PamperZone

 Common Unity joined forces with Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust over the summer to support their community engagement events. The Pamper Zone was out and about in various locations offering a range of therapy treatments and haircuts to the local people of Birmingham.

These events were successful in highlighting the continuous work of the Trust and also raised awareness of the Time to Change de-stigmatising mental health campaigns. Beresford Dawkins, the Community Engagement Manager from the Trust did a brilliant job of bringing communities and partners together to promote and celebrate the mental health outreach work.

Healthy Conversations

We were approached by the Royal Society for Public Health to be highlighted as a best practice example of an organisation that empowers communities through Healthy Conversation.

We have a longstanding trusted relationship with communities across Birmingham and wider, engaging effectively through a variety of innovative means with communities that are often viewed as hard to reach. One of the ways in which we do this is by engaging and training community facing professions to pass on positive health messages and signposting to services that can best meet the need – One such profession is hairdressing, or more specifically, the Barbershop.

This ground-breaking work, originally piloted in Preston, has recognised that for many African-Caribbean Men, one of the only places they would truly open up about their feelings and concerns was whilst sitting at the Barbers’ Chair. Barbershops for the African Caribbean Community(ACC) are seen as welcoming, safe, social hubs for engagement – Recognising this we adopted the Barbershop approach in Birmingham through the BarbershopMagazine – written by members of the ACC for the ACC on topics that were relevant to them.

No News is Good News? Not at URBRUM.

The news these days always seems to be bad news. Headlines talk of recession, poverty, crumbling NHS and Social Care services, homelessness, violence, abuse, drugs, mental health problems, fragmented communities and the list goes on.

At Urbrum we love to recognise that across Birmingham and Solihull there are organisations working tirelessly to help the most vulnerable people out there, organisations and projects that want to make a real difference, offer hope and possibility. If your organisation or project is making a difference in our communities we want to hear about it – we want to shout out about it. All you have to do is get in touch with us and we can make the arrangements with you to highlight your organisation through the Urbrum website.

We can do this in loads of different ways. It can be written with photographs, or an audio recording or even come in and film your organisation/project so that people out there know all about what you do to support communities across Birmingham and Solihull. Recently Urbrum were invited to the Bethel Health and Healing Network to highlight the fantastic work they do to support communities. You can check out the film HERE.


Got a service you want to share through Urbrum? You can email us at info@urbrum.org so that we can start to look at highlighting the amazing work you do.

The Citizen’s Voice

Birmingham is the most diverse city in the UK – a great cause for celebration, but with this diversity comes the challenge of ensuring all sectors of Birmingham have an equal level of valued input into the City’s future.


Common Unity is recognised as a local leader when it comes down to engaging diverse communities on often difficult subjects through utilising social media platforms. Subject areas covered through URBRUM have included gender, race, age, stereotypes, prejudice, mental health, well-being, recovery and suicide, as well as wider general health topics.
Birmingham City Council’s Safeguarding Board (BSAB) has high priorities in respect of its responsibilities regarding community engagement on the matter of safeguarding. With the recognition that safeguarding is everybody’s business, yet not all communities understand their responsibilities, there is a clear need to realise an effective, community focussed approach in ensuring the issues of safeguarding are addressed effectively alongside communities as partners in this process.


The Safeguarding Team partnered up with Common Unity to develop a range of Vox Pop videos. The Vox Pop approach provided a platform by which the subject matter of safeguarding could be entered into in a way that enabled the voice of the people to become a key aspect of the decision-making process as well as an opportunity for community empowerment. Through careful and sensitive design, the development of ‘The Citizen’s Voice’ clearly went a long way in starting to meet the BSAB priorities in respect of hearing the voice of communities, promoting safer communities through debate and learning, empowering communities to contribute to safeguarding as everybody’s business and providing service provider agencies with assurances regarding services provided.

SCHEMA: An Approach to Suicide Prevention

Suicide is a taboo word in most communities. It’s something we don’t discuss. This is maybe because we are scared that talking about it might put it in someone’s head or maybe because our communities see it as a sinful thing to do bringing shame on the family or the wider community, or maybe because if we tell someone we are thinking about suicide they may think we need to be hospitalised because our mental health isn’t good. There are loads of reasons given for not talking about suicide by the people we work with, but the truth is very different.

By not talking openly about our mental health, our worries, our concerns and even our suicidal thoughts or concerns about others and what they might be thinking we are actually making things worse. We are human beings and are social beings who need to connect – if we don’t connect then we struggle to survive. There is more strength in asking for help than in staying silent; by watching each-others backs we can save lives.


As part of the CCN programme – SCHEMA: An approach to suicide prevention has been designed, developed and delivered locally in Birmingham with very encouraging feedback from participants. Over the space of just one day, delegates learn a six-stage approach to best support a person with suicidal thoughts to stay alive.


SCHEMA has been delivered to NHS employees, front line social care workers, community members, commissioners, bereavement support service providers, faith leaders, counsellors and most recently alongside the Housing Sector working with employees of Trident Group.
Here’s what we are being told about SCHEMA by the delegates….

“All the steps were easy to follow and I’m confident that I can take it and apply it to real life.”

“The training was very informative. I feel so much more confident now regarding suicide.”

“The trainers were very knowledgeable and had a good understanding. I would recommend this training to anyone.”

“Really good training, handouts were brilliant.”

“Great training…Much needed!”

If you want to receive more information on SCHEMA then why not sign up to our mailing list or email us at info@common-unity.org

Being Well, Works Well…“The Best Conference I have Ever Attended!”

Unless you are living in a cave with no access to social media, newspapers, Blogs, Vlogs etc etc…. then you will know that the NHS is struggling to cope with demand. In fact – every part of every health and social care service is struggling. Demand is increasing but money is scarce to meet the increasing demand. Something somewhere has got to give at some point. Or maybe not. Maybe there is another way to look at health, and more specifically “mental health and wellbeing.” Maybe we need to stop looking so much for answers from the big old service providers out there and start to look at solutions in our own backyard – even in ourselves.

The Connecting Community Networks Programme is all about workingupstream – meaning we need to recognise that before crisis kicks in, there areoften many things we can do to look after our own mental health and wellbeingand even be better prepared for when “stuff” hits the fan. So, the Being Well Works Well Conference in October 2018 was an opportunity for us all to discuss what we already have in Birmingham and Solihull and how to better take care of ourselves by knowing as much as possible about where to go, what to do and best take control of our own lives. 

With over 150 delegates, 80 represented organisations, a range of experiential wellbeing stalls and a diverse set of forward-thinking speakers from across the board, The Being Well Works Well achieved way beyond all our expectations. It successfully turned on its head the notion that World Mental Health Day was all about Mental Illness support by instead, focussing on what we can all be aware of in respect of our own wellbeing and owning it.

