"Having a child with a mental illness from a young age can be very isolating. We are sharing our story to stamp out the stigma of mental health issues and to help as many people as possible along the way."
Anne and her husband Scott are abseiling down the Golden Jubilee Wing of King's College Hospital to raise money for SLaM. Their 10-year-old son Ethan has been under the care of Acorn Lodge, an inpatient facility for children aged 4 - 12 who have a wide range of severe emotional or behavioural disorders.
Anne tells us her son’s story, and why she wishes to give back for the ‘amazing treatment’ Ethan has received.
Ethan became very unwell in August 2013 following a full year when he didn't want to attend school. There were a number of stressors in the family, including his little brother Jack being unwell when he was born and the loss of both his beloved dog and his nanny.
By September he said he would never return to school. Following a traumatic incident in a local hospital we entered a period where he did not leave the house for five months. He couldn’t even really function with basic tasks like washing.
This was a complete shock for us as a family, as until then he had been a confident and 'happy' kid.
In the two years that followed he started to improve a little, although he did not engage with any of the medics who visited the house on a regular basis. By mid-2015 he was able to leave the house once a week, but we were extremely worried that he had now been out of education for over two years, with zero provision in the home.
In November 2015, having recently moved to Abu Dhabi, we met with Dr Khaled Kadry from the Maudsley Hospital Clinic there. He visited our home and told us about Acorn Lodge in Bethlem Royal Hospital, which is an inpatient facility for children with a school in the grounds.
By December Ethan's condition had deteriorated; he was confined to his bedroom by his crippling anxiety. He could not sleep, perhaps only getting three hours rest during daylight hours. He said he wanted to die.
He was admitted to Acorn Lodge on 4 February 2016. We were worried about the admission, especially as it was difficult to get Ethan to leave the house, and we felt guilty about admitting our son to a psychiatric hospital in another country without his knowledge.
The admission went better than expected and Ethan even walked into the building to have a look.
After that everything improved quickly and Ethan was attending the school within his first week. This was pretty miraculous to us.
He’s now been diagnosed with mixed anxiety disorder on a background of atypical autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Acorn Lodge has helped us with a diagnosis which is allowing us to address Ethan’s difficulties. We tried for so long to find out why his behaviour had changed, but nobody was able to offer an answer until now.
I travelled to London from Abu Dhabi every weekend to visit Ethan. It’s been an emotional journey but we are delighted with his remarkable progress. He was discharged at the beginning of May, and we feel indebted to the staff at Acorn Lodge for giving him the skills and courage to get his life back.
They are all highly professional and made us feel at ease straight away during a very difficult time in our lives. I could make a special mention for Carmel Fraser, Dr Marinos and Ethan’s nurse Kwaiku - but all the staff are great.
We wish to raise funds to give something back. In particular, Ethan thinks the children on the ward would like extra PlayStation games, comics and movies.
Having a child with a mental illness from a young age can be very isolating. We are sharing our story to stamp out the stigma of mental health issues and to help as many people as possible along the way.
If you'd like to support Anne and Scott in their abseil for SLaM, you can do so by donating on their fundraising page.
SLaM's invaluable services for both childeren and adults benefit hugely from extra support like this. If you'd like to help those like Ethan have the best possible experience, get involved today!
Top image: Ethan at Acorn Lodge. Right image: Ethan with little brother, Jack
Gemma has schizophrenia, which means daily life can be a challenge if she is having an episode, and when she first developed the condition it severely affected her confidence.
She began to show signs of having schizophrenia in her late teens and early twenties, but it was some time before mental health professionals came up with the diagnosis. Gemma went through a very difficult period of her life just before being referred to Bethlem at SLaM.
Alison says, ‘It was a very distressing time for the whole family as well as my sister, and she was in such a bad way that I personally couldn't have imagined her making any sort of recovery when she was first admitted.’
It is so hard to watch a loved one deal with mental health issues and feel completely helpless. Running the London Marathon is a way that Alison can give back to SLaM to say thank you for helping Gemma to steer herself through a very rough time.
‘Over the course of her year’s stay at Bethlem, Gemma became gradually better and was eventually able to do simple things like tidy her room and go for short walks again, which she hadn’t been able to do for some time.
‘She was then able to participate in some of the excellent occupational therapy activities that SLaM offers, such as cookery, pottery, art and cycling. These weekly activities were completely invaluable to her recovery, because they helped to build her confidence.’
