The Contributors

Over the coming weeks I will be adding some photos and short biographies  to help you get to know some of the marvellous people who have contributed to Dandelions and Bad Hair Days…..

Nic Elgey is a remarkable woman. Having experienced her own battle with anxiety and depression she set up Suffer in Silence No More (SISNM), a  peer support group for sufferers of mental illness and their friends and family. Starting as a Facebook page, it quickly took off and now has hundreds of members, celebrity patrons and a website that offers a safe place to share feelings, fears and find support.

Mark K is one of those great people you can meet via social networks – in this case Twitter where I found out that writing has long been a release for him during bouts of deep depression. Recently, after changes to his diagnosis & treatment, he has started writing when not under the cloud of depression. He is using this new found freedom to write on mental health issues, to help raise awareness & to fight the stigma associated with mental illness. He has a blog at http://nudirection.blogspot.com.au/

Chris Rugg is an award-winning mental health advocate, always keen to raise awareness of mental health and disability issues through his writing and poetry. In DABHD he writes of the value of friendship and the nature of depression, as well as offering his poem ‘I’m Fine’. Chris is one of those people who always puts others before himself, however poorly he feels and works tirelessly to support others experiencing challenges as they live their lives with mental illness.

Tim Atkinson is an award-winning writer, blogger and stay-at-home dad. It is a role he loves and which he combines with part-time teaching and, of course, his writing. His award-winning blog and online diary ‘Bringing up Charlie’ has a wide and loyal readership and his creative writing course has helped many people find their writing ‘voice’. His own books include ‘Writing Therapy’ and ‘Creative Writing – The Essential Guide’. In DABHD he writes on how difficult it is for men to come forward and admit they are experiencing depression and other mental health issues.

Vivienne Tufnell is the author of the book ‘Strangers & Pilgrims’ and ‘Away with the Fairies’ which are both available from Amazon.  She blogs regularly at www.zenandtheartoftightropewalking.wordpress.com and has her own website at www.viviennetuffnell.co.uk. Honest and open about her struggles with depressive illness, Vivienne has shared her experiences in Dandelions and Bad Hair Days in an original and wonderfully creative way. In fact, it was her first post that inspired the title of the book!

Jo Middleton is a freelance writer and marketing consultant. She lives in Bristol with her partner and two daughters, where she enjoys alternating between playing hyper-competitive netball and sitting on the sofa watching 30 Rock and eating sweets. Jo looks at mental health issues from the perspective of someone living with and caring for family members with anxiety and depression. She is an award winning blogger over at www.slummysinglemummy.wordpress.com.

Stephanie Matthews is a 44-year-old working in the legal profession.  She has suffered from severe bouts of depression since her late teens.  She is now happily married with a young daughter and is qualified as a Flower Remedies therapist, aromatherapist and crystal healer.  She is still taking medication for her mental health. In DABHD she has felt able to share her experience as a woman, wife and mother living with depression.

 Kit Johnson is a successful international businessman, who has had to battle through a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and wrestle with frequent moments of despair and suicidal thoughts, including two attempts.  He says that he discovered humour and home-spun philosophies could save him from the worst excesses of his condition.  Kit’s own book ‘Dodging Suicide – A Lifetime’s Preoccupation’ is available through Amazon.com, or at www.kit-johnson.com.

Rin Simpson is a freelance journalist and creative writer, and the founder of The Steady Table writers’ group (@TheSteadyTable). Born in South Africa, she moved to the UK when she was 14 and is now based in Bristol. As well as writing she loves crafts of all kinds but particularly knitting, and has permanently itchy feet, which have taken her from Japan and Thailand to Zambia and Morocco, and beyond. Rin blogs at www.glassjarsandphotographs.wordpress.com and is @rinsimpson on Twitter

Born a New Yorker, Lois Chaber was absorbed in a conventional academic career as a scholar/teacher in 18th-Century English Literature until she was lured away to the Middle East in the mid-1970s by her third husband, a dynamic New Zealander.  Family misfortunes reached their climax in 1999 with her daughter Sybil’s tragic suicide, which compelled Lois to begin her memoir The Thing Inside My Head’: A Family’s Journey through Mental Illness published by Chipmunka Publishing.

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2 thoughts on “The Contributors

  1. I struggle with the term mental illness. It IS an illness in that it has physical effects and is mental in that our thoughts are involved-unlike my arthritis! But I often think the term mental is misleading.
    If some said “I have a mental problem, I can’t do long division and forget the French verbs,” would we agree? Not what we understand by mental problem.
    If someone says ‘I have a mental problem, I am happy and get on well with people”, we would take it as a joke.
    If they said. “I am unhappy most of the time, and I’m constantly angry with other people”, we would probably agree that is a issue that could be labeled mental health.
    Should we call it emotional health? That might have its connotations as well.
    When I first got involved with this field, one of the first things I noticed was that fear of “being mental” was as debilitating as the actual symptoms of the illness. This was an external fear (what others would say) and an internal fear. Fear is an emotion and I feel it underlies much of what we describe as mental illness.
    It is not just that we fear what we may be falling into but we fear the reactions of others. I also think we, in the wider world, do not give enough thought to the way society makes a contribution by over competitive structures and attitudes, discrimination and inequalities.Social misunderstanding and judgement are as toxic as the unhygienic conditions of the past were to physical illnesses.
    I personally think that the way to recovery involves a genuine human connection, love if you like. I am resistant to attempts to say depression, is an a just malfunction of the nervous system and can be treated with a drug or technique, although it can affect the nervous system. To reduce our feelings to a physical model can have the effect of promoting ‘one size fits all’ or less effective and shallower types of therapy.

    Paul Gilbert’s Compassion Focused Therapy emphasizes that it is not people’s fault they fall into those states and that it is the way our human brains have evolved.Our ancestors constantly had to scan for danger (other animals have bigger teeth and claws) and that over-rides other emotional networks so as to keep us safe. He claims it is possible to train the self soothing networks to over come the alarm signals and interpretations. I once did a parachute jump and getting of the plane was a bit difficult-though great once the ‘chute opens! Having trained as a drill I could contain the emotions and do it. Thus we can counter the stigma, not by an appeal to fairness or saying it is like a germ which we pick up.

    One of Gilbert’s other observation is the way people will discount self compassion, e.g. taking time out is self denounced as ‘wasting time’ or ‘not achieving’, and being gentle with one’s failures is seen as a moral failure. Thus health and moral issues get mixed up. I am in agreement with him. It is that sense of connection with others and even (for some people) that which lies beyond the immediate physical world.
    If support and compassion are essential then does it follow that the problem is about the emotions and we should talk of emotional health?
    A counter argument that although we talk of reason and feelings as separate things,the neuroscience does not support this split. There is some distinction but the overlap is huge. The Tibetan Buddhists, Dalai Lama and his people, have always taken the emerging neuroscience view.
    I do believe that consciousness exists beyond the brain and that in the coming decades we will start to see ourselves as more as a physical and energy entity, not just the bio-chemical model we have now, and this will be the basis of newer treatments.

    • Thanks Ian – this is a contribution in itself! I have just posted a piece in ‘News’ which attempts to open a debate on this very subject – see ‘DABHD Debate – mental health: where do we draw the line’.

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