Domestic abuse calls in UK reach all time high but experts hope technology can help

Domestic violence image“He was driving straight towards a lamppost; the kids were screaming. He was trying to kill us all.”

When 37-year-old Monica* first met her partner, she soon fell in love with his charm and presence. But 16 months down the line, things changed. He started punching her and hitting her with objects, leaving the former model “black with bruises. I could not actually recognise myself.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/black-bruises-didnt-recognise-domestic-abuse-calls-reach-all/

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Homeless charities and mothers criticise government for not raising duty on super strength cider in the Budget

frostyjack's

The CEOs of homelessness charities Shekinah and Thames Reach have strongly criticized the government for not raising duty on super strength white cider which they said is killing more homeless people than heroin and crack.

The CEO of Thames Reach Jeremy Swain said “the evidence showing that the drinks are killing people is beyond dispute and each month that goes past leads to further deaths.” John Hamblin CEO of Shekinah Charity said “we see daily examples of people just killing themselves from consuming very large quantities of ridiculously cheap super strength cider”. Both said they were “very disappointed” by the decision.

The decision has also been condemned by Joanne Good, the mother of 16 year old  Megan Craig Wilkinson who died after drinking 1.5 litres of super strength cider Frosty Jack. Joanne Good has lobbied MPs to ban or raise duty on what she called “pocket money” cider.  Professor Sir Ian Gilmore Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance said super strength white cider is almost exclusively drunk by children, street drinkers and the homeless because of its sweet taste and low price.

It is possible to buy a 3 litre bottle of super strength cider which contains as much alcohol as 22 shots of vodka for less than £3.50 or $4. Cider which can be up to 9% alcohol has the lowest duty of any alcohol product in the UK at only 5p per unit less than a third of the rate for beers at the same strength. Conservative MP Fiona Bruce wrote in the Huffington Post that the Chancellor needed “to call time on the ability to buy a can of cider for cheaper than a bottle of water.”

Joanne Good told The Mirror: “I felt disappointed that there’s no immediate rise on the cheap cider that is causing so many problems in society. Hopefully this would put children off from drinking it and maybe a life could be saved. If it was up to me, I would like to see ciders like these removed from sale.”

Both Joanne Good, Thames Reach and the Alcohol Health Alliance welcomed the fact that the government would be consulting on introducing a higher rate of duty on cider of 5.5 to 7.5% volume. But John Hamblin CEO of Shekinah Charity said “they have been consulting for years there’s been lots of evidence presented to government about the harms of super strength cider but there just seems to be a reluctance in government to tax people’s leisure. But you and I don’t go round to meals at friend’s houses on Saturday night when someone brings out a bottle of White lightening. But there’s somehow a perception that higher taxes on super strength cider and lager will impact on Joe Public that’s not the case.” Conservative MP Fiona Bruce agreed saying “80% of cider sales would be completely unaffected by such a move.”

Cider has had an artificially low rate of duty since the Second World War to encourage people to plant apple trees. But John Hamblin said “We are not targeting people drinking craft ciders which are made from apples this super strength cider should not even be called cider. It’s an insult to call it cider as its never seen an apple in its life it’s just a concoction of chemicals.”

When Joanne Good’s MP Labour’s Mary Glindon brought up the issue of super strength cider at Prime Minister’s question time Theresa May said the government had already dealt with it. “We have taken action through the duty system so these high-strength ciders and beers are taxed more than equivalent lower strength products.We have also, of course, taken action on the very cheap alcohol by banning sales below duty plus VAT.”

But Alcohol Research UK director of research Dr James Nicholls said “The price per unit for strong ciders is considerably lower than beer at the same strength. There is a lot of evidence it is drink by people with serious alcohol problems.”

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: the government needed to “move the tax system towards a more sensible scheme where the stronger alcohol is, the more highly it is taxed. By taxing these drinks more strongly, the government will also encourage producers to lower the alcohol content in the drinks.”

 John Hamblin of Shekinah said “people won’t stop drinking because you put the price up we are working with very vulnerable complex people when you increase the price they come off the super strength lager and cider and switch to lower strength say 4%. We not only see a rapid increase in their health but it makes it far easier for us to engage with people.”

The managing director of Aston Manor, the firm that makes Frosty Jack’s, was, perhaps unsurprisingly, very unhappy with the government’s consultation on the issue.

“We are very surprised that in the detail of the Budget Statement there is mention of a plan to consult on a new duty rate ‘to target white cider’,” Gordon Johncox told the Mirror.

