Monthly Archives: June 2015

How to survive mental illness under a Tory government


Let’s be honest, it wasn’t ideal having mental health issues under the previous government, but now the Tories are in power, their proposed austerity cuts to services and benefits have understandably caused shock-waves and concern for sufferers.

The problem is, having a mental illness means you already feel vulnerable and dis-empowered. To know that the struggles you already face are only going to get more difficult is a slap in the face from the Conservatives.

I’ve needed more than my fair share of interventions and benefits over the years and my mental health CV boasts an impressive selection of services used.

All of this has had a huge positive impact. The help I’ve received has not only kept me alive but in the case of some therapies, changed my life.  I’d even go as far as saying my mind is in good order now. But what if I need help in the future? What about the other one in four people that are still affected by mental health issues, or who are only just seeking help for the first time?

It’s ironic that these cuts to services coincide with a rise in mental health awareness campaigns such as Rethink’s ‘Time To Change’ and a growing number of celebrities coming forward to urge us that being open about mental illness is a positive thing.

Will it do any good to speak up about mental health if the Tories have taken their financial cleaver and butchered support services and benefits?

I think it will and it’s important to remember there’s still much that you can do to take back power and feel you have some control over the situation. It’s time to stop circulating that photo of David Cameron wearing a Thatcher wig on Facebook and think about what we can actually do to create change.

The first thing to bear in mind is that you always have a voice and it is your most powerful weapon, no matter how much it may feel as though your needs have been silenced. It is so important to speak up and talk about mental health and the struggles you face, not least to fight the stigma which surrounds the subject. Secondly, you always have the choice to fight back against any decisions or actions taken against you.

It can be difficult to fight from a position of illness and disability but as a group collective voice, more can be achieved than going it alone. Plus, it’s easier. That doesn’t mean to say you shouldn’t write to your M.P, sign petitions and campaign individually if you are able to, but getting your opinions heard on a grand scale involves aligning yourself with as many powerful organisations, groups and people as possible and letting them do the talking with you and for you.

Being aware of and getting involved in the work of the leading mental health organisations and charities is crucial. I’m closely following MIND, SANE and Rethink, all of whom provide advice, information and support on all aspects of mental health as well as helping you to feel you’re not alone. Although they shouldn’t become a substitute for individual specialised help, they are somewhere to turn in the meantime.

Noticing which key public figures and celebrities are supporting mental health causes is also a great way to ‘piggy back’ your voice into a wider arena; let them know via Twitter, Facebook page or even old-fashioned email or letter that you support the work they are doing.

Or you could always go straight to the top and tweet David Cameron some suggestions for change. Without getting too troll-y, it might give him something to read over his morning coffee, although I’m guessing he will be too busy decimating the NHS to reply.

Find other people who are in the same position as you, through community or online forums and support groups. Information and knowledge shared is power. There are some excellent Facebook groups such as Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) which offer advice and support to anyone affected by austerity cuts, also the non-profit group offers advice on benefits and will help you to fill in those designed-to-catch-you-out forms. Don’t forget, there are also national organisations such as Disability Rights UK and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, both of which offer free advice and support.

You could also start your own petition, write a blog or create a group to keep abreast of Tory developments and discuss ideas with a community of like-minded people. There are lots of anti-austerity protests happening around the country too, if you are well enough to turn up and wave a placard.

The one thing you shouldn’t do is keep quiet or accept decisions made against you at face value.

Because that’s what the Tories want.

P.S I tweeted David Cameron but he hasn’t replied.

Laura Roche ‏@flyingkipper  19m19 minutes ago

@David_Cameron Please could you stop making cuts to mental health services and benefits? Thanks!

*This piece has also been published in the Huffington Post UK and as soon as I work out how to do hyperlinks, I will be sure to hyperlink it. In the meantime, here is a regular style link –


Why I loved the Three Queens visit, but would never travel on one…


The visit of the Three Queens to Liverpool recently to celebrate the 175th anniversary of Cunard was a magnificent and spectacular event. I very much enjoyed the pomp, circumstance and sense of occasion this unique piece of maritime history created and I loved watching the spectacle of the ships on the River Mersey.

I was impressed to the very core at the size and splendour of the ships and marvelled at the feat of engineering involved in their construction. It’s amazing that man has created such a remarkable contraption that despite its enormity, can do a 360 degree turn in the middle of the river like it’s no bother at all.

There was lots of murmuring in the crowd about how lovely it would be to take a cruise on one of these beauties. As for me, I wouldn’t travel on one even if you paid me!

Let me explain. I suffer with Generalised Anxiety Disorder which can be summed up by saying you are scared of everything. It doesn’t matter how big or small something is, whether it is seen as exciting by everyone else or even whether it is likely to happen. Coupled with an over-active imagination, I can conjure up doom-laden scenarios at a moment’s notice.

The thought of cruises and subsequent disasters has bothered me ever since I watched the TV film The Poseidon Adventure as a child. The main areas of concern are the fact that the ship is out in the ocean for a long time which increases any risk factors, plus these boats are generally very large beasts and so what happens if you are stuck in the middle of one when it starts to sink?

In my generally anxious, over-actively imaginative brain, I can’t help but conjure up what might happen if I was asleep in a cabin far away from life boats. What if the warning signals weren’t issued in time and I woke to find my bed was floating sideways and there was a shark in the bath? How would I contain my panic in order to navigate my way through the many corridors along with thousands of other scared passengers to the exits? No amount of floor plans and brightly lit signs are going to help in this instance.

Plus, no matter how much you want to tell me otherwise, I don’t believe there are ever enough life boats. Even in the case of the Costa Concordia, the amount of life boats didn’t matter, as they had been fixed on in a stupid way which meant that they wouldn’t lower properly because the ship went down at an angle.

The thought of the ship sinking isn’t even my worst fear.

What if I did manage to jump off the ship but couldn’t stay afloat? My swimming is rubbish, I can only do about two lengths.

What if I did get a spot in a life boat but the rescue planes couldn’t find us?

What if I got third degree burns from being unable to shelter from the sun in the lifeboat?

What if various sea-bound mammals took a shine to us in our flimsy escape vessel which has inflatable sides just perfect for sharp teeth to ravage?

Those are my very worst cruise ship fears but I also have other issues which freak me the hell out just thinking about them. One of the most mind-boggling concepts for me is the idea of a swimming pool on board a ship which is on the sea. My brain cannot understand how you would process the swaying. How would you know whether it was the pool water, the ship or the ocean making you sway? Plus if you look at the sea while you are in the pool, isn’t that very confusing?

I can only hope that everyone on board the Three Queens right now has a copy of the SAS Survival Handbook, which has an excellent section on survival at sea (for shark attack – punch it between the eyes) As an added measure, I’d advise them to strap all their important possessions like passports and make-up to their bodies in waterproof bags.

I’m not saying everyone who suffers from Generalised Anxiety Disorder thinks like this, I’m sure there are many GAD folk who would love a luxury cruise. This is just the way my irrepressible, inscrutable, outrageous head operates.

I’ve had a year of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which is the treatment du jour for this condition and while it has been extremely effective in changing my belief that everyone I know is going to die soon, the cruise ship fear persists. I’ve accepted it as part of my personality and hope to meet other anti-cruise ship fanatics for company one day.

So while I will effusively greet Queen Mary 2 when she returns in July, I will be keeping a safe distance and practising my CBT techniques while I’m stood at the waterfront.

* This piece has also been published in the Huffington Post UK’s Lifestyle Blog section if you would like to view it there –