that this amazing musician and thinker will be treating Fabric goers to a special performance of acoustic versions of his greatest hits, as well as spoken word poetry from his upcoming book ‘Natives’.*

We found this quote from Akala and it really resonated with us:

If I could solve something as complicated as conflict in the world, I would change the education system. Full stop. Not just along the lines of race, but along the lines of how people are taught to view the whole of human history, and on what education provides. It doesn’t provide any spiritual, emotional wellbeing.”

*(Hodder & Stoughton), out 17th May 2018 and available to pre-order here.

 

Jordan Rakei

https://www.jordanrakei.com/

A producer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, 25 year-old Jordan Rakei is a unique talent. Born in New Zealand and raised in Australia, Jordan moved to the UK when his EP Groove Curse found fans and acclaim in Europe and America.

“Really glad to be a part of this. Meditation changed my life five years ago. This is such a great cause, so I hope to see you there!”

 

B.Traits 

https://soundcloud.com/btraits/essentialmix

B.Traits made a name for herself in her home country of Canada at clubs such as Automactic, before going on to play venues across Europe and the US. Since 2012, shes held various slots at BBC Radio 1 and she expresses her considerable musical talent in her work as a DJ, record producer, remixer and radio presenter.

You can hear a preview of the super-chilled out DJ set B.Traits has in store for our Fabric attendees over on her Facebook page.

 

 

Sound Sebastien

https://www.soundsebastien.com/

Using the “harmonics of gemstone, mineral and crystal alchemy”, Jasmine Hemsley’s and Toni Dick’s Sound Sebastien allows you to sink into a nourishing and blissful cocoon of sound; an experience that grounds and revitalises you. All you need is to lie back, close your eyes and become immersed in the perfect sensory space created by Jasmine and Toni’s therapeutic music.

 

 

 

About CALM

The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is leading a movement against male suicide. For men under the age of 45, suicide is the biggest killer. Mental health is an issue we take extremely seriously here at Beeja.

The combination of our own personal experiences here in the team, and the experiences of those who’ve reached out to us for help, have made it clear to us how widespread and under-discussed problems with mental health can be. We hope through our work teaching people the self-care tool of  meditation, and by supporting the charities who work tirelessly to highlight and alleviate these issues, we can do our bit to help.

ORDER YOUR TICKETS HERE.

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Excerpt From The Effortless Mind: Will William’s Extraordinary First Book

excerpt from the effortless mind

 

Will Williams This is an excerpt from Will Williams first book, on a subject he struggled with for several years: insomnia. You can order your copy here, and explore the inspiring stories of Will himself, and the people he has taught, learning how Beeja meditation helped them face their personal demons to become healthier and happier people. 

I had a vast amount of sympathy for David when he came to me suffering from insomnia. I know from my own experience how awful it can be not to be able to sleep, and how it seems to drag down every other part of your life.

David and I weren’t unusual. Sleep deprivation is a huge issue these days. A hundred years ago we used to get around nine hours a night; now we’re down to seven and a half. That simply isn’t enough. Even more concerning, however, is the major decline in sleep quality, which is actually far more detrimental to our overall wellbeing. I’ll talk about why in a moment, but first let’s hear from David about what his lack of sleep meant for him.

DAVID

‘Being able to sleep felt like a miracle.’

‘I’m married, with two kids, and my business is in Russia. The past few years have been very stressful. There was a point when I could have lost everything, and I went to a very dark place. I felt a lot of stress, a lot of anxiety, and I panicked. Maybe when I was younger I’d have thrived off all this, but as you get older, your body and mind aren’t geared for it. Physically, the messages were crystal-clear – I had a horrific sleep disorder, and it had been going on for a year and a half.

I could fall asleep, no problem, because I was knackered and living mostly on adrenaline, but then I’d wake up and be bouncing off the walls. I’d be in a semi-sleep, sort of half- awake, half asleep, with my mind just churning meaningless nonsense. On and on it would go, whirring all night long. If I did fall asleep, I’d be met with anxiety dreams, which were about being chased or busting for a leak and not being able to find a loo. Stupid things – like being constantly late; or missing something. Sleep should be when you rest, but I found it so stressful that I actually began to dread going to bed.

I felt powerless, and that was just soul-destroying. Sometimes I’d get up, go downstairs, sit in a chair and read, or I’d wake up and take a sleeping pill. Every so often I’d take one before I went to bed, because I was just too tired to deal with it. But sleeping pills aren’t really a solution, not for the long term. You don’t wake up after you’ve taken them feeling in any way refreshed. And then at 6 o’clock in the morning the kids would come in and I’d have to get up and function again. It was so horrible to have to strain to interact with my children; I felt like my humanity was slipping away and I was becoming a zombie.

