The Curse Of The Modern Age

They say that progress is good. It appears that almost every day we hear of some breakthrough or another. Some progress is of course welcome, particularly in respect of new drugs or treatments that can alleviate suffering or keep our loved ones on the earth longer. Conversely, some progress may not be considered so good. For example, in the field of weapons and arms, man has taken the mass killing of other human beings to almost apocalyptic proportions, is this really progress?

One of the areas that has progressed substantially over the past 50 years is technology and it is here that I feel it has caused the human mind the greatest problems. Look around you after you have finished reading this article, chances are, someone will be glued to their mobile phone checking emails or Facebook perhaps ( I will forgive them if they are looking at www.pobl.org.uk by the way).
People who work never seem to be able to ‘switch off’ from them. When you last went on holiday did you notice the man or woman who was constantly checking their iPhone and said to their complaining partner “i’ll just send this last email to this client” etc. You are supposed to be relaxing! Herein lies the problem, we are constantly bombarded with information, we are too easy to get hold of by employers and others when we really should be relaxing. The mind is unable to switch off and relax, if we get a twisted ankle we are told to rest it, usually we follow this advice so how can we not seem to do it with the mind?

Add to this the uncertainty of employment due to the current economic climate where people are fearful for their jobs they think that they must always be working 60 hours a week, despite being paid for 37.5. The human mind is like a machine, it is designed to survive and it is resilient…to a point. Even the most well maintained machines can and do break down, sometimes beyond repair.
Too many people continue to work their minds without giving it any downtime, they are constantly doing a hundred things at once, however, the mind will take it’s own break if you do not do it. The body has its own defence mechanisms for looking after itself if you do not, my appeal to you in this article is for it not to get that far.

Our Patron Ruby Wax is a great exponent of a technique called MINDFULNESS, we will get an article up on our website for you very soon to discover this powerful tool. At first, I have to admit, I was very sceptical when I heard about it and I thought it was going to be a bit of mumbo jumbo with a hint of Buddhism thrown in for good measure. Well guess what? Put away any thoughts of shaved heads and orange robes, Mindfulness is not that (unless you want to wear that stuff). Mindfulness is about focusing on the here and now, not work, not emails, not a nagging partner (have you got one of those too?), nothing, just the here and now.

When I was being treated for stress, I had to go and see a doctor who specialised in Occupational Health, one of the things he asked me was “when was the last time you actually took time to watch a bee taking pollen from flowers in the garden?” I thought “this bloke needs more help than I do”, but actually, he was right, I had never done this. His point was, when did I actually take time to switch off from work, the answer was I never did and this is what perhaps caused me problems. If, by causing me to ‘switch off’ from work, mindfulness can help you to relax why not give it a try?

It’s free once you have been taught it and I have to tell you, it works! Contact us if you want some more information, we have sourced some absolutely brilliant teachers of mindfulness so that you don’t have to go running around to find out who is effective etc.

Leave it to us, that’s what we are here for! Use contact@pobl.org.uk and we will get someone to contact you.


Why It’s Good To Talk

Those of us of a certain vintage will remember from the 1980’s Bob Hoskins ad for British Telecom and the slogan ‘it’s good to talk’. This is such a true statement when we come to the issue of mental health. The recent death of movie legend Robin Williams has once again brought the spotlight upon mental health. To the outside world I suppose, he appeared to have it all. Wealth, a fabulous home and a great family who loved him more than anything else in the world. Yet despite all this, he still took his own life. This sort of scenario is played out thousands of times around the world every single year. Suicide is a major form of preventable death and needs much more work to tackle.

It highlights one of the most inherent problems faced by those who suffer from poor mental health. That is, often, there are no outward signs of illness or despair. It is not like walking into the accident and emergency department of your local hospital with a broken leg or a cut head. If only it were!

We British are taught from a very early age that the stiff upper lip must prevail. We seem to scorn at the Americans and their apparent need for them to go running off to see the latest ‘Therapist’. I suspect the best position would be somewhere in between the two. What is vital though, is that there must be dialogue. Suffering in silence is not an option any longer. Silence really can be a matter of life and death. In this area.

