Welcome to the blog for Free Your Mind mental health anti-stigma campaign

This is the blog for the Free Your Mind campaign which aims to battle stigma towards mental illness through the use of music, art, film, and culture.
The blog consists of informative and, hopefully, entertaining articles/posts.
Enjoy! :-)

Thursday, 22 December 2011

End-of-Year post: Free Your Mind in 2011

First-things-first: Thank you for continuing to support FYM!!! :-D

It has been a long year for the Free Your Mind campaign, and myself (N.E.); but we (FYM) are very excited about continuing to move forward in 2012!

During March and April FYM took part in an online "book-club" discussion, on Twitter and Facebook, with All-Walks - "an initiative founded by Caryn Franklin, Debra Bourne and Erin O'Connor working... to celebrate more diversity within the fashion industry" - in which we discussed Bodies by Susie Orbach.
Previous blog post: 'All-Walks Book Club.'

At the beginning of April 2011 FYM collaborated with Imagine-mental health charity's Croydon branch to hold an art exhibition, called 'Broken Paths', at Fairfield Halls (Croydon).
Previous blog posts:
pre-BrokenPaths promo: 'Upcoming art exhibition...'

I also posted a follow-up entry to this blog after the exhibition about some of my thoughts and ideas on how Free Your Mind can progress forward: 'FYM took part in first public event in April this year...'

Nicola E. (me, :-D) was sectioned twice this year; first in April, and then again in November - but despite the lack of quantity of posts on this blog, I am always trying to improve the quality of the content delivered by both FYM and myself.

I decided to start-up Free Your Mind after feeling I was being abused by nurses on a psychiatric ward who were prejudiced towards people with mental illnesses(!); and, during that particular stay in hospital I was arrested and charged with criminal damage (to hospital property) and alleged assault charges (pressed by nurses on the ward).

In October 2011 I appeared in court facing the above charges - after I returned from court I posted an entry to my Tumblr blog about what happened and my thoughts on the experience.

So, we end 2011 and move forward into 2012 - and at FYM we are grateful for all your support, and we look forward to you continuing to join us on this campaign's journey. :-D - Thank you!

Free Your Mind wishes you 
happy holiday cheer 
and all the best for the next coming year.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Drug Addiction and Stigma (+ my experiences with both)

Drug addiction is an illness, which can – often, but certainly not always – accompany other mental illnesses; particularly those mental health conditions associated with impulsivity, such as my own diagnosis of BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder).

Drug addiction comes attached with its own batch of stigma; and, often, when a person is struggling with addiction, this can be perceived by others – particularly those who know of their addiction - as their one and only defining feature, for which they can be demonised for.

Common perception of a drug addict is that of that of a person whom is ‘immoral’ and 'a danger to society’; and, although, some may turn to crime to feed a habit, the image of the “immoral addict” is – in most cases – untrue, with its basis in prejudice.

Drug addiction is generally highly stigmatised due to the (mistaken) perception that, not only is an addict dangerous, but that they are the ones responsible for their problems - i.e. their addiction is self-inflicted.

But this stigmatisation is damaging; and, it is a large factor in contributing towards a person hiding their addiction, as well as keeping them in denial.

I’d like to take you back for a moment to FYM’s previous blog post in which I wrote about my most recent stay on a psychiatric ward, where I felt I’d been “over-medicated” and felt angry at the drug therapy I received whilst in hospital.

I didn’t, however, make it clear in my last blog post that this anger stemmed from my own ongoing struggles with drug addiction (and my addictions in general; self-harm included), and from my feelings that compliance with some of the (compulsory) medication is detrimental  to the likelihood of me making a successful recovery.

My appearance has become dishevelled of late, my skin is pale, and my eyes appear heavy; ongoing life-problems and mental health problems have taken their toll and it shows in my appearance.

Most of the prescribed medication makes my pupils dilate – so, although, it is apparent I am “on” a drug, it would be impossible to know which one - which sends out the image associated with the perception of the “immoral addict”, particularly to those who do not know me.  (The dilation of my pupils are due to compliance with medication; although, I have now requested to not be prescribed any addictive or dependency inducing drugs.)

However, this perceived image of me could not be further from the truth. And, the stigma displayed by strangers on the street – passers-by who pre-judge and making discriminatory comments – seems to be more persistent and is affecting me more than usual at this period when I am most sensitive.

Despite my ongoing struggles with addiction it is by no means a defining characteristic – everyday is a continuing battle with addiction, one in which I will persevere in fighting – but,  as I have written about previously on this blog, my illness does not define me.

Drug addiction is highly stigmatised due to a number of reasons, including, the taboos surrounding drugs and drug use, the perception that a drug addict is immoral, and the perception that a drug addict is responsible for their own plight.

But, like all stigma, the stigmatisation of drug addiction is damaging. Demonising a person purely on the basis of their illness seems thoughtless, and can cause hurt and pain to a person whom is already suffering.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

A Long Weekend on a Psychiatric Ward: which left me feeling over-medicated.

Hello - I am back and blogging!

Nicola Edwards
As you may have seen on FYM's previous post I (Nicola E.) was sectioned, again, for the 6th time.

I have been sectioned once previously since launching this blog; but, I have not spoken about my experiences of that time.

My reason for this is that although I do have something to say based on my experiences during that time, I am still working on how it would be best to express my opinions.

This most recent sectioning, however, was the shortest amount of time I have stayed under a section whilst on a psychiatric ward.

It was a long weekend, but one which left me feeling over-medicated.

I wrote notes in a diary during that weekend about the treatment I was receiving on the ward.

