The Kat returns after quite an absence

shutterstock_122492893Hello dear readers,

I must firstly apologise from what feels like a very lengthy absence from the blogosphere for me, it was certainly not intentional but as it turned out quite unavoidable.

Those who have been paying attention will know that since August last year i have been working for YoungMinds and NHS London’s My Health London to produce an app and website for young people in the capital.

After a few false starts and issues at the beginning we are now working at full pace and racing towards a release date which has been set as mid-March..not leaving much time to get everything ready for launch.

We have developers, designers and young people working closely together to produce something that we hope will answer point five of the State of Mind manifesto and help young people find help when they need it most.

I will be releasing sneek peaks over the next few months as we get closer to launch so:

1. Watch this space

2. Follow me on Twitter at @KittyCormack

We will also be launching a website next month and i can’t wait for you all to see it.

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Risk, resilience and young people online

A few weeks ago i attended two conferences on how young people use the internet and the risks and opportunities involved. Both were fantastic experiences and i not only enjoyed attending the conferences and hearing from young people and practitioners around the country but also presenting to such fantastic audiences.

Munch, Poke, Ping

The first conference, “Munch Poke Ping”, was hosted by Stephen Carrick-Davies and was something i had been looking forward to for a long time given that the subject matter was so intertwined with my own experiences and work. Originally i had asked Stephen, who i met through Katie Bacon of Online Youth Outreach, if i could attend. This led to me not only attending but also presenting at the conference about my own experiences of using the internet as a therapeutic tool, the positive power of peer support and the work i am doing currently with YoungMinds and MyHealthLondon.

The conference was attended by professionals working with children and young people from a variety of perspectives including teachers, support workers, youth workers, psychologists and others and the line up on the stage was just as varied as the audience itself.

Among the line up were speakers from PRUs including pupils, staff and a headteacher as well as Online Youth Outreach, Blackberry and Dr.Richard Graham who works with young people with technology addictions.

Although i am well versed in public speaking this event, for me, was a little daunting as it was my first foray into speaking as a professional and not just a “young person” or “service user” (the labels normally attributed to me). However as soon as i had a microphone in front of me i was fine! (Something that i imagine would shock those who went to school with me where i was known for being quiet and anything but happy about standing up in front of large groups of people).

After a somewhat dark session in the morning looking at grooming i spoke about the positive effect of the internet and how i believe it has helped me and helped me help others over the years. I did this through talking about my own experiences of mental illness and using and running support groups and forums online. I wanted to stress that not everything that happens on the internet is bad or untoward and that actually thousands of young people are helped every day by the peer support they receive online.

I have noticed that professionals, when considering young people and their internet use (especially “vulnerable” young people), find it very hard to see beyond one thing. Risk.

This means that projects are often slowed down or more likely not even considered, I hear a lot of fear and dismissal of service user involvement and participation let alone the concept of peer support within this.

My answer? Yes there are risks involved in going online, and yes some people are more “vulnerable” than others, however there is risk inherent in all areas of life. Risk is a fact of life and people will do “risky” things regardless, you may not be able to stop it but imagine the effect it would have if you could at least help manage and minimise it.

The ban and block  culture and our fear of the worst case scenario paralyses us and certainly does not move us forward.

 

And while bigger organisations are pondering all the worst case scenarios of having even, say, a pre-moderated, closed forum for service users, service users like me have been doing this for a decade now.

And i understand the fear that exists, believe me. I understand the fear of lawsuits and Daily Mail fodder but please bear in mind it can be done, and done well.

It’s not about trying to making risk obsolete, it’s about building resilience, educating young people and providing support; just check out what the Cybermentors do.

There are safeguarding measures that you can put in place, so many i wouldn’t know where to start..and do you know what? A lot of them are common sense! Like not giving out personal details online, just like you shouldn’t give them to a stranger in the street.

I’m sure most young people would tell you too that we don’t want to be wrapped in cotton wool and actually we need to learn by experience.

Personally i doubt exactly where i would be today without the peer support i have and currently still get online, i don’t imagine it would be a good place.

It has been a part of my life for around ten years now including before, during and after more conventional psychological help. Yes the help that i was receiving wasn’t from someone qualified in any paper-based way but i was fully aware of that going in. Not only that but the support was free and, unlike most mental health services, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A stark contrast to most service provision which operate on a strictly 9-5 basis (with a few exceptions of course). No two year waiting lists in sight either..

