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Life, Death and Other Things

10 May

‘You might think that the biggest killer of people aged between 15 and 45 in the UK would be road traffic accidents or maybe one of the many cancers we’re reliably told will affect 1 in 3 of us, but it isn’t. The biggest killer of young people in this first world nation is suicide……’

Suicide outnumbers road traffic deaths by 2:1. The latest statistics put the total number at over 6,000 per year; that’s almost one every hour. So, the question is why? What do such a large number of otherwise healthy young people in the prime of their lives find so unbearable that ending it becomes a viable option?

From a personal perspective there is a big difference between life and living. Life is the mechanical process of converting food and Oxygen to the sustain a heartbeat. Living is gaining satisfaction and enjoyment whilst doing so. In the global model of living which we are forced to accept inequality has never been greater, the basic requirements for taking part can become all consuming, leaving many people simply treading water and trying to plug holes in the dam behind which the necessities for life continually pile up leading to the feeling that living is a secondary concern. This is not to say that all downward spirals are caused by what equates to financial stress; rich people are profoundly unhappy too, but for what may actually be the same thing, albeit caused by different circumstances.

On a planet with 7bn other people it is surprisingly easy to feel alone. The family unit or the need to belong and feel needed, wanted and above all loved is another contributory factor. This is where unhappiness doesn’t care how much wealth you have but there is undoubtedly a disproportionate number of economically strained people making up the suicide statistics. The more time you spend plugging the holes in the dam, the easier it is to begin the downward spiral of loneliness and feelings of helplessness and worthlessness.

Despite the narrative that we recognise and care about people who may be well on the way down the path to ending their pain, there is very little professional help available. I’ll guarantee the paperwork and time spent evaluating and exonerating professionals of any blame in the aftermath of a suicide far out ways the amount generated preventing it whilst they were still living.

Although everything I have just written may be factual, it’s typical of my personality to attemp to rationalise and quantify but when all is said and done it is my own internal battle with suicidal thoughts that I intended to write about. The flippant remarks and often quoted misnomer that someone who is suicidal acts completely normally and “nobody would have imagined that they would do such a thing”, is a somewhat annoying cop out. Making the choice to take your own life doesn’t happen in a moment of desperation or madness, it is a considered act in many cases. I can only speak for myself but I go around in circles considering method, guilt and a whole host of emotions and rationale.

I have asked for help but nothing ever happens. Over time I have become more isolated, unhappy and desperate to escape the overwhelming feeling of impending doom. It feels like every concerted effort I make to change things fails. The failures mount up and as they do the chronic (untreated) depression makes the basics hard to maintain. I am consumed by guilt at the thought of hurting people and it is that, and only that that has kept me alive. But I don’t know how much more I can take. I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel, or for that matter, a tunnel. This isn’t a cry for help; God knows I’ve cried and cried for help but none has been forthcoming. I have posted many times about this and doubtless I’ll be labelled as the boy who cried wolf. Truth be told, I’m distracting myself from thinking because I’m afraid where it might lead. Death doesn’t scare me and the rationalisation that I could never have to face anymore pain is an appealing prospect but for now I’ll just keep plugging holes until the dam inevitably overflows……

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The Right to Choose……

1 Apr

‘Regular readers will doubtless know my feelings on the right to self-determination when it comes to assisted suicide.  Well, yet again, another terminally ill man has to suffer the indignity and stress of fighting the British Courts on top of being in an unimaginable position……’

The case of Noel Conway, 67, from Shrewsbury, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease more than two years ago and fears being “entombed” in his own body as his ability to move declines, is the latest to reach the High Court.  He is not expected to survive beyond the next 12 months.

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Noel Conway

It is  completely understandable that people in Noel’s position fear the indignity, pain, inability to communicate and all of the unimaginable horrors that come towards the end of life as the disease progresses.  To have the added distress of having to fight a court battle, when all he is requesting a peaceful death when the disease becomes intolerable, seems cruel and totally unecessary.  We have the medicines required to bring about this ending painlessly when the time comes.

