Hmph, Pfffft and Growl

I've been very remiss about posting on here of recent but I was rather downhearted and frustrated...

You see I belong to a Girl Guiders forum, which is fab and you can ask tonnes of questions (as random as you like) and nearly always get some helpful answers.  So I decided to pose the question on mental health and disabilities training. Knowing full well that Girl Guiding UK has some huge holes in it as far as training goes.

Funny how many people would like some more training on both those topics. In fact, a few even suggested online training stuffs. So I thought I would test the water and try a blog series.

It's been quite well supported behind the scenes but I've got to know one or two of the moderators quite well. The reason I've got to know them well is that I've most probably had quite a few complaints on my topics so far (general mental health, EDs..) but you know....

I've been told that blogging about general mental health stats and EDs and their stats (well goodness knows what they'll do about the next post) is a difficult area. OK I get that. Other words used to identify my guiding blog series :

Unnerving (reality really sucks doesn't it)
Concerning (well yes when you know the truth on numbers it is)
Controversial (pffft that's your attitude to the topic not the topics fault)

I despair, but one of the phrases that really frustrated me was the way in which people think of me over generalising on the topic feilds or the fact that 'one size does not fit all'. I growl...that was in direct response to the ED stats put into GGUK figures here (a little generalised yes, but mostly because I can't get a breakdown of numbers from GGUK) I don't think I can over generalise them any more than the numbers are printed on the paper really. In other words: Why do you want to not believe me?!

Also could I just edit my signature on the forum, because it's "my personal 'mission'" to convey my blog over. Maybe it is, but I don't ask anyone to have to go read it or comment on it, hey if you want you don't even have to click on the link. If it upsets you that much then why are you in the volunteer post that you are?!

What is the point to have fab initiatives like Time to Change if we then can't change. It's by-line is
'Let's end mental health discrimination'
It is such a great set of TV adverts, magazine adverts, even the radio cottoned on and got involved. But ask a youth organisation to be open enough to listen and accept the facts and numbers as they are...

If my 17 year old StepD can get that if you work with young people you have to be open to their problems and then aware enough and informed enough to know where to get info, why can't a bunch of Guiding people also get that too?...they're adults as well...not kids!

It just frustrates me. Female mental health problems are a much bigger issue than men's and yet the women just can't quite admit to it...

It's not that long that I said that if we as a whole could be more informed then maybe we might just help lower mental health statistics just that little bit. It will never happen if we close ranks, shut doors and refuse to listen.

The future does not look bright really when you look at it this way...


Depression - 'What have you got to be depressed about?'

Yesterday, I introduced the subject of depression. It's a difficult subject because, for many people who have depression the reasons lie shrouded in their own person. Depression often develops from a negative experience of some sort, but one of the important factors of a negative experience is in how we deal with it. If the feelings that surface are not explored and expressed at, or around, the time if the experience then they are likely to unravel, fester and contribute towards depression.

For many people the first time that they get depression often comes down to a life event. For some this means divorce, loss of job, death of a close family member or friend, life changes e.g. retirement, or other illness. However, for others this life event can seem much smaller, but to that person the perceived event can be huge

In some cases depression can be triggered from childhood experiences, whether this be from physical or emotional abuse, or perhaps good coping skills weren't learnt as a child leaving a person less able to cope as an adult. For some children they may have felt something that was unable to be expressed or was consider unacceptable to express and as time has gone on it has manifested into depression.

Other physical conditions can also affect depression, however these other conditions can mean that the depression is overlooked because of the need to treat the primary condition first.  Also if you are being treated for a condition there is a likelihood that some medications will cause you depression as unfortunately it is a frequent side effect to many drugs. If you are put onto drugs and find that after 2-4 weeks you are becoming increasingly down, go look at the advice leaflet that comes with the drugs and see what it says, then go and discuss it with your doctor. 

There are also other controllable causes to depression, but the problem is knowing about them to control them. The use of drugs and alcohol can, and does, cause depression. For instance alcohol is a depressant and will suppress your mood and make you feel worse overall. Other controllable factors include diet and fitness. Certain foods can make you feel worse, sometimes quite suddenly, if you feel physically worse you are more likely to feel more down. Using fitness as a tool can make you feel better, sports release feel good chemicals into the blood stream (called endorphins), so if you feel down going to the gym or taking a brisk walk can make a difference.

