• Stand Up Against Stigma! 23rd October Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival

    CHRISTINE , DONNA AND GILLIAN AT STAND UP AGAINST STIGMA (640x480)

    Wee Read I am – Stand Up Against Stigma 23rd October, St Ninian’s Church, Stonehouse Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival 2015

    The gala night of local folk standing up against mental health stigma at Stonehouse on Friday 23rd was a brilliant event and I felt privileged to be a part of it. The event was produced by The Hope Café and Inspire  Theatre. The contributions from the Acting Bairns of Stonehouse and Inspire Young People about stigma from were very impressive and were the core of  first half of the event. These pieces were strong and well-performed. Songs written by Angel Newlands were outstanding. In the second half, At Theatre and the Inspire group showed us all their talents . The final piece was about Scott Baker- a friend of mine through our shared work as volunteers at the Hope Café. Scott showed a lot of courage in putting his story into a dramatic performance by Inspire Theatre,  which did just what it says on the tin- inspire!

    I am looking forward to seeing more from these young people! They all showed a great deal of talent, energy and determination in their performances. Well Done to them and thanks for a brilliant evening!

    The show started with a great singing experience from the Stonehouse Male Voice Choir which got everyone in the audience singing, clapping and chair-dancing!  The event was held in the main part of the church of St. Ninian’s and I felt slightly awed by this- and by the 150 people present!

    My Wee Read was based on the I am I am I am workshop, shortened to ‘I am’ – and as the number of people was more than expected, I had to change the format to simple reading – no chance to write or interact. Gillian Grant, an Edinburgh Comedy Festival star who works with Universal Comedy,  compèred the evening with funnies and pezazz! But, luckily, I was on after the tea break, so I had time for a cuppa tea before it.

    We had some lovely home made cake too!Especially liked the Rocky Road.  It was a bit nerve-racking standing with the bright stage lights in my face, and to a full church! I sat on the stage for the raffle winners,  with Donna Barrowman, the founder of The Hope Café.  I took courage from all the 150 people in front of me who had come to stand up against stigma, and the welcoming atmosphere provided in St. Ninian’s Church by the local people.

    I was slightly flummoxed at the start, however, it went well. I read 4 poems,  and here is a draft of my presentation:

    Wee Read is myself, Christine Cather and I am also a volunteer at The Hope Cafe. We enjoy a writing group there, that helps us to express ourselves, and I want to invite everyone to new reading and writing group at St. Ninian’s Church in Stonehouse.

    I stand up against stigma because when I was in despair and having suicidal thoughts, I could not talk about it. I want everyone to be able to speak about their mental health so that this doesn’t happen to them.

    What I’ll do is read 3 or 4 poems.

    And why this title ‘I am I am I am?’

    Because it’s a positive statement and embodies that passion that we are celebrating this year in the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival.

    The quote “I am, I am, I am” appears in Sylvia Plath’s novel, “The Bell Jar” about a fictional character who has depression, and attempts suicide.

    The quote is

    “I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart: I am, I am, I am”.

    The first poem is Patriot, by Norman MacCaig

    My only country
    is six feet high
    and whether I love it or not
    I’ll die
    for its independence.

    The country is myself. It is not about political independence but personal independence.

    What is stigma?

    When someone labels you as a discredited person;

    your identity is spoiled;

    your status is lost;

    the powerful social group then discriminates against you with a negative stereotype;

    you are no longer equal ;

    it results in social oppression.

    it is the powerful group who is to blame – not the person who is mentally ill.

    And this is not just against anyone with mental health but against anyone for being different, being labelled by society in many ways. For example, being of a different race, gender, sexual preference, disabled, wee, skinny, anything !

    Let’s hear a poem by Sylvia Plath, I am Vertical

    I am vertical.
    But I would rather be horizontal.
    I am not a tree with my root in the soil
    Sucking up minerals and motherly love
    So that each March I may gleam into leaf,
    Nor am I the beauty of a garden bed

    Attracting my share of “Ah’s and spectacularly painted,

    Unknowing I must soon unpetal.

    Compared with me, a tree is immortal

    And a flower-head not tall, but startling,

    And I want the one’s longevity and the other’s daring.

    Tonight, in the infinitesimal light of the stars,

    I walk among them , but none of them are noticing.

    Sometimes, I think that when I am sleeping

    I most perfectly resemble them –

    Thoughts gone dim.

    It is more natural to me, lying down.

    Then the sky and I are in open conversation.

    And I shall be more useful when I lie down finally:

    Then the trees may touch me for once, and the flowers have time for me.”

    (Extract.)

    Sylvia Plath

    Available

    http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/i-am-vertical/

    When I was in despair, my throat felt frozen. I could not speak.

