Carolyn’s story

After reading Hazel’s blog, I was prompted to write down and share a little of my family’s story.

I remember the day so vividly when I was first told my brother had a mental illness.  I was in a soup kitchen in downtown Toronto, Canada.  My brother, who lived there, had gone missing for several months and I had been nominated by the family as the person to go over to find him.  A catholic monk in charge of the soup kitchen that day nodded as I described my brother and said he definitely came in there almost every day.

The monk said “you know your brother is mentally unwell”.  I couldn’t speak with disbelief.  No one in our family had ever suffered from mental ill health, though being a nurse I had witnessed others suffering with a mental health condition.

My brother did indeed come to the soup kitchen that day for his only source of food.  He recognised me but showed no emotion despite the fact that he hadn’t seen me for 5 years.  He looked to have aged 30 years, was thin gaunt and malnourished.  He clearly couldn’t cope.

A month later I was able to bring him back to the UK where he was diagnosed with a serious mental health condition.  The shock within our family was palpable; we were dealing with a crisis situation we had no previous knowledge of and liaising with mental health professionals for the first time.  It seemed like a nightmare.

That was some years ago now.  Fortunately we came through it and are in a much better place.  Along the way, we were told of the carers support group who met monthly in Hemel Hempstead.  They were able to support, listen, empathise and advise us through the whole process.  They have continued to be an invaluable support over the years that my family has cared for my brother.

The information we received from guest speakers, as to how mental health services operate, was and continues to be very useful.  I don’t think we’d have managed in any way as well without the group’s support which I will always be thankful for.

Carolyn G

Further thoughts on the group

As a co-founder of the group I thought it might be a good idea to remind myself what I still get out of attending our support group? Well, the group continues to give me the opportunity to meet people with like minded problems.  Not only to share concerns, but also to hear about the good things other Carers are doing.

I get to hear the latest information from the varied speakers who attend our meetings and, of course, to hear from other members.  In particular, from those who attend workshops and meetings with professionals and give them a Carers’ Viewpoint. I also like the socialising over tea and coffee or wine and nibbles at the end of some meetings and I particularly enjoy our summer outing and Christmas meal.

I was recently asked “Where do I think the group is going”? My answer was that the group would continue to evolve as new people join and new challenges confront us. I hope that it can continue with a light handed approach to such a serious subject.  I believe that keeping a sense of humour can be a life saver!

To sum up, my hope for the future of the group is that it will continue to promote high quality patient care and support at both local and national level. That it will go on working with local services and campaign for adequate funding at national level. That it will bring information to members about new research into mental illness and new treatments or therapies beneficial to patients that can bring hope to all of us Carers and our loved ones.

Hazel Lovelace

Our Carer’s Support Group

Having been involved with this Carers Support Group for over twenty five years I feel it is time to put pen to paper and share my views more widely.

The media claim that in the U.K. at least one in three people will suffer some kind of Mental Health issue.  Everyone will know at least one person who is being, or has been treated for this illness.

I feel that very few people, including some Mental Health Professionals, just do not realise how difficult it is becoming a carer of a loved one who is suddenly or slowly struck with one of these conditions. In some cases it can be more than one condition.

In Jan 1993 our family was partially destroyed when our son David died after falling from a moving escalator in Hemel Hempstead Shopping Centre.  (Please see my earlier blog containing the article Hazel and I wrote last year, ‘Remembering David’ )

Our group, originally formed as the ’Tring and Berkhamsted  Mental Health Support group’, was changed in 2000 to ‘Dacorum and District’ so we could encompass a bigger area. This was suggested by our local N.H.S in recognition  of our involvement.  Last year we changed again,

recommended by the membership, to ‘Caring for Carers in Dacorum’ a name easier to cope with.

The name may have changed but the purpose of the group has remained the same.  A carer’s support organisation, but now enlarged by many other aspects including Social and Lobbying activities. I believe our group has been a help and benefit to a number of carers over the years.  Our membership varies from year to year, and currently has a truly caring feel.  Attending the group has enabled me to increase my knowledge of mental Illness and to understand the workings of the Trust which I have found to be far more complicated than I could ever have imagined.

For people new to Mental Health Care,  there really is hope out there in the form of Information, togetherness and Wellbeing.  Without the care of one another, the world can seem a very lonely place. Come and join us for support during your loved one’s recovery!