I should add that there are people who seem to develop depression with no specific events to contribute to their diagnosis of depression. Sometimes it just simply happens (it can also be due to genetic predisposition too).

In direct relationship to children and young people, remember the statistics from the other day:
  • 0.9% of children and young people are seriously depressed
  • 0.2% of 5-10 year-olds are seriously depressed
  • 1.4% of 11-16 year-olds are seriously depressed
  • 2.2% of 16-24 year-olds have experienced a depressive episode
It's difficult to know when a child or young person is depressed. Certainly in teenagers the moodiness and lack of communication just goes with the territory, it doesn't always mean that they are depressed though. It is all part and parcel of adolescence to go through these periods, which relate to the hormonal changes and finding ones place in society.  

For some children and young people they seem to get stuck at a point in all of these changes and then don't know how to get through to the other side. Sometimes with depression they will seek to relieve their feelings through other medians; self harm, risk taking, refusal to accept boundaries. What makes it even more difficult is that often that young person won't talk to the people closest to them, their parents. 

Is there a solution for children and young people with depression. Yes, but it's the same as everyone else, allow them the space, get the right medical intervention and/or therapy going, but most of all make it clear that you WILL find their feelings totally acceptable and by knowing them you start a place on which to work upon.


Depression...'get over it'?

So far I have talked extensively about EDs. However, at the beginning I mentioned M, my partner's eldest daughter, and how she not only had Anorexia but Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), severe depression, anxiety and social anxiety.

These are often in the medical world termed 'premorbidity' and 'comorbidity'. According to Wikipedia;

  • premorbidity refers to the state of functionality prior to the onset or of a disease or illness. It is most often used in relation to psychological function.
  • comorbidity is either the presence of one or more disorders (or diseases) in addition to a primary disorder (or disease)

Many of those suffering with EDs suffer with other mental health disorders alongside the ED or before the diagnosis of an ED. I want to tell you about some of them, not in relation to the Eating Disorders but as mental health disorders in their own rights.

The first one I will go into in some depth is Depression and it's own co-morbidities. The following check list is taken from Mind. Do you tick 5 of these off? 

The following are all symptoms of depression, and if you tick off five or more of any of them you are probably depressed.
My feelings
  • I am low-spirited for much of the time, every day
  • I feel restless and agitated
  • I get tearful easily
  • I feel numb, empty and full of despair
  • I feel isolated and unable to relate to other people
  • I am unusually irritable or impatient
  • I find no pleasure in life or things I usually enjoy
  • I feel helpless
  • I have lost interest in sex
  • I am experiencing a sense of unreality
My behaviour
  • I'm not doing activities I usually enjoy
  • I am avoiding social events I usually enjoy
  • I have cut myself off from others and can’t ask for help
  • I am self-harming
  • I find it difficult to speak
My thoughts
  • I am having difficulty remembering things
  • I find it hard to concentrate or make decisions
  • I blame myself a lot and feel guilty about things
  • I have no self-confidence or self-esteem
  • I am having a lot of negative thoughts
  • The future seems bleak
  • What’s the point?
  • I have been thinking about suicide
My physical symptoms
  • I have difficulty sleeping
  • I am sleeping much more than usual
  • I feel tired and have no energy
  • I have lost my appetite, and am losing weight
  • I am eating a lot more than usual and putting on weight
  • I have physical aches and pains with no obvious physical cause
  • I am moving very slowly
  • I am using more tobacco, alcohol or other drugs than usual
Do you tick 5 of these off? Many people can.

Some people can and then relate them to direct things happening in their life at that moment in time. For some people, it's a cope-able situation if there is a finite time limit to these feelings, but for some there is no end to how long these feelings can go on. When these feelings start getting in the way of life, making every day life harder and less worthwhile then a person needs help. In these cases, people need understanding, empathy and the right treatment and/or medication.

There is a feeling from the older generations (often because that was the way they were brought up) that the sufferer just needs to 'pull themselves together' or 'stop feeling sorry for themselves' or 'just get on with life'. Also the phrase 'you have a good life/family/partner/job so what have you got to be depressed about' can come up.