The following is an account of the weekend; edited and compiled using notes from that diary.

I remained on the ward and, on a Section 2, from the 3rd-November-2011, to the 7th-November-2011

Quote from diary:
This (long) weekend has felt like a (cliched) POV rave scene from a drug movie... [sic]
[one in which] the protagonist is [stumbling] around being offered all kinds of illicit substances; but, instead of dealers around every corner, [instead] there were nurses with pills and injections. [sic]

Thursday; 3-Nov.-2011.
I was given two (2) Lorazepam almost immediately after my arrival to the psychiatric ward - which the staff on the ward felt I needed.

I asked for a "sleeping aid" that same evening, and I received two (2) Promethazine and one (1) Zopiclone.

I feel asleep that night, but did not wake up until late the following evening.

Friday; 4-Nov-2011.
Shortly after waking - and once having eaten a couple of slices of toast - I requested the same medication they had administered the night before in order to help with my sleep.

Saturday; 5-Nov.-2011.
For reasons, which I honestly cannot remember (although it is possible that I could have been ranting and raving; in other words, shouting and making a lot of noise ), I was forcibly medicated that same Saturday evening.

Quote From Diary:

My head was held back, and both pills [2 Lorazepam] and water were forced down my throat...
...which I did swallow - although I did feel reluctant in doing so.
After swallowing ALL of the tablets I had been given. The restraining nurses falsely accused me of not taking [the] medication; they, therefore, held me down for an injection (its is unknown to me what medication they had administered with the syringe). [sic]

I was asleep/unconscious/knocked out after receiving the injection.

I will be frank with you; my recollections/memories of the events during this period are "fuzzy" and disjointed.

Sunday; 6-Nov.-2011
I woke up shortly before midday on Sunday.

Not long after midday, however, I fell into an argument with a fellow patient, whom I believed, judging from from her behaviour, was prepared to say anything to try and push my buttons,

I took myself away from this patient, in order to avoid a fight; so I moved myself into the hospital ward's "courtyard" to smoke a cigarette.

Unfortunately, I was still full of anger; which was probably due to myself becoming oversensitive with her words, and then found myself dwelling too much on the (offensive) things that had been said to myself.

So, I inevitably got wound up and was no longer able to keep my cool; and, I ended up releasing my anger onto a couple of wall flower baskets, by kicking them both and then watching each basket fall to the floor.

Following the above incident, I was administered two Lorazepam.

Later on that day, in the mid-afternoon, I was admittedly rather bored; so, as a way of cheering myself up and to alleviate my boredom

Quote from Diary

...with Magic FM loudly playing on the psychiatric ward's radio - I jumped up onto the table to sing,
"I want to break free!"
It was spontaneous of me, but it [worked] as a release; and soon after I'd sung along to those five words to the song being played, I leaped down off of that coffee table. [sic]

Upon leaping from the table, I was approached by a nurse, who told me she felt that I needed PRN - I was given two more Lorazepam.

Monday; 7-Nov.-2011.
I'd not long been dressed and out of bed on that Monday morning; but, as I was walking from one part of the ward to another, I was stopped by a nurse who was stood inside the clinical room with its hatch open. The nurse offered me two Promethazine - which I initially (kindly) declined, as .I felt that I did not need the medication at that moment in time.

But the Clinical Nurse insisted I needed the medication to calm me down. However, I was calm (wasn't shouting or being aggressive) and, it was for this reason that I decided to comply with the medication which was currently on offer.

Later on, that same day; I attended a "ward round" meeting, with the ward Psychiatrist. It was at this meeting I was taken  off a Section and informally discharged.

It took a couple of days after returning home to overcome my fuzzy-medication-head and stop feeling so spaced-out.

I find it hard to believe that all of the medication I received over the "long weekend" were in-fact necessary. I genuinely felt like I was over-medicated.

"Part Two" of this post can be found here - Part 2 is an explanation of why I feel angry at the way I felt I was 'over-medicated'. ~ 03/12/2011.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Free Your Mind is away (again) as Nicola E. has been sectioned.

Once again, I have been sectioned as punishment for not pursuing help (in the form of therapy or counselling) following a serious sexual assault in 2009.

My father [name omitted] believes having me sectioned is the way to having control over my actions. He uses it as a form of punishment... -Nicola Edwards

Thank you for continuing to support FYM. We will be back soon (I hope!).

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Being arrested on a psych.ward + my thoughts on these events. (link to Tumblr post)

I founded Free Your Mind in 2010 after feeling I was being abused during my time on psychiatric wards.

In early 2010 I was arrested whilst on a psychiatric ward, and on the 3rd October 2011 I faced the charges in court.

That same evening, with the charges out of the way, I posted a blog to Tumblr about my experience and my thoughts on the events:
My experience of being arrested whilst on a psychiatric ward + my thoughts on the events which followed.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Creative Expression on Tumblr

This is another short blog post featuring external links - similar to this blog's previous post.

The following links are to my personal Tumblr, which I often use as a host for both personal and creative expression.

Hopefully, this may give you a chance to get to know a little about the "face" behind Free Your Mind (one of the faces anyway), and also why this blog has been lacking in posts of late.

Thank you for supporting Free Your Mind!
Nicola Edwards (Founder of FYM)

Watching 'Get Him to the Greek' and triggers... (Posted to Tumblr 26/09/2011)

Drew this to encapsulate how I've been feeling recently (Posted to Tumblr 30/08/2011)

Feeling disconnected (Posted to Tumblr 30/08/2011)

A poem written by myself in 2008 (Posted to Tumblr 12/07/2011)

Honesty through creativity (creative-personal Tumblog)

Take care!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Free Your Mind with these links! (FYM making it up to you for the lack of posts!)