I don’t blame the services. I understand the pressure they are under, it was pretty bad ten years ago and with the brutal cuts to the NHS things aren’t looking too good here on the ground right now.

Peer support should be encouraged, as a grass roots movement of sorts it already wields immense power and touches and enhances the lives of thousands. Just look at the hit counts on websites that are already doing it. And look at how successful ChildLine and Beat Bullying for great examples of how to reach out online.

It was amazing to be given a platform to speak about something that is so important to me both personally and professionally. It is the reason that with YoungMinds and MyHealthLondon i am developing an app and website to help young people who need support.

I met some incredibly interesting people throughout the day and the conversation continued both at the conference and on twitter (#mpp #munchpokeping).

The day after was a conference run by YoungMinds and ACAMH titled “Young people in the internet wilderness: a ticking time bomb?”,  my next post will be coming shortly!

Name our app and win a prize!

shutterstock_64221979YoungMinds and Myhealthlondon have teamed up to help young people in London. We are doing this by developing an app and website to help young people find help when they need it; whether that be with mental health, sexual health or drugs & alcohol use.

Help us name our app for young people and you could be in with the chance to win either an ipod or £50 of high street vouchers.Good luck everyone!

Please share this message!

Enter the competition

Never a dull moment in mental health..

Not that i ever have anything that resembles a “quiet” week but next week is looking especially busy so i thought i would give you a little warning as to what’s coming up. And first a bit about what i have been up to so far this week.

This week:

On Tuesday I was lucky enough to meet up with Wedge and Jules from LifeSIGNS at the Tate Modern to talk about blogging, mental health and online peer support. As a long time user of their message boards and a big fan of their work it is really exciting to be working with them. 

I visited the counselling service Open Door in North London to talk about the app i’m working on and the work that they do with young people. One of my favourite parts of the project i am working on is that i am lucky enough to go and visit these incredible grassroots organisations in person and really get a feel for how they work.

And now next week..

On Monday i will be speaking at Munch, Poke Ping, a national conference about social media and vulnerable young people. 

This is followed by a conference on Tuesday run by YoungMinds and the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health “Young People in the Internet Wilderness: A Psychological Time Bomb?” which will look at the opportunities and threats faced by young people in the digital age.

At both conferences i will be talking both about my own experiences of using the internet as a therapeutic tool and the work that i am now doing with YoungMinds and MyHealthLondon, developing an app for young people living in London to help them find help when they need it.

This is followed on the Saturday by the last VIK day of the year, i can’t believe how fast this year has flown by and how much we have achieved as a project!

Really looking forward to both of the events, both presenting and listening to the fascinating speakers that are lined up for both days. I will be blogging about both of these events so watch this space!

Our first focus group

On Friday i ran the first focus group with young people for our Wellbeing app for young Londoners. Although we didn’t have as many people as we expected the day was still a great success and we were inundated with suggestions and ideas.

We split the group into three sections to cover three of the biggest areas we identified previously: the look and feel of the app & website, the content it needs to have and how to launch it so that it reaches as many young people as possible.

We had some really innovative ideas for all areas and are currently feeding back young people’s responses to our designers and developers: we want to make sure that young people are not just given an opportunity to express their ideas but that those ideas are taken seriously, taken on board and made into reality.

The focus group was a great pilot and we will be running more over the next few months both on and offline so if you would like to find out more or even get involved please don’t hesitate to contact me at Katherine.Cormack@london.nhs.uk

October has been a busy month

Well October is almost drawing to an end now and it has been quite a month! On top of my usual work for YoungMinds and NHS London i have also been lucky enough to visit the House of Lords on not one, nor two but three occasions this month to talk about mental health and the app i am developing.

I will be blogging about all three of these visits in the coming days, watch this space!

Celebrate World Mental Health Day in London

Celebrate World Mental Health Day in London

It’s  World Mental Health Day tomorrow. The event which is marking it’s 20th anniversary will this year  focus on Depression, something that affects a huge number of us here in the UK and worldwide and from what i can see is only getting worse.

As i’m currently working for YoungMinds and NHS London i thought i would do a little bit of my own research to see what London is doing to celebrate the day and how you can get involved.

Of course i may well have missed bits here and there so if anyone knows about something i’ve missed drop me a line in the form of a comment and i’ll add it to the list.

