Here are some myths about depression and bipolar…courtesy NAMI

myths and facts

#RT via Jackie via

User-led research asks if the 2008 Care Programme Approach supports mental health service user understandings of recovery

#RT via The Mental Elf

Your free benefits guide

Benefits rules are confusing at the best of times. But this month, we have been deluged with changes. Bedroom tax, the end of DLA, PIP, Crisis loans, Council Tax Benefit, the list goes on….

We’re hoping that we can help you get the information you need about all these changes. Our advisers have put together a pack explaining all the changes we know about. It is free to anyone and everyone

Get your free copy of ‘Benefits – how the changes will affect you’

You can read the guide online or print it out. Please give it to anyone you think needs it. We know it’s a very worrying time for many people affected by mental illness. There’s a black and white version without photos if you want to save on ink.

We’re sending it to everyone we can think of who could help others – psychiatrists, CPNs, GPs and our own services. So please feel free to do the same – the more we can get real information to people, the better. And it has details of our advice line, which we have opened for an extra hour this month to try and help more people who are struggling.

Print a copy and give it to anyone who needs it

Rest assured, this is not all we’re doing. We are still working on our secret campaign to improve benefits tests, which we will tell you about as soon as we can. And we are working on more information about Universal Credit. We will send that to you once it is ready.

I hope this helps you and your loved ones to get the support you need.

Best wishes

Jane Harris
Rethink Mental Illness

Rethink Mental Health: Mental Illness Guide

Hi all,

Please see this link for Rethink Mental Illness SOS guide it is free to download and can get one posted to you.

Could it go on websites to help people access it and let service users carers and staff know. Please circulate widely.

Best wishes on a sunny afternoon!


Resources for visitors to and people in Lewisham

Dear All,

Please find attached 2 excellent docs with useful information on them re advice, benefits, looking for work, local support etc. for people in Lewisham

Thanks to the Social Inclusion & Recovery Service for this.


Cath Collins

EU_Help_Kit-web updated

1 1 13 useful information sheet

How to Train Your Brain to Alleviate Anxiety

Our thoughts affect our brains. More specifically, “… what you pay attention to, what you think and feel and want, and how you work with your reactions to things sculpt your brain in multiple ways,” according to neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, Ph.D, in his newest book Just One Thing: Developing A Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time. In other words, how you use your mind can change your brain.

According to Canadian scientist Donald Hebb, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” If your thoughts focus on worrying and self-criticism, you’ll develop neural structures of anxiety and a negative sense of self, says Hanson.

For instance, individuals who are constantly stressed (such as acute or traumatic stress) release cortisol, which in another article Hanson says eats away at the memory-focused hippocampus. People with a history of stress have lost up to 25 percent of the volume of their hippocampus and have more difficulty forming new memories.

The opposite also is true. Engaging in relaxing activities regularly can wire your brain for calm. Research has shown that people who routinely relax have “improved expression of genes that calm down stress reactions, making them more resilient,” Hanson writes.

Also, over time, people who engage in mindfulness meditation develop thicker layers of neurons in the attention-focused parts of the prefrontal cortex and in the insula, an area that’s triggered when we tune into our feelings and bodies.

Other research has shown that being mindful boosts activation of the left prefrontal cortex, which suppresses negative emotions, and minimizes the activation of the amygdala, which Hanson refers to as the “alarm bell of the brain.”

Hanson’s book gives readers a variety of exercises to cultivate calm and self-confidence and to enjoy life. Here are three anxiety-alleviating practices to try.

1. “Notice you’re all right right now.” For many of us sitting still is a joke — as in, it’s impossible. According to Hanson, “To keep our ancestors alive, the brain evolved an ongoing internal trickle of unease. This little whisper of worry keeps you scanning your inner and outer world for signs of trouble.”

