World Mental Health Day 2019


Not that I needed the reminders, but my inbox has been receiving a steady flow of emails about World Mental Health Day (WMHD), which is marked each year on 10 October. This date is recognised by the World Health Organisation and the theme for the year is set by the World Federation for Mental Health. This year’s theme is suicide prevention.

Having had mental health problems myself – mostly depression and anxiety-related – I feel very lucky that I have never once had the remotest hint of a suicidal thought. Others are, sadly, far worse off than I in this respect, and I am pleased that this subject is receiving so much attention. For so long it has been one of those taboo subjects of which we dare not speak, choosing instead to brush it under the figurative carpet.

This week has seen the launch of the Every Mind Matters campaign by Public Health England and the NHS, to encourage people to be more aware of the early signs of mental health issues. Their website can be found  here and is full of loads of useful advice and resources. I strongly encourage you to take a look if you or anyone you know might benefit from getting some good help and advice. The campaign is being supported by the younger royals – the Cambridges  and Sussexes – and is generating good publicity. Many companies and organisations, such as the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have also pledged support.

Today I’ve seen a piece on breakfast tv about Ellie Soutter, a snowboarder champion who took her own life last year on her 18th birthday. It featured an interview with Ellie’s mother and was heartbreaking, really bringing home the devastation caused in the lives of loved ones, families and friends when someone commits suicide. The gaping hole that they leave, all those unanswered questions about what drove them to do it, the guilt about whether their family, friends or anyone could have seen signs of their unhappiness and done something – anything – to help. There are, sadly, no easy answers to any of those questions. None of us wants to be in poor Ellie’s mum’s situation, but we don’t have hindsight to know what we might have done in her circumstances. We shouldn’t need things like Every Mind Matters to remind us of this, but the reality is that we do. The importance of spreading this word, and of sharing awareness of what we can do to help ourselves and our loved ones, cannot be understated.


One of the organisations which supports people with mental health issues is Time To Change. I’ve spoken about them before, and have recently signed up to be a ‘Time To Change Champion,’ which means that I have committed to spreading the word about what we can do to help. This isn’t a big announcement, and isn’t anything for which qualifications are needed. Anyone can do it – the more who do, the more widespread the message becomes. If you’re interested, do visit the Time To Change website. Here you’ll also find lots of good advice, including their campaign for this year’s WMHD, ‘Ask Twice,’ as you can see from the image above. This is the simple thought that, rather than accepting the usual ‘I’m fine’ answer to the ‘how are you?’ question, we might delve a little deeper. Here is the link: you’ll find a good little video about it to encourage you to think more about this, along with more advice on how to start that conversation. I’ll be posting more as a ‘Time To Change Champion’ in the months to come, and I hope some of you will sign up too.

I’m aware that this post reflects the fact that I am in the UK, but this is World Mental Health Day. Wherever you are from, this is an important day. In the column to the right you will see a box labelled ‘Stand Up For Mental Health.’ If you click on this it takes you to the website of HealthyPlace.com, whose campaign this is. They are US-based, and I know that there are many similar initiatives around the world. Wherever you are, please take a few moments to find out what is available to you and what you can do to help. And if you think you might need some support, please do seek assistance, and don’t be afraid to ask.

’How are you?’

‘I’m fine thanks.’

‘Are you sure? You don’t seem quite like yourself…’

‘Well, actually…’

That wasn’t too hard, was it? If you know someone you think might be struggling, #AskTwice today and every day. You may be saving a life.

2018: They Think It’s All Over…..

Englishmen of a certain age will recognise the source of my title!

A number of bloggers have recently posted reviews of their blogging year, and how 2018 was for them. I wasn’t sure if I should do the same, as I’m far from being the most prolific blogger, and I certainly don’t have a massive following or readership. And anyway, I did a kind of ‘part way through the year review’ when I wrote On Further Reflection so there isn’t much point in repeating myself. What those posts have encouraged me to do is to look back behind the headlines of my post statistics and try to analyse what this tells me about my readers and what they prefer – and this does give me the opportunity to give another plug to some of my own favourites from my 2018 ramblings. I’ve already covered some of the ground in New Beginnings? which I posted on Sunday with a reblog of my review of 2015, so I’ll try not to repeat myself more than I already have!

I posted 51 times in 2018, but there was no regular pattern to those: they weren’t synchronised weekly offerings with a week off for good behaviour. Both April and August saw just one post each, whilst there were twelve in November and nine in December. So much for giving your readers a regular expectation of when they can see something from you! But, as I’ve often said (probably to justify this to myself) I don’t think of myself as being a significant blogger: I’m not seeking huge numbers, nor am I looking to monetise my blog. Some do, and I don’t have a problem with that. But it wouldn’t be for me – I wouldn’t expect anyone to pay me for what I produce from the deepest recesses of my mind!

