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Do I look sane to you? June 11, 2014

Posted by Phil Groom in Life, Mental Health, Music, Short Story.
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DO I LOOK SANE TO YOU?

No, don’t turn away: look me in the eye and tell me. Do I look sane to you?

C’mon, it’s not that hard a question… ah, I get it: you need another drink. Don’t worry, this one’s on me — waiter, over here please! What will it be? Really? Sure, no worries: iced water for my friend here, please; another Guinness for me. Thanks.

So c’mon: whaddaya reckon? Ah, I see: you’re scared. Scared in case you give the wrong answer and I react badly. Well there’s no need to be, that ain’t gonna happen. It’s a long time since I killed anyone, 2,000 years give or take, another life, might as well have been another world too, y’know, and anyway it was perfectly legal. Horrible way for someone to die, though.

Look, it’s OK: even if I did pull a gun, it wouldn’t be you on the wrong end of it, it’d be me. At least it would silence the voices. There are at least three of us in here so yeah, it’s kinda crowded, but apart from when we argue we get on OK, and that’s the only time the gun ever comes out.

Huh? Yes, yes, I have got a gun. Well no, not me: she has; but she’s not in control right now, I am, so we’re safe. No, I haven’t got it with me right now, we left it at home: if ever she does use it, it won’t be somewhere public like this, we never bring it out. She’s laughing now: says she wouldn’t use the gun, she’d use a knife. Nothing wrong with this body, she says, that she couldn’t put right with a sharp knife. Yeah, I wince when she says that too, you’ve got the idea.

Her name? Seriously? You want to know her name? Sorry, mate, but if I tell you that, odds are you’ll start talking to her instead of me, then she’ll be in control. That’s where it starts, y’know: get control of the voice and you’ve got control of the whole body. Scary. Best if you let me stay in control, I’m the sensible one.

Yeah, you’re right, never get lonely. Chance’d be a fine thing. It’s the music that did it, tipped the balance I mean. I was perfectly happy bashing away at things, as y’do, getting on with the job, just the usual background noises of the factory and other workers down the assembly line. Then they decided we needed music to cheer us on so they started piping it over the PA: a repetitive mix of noisy, thumping rock and mind-numbing pop with the odd bit of hip-hop/rap stuff thrown in, same tracks over and over and over, day in, day out.

How many days? Four’s the regular shift — four on, three off, round and round, week after week. Long shifts, yeah: ten hours plus. Works well for the business, though, means they can keep it going 24/7. Kinda dull but a good crew, friendly, mostly part-timers; easy-going management too, long as we hit our targets. Ha! That’s a laugh: hit our targets! That’s what made us think of the gun: shoot out the PA system, restore the silence. “Go on,” she said, “do it.”

“No way,” I said. “Yeah, we’ll get the silence back, but they’ll throw us out. Then what’ll we do? Not many jobs around here; and pull a stunt like that and no one will take us on.”

“So what?” she said. “We’ve been saving for years, can live off that.”

“Live where?” I said. That shut her up, for a few minutes anyway. Coz if we did that, we’d be out of a home as well as a job. So we didn’t. But hell, yeah: would’ve loved to’ve done it, would’ve showed the management a thing or too. Thing is, it’s not the music itself: we love music, we’ve got our songs that we sing. But we sing them in here, and this stuff, it was pushing them out, taking over. Earworms, y’know? Intrusive at work, invasive after. Relentless, stealing our minds. Yeah, minds. Don’t look at me like that, I’ve seen that look too often: “Got a right one here, haven’t we?” That’s what you’re thinking, innit?

*Sigh* … well, I guess you’re right. Question now is, what do we do? The gun’s a no-no, I know that: don’t want to get locked away. We’re thinking maybe give them a recording studio. No, the songs: if we can build a space for them in here, shut them away in their own soundproof space, then they can get on with it without disturbing us. That’s the dead guy’s idea. Yeah, he’s in here too, the guy I killed. Says he used a similar sort of technique when we killed him, was the only way he could manage the pain. He’s OK with that now, says shit happens, death comes to us all, life and death. Lord, let me die while I’m alive, not when I’m already dead. That’s the thing, innit? To die while you’re alive. Like I said, three of us, plus the visiting band now. Nah, nah, it’s OK — don’t need another, but you go ahead.

