Mental health nurse Andy Walton explains how a Guardian series transformed his personal and professional life
Andy Walton was flicking through the Guardian one January morning in 2011, when he came across the first article in a series called Start Happy. “It promised to help readers eat well, sleep well, exercise and find inner calm,” he recalls. “As someone who had struggled with anxiety for quite some time, it immediately caught my eye.”
Six years later, Walton is still enjoying the benefits of the series, which he credits with transforming both his professional and personal life. “It took a very positive and progressive look at mental health. On top of that, it covered lots of different themes in an engaging way, and it was the first time I really felt understood,” he explains.
When you are plagued by unusual fears, people’s reactions can be the hardest thing to bear. One writer with a phobia of jewellery explores what can be done
If a friend confided in you they had a fear of door handles or toenail clippings, would you laugh or sympathise? The instinctive reaction might be the former, but we can all get phobias of absolutely anything, and some can be debilitating. I have lived with my own fear of jewellery for as long as I can remember. If you were to place a metallic necklace or earring into my hands, it would send a shiver through my body, I’d feel instantly sick, have to throw the object away and wash my hands. The response from family, friends and colleagues has only ever been amusement or bemusement. I can live a normal life, despite consternation from some for not wearing a wedding ring, and have never got to the root cause.
Phobias are described as an overwhelming and debilitating fear of something. They are more pronounced than just fears alone. A dislike of rats, for example, is pretty common. But if it extends to musophobia (a fear of mice or rats), then it can be life-changing. “One person called our helpline who was so scared of rats they couldn’t even say the word ‘rat’ itself,” explains Trilby Breckman, a development manager at the charity organisation Triumph Over Phobia (TOP UK). “It was stopping her going out for fear of seeing one.”
Pip McManus died three years after becoming ill with an eating disorder. Her parents explain how medical care failed their daughter
Marie McManus wants to show me the final photograph taken of her daughter Pip. It was 9 December 2015, and the 15-year-old is standing on the platform of a railway station five minutes’ walk from the family home. In the CCTV image, Pip is wearing a red hoodie and looking up the track to see if her train is coming. But she’s not going to get on it.
Related: Mother of anorexic girl killed by train criticises care failings after inquest
I thought, they’ll put a drip in, they’ll give her fluids. They’ll make her better
Related: Mental health services turn away 23% of under-18s referred to them
Related: Anorexia: you don’t just grow out of it | Carrie Arnold
A letter found after Sir Nicholas Wall, 71, killed himself at care home stated he had ‘no hope for the future’, says police officer
A former leading family judge killed himself at a care home after he “lost the will to live” following his dementia diagnosis, an inquest has heard.
Sir Nicholas Wall, who became president of the family division in 2010 and retired on health grounds in December 2012, was found hanged in his room at Emily Jackson House care home in Sevenoaks, Kent on 17 February.
Related: NHS faces staggering increase in cost of elderly care, academics warn
Related: ‘Dementia tax’ and social care funding: the Conservative plans explained
The Tories betray wilful ignorance in refusing to acknowledge that some adults need support all their lives – asking them to pay care costs is wrong
Much has been said about the Conservative manifesto pledges on social care and Theresa May’s subsequent U-turn, but one issue that has so far escaped scrutiny is the Tories’ strange assumption that social care is all about older people. This is despite the fact that around a third of those who need social care services are of working age [pdf].
Social care affects all adults who need support because of a disability or long-term health condition. This might include a learning disability, a physical disability or severe and enduring mental ill-health. The failure of the Conservative manifesto to acknowledge any of this gives the impression of a party that is wilfully ignorant of the nature of adult social care and its beneficiaries.
Related: The ‘dementia tax’ mess shows how little May thinks of disabled people | Frances Ryan
Related: Forget money – we need to rethink what social care should look like
Guardian experts give their view on the main parties’ public service manifesto pledges. Here, our health editor looks at what’s in store for the NHS
• David Brindle on social care
• Patrick Butler on social security
• Dawn Foster on housing
• Frances Ryan on disability
• Anna Bawden on local government
• Alan Travis on home affairs
• Jane Dudman on the civil service
• Damian Carrington on the environment
• Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
The NHS in England would receive “the resources it needs – a minimum of £8bn in real terms over the next five years, delivering an increase in real funding per head of the population for every year of the parliament”. A further £10bn is pledged in capital spending. It would ensure that the NHS and social care system had all the health professionals “it needs” and it would train more homegrown medics. Backing the NHS’s Five Year Forward View and local sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) would lead to the controversial rundown of A&E and maternity units and changes to the roles of many hospitals. Any “necessary legislative changes” would be made to finally give STPs legal status. In addition, it would “review the operation of the internal market and make non-legislative changes to remove barriers to the integration of care”. GPs would provide seven-day access everywhere by 2019.
