A Dundee charity that offers help and support to veterans through horticulture was officially opened by Lord Provost Ian Borthwick on Friday.
The official opening of the Dundee Therapy Garden came just months after it was damaged by vandals, who smashed windows of one of its potting sheds and spray-painted obscene drawings on the fence surrounding the former bowling club.
Volunteers and staff at the garden repaired the damage and have started donating vegetables and fruit grown there to foodbanks and other charities.
It employs three horticultural therapists who work with veterans of the armed forces and emergency services who suffer from mental health problems.
Charity chairman Alex Lyell said: “Military and armed forces personnel are exposed to many hazards.
“Not all survive. Of those that do many are wounded in body or mind. Our therapists are here to help those with mental health problems and also their families.”
He added: “This place would not work in any way were it not for the volunteer team who put so much effort into supporting this project.
“As well as our multi-talented volunteers, we benefit from the work parties who come from Castle Huntly and Dundee Social Justice. Taken together they bring a range of skills and effort which we could not possibly afford to purchase and without which the job would not get done.”
Mr Borthwick planted a tree to mark the official opening of the garden.
He said: “The creation of this garden is the finest example of the way you are responding to the contemporary needs of our veterans and ex-uniformed service personnel.
“Creating a space where they can improve their resilience provides overwhelming benefits of calm, well-being and positive coping strategies.
“The special features of this garden demonstrate the care and thought that has gone into the planning and design of this project.”
The garden supports up to 16 veterans at any one time.
Guests at Friday’s opening included Dundee City West SNP MSP Joe FitzPatrick.
He said he was pleased there had been no repeat of the vandalism that occurred in May.
He said: “This is a fantastic facility and you can really see the effort that has gone into transforming what was a piece of waste ground.
“It appears as if the community has really taken to this as its own.”
Scarlett Moffatt returned to Twitter this week after a self-imposed social media ban. Scarlett Moffatt has indicated that she’s experiencing a ‘constant battle of emotions.’ Following a self-imposed social media ban, the vivacious TV personality, 27, agreed with a Twitter user who said that balancing a bubbly personality with ‘shitty mental health’ was confusing. Scarlett is believed to be going through her second break-up with ‘pathological liar’ Lee Wilkinson and deleted her Instagram for a week at the end of July saying she was ‘[honestly so done] with every aspect of social media.’ On her return this week, Scarlett wrote ‘agreed’ with two supportive kisses under a tweet that said: ‘Having shitty mental health but your personality being naturally bubbly & outgoing is theeee most confusing thing. Constant battle of emotions.’ Scarlett has previously spoke about how being in the spotlight affects her mental health. At the end of last month, she vented her frustration at Twitter users who insulted her appearance on Love Island: After Sun. She wrote: ‘I wanted and felt like I had to write that tweet to let you know at the end of the day I’m a 27 year old girl with feelings & a family who get upset also when they see vile comments about my appearance. Something needs to change with our society!!’ She also hinted that pap pictures were beginning to bring her down, warning that unflattering photos can affect people’s mental health. Before finding fame, the former Gogglebox star said that experiences of anxiety and dizzying panic attacks affected her on a daily basis. Writing in her autobiography Sofa, So Good, Scarlett confessed: ‘When you talk about it, it becomes less stressful. I don’t think anyone should feel like it’s a problem, because it’s not something you can help: that’s just how our brains work. ‘There’s such a stigma attached to anxiety, so it’s good to brush that away, nobody should feel embarrassed or alone. The more people talk about it, the more people will understand it and know how to act.’ ‘I still have bad days. What people need to understand about anxiety and panic attacks is that it isn’t necessarily the big things that can make you feel nervous, it can be little things too.’
Suicide is the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK – 84 take their own lives every week. A new campaign, Project84, aims to raise awareness and sees sculptures placed on the top of a London tower block.
“People say the wounds heal but you still have the scars,” says Jonny Sharples, whose elder brother Simon, 36, took his own life in 2014.
“I remember when it happened. I was at home on my own watching a rerun of Match of the Day and I got a phone call from my sister.
“I was in tears. I went down to see her in Staines, where she lives, and then we saw my parents in Cornwall. It was Christmas, which made it more difficult.