I rarely reblog someone else’s post: I did that just once in 2018, and that was this one, to assist a fellow blogger in raising money for charity. Call me narrow-minded if you like, but I regard this as my space and want people to come here because they enjoy reading my words. There are plenty of blogs that exist solely to reblog others: there is nothing wrong with that, but are they clear on their motivation? Are they doing it out of the goodness of their hearts and the desire to help others? Or are they doing it so they can bask in the reflected glory of having a blog with loads of page views when they rarely, if ever, write anything themselves? And, if the latter, are they using this to make money for their site? That, to me, is dishonest and not what I regard as true blogging. For me, a blog is where we share something of ourselves, not where we push products at people – and especially not by using others’ work as the vehicle.

Having said all of that, I am much more likely to reblog my own posts, or rework older ones into newer versions. My logic in doing that is simple: many of these were written at a time when my follower numbers were smaller, and I doubt that many current followers will have seen these before. I do it because they said something I felt worth sharing again and, in all honesty, because I liked them. I make no excuses for doing this, but I do recognise that there are only so many times that you can mine through your back catalogue without putting people off!

I did produce some new stuff in 2018, though, and it is gratifying to see that five of my top ten most ‘liked’ posts of all time are from last year, with another one actually equal on ‘likes’ for 10th place but not showing in the list. I guess I must be doing something right! I realise that hitting the ‘like’ button is a facility only available to those who, as I do, use WordPress as their blogging platform, so I know that there is not necessarily a link between ‘likes’ and the actual number of times a post has been read. But it suffices as a reasonably good proxy most of the time, though not always: the post of mine which has actually been read most times – by a distance – dates back to 2017. This was written in support of a friend whose ex-wife’s ex-boyfriend (still with me?) had just received a criminal conviction for the most horrible of crimes. My friend is the focus of a group on Twitter and my post was widely shared and read as a result. If you haven’t seen He Fought The Law before by all means take a look: it is a little different from anything I’ve written before, or since.

But let’s get back to 2018! I think my favourite post of the year was that one in equal 10th place on the all time list. My 15 Nanoseconds was one I greatly enjoyed writing – it is one of my lighter pieces and I got a laugh out of it. Having said that, it only needs one person to follow that link and hit the ‘like’ button to move it into 10th place all by itself – which would be something of a pity as the post it currently shares that placing with is one that I regard as among my most important. Maybe I should make that list the top 11 – do you think anyone would notice?

What pleases me most about the popular posts from 2018 is that two of the top five are themed around Mental Health, whilst two others are very personal to me. There are links to all from the list on the right, but to save you having to work it out these posts are I Hope You Dance and For Mother’s Day (the two personal ones),  World Mental Health Day 2018  and Mental Health Awareness Week 2018, plus the outlier A Man Blogs, Aged 64 And A Half, which was written in a fit of pique when I felt that the blogging world was becoming sexist and ageist. I probably proved the blogosphere right in believing it should be for females and younger people when I wrote that!

So, what does this tell me about what people expect from my posts, and does it give me any clues for what I should be writing about this coming year? Whilst they may not have garnered the most ‘likes,’ my musically themed posts are important to me, so you can expect to see more of them. If I can get my act together there may even be some more #SaturdaySongs posts at some point! But let’s take this back to the very beginning: as I’ve often said (though newer readers may not be aware of this) I originally began blogging to share my experience of depression, in the hope that this would help others. It seems to have done that, and I still get the occasional email from people who have read those early posts: they are under ‘My Story’ in the menu at the top of the page, if you want to see them. Six years on, there is still so much that needs to be done to raise awareness of mental health issues and to help fight the stigmatisation which still, sadly, attaches itself to those of us who suffer. I am acutely aware that my own mental health is precarious and I could find myself in relapse at any time, and I think it is very important that as many people as possible are writing about these issues. Whilst that was my starting point I’ve never made this a blog solely on mental health: there are many others who do that far better than I. But it is a subject to which I have returned at intervals, and I will continue to do so. Only yesterday there was a piece in the paper about young people’s mental health and the problems involved in supporting them, so I believe there is an agenda already there for new posts. I’d like to think my small voice will help in some way, so expect more from me on this.

To end this review, I’d like to thank everyone who has read, liked or commented on any of my posts, either in 2018 or previously. Those interactions are why I and my fellow smaller bloggers do this: if we know that there is someone out there it encourages us to keep going. I don’t know how or where you found me, but I’m glad you did. If you’re a regular you have my heartfelt thanks for supporting me. If you’re new here, I hope you like what you see and will be encouraged to read, like and comment on more of my posts. And a final plug for my Facebook page: all new posts are shared there, along with a #SongOfTheDay and occasional random thoughts and funnies. It’s small, but beautifully formed, and I’d love to see you there. Who knows – you may even be encouraged to follow both this blog and the page, if you don’t already!

Thank you, as always, for reading, and here’s to a great 2019!

