The Brain with David Eagleman -What is reality?

TheBrainHere at The Terrace we like to keep up with the latest thinking, especially when it comes to matters relating to the way we think and act, and what makes us, us.

Earlier this year we saw a documentary in a series that explored how the brain, ‘locked in silence and darkness without direct access to the world, conjures up the rich and beautiful world we all take for granted.’ In other words, reality is what our brain tells us it is; it is our brain that sees and hears, not our eyes and ears.

We are fascinated by new developments in neuroscience, and David Eagleman’s series, and the book that accompanies it, offer an accessible way into what is a complex subject.

If you didn’t get a chance to see it, do take a look at David’s website HERE and if you get the chance, take some time out to watch him explain his work  in this video. You can also access more of his work via YouTube.

And let us know what you think – we would love to hear your views.

 

‘Let’s talk!’ – about mens’ mental health

iStock_000029384684MediumWe have written before about the difficulties men face when they are experiencing mental health issues. It is nearly a year since we wrote of the Mental Health Charter for Sport & Recreation in Boys Don’t Cry and since then we have seen periodic moves to raise awareness of suicides amongst young men, for example. Yet the situation hardly seems to change.

So why do men find it harder to seek help when they are experiencing difficulties, often so serious that they are considering ending it all? Is it that their issues relate specifically to being male?

There is still, even in the 21st century, an expectation that the man is the one on whom others rely. He will sort out problems, practical or otherwise. From toddlerhood a boy is discouraged from expressing his emotions in a healthy way – ‘boys don’t cry” or ‘act like a man’ are phrases many still hear, and thus when they are faced with problems they can’t solve, perhaps in young adulthood, they are more likely to feel they have failed as a man. A culture of silence amongst their contemporaries means few of them realise how common these feelings are.

Jane Gotto, Director here at The Terrace, says:

“Yes, men are at a crossroads and the question of how to be a ‘good man’ has changed and the parameters are different.   Mainly our culture does still support the expectation that men should be strong, shouldn’t cry, nor share feelings of being vulnerable or having difficulty.    This leaves some men without a way to process their feelings, or even acknowledge what’s happening for them, which can create isolation and alienation.   From there, the difficulty can escalate with other behaviours to cover the difficult feelings – increased drinking, excessive work or exercise, sexualised behaviour, drugs etc…”

Research has suggested that men sometimes feel better taking part in active therapy, such as art, music or horticultural sessions rather than direct one to one therapy sessions. It was also deemed important to ensure men didn’t have to take time off work to attend sessions as work was something that held many together, and when working in a stereotypically macho atmosphere many were reluctant to express their feelings openly. Some felt that mental health services were geared around ‘women’s problems’ and whether true or not that has to be a perception that is changed if we are to see any progress.

Rupert CounsellorFrom the articles and reports that have come out in recent months it is clear that there are specific issues men struggle with, including drinking increased amounts of alcohol and other addictive behaviours. The Charter for Sport and Recreation works to remove the stigma around men’s mental health by raising awareness of the problems well-known sports stars have faced. Cricketer Andrew Flintoff and footballer Clarke Carlisle have been frank about their problems, and now we regularly hear leaders in their sporting fields speaking about mental health. But there is still much work to be done. Jane Gotto says:

“22 years ago, when I founded The Terrace, very few men sought counselling support.  This has significantly changed with men seeking support for themselves and for their relationships in more recent years. Some men have been able to carve out a supportive network with mind liked men.     However encouraging this is, more needs to be provided and more needs to be said.”

In 2015, a documentary was shown on BBC3 in which Stephen Manderson, better known as British rap artist Professor Green, allowed cameras to follow him as he sought to find out why his father had committed suicide eight years ago.  Manderson said:

“At the end of the day suicide is a violent end. It’s the taking of a life……It’s violent, irrespective of the method, so it’s hard to talk about and it’s scary. Shying away from it is not going to do any good, though.”

He went on:

“The documentary was actually the first time me and my grandmother talked about it…. it is difficult. It’s not something even family like to talk about. It’s really hard.”

Manderson (Professor Green) went on to make a second program, showing where people can get support, including the work of The Maytree, a centre where people can go when they have suicidal feelings.

In an article about the documentary, published in The Guardian on 27th October last year, Rory O’Connor, professor at Glasgow University, highlighted the deep-rooted nature of male suicide:

“The bottom line is, we as men, are not socialised to seek help. We are traditionally the breadwinner, we’re the rock for our family…..Currently services, arguably, are not set up for men to access them. Much better research needs to be done about why men clam up more and we need to go beyond the traditional cliches.”

If you would like more information about the support available to men, and women, with mental health issues, these links are a good place to start.

Many offer a helpline if you fear you are reaching a crisis point.