The legal arguments against assisted suicide always seem to come back to the same thing; that relatives will ‘push’ a terminally ill person to prematurely end their lives for some spurious reason, or that the person feels they will become a burden as the disease progresses.  It has been demonstrated in countries which allow assisted suicide that with the right checks and balances in place this is almost impossible.   I know of no instances where relatives or carers have been prosecuted in such situations.  In independent polls a large majority agree that it should be an option.

There are options available to some, but only if their condition and financial status allow.  Dignitas, Switzerland, are one organisation that can arrange a peaceful death for sufferers of incurable, degenerative diseases, however, the cost involved (approximately £10,000) is prohibitive for some.  For others, their condition makes travel impossible, denying access to the service.

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Established 1998

The unfortunate inability of our courts to legalise assisted suicide has led to despairing people taking things into their own hands which can cause more suffering or, in the worst case scenario, a prosecution.

Death is not something to be feared.  The idea that your place in Heaven will be lost is  nothing more than the remnants of outdated superstition.  When you are dead you are effectively in the same ‘place’ you were before you were born; and anyway, surely a loving ‘god’ will understand your need to end your pain.

It is time we removed the superstition and hysteria from the argument and listened to common sense, ended the anguish and suffering of those people who find themselves in the unfortunate position of having an intolerable illness and placed assisted suicide on the statute books.  It is a sick irony that we don’t allow animals to sufifer but our fellow brothers and sisters are allowed to suffer…….

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Trapped……

6 Jun

‘I can ramble on endlessly about politics, religion, science, inequality, war and a hundred other things but the subject I find hardest to express is my own struggle with chronic depression and anxiety, predominantly because I can’t find the words and believe that only another sufferer can really understand……’

Depression has the outward appearance of ‘normality’. It doesn’t come with a plaster cast, visible scars or crutches; it is an invisible, insidious disease. This does not diminish its impact which can be just as debilitating as any physical illness……

Head_04I cannot tell you when I first became depressed, or why, but I live in what feels like a pinball machine being bounced from one crisis to another, all having an accumulative effect over my entire life and illness. Therein lies one of the problems with chronic depression because from an observer’s point of view they usually ask the same questions; why are you so unhappy and what would make you happy; both of which I can’t answer. I can tell you how it manifests but I cannot emphasise enough that this is after suffering for over 30 years. One distressing event in your life is usually surmountable; it’s when years of seemingly endless distress continues that the problem reaches epic scales.

Head_03Days vary; some are better than others but always with an underlying presence. One of depression’s most cruel and insidious effects are on sleep, or the lack of it. No matter what I try I find it impossible to establish a reasonable sleep pattern (even with prescription sleeping tablets). Chronic Insomnia on its own is known to dramatically affect your mood and your ability to concentrate. Added to an already deeply engrained depression insomnia becomes a double edged sword. When all you would rather do is sleep to escape the misery, insomnia puts the dampers on. So, not only can you not sleep but the time drags along making five minutes feel like an hour. I also suffer from sleep paralysis; a situation which occurs both when you fall asleep and wake up. It may only last for seconds and is a state of semi-consciousness where you are aware of not being fully asleep but cannot move. If combined with a nightmare or post-traumatic stress disorder it is truly terrifying fighting to escape to consciousness.