Sleep? Nah, not getting much at the moment, not with all this stuff going around and around. It’s like a cross between musical chairs and the Magic Roundabout in here, round and round, up and down, wheeeeeee! You have to love it, I guess. Makes it hard to focus, though. Yeah, went to see the GP; no appointments available when I called. Then I got this email from the gaffer, said they’d turn the music off or turn down the volume, that was a relief. Was dreading going back in next week.

Counselling? Well there’s an organisation we can refer to, but they said they couldn’t help with this one, suggested I try ACAS. Emailed Mind too, but got no reply. I think they like people to phone, but I hate phones, you’d think they’d understand that. So we’re gonna go with the dead guy’s idea, build them their own little space. I’m picturing it now, complete with a stage, but behind soundproof glass. Yeah, reckon that’s gonna work.

Really? You think so too? And you think I’m perfectly sane? After all this? Straight up, no kidding? OK, thanks for that. It’s been good. See you again sometime. Dead guy thinks you’re OK by the way. So does she. Hell, yeah, so do I, so apart from the band, that’s more or less all of us. Cool, man. Enjoy the rest of your evening.

Update @5QuidForLife: Your Help Needed June 18, 2013

Posted by Phil Groom in Campaigns, Mental Health.
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5 Quid for Life: A Mental Health Safety Net

5 Quid for Life: A Mental Health Safety Net

REMEMBER 5 QUID FOR LIFE? Daft question — of course you do; at least, I hope you do. But for anyone  who’s new here or who needs a reminder, it’s a small project I’ve been involved with for a couple of years which provides financial help for people with mental health problems who have lost their benefits due to the UK government’s welfare reforms.

It’s a situation that makes me extremely angry as our government legislates mercilessly against the poor and vulnerable but only ever issues guidelines for the rich and powerful. Consider your own situation: do you have any choice about how much tax you pay? Not the slightest: if you’re employed, tax is taken before you ever even see your wages; and when you’re out shopping, VAT is conveniently hidden behind VAT-inclusive prices. But if you’re big business, like Amazon, Apple, Google or Starbucks — to name but a few of the tax avoiders out there — you can choose where to pay your taxes, and by virtue of that choice, how much, and all the government seems willing to do is mutter imprecations and offer guidelines: big business pockets billions whilst the poor are left completely out of pocket, not even allowed a spare room for family or friends to visit!

Now throw into that mix the devastating effects of mental illness and I hope you’ll begin to understand where I’m coming from with 5 Quid for Life. When a person’s mind is dysfunctional they are at their most vulnerable: withdrawing essential support in an attempt to force them into work is more likely to be the tipping point that pushes them over the edge into even deeper despair — and the possibility of suicide — than it is ever likely to help them.

The project has kept me particularly busy over the last couple of weeks as we’ve begun to receive enquiries and applications for help. We issued our first payment last week to a person suffering with and on medication for long-term mental health difficulties, including depression. Loss of benefits had inevitably made things worse leaving them with no income and rent arrears: you can read more about it in a press release we issued on Friday: Breaking the Fall: 5 Quid for Life makes first Mental Health Safety Net payment.

Despite sending that press release directly to all the UK’s major daily newspapers, so far, to the best of my knowledge, none of them have picked up the story — and that, gentle reader, is where you come in: 5 Quid for Life needs your help to spread the love, please. What I’m asking you to do is drop a line to your local paper or radio station and tell them about it: tell them you’ve heard about this remarkable little project that wants to give money to their readers or listeners — because we do. It’s generally accepted that one in four people are affected in some way by mental illness: that’s up to 25% of their readers/listeners who could potentially be eligible for a 5 Quid for Life payout of up to £200 (subject, of course, to available funds). Our eligibility criteria are very simple: we provide crisis support for people in the UK with mental health difficulties who:

  • have lost their benefits
  • or are not able to apply for benefit
  • or have been notified that they are going to lose their benefits

If someone meets those criteria, all they need do to start the ball rolling is contact us with brief details of their situation; if appropriate, we will then ask them to complete an online application form or, if they prefer, send them a form in the post.