“We often point to the inaccurate mythology that exists around white cider and we are disappointed that without evidence this announcement has been made. We will participate fully in the consultation process and provide evidence that dispels the myths that exist”

But MP Fiona Bruce said “opinion polling for the Alcohol Health Alliance indicates 66% of the public support higher taxes on white cider. Perhaps most importantly, Public Health England’s recent report clearly states that tackling affordability would be the best way to reduce alcohol harm. Market leader Frosty Jack’s is consistently ranked among the top brands consumed by underage dependent drinkers. .A quarter of patients in alcohol treatment services drink white ciders, and of these nearly half drink them exclusively.”

She added “such measures have worked in the past: consumption of super-strength beer fell by a quarter in response to the creation of a higher rate duty band in 2011.”

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Almost 400% rise in alcohol related brain damage in older UK adults in 10 years

nemesisnobrandingThe number of over-50s admitted to hospital for brain damage caused by the amount of alcohol they drink has more than trebled in little over a decade. There were 3,627 admissions of over-50s with alcohol-related brain damage in 2015, compared with 994 in 2002, but experts said that the condition could be twice as prevalent because it was poorly diagnosed. Read my article in the Times newspaper.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/huge-rise-in-middle-aged-drinkers-with-brain-damage-n5zgcwzf5

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Revealing the full extent of suicides at Britain’s largest private mental health provider

AMY EL-KERIA IMAGE

Coroners have issued five formal notices over the past five years highlighting care failures after deaths of patients in the care of the Priory Group’s hospitals. Among the recurring problems highlighted in the coroners’ “prevention of future death notices” are a failure adequately to monitor patients at risk of self-harm, failures in training and inadequate record keeping.  They are the latest in a series of incidents that has raised concerns about the welfare of patients, both private and NHS, at Priory ­hospitals. Read my article in the Sunday Times.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/deaths-spark-care-fears-at-prioryhospitals-jdtf38khp

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Where is the £10 billion extra going that the UK government says it’s spending on mental health?

The Prime Minister's Theresa May's speech earlier this week promised a raft of initiatives to help children and adults with mental health problems. It said that teachers in schools would receive mental health

Not on mental health according to leading charities Sane and Mind. They say this money is partly being spent by NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups to plug gaps in their funding for  physical health problems. They say less money is actually feeding through to front line mental health services, dealing with people in crisis and suicidal than before. The Chief Executive of SANE Majorie Wallace says the number of people calling their helplines is higher than at any point during the helplines 20 year history as people cannot access crisis care

The government is keen to stress it’s spending more on mental health. The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says its spending £10 billion more and 1 billion more than 2 years ago. The £11.7 billion budget for mental health in 2016/17 is double what it was 5 years ago.  But the government has refused to ring fence the money it allocates to mental health which means charities say the money is being diverted.  Two thirds of mental health trusts said recently that their budgets have been cut and 57% of Clinical Commissioning Groups who responded to an Freedom of Information request in 2016 said they planned to reduce the proportion they spent on mental health.

Extra investment has been promised.  “The NHS has committed to investing an additional £1bn in mental health services by the end of 2020-21.” said the Chief Executive of Mind, Paul Farmer. “This is welcome but we need to make sure that it materialises and reaches the front line. The same goes for all the other pots of money announced over the last couple of years,” he said.

Although the government has put money into  non urgent services such as the talking therapy provider IAPT, SANE says that crisis care had been cut. Its Chief Executive Marjorie Wallace SANE said that 4000 adult psychiatric beds and 1500 Child and Adolescent psychiatric beds had closed in the past few years. The Chief Executive of Mind agreed that crisis care had been cut saying  “NHS mental health services have been subjected to significant cuts over recent years, more so than the acute sector, at a time of rising demand. This has left some parts of the system struggling to cope, which of course has a huge impact on patient care.”

Suicide rates of people being treated by Community mental health teams have doubled in recent years which SANE say is a sign that community care is massively overstretched and not working.

Labour say spending on mental health fell by 8% in real terms during the coalition government and a report in January 2015 said spending on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services had decreased by 6%. The government says this has now been corrected and that has invested £7 million more in CAMHS psychiatric beds in 2015/2016.

Due to the shortage of inpatient CAMHS beds 47% of CAMHS patients are now treated in private hospitals often many miles from their home.  The average cost of a child staying in a private psychiatric hospital is 800 a night. Theresa May has pledged to end out of area placement for CAMHS patients by 2021. But SANE Chief Executive Marjorie Wallace cast doubt on whether this would happen as no significant new funding had been announced.