Presentations were heard from Artificial Intelligence guru Pete Trainor, Suicide Prevention and ManMade Founder Terry Rigby, Adults Safeguarding Lead and Workplace Wellbeing Specialist Cherry Dale, Loss and Bereavement Counsellor and Trainer Adam Page, Health and Wellbeing Champion Councillor Paulette Hamilton and the ever-awesome Mental Health Commissioning Lead, Tom Howell.   

….and all of it was free.

If you want to see the full report on the Being Well Works Well Conference, then you can download from this link

If you want to keep up to speed with future events being hosted through the CCN programme then signup to our mailing list HERE.

Who says Men don’t care?

ManMade, as part of the Connecting Community Networks programme in Birmingham, is a six-week programme that brings men together under one roof to discuss stuff that affects them and provide them with the chance to understand why they are the way they are and what changes they could make in their lives to make it better for them. Some of what is learnt comes from the information provided by the facilitators, but on the whole, most of the learning comes from the men themselves discussing their own lives in respect to identity, mental health, physical health, wellbeing, loss and even death.

ManMade leaders have worked with a range of organisations to work with men most vulnerable when it comes to mental health and poor wellbeing. This has included unemployed men, men in recovery, men experiencing loss, men in prison and most recently, men who are carers.

Caring is often seen by many in society as a ‘female’ issue but it is something that affects a large number of men too…in fact, the last census in 2011 found that in England and Wales nearly 2.5 million men were providing unpaid care for a friend or family member due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction. A more recent study by the Carers trust highlighted that 56% of the Carers they talked to provided 60 plus hours of care per week.

So, in 2018, ManMade facilitators teamed up with Home Group in Birmingham to work with some of the male carers who receive support from this specialist organisation supporting carers across the UK. Of the 10 men that attended throughout the programme, it was clear that male Carers definitely felt benefit from the ManMade approach in discussing subjects often avoided by men.

This is what some of the chaps told us about their ManMade experience:

“I enjoyed the course, it was easy to keep up with and was really interesting.”

“This is a great programme. A real eye opener into men’s lives and mental health.”

“A good experience. Very positive. A variety of subjects covered in a relaxed manner.”

“The ManMade approach allows conversations to flow without strictly sticking to an agenda.”

“I found listening to the point of views and different perspectives on such sensitive topics that do relate to me very useful.”

“We weren’t talked down to or just handed a lot of written material. Instead we were encouraged to talk and share our opinions on these topics.”

If your organisation is interested in hearing more about the ManMade programme then get in touch at  info@manmade.org.uk

Suicide – More Harm Done Through Silence

There are a range of commonly held myths about suicide, but one of the most challenging myths is the idea that by openly asking a vulnerable person if they are thinking of suicide might actually encourage suicidal behaviour, or even put the thought into their head.

Evidence has shown though that this couldn’t be further from the truth – In Preventing Suicides: A Global Imperative, The World Health Organisation stated that “Rather than encouraging suicidal behaviour, talking openly gives an individual other options or the time to rethink his/her decision, thereby preventing suicide.” So talking about suicide, be it in a professional or personal setting doesn’t make people think about it as a new option for consideration nor does it encourage a suicidal act and could actually save a life… Infact, one could even argue that not talking about suicide and suicidal thoughts when it presents itself as a possibility means we are less likely to have a reductive impact on the number of suicides across the UK.

So why don’t we talk about it more? We know about the risk of injury and death in road accidents and invest heavily in road safety yet suicides per year outnumber deaths in road accidents by 300% Suicide takes over 6000 lives per year in the UK and the silence that surrounds it because of the stigma associated with it means that suicide and suicidal acts will continue to happen. Thankfully, people are starting to take notice of this devastating issue. Many much needed organisations are being established that provide a range of approaches to breaking the silence around suicide and assisting opportunities for living life.

Common Unity and Forward For Life have recently had the pleasure of working alongside one of these newly established organisations known as The Ollie Foundation. The OLLIE Foundation is a charity set up by three parents who lost their children to suicide. OLLIE stands for One Life Lost Is Enough. OLLIE’s key mission is to ensure the rolling out of both safeTALK and ASIST courses across Hertfordshire, especially targetting professionals and carers who work alongside young people.

As recognised Master Trainers, having trained over 1400 people in the last 3 years, OLLIE approached Forward For Life and Common Unity to provide guidance, support them with their initial set up and provide the high quality suicide prevention training needed until a time when OLLIE have their own licensed trainers in suicide prevention.

Tackling Suicide on the front line in Birmingham

With around 6000 people dying in the UK by suicide each year, it’s crucial that frontline professionals are trained in suicide prevention skills.

As part of the Connecting Community Networks Programme in Birmingham, which Urbrum is a part, 15 delegates from the Police, Probation and the Fire-Service recently took part in the two day Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) delivered by Common Unity and Forward For Life.


As part of the suicide prevention training programme in Birmingham, The Waiting Room Resource (TWR) keys were distributed – These keys have been a fantastic success across health and social care services with endorsements from The West Midlands Fire Service.

TWR Resource Key – A Road To Somewhere

It’s a clever way of linking people with local support with the least amount of stress, hassle or disappointment


Back in the 80’s, there was a song called “Road To Nowhere” – pretty good as well – but when I think of online resource directories, or worse still, paper directories for health and social care services, they are often just like this song. They are, too often, a Road To Nowhere.

The telephone numbers are often wrong or discontinued; the organisation you are searching for has either moved, closed or changed the services they provide; the website links don’t work or the pages you are looking for don’t exist anymore – so we designed The Waiting Room in Birmingham (known as TWR) and the TWR Resource Key.

It’s a clever way of linking people with local support with the least amount of stress, hassle or disappointment – access to information is instant, information is current and making contact is do-able for both professionals and the public.

In December of last year we started testing the TWR Resource Key with 25 GP Surgeries to see how it went down with their staff and their patients. The results are astounding and demand for TWR both in Birmingham and wider is growing fast with both Professionals and the public realising that access to local services can be up-to-date and are quite literally at their finger-tips.

Please check out our Pilot Overview document by clicking on TWR below and tell us what you think of it.

We think it’s a road to somewhere.

Connecting Community Networks

ccn-logo-whitebackgroundWhat is Connecting Community Networks All About?

Life can be hard…but for some, because of particular circumstances, and more often than not, through no fault of their own, life can be much harder still. Connecting Community Networks recognises this and looks to protect and enhance citizen well-being and promote life quality.

It oversees the delivery of a number of much needed holistic services that have real, evidenced based wellbeing benefits for some of our most vulnerable members in the community. CCN takes a different approach from many other traditional services by starting from a premise of vulnerability and risk due to life challenges and looking to demonstrate a positive resolution for the individual based on improved wellbeing.

The Organisations Behind CCN

Common Unity is the central driving force behind all of the CCN programmes with external expertise being brought into the process to best deliver all elements of each and every programme. This partnership arrangement means that from conceptualisation right through to the point of evaluation, specialist support is realised to demonstrate the potential for such approaches to improving well-being.

What Programmes Are in Place?