Due to an extremely hectic schedule, I have been, and I still am, unable to blog as much as I usually would. Hopefully, the links bellow will make up for the shortage of blog posts. :)

At the top of my agenda, however, has been the expansion of Free Your Mind from more than a blog into a recognisable campaign that can make a difference and open people's minds to mental illness, and raise awareness of the issues, and debates, surrounding mental illness.

But, before that, this... Thank You!
Since this mental health anti-stigma campaign (and blog) launched in July 2010, the support FYM has received has been immense. Without your support, I'm certain there would have been times when I probably would have felt there was no longer any point, and I may have given up; but(!) this didn't happen because I had your support, and I am so grateful for that. Thank you all for all of your support and thank you for continuing to support Free Your Mind.

The following link is to the blog of Michael 'Frost' Williamson, a great friend and supporter of FYM since it's very beginnings. Michael is a professional stylist and designer working within the fashion industry. His portfolio of work includes working for All-Walks a campaign aimed at promoting a healthy body image in the fashion industry. Michael has long blogged about his exciting career in fashion, and he now has a vlog where he shares his invaluable fashion advice and styling tricks (available to watch on his safety-pin-charm blog, hosted on YouTube).

This next link is for the emotional, touching and inspirational vlog by Lucy a.k.a LoopzCreate (on YouTube). She speaks from the heart, so please watch her videos, and show my girl some love! :)

My next link is for Voices for Awareness which is blog written my a male in his twenties, writing about his experience with manic depression, self- harm, and the issues that come with having a mental health disorder. Voices for Awareness is also on Tumblr.

Another fantastic and honest blogger on Tumblr is 'Skylar'; a female in her twenties, blogging about mental illness, addiction, and her road to recovery.

Personal recommendations:
Caroline C. Kimberley is a fantastic artist from Yorkshire, loves rock music and is a huge The League of Gentlemen fan. Check out her artwork here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.  <--All links here are to separate pages/blogs.

Free Your Mind can also be found online at Facebook and on Twitter.

Some great people to follow on Twitter:
Michael 'Frost' Williamson - @mwfrost
Lucy (LoopzCreate) - @loopysos
Caroline C. Kimberley- @CCKimberley
Me(!)Nicola Edwards - @TitchBNikkiE (changed Twitter username Feb. 2012)

Friday, 22 July 2011

Self Harm and its Associated Stigma

The last blog post was about suicide and its associated stigma, and how damaging this stigma can be. Although this post will be in a similar vein, I will try to keep it fresh and avoid repetition.

In the same way that suicide is not about seeking attention. Self-harm is also not an attention-seeking act.

In most cases, self-harm is about externalising internal pain, i.e. making internal pain, external.

There may be specific aspects to the act of harming oneself which make the internal, external, such as; the distraction of physical pain, the feeling of power and control over body (and, consequently, mind), or, a way of punishing oneself, and often with associations to the pain which are unique to that person. There are many reasons why someone might harm themselves, but, most of the time at the core of the reasoning, self-harm is about making emotional and/or mental pain, physical on the outer body.

Self-harm is not a shameful or hurtful act, if anything, it is an act of expression. And, despite the visibility of scars and wounds, it is mostly a private and personal expression of pain.

The prejudiced and ignorant culture of calling people "emo", along with various other terms used in derogatory ways in conjunction with those who self-harm, is frankly ridiculous. For starters, self-harming is not a new thing. And, neither is associating self-harm with a group of "misfits" or "outcasts" of society; before rock music, poets were the associated group - this stigma is old-hat.

The stigma is stale and boring, and so is the ignorance and prejudice that comes with it.

For the sake of not re-walking the same ground covered in my previous Free Your Mind blog post, I will keep this short and sweet. So; to summarise, self-harming is not an attention seeking act, or a shameful act; and for people to associate stigma with self-harm is nothing but prejudice and ignorance.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Suicide and its Associated Stigma

I struggle with suicidal thoughts on a regular basis.

However, the factors stopping me from successfully killing myself are; firstly, I'm scared of messing it up - damaging my brain as one example, immobility as another -. or, I might at least (as has happened before) make myself extremely ill (vomiting, diarrhea, etc. ...not good..). And; secondly, with all the ongoing goals and projects I have personally set up for myself to complete in this lifetime - the thought of not completing these always pulls me back from the edge.

Don't get me wrong, I have so much love for all my close friends and family - and I genuinely couldn't live without them (And these people always pass through my mind both before and during an attempt!) - but the pain caused by suicidal feelings can often override any other thoughts, feelings, or emotions.

However; I wouldn't be writing this if I hadn't always come back from the edge.

Suicide causes pain for many people; whether you are the one with suicidal feelings or you are bereaved from the loss of a loved one due to suicide.

Losing someone close to you is always hard and will affect people in different ways. Losing someone through suicide is the same. And, it is important to remember, that even if a person kills themselves, this does not mean they didn't love or care about anyone.

But when people add stigma to an already painful event such as suicide, it only causes more pain. The stigma of suicide is dangerous and destructive, and, because people are afraid to speak their true feelings when stigma is attached to suicide, lives are ruined by stigma.

The pain caused by suicidal thoughts and feelings is literally unbearable, which is why people go to such extreme lengths to end that pain. And the stigma associated with suicide only adds to that pain and it stops people from speaking up about their feelings.

Suicide is not a cowardly escape route, it is not a "cry for attention" (sorry to be blunt, but what is the logic in thinking that someone would kill themselves as a way of being "noticed" -  surely, if someone wants to be noticed, then they would also want to be around to receive any attention and adulation due to their attention seeking act).