Many sufferers of poor mental health tell us that they do not talk about their problems for fear of sounding silly or that their problems may be considered trivial to a listener. In reality, the ‘silly’ question is the one that you don’t ask! The days when the GP just reached for his prescribing pad without really listening to you are thankfully becoming rarer by the day. We do not deny it may still go on, my contention is that it is getting better. Not perfect, but better.

The highly funded ‘Time to Change’ campaign has attempted to address the subject and to indeed get us to talk about mental health, urging us to address the ‘elephant in the room’. All good sentiments and I applaud their efforts. But (you knew there was one coming..), despite this, how many members of the public have actually heard of it? Many of you will have because you have a clear interest in mental health, hence reading this article. My point is, I wonder if you went outside your front door and grabbed the first 20 people who passed and asked them if they had heard about it. I wonder. I would be interested in hearing the results my friends.

So in summary, talk about mental health wherever you can. Put it on the agenda at work. Be honest and open if you are not feeling too well one day. If more of us did this, we could effect change. Nobody is saying that it will be easy, but doing noting and remaining silent, is no longer going to be an option on the table for you.

Together, we must speak out for ourselves and just as importantly, for those who suffer but have yet to find the confidence to find their own lungs. We will give them a voice.
Keep safe.


Tenby South Beach

Exercise & Depression

It is a well known fact that slight to moderate exercise can help alleviate some of the effects that depression has on a sufferer, maybe not in all cases but it certainly helped me.

I have suffered with depression for many years now and know all to well what an incapacitating illness it can be, I have had bouts where I have locked the door, closed the curtains and shut myself away from the outside world sometimes for days at a time.

Recently I have taken up walking and it has done wonders for my depression, ok It hasn’t disappeared completely but it is certainly milder and more manageable at the moment and I know exactly what to do when I feel a bout coming on. I find that when I am walking my thoughts are freed up and release me from being a captive of my own mind, it allows me to ponder over things that depress me and put them into context.

Apart from the walking being great exercise it also gives you a big wallop of Vitamin D that in turn gives you the feel good factor.

It doesn’t matter how old or fit you are as a short walk can be as good for you as a long walk, it is getting out of the surroundings you are used to and having a break and some fresh air which will in turn take your mind off things and make you feel more refreshed.

Whilst walking I have seen many beautiful sights and have started to capture them on my camera, if I am feeling down I just go and have a look at some of the images I have taken and this also makes me feel better as it brings the good memories back to me.

If you would like to see my pictures then please feel free to visit my Flickr profile – https://www.flickr.com/photos/31694279@N02/sets/


Stress And Depression In The Workplace

A recent article has claimed that Wales is becoming a nation “dependant on anti-depressants with prescriptions of some drugs rocketing by more than 100% in just the last six years”.

With the majority of a person’s waking day being either spent in work, travelling to work or thinking of work, it is fair to say that a main source of stress and anxiety can be from within the workplace.

In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in claims complaining of workplace bullying which has led to work related stress, which in turn can result in depression.

Stress and depression are always difficult to handle within the workplace as they cannot usually be detected as easily as other symptoms. As a result, they along with mental health issues are being labelled as the “silent epidemic”.

Employers need to be especially cautious when dealing with such issues particularly due to the potential of such conditions being classed as a disability. The definition of a disability under the Equality Act 2010 is “a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities.”

The fact that depression can have such a debilitating effect on sufferers, coupled with the wide reaching definition of disability, mean many employers fall foul of such legislation, potentially resulting in discrimination.

As such, it is essential that employers be attentive to the mental health of their employees, and actively encourage employees to address any concerns that they may have at an early stage.

If an employee is absent from work and provides a sick note from a GP citing work related stress or depression, the employer should address matters immediately and not fall into the easy trap of “out of sight, out of mind”. The longer an employee remains absent from work due to such issues, the more difficult the situation becomes to resolve.

It is essential that the employer gets to the root of the employee’s problem, and looks to discuss the matter with the employee in question. A lack of support is a common cause of depression within the workplace and the employer should work with the employee in ensuring that their voice is being heard.

Obtaining a report from the employee’s GP or an independent Occupational Health Consultant is also a useful way for the employer to gain a better understanding of the employee’s condition and what can be done to assist the employee in returning to work.