Money for nothing, for people who’ve had the next-to-nothing they had taken away by a government that doesn’t govern except against its weakest people.

If you’re not up to contacting your local paper or radio station, there are plenty of other ways to spread the word:

  • Online, please tell your friends on facebook; upload our logo to pinterest; tweet us; or if you’re a blogger, please consider posting a news story using our press release.

And last but not least: we need donors too, please. At present our regular income is less than £100 per month and whilst we have a healthy bank balance at the moment — not far short of £3,000 — that’s not going to last long now that we’ve started giving it away. Full details of how to give are on our Donate page; and for the avoidance of doubt, please note that 5 Quid for Life operates on a 100% voluntary basis: all donations go entirely to those we support: we do not make any deductions, claim expenses or charge for our services.

Thank you!

Links Roundup

5 Quid for Life: a mental health safety net

5quidforlife.org.uk | facebook.com/5QuidForLife
twitter.com/5QuidForLife

REPOST: It isn’t suicide, it’s murder: Part 2 – Too close to home: Langford man hounded to death over council tax dispute June 3, 2013

Posted by Phil Groom in Death, Mental Health.
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I’M BRINGING THIS POSToriginally published 18th Feb 2012 — back to the top because Peter’s tragic story has now made the national news as the inquest into his death is at last underway.  Please spare a thought and a prayer for his friends and family as the inquest and news coverage forces them to revisit their grief.

Here are some of the reports:


Biggleswade Chronicle, 17/2/2012: Eviction fear drove engineer to suicide

Biggleswade Chronicle, 17/2/2012: Eviction fear drove engineer to suicide

THIS IS THE STORY that ran on the front cover of our local paper, The Biggleswade Chronicle, yesterday, and it’s a story that’s as tragic as it gets: in short, Peter Williams, who was clinically depressed and lived here in Langford, didn’t pay his council tax for several years around the turn of the millennium, was made bankrupt and eventually, faced with the threat of eviction from his home, killed himself on the railway at Biggleswade last week.

I’ll let one of his friends take up the story, as published in the Chronicle:

His friend, Richard Harris, who assisted Peter in his legal battles, said: “His council pursued him relentlessly and aggressively over a period of some 16 years without helping him. It culminated in them bankrupting him over a £1,350 debt in 2006, seeking to evict him from his home, which was worth in excess of £200,000, that he owned outright.”

The report goes on to quote a Central Beds Council spokesman explaining that the unpaid £1,350 represented legal costs incurred by the council and its solicitors in pursuing Mr Williams — but, if you’ll forgive me colloquialising, “it ain’t our fault, guv, honest” because the debt had been handed over to Grant Thornton, acting as bankruptcy trustees, and apparently they were the ones behind the eviction proceedings as part of the debt recovery process.

The council, on the other hand, were right there supporting Mr Williams:

[The spokesman] added that the council’s emergency duty team was in touch with Peter earlier this month and referred him for an urgent mental health assessment.

Last year the Local Government Ombudsman investigated the council’s relationship with Peter and said there were no grounds on which to criticise the council.

So where does that leave us? A man with known mental health problems, hounded to death over a council tax dispute, and a blameless council. Maybe I’m missing something here: I never knew Peter, even though he lived in the same village as me, and unlike the Local Government Ombudsman, I’m not privy to the ins and outs of Peter’s story and have only the Chronicle report to go on; but assuming the accuracy of that report, I have a couple of simple questions for Central Beds Council:

  1. Who let the dogs out?
  2. Since you knew about Peter’s mental health problems, why didn’t you call them off?

Seems to me that transferring a debt to a third party, then denying all responsibility when that third party’s pursuit of that debt results in a tragedy such as this, simply doesn’t wash, any more than Pontius Pilate washing his hands absolved him of responsibility for the death of Jesus.

No one should be hounded by debt collectors to the point where they can see no way forward beyond taking their own life; and when a person has a known record of mental health difficulties, even more caution is called for.

