Posted in Weekly Blog

Dealing With The Benefits System

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Today’s group focussed on how people deal with the benefit system and more specifically, ‘Work Capability Assessment’ interviews. At group sessions we often hear of how the current system invokes strong feelings of anxiety and  sheer terror. With this in mind we thought it would be good to have a look at the different processes involved and the options people have.

Below is an example of the different stages involved upon receiving assessment letter; 

  1. Attend ‘Work Capability Assessment’ interview
  2. You receive a letter from the DWP* informing you that you are not being awarded benefit.
  3. You disagree with their decision so respond by sending a ‘Mandatory consideration letter’ to inform the DWP* of your reasons for disagreeing with their decision to see if they will reconsider.
  4. If the response from the DWP* is that they are upholding their original decision you then have the option to appeal it and have your case taken to at an independent tribunal.                                                       

If you are feeling anxious it is so important to seek support.

Some of the suggested supports were,

Group members felt that having someone to help support them in filling in forms was extremely beneficial and relievied some of their anxiety. With no support it can literally feel like a real life or death situation with the looming uncertainty of having no income to survive. That is why it is so useful to have supportive people around you to help provide some hope for your future.

 

 

*’The Department of Work and Pensions* 

 

 

Posted in Weekly Blog

Thinking about our Inner Child

Below is a small snap shot of how we used with Russian dolls to help us develop a better understand the dynamics of our ‘Inner child’

1. Inside the grown-up deep inside is the child just like these Russian dolls.
You might feel it a positive when you are playing with children. For example I feel it while playing football with my young nephews.

2. You might feel it in a negative way if you are waiting to go in for formal appointment and you start to feel as if you did when you were called to the headmaster’s office. (Or maybe you were all good kids and were never sent to the headmaster’s office!)

3. (Using an elastic band)
Like this band we are all big and stretched out, but certain events, circumstances or people could make us feel small again.

4. (Imagining all our younger selves)
Thinking about when you were at primary school what 3 words would you use to describe the wee person you were then?

5. (Pick an age between 5-10 years old)
– Thinking about you at the age you have chosen  we will ask a few questions if that is OK to that part of you, be it 5 or 7 or 10 years old- whatever age you have picked.
– Think about who was your teacher, your favourite toy or who were your friends then.
Ok so we are all focused in on an age and who we were then.
QUESTIONS-
If that child had something to say, to be heard what might it say?
What did it need?
What would you like to say to it?
How might you soothe it? (Note: Demonstrate by putting the little one in the big one.

6. We end by putting all the dolls back inside each other so there is just one big one. It demonstrates we are back in our adult place.

Posted in Weekly Blog

Fear Of Failure

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At today’s group we looked at the fear of failure.  Although our fears come from a protective place they can ultimately leave us feeling stuck and unfulfilled in parts of our life. If you’ve suffered disappointments in life it feel such a risk to try something new and it not working out. To avoid these disappointing feelings people may decide it safer to stay in the situation they know. In this case the fear of failure can feel more powerful than the possibility of success. It can feel so scary to take that leap of faith into the unknown. Group members gave examples of how they overcame fears and how it became the making of them. The thing to remember is that even if you try something and it does not work out you can always try something else. This of course does not take away the feelings of disappointment but it certainly does not make you a failure. We are learning all the time, particularly in the hard times.  If we think back to being a toddler and learning to walk we do fall at times but we get back up and gradually learn to walk. Below is an inspiring video of people who have faced disappointments but managed to keep on trying new things.

Posted in Weekly Blog

Having fun increases our well-being

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While preparing for our group programme in advance we are always mindful of the need to make sure it is finely balanced between light topics and others that are a bit heavier. After having a few deeper sessions it felt nice to mix it up today having a session on fun!  It’s something that is so important for our well-being which sadly at times we can all too readily dismiss as un-important.

We did an exercise using spiritual cards and asked group members to choose a card that meant something to them. People found this useful as it provided an outlet to communicate how they felt. After this we played the card game adaption of the popular game show, ‘Catchphrase’. By the end of the game the scores between the two teams were fairly equal!

We finished with a look at what people’s favourite movies where and why. This evoked a discussion about the emotional attachment certain films held for people. Some of the films chosen were, ‘Cinema Paradiso’, ‘Kung Fu Panda’, ‘Back To The Future’, ‘Riding In Cars With Boys’, E.T., ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby’, ‘Mary and Max’ and ‘The Godfather’ It was so nice to feel the passion and energy this brought to the conclusion of todays’ group!

Pop corn with soda and movie shows

Posted in Weekly Blog

Exploring Mental Health Diagnoses

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We posed the question to people in the group as to whether receiving a mental health diagnosis had been a helpful experience. For those who had experienced a correct diagnosis and accessed the right treatment, this was extremely helpful as they could now understand what was happening and what to do to best look after themselves.  For people where it had taken a bit of a journey to make a correct diagnosis, and where treatment for a condition which was not theirs was given, this was unhelpful and distressing and in some cases caused more damage.  We talked a little about the diagnosis of  BPD-Borderline Personality Disorder, this is a bit of a controversial diagnosis; it suggests that there is something wrong with a person’s personality. Using the term ‘disorder’ can leave people feeling upset and stigmatised.  The diagnosis is confusing and little understood; it is a clinical diagnosis based on a collection of symptoms, which are often parallel to the effects of trauma.  However, it is not an actual defined disease or condition, more possibly a reaction to adverse life events, and therefore not a permanent condition or state of being.  

