A Sign of the Times.

A situation that many have anticipated and dreaded for a long time has come to pass. The NHS is so overburdened that thousands of non-emergency surgical procedures have been postponed. Winter is a challenging time for the NHS every year, but this year the demands on the NHS have been nearly overwhelming. Australian flu is one of many reasons why the system is so stretched but the system as a whole isn’t coping despite intense efforts of NHS staff.

The population is ageing and among other stresses, viruses becoming more virulent. How government can possibly hope to stem this tide and disavow these facts by diminishing budgets is beyond belief. Governments consistently trumpet the fact that NHS budgets are increasing, but every knows the increases are no where near enough to meet current, let alone future, demand. So here are. Years of underfunding and the NHS can no longer fulfil it’s obligations in a timely manner. Is this where we’re headed from now on?

Football and Mental Health.

Rhetorical question: are we becoming a society more open and honest with itself or merely exposing vulnerabilities? The topic of mental health is on the lips and agendas of many politicians these days. Despite the absence of appropriate funding to address and alleviate mental health, its become almost fashionable to be mental health aware. I sincerely hope the awareness continues to grow.

It was mentioned on the BBC this morning that in the past year, 400 professional football players have sought help for mental health issues. That figure was provided by the Professional Football Association or PFA. Whether or not highly paid professional footballers receive any sympathy is less important than highlighting the fact that regardless of age, race, gender, or personal income mental health is a pervasive issue. Evidently those with wealth, fame and the pressure to succeed aren’t immune to mental health issues.

Loneliness

I wasn’t surprised to learn how pervasive loneliness was, but I was surprised to learn how bad loneliness is for one’s health. According to recent studies, and results broadcast by the BBC, loneliness can be as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. I reserve a little scepticism in this regard, but there can be no doubt that prolonged loneliness can be as bad for the body as for the soul. At this time of the year, loneliness is acutely experienced.

When we think of the lonely, we imagine elderly people living in proximity to others at all times, but isolated from everyone none the less. This stereotypical image is very true, but loneliness extends to the mentally or physically handicapped, those with very demanding careers, even those who for many reasons feel they “don’t belong”. This sense of acute isolation can lead to depression or worse.

The remedy is always near to hand. A friendly word, a kind gesture, a little bit of time. Sometimes that’s all that’s needed in the short term. We are gregarious creatures and whether we admit it or not, we thrive on companionship and a feeling of inclusiveness. A little attention, willingly provide, can make all the difference, but in the absence of these things, loneliness can set in.

School Support for Mental Health

Budgets for dealing with mental health issues in the UK have been cut as well as the number of mental health nurses has fallen. 40% of mental health trusts in England had their budget cut in 2016. The awareness of the need for mental health facilities and support has grown and funding has diminished.

Still the Government wants to implement a plan that places mental health support in secondary schools. The target is to have support in one in four schools by 2022. This will be funded by an additional £1.28 billion earmarked for mental health support. While this is welcome, so much more needs to be done. Anyone suffering with mental health issues will tell you the need for support is often urgent and immediate. Mental health will need to cease being the “poor cousin” to physical health.

Special Education Needs

The BBC devoted airtime each weekday to special education needs of children and young people. Special education needs, or SEN, is a very broad topic encompassing everything from learning English as a second language to various forms of dyslexia to addressing the educational needs of severely mentally or physically challenged individuals.

The daily aired programs didn’t focus on the forms of SEN, but focussed on the often huge challenges facing parents and carers to ensure those with SEN have a learning environment tailored to their specific needs. For some parents and carers, even obtaining an acknowledgement that their son or daughter has SEN has been a very big challenge. It’s currently estimated that nearly 40% of all children entering reception year will have SEN at some point in their academic lives.

It often comes down to the availability of funding. Even after a person has been identified with specific SEN, and an appropriate educational plan is known, often there simply isn’t enough funding, either in school budgets or from local councils, to deliver specific tuition in a timely manner. The BBC programs are a testament to the determination of parents and carers to ensure their loved one receives an education. The programs also focus on the children and young people who thrive when their educational needs are met. Funding for SEN must be a priority.