Here are my 5 top tips for employers in tackling work related stress and depression:

  1. Encourage employees to approach you if they have any concerns – this can be strengthened by the implementation of a policy
  2. Ensure that all staff feel supported within the workplace
  3. Do not simply allow employees suffering from such issues to continue to be absent from work without attempting to strike up a discussion with them as to whether you can assist them in returning to work
  4. Keep record of any conversations that you have with the employee – ensuring you have a paper trail is essential, particularly if matters end up going to an Employment Tribunal.
  5. Get Advice – it is strongly recommended that you seek advice in handling such situations, particularly due to the danger of potentially falling foul of discrimination laws.

Luke Welsh is Head of Employment and Solicitor at Howells Solicitors, advising both employees and businesses. Luke can be contacted on 01792 410016 or luke.w@howellslegal.com.


New mental health support for Armed Forces community

The first fully qualified Welsh Instructor rolls out training

For the first time ever, the Armed Forces community in Wales can now access a specifically designed Armed Forces Mental Health First Aid (AFMHFA) training course which will support those affected by mental ill health. Squadron Leader David Bentley-Miller RAF VR(T), of Skewen is the first Welsh Instructor to be trained in the Department of Health funded programme and will start to roll out the AFMHFA training from April March 2014, with his first course to be held at RAF St Athan in May.

In April 2013 the Department of Health launched AFMHFA – a new initiative which will ultimately train 6,600 members of the wider Armed Forces community in the mental health equivalent of first aid skills. The programme has been designed and rolled out by MHFA England, in collaboration with military charities, SSAFA, Combat Stress and the Royal British Legion (RBL).

The Department of Health has committed £600,000 from the LIBOR funds to finance this programme, a proportion of which will cover the cost of recruiting and training 200 AFMHFA Instructors who will then be qualified to deliver the two-day training course to the wider Armed Forces community. The next Instructors course to run in Wales will be held in Cardiff from 10 June 2014 – to find out how to apply visit www.mhfaengland.org

42 year old David Bentley-Miller, who is the Chief Executive of the mental health charity POBL and a vociferous mental health champion, has already attended the seven-day AFMHFA Instructor course and is now preparing to deliver the training to the wider Armed Forces community in Wales.

David says:

I am passionate about increasing the mental health literacy of our Armed Forces community and believe there is a critical need in Wales for this kind of support.  Along with the issues that are faced by our serving personnel, veterans, young and old, can also struggle to adapt back into civilian life and this can lead to mental health issues emerging.  I believe the AFMHFA initiative will encourage members of the Armed Forces community to start talking about mental health in a positive way and highlight some of the warning signs that emerge when someone is developing a mental health issue.  The earlier those signs and symptoms are spotted, the quicker the intervention and the more positive their recovery will be. I would be delighted to hear from anyone who thinks this training is something that they or those they know could benefit from.

The AFMHFA course has been specifically designed to reflect the unique needs of the Armed Forces community and will train people to:

  • Increase their understanding of mental health
  • Increase their understanding of military culture
  • Increase their personal resilience
  • Spot the early signs of a mental health problem
  • Feel confident helping someone experiencing a problem
  • Provide help on a first aid basis
  • Help prevent someone from hurting themselves or others
  • Help stop a mental health problem from getting worse
  • Help someone recover faster
  • Guide someone towards the right support
  • Reduce the stigma of mental health problems

Those interested in attending the two day AFMHFA training course, delivered by David Bentley-Miller should contact him on (01792) 516166 / 07581 334720 or visit www.pobl.org.uk

Further information about the Armed Forces Mental Health First Aid programme and how to apply for Instructor training can be found at www.mhfaengland.org 


Welcome to our Webiste

Hello and a big welcome to our POBL website. Please feel to stay a while and have a look around. We are sure that there will be something here of use to you.

We are ALWAYS interested in your constructive feedback as to how we can improve the site. After all, it’s YOUR site so you should have a say in how it looks.

POBL is about people helping people. Help us to help others by getting involved in our work. We have not yet failed to find someone something worthwhile that they can do to contribute to our mission of ensuring that nobody should face  mental distress alone.

We have a forum section so we hope that you will get involved in the debates and self-help sections that you told us you would like to see.

Above all, treat everyone as you would like to be treated and I’m sure we will all get along just fine.

I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible at our forthcoming events.