SLaM also helped Gemma to stop smoking and she enjoyed walking the dog that visited the hospital once a week.
Gemma says, ‘I spent about 12 months at the Royal Bethlem Hospital, where the care and support I received was exceptional. The various occupational therapy classes were a huge benefit and the staff were superb. I really enjoyed cookery in particular.’
Alison says, ‘Gemma has now left Bethlem and is living independently. For a few days every week, she actively volunteers in a local Fairtrade café and in an office. She has also taken up doing 10K runs and half marathons for her wellbeing.’
Gemma hopes to be able to take on some part-time paid work in the near future, which is a possibility that would have been much more remote without the help of SLaM.
Alison has been training hard for the London Marathon and received donations from their friends and family, who have been keen to support the cause.
‘I have been running with my local group in Croydon for nearly two years now, moving from 5K to 10K runs, to half marathons, and now I’m taking on my first full marathon. When I won a ballot ticket I was really pleased, and my running friends who couldn’t get tickets are running the Brighton Marathon the week before instead.
‘I wanted to fundraise for SLaM as a way of giving something back to the organisation that offered my sister so much help. The London Marathon lands on my birthday this year, so it will be nice to complete it in my 38th year!’
Many services at SLaM have been funded by essential fundraising like Laura’s. Sign up to cheer on Alison at the London Marathon with us!
Names have been changed to protect their identities.]]>
Which part of SLaM do you work in?
I am a Senior Clinical Psychologist in SLaM’s Mental Health in Learning Disabilities Service, which is part of the Behavioural and Developmental Psychiatry CAG. We are a secondary care community mental health team for people with learning disabilities and additional mental health and/or behaviour that can challenge, who require a specialist learning disability service. I’m currently based in the Lambeth borough but we regularly work across the different boroughs depending on the needs of the service.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I’m not sure there is such a thing as a typical day as the role is so varied but this is something that I really enjoy about my job. A typical week involves attending clinical/multi-disciplinary team meetings; using a variety of psycho-therapeutic models to work collaboratively with service users on their own self-defined goals for recovery; supporting the systems and networks around a service user to improve their quality of life; group-work and mental health prevention and promotion work at a community level.
A typical week also usually involves delivering some form of education or training, be that through The Estia Centre (a training, research and development resource to support the development of a competent workforce for people with learning disabilities and additional mental health needs), The Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience or SLaM’s Recovery College.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The variety of the job ensures that I never get bored but what I most enjoy has to be the social justice and human rights element to my role. People with learning disabilities continue to be the most likely group in society to have their human rights breached. Supporting the people I work with to claim their own voice and constructively challenge these issues is hugely satisfying.
Which part of your job is most challenging?
Working with the systems around a person is probably the most challenging aspect of the job, particularly in the current climate of austerity and cuts to social services. However, this does allow for the development of creative approaches to overcome this. Another challenging aspect is trying to find a balance between meeting the needs of the service and providing a high-quality, individualised service to each service user.
What is your favourite thing about SLaM?
I would say my favourite thing about SLaM is the close links between clinical work, academia and research. In comparison to other places I have worked, I feel supported to further develop my skills and there are many opportunities for continuing professional development (CPD). Things unique to SLaM such as the Board of Governors’ Smile for Health Scheme and Maudsley Charity also provide opportunities for creative and innovative service development.
What’s your proudest achievement in your career to date?
My proudest achievement is most likely qualifying as a clinical psychologist. Since then it is probably working with service users to co-produce The Discovery Group – this is an adapted mental health recovery group for people with learning disabilities. The last group culminated in the group members choosing to write to the Prime Minister to highlight the difficulties of using public transport in London if you’re dependent on a wheelchair to access the community.
What do you like to do outside of work in your free time?
I’m relatively new to London so I’m still enjoying exploring the delights of the city, particularly when it involves stumbling across a local gin distillery!
If you could only take one thing to a desert island, what would it be?
I’d ask Mary Poppins if I could borrow her bag to take as I’m sure I’d find anything I needed in there!
We hope you enjoyed reading this interview with Kieron. Find out more about how you can get involved in supporting the services at SLaM.]]>
They've released a new video with updates on their progress since first opening in 2014.
SLaM Recovery College Manager. I’m an occupational therapist by profession.
SLaM Recovery College is based at the Maudsley Hospital within the Corporate Occupational Therapy service led by Gabrielle Richards, but we deliver courses and workshops right across Croydon, Lewisham, Southwark and Lambeth in about 15 venues each term.
