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We ask Oliver Markham, trainee CBT Therapist at Turning Point Talking Therapies, about his professional journey leading to Turning Point, his daily work and training, and about his passion for men’s mental health and the what should be done to help men get the support they need.

Can you detail your professional experience with before you joined Turning Point?

I did a degree in psychology, and then worked in learning disability services for about three years. I did some employment support for adults with Asperger’s. At 24, I went to work in the prison service, in Norfolk, as a trainee wellbeing practitioner. After that, I worked in Norfolk for another four years as a wellbeing practitioner; I worked as a locum practitioner, going around the country as a psychological wellbeing practitioner. I also worked in CAMHS last year, with children from 10 to 18, doing brief CBT work. And then this opportunity came up.

So you’ve had quite the journey. What did you have in mind when you started? Did you take your time to find exactly what you wanted to do, or did you experiment or take opportunities as they came?

There’s a bit of an idealised view with a lot of psychology graduates, about where they want to be and what they want to achieve. I think the reality is really difficult when you get there. I always had this idea that I’d like to work in mental health, maybe as a counsellor or a psychologist, but I didn’t necessarily know what that would entail. I suppose I had this semi-idea of the destination, but opportunities have come up along the way. In particular, getting into CBT wasn’t intentional. It was something that really resonated with me. I go the sense that things were aligning and it felt really right. I think I was kind of looking for something that, for me, I’m quite a practical person, and CBT brought what I liked about psychology and mental health into something meaningful that you can work with. There’s often these kind of lofty ideas associated to psychology by academics, but CBT is easy to understand, relatable – an applicable and real-life way of managing mental health issues.

Do you feel like it takes you on a completely different path than the one you imagined after graduating?

The course that I did was very abstract. A lot of it was research-based and kind of biological. There wasn’t applicability, and often I think, universities and colleges put all these ideas out there, but they don’t always translate in a way that’s meaningful for living your life. I think big part what I do now, it’s experiential, living day-to-day with and working with the person who’s experiencing problems. I’m working through the barriers with them, but maybe also going through my own stuff as well. There’s a real-world philosophy about it.

Can you tell us a little bit about what you do as part of your training?

I’m on a 12-month training course with the University of Sheffield. Three days a week, I’m in service. I’ve seen clients with a range of anxiety and depression such as OCD, social phobias. At university, it’s a series of theory-based, but also experiential activities – role plays, tasks. For example, we’ve done something called hyperventilation protocol: in a group of people, you’re given a straw, and you have to breathe through it for five minutes. That’s to get you to start having a panic attack. You’re experiencing, not quite, but similar symptoms to what your clients might experience if they were having a panic attack. We’re also taught breathing methods that would bring about palpitations, light-headedness. I really like this because it takes you to a place that you wouldn’t go to otherwise, and experience rather than standing as an onlooker. You’re going into what it feels like to be there with the person.

What is it that you enjoy or the most at Turning Point?

I tend to have a session in morning, another in the early afternoon, and finally one in late afternoon. I’m able to keep this a routine, which is helpful for my patients. Definitely the reason why I’m doing the job is the clinical work, and the prospect of change within the people I’m working with. For example, I’m seeing a person with phobia of flying, and she has managed to move forward from something that she’d never been able to face before. That is rewarding to experience that within session, and to be part of that experience. Beyond that, it’s a cool team to work with as well. Particularly at Turning Point, there are many different types of practitioners; relationship therapists, counsellors and short-term therapists. It’s really beneficial for shared experiences within the team.

How does it compare to your previous experiences?

Turning Point is a little bit more organic, a little bit more grassroots. It doesn’t seem as constrained as my previous roles, where there was a lot of bureaucracy. It’s also quite forward-thinking. The people who work here are relatable, and there’s a sense that a lot of them have experienced difficulties themselves, where they can really connect with clients. The work is really dynamic, interesting, organic. Even though CBT is quite a protocoled therapy, I think there’s an opportunity to bring yourself to it, and overall I feel I work in something that is important.

Do you have complex cases to tackle?