  • Urbrum – web based community centred platform, is all about discovering innovative ways of engaging communities with their own health and wellbeing and the health and well-being of those around them. Its approach to engagement, information and intelligence sees communities as both the recipients and providers of health and well-being intelligence with a view that through such an organic process, services and support will continue to best reflect what communities need and want.
  • ASIST/safeTALK – Delivery of the world renowned suicide prevention programmes across specific Birmingham sectors to best identify and support those who are vulnerable in respect of suicidal ideation and behaviour.
  • ManMade: Through The Gates – Utilising the ManMade Peer-Led support approach that enables men to survive in modern day society, ManMade: TTG is an exciting opportunity to test the model and its impact with men at HMP Birmingham who are soon to be released back to the community.
  • ManMade: Cruse – Men often find it difficult to engage regarding their losses in life and thus can play a negative part in men coping with the crisis through loss. This programme looks to achieve greater resilience and well-being through providing men with the opportunity to engage with the area of loss and bereavement as part of a Peer-Led Support Programme led by specialists in the field of Bereavement.
  • Bloom in Birmingham is a unique project aimed at reducing social isolation and improving the physical and mental well-being of women living in Birmingham and at risk regarding their health utilising a peer-led support approach.

Connecting Community Networks, the ManMade Programme

As part of the Connecting Community Networks, the ManMade Programme was introduced at Better Pathways in Birmingham. 7 men in total attended the programme which supports men to openly discuss a range of areas that men wouldn’t traditionally feel comfortable discussing.

This peer support programme looks at mental health, wellbeing, physical health, personal identity, grief and loss as well as assisting the life of others. A ManMade programme is also being delivered at Cruse Bereavement Care Birmingham for men who are dealing with loss. For more information about ManMade, email info@manmade.org.uk

TALK SPEAK YELL

TALK, SPEAK, YELL

“I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better.” G. C. Lichtenberg

In Britain each year, over 6000 people kill themselves; that’s 4000 more deaths per year

Than occur on all our roads – but unlike road safety awareness, suicide prevention is a subject that professionals nor our communities are willing to openly talk about. It’s time to tackle this problem head on. It’s time to act. It’s time to Shout Out Suicide

safeTALK is a half-day course that offers practical steps to help someone with thoughts of suicide and helps you both to connect with more specialised support.

ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) is a two day, skills building workshop that provides suicide first aid interventions. Be you a Professional, a volunteer, an informal helper, a carer or community member, ASIST helps you become ready, willing, and able to directly support someone who is having thoughts of suicide and increase their suicide safety.

These interventions look to prevent suicidal thought leading to suicidal behaviour and are underpinned by the idea that many people who are thinking about suicide will find some way to signal their intent.

“The time is always right to do what is right.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Suicide is the most common cause of death for men under 35 and each year between

600 and 800 people aged 15-24 take their own lives – That’s the same as the number of people in a small secondary school. Young people must be heard. Are you listening? It’s time to tackle this problem head on. It’s time to act. It’s time to Strike Out Suicide

safeTALK is a half-day course that offers practical steps to help someone with thoughts of suicide and helps you both to connect with more specialised support.

ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) is a two day, skills building workshop that provides suicide first aid interventions. Be you a Professional, a volunteer, an informal helper, a carer or community member, ASIST helps you become ready, willing, and able to directly support someone who is having thoughts of suicide and increase their suicide safety.

These interventions look to prevent suicidal thought leading to suicidal behaviour and are underpinned by the idea that many people who are thinking about suicide will find some way to signal their intent.

“A human being is not what you are but who you can become.” Brian Good

Suicide rates are increasing across the UK with 3 of 4 suicides being by men;

that’s over 4500 men a year, the same number as people who die from Leukaemia each year in the UK – That’s 12 men taking their own lives each day in the UK. It’s time to tackle this problem head on. It’s time to Sort Out Suicide

safeTALK is a half-day course that offers practical steps to help someone with thoughts of suicide and helps you both to connect with more specialised support.

ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) is a two day, skills building workshop that provides suicide first aid interventions. Be you a Professional, a volunteer, an informal helper, a carer or community member, ASIST helps you become ready, willing, and able to directly support someone who is having thoughts of suicide and increase their suicide safety.

These interventions look to prevent suicidal thought leading to suicidal behaviour and are underpinned by the idea that many people who are thinking about suicide will find some way to signal their intent.

You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. A.A. Milne

It’s tragic that in times of recession more people take their own lives.

In the UK, in 2011 there were over 6,000 suicides in people aged 15 and over – that’s an increase of nearly 10% compared with the year before. It’s time to tackle this problem head on. It’s time to act. It’s time to Stomp Out Suicide

safeTALK is a half-day course that offers practical steps to help someone with thoughts of suicide and helps you both to connect with more specialised support.

ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) is a two day, skills building workshop that provides suicide first aid interventions. Be you a Professional, a volunteer, an informal helper, a carer or community member, ASIST helps you become ready, willing, and able to directly support someone who is having thoughts of suicide and increase their suicide safety.

These interventions look to prevent suicidal thought leading to suicidal behaviour and are underpinned by the idea that many people who are thinking about suicide will find some way to signal their intent.

“sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” Marilyn Monroe

West Midlands Fire Service endorses TWR in keeping people Safe and Well 

I know will-power plays a big part but the support we provided via The Waiting Room Resource Key has been priceless for him. Aston Fire Station recently shared TWR keys amongst their team leaders for further distribution across their patches.

One Team Leader told us

“I issued 27 keys in total to managers of the HMO’s owned by Midland Living” – their feedback was excellent.

The HMO’s are occupied by people who have serious support needs for various substance misuses and use of violence.

The managers have stated that the keys have been invaluable for signposting and they will continue to use them.

I have visited the HMO’s myself and chatted with some tenants about the Resource Keys – they tell me that a lot of the time it’s knowing where to get help, which the key has been invaluable for.

I have seen the effects of the key first-hand with a tenant who is now two months clean after using the key to access a range of support.

He is now doing voluntary work at the HMO to keep his mind occupied and maintain his well-being.

I know willpower plays a big part but the support we provided via The Waiting Room Resource Key has been priceless for him.

I truly believe that these keys have helped with the rehabilitation of some of our most vulnerable and will certainly continue using them.”

Click on the picture below to watch our most recent TWR Video.

For more information about The Waiting Room in Birmingham, or if you are interested in bringing it to your location then please get in touch with us as Common-Unity.

Vanguard

vanguard

Welcome to our Common Unity Vanguard! our newsletters that looks to bring you up to speed with the work that Common Unity continues to deliver alongside and on behalf of often seldom heard communities. This first edition of Vanguard looks to provide you with a quick overview of the key areas of work we deliver across a range of settings alongside our Grassroots Associates. I would like to thank our partnering organisations and associates for their support in delivering some excellent projects and services.

