Men’s Health Week

Men’s Health Week falls on the dates 11-17th June this year. This is a time that we can bring awareness to health issues that affect men and focuses on getting men to become aware of problems they may have or could develop and feel confident enough to be able to do something about it.  Every year there is a different health focus and this years is diabetes- a life long condition that causes a persons blood sugar to become too high.

There are two main types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes– where the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin
  • Type 2 diabetes– where the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells don’t react to insulin (around 90% of people in the UK with diabetes has this type).

This is a disease that becomes present much more in men than in women and can develop complications in male bodies at a higher rate than in females.

One man in 10 now has diabetes and in middle-aged men the disease is expected to increase sharply in frequency over the next 20 years.

For someone who is diagnosed with diabetes, it is important they have a healthy diet, regularly exercise and carry out regular blood tests to ensure their blood glucose levels stay balanced.  People diagnosed with type 1 diabetes also need regular insulin injections for the rest of their life. Type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition and some people may eventually need medication.

Diabetes UK

Becky 🙂

 

 

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Mental Health Week: Blank Canvas

This week has been Mental Health Awareness Week, a week were people recognise mental health issues and hold events/ share their stories in order to raise awareness, however why should this be once or twice a year? Mental health is just as important as physical health but the stigma around having a mental health condition is everywhere and it can destroy lives of those who do suffer.

This week DYHC. Just Straight Talk and Fixers celebrated Mental Health Awareness week with the launch of my postcard packs and film! For those who don’t know, I dragged Faye (DYHC project coordinator) along to an arts exhibition at school where my artwork was on display and she decided I needed to do something with my art and therefore decided I should make a set of postcards. With mental health being a subject close to my heart because of my own experiences, I thought it would be a good idea to use my artwork as a way of portraying different emotions and feelings. About a week and a lot of paint later I had 11 different designs in-front of me each representing different emotions, all with narratives on the back explaining the emotion portrayed, with a positive quote at the bottom. I have also created a card with distraction techniques on, a card about how to cope with flashbacks and disassociation, and the final card is a list of useful helplines and websites.

Some organisations including Just Straight Talk and The Princes Trust had the chance to trial the packs before the launch so they could share their experience using them on the day. Tuesday 15th May 2018 was the day and 79 people from organisations and services across Dudley attended!

Here’s a run down of what went on during the evening:

To open the night, we had general housekeeping and warm welcomes from Jayne (Chief Officer at HealthWatch Dudley) before DYHC Aaliyah performed one of her original songs around mental health and becoming a better person. We then had Debs Harkins (Director of Public Health) who gave us a brief run down of the project and what work she does with young people and we heard more about the DYHC project and the different types of individual projects that are going on from Faye (DYHC project coordinator). She  also talked about my experience and parts of my story, and introduced Blank Canvas. DYHC Demi kindly read out my speech after this as at this point- anxiety was ruining me however I got through it!

Cllr Dave Tyler aka the Mayor of Dudley spoke about what mental health means to him and why he chose Dudley Mind as one of his charities and recognised another inspirational man within the audience (exboozehound) who then mentioned how we both work togther. Wes from Fixers then took to the stage to speak about Fixers and then introduced my film which everyone had to hold their tears in to! Mission accomplished! We then had another song from Aaliyah before table activities were a go ahead- these were to capture peoples thoughts and ideas but to also allow people to make a ‘pledge’ to use the cards and put in their order for packs. We then heard feedback from each table and lets just say- I was overwhelmed with all of the kindness from everyone!

To close the event, we had a performance from another young person- Alice who plays the ukulele and sang some beautiful cover songs.

During the evening we also had Eileen and Helena from Dudley CVS interviewing people about the packs to create a podcast and Dudley Rocks UK joined us for some fun ways of connecting people.

I never thought I’d come this far in my journey, I’ve had struggles and relapses, and truthfully I wouldn’t have made it this far without the help of those who attended who’ve supported me and nudged me when I wanted to give up. But also the strength I have found within myself has meant I can focus on helping other people whilst helping myself and that’s what matters. If someone told me at the start of the year that I would have my own set of postcards, a film and a room full of people who have come to see my work I would probably have laughed in your face with disbelief. But now that’s just what happened and I’m forever grateful to everyone for supporting my project and showing interest in my work. We all know mental health is becoming more of a problem within young people, which is the reason I put this pack together. It’s about time we all came together and helped end the stigma around mental health issues as well as recognising the issues around support and services for those struggling and make a change.

Thank you again to everyone who came on the 15th, thank you again to those who have supported me in my darkest times, but also to those who have supported me in my better times because without you all, this pack wouldn’t have happened, let alone reached such big audiences.

Not only did the launch happen, but on the following day- Wednesday 16th, Just Straight Talk held an event to recognise mental health and raise awareness, there we had performances, a story teller, work from a photographer, beautiful saris and my packs and artwork were displayed. Everyone that walked through the door have or are currently experiencing poor mental health or even been given a diagnosis and for that reason makes the events more realistic because people have their experiences and are able to share if they feel comfortable enough doing so. For more information about Just Straight Talk and their amazing team, go to their website below. If its supporting other organisations with raising awareness, or holding events yourselves, get involved, do something and help make life easier for those battling their demons, because every one of us will be affected by a mental health condition at some point in our lives.