Neither, do I believe it is a lazy or selfish  act. Suicide is not lazy or selfish.

For all the people who say 'Suicide is selfish;' I'd say to them, that I am of the opinion that it is selfish to force a person to live everyday in the pain and agony caused by suicidal thoughts and feelings (because it truly is pain and agony).

I'm not an expert with  a degree, or anything like that - but, I do have a lot of personal experience with suicide, suicidal thoughts, mental illness and the issues surrounding mental health. So, I can only offer 'suicide prevention' advice based on my own personal experiences.

Personally, I find expressing myself creatively, in whichever way that may be - creative writing, art, music, dance, drama -, is the best way to not only "get it out of me," as they say, and calm my suicidal thoughts, but it also provides a way (should I wish to use it)  for me to communicate my feelings to myself and others.

It's true, we don't always have someone to talk to, although there are services set up to help us deal with these feelings (listed below). However, it is important to remember that feelings of suicide and/or of hurting yourself are absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, and I hope you don't feel you have to be silenced by how you feel and unable to talk to anyone about your feelings.

Suicide prevention help:
Samaritans (Open 24 hrs. a day, 7 days a week): UK: 08457 90 90 90 
ROI: 1850 60 90 90   
Email: jo@samaritans.org
Health NHS direct (mental health/suicide):
0845 46 47 (local rate) 
Website: http://www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk/ > NHS Direct Mental Health FAQ

Worried someone is having thoughts of Suicide - Call PAPYRUS HOPEline:
0870 1704000

Suicidal thoughts by themselves cause extreme pain in the individual with these feelings and can also be painful for the people who love and care for that person. But these are not the sort of feelings that can just disappear over-night, even if a person seems perfectly happy, this may not be the reality. It is highly possible they could feel silenced by the stigma directed at suicide.

The way people add stigma to suicide is destructive. Stigma does not save lives - in fact, attaching stigma to suicide does quite the opposite - it ruins lives.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Contributors wanted for new posts within the Free Your Mind blog mental health blog!

....This could mean that Free Your Mind needs you!

Firstly, my apologies for the lack of posts on this blog lately. Unfortunately, this has been due to me being ill and, therefore, understaffed and unable to blog.

Secondly;Contributors are currently needed to help maintain the Free Your Mind blog.

Free Your Mind (founded by Nicola Edwards in 2010) is a mental health campaign aimed at helping to fight stigma surrounding mental illnesses, and its surrounding issues, by using combination of educating the general public against the danger of holding beliefs of stigma towards those with mental health disorders, and by showing how a mentally ill mind is often a creative mind.

Free Your Mind is determined to consistently bring you high quality blog posts, which we hope will not only inform and educate, but also entertain the reader and continue to stay in their minds even after their eyes have left the screen, However, Free Your Mind, although currently small, is growing as a non-profit organisation; and, so, the next logical step forward, is for our small team to expand - which will include a small team of Contributors with regular submissions.

We're looking for diverse range of people (as long as they are seventeen or older) who has/had experience with mental health disorders; whether it is you whom has been given a diagnosis; or, you care for a friend, loved-one, relative or client with a diagnosis; or you work in a home caring for those whom have at some point been diagnosed and are in need of 24/7 care/supervision - You could contribute!

We are looking for contributors from all walks of life; including, 'Psychiatric Survivors', 'Service Users'  those working with a MH team, Social Workers & Mental Health Professionals, Teachers & Parents, Students & School- Leavers, Patients and Outpatients. You could contribute!

We want Contributors to get across, from your unique and passionate perspective, your views and opinions on the issues and debates surrounding mental illness; and to communicate your honest thoughts and feelings about how you, and others in your community, are/have been treated by your local mental health services.

Join us in opening minds to mental illness!

We are looking for two types of Contributors:

Regular Contributor
A Regular Contributor would be required to meet a two-week deadline to complete and submit a single blog post, and after editing and approval, the post would be posted to the FYM blog as soon as possible, and all text within that current blog post would be attributed to the Contributor. Contributors would most likely be given a subject to write about for the blog; unless they have a mental health related issue, which they need to express, then they can do so on the blog with the administrator's permission. Unfortunately, as we are a non-profit, a fee for your services would be unavailable. We can, however, offer exclusive invites to upcoming events either organised by FYM, or in association with FYM.

Non-regular Contributors
Others can sporadically contribute submissions (as many as you wish) - bearing in my mind should any submissions be offensive, inappropriate, or not actually related to the Free Your Mind campaign in any way - these submissions will be permanently discarded of. Again, we cannot offer a fee, we would only be able to offer our genuine 'thanks'.

If you are interested in the becoming a contributor for Free Your Mind mental health anti-stigma campaign. then send us your resume/CV to freeyourmindcampaign@gmail.com - Examples of written work would be ideal, but, not, vital.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Therapist Susie Orbach discusses body image (video)

Whilst researching for this blog post I came across the following video on the Guardian website of Susie Orbach discussing body image and her 'Endangered Species' campaign.

Recently, Free Your Mind took part in the All-Walks book club in which we discussed Bodies by Susie Orbach.

In Bodies Orbach discusses how, for both men and women, our bodies have now come to be seen as being in need of constant improvement, and how this view of our bodies are influenced by society, media imagery and those around us.

During our book club discussions we shared our experiences with our own bodies and body image, explored where our ideas and opinions of ourselves may have originated, and the role they now play in our everyday lives.

We talked about how our views of image are shaped by many different factors, including; upbringing, media images, interactions with others, and our surrounding environments.

