Peterhead FC tackling suicide and depression risks

Aaron Norris talks to Fiona Stalker
Aaron Norris told BBC Scotland’s Fiona Stalker he had struggled

A Scottish football club is putting its players and officials through suicide prevention training in a project which it is hoped could be adopted by other teams around the country, BBC Scotland can reveal.

Peterhead FC hopes the sessions could help break down the stigma surrounding mental health within the game.

The club said pressures on young players in particular can be extreme.

The union for players has welcomed the initiative.

Peterhead’s Aaron Norris, 19, said he struggled after being signed for Aberdeen FC as a youngster, only to be let go as a teenager.

He told the BBC’s Timeline programme: “It was pretty devastating.

“I felt like my dreams had been crushed, especially being I would still say quite young.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do, if I had to go and find a job or if I would pursue full-time football with a different team.

“It was hard, it was a really tough time.”

‘Bottle it in’

Martin Johnson, Peterhead FC’s general manager, decided to introduce the sessions.

He said of players: “They bottle it in.

“When they travelling to games they are in their own zone as it were.

“They are not the greatest at coming forward, and as an employer we need to get self-training so we can identify the problems.

“The biggest problem is the stigma of the word suicide.

“It’s good to speak.”

Football training

Iain Murray, from north east of Scotland’s Choose Life suicide prevention organisation, said: “Here we are working with Peterhead Football Club where physical excellence they are trying to achieve.

“There is a danger that mental health is neglected.

“But that is not the case with this club, they are really forward-thinking, and they do want to break down the stigma and we know that is really important for employers.

“This is absolutely pioneering work.”

‘Too much’

Peterhead manager and former Scotland player Jim McInally said: “They need to cut down the amount of kids that are getting disappointed because it’s far too much.

“It’s not even just at full-time level, it’s kids at 10, 11, 12 that are in development clubs and then you speaks to their parents and they say ‘oh he’s really disappointed, he’s been let go’, what age is he? ‘Ten’, and you should not know disappointment at that age.”

The Scottish FA said in statement: “The health and mental wellbeing of professional footballers in Scotland is of paramount importance to the Scottish FA.

“Since 2016, we have offered Support Within Sport, a project aimed at combating mental health issues in Scottish football.

“The programme provides access to a specialist support network of experienced doctors, counsellors and psychologists and is offered free of charge to clubs, players and coaches across the 42 clubs in the Scottish Professional Football League, the top two divisions in the Scottish Women’s Premier League and also to referees.”

‘Rolled out’

Michelle Evans, head of communications and wellbeing at PFA Scotland – the union for players – said: “We very much welcome and support the work Peterhead are doing with Choose Life in educating their players around the topic of mental health.

“For a number of years, we have been providing a service for players which gives them access to support and advice should they find themselves struggling mentally and we do regular club visits and communications with the players to ensure they know about the support that is available to them.

“It is really encouraging to see the lengths Peterhead as a club are prepared to go to to look after their players wellbeing and it would be great to see this project with Choose Life rolled out at other clubs.”



Link to BBC report here 

Christmas is an isolating time for people with mental health problems.

At a time of year when most people are enjoying themselves there are many who cannot join in, but despite the challenges services face, help is available.

There are many who will be unable to enjoy the festivities because of mental ill health.
             There are many who will be unable to enjoy the festivities because of mental ill health. 

Christmas is a time for joy, celebration and bringing together family and friends to share this merriment. While taking nothing away from this much needed festivity, spare a thought for those who are less advantaged – particularly those with mental health problems.

Mental illness transcends all ages and backgrounds. Almost one in four adults have a mental illness at some point in their lives, such as stress, anxiety, depression or psychosis.

An individual’s emotional health can also have a great impact on physical health, and poor mental health can lead to problems such as alcohol and drug abuse.

And so, at a time when the rest of the nation is busy celebrating, there are many who just cannot, rather than will not, be able to do so because of their mental ill health. Indeed their inability to join in on the fun can exacerbate their isolation.

The environment we live in plays a crucial role in the genesis of mental illness. Austerity is certainly not good for mental health; it affects those in lower income brackets, and those at particular risk of mental disorders, the hardest. Public spending cuts have hit some of the most vulnerable sections of society – those in receipt of social care or on pension credits, and disabled and unemployed people.

So where might someone go, if their mental health is failing? NHS commissioning for mental health services has been nothing short of a disaster and an abject failure in many places.