Being on high alert is adaptive. It’s meant to protect us. But this isn’t so helpful when we’re trying to soothe our stress and keep calm. Some of us — me included — even worry that if we relax for a few minutes, something bad will happen. (Of course, this isn’t true.)

Hanson encourages readers to focus on the present and to realize that right now in this moment, you’re probably OK. He says that focusing on the future forces us to worry and focusing on the past leads to regret. Whatever activity you’re engaged in, whether it’s driving, cooking dinner or replying to email, Hanson suggests saying, “I’m all right right now.”

Of course, there will be moments when you won’t be all right. In these times, Hanson suggests that after you ride out the storm, “… as soon as possible, notice that the core of your being is okay, like the quiet place fifty feet underwater, beneath a hurricane howling above the sea.”

2. “Feel safer.” “Evolution has given us an anxious brain,” Hanson writes. So, whether there’s a tiger in the bushes doesn’t matter, because staying away in both cases keeps us alive. But, again, this also keeps us hyper-focused on avoiding danger day to day. And depending on our temperaments and life experiences, we might be even more anxious.

Most people overestimate threats. This leads to excessive worrying, anxiety, stress-related aliments, less patience and generosity with others and a shorter fuse, according to Hanson.

Are you more guarded or anxious than you need to be? If so, Hanson suggests the following for feeling safer:

  • Think of how it feels to be with a person who cares about you and connect to those feelings and sensations.
  • Remember a time when you felt strong.
  • List some of the resources at your disposal to cope with life’s curveballs.
  • Take several long, deep breaths.
  • Become more in tune with what it feels like to feel safer. “Let those good feelings sink in, so you can remember them in your body and find your way back to them in the future.”

3. “Let go.” Letting go is hard. Even though clinging to clutter, regrets, resentment, unrealistic expectations or unfulfilling relationships is painful, we might be afraid that letting go makes us weak, shows we don’t care or lets someone off the hook. What holds you back in letting go?

Letting go is liberating. Hanson says that letting go might mean releasing pain or damaging thoughts or deeds or yielding instead of breaking. He offers a great analogy:

“When you let go, you’re like a supple and resilient willow tree that bends before the storm, still here in the morning — rather than a stiff oak that ends up broken and toppled over.”

Here are some of Hanson’s suggestions for letting go:

  • Be aware of how you let go naturally every day, whether it’s sending an email, taking out the trash, going from one thought or feeling to another or saying goodbye to a friend.
  • Let go of tension in your body. Take long and slow exhalations, and relax your shoulders, jaw and eyes.
  • Let go of things you don’t need or use.
  • Resolve to let go of a certain grudge or resentment. “This does not necessarily mean letting other people off the moral hook, just that you are letting yourself off the hotplate of staying upset about whatever happened,” Hanson writes. If you still feel hurt, he suggests recognizing your feelings, being kind to yourself and gently releasing them.
  • Let go of painful emotions. Hanson recommends several books on this topic: Focusing by Eugene Gendlin and What We May Beby Piero Ferrucci. In his book, Hanson summarizes his favorite methods: “relax your body;” “imagine that the feelings are flowing out of you like water’” express your feelings in a letter that you won’t send or vent aloud; talk to a good friend; and be open to positive feelings and let them replace the negative ones.

#RT via Bridget via

An example of a standard letter to challenge the bedroom tax HB decision

It has been argued here that all tenants affected by the bedroom tax / under occupancy charge put in writing a challenge to the formal letter and notification they receive of this, as this is your right. It also described how this impacts on the workings of the HB system as it will bring the system to its knees and overload it so much that it will go into meltdown and Liverpool City Council will need 632 staff alone working full time just to deal with these lawful challenges.  It went on to say this simple challenge by way of a letter has three basic forms:

  • Firstly, it could ask for further information.
  • Secondly it could ask the Council to reconsider.
  • Thirdly it could be a formal appeal.