Every day is different, which is something I love about the job. I work in a team that includes peer recovery trainers (people with lived experience who co-produce and deliver our workshops), clinicians and administrators which is a fantastic environment to be in. I’m involved in co-producing and teaching workshops as well as the operational management and strategic development of the college. I meet lots of interesting people, including our students, and provide support to our team members.
The thing I enjoy most is seeing the way the college has developed in the past two years. This is down to the people involved. The peer and practitioner trainers and the very dedicated team behind the scenes have worked incredibly hard to get the college up and running. Now we are seeing the positive impact the learning is having on the lives of our students which is inspiring and gives hope to others.
Time-management! The college office is a dynamic and fun place to be. The interest in what we offer has been fantastic, and finding time for all the projects and developments can be a challenge. I’m lucky that I work alongside Tony Holmes (operations manager) who is the most organised person I know.
Working in an environment where service users are being given the opportunity to take up meaningful work within the organisation to support others in their recovery journeys. Our peer recovery trainer team are very skilled and dedicated. They give an enormous amount of their time and expertise to support service users in a non-clinical environment. I’m very lucky to lead a team that inspires people to live as well as possible within a service that gives service users, carers and SLaM staff the opportunity to learn together and from one another.
My proudest achievement was seeing the SLaM Recovery College film for the first time recently. Some of the college students, staff and contributors from right across the Trust took part, including Matthew Patrick, SLaM’s Chief Executive. Hearing people speak about the impact the college is having, within the organisation and in the lives of our students in such a short time was incredible.
I started pottery classes earlier this year (a very ‘OT’ thing to do!) which I’m really enjoying but a lot of my free time is starting to be taken up by studying an MSc in Organisational Psychiatry and Psychology at the IoPPN (the Institute of Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience at King’s). I also try to get home to New Zealand once a year to see family and find some sunshine during the UK winter.
I played table tennis for New Zealand for several years as a teenager as well as softball at provincial level for Otago where I’m from.
A solar powered phone to call someone to get me out of there… or scuba gear if that wasn’t an option.
We hope you enjoyed reading this interview with Kirsty. Find out more about how you can get involved in supporting the services at SLaM.]]>
Thanks to generous donations from people like you, Bethlem Museum of the Mind and Bethlem Gallery have been able to move from their separate locations to now being housed under one roof. This has the advantage of allowing each institution to benefit from the other's expertise, plus a larger and much more appealing space for visitors.
>> Find out more about this project.]]>
RideLondon is a closed road race from the centre of London out to Box Hill in Surrey, and then back to The Mall in the capital. Two fantastic SLaM staff members took on the challenge to raise money for their workplace, so we found out more about their motivations.
Dulcie did her nursing training at South London and Maudsley and now works there permanently. After doing one of her placements at Foxley Lane Women’s Service, an 8-bed inpatient unit for women aged 16-65 with mental illness, she has decided to take part in RideLondon to raise funds for the ‘highly valuable’ service.
‘I did a three-month clinical placement at the Foxley Lane during my training and was thoroughly inspired by the work of the nurses there. The small team work incredibly hard, doing everything from cooking the dinner to leading therapy sessions.
'Cycling is both my hobby and my means of transport. I’ve been looking for a long distance event so chose RideLondon, and the fact that I can raise money for SLaM at the same time is brilliant.
'I’ll be going solo for the ride! It’s one of the things I love about cycling. I’m looking forward to getting the hills over and done with, and the opportunity to ride in the city without traffic.
'I held a charity yard sale in July to help with my fundraising and raised £120. I’ve also been sending lots of emails to colleagues past and present, as well as family and friends.’
Richard works within Snowsfields Adolescent Unit at the Maudsley Hospital. Snowsfields was set up by Richard in 1998 and was the first adolescent unit in the UK to make all beds available for urgent admissions, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
‘I got into road cycling three years ago, initially as a healthy way to commute to work. Since joining the London Phoenix Cycling Club in 2013, I’ve have taken my riding to a whole new level and managed to qualify for the UCI World Amateur Road Championship in Denmark later this year.
'RideLondon is 100 miles on closed roads and follows the route used for the 2012 Olympics, so I was unable to resist the challenge of taking part.
'I’ve worked for South London and Maudsley for nearly 25 years now. Although our basic service provision is covered by public funding, having a charitable fund is a vital resource for research and innovation. Without such support the world-renowned creativity of our Trust would suffer. It therefore feels very special to be investing my time and effort in helping the Charity.’