And we discussed the varying attitudes we have towards both our own and others' bodies - for example, feeling too fat or too thin; or, too short or too tall, and so on - and how we then apply these same or,  completely different standards to others, or none any at all (i.e. we are often our worst critics!).

The topic of how body image problems are trivialised and are not seen as "real problems" was often raised, along with the negative impact trivialising these issues has on everyone involved, not just for those whose problems are being trivialised.

Orbach touches on these points in the above video; but I'd recommend Bodies for her full exploration of both our attitudes towards our bodies and, also, of how they are shaped by our experiences, citing case studies and her own observations, as a therapist, as examples.

(Click here for the previous blog post, 'All Walks book club'.)

Endangered Species
Susie Orbach's Endangered Species summit was held during March this year; which, through a series of events and speakers, aimed to celebrate body diversity and challenge the culture that teaches girls and women to hate their own bodies.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

The background for this blog has been changed.

Yesterday I changed some of the layout for this blog, including the background image.

I hope it looks okay. Feel free to let us know otherwise.

Edit: The latest poem 'Song of a Psychiatric Survivor' has also been added to the Creative Bank.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Song of a Psychiatric Survivor (poem)

Recently I was sectioned for the fifth time in the past five years. I wrote the following poem during that period. ~ Nicola Edwards.

Song of a Psychiatric Survivor
They want to have control.
They want to always maintain the power. 
From the moment I was born,
Right up until my final hour. 
I've been beaten, I've raped;
At times I feel as though I'm lucky to be alive. 
But in the words of Gloria Gaynor
I know 'I will survive.'

The above poem will be added to the Creative Bank.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The FYM campaign took part in it's first public event in April this year...

Last month the Free Your Mind mental health campaign, aimed at helping to battle stigma towards mental illness by being creative, took part in it's first public event, which was an art exhibition called 'Broken Paths' at Croydon's Fairfield Halls.

Broken Paths organised by Imagine mental health charity's Croydon branch, and was also aimed at helping prevent stigma, prejudice and discrimination towards mental illnesses

The exhibition was held in the 'Sun Lounge' gallery at Fairfield Halls in Croydon and consisted of art, poetry, creative writing, and photography, all of which were works from some of the artists within South London's mental health community. Free Your Mind had six poems, displayed as graphic art, featured within the exhibit - all six of the featured poems were written by FYM's Nicola Edwards and can be found in the 'Creative Bank'.

The feedback received from the 'Broken Paths' art exhibition has been, and I know will be, very beneficial to the future plans and development of the Free Your Mind campaign. Over the next coming months our most immediate plans are to see the FYM team grow and develop.

We also hope that Broken Paths is the first of many public events which will include the involvement of the Free Your Mind mental health anti-stigma campaign.

Previous Blog Post: Upcoming 'Broken Paths' art exhibition at Croydon's Fairfield Halls.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

FYM will be away for a short while...

Hi guys,

This is a short blog post to let you know that I will not be posting as Free Your Mind for a short while due to being sectioned.

As soon as I'm discharged, I promise that posting will continue as usual.

Thank you for continuing to support Free Your Mind and thank you for continuing to read this blog.

Take care.

Peace & Love.
Nicola Edwards of FYM. x

Monday, 18 April 2011

Using the term 'Service User'

"Service User" is a generic term used by many mental health service providers, particularly within the public sector, as a description of the people who use mental health services. But, amongst both the people using the services and mental health professionals alike, there are many who find this term too ambiguous and feel it carries its own negative implications or connotations.

Personally, I am indifferent to the term "Service User", but I was interested to know where issues with this terminology come from; what the alternative terms are; and what stigma, if any, is attached to this term.

Some of the issues I've heard stated with the term "Service User" include its ambiguity - some people feel it says nothing of the problems and issues faced by those with mental illnesses, and many whom are classed as "Service Users" feel this is inaccurate if they do not in fact use any mental health services. Other issues with the term include its implications that a person has a dependency on a service, as well as negative connotations of the word "user" - for example, this term could describe someone manipulating others, or a person who uses illicit substances.

However, at the same time; "Service User" is a generic term of a business-like nature, it may not be an entirely pleasant phrase, but, when used in the correct context, it is accurate terminology for describing a person who receives support from services.

There is alternative terminology to the term "Service User", which includes: "Client", "Patient" and "Survivors". But there is disagreement on which terms are appropriate.

The Mental Health Foundation defined the terms used to refer to those with a mental illness, such as "Service User", "Patient", "Client", etc., in regards to their literal meanings and why they are used by mental health services and professionals.

"Service Users" -- This is a 'popular term with service providers... used as a generic description of the people who use mental health services.'

"Clients" -- 'Emphasises the professional nature of the relationship with the mental health professional.'

"Patients" -- This is a widely used term which, according to the Mental Health Foundation, 'stresses the medical focus of the relationship between the person and the service.'

"Survivors" -- 'A term used to describe people experiencing/living through mental health problems and/or the consequences of a life event - such as sexual abuse... It is regarded as more empowering than the more passive "sufferer" with its connotations of "victim".'

The terminology "Survivor" is not to be confused with "Psychiatric Survivor"

"Psychiatric Survivors" -- According to the Mental Health Foundation, "Psychiatric Survivor" is 'A 'rights' based term used by mental health/survivor activists who assert that some forms of psychiatric treatment can e considered abusive. They campaign for reforms to end the powers of psychiatry to compulsorily detain people and enforce treatment against their will.'

