I hope you’re all thriving. A mate of mine has just texted me that his painfully slow mental health recovery seems to be in tandem with the nation’s fractional progress out of recession.
But Star Wards is going full blast! We’ve got a gorgeous new website, thanks to our designer Tim – www.starwards.org.uk. The old faves are still there, but we felt it would be preferable to have a site where you could now find them and everything else! As well as sound navigation, there are some new features which we hope you’ll enjoy and find useful. While in Cuba over Christmas, one of our tour group happened to be a talented film-maker, Thomas. We risked imprisonment or at least a few hours locked up away from cocktails, classic cars and culture by making a quick film about Star Wards. (Cuba is the most wonderful country but the police are a bit hard-line about filming. And homosexuality. Let alone gay film-making, but we kept the DVD very straight.)
Anyway… we’ve often been asked if we can produce something that can be used to introduce Star Wards to staff and patients, and now there’s Star Wards – The Home Movie, with the Caribbean ocean in the background and my suntan in the foreground. There’s also a new Idea-a-Day of simple and fun things to do on the ward, which we hope you’ll add to. Indeed, we hope you’ll add to everything – pictures, DVDs, ideas, resources, articles… We’re soon going to go BIG with making it much easier for you to share the incredible work you’re doing. Inching, recession-like, towards that, we’ve now got a Star Wards Twitter thingy, @starwards (or http://twitter.com/starwards) so any of you with tweeting tendencies, please do log-in, sign-up or, in the slightly embarrassing jargon, ‘follow’ and tweet us!
Instead of a newsletter, I’ve gone all bloggy this month and there’s a Cuban-themed blog on the website and attached to this email. You might also enjoy a blog a wrote for Mind’s website on “Why I love being an inpatient” –http://www.mind.org.uk/blog/2816_why_i_love_being_an_inpatient
Looking forward to hearing back about what you’re doing
Cuba is the most fabulous country. I’m lucky to have travelled extensively, kicked off aged 5 when the family did a round the world trip to visit my Australian mum’s gang. Cuba has knocked Costa Rica and Japan off the top slots of my fave countries, as it has everything. A heroic history of fighting for independence, stunning architecture, dazzling modern art, pulsating music 16/7 and the planet’s friendliest and physically most exquisite people. And I discovered that I must have been a Chevy ’57 in a former life as I spent an embarrassing amount of time hanging around car parks, petrol station and general traffic to gawp at the American classic cars. I totally fell in love with Cuba. And this triggered some of the worst mental health I’ve experienced.
|It’s a long story, but the short-hand explanation is, as ever, my very naughty borderline personality disorder. Hours of emergency therapy later, I can see that intense stimulation even of the gloriously enjoyable variety, triggers my ‘overload’ switch and that sets off all the tedious BPD self-destructive stuff. Ian Hulatt, our chair (better known for his day job as RCN mental health lead) described it as being like having too many programmes running at once on your computer. They may be the most delightful mix of programmes to help you do everything from find the perfect recipe for cornflake crispies to converting videos into vacuum cleaners, but it’s all too much. Crashes ensue.As I’ve looked at the features of the holiday which made me go all bonkers, I realised that they have a relevance to mental health wards. I won’t laboriously spell out what I see as the implications of these factors, but hope that some of them may be handy in our members’ impressively continuous process of contemplating what more they can do to improve patients’ experiences. I’ll muddle into the list a bunch of factors which were sanity-restoring. Some things both helped and aggravated.
Oh. A quick bit of factual background to the trip. It was a 3 week Complete Cuba tour, and when they said Complete…. By day 6 we’d stayed in 5 different towns and cities! Each day was a full-on mix of history (frankly, it’s amazing that Cuba ever managed to gain its independence, as their National Heroes habitually set off to battle armed with a nice book of poems and a water pistol), architecture, culture, dancing, people, dogs, nature. And rum. What a lot of rum. Not for me, though, as I’m still managing to remain abstinent from my spectacular £50 a day skunk habit and daren’t risk replacing drugs with booze. (One of the main learning points from the holiday was not to book ambitious trips when very stoned.)
Despite being cognitively ‘adjusted’, I did manage to book a group tour. This was fab (and a bonus was that one of the group is a talented film-maker and we made a quick Star Wards DVD, which will be on our website shortly.) But amongst the pre-trip info to bring snorkel, gifts for homestay hosts, Great Train Robbery quantities of cash because credit cards etc won’t work, they forgot to tell me that the numbers of others on the group in week three was – 0. Just the brilliant tour guide, Valeri, and me. Hence this blog’s headline Close Obs in Cuba, which was Ian’s comment on the situation! It did all feel very pre-revolutionary, rich Westerner, and indeed like the weeks I’ve spent being specialed in hospital. But I just managed not being locked up, so decided to return to Havana and be alone for the rest of the third week.
OK. Here’s the list.