Which begs the question: was it suicide, or murder?

A shortened version of this post has been sent as a letter to the Biggleswade Chronicle.

MadUp #7: Welcome to the Knitting Circle November 11, 2012

Posted by Phil Groom in Life, Mental Health.
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KNITTING. If you’re a knitter, you already know it’s therapeutic. But it’s also great fun, even if, like me, you’re just an observer. So there I sat with my pint of Guinness and a towering burger, watching in wide-eyed fascination as three of my mentalist friends knitted away whilst we chatted about all sorts of things. A wonderfully cute baby boot with a pink ribbon was completed and two beautiful scarves made progress until the light faded and the candles had to come out.

Along the towpath at Paddington

Along the towpath at Paddington

I didn’t do a head count but I think there were about a dozen of us there, in a bar in central London, some were fairly local, others from further afield, all brave enough to venture out and negotiate the mysteries of the latest TFL “improvement” works: has anyone ever actually had a faster or better journey as a result of these “improvements”? I found myself spewed forth from Paddington tube station via a back-entrance that I didn’t know existed, dug out my iPad and spun around in circles for several minutes to reorientate; thence to the towpath alongside Paddington Basin and so to the pub.

I took bronze as third to arrive and we nattered away as others gradually drifted in: the giveaway was the glance to the left at the main entrance, where we normally gather, followed by  a puzzled look around until a *friendly wave* and a smile came from the table at far end, where a copy of the Mental Health Act Manual was installed as a beacon, but without any flashing lights.

Conversation topics ranged from knitting (of course!) through mental health dilemmas such as surviving suicide attempts, treatments, drugs, therapy and food (mustn’t forget cheese!) to outrage at inadequate discharge procedures: all sorts of things that don’t normally get discussed over dinner, and no one batted an eyelid because all of these things are the stuff of life to the assembled company; and the wine flowed freely thanks to — you know who you are!

All in all, one of the most enjoyable afternoons out I’ve had in a while: thank you to she-who-took-the-initiative (you know who you are), to the bar for accommodating us (we all know which one it is) and to everyone who managed to get there; and commiserations to those who for various reasons (mostly health, finance or prior engagements, I believe) couldn’t join us: you were missed, and here’s hoping you can make the next one.

Journey home was a bit of a drag: the aforementioned improvement works meant it took twice as long as it should have to get from Paddington to King’s Cross so I missed one train; the next was cancelled (“no driver”) and the next one was a s-l-o-w train stopping at every piddling little station en route, due to depart from Platform 9 just as the station announcer put out a call for any police in the station to get over to Platform 9 pronto. Boris, old bean, how on earth did you manage to get London Transport running so smoothly during the Olympics — and when are you going to make it work properly again??

Well over an hour wasted faffing about at King’s Cross that I could have spent back at the MadUp, and then I wouldn’t have missed the cookies: yep, missed the train and the cookies. That’s double bad. But would I do it again? You bet; friends and mentalists, I salute you: here’s to next time!

PS: A new knitting supplies shop and workshop should be opening at a garden centre in Solihull in the new year: watch out for details!

PPS: MadUp #7? Maybe. I’ve lost count: it might’ve been MadUp #27; but I like #7

It isn’t suicide, it’s murder: Part 2 – Too close to home: Langford man hounded to death over council tax dispute February 18, 2012

Posted by Phil Groom in Death, Mental Health.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
30 comments
Biggleswade Chronicle, 17/2/2012: Eviction fear drove engineer to suicide

Biggleswade Chronicle, 17/2/2012: Eviction fear drove engineer to suicide

THIS IS THE STORY that ran on the front cover of our local paper, The Biggleswade Chronicle, yesterday, and it’s a story that’s as tragic as it gets: in short, Peter Williams, who was clinically depressed and lived here in Langford, didn’t pay his council tax for several years around the turn of the millennium, was made bankrupt and eventually, faced with the threat of eviction from his home, killed himself on the railway at Biggleswade last week.