Click image to view vanguard issue:

Common Unity Vanguard issue 5

Common Unity Vanguard issue 3

Common Unity Vanguard issue 3

Common Unity Vanguard issue 2

Common Unity Vanguard issue 1

Man Made Family

An Evaluation of the ManMade Family Programme May 2016

The MandMade Family programme successfully supported men to be able to talk more openly about their emotions, to build their confidence and selfesteem, to know where to go for help and to support others in the community. This was achieved through an eight week workshop programme which includes peer discussion, information sharing and self-reflection on a range of health and wellbeing topics, underpinned by person centred facilitation approaches.

This report presents findings of an evaluation of The ManMade Family programme, delivered in Sandwell from February – March 2016. ManMade is an eight week programme of workshop sessions designed to support and empower unemployed men to take care of their own mental health and wellbeing. It was developed by Forward for Life and Common Unity in response to high levels of poor male mental health and suicide, associated with gender identity. Five men took part in this programme, which was more explicitly focused on supporting men with caring responsibilities.

Download the document here : Man Made Family Evaluation Final 060516

ManMade: Through The Gates

ManMade: Through The Gates is coming to HMP Birmingham in June. It’s an opportunity for you to talk with others about stuff that you normally wouldn’t feel able to discuss in the open. Areas discussed will include identity, assisting life in others, mental health, loss, physical health, wellbeing and coping. This programme is looking to help you help yourself when you go back into the community. ManMade: TTG starts on June 23rd and will run over 8 weeks for 2 hours on a Friday morning. If you are interested in being part of the ManMade TTG programme then please complete a general application and submit it to the safer custody team.

Download manmade poster a4 copy

Cruse Birmingham

UPSTREAM SOLUTIONS FOR COMMUNITY WELLBEING

Are you a man struggling to cope because of a recent bereavement in your life or one in your past?

How do you cope and get through this difficult time in your life?

One option is to attend the ManMade Cruse group in Birmingham. It’s for men who have experienced bereavement and feel lost as how to deal with it. The group has a course structure and runs for 6 sessions starting on the 12th of September 2016 – Time 5:30PM – 7:30PM.

Initially, you learn more about grieving and what it actually is. With new understanding of what you are dealing with, you have a greater awareness of what you need to do to get through it. There will be plenty of time and opportunity to talk about your bereavement and what your struggles are. However there is no requirement to divulge if you feel uncomfortable, you can engage as little – or as much as you like.

Download the ccn flyer cruse updated

ManMade Through The Gates

ttglogo

Suicide and Criminal Justice
Prison suicides in England and Wales have risen to the highest level for seven years with 82 prisoners taking their own lives last year, according to new figures.

For the year 2016/2017, The NHS Joint Commissioning Team for Mental Health in Birmingham has invested in a number of one-year pilot programmes that aim to promote wellbeing, improve quality of life and life opportunities for those most vulnerable in Birmingham. This work, being managed as a whole by Common Unity, comes under the umbrella name of Connecting Community Networks being an accepted, locally designed framework that oversees the delivery of much needed holistic services that has real, evidenced based wellbeing benefits to the most vulnerable sectors within our city.

Funding for the delivery of a 6-week Peer Support Based ManMade Programme within the criminal justice sector has been realised with HMP Birmingham being the focus for such a pilot using key elements of the tested and evaluated ManMade Programme implemented to date in Sandwell and Dudley. The ManMade Programme for Criminal Justice, utilising Associates who have delivered ManMade to date and a Community Development Worker, will look to work closely alongside existent service provision within HMP Birmingham including HealthCare and CRC delivery agents, to best support prisoners who are soon to be released back into the community. The proposed cohort is a maximum of 15 participants with anticipated delivery being November – December 2016 for a period of 6 weeks (2 hours per session).

Overarching Aims:

  • Increase resilience and wellbeing over the period of implementation.
  • Reduce the suicide risk on release from prison.

The programme will look to achieve this through:

  • Providing a safe and supportive space for delegates to express feelings and learn about mental health and wellbeing
  • Empowering men to better understand themselves and their own mental health and wellbeing.
  • Equipping men with the skills, tools, information and options to manage their mental health and wellbeing.
  • A dedicated community based professional support assisting each delegate to view wider opportunities for enhanced wellbeing in the community alongside the existent support opportunities currently in place through CRC.

Target Group:
Prisoners who are soon expected to be released back into the community with one or more of the following criteria:

  • History of self-harm
  • History of relationship issues
  • History of substance misuse (but have effective support in place)
  • Prisoners who will be on a ‘Licensed Recall.’

ManMade Cruse

Are you a man struggling to cope because of a recent bereavement in your life or one in your past?

How do you cope and get through this difficult time in your life?


One option is to attend the ManMade Cruse group in Birmingham. It’s for men who have experienced bereavement and feel lost as how to deal with it. The group has a course structure and runs for 6 sessions starting on the 12th of September 2016 – Time 5:30PM – 7:30PM. Initially you learn more about grieving and what it actually is. With new understanding of what you are dealing with, you have a greater awareness of what you need to do to get through it. There will be plenty of time and opportunity to talk about your bereavement and what your struggles are.

However there is no requirement to divulge if you feel uncomfortable, you can engage as little – or as much as you like.

mmcrusebg

Life can be hard…but for some, because of particular circumstances, and more often than not, through no fault of their own, life can be much harder still. Connecting Community Networks recognises this and looks to protect and enhance citizen well-being and promote life quality. It oversees the delivery of a number of much needed holistic services that has real, evidenced based wellbeing benefits for some of our most vulnerable members in the community. CCN takes a different approach from many other traditional services by starting from a premise of vulnerability and risk due to life challenges and looking to demonstrate a positive resolution for the individual based on improved wellbeing.

Cruse Birmingham reserves the right to refer an individual to another one of our,  or a local service, if the group in question is not in the client’s best interest.

The death of a loved one is devastating and the emotional roller-coaster that follows can impact hard on your mental, social and emotional well being. Also there is something about being a man that probably makes this world of emotion feel alien to you.

website: crusebirmingham.co.uk

email: enquiries@crusebirmingham.co.uk

telephone:  0121 687 8011

Download a copy of the ManMade Cruse Birmingham Flyer

crusefooteremail

So let’s face the facts as we know them….

3 out of every 4 deaths by suicide in England are by men.

Men are struggling. They find it hard to engage with existent mainstream health and social care services and often would prefer to suffer in silence than seek help. So it stands to reason, there is a need to ensure that where services make a greater impact through being man focussed in respect of suicide prevention, then such preventative services and awareness raising opportunities should be developed; and they are; Targeted approaches to preventing suicide amongst men are hot on the agenda across Health and Social Care as rightly they should be…right? But let’s look again because there is something being missed here… or not being highlighted…

If we look at the most recent suicide data for England supplied in September 2016, with a little bit of investigation, there appears to be a clear yet understated fact – the number of women attempting and dying by suicide in England is increasing and nobody seems to be really saying why that might be or what can be done, but it is there – in your face.

So what’s going on?

There are a number of potential reasons why this shift may be occurring, but whilst the time passes for the ‘facts’ to be outed further, we need action and maybe there is a simple way forward for this action. Whilst I accept that there is a need for targeted approaches in respect of suicide prevention for specific groups (such as ManMade), the fact that suicide knows no boundaries in respect of who it affects means that suicide prevention should hold no boundaries as to who engages with it.