The Psychiatrist (Formerly The Psychiatrist Bulletin) carried out a survey amongst mental health professionals to determine which terms they felt receivers of mental health services should be known as (from their professional viewpoint as someone working for these services). "Patient" was found to be the preferred term by psychiatrists and nurses. The term "Client" was found to be an equally preferable term as "Patient", in alternative to "Service User", by social workers and occupational therapists. "Service User" was found by the survey to be the most disliked terminology overall.

It appears to me that issue with the term "Service User" is down to its connotations and implications, rather than it actually being a derogatory term. Most of the terminology used to describe a person receiving support from a mental health service seem to be evidence-based - which, in my opinion, is how they should be.

"Service User" is a generic term widely used to describe people who receive support from mental health services, but, it can still carry negative implications and connotations; even though the terminology itself is not derogatory.

There are many terms and it is impossible to please everyone, but I think the important thing to remember is the term "Service User" does not describe an individual - in regards to their personality and personal characteristics - but refers to an "activity" in which they partake as part of their everyday lives.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

All Walks Book Club

Free Your Mind is proud to be taking part in the All Walks book club.

All Walks is a project co-founded by Debra Bourne, Caryn Franklin and Erin O'Connor which aims to challenge both the fashion industry's, and society's, view of body image and beauty.

Anyone can take part in the All Walks book club; all you need is Bodies by Susie Orbach, which is the first book we will be reading. We will be reading one chapter a week starting with the introduction and chapter one. Discussion will take place on Twitter with the hash(#) tag #AWbookclub and on the following Facebook discussion forum: http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?topic=17591&uid=275187151550. Make sure you are a part of it!

Find out more about the All Walks book club on the All Walks blog here: http://allwalks.org/?p=2214

FYM on Twitter: @FYMcampaign - http://twitter.com/#!/FYMcampaign

All Walks on Twitter: @allwalkscatwalk - http://twitter.com/#!/allwalkscatwalk

Also involved in the discussion:

Michael 'Frost' Williamson: @mwfrost - http://twitter.com/#!/mwfrost - fashion designer and stylist, and blogger of Safety Pin Charm fashion blog, whom is also involved in All Walks.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Upcoming 'Broken Paths' Art Exhibition at Croydon's Fairfield Halls

Click above image to see enlarged  version
of the official flyer for the 'Broken Paths'
art exhibit at Fairfield Halls in Croydon in
the South of London.
Between Monday 4th April - Saturday 16th April an art exhibition called "Broken Paths" will be open at the Sun Lounge at Fairfield Halls in Croydon (South London). A 'Main Event' will also be held during the exhibit on Friday 8th April between 2-5pm which will be a 'meet and greet' with all of the artists involved.

The Broken Paths art exhibition is being organised by Imagine mental health charity's Croydon branch and will be showcasing a selection of some of the creative talents of the mental health community in Croydon.

The artists featured in the exhibit are all at varying stages of recovery. And I am honoured to be among those having their work on display during Broken Paths.

Imagine mental health charity want to help those with mental illnesses live independently and improve our social inclusion. Imagine in Croydon has unique service user groups ("service user" being the phrase attributed to those of us who use the community's mental health services) which are service user led.

Broken Paths has been organised as part of the battle against stigma towards mental illness. Which meant Free Your Mind had to get involved with this art exhibition. As I've stated before, I genuinely do believe creativity and mental health effectively go hand-in-hand with one another.

The 'meet and greet' will be the "official" time to meet all of the artists, but I will be available during most of the exhibition promoting FYM. So be sure to come and find me! ((I'll be the short one dressed all in black - pretty much..))

Should you express an interest in buying any of the art on display at the exhibition, please contact Kato, from Imagine, by email: kwalmsley@imaginementalhealth.org.uk.

Join Free Your Mind and Imagine at Broken Paths for great art, to show your support and help us fight stigma and discrimination towards mental illnesses!

We hope to see you there!
(Nicola from FYM)

Directions to Fairfield Halls in Croydon:

Fairfield Halls is situated next to Croydon College on Park Lane in Croydon's town centre.
Park Lane, 

Fairfield is approximately 20 minutes by train from London’s Victoria and London Bridge stations. There are also fast regular services from Charing Cross and Waterloo.
East Croydon station is a 3 minute walk away and West Croydon station is about a 12 minute walk.

Bus Routes:
50 (from Stockwell), 60 (towards Old Coulsdon/Streatham), 75 (from Lewisham), 109 (from Brixton), 119 (towards Bromley North/Purley Way), 154 (from Morden), 166 (towards Banstead/Epsom), 197 (from Peckham), 250 (from Brixton), 264 (from Tooting), 312 (towards Norwood Junction/South Croydon), 403 (from Warlingham), 405 (from Redhill), 407 (towards Caterham/Sutton), 412 (from Purley), 455 (towards Old Lodge Lane/Wallington), 466 (towards Addington Village/Caterham-on-the-Hill), 468 (towards Elephant & Castle/South Croydon).

The Tramlink which runs through the centre of Croydon stops at East
Croydon, George Street and Wellesley Road which are all 3 minutes walk

Imagine mental health charity -- http://www.imaginementalhealth.org.uk/
Croydon Imagine -- http://www.imaginementalhealth.org.uk/Croydon.php
Fairfield Halls -- http://www.fairfield.co.uk/

Event Information on Facebook --

'Broken Paths' art exhibit Twitter hash-tag: #BrokenPaths

Imagine would like to apologise to both Free Your Mind and you
for allowing incorrect information to be printed in their promotional material.
((Corrections have been made by FYM to this blog post to ammend Imagine's

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

My Mental Illness Does Not Define Me!