I’ll let one of his friends take up the story, as published in the Chronicle:

His friend, Richard Harris, who assisted Peter in his legal battles, said: “His council pursued him relentlessly and aggressively over a period of some 16 years without helping him. It culminated in them bankrupting him over a £1,350 debt in 2006, seeking to evict him from his home, which was worth in excess of £200,000, that he owned outright.”

The report goes on to quote a Central Beds Council spokesman explaining that the unpaid £1,350 represented legal costs incurred by the council and its solicitors in pursuing Mr Williams — but, if you’ll forgive me colloquialising, “it ain’t our fault, guv, honest” because the debt had been handed over to Grant Thornton, acting as bankruptcy trustees, and apparently they were the ones behind the eviction proceedings as part of the debt recovery process.

The council, on the other hand, were right there supporting Mr Williams:

[The spokesman] added that the council’s emergency duty team was in touch with Peter earlier this month and referred him for an urgent mental health assessment.

Last year the Local Government Ombudsman investigated the council’s relationship with Peter and said there were no grounds on which to criticise the council.

So where does that leave us? A man with known mental health problems, hounded to death over a council tax dispute, and a blameless council. Maybe I’m missing something here: I never knew Peter, even though he lived in the same village as me, and unlike the Local Government Ombudsman, I’m not privy to the ins and outs of Peter’s story and have only the Chronicle report to go on; but assuming the accuracy of that report, I have a couple of simple questions for Central Beds Council:

  1. Who let the dogs out?
  2. Since you knew about Peter’s mental health problems, why didn’t you call them off?

Seems to me that transferring a debt to a third party, then denying all responsibility when that third party’s pursuit of that debt results in a tragedy such as this, simply doesn’t wash, any more than Pontius Pilate washing his hands absolved him of responsibility for the death of Jesus.

No one should be hounded by debt collectors to the point where they can see no way forward beyond taking their own life; and when a person has a known record of mental health difficulties, even more caution is called for.

Which begs the question: was it suicide, or murder?

A shortened version of this post has been sent as a letter to the Biggleswade Chronicle.

It isn’t suicide: it’s murder June 2, 2011

Posted by Phil Groom in Current Affairs, Death, Life, Mental Health.
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9 comments

Cross-posted from 5 Quid for Life:

BBC News, 01/06/2011: Campaigners warn over incapacity benefit changes

BBC News, 01/06/2011: Campaigners warn over incapacity benefit changes

THE BBC NEWS have now picked up on the risk of suicide by those suffering from mental illness as they face the trauma of changes to the benefits system. Citing a letter published in the Guardian on May 31st from representatives of Mind, Rethink and a number of other mental health organisations, the BBC report notes that some claimants have already taken their own lives in response to the changes: Campaigners warn over incapacity benefit changes.

In the letter, the campaigners state:

We’ve found that the prospect of IB [incapacity benefit] reassessment is causing huge amounts of distress, and tragically there have already been cases where people have taken their own life following problems with changes to their benefits. We are hugely worried that the benefits system is heading in a direction which will put people with mental health problems under even more pressure and scrutiny, at a time when they are already being hit in other areas such as cuts to services.

The very reason 5 Quid for Life exists, of course, is to be there for such people: we are a mental health safety net. But for that net to be effective, we need funds and people need to know that we are here.

If you have already contributed to the fund, blogged, tweeted or written to help spread the word, thank you. The need for 5 Quid for Life remains as vital as when the 200 People to Save Ali Quant campaign was first launched, however — and what I said then remains true: these deaths are not suicide, they’re

murder, death by a thousand cuts from a knife wielded by the UK Government — the very people whose job it is to take care of the poor, the weak, the vulnerable on our behalf as taxpayers.

I now urge all who share these concerns, the concerns expressed in that letter to the Guardian, to raise your voices once again: write to the BBC, write to the Guardian, write to your own MP. Let them know that the risk is real and ask them to stand with us.

Thank you, and thanks in particular to The Madosphere for drawing attention to this and to us already.

 

5 Quid for Life Banking Details April 9, 2011

Posted by Phil Groom in Life, Mental Health, News.
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5 Quid for Life: A Mental Health Safety Net

5 Quid for Life: A Mental Health Safety Net

IT’S BEEN A SLOW TRAIN COMING but we got there at last!