Working in Wakefield which is quite a deprived area, there’s a lot of abuse, a lot of post-traumatic stress, financial distress. The actual reality is there are no such simple cases, I don’t think it’s fair to say some are cases are less complex. I don’t think there’s such a thing as a simple case, because it’s people we’re working with and at any point, the game can change, new things can arise, difficulties can be overcome.  As much as possible, my supervisor tries to support me to find cases that we can work on together, and where we’re able to do something meaningful in the time that we have.

Do you know what you will be doing once you’ve graduated? Are you going to take on cases that you’re not taking on at the moment?

I’ll be a fully-qualified member of staff, so I’ll be taking a full case load – we’re probably looking at 20 to 25 patients a week. This will include people with PTSD; that’s something that I’m not particularly experienced with, and I’ll also work with sexual trauma. I’ve been interested in working with EMDR, which is eye movement and desensitisation. It is a particular type of treatment that involves reprocessing; it basically involves therapists moving their hands back and forth and the patient following their fingertips. The idea is that when we’re experiencing trauma, we don’t process it properly, within a memory. That’s something I got really interested in. I’ll be running groups and get involved. At Turning Point, practitioners all get to choose an area they’re interested in, an area of expertise or area of particular interest. Personally, I’m interested in working with young people, men’s mental health and staff wellbeing. I’ll work on developing community links, setting up events and improving accessibility and engagement for those subgroups.

Regarding the topic of men’s health, what needs to be done to help raise awareness?

There needs to be an ethos change and a cultural change around what it means to experience mental health issues as a man. The change probably is needed at a societal level, but I suppose smaller changes will need to come first. First, we need to look at the workforce we employ. We’re predominantly female in a lot of mental health services. When you’re presented with male issues or a male perspective on certain issues, it might be really hard to relate to a female that can’t share or doesn’t seem to share those viewpoints. At Turning Point, we’re about a 50/50 split, but at other services I’ve worked at, it’s been as much as 90/10 female. A lot of males will disengage from feedback, telling me they just couldn’t relate to the person. Sometimes it comes down to something as simple as gender. Right now there’s a large movement towards recruiting people who aren’t necessarily graduate trainees, but also people who have experienced mental health issues themselves. Another point of emphasis is getting the message out, finding accessible ways to communicate, going into workplace environments, thinking cleverly about our campaigns. There’s a really good government campaign at the moment: “Man up”. Andy’s Man Club as well, which is something that’s taken off certainly around here, a charity that runs every Monday and they meet up and talk about issues. I think it’s about how we encourage people to engage in therapy; there’s a lot of stigma around men being weak. I had a session last week where a man started crying. He said to me, “I felt like I wanted to leave the room. I felt like that was it. I didn’t want to be here anymore.” We need community-level involvement and action, change the way that we advertise, liaise with GPs, get peer support workers on board, have dedicated ‘champions’ in services. We need to be able to show to men: “this is how therapy helps me”.

Do people in the local Yorkshire county still have still have misconceptions towards therapy?

In certain areas, there’s a high level of deprivation, but there’s also kind of a disconnection, in rural towns, there’s a disconnection from the big cities. You get the sense that some of these towns have been left behind. There’s a prevalent sense of traditional working class mentality where people don’t talk about these issues and just get on with things. It’s seen as a weakness. My parents are both working class, they often tell me, “it is a hard life. Don’t complain about it. Stop whinging. Stop moaning.” Mental struggle isn’t seen as valid as a physical, social, or financial struggle. For a lot of people, getting through the day and making sure there is food on the table is a bigger worry than mental health.

Last month was Men’s Health Week, is there anything you would like to bring up on the topic?

I would say that, for me, men’s mental health is often kind of covert. In the groups of men that I work with, we shy around the issue of mental health. We banter, we make fun of each other and we don’t deal with the elephant in the room. I’ve worked with 17-year-old men facing college; I’ve worked with 85-year-old guys facing the end of their life; professionals and non-professionals; mental health affects men as much as it does women, but one of the things of being a man, which I have experienced, is that you’re alone with this. It obviously isn’t – we have thousands and thousands of referrals of men. But we need to somehow hold on to the idea that it’s not something we have to live alone with. It’s about trying to find the way in which people feel they can voice that without that shame.