Dick Lovelace (Co-Chair)

Remembering David – 2018

The following article appeared in a Tring magazine ‘Remembering David’ and was written by Dick and Hazel Lovelace. It is included here with their permission.

Remembering David

A father’s memory

I sometimes feel sad that more people never got to meet our son David.  He was a clever lad. At fifteen years old, he was doing well at Tring School.  He had lots of friends and many interests.  Including swimming and football, and was already challenging the way people lived. He often went to Church with his mum and his younger brother Brian.  His future seemed all things bright and wonderful.

Eight years later I looked down into his coffin, kissed his cheek, and tearfully said my goodbye.  I could tell by his face that he had found peace.  But that was the only comfort that evening.

The following day I went to work, had lunch with a business colleague and promised myself that mental illness had ruined his life, but would not destroy mine.

A few days later, myself, wife Hazel and some close relatives visited the Coroner’s Office.  Before going in we decided to have a small cooked breakfast in a local café and it was there I found my first guilt.  I had eaten for the first time since David’s death, and even laughed at a joke my brother-in-law told.  Surely, it was too early for happiness.

A few months later, we took part in David’s inquest.  His injuries took a few minutes to read out.  Each one was a stab in the heart.  But we survived the ordeal, and this gave us the strength to start rebuilding our lives.

For the next few months I filled up every minute of the day and much of the night.

During this time our Baptist Church Minister, Steve asked me if I would share my pain in front of our congregation.  I started with these words.  What I am about to tell you has been the hardest thing I have ever done.  Every time I wrote a few words the tears washed away the ink so I had to start all over again.  So you know what I did.  I used a pencil instead.

Next year will be twenty-five years since David’s death, about the same time he had on earth.  I still think about him most days. But not once have I ever wished him back.  I saw peace on his face and just knew he was in a better place.

As for me, I used a pencil to write these words today.

Dick Lovelace High Street Baptist Church.

 

A mother’s memory

Mental Illness struck our eldest son, David at the age of sixteen.  He gradually deteriorated until he was admitted to hospital at the age of twenty-one.  There he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.  After a further admission to hospital, he fell from an escalator and died.

My chief impression of this time was the anguish of realising how difficult his illness mad life for him.  It was hard for him to talk to people and he wasn’t able to concentrate long enough to do quite simple tasks towards the end.  For David it was like facing life with his hands tied behind his back.  This was combined with an over whelming sadness that seemed often to be with him.

I felt angry with him at times; angry with a system that offered him and us very little help over a period of four years; angry with a first admission that seemed like a nightmare with everything out of control; angry with some staff who didn’t seem to understand that this was our son David, who did have an illness but was still our ‘dear, dear son’.

David had a supportive GP who did his best for him and us; an essential for anyone concerned with their mental health.  Dick and I helped to set up a ‘ Carers Group’ for relatives and friends supporting people with mental health problems.  This group is still running today and Dick is joint chairman.  Dick tries to facilitate communication between carers and professionals.  I found meeting other carers helped to take away that sense of isolation and the fear of the unknown.

Today, you can ask to be registered as a carer at your GP surgery.  You will be offered a carer’s assessment’ by the Mental Health Service involved.  You can become a member of ‘Carers in Herts’ (they have their own Mental Health Support Worker for carers).  Perhaps come to one of our monthly Carer’s Group meetings.

Twenty-four years after David’s death, I feel sad that; Mental Health managers face lack of resources and applicants to fill vacant posts they do have.  Mental Health Workers face unmanageable caseloads. Users (patients) and carers can still face situations where the only services available to help in a crisis is the police. And the needs of people with enduring mental health problems are not always met.  There is still much to be done to give people with mental health problems the help that they need and deserve

I found prayer from my housegroup at High Street Baptist Church always made things seem better during David’s illness.  God seemed far away at times but somehow was always there for me.  I clung to a poem by Patience Strong about ‘coming through’ when things were really bad.

After David died, so many people showed me that they cared.  It felt like being supported by a ‘big cloud’ of God’s love.  Dick was so affected by this he began attending High Street Baptist Services.

David is safe and well now in God’s keeping.  And now these three remain; faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians13 verse 13).

Hazel Lovelace – High Street Baptist Church

Coffee morning

Happy New year to you all

Our next meeting will be 30th January 11am – 1pm St Pauls Slippers Hill.