    A poem by Maya Angelou, Caged Bird

    The free bird leaps
    on the back of the wind
    and floats downstream


    in the orange sun rays
    and dares to claim the sky.

    But a bird that stalks
    down his narrow cage
    can seldom see through
    his bars of rage
    his wings are clipped and
    his feet are tied
    so he opens his throat to sing.

    The caged bird sings
    with fearful trill
    of the things unknown
    but longed for still
    and his tune is heard
    on the distant hill for the caged bird
    sings of freedom

    The free bird thinks of another breeze
    and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
    and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
    and he names the sky his own.

    But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
    his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
    his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
    so he opens his throat to sing

    The caged bird sings
    with a fearful trill
    of things unknown
    but longed for still
    and his tune is heard
    on the distant hill
    for the caged bird
    sings of freedom.

    Maya Angelou (Extract.)

    http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/178948

    Now – the final poem is more positive. This was about human rights, black rights in the 60’s in America.

    Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

    You may write me down in history
    With your bitter, twisted lies,
    You may tread me in the very dirt
    But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

    Does my sassiness upset you?
    Why are you beset with gloom?
    ‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
    Pumping in my living room.

    Just like moons and like suns,
    With the certainty of tides,
    Just like hopes springing high,
    Still I’ll rise.

    Did you want to see me broken?
    Bowed head and lowered eyes?
    Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
    Weakened by my soulful cries.

    Does my haughtiness offend you?
    Don’t you take it awful hard
    ‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
    Diggin’ in my own back yard.
    You may shoot me with your words,
    You may cut me with your eyes,
    You may kill me with your hatefulness,
    But still, like air, I’ll rise.

    Out of the huts of history’s shame
    I rise
    Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
    I rise
    I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
    Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
    Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
    I rise
    Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
    I rise
    Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
    I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
    I rise

    I rise

    I rise.

    Maya Angelou  (Extract.)

    Available

    https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/still-i-rise

     I was also given a surprise birthday bouquet and the audience sang Happy Birthday to You!

    2015-10-23 001 (640x480)

    Then before we finished a marvellous show  we all sang Lean On Me- the song that means so much to the Hope Café .We sang in unison, with all the volunteers,  actors, the many young people involved in the event and the Stonehouse Male Voice Choir all around us in a huge circle. Wonderful!Thanks to all concerned for an inspiring and meaningful evening!

    EVENT STAND UP V STIGMA 2

  • Wee Read Autumn new beginnings!

    What a week! I made a new start at the Maggie’s Lanarkshire and it is a joy to write and listen to each other in such a lovely environment. Please come along- we will do a group on the first Tuesday every month (except December 8th).Maggie’s is for anyone and everyone affected by cancer.So if you have a desire to explore the changes that living with cancer brings to you please drop in and try.Or, pop in and book with the Maggie’s staff, tel 01236 771199 email  lanarkshire@maggiescentres.org -There’s always a welcome and a cuppa for you – and often cakes!

    Maggie's wall  (9)

     

    Then, yesterday 8th October was National Poetry Day see here for my poem I added …

    I was lucky to be invited to meet two fellow librarians at Hillhouse Library, to arrange some See Me, Read Me sessions. We will do the first one on remember, remember…the 5th of November see event details here…

    hillhouse poster-Final

    The second one will be on the 3rd of December, come along to explode the myths about mental health and stigma. Challenge the stereotypes!See Me funds the See Me, Read me project.

    It’s aw’ go! Get involved! Anyone who wishes to send me a poem or a contribution please email me at christine@weeread.scot

    Enjoy Autumn falling all around you.

  • Rights for Life Conference 2nd and 3rd June

    The anti-stigma conference by See Me, VoX, The Scottish Recovery Network.

    While listening and visiting the live stream here, I am thinking about designing an anti-stigma bibliotherapy session, using reading and writing. I just got approval for my Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival event in October on mental health stigma.

    This session with Heather Stuart is helping, as she mentions people telling their recovery story. She advises us to carefully target the groups we work with. I have been telling mine, and this conference empowers me more, to feel stronger about my experience instead of self-stigmatizing myself that I am/was weak.

    Graham Morgan  is now telling us about HUG, a place in the Highlands where people can tell their story- 30 priorities identified, poverty, austerity, stigma and self-stigma are top of the list.Limits to our tolerance of abhorrent practices when suicidal people are jailed and hurt by our statutory agencies like NHS.

    I agree with Graham, This Must Stop.

    Later Graham mentions creative writing session and confirms my focus for SMHAFF session to target self-stigma at the session there. he also points out that to fight austerity, we can use such things as music, friends, and I add reading and writing to this.

    It’s been an exciting morning especially for me on Twitter.My first attempt at being a virtual attendee. Great.