The Independent Mental Health Services Alliance found that high demand and mounting financial constraints has resulted in the average deficit of NHS mental health trusts increasing by 6.3% over the last two years. The King’s Fund concluded in its analysis of services across England that around 40% of mental health trusts experienced a cut in income in 2013-14 and 2014-15.

leaked report by a government taskforce uncovered the scale of the crisis in England’s mental health services..

But here’s the double whammy. In austere times, commissioners do not pump more money into the system; rather they tend to raid mental health budgets to plug the growing deficits in the acute hospital sector.

Despite the crucial importance of mental health services, they have always been the poor relation in any health system in general and the NHS in particular. These services, which are underfunded, demoralised and struggling with demand, are not to be seen and preferably not to be heard.

This may sound dramatic, but the reality is that there has been long-term neglect in addressing the many problems that most NHS mental services and their patients are faced with – access to timely appointments, access to local beds, services that are joined up and in one place like other NHS services are, and enough doctors and nurses in the system. The list goes on.

The scale of the mental health challenge has been underestimated. NHS England has set out its plan for achieving recommendations made in its Five Year Forward View for Mental Health (pdf) to improve mental healthcare by 2020-21. It has committed to transforming mental health services with an extra £1bn a year. Those at the coalface know this is yesterday’s money – demand is ever increasing, and the historic deficit in funding can only be addressed if politicians and senior managers can have frank conversations.

Back to Christmas then. Though this is a challenging time for those with mental illnesses, statutory and voluntary organisations are there to support these individuals and therefore it is vitally important to ask for help.

Despite the pressures on the system, services are there for those who need urgent help or are facing a crisis – the doors won’t close to them.

And for those with less serious issues, there are measures that can be taken without resorting to statutory and voluntary services. Family, friends and individuals can watch out for abnormal behaviour, such as panic attacks, and try to restore calmness by getting away from noisy, busy places and doing breathing exercises.Avoid having an argument, the tension will almost certainly ease.

Finding a place for shelter, a warm meal, and ensuring youngsters are protected are not impossible goals, though at times it might seem like that.

Depression and stress can make one unnecessarily pessimistic, although simple measures such as not indulging in alcohol and drugs or spending within means can reduce the plight of those who are not in a good place.

An uplifted spirit will bring back that joy and hope, and trigger off a feelgood factor that can be the springboard to happiness. Good mental health brings with it a whole lot of goodies in Santa’s stocking, because after all, physical fitness and wealth are meaningless without it. And let’s hope Santa has something for struggling mental health services.



Link to orginal Guardian article here

Pupils suffering from anxiety and depression to receive counselling in schools

Critics say 2019 launch of vital mental health plan is not soon enough

Sad girl on stairs
 Some children have been waiting up to 18 months for support from NHS child and adolescent mental health services. 

Children suffering from anxiety and depression will be offered counselling at school under government plans to tackle a widely reported crisis in young people’s mental health. Pupils in England will be able to attend sessions with therapists at school or college in an attempt to stop any psychological difficulties deepening into lifelong issues.

Every school will also be required to appoint a teacher to co-ordinate improved support for the fast-growing number of children who are struggling mentally, many self-harming as a result of bullying, exam stress, dissatisfaction with their body shape, troubles at home and other factors.

The plans are included in a government green paper to be launched on Sunday by health secretary Jeremy Hunt and education secretary Justine Greening.

A new guaranteed maximum four-week waiting time for children with more complex problems to access NHS child and adolescent mental health services (Camhs) will be phased in. That is a response to concerns that many vulnerable under-18s, including some who may be suicidal, are being forced to wait for care or even denied help because Camhs care is overloaded.

“Around half of all mental illness starts before the age of 14 so it is vital that children get support as soon as they need it – in the classroom. If we catch mental illness early we can treat it and stop it turning into something more serious,” said Hunt.

Sarah Brennan, chief executive of the charity YoungMinds, welcomed the plans. “We are facing a crisis in our classrooms and far too many children are not getting the support they need. Too often we hear from young people who have started to self-harm, become suicidal or dropped out of school while waiting for the right help,” she said.

The improvements will begin in 2019 and be backed by what the government says is £300m of new funding over several years, which is on top of the £1.35bn the coalition government allocated to children’s mental health up to 2020.

The National Association of Head Teachers, which represents most primary school heads, welcomed the four-week Camhs waiting time as an “extremely important step forward”. Under-18s are currently enduring waits of as long as 18 months, the NHS regulator said recently.

