Monday, 25 June 2012

Failings of the NHS with Psychiatric care

I am very sad to report that one of my closest friends is in a psychiatric hospital. This isn't something I would normally blurt out to the world - after all, its not exactly good news. However - following the shocking snippets I have received describing the poor level of care she has received since her arrival there on Monday - I have no choice but to share this with you in order to increase awareness of what goes on behind closed doors in these institutions.

My friend L is in a hospital on one of the psychiatric wards having arrived straight there from another hospital - the first hospital she was in was a private one - she had been there for a month on this occasion but this was a very expensive option and an alternative had to be found - hence why she moved on Monday to an NHS hospital. L's parents visited the new hospital a couple of days before her admission to see the ward they were told she would be on  - this was so they could mentally prepare for the change and perhaps meet the new staff who would look after her, and enable them to reassure their daughter that the new hospital would be ok - there was no way L was going to be able to see this new place for herself before the day she arrived.

This first visit was apparently excellent and not as daunting as had been expected, but of course not as smart as ****** (First Place). So first impressions are quite good - slightly better than originally thought and things are looking up.

L arrived at the new hospital on Monday - no doubt feeling wobbly (understandably) having had to say goodbye to the staff and other patients in the private hospital who had supported her in such a brilliant way and helped her make such amazing progress. But this was an important and necessary change that might speed up her recovery - everyone had hope that something at this new place might help L get better. How wrong could we all be... She was not put on the ward that had originally been arranged - it was much shabbier than anticipated compared with the one her parents had been to see two days previously. It was soon felt that the wrong decision had been made getting her transferred and it was also felt that the psychiatrist was a hard woman who clearly didn't agree with the medication L is currently on - which had been originally prescribed by another top psychiatrist. L's parents were told they only have one chance in a week to try and call the new doctor for an update on her progress.

The ward she is on turns out to be a secure unit for people who have been sectioned. This was not where L was meant to be - but the bed reserved for her in another ward had been taken by someone else. She soon begins to feel even more terrified and anxious than she was in the first place. Hang on - she's meant to be learning how to manage this issue - not have it exacerbated. Surely the idea is to not be made to feel worse - she is here to try and get better.

It is clear the other patients are in a terribly bad way (and for them I am desperately sorry and also angry that they too have also got to get better in such a ghastly environment) - most are sectioned and therefore can not leave and are forced to take certain medications and follow various rules and are monitored constantly (or are they?). They shout, scream, get angry, try to run away.... one man throws a book at L, another lashes out. She can not stand with her back to anyone in case they try and hurt her when she isn't looking. She also has learnt not to stand in a corner in case she becomes trapped. Another person threatens her with a snooker cue and they also shout that they will rape her. The patients use the shower to go to the loo - so nobody including L can use it to wash.

What can she do? There is no consistent therapy or support on offer on a regular basis to keep her and other patients occupied - not on this secure ward anyway - maybe there is on the other ward she is meant to be in. There are the occasional groups or activities organised but these are interrupted, cancelled or rearranged at the last minute. It is understandable that there is very little therapy on this ward - many of the patients are too unwell to be able to engage in it but alternatives should be found which might help them. L tries to sleep as much as possible as this passes the time but its impossible with so much noise and shouting going on around. There seems to be no privacy. I hear you ask: Why can't she just leave? Because they will just section her as she isn't in a good enough place to go home.

It baffles me how ANYONE can get better in this type of environment. The staff are rude and there aren't enough of them to cope with the patients needs. There should be a cleaner or someone assigned to clearing up the excrement that has been smeared on the walls IMMEDIATELY. There should be someone there to show the patients and help them use the shower in the correct way - for their own personal hygiene as well as everyone else's.

The food is inedible. Everything is served with cheese so that the patients don't lose weight while they are in hospital. Hardly anything is fresh. I have already written a widely read post about my thoughts on Nutrition and its connection with mental health - read it here.