The thing is that there are so many causes of depression. So many people just get on with life whilst they suffer underneath. I know that both myself and KP fall into those categories. I have suffered on and off depression since my early teens and the worst thing about it is some of my closest friends and family were and are unsympathetic of it.

Depression does not just make you feel 'down' or 'sorry' for yourself. It's the way it affects you physically especially the amount of sleep, headaches and increase/decrease in appetite. It's the way you can't seem to see the point in doing anything or the things you once loved doing you now just can't be bothered with. Most of all it's the way you land up feeling so isolated and alone.

I know in the past when I've been really depressed the only way of explaining it is the feeling of being down a huge black hole, with steep slippery sides, that you can't climb out of. It's the waiting for someone or something (medication normally) drops down the rope to help you climb out. the thing is I'm useless at climbing ropes and every so often I get a few meters up that hole before I slip backwards a few foot. It's not fast progress but slowly the light at the top of the hole gets bigger and brighter, your inner core begins to flood with hope that sometime soon you might make it to the top, and when you do you'll deal with what meets you there.

How can you help someone who is depressed?

You can just be there. That doesn't mean pestering them for answers, but just making that person you are there to listen, to support and willing to try to understand. You can offer physical support whether that be  a hug, or offering to look after the children for a night so they can have that much needed night off. Most of all be open. You might not like all you may hear, but you are a very important part of the process of healing for that person. 

You many well be their anchor in stormy seas.


How do you get through to people...

So having blogged yesterday about statistical things to do with GGUK and Scouting UK, I tweeted lots of them!

I got re-tweeted by another local region (the next door region to myself) which was good!!

But I still would love to hit the rest of them over the head!! So more thoughts and stats coming up...

So, why do I think educating other leaders, adults, so important?

It's not something I've really gone into. I've been at the hands of the NHS system for a good while now, including the mental health system. I know that a lot of people just 'don't get' mental health problems, more often than not because they've just not been there. That is also the case of leaders in both organisations. I know there is a proportion of them who have, like myself, experience first hand the joys of the ineptitude of the UK's NHS mental health system. The problem is when those of who know what it's like don't really want to proclaim it too loudly as we often meet the 'I just don't get it' group...

The thing is we can't hide forever, there has been a huge advertising campaign on the TV in the last year here in the UK on mental health and how it's 'time to change' and the need to 'end mental health discrimination'. Well it's worked to a point people are more willing to talk about mental health, but it's still very much skimmed over the surface where possible.

I know for fact that there is very little training overall on the mental well being for GGUKs members, that's girls between 6-25 plus adult leaders. Yes, there are policies, resources and online-guidance. But at no point are you ever given proper training including 'good-practice guide-lines' or a pointers sheet with real things to look out for.

The reason that leaders in groups like GGUK and Scouting UK need to be educated is simple. If you don't know exactly what to look for, then what good can you do for a child's mental well-being.

Many organisations forget that children are just as susceptible to mental health problems. In fact Young Minds collated statistics from a variety of research studies in the last 10 years showing that:

  • 9.6% of children and young people between 5-16 years have a mental disorder
  • 7.7% of children aged 5-10 years have a mental disorder
  • 11.5% of young people aged between 11-16 years have a mental disorder
How about these ones for a statistic then?
  • 0.9% of children and young people are seriously depressed
  • 0.2% of 5-10 year-olds are seriously depressed
  • 1.4% of 11-16 year-olds are seriously depressed
  • 2.2% of 16-24 year-olds have experienced a depressive episode
  • Between 1 in 12 and 1 in 15 children and young people deliberately self harm.
  • The increase in children and young people being admitted to hospital in the last 10 years is 68%
  • 8.9% of 16-24 year-olds have self-harmed
  • 6.2% of 16-24 year-olds have attempted suicide in their lifetime
  • And finally in 2011, 194 15-19 year-olds and 427 20-24year-olds have committed suicide
It's pretty grim really isn't it? 

Perhaps if those in a leadership role to do with child and young adult groups knew more, we could all help create a more secure safety net that those with mental health disorders felt safe with we could start open discussions that may help alleviate some of these statistics... 