Please let me (Rod) know if you can or cannot attend.

We will meet for refreshments and chat to see what speakers you would like for the coming year . Trust you all had a good Christmas and I look forward to seeing you all there.

Rod Cottrell(chef.cot@hotmail.co.uk)

11th January Meeting

January 11th Meeting

Caring for carers in Mental Health – Dacorum
Date:                    11th January 2018
Time:                    7:45 pm
Location:             Mind Building, 139 Leighton Buzzard Road, Hemel Hempstead

Agenda items

1. Apologies:

2. Minutes of last meeting – 2nd November 2017

3. Matters arising-

4. Guest speaker – Jo Clack of Rethink Mental Health

5. Dick’s New Year quiz and nibbles

6. Any Other Business

7. Date of next meeting – 1st February with 3 speakers: Ian Pearce & Rev Richard Allen from HPFT and Julie Nicolson from Mind

 

 

Anniversary Dinner 7th December 2017

Dick’s 25th Anniversary Address

Welcome to you all to our 25th Anniversary Dinner. I will have more to say later. In the mean time I would like to welcome Julie, Sachdev, Rod and Michael who have all helped the group in many different ways. They are our guests for this evening. I would also like to say a special welcome to Shirley Selwyn who was a founder member back in 1992 – Shirley it is great to see you and to say “welcome back” . A welcome is also due to Nick and his wife Janet. Nick had been poorly for a long time and we now look forward to see more of him next year.

We have three toasts tonight so top up your glasses for our first which is to all those who could not make it tonight because of one thing or another including those who have passed on. The Toast is “To absent friends”.

I suppose it would be true to say it all started in OH in October 1992 with the title of TSBMHSQ followed by our first meeting two months later in BDG with several local people including Val Trollope and Shirley Selwyn who is with us tonight. Within a few years the group grew into a SPV with an average monthly attendance of 20 Carers. The group had several aims – to SC to PI and to COBC.

Our first target was to reduce NHS jargon which turned OH to our house and TABMHSG into Tring and Berkhamsted Mental Health Support Group – I will leave you to work out the others and to remind you that the jargon is much reduced but not completely removed.

Hazel continued as Chair until 2000 and then handed the responsibilities into the safe hands of Glyn Trollope who worked tirelessly as a Governor on behalf of the group. During this time the meeting place changed, with the help of Julie Nicholson of Mind, to 139 Leighton Buzzard Road and the group’s name changed to Dacorum and District Mental Health Support Group for Carers.

During the next decade the group’s format remained the same but the membership changed rather than grow but always remained solid and, without doubt, the local Trust saw it as the most positive Carers group throughout Herts.

When Glyn died I returned to the Chair until 2015 when I gladly agreed to share with Terry and for me this has worked well. Terry has dragged me into the 20th Century – not yet the 21st and I have shown and shared with him the corridors of power in the NHS.

I could talk for hours on what we have tried to achieve and a few minutes on what we have managed to improve. Our aim was always to make a difference in a positive way and many people have told us that we have. The group has always been financially sound and still is (this may change with Brian’s drinking tonight). The group is supported by wonderful, thoughtful, positive, kind and respectful people and for this I am sincerely grateful. We have always wanted the gritty road of mental ill health to be fun as well as glum and to this end, enjoy the rest of the evening.

No 25th could be complete without a few thankyous. Firstly to Hazel for starting it all; to Tim and Francis for looking after our money; to Angela for refreshing us all; to Terry for sharing what needs to be done. An additional thank you to all for making Caring for Carers in Dacorum what it is today where we continue to gain much credit by the Trust for the many things we do. The Toast is “caring for carers”.

Zib then proposed that we toast all Dick’s hard work on our behalf. The Toast is “Dick”

November Carer meeting

Caring for carers in Mental Health – Dacorum

Date:                    2nd November 2017
Time:                    7:45 pm
Location:             Mind Building, 139 Leighton Buzzard Rd,
Hemel Hempstead

Agenda items

  1. Apologies:
  2. Minutes of last meeting – 5th October 2017
  3. Matters arising-
  4. Guest speaker – Leah Johnson HPFT Service User and Carer Involvement Manager
  5. Dick’s quiz and nibbles
  6. Any Other Business
  7. Date of next meeting – 7th December and Christmas Dinner