L can at least occasionally get outside for some "fresh air" but there is a barbed wire fence surrounding the building that is so high is must nearly touch the clouds in the sky. This is the only place she can get a small amount of signal on her mobile phone to call home - communication with the outside world is almost impossible. I tried to call L last night - as there is no signal I couldn't get through on her mobile so I tried various landline numbers and eventually got put through to her - but was warned by an abrupt and rude member of staff to be as quick as I can. I appreciate the nurse's need for me to be brief on the phone but there is absolutely NO excuse to ask me in a rude and aggressive tone. The word please in his sentence would have been appreciated.

The staff not only seem rude - they also don't appear to be able to dispense medication properly. There is also no excuse for nurses and health care professionals working in a hospital's psychiatric ward to be incompetent at providing the patients with the medicines they need to keep them alive and help them get better. It is all total non-care as far as I am concerned. I appreciate that it might be difficult under time pressure to dispense medication to lots of different people - some of whom are reluctant to take it - but to start dispensing the wrong thing and then to look at the patient (who is actually very intelligent and knows perfectly well what her tablets should look like) as though they haven't got a clue is just unacceptable and totally abominable.

I do appreciate that psychiatrists who work for the NHS in big hospitals are also under enormous pressure because they have many, many patients who are all desperately unwell - and it is primarily their job to over see and ensure the sufferers are given the right treatment. It is inevitable that NHS hospitals like this one mentioned above are not going to be as good as the private one L was in prior to this week - but private or not - they should all meet a certain level of care and criteria - this one certainly does not.

I ALSO realise that the other patients are very ill - very ill indeed. Most of them are not in control of their own behaviour. The man who threw a book at L which hit her may not have even have realised he did it. It is not these patients faults that they are unwell - they did not choose it. In the same way that you don't choose cancer or autism. But the NHS and other health care professionals should do all they can to help these people and protect other patients who are at risk of these erratic behaviours. It is the staff's responsibility to create a safe, caring and calm environment to help improve things for the patients - this is not happening for L as far as I am concerned.

L is due to go to the Maudsley Hospital in London but why should she have to put up with poor care like this in the mean time until a bed becomes available there? Why should she have to pretend to be a smoker in order that she can go outside to get phone signal and talk to her parents on the phone in order to get a bit of privacy? What part of keeping these patients in darkened rooms with no natural light or fresh air is healthy and will help them improve? Why should she have to wait for a friend or her parents to come and pick her up and take her out in order to have a proper CLEAN shower? Why should L and her parents have to pay for her taxi to and from the hospital to see her therapist (there clearly aren't any where she is now - and seeing the one she already knew is a small fraction of continuity from the care she had before)? Why can't the hospital pay? The NHS have been spared a lot of money for treating L until now - the least they could do is pay for her taxi so she can see a therapist who can help her.

L is now (naturally) anxious about what the Maudsley will be like based on her experience of this NHS hospital - and she is reluctant to move there when the bed becomes available because she wonders if it will be as bad as where she is now. It is renown for its world class care - and by the sounds of things, anything is better than this week's stay.

This is real. This is happening right now in far more hospitals than the one L is in. We don't often know what goes on behind closed doors. Too many people are not being supported properly and given the right treatment. Why should the best treatment cost the earth? Why can't everyone be entitled to receive treatment at the high standard of many private hospitals? 

I want to start a campaign. I want this blog post to be circulated to as many people as possible - particularly within the health care field - in order to raise awareness and start a revolution in improving psychiatric care. 1 in 4 people have a mental illness and are therefore at serious risk of needing treatment like what I have already mentioned.

Sunday, 24 June 2012 meets The Prince of Wales

I am seriously impressed by this news that I read in Thursday's Evening Standard newspaper:

Pop star today donated £500,000 to deprived youngsters being helped by Prince Charles.
The musician decided to make the gift — including part of his fee as a judge on TV talent show The Voice — to the Prince’s Trust charity after meeting young people on one of its personal development courses in Newham last month. He then visited Charles at Clarence House to ask how he could help.

It is understood that Will, 37, who was raised by a single mother in one of the toughest areas of Los Angeles, wanted to put his taxpayer-funded fee to good use because of the way he feels Britons have taken him to their hearts.

He said: “As a judge on The Voice, the people of the UK have welcomed me into their sitting rooms week after week and I feel very much at home here.