For young people: Young Minds

Mental health charity Mind, with local branch Mind in Taunton & West Somerset

SANE

The Mental Health Foundation

www.mankindcounselling.org.uk

There is also an excellent report, referred to in this article, which offers an overview of men’s mental health services. It is called Delivering Male and to download simply click on the link to download a copy.

The link to Professor Green’s program can be found here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGjlPACQC6Y&app=desktop

Do also feel free to call us here at The Terrace on 01823 338968. We have a number of counsellors particularly skilled in dealing with the issues mentioned in this article and we would be pleased to discuss matters, in confidence of course.

A moment’s madness…Preventing Road Traffic Accidents affecting young people

L2LHere at The Terrace we are always keen to promote campaigns that support young people as they take on the responsibilities of adulthood. Pressures on them are numerous, and it is important to ensure there is the proper education in place to ensure they have all the information they need to make healthy decisions.

One such campaign is Learn2Live, or L2L, a partnership including representatives from Local Authority Road Safety Teams, Fire & Rescue Service, Police, Paramedics, Family Liaison Officers, Consultants as well as families themselves. Rosemary Pell, Manager of the Road User Support Service (RUSS) and a great friend of The Terrace has been involved in the work of L2L and we have been deeply impressed with the impact of the work of the team behind the charity in neighbouring Devon. So much so in fact, that this blog is by way of calling for the programme to be started in Somerset as soon as possible.

Statistics relating to young drivers are terrifying. One in five wil have an accident within six months of passing their test and L2L says young drivers (aged 17-24 years) are overrepresented in road collisions compared with other road users:

  • Young male drivers are more prone to being involved in collisions compared with young female drivers
  • Speeding is a key contributory factor to collision involvement including exceeding the speed limit and driving too fast for the conditions
  • Collisions involving young drivers are more likely to occur during night-time hours, on rural roads and involve a single vehicle, predominantly on Fridays and Saturdays
  • Young drivers are often involved in collisions where they have failed ot cope with unexpected situations due to their inexperience.
  • Young drivers are 50% more likely to crash in their first year
  • In 2012 approximately 31% of all KSI’s (Killed and Seriously Injured) collisions involved young people

Many of the figures relate to drivers of course, but L2L says that statistically the most dangerous seat in a vehicle is the front passenger seat, predominantly occupied by young females.

At L2L events, young people aged 16 – 19 are shown a DVD featuring a mock up of a fatal road traffic collision. They then hear the true life stories of emergency service personnel who have attended such incidents involving young drivers. Family members who’s loved ones have been killed or have received life-changing injuries tell their personal stories
too, finishing with an offending driver who has killed someone as a consequence of their driving. These are highly emotive presentations – the strap-line for the charity is ‘A moment’s madness – a lifetime of sadness….’

The L2L presentations started in Devon in 2008. Devon County Council and Devon & Cornwall Police stats for 2009 – 2013 show an overall 30% drop in the numbers of young drivers (17 -24 year olds) killed or seriously injured (KSI’s) in that time. The drop from 2013 – 2014 alone was 11%.  Although we cannot assume this news is wholly attributable to the L2L project, there is no doubt that it is having a massive impact on those young people who attend the event, with plenty of evidence on social media to support it.

Rosemary Pell says

It always seems such a tragic waste of life when a young person dies on our roads and I am saddened when I hear the harrowing stories at the ‘Learn2Live’ events, particularly those relayed by family members who have been devastated by their loss. There is no doubt that young drivers’ behaviour is being impacted by these hard hitting presentations, as indicated by the reduction in the numbers of drivers and passengers being killed or seriously injured in road traffic incidents in Devon. I feel pleased and privileged to be involved with such a worthwhile project.

ThinkAmyIn Somerset, the charity Think Amy was established to promote safe driving. Amy was a lovely Somerset 13 year old killed on 15 June 2011 by two car drivers racing each other at motorway speeds along a residential road in Taunton, Somerset. Amy was cycling along a cycle path with an adult on a clear sunny evening when the driver of the lead car lost control on a bend. The car became airborne and struck Amy. She died instantly.

Jane Hofmeister, Amy’s mother and founder of Think Amy told us:

I was delighted to be asked to be a guest speaker at two of the Learn2Live presentations (South Devon College and Plymouth Pavilion). I was very impressed with how the presentations were put together and delivered, and with the level of support that was offered both to speakers and importantly to students who attended who were affected by what they heard.

The team of presenters included members of the fire, ambulance and police services and a victim’s family member. They each recalled their personal experience of dealing with the consequences of a road traffic collision in a very moving and powerful way. It highlights very effectively the impact dangerous driving has on so many people and educates students in what they can do to help prevent other tragedies in the future.

The feedback I received from the two Learn2Live presentations I took part in was tremendous. Not just in terms of the volume of comments and replies but in the strength of support and commitment shown by the students in wanting to promote safe driving and change behaviour for the better.

