Nominate your favourite #mentalhealth tweeters in the #Twentalhealthawards 2013


No Person is an Island: Mental Health Culture and Social Media

Vanessa Garrity

Lindisfarne is a beautiful area of the Northumberland coast. For anyone not familiar with the area, it is a tidal island which can only be reached by crossing a causeway when the tide has ebbed. This fact of nature made our visit to the area this summer, especially intriguing to my two young children, who were fascinated by the idea that our visit was physically restricted by safe tidal times for crossing.

The island of Lindisfarne is cut off twice daily from the rest of the world by fast flowing tides and I found myself trying to explain to my six year old about the cosmic influences of the sun and moon and how this determines safe crossing times. It was a conversation which involved lifeboats and rescue teams!

Lindisfarne (or Holy Island as it is more commonly known) is steeped in history, as a route of Christian pilgrimage. However…

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Social work in mental health – jargon buster

(credit and thanks to  College of Social Work) 

Acute – symptoms or a disorder that develops suddenly.

Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) – specialist (usually a social worker) who undertakes assessments for detention under the Mental Health Act 1983 (as amended 2007).

Best Interest Assessor (BIA) – a specialist trained worker (usually a social worker) who undertakes assessments for the use of Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards.

CAMHS – Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

Care coordinator – a service user’s key contact on the mental health team. Responsible for the care plan.

Chronic – long-term disorder or symptoms.

Dementia – deterioration of brain function.

Formal patient – an inpatient detained under the Mental Health Act.

Informal patient – an inpatient admitted voluntarily.

Independent sector -private care providers.

Responsible clinician – the professional in charge of a patient’s care whilst they are detained…

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Care o’Clock: Young carers’ Q&A with Robert Buckland MP


As part of our Care o’ Clock campaign to help raise awareness about the issues faced by young adult carers, young carers from Swindon Carers Centre recently put some questions forward to their MP Robert Buckland, to give him the opportunity to tell us about why he thinks young carers and young adult carers should be supported and what can be done to make a positive difference to their lives.

Robert Buckland MP has been working with Carers Trust to help ensure that the Government changes the law for young carers so that they stronger rights to assessment and support.

Young carers: What do you think are the biggest issues for young carers and their families in your area (Swindon) and across the country?

Robert Buckland MP: The recognition of their needs is the most important issue facing young carers and families in England. We know that the…

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Guest Post: Life As A Mountain Hike

The Belle Jar

My husband Matt wrote the following post about how challenging it can be to have a partner who is depressed. If you are at all technically inclined, you can check out his own blog, Quoth The Runtime, “Segmentation Fault”. He mostly writes about programming, but he also posts some pretty great stuff about the rampant sexism and misogyny in his industry.


I’ve come to the conclusion that the best metaphor I can conceive of for everyday life is that life is a mountain trail. Some days you have to work hard to make any progress, other days are simple, and some are nicely balanced. You can see beautiful vistas, or find yourself in the bottom of a dark valley. The weather can be reflective of your mood, a lot like what you see in movies (there’s a reason why it always rains during movie…

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Children and Families Bill: a landmark moment for young carers


Young carer at windowOn Tuesday, the Secretary of State for Education Rt Hon Michael Gove MP made an announcement that the Government is going to change the law for young carers and published an amendment to the Children and Families Bill. It was a landmark moment for young carers and their families and for the National Young Carers Coalition’s (NYCC) campaign, led by Carers Trust.

It means that not only will young carers have stronger rights to assessment and support, but it will also be made clear to professionals that services should work together so that the whole family is supported. For the first time, children’s and adults’ law will be linked together so that the law is really clear and no one can say they don’t know what they are supposed to do to support young carers.

This should help to prevent children and young people from undertaking caring roles that can…

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A Social Media Convert

I am a Twitterholic and I have over 3 hundred followers (not a lot yet but number still growing)…… Not so long ago I was one of the Twitterphobes that was sure that nobody wants to know what I have eaten for breakfast this morning, or how much my daughter enjoys watching Peppa Pig, I was also sure that I didn’t want to read what other people were talking about, why would I, I already had Facebook and I barely logged as I was tired of seeing silly status updates of no relevance.

That was until a few months ago when I meet Tricia, with her enthusiasm got me to see that Twitter and indeed Facebook didn’t need to be about what you ate for breakfast but could be about learning and connecting with people with similar interests, as soon as I got home from work that day I sat in front of my computer and made an account…..then nothing, what was I doing wrong, I had complete writers block, could not think of anything I wanted to say. That’s when I decided that like Tricia I needed to write about what gave me my enthusiasm, what got me out of my seat and made me want to make changes, and that’s when MHBristolCarer was born.

As I have indicated in previous blogs I have a massive interested in carers, especially as I was a young carer myself, i felt that giving carers a twitter feed that could share information about what was happening about the city would be a really good use of Twitter, then I started to find different blogs and other articles that just fuelled my motivation and eagerness to share with my Tweeps.

This then got me thinking how many people were using social media as a form of communication,
in May 2012 the Guardian reported that Twitter had seen over 5 million new UK users join their site that year and Wikipedia claims that 32,920,400 people in the UK had a Facebook account in 2011 (over half the UK population).

With these statistics in mind it makes you wonder how important it is and will be to have social media as a form communication. With more young people turning to social media as a way of communicating it is imperative that psychiatric services and the NHS try and stay a head of the game and have social media platforms available for service user and carers to communicate and access information. If we do not do this we run the risk losing a generation already lost in a world of Social media.