Suicide is not an illness and it is not only people with a mental health need that are at risk; It’s not about age, class, gender or sex – but it is about crisis, it is about hopelessness and the person at risk not feeling able to find a way out of the situation other than by suicide. Suicide behaviour effects all walks of life and has a huge negative ripple effect across communities and it is only through a concerted effort across all sectors of our communities and all professions at all levels that we can start to make some headway in reducing the number of people that die by suicide.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide please call Samaritans free on 116 123

If you live in the Birmingham area and want to know what local support services are out there then why not check out The Waiting Room

HUMANS OF THE WEST MIDLANDS – The Human Library

#MyRecovery Campaign launched

The Mental Health Stakeholder Group in Birmingham asked Common Unity through URBRUM to support them in developing a social media campaign based on the concept of ‘recovery’ with the hashtag #MyRecovery. We jumped at the chance as Recovery means different things to different people. Check out our dedicated Youtube page to hear what people think recovery means to them.

representing worldwide cultures, click here to see the latest additions to HUMANS OF THE WEST MIDLANDS

Being Well Works Well

Our approach to improving wellbeing recognises that short term investment in individual wellbeing has huge benefits in the long term. That’s why people are at the heart of everything we do. So, all our programmes don’t start with illness, they start with building health and wellbeing – Through programmes that Educate, Protect, Intervene and Champion we support people to know what needs to be done to keep themselves as well as they can be.

Educate
Knowledge is power, and if people are educated to understand what makes them function in a healthy way, then people have the power to look after themselves.

Protect
Life often throws us a curveball. Our programmes support people to know what tools they can utilise to best cope with the challenges we often unexpectedly face.

Intervene
Everyone needs someone to lean on from time to time. Much of the learning we promote is one that helps people help others. Being able to recognise and support others when they are struggling
has benefits for all.

Champion
To improve wellbeing, we must promote wellbeing through recognising and highlighting that wellbeing is not fixed, but is ever-changing and seen differently from one person to the next.

URBRUM Resource Key & The Waiting Room Directory

What is Urbrum?
Urbrum, as a web-based community centred platform, is all about discovering innovative ways of engaging communities with their own health and wellbeing and the health and well-being of those around them. Its approach to engagement, information and intelligence sees communities as both the recipients and providers of health and well-being intelligence with a view that through such an organic process, services and support will continue to best reflect what communities need and want.

waitin

What is the URBRUM Key About?

The Urbrum Resource Key provides an alternative approach to taking control of our own health and well-being – it is a virtual bridge across “The Information Chasm” that connects support services to the recipient almost instantly – the Urbrum Resource Key by engaging citizens with sources of support directly and seamlessly is, in its own right an intervention, taking away the often wearisome process of finding the right place to get help – an online resource library of information and support that can be navigated with minimum difficulty. In addition, the ongoing management of the process is relatively small but engagement can be realised at high levels and monitored effectively.

The resource key does all this through adhering to a few simple principles:

1) To be innovative in technology we don’t have to invent – we just need to redefine or refine existent technologies that are relatively inexpensive, or better still, free and serve a useful purpose.
2) Make access to this technology easy and discreet through a convenient access route housed within a long-lasting product.
3) Don’t waste time and resources building new data from scratch – use existent web based data and from this framework develop the portfolio over time to best target communities and meet local need.
4) Recognise that informed choice is paramount for citizens in realising their own health and well-being – the resource key is all about informed choice.

What Are the Opportunities for This Approach?

The opportunities for Urbrum Resource key are many but will only be realised with investment both in respect of time, development opportunities and close partnership working.

Key priority opportunities for development as we see it are as follows:

1) The well-being agenda:
The resource key as a front-virtual intervention has great possibilities. Public Health would be in the position of targeting information to specific vulnerable communities providing them with instant access through the Waiting Room to vital local and national information that can support their needs and raise awareness.

2) Diversity in approach:

Through targeted marketing in a range of geographical settings, cost effective advertising of The Waiting Room can be realised – Examples include Beer Mats in pubs, on clothing, on bus shelters, on bill-boards, in A&E Departments, GP Practices, The Courts, Prisons, Police Stations, in taxis, on taxis, on Buses, on email signatures, pharmacy bags – basically wherever there is a space etc.

3) To be the Birmingham Virtual One Stop Shop for Well-Being

The Health and Social Care sector is being crippled by demands placed upon it. The Resource Key is a cost effective way of enabling people to engage with their own health and well-being on their terms at the earliest juncture possible. Through empowering citizens to look after their own health and well-being through utilising existent, often previously unknown resources, the demand on front line health and social care should reduce and the opportunity for front line services in health and social care to signpost citizens to such health and well-being opportunities has to be beneficial for all. It also means that people are enabled to access the right services and the right time to best meet their needs as quickly and efficiently as possible.

What is Connecting Community Networks All About?

ccn-logo-whitebackground

What is Connecting Community Networks All About?

Life can be hard…but for some, because of particular circumstances, and more often than not, through no fault of their own, life can be much harder still. Connecting Community Networks recognises this and looks to protect and enhance citizen well-being and promote life quality. It oversees the delivery of a number of much needed holistic services that has real, evidenced based wellbeing benefits for some of our most vulnerable members in the community. CCN takes a different approach from many other traditional services by starting from a premise of vulnerability and risk due to life challenges and looking to demonstrate a positive resolution for the individual based on improved wellbeing.

The Organisations Behind CCN

Common Unity is the central driving force behind all of the CCN programmes with external expertise being brought into the process to best deliver all elements of each and every programme. This partnership arrangement means that from conceptualisation right through to the point of evaluation, specialist support is realised to demonstrate the potential for such approaches to improving well-being.

 What Programmes Are in Place?

  • Urbrum – web based community centred platform, is all about discovering innovative ways of engaging communities with their own health and wellbeing and the health and well-being of those around them. Its approach to engagement, information and intelligence sees communities as both the recipients and providers of health and well-being intelligence with a view that through such an organic process, services and support will continue to best reflect what communities need and want.
  • ASIST/safeTALK – Delivery of the world renowned suicide prevention programmes across specific Birmingham sectors to best identify and support those who are vulnerable in respect of suicidal ideation and behaviour.
  • ManMade: Through The Gates – Utilising the ManMade Peer Led support approach that enables men to survive in modern day society, ManMade: TTG is an exciting opportunity to test the model and its impact with men at HMP Birmingham who are soon to be released back to the community.
  • ManMade: Cruse – Men often find it difficult to engage regarding their losses in life and thus can play a negative part in men coping with crisis through loss. This programme looks to achieve greater resilience and well-being through providing men with the opportunity to engage with the area of loss and bereavement as part of a Peer Led Support Programme led by specialists in the field of Bereavement.
  • Bloom in Birmingham is a unique project aimed at reducing social isolation and improving the physical and mental well-being of women living in Birmingham and at risk regarding their health utilising a peer led support approach.