“Working with the Prince’s Trust, I am joining the mission to help transform the lives of disadvantaged young people living in under-privileged neighbourhoods in the UK.”

The Black Eyed Peas frontman, a favourite of Princes William and Harry who performed at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert last month, wants the money to be used to help young people learn about technology and how to use the internet and social media to develop careers.

The donation builds upon philanthropic work the seven-times Grammy winner does in the US through his foundation, which he established in 2009.

He said: “I grew up in East Los Angeles, one of the most under-served and tough neighbourhoods in America.

“My life could have turned out very differently if it were not for the support and encouragement provided by my single working mum, my uncles and my teachers who encouraged me to dream, and to pursue my goal of getting into the music business.

“My family made sure I understood that getting a good education and hard work were key to turning my dreams into reality and beating the odds that come with growing up in a disadvantaged situation.

“The Prince’s Trust has a 36-year history of assisting disadvantaged youth, so I am pleased to be collaborating with an organisation that shares my mission to transform the lives of young people who need extra support and structure in their lives.” 

Paul Brown, director of the Prince’s Trust said: "We are absolutely delighted that will is making this substantial gift to the Prince’s Trust, which will literally transform the lives of many more young people.” The Prince’s Trust, which the Prince of Wales set up in 1976 using his pay-off from the Royal Navy, has helped more than 700,000 disadvantaged young people to get their lives back on track. It focuses on the unemployed and those who have struggled at school and are at risk of being excluded from society.

Will and Will

Are these two of the most famous William's in the country or even the world? This photo was taken of the two Wills at the Diamond Jubilee Concert about three weeks ago. What do you think they said to each other?

Prince William: Hi, I am Will Thats dope - me too. You is Will. and

BB Cream: your new summer must-have

Serena Rudge tells us about the essential item that she won't forget to pack for her holidays this summer. And neither should we! Read on for more info...

Although it might be hard to tell by looking out of the window, we are now officially in summer, and, as all good girls know, we should adjust our makeup bags as well as our wardrobes to the season ahead. Summer hopefully means holidays, sun, beaches and tans, and with all the fun on offer, who wants to spend too much time on their makeup? Fresh faced and natural is where it’s at, and besides, no one wants to cover up their glowing tan with foundation.

Boots 17 BB Cream ©Serena Rudge; Image Credit: Serena Rudge
This is where BB Cream steps in. Blemish Balm, to use its full name, is lighter than foundation and a multi-tasker: it moisturises, soothes, provides coverage AND has sun protection. Even if you haven’t tried it, you’ll probably have heard of it.

Originally sold in Asia, where it contained whitening properties, Western cosmetics markets caught on last year and began to sell it worldwide, although thankfully without the skin-whitening agents. Instead, the BB Creams that you’ll find in Boots or Superdrug should conceal imperfections, even out your skin tone, moisturise, and give your face a natural glow.

Most brands now sell BB Cream, so you’ll be able to find some to suit any budget. Boots 17 is one of the cheaper options on the market at £6.99, and although it doesn’t provide as much coverage as some of the more expensive options, it’s a good choice if you’re strapped for cash. Maybelline is another bargain at £7.99, and offers a wider range of colour. L’Oreal and Garnier both sell theirs for £9.99, still reasonably priced at under a tenner.

Both brands claims to provide 24hr hydration, and feel light on the skin, and Garnier also has one for oily/combination skin. No7 has created formulae for oilydry, and very dry skin; at £12.95 it isn’t going to drain your bank account, so if you feel like splashing out a little then this would be perfect, since you can tailor it to your skin type.

Of course, if you want to spend more there are always high-end brand looking to rob your of your hard-earned cash. Clinique, Dr Jart, and Origins all come in at over £20, and whilst you get what you pay for, the Garnier and L’Oreal versions are more than adequate on a student budget.

Got a job for the summer? BB Cream’s multi-tasking properties mean your morning makeup routine will be shorter. Or, if you’re going to one, take it to a festival, and slim down your makeup bag. Whatever your summer plans, make sure BB Cream is included!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Naughty Quote of the Day

This is a very naughty Quote of the Day that my brother told me today -

"Having sex is like playing Bridge. If you don't have a good partner, you'd better have a good hand."