You can sign up to support South London and Maudsley in RideLondon 2016.
On Friday 26 and Saturday 27 June, during a weekend of glorious sunshine, 12 fundraisers abseiled to raise vital funds for SLaM. The total raised from the abseil so far is approximately £2,058 (excluding Gift Aid), with more donations still coming in.
Congratulations everyone on your amazing efforts!
The 100ft drop down the glass exterior overlooks the ambulance bay just outside King’s A&E department, where abseilers descended to the cheers of many friends, family members and colleagues on the ground.
Our supporters who took part included Chantelle Jackson [main image], who wanted to give back to the hospital after receiving life affirming treatment.
Storm Janssen also took part in the sponsored abseil after being a patient, carer, volunteer and staff member at SLaM.
Many dedicated students and staff took part too including business administrator Edith Adeboji [image right]. She decided the abseil would be a fun way to give our support
Thank you so much to everyone involved! You can visit our Facebook page to view our gallery of photos from the day. You can also sign up for next year's abseil by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Storm is abseiling for SLaM to give back as she has been a patient, volunteer, carer and staff member for many years pic.twitter.com/YbnxUNFE0X— Support SLaM (@SupportSLAM) June 27, 2015
Nearly at the bottom.
Well done to @MaudsleyNHS staff member Georgia who made it safely down - she says she won't do it again though! pic.twitter.com/ueFctgleNN— Support SLaM (@SupportSLAM) June 27, 2015
Georgia proudly showing off her certificate.
Thank you so much to everyone involved! You can visit our Facebook page to view our gallery of photos from the day. You can also sign up for next year's abseil by emailing email@example.com.]]>
Storm has had a long relationship with SLaM, having been a service user, carer and staff member:
‘Over the years I have much to thank SLaM for and this is a small way I can return the favour. Until I was employed here I was a service user on and off for about 12 years. I was treated for a variety of things over the years, including Personality Disorder, Anxiety Disorder and depression. My experiences were mixed over those years but my latter years as a service user were with The Cawley Centre – it was a great help in getting me where I am today and I have nothing but respect for the job the staff there do, and the patience they exhibit.
'When I was coming to the end of my time there, the unit’s Occupational Therapist recommended me doing some voluntary work which I did for about a year. That subsequently led to a permanent full time job and they’ve now been stuck with me for over 6 years!’
‘I’ve seen the abseil event advertised a few years running and have always fancied doing it but have only just plucked up the courage to actually apply! This is my first abseil, charitable or otherwise and I’m most looking forward to the view from the top. I’ve managed to talk one of my colleagues into it – I’m not sure she’s quite forgiven me yet but I’m sure she’ll love it!
‘I’ve been fundraising via Facebook, email and word of mouth – not including gift aid I’ve so far managed £185 online and £90 via the sponsorship form. I’m hoping the money I raise will go to the Maudsley Occupational Therapy service at the Community Link Centre where I currently work. We work with individuals on the acute wards, as well as those who have been recently discharged to support their transition back home – I started off as a volunteer here so it’s played a major part in my recovery.’
You can support Storm and help her raise money for SLaM, by visiting her fundraising page. Or, take part in the abseil yourself to support your hospital.]]>
You can sign up for this year's abseil too!
'When I was 16 I was admitted to Maudsley Hospital with severe depression, anorexia and self-harming behaviours. If it weren't for the hospital’s intervention, I would not be alive today. After being discharged I received ongoing psychological therapy at Maudsley to help keep me afloat in the scary and overwhelming world outside.
Years later, aged 27, I was referred back to Maudsley as my mental health issues had persisted. It was then in 2012 that Maudsley deduced I had Asperger's Syndrome, and that was that cause of my continuing struggles.
This revelation was transformational for me, as I could finally accept myself as I am, with my differences. I embraced instead of fought against my eccentricities. The Maudsley gave me a chance to live freely and honestly, and I've never looked back.
I chose to do the abseil because Maudsley saved me from suicide, and once you've looked death in the face and survived, you can do anything! It was a way of showing the world that, even though people may have mental illness and Asperger's, they are no less capable than anyone else.
I loved the thrill and adrenaline, but mostly the warm, fuzzy feeling inside that I helped the NHS and other SLaM patients like myself.
I have raised over £200 and would like the money to go to wherever in the service it is needed most. I found art and music projects most helpful while I was an inpatient, so maybe something like that.'
You can sign up for this year's abseil and fundraise for SLaM!