The Prime Minister’s speech earlier this week promised a raft of initiatives to help children and adults with mental health problems. It said that teachers in schools would receive mental health “first aid training” to spot signs of mental illness and that links between schools and local NHS mental health services would be strengthened. It also promised extra support for people with mental health problems in the workplace and £15 million extra for “crisis cafes” and clinics.  All this was welcomed by SANE and MIND but MIND said “our job is to ensure that the commitment is met. We need to see sustained leadership to make sure services and support improve for all of us with mental health problems. Having been neglected for decades, we need to see it made a priority for decades to come”

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1st Christmas with my family for 12 years!

christmas2016

Today for the first time in 12 years and for the first time in my entire recovery I spent Christmas with my family. Just before I got into recovery I spent Christmas Day alone with a bag of cocaine and litre of vodka. That rock bottom was the start of my recovery journey. Every Christmas since then I have spent away from my family. Before I went into family therapy with my father the relationship was too strained for me to contemplate spending Christmas with him. But I hope there will be other Christmases in future. It was the first time I had been to my father’s house since he bought it almost 10 years ago. After practically bursting into tears 5 minutes after I arrived as I was so upset it turned into a fabulous day.  Unfortunately there will be no Christmases with my mother who died 10 years ago this year. But despite my issues with her she has given me the freedom to write which is amazing. I dream about her all the time. RIP

What I found at the Conservative Party Conference. Husbands: none Career: 1?

I attend the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham where the Prime Minister Teresa May the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond were all speaking

If politics is Rock for ugly people then the party conferences are like going on tour. Rumours of sleeping around and extra marital affairs are rife. But in this febrile sexual and political atmosphere is it possible to find love?

I was extremely excited about attending my first ever Tory Party Conference where I was  trying to advance my political career – I am applying to stand as a local Councillor and want to become an MP. But there was another reason for my enthusiasm.  My efforts to find Mr Right through online dating have been as successful as a polar bear trying to find an ice floe in the Sahara.  And when I announced on a recent date with a promising man on lefty website Guardian Soulmates that I was a Tory he immediately ordered the bill.  I need someone intelligent and interested in politics – as since I became one of the London Team leaders for Britain Stronger in Europe during the Referendum campaign I have been mildly obsessed. Before the campaign I had never been involved in politics as no issue had moved me enough.

I had worked out long in advance my agenda (and outfits) for the Conference to fulfil my dual purpose of communicating that I am a serious politician in waiting but also, of course, look hot. I was obviously, going to attend all the main speeches by the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer. But I’d also selected a host of fringe events where I was likely to meet Mr Right. My Conservatives friends say it has long been received wisdom in the party that joining the Young Conservatives is a way of finding a partner and were optimistic at my chances.

The first event I attended was the Prime Minister’s and Foreign Secretary’s speech on Brexit.  This required a demure outfit and rapt attention to the speakers with no obvious ogling of men. I have to say I was slightly disturbed by the emphasis on controlling immigration. I do not want my cleaner or builder to go home. I then went to the Conservative Group for Europe reception as I am positively allergic to boyfriends who voted for Brexit. In fact my primary chat up line at the Conference was “which side were you on Leave or Remain?” Unfortunately there was no one I fancied at the reception. Next on my tour was the Conservative Friends of Cyprus reception – I have limited interest in Cyprus but a great deal of interest in Greek men. This required a slight change of outfit to show a hint of cleavage. As the Tories are now more egalitarian since the demise of David Cameron I had left all my designer bags at home.  The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was there prompting frenzied adulation and shouts of “Boris Boris Boris” from the audience a sort of Tory version of One Direction. Apart from obviously me who blames Boris for Brexit.

On the Monday I was going to attend the speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.  But at the last minute I decided this was a waste of time as the Chancellor is married and not really my type so I went to a meeting of pro-European Tories instead.

Then came the absolute crack pipe of my political and dating plans “How can Conservatives win the Black and Minority Ethnic votes they need to win in 2020.” The constituency I am interested in standing in as an MP has a high number of ethnic voters but also, as I am half Jamaican, I think my political soulmate would be another ethnic Tory. The Conservatives secured over a million black, Asian and Minority Ethnic votes in the 2015 elections and are closing the gap on Labour.  Alas there was no one I fancied at the meeting but I did get a picture with a black female Conservative MP who said she would help me get elected.

Me and Conservative MP for Maidstone and the Weald Helen Grant
Me with Helen Grant MP

My primary interest in politics is to work with the government in addiction and mental health so I went to an event about supporting families with these problems. I pitched my idea to help everyone who goes into a doctors surgery with an addiction or mental health problem to the chief executives of two of the largest charities in Britain and they were very interested.