Of course there will be people who are sceptical about social media, I was one of these people once, the message is clear that social media will not be the only form of communication for people to connect with services but an additional way for those who choose to do so

In Bristol we have already set up several Twitter feeds and Facebook pages to allow people to gain access to information and feel connected to their service we are looking to improve our own websites to promote engagement and hopefully allow people and their families to feel supported.

Who is a Young Carer

Who is a young carer asks the mental health professional……. Not one soul raises a hand in a room full of young people……this is not uncommon, sadly there is a stigma attached for young people in admitting they maybe a carer for a family member. Maybe the fear of being socially shunned by their  peers prevent them from wanting to step out and seek some help, maybe some don’t even recognise that they are young carers and this is normal life, some just like to keep home life separate from school life as this is the one chance where they can be a normal kid.

Regardless we as professionals whether as a mental health professional or maybe a school teacher have an obligation to ensure that young people are aware of what support there is for them in the role supporting a loved one. 

So who is a young carer?   In essences someone under the age of 18 who offers support and help to someone in their life such as a parent, grandparent, child, brother or sister, disabled relative, friend or neighbour and does not receive any payment for this could be considered a carer.

According to the last census on the 16th May 2013 it was found that there were 166,363 young carers in England. This however could be just the tip of the iceberg. Many young carers remain hidden from official sight for a host of reasons, including family loyalty, stigma, bullying, not knowing where to go for support. Some young carers are as young as five years old.


Some helpful tips for young carers

  • Make sure you get a break and have lots of fun, Make sure you find the time to spend on things you enjoy, like going swimming or shopping or chilling with friends.


  • Don’t bottle everything up, talk to someone that you like and can trust about how you are feeling.


  • Always remember that it is not your fault, you can’t cause the illness.


  • Try not to get into arguments when feeling angry, wait until things calm down, then it will be easier to get your point across.


  • If the person you care for says something strange or nasty to you try to remember that this may be because they’re ill. If their words or behaviour worries or hurts you, always tell a trusted adult.


  • Try to learn as much as you can about what is wrong with the person that is ill. Knowing more about their illness might help you to understand what they are going through.


  • Don’t believe everything you read in the papers or see on the T.V. When you know the real facts about mental illness you’ll realise that they put all the dramatic stuff in but they often forget about everyday reality.


  • When people say bad things about people with mental illness, it’s probably because they don’t understand. If you know the facts, you can help them to change.


  • Eat well and drink sensibly and accept who you are. Looking after your own health is really important


  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you try to do everything, you might get ill yourself. Ask a relative, doctor or social worker for help if things are difficult to cope with.


  • There are many great services available for young people to access support such as NSPCC (family smiles project) and ‘The Carers Trust’ however sometimes the young person might need some  steering in the right direction.


  • Supporting young carers is everyone’s business and there is a need for mental health services to look at how we offer support and recognise that there are young carers supporting loved ones at home in need of support themselves.


  • After all if we can prevent all young carers from losing their childhoods and allowing them to feel listened and valued then we can consider this a job well done.


There are many great services available for young people to access support such as NSPCC (family smiles project) and ‘The Carers Trust’ however sometimes the young person might need some  steering in the right direction.

Supporting young carers is everyone’s business and there is a need for mental health services to look at how we offer support and recognise that there are young carers supporting loved ones at home in need of support themselves.

After all if we can prevent all young carers from losing their childhoods and allowing them to feel listened and valued then we can consider this a job well done.

Oh dear I seem to have started blogging…..

I have a few weird habits such as needing to finish all of my sandwiches before I can open my crisps and the need to collect every pen in the office and keep them in my bag in case I need one later. This has resulted in lots fun with colleagues including a regular monthly “Pen Amnesty” with the team manager to gain back the office supplies.

Amongst my slightly odd personality traits I am also driven, passionate and relentless, this has come in handy as I am on a mission to try to improve how professionals and mental health services support family, friends and Carers of loved ones being treated by their local mental health team.

I work for the Bristol Intensive team, a mental health crisis team supporting people during one of the most difficult and challenging times of their lives, I began to develop an interest in the needs for family members almost immediately after starting to work for the crisis team. I don’t know if this was due to my own experiences where I was a young carer for my father or the fact there was such a glaring hole. Seeing so many people feeling lost, frightened and scared and literally being ignored by professionals as all the focus was on the ‘Service User’ was a real eye opener, it was clearly obvious to me that these people who were being ignored were not only our allies enabling their loved one to remain at home but also a great resource to be exploited for information about the when, how and why their loved one became unwell in the first place.

Recently I have managed to develop a role with in my team that is all about supporting the very people we aim to work alongside to ensure home treatment is possible. I currently have four days a week where I dedicate myself to seeing carers and offering time to talk about how they are feeling and coping with everything going on, developing resources for family, friends and carers to use and finding out and informing of any carer workshop or support networks around the local area.  I also run a twitter feed which is linked to this blog, this also is a great way to connect with carers and inform them of what is happening in their area. I am in the process of making changes to the local website to make services more accessible I aim to do a lot more work with developing web pages for young carers and family members, our current feedback is the website is boring (so watch this space)

I hope to use this blog to keep people posted with the things that I am doing and what improvements we are seeing  in the health services that I work for, so buckle up I think its going to be a bumpy ride.