If someone is in a difficult situation, what would be your advice for them?

Therapy can be immeasurably helpful. It’s really frightening at times to share your problems with somebody else. But I suppose I’d be bringing it back to how things are right now and how they could be. I know from my own experience, and I know from the people I work with, that therapy can, alongside other things, can be the thing that makes a real difference. Even when you’re getting up every day thinking, “I can’t do this anymore, I don’t want to leave my house because I’m anxious, I just can’t cope with this,” there’s still a light at the end of the tunnel. You have to be a bit experimental; this might work, this might change things. For me, it always goes back to – how are things right now? Do you feel like this is getting better on its own? Do you feel like you can go on like this, or are you willing to consider that things could change? Sharing it, even one hour a week, means that someone else is on board with you. They might not be steering the ship, but it means that there’s someone else in the back helping you to feel like you’re not alone with it. Think about what is there to lose; it might really be the thing that cracks the nut.

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From a young age, Carol took it upon herself to make sure her loved ones were OK – at her own expense. She recalls the events that drove her to depression, and how 40 years later she found herself in a now-or-never situation.

I didn’t realise over time, it only came about during therapy really, that I probably have been suffering from depression in one degree or another, for about 40 years. For all that time I didn’t know the extent of it, I didn’t do anything to try to combat it.

But I know the initial start of it, the trigger.

I lost my father in a mining accident when I was 17, which was way back in 1976. My mother took it really badly. My sister and brother were younger than I. It was at a critical age really, I was in the middle of my A-Levels; my sister was in the middle of her O-Levels; my brother was 11, an age where he was just starting to form a bond with my dad. As a result of the accident, he went off the rails a little bit. It was horrendous for a bit in the house afterwards.

In those days, depression wasn’t talked about, or dealt with. It was dismissed. I thought it was my job to look after everybody else in the family and to be there for them, and it just all got brushed under the carpet. At the time, I also went through a lot – incidents, events, circumstances – that added to my depression and put a lot more lead on it. Being there for everybody, over the years, just worsened it. I had a lot of personal things that happened to me straight after that, and generally had quite a few traumatic circumstances on and off through my life.

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Just like a lot of people who have depression issues, I dealt with all this by becoming a rather good actor. I managed to keep it all locked up. My own kids have always seen me behave in a certain way, so it became normal to them. But then, with anything else major happening to us or me, my issues became more apparent. I compare it to liquid in a glass: when it’s low down, if you get anything else poured in, it doesn’t come out of the top. But when you are continually functioning like a glass full, and something else happens, it spills over the side. I think it was at those overspills that my family realised that something was wrong.

But it got to a stage when they didn’t know what to do. I remember that one day. I have a son, a daughter, both married, and another son who isn’t. Because he isn’t married, he’s been able to monitor more closely what’s been happening – and he actually said this to me that one particular day: “For the sake of my own wellbeing, I’m going to have to back off for a while. You’re going to have to do something about this.” In the past when he’d say that, I thought he meant what’s happening right now rather than the big picture – because I didn’t know myself well enough. My therapist said: “You’ve lost yourself along the way.” He added, “You’re getting old now; you haven’t got a lot of life now. You don’t want the rest of your life to be like this.”

My GP referred me to Turing Point. I’d had a bit of therapy in the past, hadn’t taken it too seriously, and being a bit of a people-pleaser, I always told people what they wanted to hear. This time though, they immediately recognised that Step 2 (self-help and CBT) wasn’t right for me, on my assessment. I went straight to Step 3 (high-intensity therapy) – rightly so, it was by then a now-or-never situation. I must say, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

How did I get better? I remember talking. Just me talking, but it was absolutely amazing how it seemed to just sort me out, piece by piece. I put it down to this later on: it was the right treatment, at the right time, in the right place, with the right person, and the right attitude for me. My therapist – he was wonderful. He did seem to gauge every session right.