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Becky 🙂

 

World Fibromyalgia Awareness- hear from a fighter

Saturday 12th May is Fibromyalgia day and I asked a lady who suffers with the condition to write us a blog post. Have a read and start to understand how the condition can affect someone’s life.

” I was asked how Fibromyalgia (FM) affects me and after much thought i realised that even without a flare up, FM still affects my daily life. It may not be so obvious at times, but its always there, underlying and dormant. Some days are better than others and for that, I’m thankful, but there are days where i cannot get out of bed and probably would go without eating or drinking, if it wasn’t for my husband bringing me tea and toast in bed.

FM is a medical condition characterised by chronic, widespread pain and a heightened pain response to pressure. Other symptoms can include tiredness to a degree that it causes sleep problems, trouble with memory and normal activities are interrupted. Everyone is affected differently when a flare up occurs. Some flare ups can last weeks or even a few months at a time. One of the necessities for being diagnosed with FM is to have hypermobility within the joints, similar to being double- jointed, which can cause its own problems, where all the joints over extend and therefore don’t provide great support to the rest of the body.

FM may be linked with other conditions and it is thought to be triggered by an accident or other stress or severe illness and commonly, when multiple conditions are diagnosed, FM is usually in the mix. For me, even when FM is inactive, I still have disc problems (known as spinal stenosis) and it’s sometimes very hard to know which illness or condition is causing the pains or symptoms I’m feeling. FM is always in the background and I’m just waiting for the next flare up.

I sometimes feel useless as FM can limit physical activity, so the hovering and cooking doesn’t get done. Nothing does. Sometimes i can’t even shower or wash my hair. Emotional support is very important for me. My husband has been amazingly supportive and sometimes ends up having to do everything for me, even though he has his own medical conditions. I have also found an amazing social enterprise café which offers support and friendship, that money can’t buy. FM affects the whole family and not just the sufferer. My husband says it’s upsetting and frustrating to watch me in pain, which in turn can cause me to feel guilty.

When I was first diagnosed I didn’t know anyone else who had FM, so I started to research online for more information. There were so many people who were in the same situation as me and that helped me to feel connected and supported, even though I couldn’t change anything. Chatting to others online and reading blogs, sharing each other’s experiences, really helped to empower me and give me a sense of belonging as i now understood my condition much better and was able to make lifestyle changes necessary for me to cope with the FM. I would really recommend joining a local FM group or even starting one of your own, but if that’s too scary then joining an online community would be very helpful on painful, slow days when you just need a listening ear or someone else who understands how it feels. I’m still trying to drum up the courage to start my own FM group in the Gather café (on Dudley High Street), but worry that my activity levels and health would let me down. FM makes me unreliable and unable to commit to activities, as i never know how I am going to feel. I am already a major contributor to a crafting group that runs every Wednesday (at Gather). Crafting can bring people together and it saved me from focusing on the negatives of FM, and help well-being by encouraging achievement, as well as the benefits of art therapy.

I try to be grateful and appreciate what I have when I’m feeling energized will do my best to carry on as usual, but i remember to be kinder to myself when I’m not able to get out of bed . I remember that I am not lazy, I just have FM.”

Anyone can develop and be affected by FM, although it affects up to 7 times as many women as men. The condition typically develops between the ages of 30 and 50 however can occur in any age including children and the elderly.

For more information and support visit:

NHS- Fibromyalgia

 

 

Fibromyalgia UK

Becky 🙂

 

Down’s syndrome: what is it?

“Living with a child with Down’s syndrome is exactly the same as living with our children who don’t.”-  taken from the article below.

Down’s syndrome is caused by an extra chromosome in your cells. For someone without Down’s Syndrome, they will have been born with 46 chromosomes, 23 from the mother and 23 from the father. A chromosome is a DNA molecule with part or all of the genetic material of an organism.

A baby born with Down’s syndrome is born with an extra copy of a chromosome 21- the smallest human chromosome which represents 1.5 to 2% of the total DNA in cells. This makes a total of 47 chromosomes per cell. Having an extra chromosome can affect all areas of the body and slows down development.

A person with Down’s Syndrome will have some degree of a learning disability, but the level of ability will be different for each individual. A child with Down’s syndrome might take longer than other children their age to reach certain milestones and to develop certain skills. They may also need ongoing support for different aspects of their life when they become an adult. Down’s Syndrome is not inherited and only 1 in 100 babies inherit the condition from their parents.

As with other conditions associated with learning disability, every person with Down’s syndrome is an individual and, with the right support and opportunities, can lead a happy and fulfilling life.