New Diet/Exercise regime...

The wonderful Carrie Arnold alerted me to a new diet/exercise regime today and the rules are quite simple - I dare you to give it a try:

Friday, 22 June 2012

An Important Petition

Increase the support given by the Health Services to those with eating disorders regardless of age, postcode or specific diagnosis - CLICK HERE FOR MORE DETAILS.

Monday, 18 June 2012

One More Mum

My new favourite blog comes from One More Mum - it is absolutely incredible and one of the best blogs I have ever read. This paragraph is so carefully worded and brilliantly put - and it comes straight from her:

"We are a hugely advanced society, we can fly people to space and back, transplant organs from one person to another and cure illnesses that ravaged our ancestors by a single vaccine. I can sit on this train and from my phone write something that someone across the world can read. But until we can understand that the pain of mental ill health is every bit as hard and disabling as physical illness, until we realise that because someone looks fine, they may be anything but fine, then we still have a long way to go before we are truly civilised."

Sunday, 17 June 2012

In Yesterday's East Anglian Daily Times

Here is a photograph of the article about me meeting Ruby Wax - it was published in yesterday's East Anglian Daily Times...

1 in 20

Huge thanks goes to Charlotte Bevan and Carrie Arnold for this:

ED bites is starting a campaign to raise the profile of just how common eating disorders are.

The statistics are very scary:

Each year, roughly 4 million babies are born in America.
Approximately 500, 000 of these babies will develop an eating disorder.
Every year has 525, 600 minutes.
That means that every 1.05 minutes, a child will be diagnosed with an eating disorder.
Every minute, a parent will be told "Your child has an eating disorder."(edbites)

So next time someone tells you that an eating disorder is very rare, tell them they are wrong.

Eating disorders are not rare.  

They are deadly.

But not rare.

Please spread the word about this.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Time to Talk

Leeds University students have been really brave and shared their experiences of dealing with mental health problems. 

Quote of the Day

Today's Quote of the Day comes from Lynn Crilly - I am not sure if it is originally from her or if she took it from someone else - but I love it all the same:

"What is the difference between school and life? In school, you are taught a lesson, then given a test. In life, you are given a test that teaches you a lesson."

Friday, 8 June 2012

Coldplay Live at the Emirates

Towards the end of 2011, I was lucky enough to get hold of some tickets to see Coldplay playing live at the Emirates stadium in London. So on Monday evening - the same night as the Jubilee Concert - my brother, two of my cousins and I strolled out of Finsbury Park tube station and headed to the stadium. I knew a lot of my friends had either already been to the concert or were going the same night as me. One of the first people who I bump into whilst walking to venue was Sophie, who I met whilst having tea with Ruby Wax at the Ritz last week - how weird is that?! There were thousands of people at this event and it was extraordinary that I should bump into her...

It was the most incredible evening - the music was mind blowing, the crowd were electric and the atmosphere was unbeatable. Here are some pictures!

This was the view just to my left:
(the twinkling lights were wristbands which we were all given as we went in which flashed to the beat of each song!)

This was the view of the stage which was straight ahead of us:

I will try and upload a video or two as well so watch this space...!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Quote of the Day

"The past is history, the future is a mystery, today is a gift - that's why they call it the present."

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Today's the Day!

I have been so excited about the Diamond Jubilee and all the celebrations. I am especially looking forward to the Pageant of 1,000 boats along the River Thames this afternoon. Someone has just sent me this photograph which is one of my favourites to have been published of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Diamond Jubilee

I hope the Queen is enjoying a wonderful weekend celebrating her Diamond Jubilee:

Tea, Tea and more Tea

You may have heard that I had the honour of meeting Ruby Wax on Tuesday and we went to the Ritz for tea. As you do...! I won a competition on her website - - everyone was invited to share their experiences of mental illness and Ruby chose 10 winners to join her at the Ritz. It was one of the most surreal and exciting things I have ever done.

My piece which won me my seat around the beautiful table in the private Wimborne Room in the Ritz is here.

