Back to the 5 ways. I love Mid-Spring, it’s a time when here in the UK that as a hobby gardener, I feel everything is rapidly growing. It’s a great time to take more notice. Gardening is very much my therapy. It’s a great way to nurture plants, enjoy the seasons, have all the senses used. Below is a selection of flowers from the past year in my garden.
I particularly took notice just now, as this is the first time I have managed to harvest asparagus. People often are like Marmite with Asparagus, they either love it or hate it. For me, I love it. I love it for several reasons, one being that it is the one veg that I truly only ever eat when it is in season locally. Britains asparagus season is pretty short, usually from mid-April through to late May. Shipped in Asparagus loses its flavour rapidly, hence why I avoid it like the plague.
My favourite way to enjoy asparagus is with eggs. The simplest way, is with a lightly poached egg, with the asparagus gentled steamed or boiled. However, I am not a huge fan of steamed or boiled asparagus. I think the next simplest way is to cook the stems over a hot griddle pan (with or without first oiling the stems). Cook until they start to char. Once they have stripes, take them off the heat. I like them to still have a crunch! I serve with a simple, homemade Hollandaise Sauce.
You might be thinking, “Hey, hold on a minute, are I thought this was a 5 ways to wellbeing?”, but for me, you can eat rich sauces, and still maintain good general health. It’s all about the relationship you have with food. I know there will be some very health conscious people out there, who will say eggs and butter are not healthy (and I know some will come at this from a vegan angle too), but for now, I am still eating the occasional high-fat foods, but in small portions, and only occasionally. I think some fad diets, are much more harmful to a person, than getting the balance right. For anyone who does have difficulty maintaining a healthy weight range, then I can’t recommend enough Judith Beck’s book which is based on her Beck Diet Program (American English!). For most people who struggle with eating too much, it is often not what they are eating, or how much they are eating that is the problem, but more to do with the thoughts and feelings linked to food and their body image. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help overcome those thoughts and feelings.
For the simple Hollandaise Sauce (serves one or two people)
1 Egg yolk
1 splash of cider or white wine vinegar
Around 10g melted butter
1/4 teaspoon of Dijon Mustard
If you need more of a visual aid than my photos, or you are someone who likes exact measurements when following a recipe, then Google, Jamie Oliver or James Martin for recipe ideas. My method, in a clean wide bowl, add the yolk, mustard and vinegar. Whisk until all the 3 ingredients are blended together. Place the bowl over a pan of boiled water. Keep whisking, and add the melted butter slowly. The whole process of preparing and cooking takes me less than 10 minutes. Which is also plenty of time to cook the stems of the asparagus. It makes a great starter, before the main evening meal.
Just to give you a heads up, this post will talk about mental health and wellbeing, and suicide. If you are feeling vulnerable at this moment in time; maybe bookmark this post for a later date, when you are feeling a little stronger. Please do check this page on where to get support for your mental health, should you need some help right now.
I’ve worked in health and social care for 25+ years. Over that time, I have worked in acute learning disability services, substance misuse services, sexual health, HIV+ community drop-in, care leavers supported housing, and youth work project. In the last 15 years or so, I have worked in mental health services in acute child and adolescent, and also in acute adult services within the NHS in both metropolitan and rural areas. More recently, I have worked in university campus-based services within student support, initially as a mental health adviser, and currently, I am now a manager of a Mental Health and Wellbeing Team.
I love working with students, they are such a diverse bunch of people. There are stereotypes of students that still persist from the 1960s that they are all on the radical left, and protest lots, and smoke copious amounts of cannabis, and drinking Real Ale. This stereotype has remained in the public eye through the 1970s and ’80s and exacerbated with the BBC comedy “The Young Ones“. But the reality is that the stereotypes are just cliches and oversimplified beliefs that we have of others. The reality is much more complex. Students are by enlarge in the 18-21 age bracket, but many more adults are returning to education later in life. I myself didn’t go into Higher Education until my late 20’s, and I was very much the first person to do so from my immediate family. Like most other students, I enjoyed university life; the studying side, as well as the social side.