The in-demand face of Gap and Versace is changing the rules of how to make it big in fashion. She talks about authenticity, her depression – and why her shaved head was a two fingers to the industry
Adwoa Aboah is ridiculously beautiful, but that is not what makes her the most in-demand model of the moment. Sure, the razor-sharp cheekbones and the blown-glass lips don’t do her prospects any harm. But there is something in her gaze to camera that makes her beauty seem as if it’s not the most compelling thing about her. It is this that has raised Aboah – face of a new Gap campaign, muse to Donatella Versace, booked for the catwalk by everyone from Christian Dior and Chanel to Marc Jacobs and Alexander Wang – above the modelling rank and file.
My first appointment with Aboah is cancelled because she hasn’t yet got out of bed. So far, so supermodel. But when we finally speak, it becomes clear that this Linda Evangelista moment is about as far as Aboah goes in terms of conformity to the modelling tradition of aloof, enigmatic beauty. After our interview, she has a busy day ahead. First, a meeting with Dr Lauren Hazzouri, a psychologist specialising in young women’s mental health. After that, it’s off to Gurls Talk, the online platform she founded to enable discussion about mental health, body image and sexuality, to plan an upcoming event. Forget castings and go-sees: Aboah is changing the rules of how a modern model makes it big.
In the 1980s, Californian politician John Vasconcellos set up a task force to promote high self-esteem as the answer to all social ills. But was his science based on a lie?
In 2014, a heartwarming letter sent to year 6 pupils at Barrowford primary school in Lancashire went viral. Handed out with their Key Stage 2 exam results, it reassured them: “These tests do not always assess all of what it is that make each of you special and unique… They do not know that your friends count on you to be there for them or that your laughter can brighten the dreariest day. They do not know that you write poetry or songs, play sports, wonder about the future, or that sometimes you take care of your little brother or sister.”
At Barrowford, people learned, teachers were discouraged from issuing punishments, defining a child as “naughty” and raising their voices. The school’s guiding philosophy, said headteacher Rachel Tomlinson, was that kids were to be treated with “unconditional positive regard”.
To get ahead in the 1980s, you had to be ruthless, relentless. You had to believe in yourself
Vasco’s credibility turned on a single fact: that the professors had confirmed his hunch. The only problem? They hadn’t
What had really happened at that meeting? I found the answer on an old audio cassette, hissy and faint
Related: The appeal of narcissists: why do we love people who’d rather love themselves?
The letter you always wanted to write
You have always known that I struggle with anxiety. At some stages of our life together, I have been paralysed by it, living it, breathing it but seeing little else, including you. My anxiety can stifle our time together. In my worst moments I constantly seek reassurance, I display symptoms of OCD and hyperventilate. I often wonder how you have managed to see the person beyond the anxiety, how you have tolerated me and stayed.
When things are on a more even keel we have wonderful times. I cling on to these in the dark moments, storing them like bright snapshots in my mind. How do you cope? There are times when we laugh, live and love but often we simply exist. We go through the motions, or rather you drag me through them. There have been times when I haven’t been able to work. There have been times when I have constantly harangued you – via text, email, phone – crying, convinced I was dying of yet another life-threatening illness. Again I wonder how you cope, why you stay?
At 12 weeks old our little boy had open-heart surgery. The weeks running up to that are a blur of fear, sadness and joy
PM confronted by nurse over issue of low pay in Question Time special, while Jeremy Corbyn is questioned over Trident and national security
Theresa May came under sustained pressure over the Conservative party’s record on public sector pay, mental health services and social care in a combative election edition of BBC1’s Question Time broadcast less than a week before polling day.
The prime minister faced a string of awkward questions from members of the public, including a challenge from a nurse, Victoria Davey, who left May faltering after confronting her over the 1% pay increase received by NHS staff.
Related: Question Time leaders’ special: May under fire over NHS and education – live
Related: The Guardian view on the election: it’s Labour
Related: Question Time leaders’ special: panel verdict
Older people deserve respect and relief from the pressures and fears of declining physical and mental powers, say our readers
I have great respect for Simon Jenkins – he often cuts through the codswallop that often poses as journalism today. Unfortunately, he falls into the trap of Conservative thinking on social care (We all want to live longer, but someone must pay, 1 June). It does seem reasonable that those who have built up assets in their lifetimes should fund their own social care in old age, but this misses the whole point of a progressive system of taxation. Illness, frailty, misfortune can happen to anyone, rich or poor. It’s true the better off tend to live longer, with better health, but that does not mean that individuals cannot be struck down with early-onset dementia, or another devastating condition. Why should those families suffer more than other families whose progenitors were fortunate enough to enjoy perfect health? Progressive taxation, either on wealth or on income, spreads the risk and ensures that the rich and not-quite-so-rich pay their fair share towards the collective health of the nation. An inheritance tax too, properly graduated, should be part of the taxation mix, funding excellent state care for wealthy and poor alike, whatever their individual circumstances.