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People’s attitude towards mental health has greatly improved since my youth. When my brother started to go off the rails, I told my mother he needed professional help. She said, “no son of mine is going to see a psychiatrist”. She was a highly intelligent woman and a caring mother, but she was bothered about what society would think. Even though the attitudes have improved, there’s still a stigma, and I think addressing mental health issues is very important.

That’s one of the reasons why I decided to be a Peer Mentor with Turning Point, because I recognised that help is important, and I also wanted to give back to the service that I personally owed so much to. I don’t offer too much advice unless they specifically ask for in certain areas, but I like to show people who come for support that I do have a degree of understanding of what they are going through, even though everybody’s journey’s different. I like to be able to speak to, or even share a space with somebody who has been through a similar situation, and can give them strength and some connection, and in turns it helps me in my journey as well, it gives me a feeling of helping somebody who is in the same situation that I was in.

For me, the issue is down to my own personality. I’m a sensitive person. I’ve always put others before myself. And yet on the other hand, my daughter told me: “You’ve come through all this, it shows how strong a person you are.”

Big thank you to Carol, Peer Mentor at Wakefield Talking Therapies, for sharing her experience with us.

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The first step to getting the necessary support to face and combat depression can sometimes be the most daunting one. We talked to Carson, one of our Peer Mentors from Wakefield Talking Therapies, about what it means to not be able to reach out, what he did to finally get over the hump, and how opening up has changed his outlook on life.

My problems started about three years ago, but I didn’t end up getting any help until about a year ago. I was diagnosed with depression by my GP, and I turned to Turning Point for help to confront the problems that were causing my anxiety.

I didn’t get any help for such a long time because I convinced myself I didn’t need the treatment, the anxiety was just in my head. Once I got to talk to the therapist and speak about what I needed to do to get things off my chest, it gave me a whole new different way of thinking and acting and I could confront my own demons. I had to totally overhaul my own thought process on a daily basis, just from the therapy that I was getting. Just to be able to talk openly – it totally turned my life around.

I think the key is that I wasn’t seeing somebody who was drugging me up. Instead I could just take somebody aside, and get them to just sit and listen to me. This made such a difference; I could finally talk about the problems that I hadn’t been able to talk to anyone about, and had just kept on the inside. The therapist that I talked to was brilliant – she totally turned my way of thinking about how I went about things. I can’t remember any specific treatments or activities, it was more the talking side of it that really did it for me, that brought me back to who I was… or who I should have been.

I have always had an interest in psychology and how the mind works. I’ve had so many dead-end jobs, factory work and others. But having this interest, this has given me the hope to be able to help others in some way in the future. Turning Point has offered me this opportunity, by training me to become a Peer Mentor. The training programme is brilliant and has even helped further in my recovery. Now I can also have the chance to pursue a career around my interest – as a therapist or a counsellor.

When I look back at my own personal experience, I think that the really the best way to counteract any kind of depressive mood is social interaction. When I was depressed, I sat in my house all the time, I wasn’t even going to my children’s functions. I wasn’t doing what I should have been; I should have been out there seeing other people and interacting, but I wasn’t. I was in a shell of my own, it was just the worst place to be. Going through therapy has helped me so much, it has helped me take positives from where I saw negatives all the time. I’m happy to be doing quite well right now.

My take – always find a person to talk to. If you can, don’t ever turn people away that are trying to talk to you, don’t shy away from the fact that you may be suffering from depression. That will only make it worse. Internalising things just isn’t helpful towards a clearer mind or towards finding out what may be causing depression. Always talk to somebody.

Thank you to Carson, service user at Wakefield Talking Therapies, for sharing his experience.

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There is support available to help young people cope with their emotional health in the Wakefield area.

As we head towards the Easter holidays, we think about the state of mental health amongst our young people who are deep in the midst of revision time in preparation for their exams next term. According to a new study from King’s College London, one in 13 young people in the UK have a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by the time they reach the age 18. 31% who had experienced trauma during their childhood were twice as likely as their peers to have a mental health issue.