I have become so ill I contemplate suicide almost daily. It seems like the only way to escape from the prison inside your head. It also has a profound effect on your ability to function ‘normally’. I don’t eat properly, I get no exercise, I rarely leave my room and fear of the outside world can be paralysing. It’s not a secret amongst people who know me that I self-medicate, which is not uncommon, and is usually partly as a result of the medical establishment failing to deal with problems quickly and with the right choice of treatment; which is woefully inadequate. The upshot of the inadequate treatment of mental health issues is years of torment as you scream for help which never comes……

Early and appropriate intervention is fundamental for curing any illness; however, your overworkedHead_Pills_01 GP will simply reach for the prescription pad. There are dozens of anti-depressants and finding the one which may help you can take months. More often than not, once you’ve tried them and they don’t work you either continue to take whichever ‘lucky dip’ pills you’ve ended up on (usually the cheapest, not the best), or just give up altogether. Someone suffering from serious chronic depression is unlikely to enthusiastically keep returning to their GP to ask to try something new. The second and probably most important thing someone with depression needs is therapy. But this is a major problem; first of all you will wait months for an assessment. Then, if you’re lucky, you may be offered counselling; in my case four sessions. Four sessions with somebody you may not be comfortable to disclose your innermost traumatic childhood experiences with, and four hours is not sufficient to scratch the surface of 30 years of dysfunctional living, addiction, obsessive compulsive behaviours and despair. All of the time that passes so slowly only makes your situation worse and it becomes incredibly difficult to ever recover……

Head_01Although friends try to help nothing they say has much effect. The most annoying thing I’ve heard a hundred times is, “If you’ve reached rock bottom things can only get better”. Meant in good faith and from non-medical people the sentiment is appreciated but things do continue to get worse. Maybe there is a ‘rock bottom’ but for me things just get worse.

From my point of view the future isn’t something I look forward too. I see my situation as unchanging and a future in which things only appear more bleak the further away I dare to contemplate. I’m isolated, stuck in a challenging domestic situation, I feel I have no prospects of ever reaching the ‘aspirational’ trappings of success and feel that nothing will change, and I will become old, poor and lonely. In truth this will not happen because I will exercise the only control I feel I have left and which is guaranteed to end my daily inner distress; suicide. This isn’t a threat or a ‘cry for help’, it is a simple solution and when my choice will not affect the person I love, I will proceed with a sense of relief……

If there is any possibility that I can be ‘cured’ or at least feel that things were to improve, then I may re-evaluate my future but in the absence of long term, specialist intervention, I cannot envisage that future……

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Music Therapy……

11 Dec

‘Special Post – Music is the theme tune to our lives but what if that life suddenly changed……’


Introduction

Music Therapy is available on the NHS but it is very limited predominantly due to costs. Homeopathy receives more funding even though it has been proven to act only as a placebo. In the increasing privatisation by stealth of the NHS the funding will only go down. The areas in which it proves most useful receive proportionately higher spending cuts than other treatments.

 

What is Music Therapy?

As its name suggests it is a method of delivering beneficial therapy to many groups, often subconsciously. Music is the soundtrack of our lives and we recall events when we hear a song or piece of music that was pertinent to a particular time. The number one single when you met your future wife, had your first kiss or the holiday resort you stayed at when the same tune was played over and over in your favourite bar. So, what makes it such a valuable tool in therapy?

 

Groups for Whom Music Therapy is Beneficial

Children and adults with physical or learning disabilities:

Music Therapy is inclusive and can benefit both groups. They enjoy singing and playing percussive instruments. For example: using a simple song with repetitive verses makes it easy for non-readers to learn very quickly. For example; I have used “If I had a Hammer” because it can be conveyed in simple diagrams. What do we do with hammers? We hammer. When? In the morning, then in the evening and

everywhere. The simple formula moves on to a bell which we ring; again in the morning etc. This can be easily adapted for people who may not be able to sing or bang percussive instruments. This is done with movement. If I had a wheelchair I’d spin around in the morning etc. The art is to adapt to the needs of the people you are working with. Subconsciously, reading skills are improved, co-ordination skills improve and most rewarding of all are the smiles and laughter Music Therapy can bring……

 

Elderly people and those with dementia:

As previously mentioned, music is strongly connected to memory. Here is a lovely story from a friend who sadly lost their Mum to Alzheimer’s disease. Long after Mum no longer recognised her own relatives they would take a CD player and play her favourite tunes. She would dance with a smile always present. I cannot begin to imagine how frightening it must be to not know where you are or who the strangers that help you to dress are, but the comfort the family and Mum got are incalculable and again linked to the soundtrack of her life……

 

Hospice care:

To have a child with an incurable illness in the latter stages of life is simply heart breaking. If that terrible period is remembered with the most happiness achievable, once the numbness and grief gets easier, it is a gift that is worth more than all the material wealth in the world. If I can re-write a favourite song to include that child’s name or, better still, asks an artist to record a personal message, a happy memory of a sad time may help, just a little……

 

Making it Happen……

I have experience in Music Therapy which fell by the wayside many years ago when dreams of fame and fortune took over. Since then I have endured some difficulties of my own from which I am thankfully recovering. I have re-evaluated what is important to me and what is unnecessary ‘globalised consumerism’, reaching the conclusion that happiness is not linked to the size of your house or your new car. Happiness can be found in our humanity; something we are losing as we live in an homogenous iPhone bubble……

Imagine yourself, as best you can, in one of the situations laid out above. Suddenly a smile or laughter has much more meaning. I am doing this voluntarily but I need your help. A portable electric piano and a few percussion instruments is all I need. Cost? Around £200 to £250. It’s a drop in the ocean if one or two pounds, or the odd change in PayPal accounts comes from many small donations. Open accounts will be kept and if more is raised than is needed, it will be given back equally to anyone who makes a donation……

Please help if you can.

My PayPal account is – steve.tproject@gmail.com

My friends will happily pass on any cash donations

 

Vishnu Video Productions will be following the story and including it in the “Made in Lincoln UK” magazine program on YouTube……

Thank you

Steve Walker – The Dripping Tap……

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Ebola – Epidemics and Academics……

19 Nov

‘Epidemics have the potential to spread around the world killing millions. In 1918 a Flu pandemic infected 500 million people, killing 100 million. Cholera still infects 3 to 5 million people every year. So how much of a threat is Ebola to western nations and how many of us could die…..?’

Ebola is a cruel disease on many levels. Due to the highly infectiousEbola_Virus nature of Ebola the dying are denied the comfort of human contact in their final hours. With affected areas only 24 hours travel from almost anywhere in the world, what are the chances that Ebola could become a pandemic and kill thousands or possibly millions…..?

Estimates of the eventual death toll vary hugely and they are not just ‘stab in the dark’ best guesses. They come from well established models by Epidemiologists but how accurate are they and why do the figures quoted differ so much? Like all predictive models they rely on many variables and the more variables, the more room for errors. For an example; weather forecasts rely on thousands of measurements ranging from hi tech satellite data to simple daily rainfall and temperature measurements; some collected automatically, some by a dedicated army of volunteers. All of the data is then input into one of the most powerful computers in the UK and a forecast is produced. So why do they always seem to get it wrong? Despite the computing power and the accuracy of the models, the shear number of variables make the algorithms extremely complicated, leading to errors.

Ebola_Victim_01Fortunately, modeling the potential spread of Ebola has fewer variables which should mean the predictions are more accurate, so why do the experts opinions vary widely? Epidemiology is well studied and founded on past and current models built upon data collected during and after outbreaks of infectious diseases. In theory having fewer variables requires a less complicated algorithm, so what is having such a major effect on the predicted outcomes? The answer is the degree and urgency of the intervention.

Estimates of the death toll caused by Ebola vary from 700,000 in 2016 as the outbreak ends (confined to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone), to as many as 12 million (unconfined and on an unknown timescale). This is where the speed and scale of the response matters so much. If the action taken by charities, governments and is rapid and proportionate, there could be a reasonably swift resolution. If, however, the response is too slow, the outbreak will spread to neighboring countries as fear increases and has the potential to reach previously unaffected areas, requiring a much greater effort to contain and eradicate it.