Man Made

Download the evaluation report by clicking the picture below:

manmade

Man Made is a forward thinking programme that supports men between the ages of 20 and 60 to realise their full potential – a tailored 8 week programme providing participants with the skills and knowledge to support their own health and well-being. 

Despite the general public perception, the suicide rate of men in mid-life has been comparable to younger men. In the last eight years though suicides in younger men have reduced whilst for men in their mid-years there has been an increase. But this is not just a challenge of age – when it comes to suicide there are a range of associated inter-related factors that can bring an individual to feel in such a state of despair that they literally believe they would be better off dead.

Associated factors for men, and women, include social inequality, deprivation, health inequalities and financial inequality as well as, in the case of many men particularly, an underlying ongoing challenge of male identity – this is where we need to consider what characteristics are deemed important when a man compares himself to his peers and how can we tackle those characteristics which prevent men from seeking help?

With the recession having hit hard across the UK and no less hard in the West Midlands in the last few years, the effect of unemployment experienced by many men twinned with a range of other associated factors that often follow on, means that despair for many individuals in this situation can result, in the most tragic of cases, in death by suicide.

The ManMade Dudley Programme was established in February 2015 as a pilot programme that engages unemployed men from the area to best support them emotionally and practically in taking best care of their own mental health and well-being. This evaluation looks to cover all the aspects of ManMade, both its successes and challenges, in the hope that firstly, the learning from the programme can be cascaded to best realise a greater understanding of the complexities of men as well as secondly, providing a knowledge platform where this programme or future off-shot programmes be developed further for the benefit of the wider cohort.

Making Well-Being A reality In Birmingham

cohesion-picture

Community Cohesion is what should happen in all communities to enable different groups of people to get on well together.A key contributor to community cohesion is integration which is what must happen to enable new residents and existing residents to adjust to one another. The City Wide Community Cohesion Programme is an innovative and flexible service that through its accessibility for everyone means that integration is possible throughout the city.

The programme is run by the Community Development Workers (CDWs) and it focuses on working with all vulnerable communities and with front-line staff who may be providing support to vulnerable community members. The CDWs work to increase knowledge of mental health and wellbeing, to encourage greater self-awareness and self-management, and to stimulate community engagement; all geared at improving the lives of Birmingham’s residents.

(when) love hurts or No Fairytale

(when) love hurts or No Fairytale by © JC Harding June 2010

 It’s hard for me to actually pinpoint the moment when everything in my life changed from being blissful to a living nightmare. All I dreamt about as a young girl growing up in betwixt meddling with my mom’s makeup and sweeping back the curls in my hair was fantasying about finding my prince. At 24 years old I believed I had actually found him.

How do you describe the complete feeling of love? I could because he was everything I wished for all the adjectives – caring, romantic, and considerate with sincere family values.  I was the envy of the girls in the town.  We had a fantastic chemistry. My heart raced every time I saw him.

We had been seeing other for over a year. Although he’d suggested that we considered moving in together. I was happy to keep living apart.  I explained to him that I wanted to save up as well as continuing with my night course at college.  But he saw this as a rejection of him. He thought for some bizarre reason that I wanted to see other people. This was not the case.

Over the next several weeks things on the surface appeared unchanged in our relationship. But the atmosphere between us became a little stifled especially when we were out at social occasions.  He would not leave my side. He constantly questioned who I was talking to and even attempted to read my texts.

One night sitting in the comfort of his one bedroom flat I asked why he was acting so insecure.  He said I was imagining things. I persisted. He told me to drop the conversation. So I did. We spent the remaining part of the night snuggled together on the settee watching one of his favourite movies we had watched several times before.  He always got excited as if it was the first time he was seeing it.  I quietly laughed to myself as he ate the pack of popcorns and scrambled to find his drink edging to fall off the table as his eyes were transfixed on every dramatic scene.

Later in the night lying in bed my mobile phone rang with the caller ID appearing withheld.  Upon answering the caller hanged up. Within a few seconds the phone rang again. Still no reply. I ended the call. The disturbance woke my boyfriend. Sleepily he asked, “who called?”  I told him I haven’t got a clue.  He became agitated and started to question me about the context of the call.  But I could add nothing more.  He then snatched the phone from my hand. Surprised by his actions I asked him to stop behaviouring in such a childish manner.  He suddenly pushed my head against the metal bed frame, his face contort with anger, his voice raised – stuttering and hardly managing to articulate himself: “You are beginning to annoy me with your lies.  You’ve got your lover calling you. I’m not stupid.”  For some reason I laughed.  Maybe because of what he saying was so ridiculous.  Except my reaction seemed to heighten his mood.  “You laughing at me?” he accused. At this point I was beginning to feel threatened because he looked unrecognisable. He was acting out of character. I asked him to let go of me. I tried to push him away. His hours spent at the gym with piping biceps had paid off.  I could not move him. He was like an elephant. I felt like a tiny mouse. He purposely ignored my pleas. I began to scream out at him. He eventually let me go.

Staring hard at him in disbelief, pointing at him I yelled: “what’s the hell up with you? I don’t know who called at this hour. I haven’t got a lover… I’ve had enough I’m going home.” I retorted. This made him worse. He ran over to me saying: “that’s your excuse you are going to meet him”.  I climbed out of my nightwear into my jeans struggling to put the rest of my clothes on – my top was inside out but I didn’t care. He stood by the bedroom door with my car keys dangling teasingly in his fingers. Somehow I managed to grab them away from him. Accusingly he said: “So you’re leaving me for your lover.” Then I felt the warmth of his hands across my face not once but over and over again.  I cried out. To stifle my cries he coldly turned up the iPod playing in the background.  He then held me, very close begging me not to leave him. Claiming it was all a mistake. The only mistake I made that night was to believe him. Stupidly I ended up comforting him!

He was very remorseful after it had happened for about 6 months. Aferwards at a summer barbeque I was talking to some old college friends who I introduced him to.  He was all smiles. Later returning to the car he asked whether one was of the guys fancied me. I told him no. He said that we were openly flirting with each other. I didn’t answer.  I couldn’t answer because he just punched me in my mouth and kicked me to the ground.  Apparently as I fell I hit my head then was unconscious.  I was taken to the A&E department of the local hospital. I awoke with the stale smell of the barbeque embedded in my clothes mixed with the blood of his warped insecure love and my tears running down the innocence of my youthful body. His broken promises fooled me but I’m fooled no more. I sought support from Women’s Aid as I have never came across domestic violence or thought I’d be a victim of such hideous violent behaviour by someone who I loved with every heart beat.

I was a carefree young woman with a cool boyfriend – with plans for a bright future. That’s all over now. Unfortunately jealousy reared its ugly head.  The only way he could express himself was in a aggressive way. He tried to control me was with his fists. I’ve since found out that one in 3 people will be affected by domestic violence in some way or another.   I didn’t think it could happen to me but sadly it did.