As always please tweet, facebook or email the groups you would like to see 'get this'. If you feel that you would like to help keep hitting organisations on the head with the statistics and my thinkings please re-tweet them to your local areas, but I ask if you can to re-tweet them to these one's in particular:
@Girlguiding, @UKScouting @wagggs_world and my local regions @GuidingLaSER @GuidingSussexE


Scouts and Guides facts and figures

Continuing on from yesterday, I had an email from the lovely S who I will be meeting on Friday in sunny (I can be optimistic!!) Guildford. She has a D currently IP for AN and is having a hard time of it, her younger daughter is part of the Scouting movement and is in Cubs (aged 8-10 1/2 years old) and she thinks maybe Scouts need a training dose on eating disorders and the such like too! Maybe KP and I will just take on the lot, you know in for a penny...in for a pound...

I probably should explain to my non-UK readers, that Girl Guiding over here is part of WAGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Scouts) so your equivalent may be Girl Scouts or something along that line, Scouts in the UK is now mixed gender.

I also know I have some readers who don't know tonnes about eating disorders. So I just thought I'd do a swift low down on EDs and a generic description of each. If you want more information I would direct you to B-eat.

  • Anorexia Nervousa (AN) - involves lowering food intake by skipping meals and limiting food groups and amount of food you intake. Over-exercising or compulsive exercising is often prevalent
  • Bulimia Nervousa (BN) - very much a cycling illness, starting by eating a very large amount of food, making yourself sick, cutting down/starving for a few days post intake, or thinking of other ways to make up for the huge intake - then beginning again.
  • Binge Eating Disorder (BED) - normally involves eating a very large amount of food over a short time, but unlike BN the person won't get rid of the food. 
  • EDNOS - Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. EDs are complex and EDNOS often used where a person show a variation to more specific ED diagnosis'.

I went hunting for some fairly recent figures to do a brief breakdown of figures, and actually what I worked out and discovered for UK Guiding and Scouting groups really does shock me.

The Girl Guiding figures really made me think, KP and I run a fairly small pack, but this time last year we had 25 girls, so the likelihood is one of them would have developed Bulimia, and it is also quite likely we would have one who would go on to develop anorexia. I find that quite sad and quite worrying. I then look at some of the bigger local packs and our Divisional area and start realising the reality of those numbers....very sad to think about

So Scouting has the following facts and figures (taken from the 2012 membership publication):
Beavers Scouts (6-8yrs)        Boys - 100,452      Girls - 16,291        Total - 116, 743
Cub Scouts (8 - 10 1/2 yrs)   Boys  - 126,683     Girls - 21,300        Total - 147,983
Scouts (10 1/2 - 14yrs)          Boys - 97,750       Girls - 23,624        Total - 121,374
Explorer Scouts (14-18yrs)    Boys - 27,971       Girls - 10,830        Total - 38,801
                                              Boys - 352,838     Girls - 72,063        Total - 424,901

So if we go with yesterday's facts and figures:
  • 1 in 25 females in the UK suffer from Bulimia

In Scouting that means the number of female members standing a chance of suffering Bulimia that number is:

288 girls under 18

  • 1 in 1000 boys aged 15 are diagnosed with Anorexia each year
  • 1 in 150 girls aged 15 are diagnosed with Anorexia each year
  • Around 20% of Anorexia sufferers die prematurely because of direct links with their illness

As I don't have full figures for each age bracket I will go with a prospective number taking into consideration of the overall totals of boys and girls.
353 boys could suffer anorexia
480 girls could suffer anorexia

of this number 167 under 18s could die.

Girl Guiding UK's 2012 Impact Report states that it has a total of 546,406.

So if we go with yesterday's facts and figures:

  • 1 in 25 females in the UK suffer from Bulima

In Girl Guiding UK that means the number of members standing a chance of suffering Bulima that number is:

2186 girls under 18

  • 1 in 150 girls aged 15 are diagnosed with Anorexia each year
  • Around 20% of Anorexia sufferers die prematurely because of direct links with their illness

In Girl Guiding UK the number of members standing a chance of suffering Anorexia that number is:
3642 girls could suffer anorexia 
(number estimated as lack of breakdown)

of this number 728 girls could die.

Buttons buttons and more gadgets

So I got told to add some buttons so please note them on the right hand side.

Especially for Charlotte I have added the Share it button!! So, now you can all share.

For a totally different reason I've added the Charlotte's Helix Button (same Charlotte as above tho) - please do go view the page for more info, it's a brilliant initiative looking at funding at least 1,000 genetic samples to the world wide database looking particularly at Anorexia Nervousa.