If you’re a regular here, you’ll already know about 5 Quid for Life — but for anyone who’s new: 5 Quid for Life is also new, a charity-in-the-making that’s been taking shape this year as an amazing group of people have responded to a shout-out I made back in January: 200 People to Save Ali Quant.

It was a wild, insane thing to hope for, a crazy dream. Here we are in the middle of the worst financial crisis the western world has seen in my lifetime, in a country run by a government that seems to be incapable of doing anything but cut and run from its responsibilities to its most vulnerable citizens whilst simultaneously allowing failed bankers to cut and run with vast swathes of our hard-earned money — and I put out a shout for support for someone who some (the Daily Mail springs to mind) would regard as being one of the lowest of the low, mentally ill, living on state benefits.

It shouldn’t have worked, if the Daily Mail’s account of life was right. Everyone should have laughed: they should have called me out for a fool, for a sucker, for dreaming a dream too far.

Thank God the Daily Mail account of life is a lie! Thank God that there are people can see beyond the blinkers of such a narrow vision of life — that there is a level of compassion and care that goes beyond the selfishness that so much of contemporary western society is built upon! Or as Rob Bell would say: LOVE WINS!

5 Quid for Life Inaugural Meeting

5 Quid for Life Inaugural Meeting: From left to right - Standing: Phil Groom, Paula Ann Walker, Kate White; Sitting: Johnathon Tinsley, Sam Jenkin

To all my friends in the madosphere, to all my friends who have supported 5 Quid for Life this far: I salute you! And for those who can, who are in a position to take that support to the next level, here are the banking details you need to make a direct donation or to set up a standing order:

Account Name: 5 Quid for Life
Bank: HSBC Woodbridge
Sort Code: 40 47 42
Account No: 2146 8928

Finally for now: if you’re not in a position to make a financial commitment, please don’t berate yourself or beat yourself up — just spread the word! Tweet it, facebook it, blog it. That, my friends, is how things grow — and with the spring sunshine upon us, what better time for that?

Thank you.

5 Quid for Life: thankful, exhilarated and terrified all at once! February 1, 2011

Posted by Phil Groom in Campaigns, Life, Mental Health.
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THIS IS A POST that’s long overdue, that I should have posted about a week ago, and as I finally write it I am thankful, exhilarated and terrified all at once. Thankful to everyone who has risen to the challenge of my 200 People to Save Ali Quant post a couple of weeks ago, to everyone who voted in the poll to choose a name; exhilarated by the enthusiasm people have shown for getting the bigger project envisaged by Ali off the ground; and terrified by the question, What if…?

No such thing as never

No such thing as never

Melissa, over at No such thing as never, gets to the heart of it in her recent post Butterflies and small things: everything — everyone — connects. Every little thing counts: you, me, no matter how inadequate we may feel:

One small change can provoke a hurricane.

I have been trying to hold onto this recognition. To not kill it with scepticism nor lose it in the light of the very real and very enormous challenges that people are facing today.

The fact that a smile can bridge disconnection. That one kind word can stop an angry one. That one person – and another one person – and another one person – can have quite a mighty impact. That what is given to me – I give to the next person – who gives it to the next person – who might one day change the world.

It is this last bit that has really got me thinking. It continually amazes me how interconnected we, as people, are. We see the big ripples but we do not always acknowledge – or recognize – the little ones from which they are made.

We are the little ones. Those of us involved in this project are not millionaires, big business owners, world leaders, but by working together we can send out a ripple that builds and grows until —

Until. That’s what terrifies me. Until what? Until it crashes against the shore, the cliff face of immovable bureaucracy that our government seems to represent; or until it flows around that cliff face, turning it into an irrelevance because this, this little ripple we’ve started, is part of something stronger, something more powerful, something that flows from people’s hearts.

But still that What if…? haunts me. As I commented over at Melissa’s place:

… I look at what I’ve started with 5 Quid for Life and, quite frankly, it terrifies me: who am I to start something like this? On what basis should anyone trust me or anyone else in the group? And what if it doesn’t work? What if we end up with people crying for help and we’re not ready or we don’t have the funds available? What if, what if…?