Shockingly only one in three young people with PTSD had spoken to their GP in the last year about their mental health, and just one in five had seen a mental health professional. One in four were not in training, education or employment at age 18 and half experienced social isolation or loneliness. Three in four of the young people with PTSD have another mental health condition at the age of 18, half has self-harmed and one in five had attempted suicide since age 12. Read the full study on King’s College website here.

The number of students acknowledging mental health problems when they start university has also increased by over 73% according to new figures based on a Freedom of Information responses from 60 universities and published by the Times show. In the academic year 2014/15 7,375 students declared a mental health problem however the 2017/8 figure has now risen to 12, 773.

Providing young people with treatment early can help prevent mental health issues in adult life. Wakefield Taking Therapies now is open to anyone from the age of 16 who lives within the Wakefield District who needs an accepting, non-judgemental and supportive space to explore their mental health needs.

We support young people from the age of 16+ with a range of mental health issues including depression, worry, stress, social anxiety, phobias, OCD, PTSD and dealing with life changes. In March 2019, we achieved a 92% Patient Satisfaction rate. You do not need to be referred by a GP but refer yourself directly by contacting the service to book an appointment in either Wakefield or Castleford. The service also delivers a series of workshops covering a range of health and wellbeing topics including improving sleep, assertiveness, emotional eating and mindfulness which is a useful coping technique for anxiety and stress ideal for exam time as it has a focus on staying in the present. You can book free tickets online.

We also offer a digital service called My Turning Point which can be accessed through any online device, offering personal contact with therapists, as well as interactive therapy content including diaries and skills exercises. Through guided self-help and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), you will be equipped with coping techniques to maintain their mental health. You can work through therapy sessions at home in their own time, whilst therapists can provide feedback and support at regular intervals to help monitor and encourage their progress, either through an online messaging system or optional face- to-face, telephone or webcam consultations.

To contact the service and refer yourself directly, call 01924 234 860. Alternatively, email wakefield.talking@turning-point.co.uk. You can find out more about the services we provide on our Talking Therapies website.

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Residents within the Wakefield District may not be aware that they can refer themselves directly for support with their mental health. It is common for people to go directly to their GP as their first port of call if they are experiencing issues with their mental health such as anxiety, stress and depression. Shockingly, a recent survey (Mind and independent research charity Picker) found that people with a mental health issue were waiting too long to see their GP.

The findings showed that one in three (33%) had a wait of six days or more for an appointment, 44% said the wait was longer than expected, and a third said their mental health worsened while they waited for an appointment.  It also revealed more than 1 in 10 people did want to get support for their mental health but had not, and 65% of those surveyed weren’t comfortable saying their appointment was for their mental health when asked.

At Turning Point we accept direct referrals, so if you think you would benefit from short term psychological support and if you live in the Wakefield District, please get in touch. We support adults with a range of mental health issues including depression, worry, stress, social anxiety, phobias, OCD, and PTSD.

In December 2018, we achieved a 95% Patient Satisfaction rate. We have just launched a series of workshops covering a range of health and wellbeing topics including emotional eating, mindfulness, coping with stress, body image and improving sleep, helping people to cope with life changes.

We also offer a digital service called My Turning Point which can be accessed through any online device, offering personal contact with therapists, as well as interactive therapy content including diaries and skills exercises. Through guided self-help and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), you will be equipped with coping techniques to maintain their mental health. You can work through therapy sessions at home in your own time, whilst therapists can provide feedback and support at regular intervals to help monitor and encourage progress, either through an online messaging system or optional face- to-face, telephone or webcam consultations.

To contact the service and refer yourself directly:

You can find out more about the services we provide on our website:  www.talking.turning-point.co.uk

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World Mental Health Day

10th October 2017

 

The 10th of October is World Mental Health Day, and this year’s theme is Workplace Wellbeing. Here at Turning Point Talking Therapies we understand how important it is to have a work-life balance. We know that mental health can have an impact on everyday life including our work-life; here are some facts about mental health and the workplace.

 

Did you know? In 2013 15.2 million work days were lost due to mental health problems like stress and anxiety, and less than half of employees said they would feel able to talk openly with their line managers if they were suffering from stress.