In my opinion the Learn2Live presentations are a very effective way of educating students about making better choices when driving or as a passenger.

All the evidence suggests that young people who take part in the L2L events experience a real change in attitudes towards driving. With the statistics indicating a real benefit and a reduction in those horrifying figures quoted earlier, we are calling for the campaign to spread wider and into Somerset, where narrow country roads and winding faster A roads offer tempting opportunities to drive fast and dangerously.

 

 

A Mindful New Year…..

new yearWell we are a week into 2016, so we thought we would repost a great piece by our own mindfulness expert, Miranda Bevis. How many of us are still keeping to those new year’s resolutions? Should we even be trying – adding additional pressures to our already stressful days? 

In days gone by, as the old year departed, I would enthusiastically construct a huge list of New Year’s Resolutions. This was it! I was at last going to get in control! Become thin and fit and popular, well read, up to date with current affairs and so, so organized. And for the first few days, I’d get up early, go for a run, read improving books and eat improving food. Hoover under the sofa, tidy my sock drawer and open brown envelopes immediately.

If I’d managed to carry all these good intentions through, by now I would be lean and fit, living a life that worked like clockwork, fluent in a number of foreign languages, with an In tray that was always empty, and an Out smugly full. But happier? I’m not so sure.

Anyway, not surprisingly, I rarely got beyond week one with any of them; certainly they never made it to February. Very quickly, exhaustion, apathy and chocolate would take over, and I would be back where I started.

Why do we do this? I suspect it’s got something to do with wanting getting to grips with life, and to feel more in control. Perhaps coming from a feeling of not really being in control.

And while there’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve aspects of our lives, perhaps we need to hold on to these goals lightly, and understand that even if we achieved them, it wouldn’t necessarily make us happy or help us to navigate the pitfalls of life.

The truth is that we just aren’t fully in control of our lives. Difficult things are always going to happen. Mindfulness offers the possibility of being “in control of not being in control”. It helps us embrace both the pleasant and the unpleasant, the joys and the tragedies of life with equanimity. It’s not about trying to change things, but simply learning to be OK with being exactly where we are.

So these days, there’s only one item on the list, and that is to do as much Mindfulness as I possibly can. Over and over to come back to the present, to the simple breath, to an awareness of what I’m doing , while I’m doing it.

And strangely, the more I practice, I find that some of the things on the original list begin to come more naturally. By developing a kindly awareness towards myself, it becomes much easier to give myself what I truly need.

Still not great with brown envelopes though.

Miranda Bevis Mindfulness GroupsMiranda is offering mindfulness taster sessions at The Terrace, Taunton in January 2016:


Taster Sessions:
Tuesday January 12th 6.30- 8.00pm
Wednesday January 13th 9.30- 11.00am
Cost £5

Eight week Mindfulness Courses
Starting Tuesday January 26th 6.30- 8.45pm
Starting Wednesday January 27th 9.15- 11.30am

Optional half day for both courses: Sunday 6th March See the Events page of The Terrace website for full details.

 

Eradicating FGM – some good news

fgm-campaign-1

Here at The Terrace we have always supported the worldwide campaign to eradicate the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). FGM, or female circumcision, involves the removal of the clitoris and the stitching shut of a girl’s genitals, and is done for non-medical reasons. The practise is illegal in the United Kingdom, but many young girls are taken abroad to countries where it has not yet been banned.

The procedure is traditionally carried out by a woman, in a grossly abusive way – rarely with anaesthetic, cut by razor blades, knives or scissors for example – and often with a young girl, barely into puberty or younger, physically restrained. They can then be subject to ongoing health problems, such as tetanus, gangrene, HIV, hepatitis B and C and it can make childbirth incredibly difficult.

We have frequently written about FGM here on let’s talk!, updating readers with news and highlighting work being done to raise awareness and ensure girls here are safeguarded, so we were pleased to hear that the president of Gambia has banned the practise of FGM (although it has not yet been reported when the necessary legislation will be drafted to enforce the decision). Gambia was one of the 29 countries on the continent of Africa to still allow FGM.

It is reported that almost 80 per cent of women and girls have undergone FGM in Gambia, with the majority of claiming they were forced to undergo the procedure owing to an interpretation of Islam that required it. President Yahya Jammeh’s announcement is particularly iportant as he has now claimed Islam, which is the majority religion in Gambia, does not insist that a girl be cut.

There is still a lot of concern about the implementation, however. In rural areas of Gambia the overwhelming majority of women are subjected to FGM and enforcement would be difficult, but a surge in publicity and exposure of the practise has seemingly forced the president’s hand.

Bullying – Top tips for parents and carers

Lola's-story281x210November 16th marked the beginning of ‘Anti-bullying week’ and we thought it would be a good idea to highlight some of the information and support offered online. After all, bullying doesn’t just take place in the playground, or at work. Cyber-bullying has opened up a myriad new ways to exert power over the vulnerable, particularly over social media.