    Evaluation, my 3 things I got- focus on self-stigma

    Speaking out as empowering

    Layers of stigma in society is very complex.

     

    Coffee break.

    Tweets on the fair representation in the arts here

    Films are topic that needs a focus on well-written characters with mental illness.Writing on the agenda again!

     

     

  • Mental Health awareness week 11th – 17th May 2015

    It’s been a busy week for me, first I expanded my mental health awareness at the ‘Expeerience Counts’ Development Day on Tuesday in Wishaw . Met lots of people working in mental health across Lanarkshire. We had workshops to talk about the Peer support workers’ role, the Well -Informed service, and the Tools for Life course and related subjects.  It was a good learning and networking experience for me. My thanks go to Ann Ronald and the others who made this an interesting morning!

    Later, I completed an online course at  mindSET discovering the myths and facts of mental health. I was chuffed when I printed out the certificate.Good course.

    Wednesday was a meeting with  See Me staff, to  chat about the anti-stigma work that Wee Read is proposing to do. Thanks to Laetitia for her support. The guidance was really clear that my project needs to be led by at least 50%  people with a personal, lived experience of mental illness and recovery. I am glad about this – the roots-up approach is what I have wanted to try for ages.

    Thursday,  I met local staff at the Lanarkshire Association for Mental Health  (LAMH) at their shop and offices on Cadzow Street. Learned that they did have some writers and poets a while ago, and a  book was published, called ‘Fine Lines’.  I’d like to see a copy, and so would Hugh at LAMH! If anyone out there has a copy, please send it in!  Happily, I will be giving them a taster reading and writing session in the near future! Thanks, Hugh!

    My plan for Friday is – Read a good book! Some homespun bibliotherapy for me. May even write a poem.

    What are you doing this year in Mental Health Awareness Week?

    Here’s some See Me activity:

     

     

  • Talking about Mental Health

    Today I was reminded that I made a pledge a month ago with Time to Change, to help change the stigma about mental health. I pledged to talk about my experience more. So here’s a blog I read today, ‘Depression Does not define you’,  followed by my response to that.

    …”Last week was Depression Awareness Week and to raise awareness myself I’ve decided to write a blog post about it. It shouldn’t just be one week that everyone talks about depression it should be every day because if we talk about mental health a lot more we can tackle the stigma in a more effective way. People choose not to talk about depression because of the lack of understanding and compassion in society today. Depression doesn’t define who you are as a person.

    They ask “Are you okay?” and the answer is always “I’m fine” because you don’t want everyone to think that you’re weak.

    So imagine this and put yourself in someone suffering from depression’s shoes.”Read more

  • Open Dialogue

    I read a piece on the Scottish Recovery Network website today, and it is really encouraging. Open Dialogue is a way of dealing with people in crisis in a home and social-centred way. See here for the full article.

    There is a move to develop this approach as a Peer-supported Open Dialogue approach in  local areas in England at the moment. Maybe this is something we in Scotland can look into as part of the new Scottish Government Mental health strategy later this year?

     

     

  • Words Work Well

     

    Lapidus Scotland and NHS Education for Scotland make Words Work Well!

    13th March 2015- the launch of our new bibliotherapy toolkit marks the progress made by this network of librarians, bibliotherapists, writers, storytellers and readers over the past few years. The toolkit was launched as a pilot online toolkit – it will keep growing as practitioners add new creative writing prompts, as readers add new sessions on poetry or fiction. It has contributions from people who lead groups in activities across Scotland.

    Sir Kenneth Calman wrote the foreword for us and each contribution has a distinct flavour.

    Humans tell stories;

    humans listen to the stories of others;

    one story whether heard or read often prompts another story;

    comforting.

    Stories, such as the stories of prisoners in Stewart Ennis’ writing group in a maximum security prison wing.

    “I teach prisoners of all ages from 20 to 60 years old. Some are coming to the end of a lengthy sentence, while others have only just begun to come to terms with a sentence of 30 years or more, and of an age where it is highly unlikely they will leave prison alive.”

  • A Mental Health Recovery Network for Lanarkshire

    Networking 12th March 2015

    Out today in the Alona Hotel in Strathclyde Country Park, at an event called ‘Growing a Lanarkshire Movement for Change’ . This conference has been  set up by Lanarkshire Recovery Network – for people with mental health issues, and SeeMe – the anti-stigma campaign for mental health. What a great turnout- 150 people from all walks of life and some stomping presentations, two musical sessions and the amazing Ketso- a consultation and discussion tool.

    We talked about what needs to change to make Lanarkshire to break through the mental health stigma, and I did a workshop on the legal, equality and human rights side of things. I learned about Compulsory Treatment Orders and other mental health processes, and told everybody about my plans to bring innovative reading and writing groups to Lanarkshire. Exhilarating day!