However, for many students, university can be a difficult period in one’s life. For traditional undergraduates, it can be the first time living away from home; it can be isolating, bullying in halls can occur, being away from family and friends and other support networks. For other types of students, it might be having to give up a good income, caring for children on top of studies can also be quite a challenge. For most students, it will be the first time that they have really had to think differently, to be more critical. There will be some students who have additional difficulties, such as coping with a disability, including a mental health condition.
Indeed, over the past few years, there has been a significant increase in the number of students declaring they have a mental health condition, and this has been well documented in various reports and good practice guides in recent years. In the 2017 IPPR report, “Not by Degrees“, Thornley identified a five-fold increase in the number of students declaring a mental health condition. There could be a whole range of reasons for this increase, partly linked to the stigma of mental illness slowly being eroded, partly because the awareness of the range of support for students with disabilities (including mental health conditions) is becoming more known, and other reasons will also exist (but that will be getting political, so I am going to leave it here for now).
There has also been an increase in student suicides in recent years, and there has been some Suicide-Safer Universities guidance from Universities UK and Papyrus on how university leaders can work towards preventing further suicides. This is something I was particularly interested when it was first published. Surprisingly, it isn’t as researched informed as one would hope, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. What we do know about student suicides is that they have increased in recent years, however, students are at no higher risk than other adults outside of the higher education sector.
We also know that around 80% of students who take their own lives are not known to specialist counselling or mental health support services. This isn’t unique to the UK but is known to be the case in the USA too. But those students who do die from suicide, are known to someone, a peer, a tutor, a residents life officer, a librarian, a receptionist, etc. Can training non-clinical staff help? Gatekeeper training (as it is collectively referred to), is often recommended by many good practice guidelines, including the suicide-safer universities guidance listed previously, and in other guides, such as the Universities UK #StepChange . However, very little is known about the benefits of rolling out such training, and equally, we don’t know what risks can happen with such training.
We know that some of the students who die because of suicide often faced barriers to accessing help. Examples of barriers include ambivalence regarding treatment outcomes from specialist services, and also the stigma associated with accessing counselling, psychotherapy, or mental health services have been documented by Czyz et al (2013), long waiting times have been identified as a barrier by Arria et al (2011), who also found that poor knowledge of where to get help, is also a barrier.
It is that last point that I want to pick up on, with regards to the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust, and the Cameron Coasters. Anyone who has ever worked in a campus-based counselling service will know that promoting the service can be quite a challenge. During Freshers Fairs, when young eager and bewildered students first arrive on campus, the vast majority are usually wanting to find out which bars in town have the best offers, where they can get a free pizza, and the what, where, when of their first lecture. Very few are interested in a talk from the counselling service on how to get support if they are struggling emotionally, and the leaflets often end up in the bin. The Cameron Coasters is a bit of a game changer. Not only are they informative, but they have another use! They can prevent a coffee/beer stain from forming on your desk whilst you work (or watch another box-set on Netflix/Amazon etc.). You might be excited to have started your undergraduate/postgrad/PhD studies, but if things take a turn for the worse later on, then the coaster might be there. It might breakdown one of those barriers to accessing support (namely, knowing where to get such support).
For those of you who haven’t seen my previous posts about the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust, they are a small charity set up by Carol and Evan Grant. Their son, Cameron, died by suicide in 2014 whilst a student at University. Carol and Evan came to the University of Cumbria where I work, around 18 months ago to talk to staff and students about Cameron, and the work they now do for the charity. They also produced, and then printed thousands of Cameron Coasters for the University of Cumbria, for free. They have produced thousands of coasters for various organisations including schools, colleges, universities, and police forces across the UK. Anecdotal evidence has suggested that students and staff at the University have found them invaluable, to hand, they have the details of how to get support on and off campus.
Moved by Cameron’s story, and the charity’s generosity, I decided to fundraise for them. I raised a small amount on my birthday via Facebook, but now, I plan to ride the Coast 2 Coast this summer to raise more money for this worthwhile cause. If you would like to donate, please click here to get to my Total Giving webpage.