Often when I tell people I have a mental illness they immediately want to know all of the specifics of my diagnosis. Admittedly this interest in my diagnosis could just be a general curiousity, but it all too often feels as if their interest stems from feeling they need to know the specifics in order to modify their behaviour toward me in some way.

As much as I'm all for advocating educating people about mental illness and mental health issues in order to reduce stigma - asking someone point blank about their diagnosis is not only a bit invasive (some people are willing to talk about their diagnosis, but normally on their own terms!), but also, more often than not, they may not actually know the specifics of their diagnosis. 

But, more to the point, when dealing with an individual, the specifics of their diagnosis is not of any importance, unless they are being placed under your care (in which case one wouldn't be required to specifically ask that person about their diagnosis). If you want to get to know someone, you get to know them - not their mental illness.

A person's personality; morals; intelligence; appearance; class; wealth; social status; friends; hobbies; actions; and so on, are not defined by their mental illness.

In other words; a person cannot be defined by their mental illness.

Sometimes when I tell people I have a mental illness they express surprise; some even go as far to say they do not believe me. I have questioned these people who say they don't believe me as to why they think that; the response, "You seem too normal", never fails to surprise me! 

Unfortunately, stigma towards mental health issues means people hold views that anyone with a mental illness should stick out from a mile away and are distinguishable from "normal folk" as they are busy "acting crazy". 

An ignorant view which is supported by most of the media: as soon as anyone does anything out of the ordinary they're labelled "crazy" or "mad"; even in the cases of murderers, etc. words like "psycho" or "nutter" are used - and then these same adjectives are attributed to those with mental illnesses!

Yes some really horrible people are mentally ill. But so are some of the most honest, decent, beautiful (not in the aesthetic sense) individuals you could ever hope to meet!

Having a mental illness does not define a person. Mental illness does not pertain to whether someone is a good person or not. Knowing a person's diagnosis is not largely useful when getting to know an individual; however, I do believe that educating yourself on mental health is a highly commendable idea. But a person will always be a whole lot more than their mental illness!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Should interviewer have given Charlie Sheen "bipolar diagnosis"?

Recent events involving Charlie Sheen have really disturbed me - when I say this I am actually talking about not only the media treatment of his mental illness, but, more specifically, why anyone would ever think it is okay to "diagnose" someone during a televised interview!
(See Below)

In the above interview Sheen is being interviewed and asked questions about his drug addiction. At the end of the interview the interviewer tells him that "psychologists" say he has bipolar.

My thoughts on this are that I feel it is highly irresponsible to take someone you believe to be seriously mentally ill and having a manic episode, interview them purely for "entertainment" purposes (I honestly can't see any other reason to conduct an interview such as this), and then "diagnose" them at the end of it.

The interviewer also talks of "psychologists" coming up with a bipolar diagnosis. This doesn't sit right with me. I'd genuinely would like to know who these "psychologists" are?! Psychologists can't (or, at least, shouldn't!) diagnose anyone without a proper assessment. Personally (please tell me if you disagree) I think  that to reach a "conclusive" diagnosis several assessments have to take place over periods of months or years.

And surely if a psychologist had diagnosed Sheen why would they be giving this information to an interviewer, and not to him personally or to someone else close to him???

If I were in the above situation, chances are I would have said the same or similar as Sheen.

Speaking as a recovered drug-addict with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), whom has also experienced manic episodes, I can honestly say Sheen's behavior in the above interview is pretty "normal"  for anyone suffering a manic episode or a bipolar "high". Also, before I did finally get sober, if you'd asked me then if I got high or if I thought I might relapse I would have denied it whatever the circumstances were. And as for trying to make me see I was ill or getting me to understand I could die - if it was back then - you could forget it!

Obviously Sheen is mentally ill - drug-addiction is in itself a mental illness - and he does appear to be on a manic bipolar high. But my big issue (the subject of this post) is with the irresponsibility of conducting the above interview and then claiming to have a diagnosis. As I said before, even if a trained psychologist/psychiatrist had been saying the same as this interviewer to me when I was manic and on drugs, it would have gone in one ear and out the other; therefore, I know if I were in the above situation, not only would the interview have pushed me further into denial but it would also have messed my head quite a bit. ((For example; a few years ago, whilst I was suffering a manic episode, my parents were asked to  keep notes on my behavior, and when I found these notes I was convinced my behavior was being recorded so that they could report back to the "government" whom I believed were studying me as part of a large-scale "experiment" that everyone else in the world was in on.))

Whatever you think of Sheen - it's not nice to see anyone suffer in this way.

I'm writing this after taking issue with what I believe to be a irresponsible way of treating someone with a mental illness. I could speculate Sheen's diagnosis - but I don't see the point. Or I could discuss the fact that anyone else (i.e. someone who isn't a Hollywood actor) is likely to have been sectioned by now - but I don't feel I could add anything to the discussion which hasn't been said before.

After watching the above interview, I strongly felt a need to express my thoughts on this. What do you think? Have I got a point? Or do you feel I'm going over-the-top?

Monday, 28 February 2011

Discussing Mental Illness on Internet Forums

Posting on internet forums can be an enjoyable past-time and it is one in which I engage in everyday more or less. But what about when the discussion turns towards mental illness?

Unfortunately, as everyone knows, internet forums are plagued with people posting ignorant and, sometimes, bigoted views. As I stick to the more friendlier forums I manage to avoid the worst of it. But I have found that mental illness is one subject guaranteed to cause "controversy" or produce, not necessarily discriminatory views, but views that still show a large degree of ignorance.

Sometimes these sort of comments on a forum can really upset some posters, turning the discussion into a flame-war. Other times these comments are ignored or the other posters fail to see the ignorance within the comment.