The lost men

My work colleague told me once that he admires the Somali women. He said they are independent, strong and active. He said that it is very rare to see other Muslim women opening their own business, travelling for trade and business and at the same looking after a big family with more than 5 children on average. He said he always sees them taking kids to school, to Madrassah and to tutoring schools.

I was, of course, happy to hear that and I was proud of the fact that Somali women always have their rights and equality in the Somali community, but I was sad as well, as I know another reason behind their independence. It is because their men are lost, their men have been stolen by the monstrous ‘Qat’.

Qat is a well-known thief. It takes away cash from families, childhood happiness from abused children, chastity from young women, reasoning from the educated, productivity from the working class. Qat is the gateway drug to alcohol, drugs, violence and all other evil habits.

Behind these closed doors, there are many stories to tell. I chose for you today the story of Umm Ahmed, our neighbour. That is how I used to call her. She used to come to my mother every morning after taking her 3 children to schools. Illiterate and with no other relatives in Birmingham, she depended on my mother to read her letters for her and go to the ‘job centre’ to claim her benefits. Behind her shy smile, I would always see a hidden sorrow and a broken soul. I always wonder why such a lovely lady, who is expecting her fourth child, would be sad. What was worrying her? What was her problem?

Her problem was that she was being beaten almost on daily basis. Her problem was that she was a ‘single mother’ although she was married and living with her husband under the same roof. Her problem was the qat stole her husband.

Every day he will come back home at around 4 am. That if he comes back, as he would prefer to stay awake with his friend at theMafrash as the qat will give him a lot of energy not to sleep. He goes back home to sleep and to sleep and to sleep. A sleep that can last for more a day sometimes.

If he comes back home ‘active’ the family gets more worried. He will be either in a hyper mood which always ends in an argument over very silly things, such as a fight on the remote control or just suddenly he will notice that the colors of the curtains are not beautiful anymore and the wife will be blamed or there is too much sugar in the tea or less salt in the food.

Such silly reasons cause fights, which ends usually in him beating his pregnant wife.

Qat caused confused pattern of thoughts and behaviour. One day, he locked family inside the house, because he simply forgot to leave the keys to the family. One day, he was very ‘active’ and decided to cook. That night ended with the firefighters in the house after he caused a fire because of his carelessness.

He came back home once, with a big deep scar on his face. There was a fight in the ‘mafrash’ between the ‘friends’. Such fights are very common. Financially, the family was suffering too. None of the parents was working. The family depended on benefits. And most of this money was going to the qat and cigarettes.

Money was another reason behind the fights. Umm Ahmed would try to save some money for the family and that would trigger his anger as he was in a constant need for money. Many elders in the neighbourhood or from the clan tried to interfere and help this family. But as the qat removes the sense of guilt and justifying personal failures, nothing was done to save this family from sinking.

The three kids lived in constant fear from their father. I remember the youngest girl being always afraid of everything and everyone, holding her mother’s dress all the time. The boy, Ahmed was very violent, he used always to beat his two sisters and the school always complains about his violent behaviour.

Umm Ahmed daily routine was as follow: Alone, she prays her morning prayers. Alone, she starts the usual household tasks. Alone, she wakes up the 3 children and gets them ready for school. Alone, she takes them to their schools. Alone, she shops for the groceries. Alone, she goes to maternity appointments in the hospital. Alone, she attends parents meetings in schools. Alone, she cooks the dinner and helps the kids with their homework. Alone, she went to the hospital to give birth to her 4th baby.

One night, umm Ahmed knew that she had enough and knew that it was the end. He came back home in a bad mood and started beating her like usual in front of her kids. He couldn’t control his temper and slapped the screaming baby. To beat her was something, but to harm her kids was too much to take. As soon as he drifted into a deep sleep she collected her few stuff and ran from the house with her kids to London to one of her aunts. That was the end of that family, he didn’t even bother to try to bring them back and I heard that he was jailed for a violent related incident later.

Ahmed! I always wonder what happened to him. How will his future look? Is he going to be the ‘man of the family’ as he was the only son and the only male of that small family, or is he going to follow the footsteps of his father and became one of the ‘lost men’? A family similar to many thousands of families out there, families with lost men.

Modern Day Slavery-Fact or Fiction?

Although the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade was abolished some four hundred years ago, slavery is still alive and active in the UK. There are no shackles but thousands of men, women and children are chained by fear and forced labour.

The Facts

According to the Human Trafficking Foundation, between 2012 and September 2013, victims of human trafficking from 95 different countries were discovered in the UK ( Human trafficking is just another name for modern day slavery).

The exact figures are not known but it is believed that there are up to 20.000 victims hidden in the UK, 80% of which are from Europe. Figures show that between July 2011-December 2012, the UK Human Trafficking Centre/Serious Organized Crime Agency discovered   1,729 victims in the UK and 565 were children.

The body responsible for establishing who is a legitimate victim of trafficking is called the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). When someone is referred to the NRM they are provided with a minimum of 45 days shelter and support while the Police, or the UK Border Agency, decide if they are legitimate victims. In 2011, there were 946 victims registered through the NRM. But in reality, it is suspected that many victims are unknown to the NRM because they do not want to be referred to due to fear of arrest, deportation, or reprisals. As a result, it is believed that many victims remain hidden.

Although the rates of conviction of traffickers in the UK are relatively low compared to the rest of Europe, this is said to be no indication that slavery is not prevalent in Britain. For example,  according to the figures, the number of traffickers found guilty in the UK in 2009  was 16  compared to 80 in Romania, 128 in Italy, 174 Holland, 203 Spain and 107 Greece. It is argued that one explanation for the low rate of convictions in the UK of traffickers compared to the EU is that cases are harder to evidence in UK courts. Additionally, those who are arrested in the UK for human trafficking are more likely to be convicted for other crimes such as rape and GBH. It’s also believed that the convictions in the UK are only a fraction of what is actually happening.

Human trafficking has no age, or gender restrictions and the type of work victims are forced to do varies. The figures suggest that 33% of adult victims in the UK are” forced labour slaves.” The types of work they are forced to do are food processing, agriculture, construction, leaflet delivery, hotels, pavement laying. Many are forced into crime, drugs, benefit fraud and theft (HTF).

Home Office estimates in 2009 suggested that there were 4000 sex slaves in Britain. In 2010 the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) indicated that 30,000 women were engaged in “off-street prostitution; 17,000 were not UK citizens, 2.600 were trafficked and 9,600 possibly trafficked (HTF).

Personally, the most disturbing facts are those regarding child victims. The Human Trafficking Foundation claim that at least one child a day is trafficked in Britain ( MDS). Evidence shows that children are forced to work as sex workers, domestic slaves,and  in cannabis farms, or as street beggars.

Human trafficking is Global but the top countries of origin of victims are Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Lithuania, Nigeria, Albania, Hungary, Czech Republic, South Central Asia, South East Asia, West Africa, Vietnam and the UK. In 2012,  22% UK nationals were victims of slave labour.