The current situation is beginning to stablize but unless the promises of help don’t arrive soon, we could be facing a very different outcome.

To end on a political note, in comparison, when wars begin we seem able to arrange huge logistical operations at the drop of a hat. In West Africa the body count started to mount months ago but the response has only just begun. Only time will tell if it is too little, too late……

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Psychotropic Snake Oil……

7 May

‘The Income of the pharmaceutical industry is huge. Much of that income comes from the drugs used to treat mental health. The chances are that at some point in your life you may be prescribed one of these drugs. If you thought that psychiatric medicine is based on sound scientific principles, think again and read on……’

 

Diagnosing Mental Health Illness……dsm5

Unlike any other area of medicine, mental health cannot be diagnosed through a blood, urine or any other scientific test. It is based on the way in which you answer the doctor’s questions and upon the way you are feeling. This is of course subjective. The range of human emotions is wide and covers the elation of child birth through to the sadness of bereavement and everything in between. In many cases there are multiple choice questionnaires, which can be found online. They contain questions such as “I feel sad”, with answers ranging from; not very often, once or twice each month, twice per week and every other day. Try one for yourself online and even if you are perfectly contented with your life you may discover that you have depression, anxiety or even bi-polar disorder (The pharmaceutical industry are often behind ‘self diagnosis’ websites in order to prompt a visit to the GP). The only other element in the diagnosis is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health (DSM), which categorises and matches your ‘symptoms’ with a known mental health disorder. With each new edition of the DSM come new diagnoses. In the DSM I, published in the 1950s, there were 106. The latest edition, DSM V, lists over 300……

 

Once you have a Diagnosis……

Before the 1950s talking therapies were the main way of treating mild to moderate mental health illness. More severe conditions such as Psychosis usually led to hospitalisation, possibly Electro-Convulsive Therapy and even surgical Lobotomy. Contemporary treatments usually involve the prescription of Psychotropic drugs. These fall into many categories but all are thought to affect Neurotransmitters, the main ones being Serotonin and Noradrenalin, although no one really knows how or why they work.

So, supposing you have suffered the bereavement of a long term partner and are feeling down, a little lost and have difficulty concentrating and sleeping. Then you are feeling what humans have felt since time immemorial, however, your doctor may well tell you that you have depression and, after a 15 or 20 minute consultation, you leave with a prescription for an antidepressant; a powerful psychotropic drug with potentially deadly side effects……

 

pills1Developing and Testing Psychotropic Drugs……

After initial laboratory tests for toxicity etc, human trials begin. They often last a maximum of eight weeks; some only four. They are only tested against a placebo and not any other drug. Providing the side effects are moderate in the test group which consists of carefully chosen, healthy people, they can be approved for public use. At this point the public become the guinea pigs, sometimes with devastating consequences……

 

Antidepressants and Suicide……

There are hundreds of well documented cases of people visiting their GP at a difficult time in their life, being prescribed antidepressants and committing suicide within days of starting their medication; remember these are powerful psychotropic drugs. But surely this would have been noticed in the trials? Not if the results are manipulated by interested parties; namely, the pharmaceutical industry that test them. Altering statistics is easy; when trialling the drug you simply leave out the question “Did this medication make you feel suicidal?” We are so used to answering multiple choice questionnaires that clever questioning can return either positive or negative answers depending on how the question was asked, that is, if it was asked at all. They may not make someone who is in perfect health feel that way but if you have been under stress and have a low mood, as in the example given earlier, they can have a far more powerful effect……

 

A Conflict of Interests……seven-pharma-logos-300x200

Any regular readers of my blog will be well aware of the close relationships that exist between industries, regulators, politics and money. It used to be called corruption; paying for politicians’ VIP days out, lobbying and making large donations to political parties. But it seems laws and ethics only apply to the likes of you and I. The pharmaceutical industries are more than happy to pay huge grants to fund research at universities; the same universities that the Psychiatrists who write favourable papers for medical journals work at. Doctors require patients and patients require diseases; diseases that require drugs to treat them. You get the point……