When a baby is diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome, they look for the following symptoms:

  • loose muscles and joints (she may seem floppy)
  • a single crease that runs across the palms
  • eyes that slant upwards and outwards
  • a small mouth, which can make the tongue seem slightly large
  • a head shape that is flatter at the back
  • a lower than average birth weight
  • a smooth, flat face with a small nose
  • broad hands with short fingers, and a little finger that curves inwards

Down’s syndrome may lead to some or any of:

  • problems with the muscles, joints, bones and movement
  • vision and hearing difficulties
  • a vulnerability to infections
  • problems with digestion
  • lung disorders
  • heart defects

BBC:Living with a child with Down’s Syndrome

Mencap: the voice of learning disability

Becky 🙂

 

Taking on a caring role at a young age

A lot, if not all young carers face many difficulties, challenges and anxieties. A young carer is someone aged 18 or under who helps look after a relative with a disability, illness, mental health condition, or drug or alcohol problem. A young carer can look after one or both of their parents, or care for a sibling.

The average age of a young carer is 13, however someone as young as 3 can be caring for a member of their family. Caring roles can be anything from doing the housework/shopping, giving someone medication, helping someone into bed/ wash and dress to managing money and prescriptions and offering emotional support. Figures show there are 700,000 young carers in the UK and 37974 people in the Dudley borough take on a caring role.

At the age of 7, i had to grow up. My 1st brother was born. Why did this mean i had to grow up? The answer to that is because both of my parents are blind. I wasn’t a naughty child as such, i knew my parents weren’t like others, but never the less I loved them. As much as my parents are, and always have been independent, I knew when they needed help. I took care of my brother, myself and looked out for my parents. It was just something that needed to be done

It got older and there were more siblings. By the time I was 12 I was looking after my brothers and sister, constantly worrying about where my parents had gone out shopping, whether they were safe or not, whether they’d be coming back etc. When my family went out, I would sit up the window waiting to see them come around the corner so I knew they were okay. At this point I thought it was normal behaviour to look after a loved one and constantly worry about someone. I still carry that anxiety and paranoia around with me now, 12 years on.

Caring for loved ones can be a lonely and difficult experience. While my friends were going out and spending quality time with their parents. Due to my parents disabilities, I was being bullied horrifically. It was everywhere: at school, online. I fell into depression at an early age like a lot of young carers do. I am yet to meet a young carer who hasn’t been bullied.

Cervical Cancer Prevention week, Young Carers Awareness Day and World Leprosy Day

Becky 🙂

Too young for hair loss

 

As we age, many of s naturally lose some or all of our hair. Many people relate hair loss with middle and old age however it can also affect those of youth age. When someone starts losing their hair, it can often be a condition called Alopecia. Alopecia usually causes small, round patches of baldness on the scalp, although hair on the beard, eyebrows and eyelashes can be affected.

There are seven types of alopecia:

  • Involutional alopecia- a natural condition where hair gradually thins with age.
  • Androgenic alopecia- a genetic condition that can affect both men and women. Men with this condition can begin suffering hair loss as early as their teens or early 20’s. Women with the condition don’t experience noticeable thinning until their 40s or later. 
  • Alopecia areata- often starts suddenly and causes patchy hair loss in children and young people. This condition might result in complete baldness but in 90% of people with the condition notice hair growth after a few months or even years.
  • Alopecia universalis- this condition causes all body hair to fall out including eyelashes, eyebrows and pubic hair.
  • Trichotollomania- is a psychological disorder in which a person pulls their own hair out.
  • Telogen effluvium- a temporary hair thinning over the scalp that occurs because of changes in the growth cycle of hair.
  • Scarring alopecias- permanent hair loss. Inflammatory skin conditions and skin disorders often result in scars that destroy the ability of the hair to regenerate.

The average adult head has about 100,000 to 150,000 hairs and loses up to 100 of them a day, however this is no cause for concern.

Some young people going through hair loss might have feelings of loneliness, grief, loss and pain when going through hair loss, but talking to people about the problem can help.

Too young to go bald

Becky 🙂

A waking nightmare: sleep paralysis

Sleep paralysis. The feeling of being conscious but unable to move or speak that occurs when a person is neither awake nor asleep and can be extremely frightening but is not harmful to the body. The paralysis may last anything from seconds to minutes and some people have also experienced a sense of choking.

Sleep paralysis may affect someone once, frequently or even several times in a night and is most common in those aged between 10-25.

The symptoms of an episode of sleep paralysis can be:

  • finding it difficult to take breaths- feeling as though your chest is being crushed
  • being able to move your eyes but nothing else
  • having a feeling that there is company in your room
  • hallucinating
  • feeling very frightened.

Many people who have experienced this, including myself, have an overwhelming feeling of someone or something being in the room with you and see or hear things that aren’t there, which is why it is referred to as a waking nightmare, or the ‘sleep demon’.

So who can be affected by sleep paralysis? As many as 4 out of 10 people may have or experience sleep paralysis and it is usually first noticed in teenage years. Sleep paralysis might run in families however:

  • lack of sleep
  • changes in sleep routine
  • mental health conditions
  • sleeping on the back
  • sleep disorders such as narcolepsy 
  • use of certain medications
  • substance misuse

can all contribute to the coming of sleep paralysis.

Things can be done to help prevent sleep paralysis such as creating a comfortable sleeping area (dark and quiet), going to bed at roughly the same time, not sleeping on the back and try to get between 6 and 8 hours of sleep.

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becky 🙂