Thursday 30 October 2014

Mission Impossible

I will miss many things of course about my time at Hafal, not least the regular trips to N Wales including the valuable meetings of local managers and Trustees designed to ensure that this end of Wales doesn't get neglected in Hafal's thinking about policy and services.

This was my last such meeting and it met or exceeded the usual high standard. It was rewarding to reflect on the success and continuing legacy of Let's Get Physical! and also to discuss early ideas on our plans for the next three years, especially our ambition to reach out to many more people with a serious mental illness and to address the problems of loneliness and isolation - huge needs which can and will be addressed decisively because our members and staff will work together to succeed.

I reflect that as I alight from the Hafal campervan it moves forward with assurance on its mission...

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Unsexy And Politically Incorrect

Hafal bows to nobody on our record of promoting an holistic approach to recovery from mental illness. Witness the success of Let's Get Physical! this year and a dozen previous initiatives, not least our successful campaign to ensure that Care and Treatment Plans prescribed under the Mental Health Measure require attention to eight "life areas". Plenty of people talk holistic but we walk the walk.

Plenty of people also bang on rightly about psychological therapies but not many have anything to say about the unsexy and borderline politically incorrect topic of medication, other than to try to push it out of sight as part of a "medical model" of mental health, a stale old argument which never took account of patients and families who are keen to consider all forms of treatment and don't for the most part bring ideology to the doctor's surgery - they just want what works and for serious mental illnesses that may well be a mix of both psychological and medical treatments.

One of the consequences of the hostility to medication (from busybodies not patients) was an argument that medication should not be a distinct category - alongside psychological therapies - in Care and Treatment Plans because (the politically correct people said) that would dignify medication too much.

The result was that the two types of treatment were lumped together and consequently (surprise surprise) psychological therapies were marginalised because it is easy to fill in the treatments "box" with details of medication only, as we warned all along.

Incidentally the Welsh Code of Practice under the Mental Health Act does distinguish the two types of treatment - because back then the hand-wringers didn't notice Hafal's influence on the Code until after it was settled. It's now being revised and may therefore change to reflect the Measure - which would be consistent but unfortunate.

Now, as part of our campaigning to promote choice and quality in treatments for mental illness, we have launched a new guide to treatments designed to give service users and carers key information on both psychological therapies and medication. See the guide on this link.

Hafal's 2014 treatments campaign is supported by Bipolar UK, Diverse Cymru and the Mental Health Foundation and aims to empower people with a serious mental illness in Wales and their carers to have their say on the services they receive – and to make an informed choice about their care and treatment.

The new guide includes an overview of the full range of treatments for serious mental illness including:

• In-depth psychotherapy
• Counselling
• Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT)
• Hypnotherapy
• Antipsychotics
• Mood Stabilizers
• Antidepressants
• "Complementary" Medicines.


For the record everybody agrees that in fact Hafal is very sexy (camper van and all) and always politically correct (in the literal sense).

And check out Hafal's sexy new website here: it not only looks good but tells it how it is and is never politically correct (in the pejorative sense).

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Ultra Trendy

Back from an interesting break in London, taking in an expensive show ("Shakespeare in Love" - see above) and some modest-priced attractions which were arguably more memorable.

I enjoyed Dr Johnson's House in Gough Square. He might not have approved of the dressing-up box in what was his parlour but I wasn't going to let that go...

You may think the white daps are a bit out of place but I'm sure Dr J would have worn them to alleviate his gout just as I do. Incidentally wearing a hat indoors was correct then and only discarded in informal or intimate company. I am a bit of an expert on such things having recently read Liza Picard's Dr Johnson's London: Everyday Life in London in the Mid 18th Century which is full of interesting facts if oddly written (why tell us she doesn't like James Boswell? I don't care whether she does or not).

It was touching to see the statue of Johnson's cat Hodge out in the square. Apparently Hodge will also talk to you if you fiddle about with your fancy phone but we preferred to recollect how Johnson bought him oysters - a modest foodstuff in those days - I wouldn't give oysters to my cats now they £1 each on Swansea market - but I'm sure Hodge enjoyed them.

Johnson sensitively bought the oysters himself because he didn't want his servants to hate the cat as a result of doing that chore. Voltaire would never have thought of that.

A little further East there is St Martin's Ludgate, a Wren church which survived the Luftwaffe along with St Paul's 200 yards further on. It has special a holder to leave your sword in when attending a service which seems sensible.

Much further East up the Docklands Light Railway, and better even than the London Eye, is the new Emirates Airline cable car over the river. Apparently, I was told later, it had something to do with the dreaded Olympics so it's good to see there was some worthwhile legacy from the multi-billion pound fleecing of taxpayers, the Lottery etc for that infamous one week event for overpaid professional athletes whenever that was...

More James Bond-style travel by catamaran to the South Bank where we take in the work of ultra-trendy artist Richard Tuttle in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern...

He has titled his piece "I don't know" which is disarming, brave, or unwise depending on your viewpoint. I looked at it from various angles...

..and indeed I concluded that "I don't know" although I do know that I was glad I didn't pay to see it (Mrs Blog even grudged walking 100 yards from the river-bank to take a look).

Faintly more interesting is this...

...the anti-submarine warship HMS President (1918) painted up in "Dazzle" camouflage by German artist Tobias Rehberger as part of the commemoration of the First World War.

Is camouflage art? "I don't know".

Monday 13 October 2014

Kwang Do Attitude

And I thought salsa was a piquant sauce to dip prawns in...

