I just told the Tories what i think of their welfare reforms..
I just told the Tories what i think of their welfare reforms..
Back in August i wrote a blog, which you can read here. The blog was about my reactions to the intense press coverage of rape stories; triggered mainly by comments made by male politicians such as Todd Aikin in the US and George Galloway here in the UK.
One of the things that i spoke about was my unease around the bestselling 50 Shades of Grey and in particular how hard i found it to deal with that every morning on my commute the trains were full of people either reading these rape headlines or Shades of Grey. I found it a disturbing juxtaposition.
I am certainly not the only one that draws issue with the book in question and the messages it sends out. Speaking to friends, including several with experiences of domestic violence and refuges, i found plenty of other people that are just as troubled by this.
So it was very interesting to hear that a refuge in England has had a really great idea that doesn’t involve book burning but instead..and wait for this..using 50 Shades of Grey as toilet paper!
Wearside Women in Need have started a campaign; “Fifty Shades of Abuse” and have been asking for donations of the book which will be cut up and used as toilet paper and compost.
Read the whole article here: Domestic abuse charity to use 50 Shades of Grey as toilet paper.
On the 22nd of October i had a very exclusive ticket to the House of Lords to speak and give evidence at an All Party Parliamentary Group for Children. This was apparently the second meeting of the group although the first for me and the question asked of us was “are children and young people getting the opportunities they want” in terms of good health and was looking at access to healthcare.
We heard from:
Baroness Massey who was kind enough to chair the event.
Dr. Chris Hanvey, the chief executive of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
Caroline Noakes, MP and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image who told us about her work and area of interests which include self esteem, body image and mental health. It was great to hear from an MP so involved in raising awareness of these issues which affect so many young people.
Professor Helen Cross, the Prince of Wales chair of Childhood Epilepsy and three young people from the charity Young Epilepsy. I was so impressed by the young people who spoke about their experiences of other peoples ignorance and the discrimination and lack of understanding they had faced in receiving help for their conditions.
Young people and staff from West London Mental Health Trust’s Wells Unit who spoke openly and honestly about their experiences of both the justice and mental health systems and what they think would help young people stay mentally healthy, especially vulnerable young people who had become caught up in gangs.
We also heard from a representative at ChildLine who talked us through some really eye opening statistics. I was amazed to hear that since it was founded in 1986 ChildLine has counselled over 2.9 million children.
They spoke about the 69% increase in calls about self harm and 39% increase about suicide and told us that depression and mental health concerns feature in the top 5 concerns for 16 and 17 year olds calling them.
I was the last young person to speak at the APPG, this felt like a really big responsibility, especially after hearing from the other young people at the event but i wanted to make sure that i got across how young people who use mental health services often feel.
I also pointed out that, as i was the last person to speak, it showed that there continue to be wide ranging and very damaging problems within children and young people’s healthcare regardless of whether this is mental or physical health. I pointed out that this was an issue rampant across services and young people frequently felt dismissed, ignored and patronised by services and professionals.
I also spoke about the work i had done in the past and my experiences of services which is what led me to get involved in YoungMinds in the first place. I spoke about the work i do now with YoungMinds and NHS London and the app that we are developing specifically for young people in London and the State of Mind manifesto.
The group wrapped up the meeting with a quick Q&A session, we would have loved to have speak longer but we had to finish at 6:30. I must admit to being exhausted by the end of the day but it was definitely an incredibly worthwhile experience and i am glad that i was able to speak at such a high level about mental health and young people. I just hope that what i said can in some way help to make a difference, if only in opening people’s eyes to some of the experiences of young people.
On Monday 8th of October i had my first of three visits this month to the House of Lords. I must admit that this visit was not related to mental health but a highly interesting and enjoyable experience nonetheless. In fact in many ways more so because i learnt so much about something i admit to not knowing much about.
I was visiting with Devika, winner of the Sex Factor 2012 competition and MBARC, who i am working with for the sexual health section of our wellbeing app. They were kind enough to invite me for the launch of HIV Sport’s launch of their film series “Fact or Fiction”.
HIV Sport is a fantastic charity that, as the name suggests, uses sport to raise awareness of HIV. It works on an international level and has touched the lives of so many people across the world.