“Simon adored Christmas, even in his thirties he would get up at five in the morning and wake everyone else up to open presents.
“It was difficult to be together [after his death], to look around a room and see he was absent.”
Jonny is helping to remember his brother through the Project84 campaign, set up by the charity CALM.
Eighty-four sculptures have been erected on top of London Television Centre, with each figure representing one of the men, each week on average, who ends their life.
The campaign aims to raise awareness about the prevalence and devastating impact of male suicide in the UK. And the fact that mental health issues affect people from all sections of society.
Jonny says of his brother: “He was a normal, level-headed and unremarkable in many respects. But to anyone who knew him he was a really special person. He was always smiling and making you laugh.
“He’d always give you an honest answer, would always give you a helping hand.”
Away from friends and family, though, Simon – a father of one – was suffering. A year of upheaval saw him change jobs and move out of his Preston home. In December 2014 he took his own life.
“It’s only with the benefit of hindsight you knew he wasn’t quite himself,” Jonny says.
“When he was watching football or playing golf, doing the things he loved, he was distracted. He was not quite as smiley but was still enjoying himself.
“It’s only with the knowledge that he did end up taking his own life that things fall into place. His death was maybe the missing piece of the jigsaw.”
Marcus Chapman was 33 when his best friend Nelson Pratt, from Hampshire, and also 33, took his own life.
The two met on a snowboarding course in France and, after just a week, decided to move in together.
“Nelson was very old fashioned British gent, impeccably polite, moral and well-mannered but also incredibly talented,” says Marcus. “He was very self-deprecating. He had the chance to be arrogant but chose to be the opposite.”
Nelson had a successful snowboarding career and became a coach for some of Britain’s Olympic riders.
He had a supportive and loving family, but as his friends began to settle down and have children he found himself conflicted.
“The stage of life he was at, a lot of us were settling down, getting married and having families and I think Nelson had a lot of different pressures,” says Marcus.
“Balancing his snowboarding career with jobs back in the UK. There was definitely a bit of a wrestle there.”
Nelson sought help, however, Marcus feels he was “let down”.
“Nelson went to see his GP, there was a waiting list for therapy and he was given an online course to do. Two days later he took his own life.”
The experiences of men who take their own lives vary, but those left behind are unified on how society should prevent their stories recurring.
They say stigmas and stereotypes need to be abandoned and avenues for support must be opened up.
“The myth is that someone who takes their own life is weak,” says Jonny. “I don’t think for a moment my brother was a weak person. I think he was very strong.
“We need to create a society where men are comfortable to talk about how they are feeling in the knowledge that the person they are speaking to will offer them the best help and solutions they can.”
Marcus adds: “It’s about having those very early conversations, sometimes close family members are the hardest people to talk to. That’s why things like the CALM helpline are so important.
Nearly a decade ago I found myself perched on the edge of a hard chair in a dark doctor’s office. I was 13 and struggling a lot with self harm, body image, and the simple task of keeping myself alive. Shuffling my feet and wondering how I ended up here, I remember not fully understanding what was happening when I was handed a little green prescription for Fluoxetine – an antidepressant drug often better known as Prozac.
Back then, my frame of reference for mental illness was pretty minimal. All I knew was that I felt numb and I wanted everyone to leave me alone. The thought of something being able to help felt so far away it was almost laughable. Antidepressants had never crossed my mind. Everything I knew about them was framed around the words of American emo bands or soap operas. As the doctor handed me the prescription, I remember it was talked about as the most natural thing in the world. “We’ll give you a course of pills and go from there.” What? Go where? Am I really hopeless enough that only drugs can fix this?
In 2008, I was just one of 40 million people worldwide taking a green-and-yellow pill each day. I was sceptical. How could anything make me feel better? But, 10 years down the line, I still pick up my prescription every month and cannot imagine my life without Prozac.
This message should be welcomed and will hopefully battle the stigma surrounding antidepressants. But, for children in particular, there is more to it. In June last year, it was reported that almost 65,000 young people in England, including children as young as six, were taking antidepressants . Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) state that they should only be given to teenagers and children with moderate or severe depression, when psychotherapy has failed. It also states that medication should always be taken in concert with other support, such as talking therapies.