Or it could be any combination of these 3 types of challenge.  It asked others to get in touch with a view to creating a sample letter that every tenant could use in response to the bedroom tax letter they will receive.  This ‘call to arms’ received many responses for which so many thanks are deserved and resulted in one example of a standard letter to freely share. This is below.  It is a simple and reasonable request for further information from the tenant to the Council so the tenant affected by the bedroom tax decision can then consider whether to lodge a formal appeal based on having much more information on the facts of how the decision was reached.  

The guidance and other official documents released regarding the bedroom tax / under occupancy charge simply say the landlord informs the HB department whether a property has 1 bedroom or 2 or 3 or more and that is it.  It does NOT say definitively it is whatever the landlord says.  Further, the government and DWP have specifically stated they will NOT define what a bedroom is.  Yet how can you tax (or charge) something which you cannot or will not define?

There is no definitive guidance on how landlords share information with the HB department.  There are protocols in place that allow the sharing of information and information will have been shared.  Yet when did this information sharing take place? And what if the tenant is a foster carer or has a teenage son or daughter in the armed forces that were exempted just this week?  Would a social landlord know a tenant is a foster carer or has a teenage son in the armed forces? Probably not so the landlord could have inadvertently misinformed the Council’s HB department.  Further, what role the landlord played in this process will differ in Birmingham to Bristol or Bradford or Brent or Brighton.  It may well have different arrangements and processes between Landlord A and Landlord B within any town or city.

All any tenant knows is that there is an involvement of their social landlord in the HB department making the bedroom tax / under occupancy charge decision and no more than that.  Hence for a tenant to consider whether a formal appeal – the start of a legal process – is warranted or not, the tenant needs to have all the facts and not just assumptions within the bedroom tax decision-making process in their given local authority area


Standard Letter

Dear Sirs,

I received your decision letter dated INSERT DATE and referenced above that imposed an under occupation charge, or bedroom tax of 14% / 25% (delete as appropriate) on my existing award of Housing Benefit.

I consider this unwarranted yet in order to challenge this in the correct way and potentially by way of formal appeal I require further information to be sent to me within 7 days of this letter and the urgency of that is to ensure I have enough time to formulate any such appeal and in full knowledge of the facts of my case within the time allowed; OR in the alternative I request the deadline for any such formal appeal be moved to 21 days after I receive the request information below:

1. A written copy of the Council’s policy and decision-making procedures in relation to referring a socially housed claimant decision to the Rent Officer Service.

2. A full explanation of how the council decided that (INSERT ADDRESS) was determined to be a 3 bed property for the under occupation charge and this to include what involvement if any of my landlord, (INSERT LANDLORD NAME) in this process.

Please state by way of covering letter with the requested information any changed deadline date from above with regard to a formal appeal.

Yours etc



Time is of the essence given how imminently the bedroom tax will be imposed.

The suggested wording is merely that, a suggestion, and not any form of legal advice or other formal advice from anyone involved.  There was general agreement that the wording could be better yet also general agreement that it articulates what tenants should seek, namely as much information as possible so as to consider whether they want to issue a formal appeal.  That is very reasonable for tenants to seek as are the requests for further information and the timescale issues and any letter of challenge should not be frivolous or give any reason to be perceived and dismissed as frivolous.

The full information requested is not available on any Council website normally and for any Council to simply suggest the tenant look on the website or even post it there assumes that all tenants are computer literate and have access to a computer and printer.  That is unreasonable for any Council to suggest we maintain. There is full agreement that any such standard letter needed to be simple, understandable by every tenant and each Council and not be ambiguous as well as being reasonable.  This we maintain is achieved.

At the risk of patronising, the HB Decision Notice the tenant receives will have the tenants HB reference number on and this needs to be put on any such letter.  The tenant National Insurance Number as well and of course date and sign and keep a copy. Finally, it just seemed right to release this on the day of 57 demonstrations and marches up and down the country against the bedroom tax.

Good luck to all 660,000 tenants.

#RT via Bridget via