Around £215m of the £300m will fund the creation of mental health support teams in schools. Ministers intend that several thousand new “children and young people’s wellness practitioners”, therapists providing mainly cognitive behaviour therapy, will undertake most of the work with pupils, but with school nurses and educational psychologists also involved. Ministers hope that this increase in early intervention will reduce the number of children who go on to struggle mentally as adults.

However, the initiatives will initially be piloted to assess their effectiveness, so the new forms of support envisaged will not be available across England until an unspecified time in the 2020s. The government’s ambition is only that they have been put in place in a fifth of the country by 2022-23.

Dr Bernadka Dubicka, a children’s psychiatrist who chairs the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ child and adolescent faculty, said she was frustrated that more help would not be put in place sooner. While welcoming the four-week treatment pledge, she also queried where the extra mental health professionals would come from to provide speedier Camhs care. Official figures show that the number of specialist children’s psychiatrists working in the NHS in England has fallen since 2013.

Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston, chair of the health select committee, welcomed the announcement but said she was keen to see more details. “We need to have a much greater focus on early intervention and prevention. Any money going into that is a good thing,” she said.

She welcomed better coordination between schools and the NHS, but said that some schools were already working well with the health service and others should learn the lessons from those places. “It’s often down to resourcing,” she said. “Most young people prefer to have these services delivered in a setting of school because it’s much easier to access. Children don’t necessarily want to feel stigmatised by a referral to psychiatric services.”

Catherine Roche, chief executive of the national children’s mental health charity Place2Be, said: “We welcome the commitment demonstrated by the green paper, and are heartened to see recognition of how vital it is to provide mental health support in schools. We believe that a ‘whole school approach’ to mental health is essential to build a culture of openness and understanding, with appropriately qualified mental health professionals available when needed.”

Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb, the coalition’s mental health minister, said: “We published the Future in Mind report in March 2015. It was a blueprint for modernising children and young people’s mental health services. They have failed to drive the implementation of that blueprint. Why should we have any expectation that this will be any different? They should have just implemented it. At its heart it was all about linking schools much more closely with mental health services. Two years on, deja vu.”

Barbara Keeley, Labour’s shadow cabinet minister for mental health, said that the plans left “many unanswered questions”, including over funding and whether every school would be able to help every pupil who needed it. “The Tories’ record on children and young people’s mental health has been shocking, with a postcode lottery of provision across child and adolescent mental health services and many long waits for treatment,” she said.



Link to original Guardian article here


What I wish people knew about mental health and recovery.

What I wish people knew about mental health and recovery


More and more people are talking about mental health, and that’s brilliant. However, there’s still a lot to learn about it – and it seems handling how you talk about ‘recovery’ plays a big factor in this.

I was recently listening to the radio when the hosts started discussing mental illness and recovery. They talked about how many people are able to recover from mental illness, without actually disclosing with mental illnesses they were talking about. Personally, I believe this to be somewhat dangerous because despite making their listeners more aware of mental illness, they gave off the impression that all mental illnesses can be recovered from. And this is simply not the case.

Many mental illnesses are chronic illnesses – they are lifelong or persistent illnesses that don’t just go away. Part of the problem contributing to the misunderstanding of mental illness is that we don’t realise this. We’re still not seeing mental illness as a real illness, as we would a physical one. If we did, people suffering from them would believe they’re going to be taken seriously when they finally find the courage to seek help. And so, we should move this process along by learning that there is a total difference between recovery and remission. In most cases, mental illness is incurable. Disorders such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and anxiety are life-long illnesses that have no cure. Sure, there are ways to help a person living with a mental illness such as these – through means of therapy, psychiatry and medication. But this doesn’t cure the underlying cause, it simply helps to balance it out and gives a person living with a mental illness a chance at an easier way of life. But even with all of that help, a person can still crash.

I live with bipolar disorder, and I take a cocktail of medications every night – mood stabilisers, anti-psychotics and anxiety tablets mainly. While most of the time, these keep me balanced and feeling okay, there are times when it stops working. I’ll go into a hypomanic episode or a depressive, and I can only wait out the erratic ride until it’s finally over. After several weeks, I’ll be back to my ‘stable’ self. This does not mean I’ve recovered from my bipolar disorder. It simply means I’m in remission. And this applies for most other serious mental illnesses, too. Remission is the temporary diminution of symptoms of mental illness. At least, the most extreme of symptoms. A person can feel as okay as they possibly can for days, weeks, months and even years – and still experience symptoms of their mental illness.  And people need to realise this when talking about mental illness. It’ll help people finally realise that the likes of running, eating better and drinking more water aren’t anything more than a helping factor in feeling better within yourself.


Link to Metro article can be found here