• Simon Jenkins is right, someone has to pay. But the need for care is a lottery and it falls unfairly on the 10% of those families whose relatives develop dementia, sometimes before they are even considered old. My relative developed Lewy body dementia at the age of 58. If he’d had cancer, he would have been cared for, but his family had to contribute to his nursing home care – after 12 years of his wife providing 24-hour care for free, with a devastating effect on her own life and freedom. Jenkins’s reference to past family situations belies the fact that women were the carers and they are now expected to work outside the home. The amount needed to provide care nationally is not so great in a rich country that we can’t all contribute to care for the sick and vulnerable, whatever their family wealth, just as we do for sick children.
It has a reputation as a party drug, but some patients say it has transformed their lives after no other treatments helped
When depression takes hold of Helen it feels like she is drowning in a pool of water, unable to swim up to the world above. The 36-year-old former nurse has had mental health problems most of her life. No drugs, hospital stays or therapies have been able to help.
Then one day, during yet another spell in hospital, her consultant told her about a psychiatrist treating patients with ketamine. The psychiatrist in question visited her to discuss using the drug. He warned there were no guarantees, but it had helped some patients.
Related: Ketamine could help thousands with severe depression, doctors say
Psychiatrists hail benefits of ‘transformational’ drug, and call for more trials to explore its potential
Thousands of people with severe depression could obtain urgent relief if experimental treatment using ketamine were made more widely available, medical experts say.
The drug has been championed by doctors and psychiatrists as a potentially life-changing treatment for those with depression who are resistant to medication or suicidally depressed. Medics are calling for more specialists centres and trials to be set up to explore the drug’s potential under controlled conditions.
Related: Royals launch campaign to get Britons talking about mental health
Letters from Phyl Meyer of the access to Elected Office Fund (Scotland), Michelle Mitchell of the MS Society, Ted Hill of the British Polio Fellowship, Clare Pelham of the Epilepsy Society and others
The article by Frances Ryan (24 May) regarding the lack of support for disabled candidates seeking election raises an important issue that the next UK government must address. Missing from the article was reference to the situation in Scotland, where the Scottish government has funded the creation of the Access to Elected Office Fund (Scotland). The Scottish fund recently supported 39 disabled candidates in the local authority elections, of whom 15 were elected. Unfortunately the terms of the Scotland Act 1998 prevent the Scottish government from funding a project which covers the UK general elections as these are fully reserved to Westminster, so we are unable to assist disabled candidates who have come forward in this election. If we are ever to achieve fair representation for all sections of society, the general election this month must be the last one ever to systematically exclude disabled people from equal opportunity to serve in elected office. The only way this can be achieved is reinstatement of the UK fund (allowing the Scottish fund to cover UK elections in Scotland), and the introduction of job-sharing for elected office roles (which will also open up elected office to more people with childcare responsibilities, among others).
Project manager, Access to Elected Office Fund (Scotland)
• Tomorrow the Disability Benefits Consortium will be delivering a resolute plea to party leaders, urging them to protect disability benefits from further cuts in the next parliament. More than 16,500 people have backed this call in an open letter being delivered to party leaders tomorrow. As a coalition of 80 charities and organisations, we are seeing every day how years of damaging welfare reform are having a devastating impact. Across the country, thousands of disabled people are currently struggling without the support they need.
Clare Slaney, Richard House and 73 others involved in the mental health field say that voters face an unusually grave choice on 8 June
British society is in crisis. Suicide is now the leading cause of death in men under 45. The Royal Society of Medicine tells us that “relentless cuts” have led to an extra 30,000 deaths. A report to the UN from the Equality and Human Rights Commission noted that work capability assessments “have been linked to suicides and cases of deteriorating mental health”. Benefit sanctions have caused hunger, hypothermia, homelessness and deaths. It is scarcely believable that food banks have become a societal norm. Workplace stress is at epidemic proportions, with working conditions increasingly amounting to servitude. People work for pitiful wages and uncertain numbers of hours, while the highly paid are expected to work a 70-plus hour week. Increasingly, people have to fit sleep around their working life. Employment and wealth have become the primary arbiters of a person’s value and character.
In our view, voters need to revisit fundamental values. Are human beings nothing more than economic units? Are some people valued more than others? Are vulnerable people deserving of public expenditure, or are they disposable? Do neighbours and communities matter – or are we merely people in housing units? Poverty creates chronic mental and physical illnesses that cost a great deal across the life cycle. UK productivity is the lowest in the G7, in part because of stress, because increasing numbers of people hate their jobs, but also because employers refuse to meaningfully invest in their workforce. Treating people as objects has destructive economic effects at every level.