I'll get the hang of this blogging think eventually. Keep telling me of things I should or could do and I'll explore more!!


New person, New blog, New topics....?

Well I guess that's the theory, but perhaps not.

My name is Liz, I'm a little bit crazy, a little bit special and a lot of bits caring. Perhaps too much caring.

I live in South London, and see all the joys of the world pass by regularly.

But I want to use this blog to reach out a bit, especially after delving into the darker side of mental health an all it's joyous NHS workings....

So firstly, the reason this has come about is that my partner KP has three lovely children.

Her eldest daughter, M, has Restrictive Anorexia Nervousa, RAN for short. She is well into year three of being diagnosed (plus the rest before diagnosis). Much of it has been spent inpatient in various child and adolescent facilities, some specialising in eating disorders some not. She has also recently been diagnosed with border line personality disorder and severe depression. So it's complex to say the least.

For those of you who haven't really met an eating disorder (ED), it causes chaos to normal family life. Meal times become hell, become a battle of wills, screaming matches, food flying, obstinate sullen silences or worse broken sobbing.

We all associate meal times with sitting with our families round the table, chatting and enjoying each other's company at least a few time a week. but when you have a child with an ED it gets to a point when you have a stranger round the table, a person who looks like your child, sounds like your child, but isn't your child, because when they speak it is like something has taken over and your child has a demon inside them. In fact when you talk to families who have a child with an ED they will often refer to the ED itself as the uninvited house guest.

So why am I blogging about mental health and in particular eating disorders today?

I belong to Girl Guiding UK, I am a Brownie Leader and I love my Brownie pack, and recently there was a huge consultation about the Promise. Consequently the promise wording has changed and we had to have a little bit of update training. Fine, lovely and it was a great night of insights, both good and bad.

One of the activities we did in this evening was to look at scenarios and the question was 'What should you do?' as in what is right to do. Sods law the one I pull out is a scenario with eating disorders (scenario being: Your friend has suddenly started to eat a lot less and looks thinner, should you let her parents or another adult know)....out of all the cards! However, the discussion that ensued was an interesting one. In a room of around 25 leaders not one of them knew what you should do in this situation.

It was a real eye opener, lots of comments, lots of assumptions, lots of negative thoughts over the topic of EDs. The biggest thing that hit me though was the lack of knowing where to turn, who to ask questions of, what to do. There is a wealth of information out there, but it is as everything, it is knowing where to find it.

First, to knock some Eating Disorder assumptions vs facts on the head first:

  • 'You can't be cured from an eating disorder' - YES you can, but it's not an overnight thing, or next week, or next month. We call it recovery. It takes 5 to 8 years of no behaviours to be considered recovered.
    • In fact a study showed around 46% of Anorexia patients fully recover (Steinhausen 2002) and around 45% of Bulimia sufferes fully recover (Steinhausen &Weber, 2009).
  • An eating disorder can be diagnosed in children as young as 6.
    • It presents very differently between children and adolescents.
  • In August 2011, figures were recorded from 35 Uk NHS Trusts finding that over three years 600 children under the age of 13 needed treatment intervention for an eating disorder, of this number 98 were aged 5-7 (Rainbow age) and 99 were aged 8-9 (Brownie age). from The Gardian
  • 1 in 150 girls aged 15 are diagnosed with Anorexia each year
  • 1 in 1000 boys aged 15 are diagnosed with Anorexia each year
  • 1 in 25 females in the UK suffer from Bulimia
  • Around 20% of Anorxia sufferers die prematurely  because of direct links with their illness
As a Guiding leader I have applied to become a trainer because I find it very hard that other leaders do not know what to look for let alone where to go for information. 

I want them...no correct that, I NEED them to know where to go what to do.

So, I would like to challenge other leaders within Girl Guiding - Do you know what to do?

Some thing I found from B-eat perhaps something to think about challenging your girls with?

SCOFF Questionnaire:

Do you ever make yourself Sick because you feel uncomfortably full?

Do you worry you have lost Control over how much you eat?

Have you recently lost more than One stone in a three month period?

Do you believe yourself to be Fat when others say you are too thin?

Would you say that Food dominates your life?