But then I look at the other side of the equation: if it does work — wow! We may not be able to change the world — but we can change someone’s world! And — well I guess it brings me back to my new year’s post: New Year’s Risk: Adjusting my sails. Amazing to think we’re still in the same month that I posted that — and didn’t have a clue that this might be where it would lead. I’m feeling all blown away now…

Risk. I guess that’s what life is about; and right now, I can feel the wind in my sails…

… which brings me to the name poll results:

5 Quid for Life: Campaign Name Poll Results

5 Quid for Life: Campaign Name Poll Results

It was a three horse race, with 5 Quid for Life and Safety Net Trust neck and neck followed closely by The Real Big Society. In the discussions that followed we threw out the Big Society option, not wanting to tie in too closely to something identified with a particular administration: whilst I guess most of us involved in the project do have pretty strong political views, this is not a political project; it is, rather, something that transcends politics, an idea that I hope anyone, of any political persuasion or none, can take hold of.

So we took the two winners and combined them: 5 Quid for Life: A Mental Health Safety Net was born. It’s early days yet: as I said in my introductory post, there are still a lot of details to hammer out. But we’re getting there; and I — I am thankful, exhilarated and terrified.

Join me for the ride, if you will: we’re on facebook and twitter too. You may not be able to commit to the £5 per month we’re asking for, but you can still stand in solidarity with us, with people like Ali whose lives are in jeopardy. You too can be part of this ripple and help it become a wave.

Thank you.

Broken Britain, Broken People: Less than One Month Before Heartbreak January 21, 2011

Posted by Phil Groom in Appeals, Current Affairs, Death, Life, Mental Health, Watching and Waiting.
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6 comments
One Month Before Heartbreak

One Month Before Heartbreak

BRITAIN IS BROKEN. Broken from top to bottom, by the people at the top trampling over the people at the bottom. Broken by a government so obsessed with its programme of cuts that they’ve become blind to the effect those cuts are having on people’s lives. Stampeding cattle panicked by the wolves of their predecessors’ incompetence, trampling the weak, the disabled and the vulnerable underfoot as they charge headlong towards only God knows where, rewarding failed bankers and ignoring the cries of the poor.

We are a nation betrayed, betrayed by those we pay to serve us. Taxed when we earn, taxed when we spend, taxed when we travel, taxed when we die — and for some that death may well come sooner than it should, death by a thousand cuts from an axe-wielding government which takes and takes … a voracious leech, sucking the very life from its host, the British people…

Purple Noise: The beginning of the end

Purple Noise - The beginning of the end

I suppose I could go on with the purple prose, but instead I’ll give you another pointer to Purple Noise, Ali Quant‘s blog, where Ali describes the living nightmare of battling with mental illness whilst contending with the changes to Britain’s benefits system: The beginning of the end. Perhaps you’ve already read it after my earlier post: then go read it again; if you haven’t read it, prepare to be shaken; and when you’ve been shaken, I hope you’ll be stirred to action. Because Ali is just one amongst many for whom this government’s mandatory reassessment for benefits entitlement is simply too much to bear, one amongst many who have a plan to ‘delete’ themselves, as Ali has expressed it: to commit suicide rather than face the horror of having the minutiae of their lives (re)examined by people whose only interest is in number crunching and balancing the books of a failed administration.

Let’s get this straight: mental illness is real; and it debilitates. It prevents people from working not because they are unwilling to work but, as much as anything, because many employers are unwilling, unable or are simply ill-equipped to deal with the effects of mental illness in their workforce (technically, of course, employers cannot discriminate; but how is a mentally ill person going to fight suspected discrimination?). It’s not the mentally ill person’s fault that they’re unable to work any more than it’s any other ill person’s fault; and contrary to some perceptions, mentally ill people are not malingerers or skivers. Diseases of the mind are every bit as real as diseases of the body, and just as physical illness often affects our ability to think, mental illness often affects the ability to do things, even basic things such as wash yourself, get dressed or respond to a hug. Body and mind, mind and body: the two cannot be separated.