We talked a bit more about how people sometimes felt stigmatised or defined by some of the words used to describe some mental health conditions:

Mental health words

People felt that some of these were quite descriptive, sometimes in an unhelpful way leading to assumptions and stigma and a lack of understanding.  Others felt that the not so descriptive terms could be helpful as they had experienced that if someone genuinely cared and was interested they would ask about the persons mental health condition in a way as to understand how it actually affected them.

Receiving a diagnosis can feel helpful and liberating for some while for others it may be another way of keeping stigma and unhelpful terms used in society alive.

Posted in Weekly Blog

Intrusive Thoughts

ocd-word-cloudToday’s group looked at how people deal with receiving thoughts they do not want to have. This is more commonly known as O.C.D.  We cannot stop with thoughts come in to our minds but can choose how to deal with them. The obsessive part comes in when people perform compulsions or rituals to try to neutralise the thoughts.  Sadly, this only serves to make somebody feel worse. Below are examples of the constant compulsions people may perform;

  • Checking taps are turned off
  • Keeping hands in pockets
  • Checking car mirror while driving to check you’ve not ran anyone over
  • Constantly asking for reassurance
  • Checking kitchen stove to check it’s turned off
  • Avoiding certain places
  • The use of numbers in an unhelpful way
  • Cleaning door handles
  • Trying to battle thoughts

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the many rituals with the intention of keeping the person or others safe. This coping mechanism only briefly soothes the individual and keeps the obsessive checking and perceived threat alive.

Group members then went on to their experiences with O.C.D. Their experiences were, checking the door was locked, the need for numerical sequencing, having the volume at the same level on TV, checking plugs were switched off and same fitness routine. We talked about some really dark thoughts that people incur like the mother who was scared to change her baby’s nappy incase she sexually abused her or the man who had thoughts of stabbing his wife in the kitchen.  To neutralise these tormenting thoughts the mother got her husband to always change the baby’s nappy and the man who struggled with the thought of knives put all the knives from the kitchen in the bin. By doing these things to keep others safe what they are actually doing is keeping the OCD prevalent.  The worry for people with dark thoughts is that they will act upon them which is totally untrue. In actual fact most people who struggle with intrusive thoughts are extremely kind, caring  people who ironically may care too much about others.  We then looked at a survey that was completed by students in the USA about the type of intrusive thoughts they received. What was interesting with the findings was how it showed that most people have intrusive thoughts and it is perfectly natural. The problem is that some people give these thoughts far too much credence which can lead to O.C.D

What people have to do to combat this horrible debilitating condition is to train themselves to deal with the fears and face the things that they are avoiding. When you first face your fears it is natural to feel more anxious, but gradually over time with continued exposure your brain will realise that there is no threat which will over time reduce anxiety.

OCD-cycle

 

 

Posted in Weekly Blog

Equality in Society

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So! We just put it out there today; Equality in society…what does that mean for people?  What were their experiences of being treated equally or unequally?

Interestingly the group went straight to gender inequality, especially sexual assult on women, a topic that is currently headlining most days as society is rocked by the prevalence of this much hidden issue for so many decades which is now surfacing more and more.  It was felt that although policy and awareness had changed, it was attitude that really mattered, and unfortunately there was still a lot of ‘dyed in the wool’ ways of seeing women and men that both genders still subscribed to with many gender stereotypes still being upheld.

In this group we often talk about the language which we use, and that by changing the language we can change the culture.  So as long as men and women, or boys and girls are brought up in opposition to each other this doesn’t help equal relationships.  For example ‘the battle of the sexes’ is language that pitts people against each other.  Phrases like ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘that’s just how men are’ makes acceptable what is unacceptable and what does that mean anyway? Why do we describe men who display sensitivity, nurturing, creativity as being in touch with their feminine side?  Why can that not be seen as being manly.  What is wrong with ‘running like a girl’? Someone suggested that sometimes maybe male violence is not helped by the message that emotions must be supressed because ‘big boys don’t cry’. And as we also often talk about in this group, our culture makes it hard for men to talk about their difficult feelings resulting in suicide in young men under the age of 45 being the biggest cause of death.  Some of our cultural language and attitudes are not helping men to be emotionally healthy and free

We also touched on how having had an episode of being mentally unwell, or having a diagnosis created inequality as people continue to see you as a patient forever after, even in long periods of wellness.  Unfortunately, people have experienced a shame and a silence around being off work with mental illness, it’s just not seen as being the same as being off with a physical illness.

We considered the inequalities of income, particularly in the stigmatisation of people on benefits being seen a scrounging and not contributing to society; which raises the question of whether its only financial contribution which is seen as valid?  If so how do we value the contributions of those who are retired or ill?

If equality is the state of being equal in status and opportunity we considered education and those who do not have equal access to the same learning opportunities, often influenced by income or area or gender.  Malala Yousafzai highlights the importance of education for all:

“I speak not for myself but for those without voice… those who have fought for their rights… their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, their right to be educated.”  Malala Yousafzai

People in the group were feeling optimistic about equality increasing in future generations, recognising that younger people are more open and accepting and also the media is more open about some of the above issues.  A good example of this is shown in  the LGBT community where the younger generation have played a big part in helping change negative attitudes and inequality which  have been felt by those in the community.

A different way of understanding it maybe to think about equity; responding equally to need, which is different from giving everyone the same.  Equity gives each according to their need as the picture below demonstrates:

IISC_EqualityEquity