We heard from some truly incredible people and saw the award for the winner of the Fact or Fiction competition given to Brian Mjiyakho and Danny Lurie from Johannesburg, South Africa.
You can watch some of the films here.
After this we were given a guided tour of the House of Lords and even got to watch the Lords sitting from the member’s gallery!
Afterwards we convened for a meeting and Devika and I were able to share the work that we are doing developing our wellbeing app for young people in London. We talked about our aims for the project and what had brought us together for this project. It was wonderful to not only be able to share ideas with delegates from across the world but also hear so much praise and interest in our work.
Overall the day was a fascinating and truly humbling experience, seeing people from across the world come together to do such incredible work.
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!
Last year young people from organisations including YoungMinds Very Important Kids (VIK) project, Right Here Newham and the Peer Outreach group at the GLA got together to discuss one of the last taboos: mental health, with a particular focus on how it affects them as Londoners. Their work led to the London State of Mind manifesto, a document put forward to advise decision makers about what is important to young Londoners and what improvements they want to see. This was launched last year at city hall and quickly gained cross-party support.
One point is of particular importance and has led to my job being created. Point five, “tell us where we can go when we need to get help”. I am currently working for YoungMinds on secondment to NHS London and we are working on a very exciting project in response to this.
We have decided to develop an app and online space to help young people find out what help is available in their area.
While this started off at looking purely at mental health services we soon realised this wouldn’t be enough. Mental health is not something experienced in isolation, especially for young people, and has large overlaps and affects areas such as relationships, physical health and substance use. Therefore we decided to embark on a somewhat more challenging task: mapping wellbeing services in the capital and helping young people to find them as well as producing materials to support young people along the way.
Just over two weeks in and we have already accomplished a lot. We have begun mapping services and meeting with young people and organisations from all over London. We will continue to engage with as many young people as we can as I believe participation is key to this being a useful and hopefully successful tool.
We want this to be more than just a wellbeing “Yellow pages” and for that we need your experiences and recommendations of services. Your local knowledge and experiences are invaluable to making this work so tell us about anything you think might be of interest that you know about and let us know what services you use.
So what next?
I will be blogging at YoungMinds and at MyHealthLondon on a fortnightly basis, keeping you up to date with what we’re doing and how you can help.
We will be running consultations with young people, the dates aren’t fixed yet but if you’re interested in getting involved please email me at Katherine.Cormack@london.nhs.uk.
Read the full London State of Mind manifesto here.
Let me preface this blog by saying that i started thinking and feeling a need to write about this subject quite some time ago but the catalyst has definitely been my experience of the last few weeks. And i would like to say this is just my own thoughts and feelings on the subject so please bear in mind and respect that while reading. Also some of this content may be triggering for some and i would urge people to read with caution and stay safe. I’ve included some resources and information at the end of the blog too.
The subject of rape has very much been catapulted into the mainstream media recently and especially so due to several recent incidents by high ranking public figures (i.e. the ones who have a position of power and should know better). There are many examples but the obvious ones would be;
Todd Akin and his comments about “legitimate rape” and his spouting of absolutely bizarre “scientific” theories. Attitudes that show nothing if not a very strong argument for a better sex education system and which also absolutely horrify me. The fact that he has refused to stand down and has used the backlash to push for funding for his campaign..and received it is a whole other matter i won’t even start on.
The issue of Assange, George Galloway and “bad sexual etiquette”.
For me this is not an issue with whether a crime did or did not occur, either way as a supposed beacon of freedom of information, transparency and above all justice something sits really wrong with me that we are wasting our time defending really harmful sexual behaviour and battling over semantics. Something is really wrong here.
Endlessly questioning what is “legitimate” rape leads to thousands of women and men feeling great shame about their own negative sexual experiences. We need to break down this preconceived idea of what rape is and start unpacking the subtler aspects. Not all rape is violent rape, much rape has a strong element of coercion and not all rapists look like brutish thugs that’s for sure.
The prevailing message seems to be that fault lies in the hands or the clothing of the victims. As a woman i have been taught that i must be careful, i must protect my drinks, i must be careful with the company i keep, that public spaces after night has fallen is dangerous and i have been taught that if something goes wrong (sometimes even if all these things have been done) i am to blame for not doing enough to stop something happening to me. This makes me so angry in a way i cannot coherently express.