Mentally ill people need their Disability Living Allowance (DLA) every bit as much as people whose illnesses or disabilities are physically plain to see. It’s not something they should have to fight for any more than we’d expect someone in a wheelchair to stand up and fight for their wheelchair. But in just three weeks’ time, that’s exactly what’s going to be expected of them as the government’s consultation about DLA reform comes to an end halfway through February: on 14th February 2011, Valentines Day, to be precise. Courtesy of the UK Government, a day for lovers to celebrate has become a day of despair, a day of fear, darkness and heartbreak for thousands of people. It seems that as a nation we can afford to maintain a nuclear arsenal big enough to ravage the planet but we can’t — or rather, under the current regime, won’t — commit to providing for some of our most vulnerable people.

So what can ordinary people like you and me do? First, it seems to me, we need to make our views known to the government: although the consultation is aimed primarily at disability organisations and disabled people, the DWP have indicated that they would like to hear from anybody who is interested. Then let’s let them know! Let’s let them know that we’re not merely “interested” — we’re outraged! Outraged at the trauma this consultation is causing amongst the Broken of Britain, amongst Britain’s disabled people. Let’s let them know that they cannot, must not, discriminate like this, that we stand in solidarity with our disabled brothers and sisters!

Another example of the trauma: DLA, Danni, and Me – By Vicky Biggs.

Second: if you, like me, don’t trust this government to listen, we need to start setting up our own safety nets for people such as Ali who may drop out of the benefits system. That’s what my ’200 People’ campaign is about, providing a safety net, in this case specifically for mentally ill people. I say ‘my’ campaign but I am thrilled to say that it is no longer mine: I kicked it off but others have seized the initiative and we’re now well on the way to setting up an official organisation, name to be announced shortly.

Will you stand with us? Will you stand with some of Britain’s most broken people? Will you join me in enabling the mentally ill community, in helping to erase the stigma of mental illness, in what is, for many, quite literally a fight for life?

The time is now: if you’re on facebook, please join our facebook group today. Although the group is still called ’200 People to Save Ali Quant’ its remit has grown and it should be renamed and given a new description within the next few days: please watch this space for more info.

Thank you.

5 Quid for Life? In Search of a Campaign Name January 16, 2011

Posted by Phil Groom in Appeals, Death, Life, Mental Health.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
51 comments

FOLLOWING ON from my 200 People to Save Ali Quant post — to which the responses and enthusiasm have been amazing: thank you all — we’re now looking at a wider brief, at Ali’s request

How about if, instead of making this a let’s help Ali thing, how about a more general let’s help everyone thing? … let me explain my thinking: the reality is, as many of you will know, that I’m not the only one who’s made a deletion plan in case I fail my assessment. Over the past year or so (and obviously more in the past few days) I have heard from different sources of literally hundreds of people who feel the exact same way I do, this is just from people coming and directly telling me “I feel like this” or “I have a friend who says…” there must be thousands more that I haven’t had direct contact with. I’m nothing special, I’m not some kind of extreme case and I haven’t done anything to deserve to be singled out. All I did was write a blog post out of sheer despair, I thought I was so near the end that I had absolutely nothing to lose so I may as well write about it. So why not make some kind of central fund, not necessarily asking for a monthly donation to support people in that way but just a fund that could be used for anyone in my situation? It could be used to help people if they fall over at any stage of claiming benefits, to give people a safety net for example to help out while they’re appealing or if they haven’t been able to attend all the work-focused interviews and get sanctioned.

… and over at the facebook group we’ve been having all sorts of discussions about how to take the idea forward. The first thing we need is a campaign name, a name to grab the public imagination. This post is your invitation to help us choose one: the poll below lists some of the names suggested so far but please feel free to offer other suggestions in the comments. If you’re wildly enthusiastic about a particular name, tell us why in a comment or — even better — post about it on your own blog/facebook/twitter and link to us here to encourage your friends to join in.

The poll will remain open for three days initially, but I’m happy to review that depending on how the conversation goes. Now get voting, please:

  • Special thanks to Kate White, who suggested most of these.
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