Personally, I'm never going to be reduced to flaming anyone. But at the same time I will speak up if someone has posted something I know not to be quite right.

I don't think subjects such as mental illness should be avoided as topics of discussion on internet forums. In fact, quite the opposite, discussing these subjects and enlightening those who don't know as much about this subject is a highly positive and healthy activity. However, flaming someone who doesn't agree with you (no matter how ignorant they are being) is not the way forward.

It's not right for mental illness to be a taboo subject. Discussion on mental health and the issues surrounding it are healthy. Just be prepared for a few small-minded people.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Comedy Sketch Encourages Stigma Towards Mental Illness?

Ofcom are investigating a complaint made by Rethink about a sketch on Frankie Boyle's Tramadol Nights programme on Channel Four. Rethink does not make a habit of criticising  comedy shows...

Back in December 2010, mental health charity Rethink lodged a complaint with Ofcom over a Frankie Boyle sketch shown on the Channel 4 show Tramadol Nights.

This has not been the only complaint made to Ofcom about Boyle's Channel 4 show, he is also under fire from AIDS and cancer charities over his television show.

The sketch parodies Time to Change's fake film trailer for a horror film called Schizo (which can be viewed in this previous blog post). The "Schizo trailer" ultimately shows someone with schizophrenia talking about their experiences while making tea in his kitchen.

In the Boyle sketch a man says he has mental health problems and comments on the stigma surrounding mental illness. The camera then pans down to show four children dead and covered in blood.

There was a time long gone when I used to laugh at Boyle's humor - now I feel all he is doing is trying to shock, which will inevitably encourage ignorance and stigma.

I have heard it argued that Boyle's humor is "done with irony" and "if you don't see that, you don't understand his humor". But, surely if others do not see the "ironic-humor", then there must be those who find Boyle humorous but see no irony and their laughs derive from prejudice and holding views of stigma towards mental illness!

The sketch could also be defended by calling it "satire". But I can use the same argument as above; too many are ignorant of subjects such as mental illness and will therefore fail to see the "satire", and will, mistakenly, see the sketch as "depicting the truth."

Unfortunately, the comedy sketch reinforces the myth that mental illness causes a sufferer to be violent; which of course is not true.

Mark Davies, Rethink's director of communications, in a letter to Ofcom said: "There is no causal link between mental illness and violence. In fact, people with mental illness are more likely to be the victims than  the perpetrators of violence.

"By inferring that people with mental illness are violent, the Frankie Boyle sketch was misleading. One in four people have a mental health problem at some point in their lives. This sketch caused offence to many people in this group."

Speaking as someone with a mental disorder, it worries me that laughs are being derived from the ignorance   in believing there is a causal link between violence and mental health problems. It worries me that Boyle's sketch could help to reinforce stigma towards mental illness.

What do you think?

Thursday, 3 February 2011

The FYM 'Creative Bank'

The Free Your Mind Creative Bank was created with the intention of showcasing creativity - including art, poetry, videos, poetry, etc. - related to mental illness or FYM.

The Creative Bank will be constantly updated. And we more than welcome contributions; email us at freeyourmindcampaign@gmail.com.

The latest additions are:

New poem...
This doesn’t make any sense,
Why are they still shouting at me?
Their anger is unclear
And their motives seem strange

My vision is blurred
As I look through stormy eyes

There is no doubt I’ve done nothing wrong
And in my heart I know they’re afraid.

They want to make me feel ashamed
And deny our similarities
But right now I feel as if I’m gazing at their souls.
Whilst they continue to stare straight through me.

My skin is thicker than it looks
My pride is hard to infiltrate

My body and mind are tired
My fight and will remain strong

My defences are raised
As they declare war.

There is no doubt
That they will batter me to the ground.
But at the core I shall remain


Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Representation of Mental Illness on TV

Representation of mental illness on TV has never been the most sensitive, accurate or sympathetic. But have improvements been made?

Recently a study was published by Shift, the government initiative to tackle stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health issues in England, which found that, despite distinct improvements over recent years, prime time television drama continues to struggle to present an accurate picture of mental illness.

The report found that:

  • 63% of references to mental health were flippant, unsympathetic, or showed a low opinion about the sufferer
  • 45% of TV programmes shown at peak time with mental illness story-lines portrayed people with mental health problems as posing a threat to others
  • 45% of programmes had sympathetic portrayals of mental illness, but these often portrayed the characters as tragic victims.

All too often characters in hit prime-time TV shows deliver flippant lines in reference to mental illness, including things like; "crackpot", "basket case", and "sad little psycho".

Eastender's was praised for it's
portrayal of mental illness
with character Stacey Slater
Admittedly, progress has been made in some television shows. BBC soap Eastenders was praised for its portrayal of bipolar disorder with the character of Stacey Slater. However, even in this case. the same character eventually committed murder.

The depiction of another character with bipolar disorder on Channel 4 drama Shameless was both accurate and sensitive - which it, deservedly, was highly praised for. (Although this programme still showed the same character attacking her partner.)

In both of the above cases, however, it could be argued that violence and mental illness were used together in order to create tragic drama.

Vincent and the Doctor
Of all the recent portrayals of mental illness on television I found Doctor Who's depiction of Vincent van Gogh, the famous painter whom suffered from depression and eventually committed suicide, to have been the most sensitive and sympathetic. Despite the tragic nature of the character's story, the show still presented a positive and uplifting view of mental illness.

Although significant improvements have been made to the representations of mental illness and mental health issues in recent years, there is still a lot of progress to be made.