 

So how can break the stigma around mental health in the workplace and what steps can we take to help ourselves? There is lots of information available for both employees and managers alike and here are some links we think you may find helpful:

 

This guide includes tips from professor Cary Cooper, an occupation health expert at the University of Lancaster, on the key to good stress management.

http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/pages/reduce-stress.aspx

 

Here’s a guide from the NHS on how mangers can support employees with long-term medical conditions, which can in turn help employees maintain good mental health.

https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/workplacehealth/Documents/ChronicConds_LineManagers_Factsheet_A4.pdf

 

At Turning Point Talking Therapies we have lots of useful tips for how you can reduce stress in the workplace and maintain good work-life balance, below are some tips from our therapists on ways to beat stress:

 

Ensure you take your break(s)

Avoid taking work home where possible

Maintain a healthy lifestyle – diet and exercise

Try not to let work affect your life outside of work

 

 

On World Mental Health Day we will be running two workshops with more information on how to manage stress, the details of these are below, follow the links to book on to one of these workshops, call our service on 01924 234860 or email us at wakefield.talking@turning-point.co.uk

 

Managing Workplace Stress

1pm – 2:30pm

Wakefield Talking Shop, 58 Kirkgate, Wakefield, WF1 1HX

 

Wellbeing Workshop

Pontefract Library, Market Place, Pontefract, WF8 1BD

11am – 12:30pm

 

Turning Point Talking Therapies offers support and resources to help people cope with common mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and stress. You can find out more information by calling in to one of our Talking Shops in Wakefield City Centre and Castleford Town Centre to find out more, we are open 7 days a week.

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On Friday 29th September we held an open day to celebrate the success of our service. We welcomed Turning Point’s CEO, Lord Victor Adebowale, Yvette Cooper MP, Councillor David Jones, and various stakeholders in the local area.

Turning Point has been delivering mental health support through new models involving more rapid access to treatment via online self-referrals and Talking Shops located on the high streets in Wakefield and Castleford. People can also access the service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via My Turning Point, an online tool making treatment more innovative and flexible.

Jason Carr, Senior Operations Manager at Turning Point said: “Our Talking Shops based on the high streets in Wakefield and Castleford mean that we have a clear public presence, encouraging people to come to us and talk about their mental health. In the last year we have provided support to nearly 7,000 people, and 99% of people who are referred to us enter treatment within six weeks, reflecting our aim to provide support to people as soon as possible.”

Yvette Cooper MP said: “Many people suffering from depression or anxiety or different mental health problems really need somewhere to turn. Support and counselling services are vital for individuals, for families, but also for our whole community. That’s why it’s so important to have this Turning Point centre right in the heart of Castleford so people can just drop in at any time. I’ve seen the good work Turning Point has done in the community over many years so it was great to drop in for their open day too.”

Jo Webster, Chief Officer at Wakefield Clinical Commissioning Group said: “As a commissioner, we need to ensure that we provide innovative and flexible mental health services that meet the needs of Wakefield residents.

“The Turning Point Talking Shops are open seven days a week, ensuring that those who lead busy lifestyles can access the services they need when convenient to them.

“We are confident the two Talking Shops will be an asset to the Wakefield community, and will help many local people access the support they require.”

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Turning Point's new Castleford shop

Turning Point has opened a new Talking Shop in Castleford, extending its offering of mental health support to people in Wakefield and surrounding areas.

Turning Point’s Talking Shops allow people to access talking therapies services away from a traditional GP or medical setting, giving them easy access to support through self-referrals. As well as one-to-one therapy sessions, the Talking Shop will offer facilities such as PC and internet access, and a library of self-help material.

Gareth Griffiths, Operations Manager at Turning Point in Wakefield, said:

‘We’re very excited to extend our Talking Shops to Castleford, as this means more people will have access to talking therapies to overcome common mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.’

‘The Castleford Talking Shop is located on the high street and very easy to find – hopefully this will get more people through the door.’

If you are aged 18 or over and are registered with a GP in the Wakefield district, you are eligible for free, professional support. Turning Point can help with issues such as depression, worry, stress, anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).