 

Camden

There will be a “Real Talk” event for 14-19 year olds running from 5:30-8:30pm at Camden Town Hall Council Chamber and the topic for debate is “Mental Health in Camden”. I will have a stall at the event and lots of information about YoungMinds and the VIK Project. There will also be some fantastic prizes, music, hot food and a goody bag for every participant. You do need a ticket for this event.

For tickets to Real Talk email Lizzie.Streeter@camden.gov.uk or call 020 7974 2943.   

North East London Foundation Trust

To mark World Mental Health Day, North East London NHS Foundation Trust is hosting a ‘Depression and Dementia’ awareness event on Wednesday 10 October at Queen’s Hospital in Romford.

The event will highlight how factors such as exercise and diet can affect mental health and how people can make positive changes to their everyday lives to look after their mental health and wellbeing.

http://www.nelft.nhs.uk/news_publications/110

Bipolar UK

Bipolar UK’s London office will be hosting a lunchtime welcome between 12 noon and 2pm. This is your opportunity to celebrate this special day, meet the team and learn more about bipolar and what the charity do do. 

http://www.bipolaruk.org.uk/world-mental-health-day.html

Haringey Council

I’m very impressed by Haringey Council who are actually running a whole week’s worth of events in order to celebrate World Mental Health Day and help local people experiencing mental health problems. The list of activities is detailed on their website.

http://www.haringey.gov.uk/index/social_care_and_health/mental-health/worldmentalhealthday.htm

London School of Economics

On October 8th in collaboration with the Central & North London NHS Trust and LSE Student union are holding an event on the Houghton street campus, in the Student union building to raise awareness of mental illness amongst students. There will be information stalls and a film show “Open Secrets” following by a group discussion.

http://lsesu.tumblr.com/post/32927625078/lsesu-is-marking-world-mental-health-day-8th-oct

JAMI (Jewish Association for Mental Illness)

JAMI will be manning stalls in the community, raining awareness about mental health for World Menatl Health day.

Barnet

All day event at Brent Cross Shopping Centre (Centre Court) Stalls, information, volunteers/advisers, short talks on mental illness.

On the 11th of October Barnet’s Mayor Brian Schama will be attending an event titled “No Health Without Mental Health”.

http://www.times-series.co.uk/news/topstories/9959339.Mental_health_awareness_day_supported_by_Barnet_Mayor/

Dagenham

Dagenham are holding an event for World Mental Health Day, called Opportunities, which will highlight the Employment, Education and Training opportunities in the local communities for people with mental health issues, as well as raising awareness and addressing stigma.

http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/your-organisation/events/wmhd-opportunities

Hammersmith Lyric Theatre

An event will be held in the Lyric Square and Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith on Wednesday 10th October 12-4pm. The purpose of the event is to combat the stigma associated with mental health, promote awareness of mental health and provide information on services available. The event will have something for everyone: a play produced by the Creative Minds Youth Project, speakers, film screenings, advice & information, and stalls and workshops on mental health.

Time for Tea

Gillet Square, 14th October.

Time for tea is a one day festival spread over three locations in Dalston for World Mental Health Day in association with: Hackney Community Services East London NHS Foundation Trust Gillett Squared Studio Upstairs and Time to Change.

http://www.studioupstairs.org.uk/featured-news/time-for-tea-festival/

 Time to Change

Time to Change are running a roadshow event at a local community centre – MyPlace Community Centre in Harold Hill Romford which is linking in with an art exhibition that is delivered by people with Mental Health conditions to raise awareness of mental health to local people in Havering.

http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/your-organisation/events/mental-health-awareness-day-10th-october-2012

Rethink Your Mind

Rethink Your Mind had a fantastic London launch event that  i was lucky enough to attend last month. They asked people to send it positive, creative work with the sentence ‘With good mental health I have…’ to start them off.

 They will be revealing the winner of their competition and showcasing some of the creative work that has been sent to them.

http://www.rethinkyourmind.co.uk/

Mental Health Foundation

Tea and Talk events: All you have to do is get together a group of friends, family or colleagues, put the kettle on and invite them to make a donation to the Mental Health Foundation, it’s as simple as that!

http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/get-involved/as-a-fundraiser/teaandtalk/

MindApples

The wonderful Mind Apples will have one of their trees down at Southwark Cathedral on World Mental Health Day. Check it out and add your 5 a day!