Ruby then sent me a video via YouTube:

We were all sent this video once all the winners had been announced:

And here are some pictures of the day itself (taken by me, Sophie, Anne and

This is the dress I wore (from Jaeger):

Arriving at the entrance I was so nervous:

We were greeted by ice cold glasses of fresh orange juice...

The table was beautifully laid:

Ruby and I:

Ruby went round the table and spoke to us individually and reminded herself of our entries that she had chosen: 

We were allowed to keep our menu booklets which were very smart, and Ruby signed this photograph of her for each of us:

This is the team of winners with Ruby in the middle in the first row, I am just behind her: 

The local newspaper put a snippet in the paper about my trip here:

Our aim is to stamp out the stigma that is associated with any kind of mental illness. It is a serious battle fighting mental health problems - and its a further hurdle having to put up with people's judgements and criticisms. 1 in 4 people will experience a mental illness in their lives - thats a quarter of the population. 

Grace, one of the winners, names depression as Ted. We all thought this is a very good name and hope that more people will adopt it. There is a vague plan to organise a march through London or a conference in order for people to meet each other within their tribe.

The Big Breakfast Debate

Now if you have been reading my blog for a while you will know that a few months ago, Dr Christian Jessen and I had a little bit of a row... click here to find out more! He consequently blocked me from Twitter.

I stumbled across this article in the Evening Standard newspaper a couple of weeks ago, written by him, and for once I actually agree with him:

I think it is now an undisputed fact that in the long term, diets don’t work. Any sort of prolonged calorie restriction alters the body’s metabolic processes, affecting the way in which food is processed and stored. Most extreme diets result in dieters putting on more weight in the future.

In fact those who generally cheat a bit throughout their diet period ironically tend to do better, as without such severe calorie restriction their body doesn’t turn to starvation mode. Weight loss may be slow or — if really bad at sticking to it — non-existent, but cheaters are less likely to suffer a rebound weight gain at the end of it.

The other problem is that few of us have the willpower to stick to anything too extreme, especially if it involves cutting out certain foods altogether. There are too many temptations all around us, and our innate drive to eat, based on millennia of evolutionary conditioning, is just too strong.

Despite this, yet another new diet - the Six Weeks to OMG, by Londoner Venice A Fulton - has emerged claiming to have all the secrets to simple weight loss — and to be able to  turn conventional dietary knowledge on its head. Its main recommendations are to sleep in, skip breakfast, take cold baths or showers, and to drink coffee before exercising. As with many of these diets, some bits may be reasonably useful for some people, while others are total nonsense and may even lead to serious health problems in the future.

Skipping breakfast is my first problem for a number of reasons: food affects mood and waking hungry — as one often does when dieting — but not satisfying that hunger will mean the day does not start well. Feeling hungry is not a good feeling and there are few of us that can suppress it and not cave in. Breakfast is probably the one meal of the day when you can indulge a little more — as the food is burnt off during the day.

It is no surprise that one-third of obese people skip breakfast, and we know from many studies that breakfast dodgers have more poorly controlled blood sugar and increased body mass index. Being hungry at the start of the day means either a binge mid-morning or an inappropriately large lunch, followed by a larger than average evening meal.

The suggestion that you sleep in, or at least make sure you get enough sleep, is good common-sense advise, but somewhat impractical. Try telling a mother with young kids to make sure she gets enough sleep and she will probably slap you.

The cold morning bath is perhaps a little militant, but actually would result in an increased metabolic rate, so this advice is sound in theory. The problem is that, like anything extreme, very few people will be able to tolerate them and keep them up. I know I wouldn’t.

Drinking coffee before the gym is something I already do — I find it does help give me a bit of a boost when I’m feeling sluggish, but there is no more secret to it; caffeine acts as a stimulant, and it’s the gym that will help with weight loss, not the coffee.

As with so many of the existing fad diets on the market that require strange ritualistic eating behaviours I can’t help wondering; if people have the willpower to stick to these for a bit, then surely they have the will power to stick to a long-term healthy, balanced, portion-controlled eating plan, which makes far fewer demands on the psyche?

Are you a breakfast skipper and if so why? And if you do eat breakfast, what do you eat and how does it make you feel? Are you hungry before lunch or does it keep you going? I'm curious.