Every time I travelled for business, it was worse, because moving across time zones would totally finish me off. Sometimes I’d wake up in the morning in some random hotel and I’d just say: ‘Sod this,’ and stay in bed.

I tried everything, from hypnotherapy to a sleep doctor, who referred me to a clinic, where they tried to force anti- depressants on me. I thought: No, I’m not depressed. This isn’t right.

I wasn’t depressed; I was high-functioning, but short- tempered. I was getting through the days, but without sleep, you don’t repair. And it had a very big knock-on effect on my confidence and on my ability to cope with stress. Suddenly I wasn’t able to speak in public, which I have to do a lot, so I was really at my wits’ end.

After about a year of this, I was on an evening out and met a friend of a friend. I began to tell him about my sleep problem and he said: ‘Let me stop you there. This is what you’ve been through. This is how it started. This is what’s happened. You’ve been here. You’ve tried that. That didn’t work. And now you’re taking sleeping pills every night.’

He was a Beeja meditation teacher, based in Paris, and he told me he dealt with this sort of stuff all the time and that I should definitely go try it. When I went to see Will, he seemed remarkably confident that it would work. After all I’d been through, I really couldn’t believe it would be that easy.

Within forty-eight hours of learning to meditate, my sleep problem had vanished. It was that quick; it was that powerful. I was suddenly feeling relaxed and calm. Meditation seemed like a very natural thing to do, and I loved it.

Being able to sleep felt like a miracle. I felt so grateful. If I had to rate it, I’d say my sleep pattern had been a two out of ten; meditation moved me to an eight. It had been agony before, and now I felt wonderful when I woke up in the morning.

I really feel as if I now have a tool for dealing with insomnia. There have been times since I started meditating when I’ve had the odd night of sleeplessness, but then I’m able to say: ‘You know what? I’ve got the solution to this.’ So I sit up, meditate, and then go straight back to sleep.

I haven’t had to do that now for months. I feel so relieved. I also know that even if I don’t get enough sleep, I can get the rest and repair I need because I c

an meditate there and then, and once more in the morning to get myself refreshed. And that, of course, takes away the anxiety of not being able to sleep in the first place, so you go to bed more relaxed knowing you’ve got all the solutions in your back pocket.

Dealing with the sleep issue was the main positive effect of the meditation, but I use it as a tool for many other things now, especially for coping with stress and anxiety. I’m a guy that’s quite impatient, moving a hundred miles an hour the whole time, and so I struggle to stay in the moment. I’m very aware of my limitations, and I’m always wanting to improve as a father, a husband and as a businessman.

As a father, I can say that I’m much more present. I feel those special moments with my kids a lot more, when you have a surge of overwhelming joy and it just hits you. Those moments of awareness have increased dramatically for me. I work from home, and if I’ve had a hard day, sometimes I’ll hear the kids come back from school and I want to run downstairs and see them. Now I stop myself and think: You know what, you can feel you’re anxious; you can feel you’re stressed – just go and meditate. Then, afterwards, I can go and see them and be really present and full of love for them.

If they come upstairs anyway and interrupt, you can easily get back into it, because it doesn’t require any focus. The kids come in and I’ll say: ‘Dad’s meditating. Just give me a minute,’ and they’ll go. It’s very easy to roll back into.

My wife says I’m a lot calmer, which is really nice to hear, and I’m so glad she’s getting to benefit from it too. One of our kids has just been diagnosed with ADHD, and that’s a whole other ballgame of parental challenges, yet I feel like this is giving me the tools to help me deal with that. I very rarely get to boiling point now, which is a huge relief for everyone.

As for business – well, I’m far more in tune with other people. I can read others a lot better, and that helps with business as well as my relationships with colleagues. I think it’s about stepping back and not constantly looking about. That’s the key: taking it down a notch. It’s about connection; it’s about presence. It’s about being with

someone when you’re with them. And when you feel yourself drifting, you’re able to go: ‘Now hang on a minute . . .’ Meditating gives you a lot in terms of the enhancement of your connection with that person, and your emotional intelligence develops as well.

There’s so many of us suffering from all sorts of mental health problems in this crazy world we’re living in. My sister’s been suffering from depression for years, and going to see Will to learn the meditation has been the only thing that’s helped her. She’s now completely over it. I wish I could say the same for my contemporaries, gu

ys who are nearing their fifties. So many of them could use it. It’s a very competitive world, and we’re all suffering from these lifestyles that we’ve created for ourselves.

It ebbs and flows, of course. It’s not as if every meditation is amazing, but certainly after every meditation I can say: ‘I needed that,’ and be truly grateful I found it.

 

The Effortless Mind is available on Amazon.