On Tuesday I got up at the crack of dawn to attend a Conservative Group for Europe breakfast meeting. I hate getting up early but as openly pro-European Tories have been thin on ground since the Brexit vote I had to set my alarm. Alas most of the men there were not my type so I sat playing with my phone. I was then cheering various  Celebrating the Union speeches in the main hall (ie England Scotland Northern Ireland and Wales) – a union which seems to be remaining intact, despite the Brexit vote, as the Scottish cannot afford to leave.

There was then the photo with my local Conservative Association where there were some rather attractive men. Obviously I gave them my business card saying “we must campaign together.”

My final event of the night was a Conservative Friends of Bangladesh reception which required a slightly sexier outfit.  I have never been to Bangladesh and my knowledge of the country is purely based on what I have seen on the BBC news but I am very interested in getting to know some more Bangladeshi Tories. My local Conservative Association has strong links to the Bangladeshi community so I made sure I appeared in all the photos.  There was a rather attractive mixed race man at the Bangladeshi event who despite the fact that he was 10 years younger than me I managed to engage in conversation. I am sure I am not the only cougar at the Conference.

The final day was the troop rousing speech by the Prime Minister and the leader of the Scottish Conservatives “A Country that works for everyone.”  This was the busiest day of the Conference as many members come on a one day pass and I had therefore held back my most flattering outfit. The Prime Minister was wearing a rather sexy crimson dress and said the biggest challenge of the conference was whether the colourful Boris Johnson would “stay on message for four days.” The conference ended at one o clock but I had not booked my train until early evening in case I bumped into a likely husband and wanted to meet him for lunch. Alas I didn’t find a husband, but after four days of high octane excitement, decided I want to stand as an MP. If I became an MP my past is so colourful that Boris would look bland.

Top publisher says my blog is “funny” has “an engaging voice” and “lots of great material”

Sarah Savitt deputy publisher at Virago and former publishing director at Headline and Headline Review says I

Sarah Savitt, deputy head of feminist publisher Virago and former publishing director at Headline, one of the most successful commercial imprints in the UK,  said my blog was “definitely enjoyable to read” as it was “funny, fast paced and interesting.” She recommended making changes to the blog, which I’ve now turned into a memoir, so that is has greater “focus” and “structure.” She gave me three pages of feedback on the memoir and recommended I read nine successful recent memoirs and analyse them technically to see how they tell their story.

I am now doing this starting with best sellers “Mad Girl”by Bryony Gordon which also talks about OCD, bulimia, cocaine addiction and journalism and “Reasons to Stay Alive” by Matt Haig which deals with depression and anxiety. She said there were “many themes” in my memoir “from class and privilege and race (people constantly asking where you’re from) to mental health to your mother’s abuse to drugs and sex.” She said I need to “choose one or two things to focus on and weight the book towards those themes.” She said that it is difficult for people who are not famous to get memoirs published but that those that are published and “break out” and become successful have this particular focus.  After I’ve read the 9 memoirs I am going to start a re-write of mine.

I’m also starting a freelance journalism course in October to try to resurrect my freelance journalism career and raise the profile of my writing. I may do a course on memoir as well. The agent didn’t work out but given that the publisher said the blog needed a major rewrite to make it commercially viable this may be why.

The search for Mr Right continues of course unsuccessfully. I’ve been on a few dates but haven’t fancied them. I’ve signed up to various Conservative party events (I grew scales and a tail before the last General Election and was, alarmingly, diagnosed as a Tory) to try to network and meet an ethnic Tory Mr Right. I did go to an event on Wednesday and met an attractive ethnic Tory but he was only 21.

The big change on the home front is that as I am now almost completely recovered from the OCD and broken my ban on having anyone to stay in my house over the summer I am going to get a lodger. This will bring in useful extra income as well as give me someone to discuss world current affairs with. Of course due to my bisexual tendencies the search for a lodger has been fraught with problems. I was worried about fancying the prospective male lodgers who came along but it was actually a gorgeous Iranian woman with arresting green eyes who made me swoon. Obviously I couldn’t say “you’re too sexy to move in” so I just told her an elephant was moving in instead.

I now have the assistant to a Member of Parliament moving in who is very bright and interested in politics and crucially, given my previous campaigning for Britain Stronger in Europe, pro-European. All the lodgers were quizzed on their Brexit views and any prospective pro-Brexit people were executed.

In preparation for the lodger I am de-cluttering my house going through every cupboard and throwing out junk and the fifty tonnes of paperwork I’ve accumulated since I started writing my first novel.  Before the viewings by the lodgers every inch of floor space was covered in reams of paper from various re-writes of the novel and the blog and a rhino that I’d brought back from Sudan was watching my telly. I’ve now thrown out a hundred bags of rubbish which are sitting in my front garden rather optimistically waiting for the bin men to take them away. I’ve got so much excess paper I could actually start a re-cycling plant in my home.  The rhino is claiming asylum due to the civil war in Sudan so is now living on my roof terrace.