Here is where my concern lies. When I was handed my first prescription, I was told that was the starting point, and that I could not possibly start any therapy without the medication. Before then, I had not seen a fully trained psychotherapist – nor did I even have a full diagnosis from the specialist team sitting in front of me. While I cannot predict how things would be if they had been handled differently – by offering children medication, before giving them the chance to talk to someone, we are telling them we would rather write them a prescription than listen to what they have to say. In moments of intense pain and suffering, children are often left not understanding what is happening to them and, instead of offering them a caring hand to hold, we are giving them a medicinal cold shoulder.
Yes, the pills do work. I’m not afraid to say that they have changed my life, and I honestly believe that without them, things would be very different for me now. But there are a whole host of other things being used to tackle depression that cannot be ignored. The entirety of my teenage years were defined by talking therapies, medication, hospital appointments and care plans. It was never the case that I was going to take the magic pills and things would get better for me, and to suggest that the drugs were responsible for saving my life would be to dismiss a lot of hard work by a lot of wonderful people. Countless therapy sessions and a close, trusting relationship with a dedicated nurse helped me get to the bottom of my illnesses and understand how to manage them. My family rallied around and learnt everything they could to be supportive and understanding. This came along with hospital care and, above all, my own hard work to get through it. Medication is an excellent tool for treating depression – but it is just that – a tool in part of a much more complex selection of resources.
I have sympathy with a system which is struggling among government cuts and lack of strategy, and can understand that sometimes offering medication is the first thing we can do in a child and adolescent mental health service with a wait of up to 18 months for initial support. As a society, we need to work harder to support – not just a quick-fix pill.
I am grateful for the support and love I received to get me to where I am today, and medication has been a valuable part of that. But I wonder, if people had not been so quick to prescribe the pills, perhaps I would be able to imagine my life without them today.
Though Angelakos describes how the music industry “seemed to not necessarily be the safest place for me”, he decided to head back out on the road as “an opportunity to get together with some of my favourite people I’ve ever played music with”. Angelakos does claim, however, that needing money to pay for treatments was a factor.
“I need money to be able to afford my treatments, to be able to afford the myriad costs of living with my disorder that have nearly ruined me,” he said. “That doesn’t make the tour less sweet, but I am not going to lie and say that tour is necessarily where someone like me belongs right after a hospitalisation.”
Speaking of last year’s ‘Tremendous Sea Of Love’, Angelakos said that the project “felt like a medicine but was really a product of something else,” along with the 2016 solo release ‘Merry Christmas Mr Fields’.
“I [was] going on my third year of being manic,” he said of 2017. “I wasn’t fully aware of it, and I was also able to manage it at times, which deceptively made me feel as though I had it totally under control. But like most people who are manic, you kind of never want to turn it off, or you feel like if you turn it off you’re going to lose everything in your head or something.
“It was bumpy up until I decided to release ‘Tremendous Sea of Love’on streaming services, which was when I resumed to a mostly manic state. It ruined a lot”.
While promising live airings of ‘Tremendous Sea of Love’material, Angelakos says that touring is helping to raise awareness for mental health program Wishart, which provides “legal, educational and healthcare services” to artists.
“This is one of the few things we’ll be doing while also hopefully just having a good time together and with our fans each night.”
Passion Pit’s US tour starts tonight (January 10) at Washington D.C’s 9:30 Club.
In 2011, the writer and author was the subject of accusations of plagiarism that led to the end of his career as a newspaper columnist. His new book, Lost Connections, explores the problems with our understanding of mental health
Johann Hari is a writer and author of several books, and a former columnist for the Independent. His latest book, Lost Connections, explores the causes and cures of depression and anxiety. It argues that the notion of inherent depression has been overstated, and that environmental factors are too often neglected. In 2011, he was the subject of accusations of plagiarism that led to the end of his career as a newspaper columnist.
You started work on the book, you say, because you were puzzled by several mysteries. But did you have an idea of what conclusions you would come to?
I think most of the things that are in the book I had inklings about. For many years I had wanted to find out what causes depression and anxiety and how to really solve them. However, I was afraid that if I dismantled the story that I had about depression and anxiety – even though that story hadn’t worked well for me – I would have no story at all, and it would feel really chaotic, and I would feel really vulnerable. For the 13 years during which I was taking antidepressants, despite some doubts, I did believe in the theory that saw chemicals as the main approach.