Alcohol and Emotions

It was reported on the BBC on the 22nd that a study has been conducted into the relationship between how one feels under the influence of different forms of alcohol. Evidently, wine and beer relaxes us, while some forms of alcohol make us happy and certain spirits make us angry and aggressive. It wasn’t stated if the participants enjoyed a single drink of these beverages or were induced to over indulge.

While I accept that alcohol affects us differently from person to person and that different forms of alcohol can make us feel differently, I feel over indulgence brings about a pattern of emotions. With the first glass of wine or beer, there’s a sense of calm and optimism. With the second glass an expanding confidence and capacity for happiness. Beyond two glasses, and heading towards over indulgence, inhibitions diminish, mental and physical capacities are inhibited and what was an hour ago confidence and happiness spirals towards anger and depression. I feel this pattern happens regardless if one is imbibing beer or whiskey. A glass or two of wine or beer? No problem, but over indulgence inevitably leads to diminished capacities and depression. Don’t drink too much.

Christmas is Necessary

Late November. The British winter arrives. Overcast skies enlivened with the occasional ray of golden sunshine. It’s generally damp and despite the thermometer being well above zero, it feels chilly. The entire nation sniffles and coughs. I’ve often asserted that I stayed healthier in a more severe climate with cold snowy winters and hot summers. Collectively, it feels as if we’re hibernating.

In the absence of Christmas we would have needed something, an event to lift the spirits, in late December. Stripped of all it’s commercial and even religious connotations, Christmas is necessary. With long dark nights and cloudy days we turn to family and friends to rejuvenate our spirits and inspire optimism for the future. Seen in this light, the festive season occurs exactly when it’s most needed and with a lighter heart and a little optimism, the British winter becomes the British spring.

Resistance.

In September I was admitted to hospital with an advanced and aggressive infection. At the point of attending the emergency ward at Southmead Hospital I’d been on antibiotics for over a week and yet the infection was advancing with such speed that without intense medical intervention I faced the imminent prospect of septicaemia. After surgery and a different intravenous antibiotic, I began to recover.

The point I’m making is that the initial oral antibiotics didn’t work. The best I can say is that they might have slowed the spread of infection but in no way were the antibiotics arresting and reversing the infection. This is now acknowledged to be a widespread concern and noted on the BBC this week. Antibiotic resistant infections are real and even such routine procedures as Caesarian sections may become very problematic. This is simply a cautionary blog whereby a relatively healthy person, incurring a very minor injury, finds themselves facing a very serious medical situation despite two cycles of oral antibiotics. An old certainty is now gone.

Help For Therapists.

An good therapist needs to be calm, attentive, insightful, compassionate, empathetic and ever present. As long as the therapist sustains these qualities for each and every client, a positive outcome for the client will occur over the course of therapy.

The therapist has emotional and physical limits and those limits can be reached daily. A therapist who knows themself will have a friend, colleague, partner or spouse to help them address their own issues when the stress of clients leaves them emotionally and physically depleted. Even therapists occasionally need a little help and support so that they remain competant therapists.

Overkill?

On Friday the BBC ran a story about unhappy, over worked, stressed out nurses in the NHS and across the health care sector. Earlier in the week there was a story about the difficulties of recruitment from abroad when candidates don’t know enough English. The media run weekly stories about deficiencies and shortfalls in the NHS, and the tremendous pressure the entire health care system is under.

My concern is that these stories are so persistent that the general public may actually tune out from over exposure. The issues are real and need to be made public and need to be addressed, but the relentless frequency of reporting leaves the public feeling powerless in the face of tremendous problems. We want the politicians to sort it out, but can they? They must and the general public needs to feel empowered to compel politicians to ensure the NHS is sustainable into the future. Overkill? Perhaps, but necessary.