Facebook

I don’t know if it’s the same for those of you WordPress users who pay a premium for your site, but we cheapskates who just use the free version recently received an email notifying us of an ‘improvement’ being made by Facebook. This email came from WordPress – I don’t recall hearing anything from Facebook about it directly. I could be wrong on that, but I don’t think so. This so-called improvement was the withdrawal of the facility to link our blogs to our personal Facebook pages, which meant that we would no longer be able to share our posts with our friends. No doubt most of mine were hugely relieved at this, but it was an option I know at least a few of them used to read my posts, though they don’t actually follow my blog. We could, of course, still copy a link to each post into Facebook, but somehow that extra little step didn’t seem quite the same.

I read elsewhere that this change was part of Facebook’s efforts to reduce the amount of ‘fake news’ their site was playing host to. The words ‘sledgehammer’ and ‘nut’ spring to mind – this seems to me to be an incredibly extreme reaction by the company as part of the long overdue need to get its act together. Whilst there would, no doubt, have been some who were using their blogs to promote fake news, this ability to link a personal blog to a personal Facebook page could hardly be thought to be a major cause of the proliferation of such crap. I really don’t believe that I could be accused of spreading as much fake news in my sporadic posts to my small group of Facebook friends as Fox News peddles every day to millions of gullible morons in the US and other countries in which they broadcast! A small aside here: Fox News is no longer available in the UK on the biggest satellite network – Sky – as the viewing figures were so pathetically low that they decided it wasn’t worth paying any longer for the access. I now have to get my laughs elsewhere.

As if that change wasn’t enough, Facebook compounded its stupidity by allowing us to share our posts directly to a separate page from our personal one. Yep, if we wanted to spread fake news via our blog direct to a small, private group of friends, we couldn’t – but if we were prepared to set up a public page, which could be seen by anyone, that would be alright. Is it just me, or is that breathtakingly idiotic? In effect they were saying that fake news on a small scale was wrong but it was perfectly alright on a large scale: they had taken the sledgehammer to the nut but had hit the tree instead.

I follow quite a few blogs for which there are discrete Facebook pages, and I’ve hit the ‘like’ button on several of these. More often than not, they are the ones with much larger followings than mine – sometimes, but not always, commercially oriented – and I hadn’t really considered doing this before, as I felt I wasn’t in the same league as them. I gave it a fair amount of thought and eventually decided to set up such a page a month or so ago. I haven’t promoted it at all since then apart from a passing reference in my post 300 Not Out – A Retrospective  and this probably explains why, to date, only one good and loyal friend has ‘liked’ the page! It is called – rather imaginatively I thought – Take It Easy . You can click on that link to find it, or on the site name in the image to the right of this post. Or if neither of those suit you, here is the full web address: https://www.facebook.com/takeiteasyblog/

Why would anyone bother, I hear you asking? Well, apart from the ability to read my posts there, I intend it to be a place where I expand on what I do in the blog itself. As regular readers will know, I love music, and often put on the headphones for a late night YouTube session, in the course of which I share the occasional song with my Facebook friends. I am now going to put up a regular ‘Song of the Day’ on the new Take It Easy page, starting from today – go take a look! These will be separate from the irregular series of #SaturdaySongs that I will still be doing occasionally: those are songs which have some special, personal meaning or memory for me, whereas the Song of the Day will be more of dip into my musical taste, with a little explanation.

In addition to music, I’m intending to make the page a place where followers can go to find other things which interest me, but which I don’t want to devote a full post to. So you will, over time, find things which amuse and entertain me, as we can all do with some of that in our lives, can’t we? There will also be links to news stories that interest me on topics including, but not limited to, mental health, social issues and a little bit of politics. Don’t worry, I’ll try to keep it light, but some things are too important not to be raised and shared.  Basically, I’m intending it will become a magazine style page, with the blog as its core. I will of course cross-reference between the page and this blog, but I hope to make them complementary: I see no point in just setting up the page and only sharing posts, which regular followers will probably have seen already. I’d ‘love it, absolutely love it’ (©️Kevin Keegan 😂) if you’d visit the page and show your love and support by hitting the ‘like’ button, and I hope you’ll feel that to be a worthwhile investment of your valuable time, and will dip in regularly. Thank you in advance, and I hope to see you there – drop me a message if you do visit and let me know what you think.

And finally, to give you a taste of what you’ll find there, here’s a recent post that you won’t have seen on the blog:

(Very) late night music time. I’ve been listening to a lot of Celtic punk/folk recently, most of which doesn’t come from anywhere near Eire! There are the brilliant Dropkick Murphys, from Boston, USA. Then there’s the O’Reillys and Paddyhats who, as I’m sure you guessed from their name, are German 😂 Or you could try Selfish Murphy from, wait for it, Transylvania. Yes, really! But I’m giving you this, because I think it’s fantastic and contains a good allegory for today’s times about people fighting over nothing. This is the Rumjacks who, of course, are Australian 😉

See you soon on the Take It Easy page? 😊