As part of my new political activities I went to the Conservative Women’s Organisation summer party on Thursday. I was worried that everyone might be white but in fact half of them were ethnic minorities showing that I am not the only ethnic minority in London who votes Conservative. Though curiously when I see black supporters of Donald Trump paraded in front of the cameras at his speeches I think “you are a traitor to your race.”  I can see that some black people in dying former industrial towns in the United States may warm to the Trump message. But in the UK it is aspirational ethnic minorities who vote Conservative. Now I look Jamaican with my natural hair obviously everyone thinks I’m a Labour party supporter.

After coming out on Facebook as a Tory earlier this year I will be revealing myself on the national media by attending the Conservative Party Conference in October. This is not just an attempt to network and further my political career but also crucially to find a husband. But my chat up lines will not be the bog standard “do you come here often” but the rather more focused “what do you think about Brexit?”

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Next blog post – Finding a husband at the Conservative Party Conference (or should I be looking for a career?)

 

 

10 Tips to avoid relapse when you encounter alcohol or drugs in work or social settings

I celebrated 11 years of recovery from alcohol and drugs at the beginning of 2016 and have never relapsed since I came into recovery at the beginning of 2005 by following these tips Following these suggestions I have been in countless situations involving alcohol and drugs and have never relapsed in my eleven and a half year recovery.

  1. Always have a couple of people’s phone numbers in recovery you can call if you feel triggered.
  2. In a social situation, if you think you are going to pick up, leave.
  3. In a work situation, if you feel you are going to pick up and cannot go home, leave the room for 5 minutes, make a phone call, pray, meditate or do some deep breathing exercises.
  4. Carry a list with you of the worst things you did when you were drinking and using so you remind yourself how bad it could get if you relapsed.
  5. If your job involves constant client entertainment, where you are under pressure to drink alcohol, switch to another role in the company where you don’t have to do this or find another job.
  6. If your job involves regular contact with your drug of choice, consider changing your job.
  7. Avoid social situations where you know you will see drugs, particularly your drug of choice. If someone brings out your drug of choice in a social situation, leave.
  8. Explain to your partner/close friends/family members how bad your drinking/using was and how terrible it would be for everyone if you relapsed. Encourage one person not to drink at social events with you or if they accompany you to work events. Then you have a non-drinking buddy to hang out with.
  9. If your partner/family members/friends are not there, there is often one other person who is not drinking because they are driving or on medication. Sit near them or hang out with them if it’s a social setting so you feel less isolated.
  10. I was advised in rehab not to drink non-alcoholic beer or wine or soft drinks out of wine glasses. Both can trigger a craving and you can end up picking up the wrong bottle or glass that actually has alcohol in it.Sign up for updates on this blogFollow me on Twitter            Send me a friend request on Facebook

 

10 Tips for dating a normal drinker if you’re a recovering addict/alcoholic

TIPSDATINGDRINKER

  1. Do not have alcohol in your home. I was warned early in rehab not to have booze in my house in case I had a bad day and reached for it. I think this is very good advice.
  2. Keep going to meetings or in touch with your online recovery community. You need to keep reminding yourself you are an alcoholic so you don’t think “my partner is drinking I will too.”
  3. Explain your behaviour when drinking to your new partner and that it would be a disaster for you and them if you went back there. This may encourage them to abstain from drinking when they are around you.
  4. If attending gatherings where everyone is drinking apart from you always have some people in recovery you can call if you get triggered. Tell your partner if you feel like picking up a drink.
  5. Exit as quickly as possible from the situation if you actually think you are going to pick up.
  6. Work on keeping a separate identity to your partner by maintaining your own interests, activities, hobbies including contact with all your recovery friends.
  7. If you start to think “I’m cured maybe I can drink again” read your Step 1 about the horrors of your addiction or any written work you have done in treatment or groups.
  8. Get more support in terms of seeing an addictions counsellor if you can afford it.
  9. Include other recovery people in your social activities or holidays with your partner, when possible, so you are not the only person not drinking and have support for your recovery.
  10. If you have a spiritual practise, some form of meditation or prayer, use it to ground yourself and ward off cravings. If not, check in with how you are feeling every day. If you are very angry upset or tired maybe avoid social situations where you will be exposed to alcohol.                                                                 Sign up for updates on this blog                     Follow me on Twitter            Send me a friend request on Facebook