It sickens, shocks and most of all saddens me that as a society we so often dismiss and laugh about rape. I know it’s the cool thing to do at the moment, people glibly talk about committing “facebook rape”, jokes are made not just about the act but also about the victims, the way they dressed etc.
I know i will probably be branded unable to take a joke and a killjoy by some for this, people don’t think about it, they think it’s harmless. Please, i cannot say this loud enough; it hurts.
It hurts so many men, women and children who have been violated or exploited in a sexual manner, in whatever form and also has some pretty serious consequences. This year the Met reported a substantial drop in rapes reported. And i’m sorry to be blunt but i highly doubt that this because less people are being raped. People aren’t speaking out and reporting crimes of this nature because a lot of the time they don’t see the point. A scandalously low number of defendants in rape cases are convicted and many do not expect to be believed if they do report what happened. And then when we start belittling serious sexual assault and rape and refusing to believe that this is not a black and white issue people don’t tell and that can be incredibly damaging.
Although these are examples of the huge swathes of ignorance, the widespread dismissal of rape and it’s victims and so many ugly beliefs it has done one thing. It has got people talking. It has outed a lot of misconceptions that need to be challenged as well as really showing the results of the gaps in PSHE.
And i’m thankful that we are finally talking about some of these things i just wish it wasn’t so often so blunt, insensitive and upsetting.
I am acutely aware that for a lot of people, male and female, it will have been incredibly triggering. The sheer amount of hate and exposure this subject has got recently has been overwhelming. I commute into London on a daily basis and found that it is almost impossible to find a carriage which doesn’t have an array of people reading newspapers riddled with stories and headlines about rape sitting next to someone with a copy of 50 Shades of Grey or some variant in their hands. I find this personally to be another quite awkward, uncomfortable juxtaposition but each to their own i guess.
I myself have felt some of the “rape fatigue” described in Jezebel earlier this week: Rape Fatigue and You: When There’s Just No Anger Left
And i want to leave you with the words of a few who have said it a lot better than i have and some resources if you are struggled and have been triggered with recent media coverage or with this blog post. Stay safe everyone.
Please be warned that these could be triggering
Anarchy in the UK?
Well as i type this there are riots on the streets of London, homes and shops ablaze and shops being looted. It feels surreal to say it, especially as i have lived in London and called it my home. The places i see on the news are all too familiar and too many of my friends are a literal stone..or brick’s..throw away from the events that are unfolding.
But should we have seen this coming?
Well even Nick Clegg said there would be riots if the Conservatives got back into power (pre-coalition of course):
For months people have been protesting. We have been taking to the streets in our thousands. I have stood amongst those crowds myself, protesting at the Hardest Hit march earlier this year with YoungMinds and the ViKs against cuts to benefits which have had a huge impact on a lot of people with mental health difficulties.
There have been desperate pleas, petitions, signatures and speeches and none of it appears to have done a damn bit of good. Tuition fees still went up, benefits still got cut, the poor got even poorer. Not to mention unemployment has got to the point that earlier this year JobCentre staff were trained on how to deal with suicidal clients:
Not only this but the charities and other organisations set up to help the vulnerable and the disaffected suffered massively when the cuts came in:
“More than 2,000 charities are being forced to close services and sack staff as local authorities slash their funding, or in some cases completely withdraw it”.—2nd August 2011
It saddens me so much to see this happening and i wonder what will become of this country of ours; if this is a flash in the pan occurrence, a knee jerk and a letting off of steam or the start of something more insidious and menacing. Only time will tell i guess.
In the mean time social media is certainly proving to be something of a force of nature. Knowledge is power after all and as a closet geek (in a relationship with a very open geek) it amazes me to see the power of things such as Twitter and how much protesting has changed even in recent years. In fact Twitter has been my main source of news on the situation and i recommend it as the best way to keep up with events. It can be a very good way of keeping in touch people you are worried about too.
And for the those very much experiencing the unrest please remember to stay safe and look after yourselves and look after each other.
First published 9th August 2011:
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I'm a writer, a mamma, a recovered anorexic, a book-worm, a recovered bulimic, a runner, not in that order. Here id like to talk about that stuff