 

Finally……

There are some people with mental health issues that may benefit from medication, but they should be closely monitored and the cause of their distress identified and dealt with alongside medication. Unfortunately, an NHS with limited resources are not able to deliver a high enough standard of care, especially when it comes to talking therapies, so a large group of people get left on medication to numb the pain; medication whose side effects have never been tested beyond a few weeks and what long term damage they may do is an ongoing trial, one in which you may be taking part……

DT_Triangle_Banner‘I am still awaiting a reply to my letter to the Foreign Secretary but I’ll let you know when I do (see previous post “Correspondence with the Government”)……’

 

The Impotence of Our NHS……

7 Apr

‘First and foremost I must stress that there are many caring and hard overworked professionals working for our NHS (NB: OUR NHS, not THE NHS). It will come as no surprise that the problems lie with a group of technocrats who see anything and everything as a business opportunity, including wars, poverty and our health……’

 

Compartmentalisation……

 

Opening services up to ‘competitive’ tendering, or the lowest bidder as you or I would call it, does nothing to improve a patient’s experience or smooth their journey through the system. In practice it may seem like a good idea but without implementing efficient communication protocols leaves the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. This is particularly damaging for mental health and welfare services and, furthermore, it is potentially dangerous as the patients who need these services are often the least able to negotiate the system when breakdowns occur, and they frequently do……

 

Healthcare Tennis……

 

It may have taken 77 years for a Brit to win Wimbledon but the NHS are world class champions at ‘health’ tennis. GPs refer patients to secondary, probably outsourced service who return serve by referring them back. In the mixed doubles version of ‘health’ tennis it becomes more akin to a game of squash, where patients feel they are bounced around until dizziness, or a lack of a diagnosis causes them to collapse and die. The coroner’s report with doubtless score the game as ‘Deuce’; possibly Advantage to the Chancellor……

 

Tapping the Virgin Oil……

 

The first press holds the most value in the world of Olives just as it does in healthcare. Simply cream off the conveyor belt the in and out 10 minute cases and listen to the tills ringing. Refer the ‘second press’ that requires filtering to tennis association……

 

The Benefit of Hindsight……

 

Take a look at every business or industry that has been privatised, which is what is happening to the NHS by stealth, and ask one simple question; is it more efficient, cheaper, convenient and customer friendly? Gas, Electricity, Phones, Railways, Water [ad infinitum]; none of these have returned competitive prices, improved customer services or, for that matter, any benefit that is apparent to most of us. They have delivered higher share prices, dividends and ‘gifts’ to their friendly MPs, who after loosing their seats and spending a couple of years quietly enjoying the fruits of their labour, end up as ‘consultants’, ‘honouree boards members’ and ‘directors without portfolio’, paid for doing absolutely nothing……

 

Your Government does not care about you, your health, wellbeing or quality of life. They are, with a few exceptions like Dennis Skinner and the late Tony Benn, a den of thieves and it is high time the public revolted and the re-appearance of ‘Madam Guillotine’ took centre stage. I’m perfectly happy to apply for the job of ‘rope cutter’ should it become available……

 

Political Jargon Decoded……

 

Looking forwards:     We have failed miserably and done nothing…

Public Enquiry:          By the time this is over everyone will have forgotten…

In the next Parliament:         Empty promises to get us re-elected…

People who want to work hard and get on:          As opposed to the millions who want to do nothing and not get on? (I’ve yet to meet one)

 

The Manifesto in a Nutshell…..

 

One: We will reduce welfare (most of which goes to retired and working people) but we’ll give the impression it’s unemployed people who don’t want to work.

 

Two: We’ll tackle immigration. Give the appearance that all of the country’s problems are caused by those pesky foreigners.

 

Three: There is no three…