Our Let's Get Physical! 2014 national campaign reached its climax last Friday at an event held in St Fagans, Cardiff to mark World Mental Health Day. The event was attended by Health Minister Mark Drakeford AM and Kevin Brennan MP as well as service users and carers from across Wales, and saw the launch of:-

• A new Let's Get Physical! guide for mental health services on how to promote physical health, based on the experiences and insights of hundreds of service users and carers across Wales

• A new Let's Get Physical! website for mental health services providing tools and information on promoting physical health

• A Let's Get Physical! Report giving an overview of the campaign's many achievements.

Visitors at the event had the opportunity to watch live demonstrations on how to prepare hearty and nutritious meals on a budget; get a physical health check from a qualified healthcare professional in the Mobile Health Centre; have a go at spinning, Choi Kwang Do, salsa dancing and table tennis, and meet mental health service users, carers and professionals from across Wales.

The 2014 campaign was led by people with a serious mental illness and carers, and supported by mental health charities Hafal, Bipolar UK and the Mental Health Foundation; Diverse Cymru helped to ensure the campaign reached out to minority and disadvantaged communities.

During Summer 2014 the campaign engaged thousands of people across the 22 counties of Wales in 2014 including:

• Over 3000 service users and carers using Hafal and Bipolar UK services who took part in local Let's Get Physical! activities run through our projects across Wales

• Many thousands of people who attended the 22 local events covering all the counties of Wales, the launch of the campaign by Health and Social Services Minister Mark Drakeford at the Assembly, and the Royal Welsh Show event

• Tens of thousands of people who followed and interacted with the campaign via the online social media channels of Hafal, the Mental Health Foundation, Bipolar UK and Diverse Cymru

• The 65,000 unique visitors who visited Hafal’s websites - including the dedicated 'Let's Get Physical!' website - and saw coverage of the campaign in the local and national media.

As a result, service users and carers across Wales are now much better equipped to improve their physical health - and mental health services are better equipped to support service users and carers to achieve their physical health goals.

Participants scored the effectiveness of the campaign (out of 10) as follows:

• In supporting them be more physically active – average score 9.4

• In supporting them improve their diet – average score 8.9

• In supporting them to get the right support from their GP to stay physically well – average score 8.5

Junaid Iqbal, a member of the campaign's Service User and Carer Panel, tells us: "What we’ve been doing, and what we will continue to do in the coming years, is to take the side of the users of mental health services and empower them to engage fully with those services.

"We're promoting co-production - where services and service users work together in partnership in an equal relationship to achieve the very best outcome."


But while we are about it - try this Welsh salsa recipe...

Mix together:-

4 large tomatoes, diced quite carefully into quarter inch cubes

½ medium red onion, ditto

½ leek, ditto (this is the Welsh bit)

1 fresh green chilli, deseeded, very finely chopped

1 handful fresh coriander, evenly but not finely chopped

juice of 1 lime

salt and black pepper to taste

Note: careful chopping matters in this otherwise easy dish - you want a nice, even and differentiated look, not a sludge. This is more like a salad or relish than a sauce - fantastic with anything from steaks to fish to cold meat. Best served after leaving one hour.

Friday 3 October 2014


Today Let's Get Physical! reached Neath Port Talbot at an event which included a healthy eating buffet, a zumba exercise class - and a Wii Fit competition.

I had a go on on a Wii boxing game in the office a year or two back - good fun but it strained my arms somewhat as I punched into thin air - instead of connecting satisfactorily with somebody's face I suppose?

Visitors at today's event also had the opportunity to get key health checks in the Mobile Health Centre which has journeyed to all 22 counties of Wales during the summer.

Alison Guyatt, Hafal's Recovery Centre Manager and a registered nurse, said: "We developed the Mobile Health Centre to raise awareness of the range of physical health checks that people recovering from serious mental illness - and their carers - can access through their GP and Primary Care Team.

"Our Let's Get Physical! nurses have been travelling across Wales and providing visitors at our 22 county events with the opportunity to have their blood pressure checked, their weight and height recorded and have a basic blood glucose check carried out.

"The message is simple: people with a mental illness and their carers should receive the right support from health professionals to stay physically healthy as well as mentally healthy - and it's something that we all have to work together to achieve."

Over 300 people have received a physical health check from the Mobile Health Centre during the campaign. While the results of these health checks remain private to individuals, overall findings indicate that:

• 18% of people were found to have above threshold blood pressure

• 47% of people were found to have above threshold blood glucose levels

• 10% of people were found to have both above threshold blood pressure and blood glucose levels.

People who were found to have above threshold blood pressure or blood glucose levels were strongly advised to make an early appointment with their GP, and further support is being offered to service users or carers through each of Hafal’s local projects.

Morgan Williams, a service user from Neath Port Talbot, said: "I think the Mobile Health Centre was a great way of getting people to know about the key checks they should be getting from their local surgery. The campaign has shown that people with a mental illness and their carers have physical health concerns which need to be addressed on a regular basis. The Mobile Health Centre delivered a really friendly service and it gave us a record which we can take with us to our GP."

Let's Get Physical! sets a challenge – both to service users and carers, and to service providers and policy makers – to radically improve the physical health of people with a mental illness and their carers. The campaign is supported by mental health charities Hafal, Bipolar UK and the Mental Health Foundation; Diverse Cymru helps us to ensure that the campaign reaches out to minority and disadvantaged communities. The campaign was launched by Health Minister Mark Drakeford AM in May and includes 22 events covering all the counties of Wales.


Meanwhile on the window sills of the Blog household there is increasing divergence between those who take the Let's Get Physical! message on board...

Rhys about to leap 12 feet onto the pavement

and those who do not...

Huw (aka "Huge" by virtue of his indolence and consequent great weight) not going anywhere