Firstly – what exactly constitutes bullying? The Anti-Bullying Alliance, which promotes #antibullyingweek, defines it as:

‘the repetitive, intentional hurting of one person or group by another person or group, where the relationship involves an imbalance of power.’

It is worth stating here that some of those accused of bullying claim they didn’t know that is what they were doing, or that, particularly in the working environment, that the behaviour is simply a management technique. However, anything that involves arguments and rudeness, excluding or ignoring a colleague, or not crediting their contribution or overloading them with work can be bullying, as can spreading malicious gossip. The charity Mind has some great advice about workplace bullying, and offers links to organisations that can offer employment support.

For children and their parents, the NSPCC website offers a wonderful resource that covers not just the tips to help you if you or your child is being bullied, but help if you find your child is actually the bully. It also offers information for teachers and schools, to ensure their anti-bullying policy is up to date and fit for purpose.

cyberbullying234x346Cyber-bullying is the latest, and often most frightening, form of bullying. It can often be done anonymously, and recourse to help seems hard to find. However, the charity Childline has a page full of advice. They define cyber-bullying as:

‘Cyber bullying (also called ‘online bullying’) is when a person or a group of people uses the internet, email, online games or any other kind of digital technology to threaten, tease, upset or humiliate someone else’

This can clearly apply to both children and adults (most of us are now aware of ‘trolling’ on social media,  when Facebook pages or twitter feeds are bombarded with threats and insults), but it is a particular concern to parents, as they see their children living their lives through their smartphones, tablets or laptops and feel excluded from potentially difficult situations online that, ten years ago, would have been out in the open, and perhaps more identifiable and manageable.

Childline offers immediate support and their website gives you all the links. Don’t forget, this issue includes ‘sexting’, a subject we have written about before, when children can find themselves the subject of explicit images that are shared widely without their permission.

Bullying has been going on for millenia, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all take action by being clear on what the term means and taking action where necessary. Bullies themselves need support, as they are statistically likely to have been victims of bullying themselves in the past and it is vital that cycle is stopped.

So take a look at these sites and make sure you are clued up. #antibullyingweek shouldn’t end on Friday 20th……

‘Boys don’t cry’ – Will the Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation help men open up?

Clarke Carlisle

Clarke Carlisle

The Guardian newspaper reported today that former star of the Premier League, Clarke Carlisle, has said he felt “no shame” about his suicide attempt in December 2014, when he was ‘incredibly unwell’. The former Burnley and Leeds United  footballer  stepped in front of a 12-ton lorry on the A64 near York and was seriously injured.

Isn’t it strange, how a high-profile male sports personality needs to say that he does not feel ashamed of his attempt to take his own life? Why should it be shameful? Carlisle was at The Oval cricket ground, alongside Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, to help launch a new programme to tackle the stigma of mental health issues in sport.  The Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation has already received endorsement from The Football Association, the Rugby Football Union, the Lawn Tennis Association and the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Carlisle is becoming a very high-profile advocate of the need for sports stars – particularly male stars in a variety of sports – to open up about the stresses of life at the top and the need for support at times of crisis. Many find it particularly difficult at retirement from sport, especially if their career has been cut short by injury.

““People are very delicate stepping around it – there’s no shame invested in it for me….I stand here today with a very different perspective of what it means to be alive in this world. There’s a great expectation that once you come out of a psychiatric hospital you’re cured. You’re not cured – you just have more tools, a greater awareness of self and a greater understanding of how to manage your illness and that’s exactly where I’m at. ….I’m managing my illness on a daily basis and I can tell you today I’m very well.”

The Guardian gives figures from the Professional Players Federation which offers counselling to footballers. It has seen a significant increase in need over the past three years, supporting 143 current and former sports stars last year.

Will this charter make any difference though? Will young people, particularly young men, feel better able to express their mental health needs when sports personalities are open about their struggles? Certainly, taking part in sport can have a positive impact on physical and mental health but the huge financial rewards and pressure involved in remaining at the top of any game can make anyone vulnerable. Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff, known for his love of a party and apparently bullish attitude to life surprised many when he came out as suffering with depression, and the number of cricketers experiencing mental health issues has doubled in the past couple of years.

BCMJ_53Vol10_suicide_depressed_manSuicide in men has been described by the British Medical Journal as a “silent epidemic”; the lack of public awareness and the high incidence amongst men requiring urgent action. It is not only theworld of sport that stigmatises mental health issues, but it surely has a significant role to play in the challenges men face. We will watch to see whether the Charter is more than a piece of paper and a media opportunity for politicians who have neglected mental health service provision over the past five years and are only now recognising how deep-rooted the issues are.