As well as taking antidepressants, you’ve seen a therapist for 14 years. How effective has that been?
There are three kinds of causes of depression and they interact. There’s the biological causes, which are real, and can make you more vulnerable to depression, but don’t cause it on their own. There’s environmental causes, which are about how we live together socially. And then there are psychological causes, which are about how we think about the world. Clearly, therapy speaks most to the psychological causes, which are very real. Therapy helped me to think about that aspect of it.
Do you think that therapy has worked for you?
I experienced some quite extreme acts of violence when I was a child, from an adult in my life, when my mother was very ill and my father was in another country. I felt a significant fall in depression once I was eventually able to talk about those experiences with my therapist. Given that we have the evidence that therapy does indeed help with the specific area of the psychological causes of depression, I think it’s fair to assume that, when therapy is done well, it can also help with other forms of depression.
Why do you think it is that doctors hand out so many antidepressants when the wealth of evidence as you present in your book suggests they are largely ineffective?
I wouldn’t want to overstate their ineffectiveness. Between 65 and 80% of people taking antidepressants become depressed again within a year. However, that’s not 100%. Of course some people would have recovered anyway through natural processes. I’m not critical of doctors for this. Part of the problem is that we’ve put the onus for solving these problems on to people who are not in a position to solve them alone. Telling people, as I was told by my doctor, that depression is caused by a problem in your brain is, firstly, untrue and it is also really problematic because it cuts people off from finding the real causes of their depression and anxiety. We’ve been telling ourselves this chemical story for 35 years and every year depression and anxiety gets worse.
Why are depression and anxiety issues on the increase?
The umbrella answer is that human beings have innate psychological needs just as we have physical needs. We need to feel we belong, that we have meaning and purpose, that people value us and that we have autonomy. We also live in a culture that’s not meeting those psychological needs for most people. It does not manifest as full-blown depression and anxiety in most people; for some people it’s just a feeling of unhappiness and a life less fulfilling than it could have been. We’ve built a society that has many great aspects, but it is not a good match for our human nature.
In the book you mention a crisis in your life that was “unequivocally terrible”. Was that when you lost your job at the Independent in 2011 and returned your Orwell prize, after being accused of plagiarism?
Yes, it was that, in combination with someone I love very much having a bad addiction crisis. Just to outline events, because some people won’t know, I did two things that were completely wrong. One is that when I interviewed people I often presented things that had been said to other journalists or had been written in books as if they had been said to me, which was not truthful. The second is that I edited Wikipedia entries regarding other people under a pseudonym and, sometimes, in very nasty ways.
Most people who go through your experience tend to flee from public view. You’ve come back and had success. Has that been a difficult process?
When you fuck up and do several things completely wrong, as I did, it should really hurt. And you should pay a really big price. It did hurt and I did pay a really big price, as is entirely right. The reason I’m reluctant now to go into how that felt for me is because that’s saying to people “see it from my point of view”. However, I don’t think that they should see it from my point of view. I think they should see it from the point of view of those people who were harmed by me: my readers, the people I was nasty about and the people at the Independent that I let down.
Have you apologised to the people who were affected by your Wikipedia tampering?
Yes, I wrote to two of the individuals involved, and I’d rather keep private what was said.
Has what you’ve learned by writing this book helped to alleviate your depression? Are you, for want of a better phrase, a happier person?
Massively, but I want to just caveat that. What this book is not is a simplistic guide saying: “Hey, I did these things, and now you can do them too.” I think that would be quite cruel because I was in this incredibly privileged position. I had money from my previous book, which meant that I could change my life in quite radical ways in order to strip out some of the causes of my depression. Lots of people are not in a position to do that.
A big part of the argument of the book is to say that we need to change our culture so that more of us are free to do the things that I was very fortunate to be able to do. In my own life I’ve been able to devote much less time to seeking status and external achievement and much more to engaging with what I think really matters, the people I love and the causes that I think are important. Before, when I started to feel bad, I would have done something for myself. Now, I can see it’s better to cheer someone else up. That’s had a radical effect on my mental health.