No detailed data exist regarding where victims are found within the UK. The government argues that disclosure of where victims are found would put the victims at risk. But campaigners argue that such data would provide a clear picture of regional  “hotspots and patterns”. Mapping trends would identify criminal networks and targeted areas resulting in more traffickers caught and more victims saved.

After being discovered, the plight of legitimate victims of trafficking is bemoaned by campaigners. It is claimed that many don’t receive ongoing support. If they are allowed to remain in the UK, they are left to cope on their own, there is no record of their condition, or what has happened to them.

The kind of help victims need if they are to remain in the UK has been identified: help to integrate, access training, work experience, employment, housing (HTF).

An 18 month investigation into modern day slavery in the UK  conducted by The Centre for Social Justice resulted in a report being published in March 2013. The report contains 80 recommendations. Two  key recommendations enacted by the Coalition government are:

  1. A Modern Slavery Act which received Royal Assent 26 March 2015. The Act is designed to address slavery in the UK.
  1. An Anti-slavery Commissioner to develop independent monitoring and reporting on the UK ‘s response to modern day slavery. In November 2014, the Home Secretary appointed Kevin Hyland as the first UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner.

The Fiction

Though hard to believe, modern day slavery is indeed alive and active in the UK and throughout the world.

It is fictional to believe that if we ignore it it will disappear.

Sources:

Modern Day Slavery: THE HIDDEN AGENDA- First Edition, September 2013, Human Trafficking Foundation, Keep Hidden: Property of HMG- September 2013, HTF, Human Cargo: Hidden Slaves in UK, September 2013, HTF

Same Sex! Yu nuh fe vex!

Same Sex! Yu nuh fe vex! Written by CJ White

A black woman perspective of self acceptance, living and loving as a lesbian

On the face of it I appeared the same as my friends growing up in Black Britain in the 1970’s.  I enjoyed playing the popular games of that time hopscotch, kiss and chase but most all I enjoyed the freedom of riding my brand new red hot chopper bike again and again down the uneven streets and downhill at the local park that my beloved mother had brought me as a surprise for my 13th birthday. My hairstyles went from plaits, afro to curly perm.  My brightly coloured red, gold and green Rastafarian hat that I wore proudly became a temporary part of my attire.  My clothes were a joint reflection of the era and captured my personality – pencil skirts to my much favoured flare trousers and tight jeans.

As the growing years manifested – my body began to change, in tune with the seasons.  From the early years I knew that I was different from my peers.  The crux of it I was very much attracted to girls and they were besotted with boys.  Nervously and jokingly I had rehearsed how I would say to my family and friends that I am a lesbian! I questioned over sleepless nights where would I start? This episode in my life was very distressing and a personal challenge that fluctuated like a fairground ride between highs and suicidal thoughts! Over 3 decades later it’s far easier for me to say: “Same sex! Yu nuh fe vex!” However back then I felt imprisoned by my sexual orientation so I remained silent. The enormity of this confession was far too much for me at such a tender age to divulge. I pondered was my sexuality something innate within me or whether deep down if I prayed for my sins to be forgiven that God would make me straight. I fell asleep as a lesbian and awoke a lesbian. Nothing changed. I was still the same – funny, creative, miserable, had teenage spots, and ate far too many sweets. I absolutely knew back then I was different because I kissed girls and I liked it.

Sitting down with my school friends we talked about the usual topic clothes and boyfriends. Not one of my friends showed any interest in same sex relationships. When I plucked up the courage, albeit in a humorous manner to say to my friends that I thought that girl’s were nice in a sexual way the usual respond in reality and even the safety of my own dreams was met with  disgust and dismissed as a childish flaw never to be revealed again.  To actually mention ‘lesbian’ or ‘gay’ was as if I had just said the most repulsive swear word or committed a serious crime. Therefore to actually come out and say that I was a lesbian at 12 years old I felt I would probably be lynched and be a social outcast.  These stereotypical outcomes I had portrayed in my mind were actually just my perceptions.  “Same sex! Yu nuh fe vex!” this is the attitude I have adopted which has served me best over the last several years as I have seen the progress through active campaigns to give same sex people equality and justice which is our human rights.  I have seen the beauty of lesbian women not just existing but living life to the full.  I can now celebrate the fact that I am finally free to be me.  It’s absolutely a fantastic feeling.

Did you know that the dictionary definition of sexual orientation states ‘a pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, both genders, neither gender, or another gender.’ It further adds ‘a person’s sexual orientation is defined by the gender to which he or she is sexually attracted. Someone who is attracted primarily or exclusively to members of the same gender is characterized as gay or homosexual, though the latter word has largely fallen out of use’. Regardless what the definition is or what you fall into some people have no difficulties been ‘out’ and others like me struggled because some people are vexed, see same sex relationships as a ‘sin’ but I encourage you not to be. “Same sex! Yu nuh fe vex!”

Being a black lesbian woman from a Christian upbringing added to my personal fear.  For me a 60’s child of Jamaican parentage I didn’t feel like I had anyone within my own background that was openly gay or a lesbian that I could relate to. No direct role models. I certainly didn’t want to be the first lesbian in a small multi cultural town. So I remained silent and conformed towards the norm.

Growing up the media representation and derogatory terms such as ‘batty bwoy’ which is still part of 21st century attitude, homophobic lyrics linked with homophobic bullying and ridicule did nothing to make me want to come out of the closet.  It continues to hurt me when negative and derogatory terminology is used to support or give emphasis towards how bad someone is. I don’t want to be solely judged by my sexual orientation. Equally, I do not judge a straight person purely by the fact that they are heterosexual! This would be narrow-minded to say the least. If I am going to be judged let it be on my values and character; the input I have made as a mother as well as to the community itself.  In truth, not because I might prefer Whitney Houston instead of Will Smith or I prefer swing to pop, reggae to calypso this doesn’t make me less of a person.  It makes me an individual. “Same sex! Yu nuh fe vex!”

May I remind you readers of my mantra, “Same sex! Yu nuh fe vex!” Being a lesbian is not the definitive thing that makes me me it’s a part of me.  For me heritage, ethos and essentially my faith makes me a whole person.  These aspects all play an integral part in the uniqueness of oneself. Me!

 I have no regrets about this journey in my life and the beautiful relationships I have formed with women and men. The latter produced my one and only beautiful daughter who simple and unconditionally loves me for me.  I am surrounded by a wonderful circle of family along with true fiends who I give God daily praise.  They have supported me completely through different amazing stages of my life – thank you. Now I can finally celebrate the fact that I have found inner peace. I have buried the demons that imprisoned me and this is my bittersweet story with the weeds plucked and destroyed.  Thankfully my life is now seasoned with the flavours of the Caribbean and the colours of the rainbow. I can now look back without anger. I have had a lot of experiences along the way that I often share with family and friends with the intention to get them to explore for a moment aspects of my life. Because after all “Same sex! Yu nuh fe vex!”

The silent infection

Chlamydia is known as the silent infection. 1 in 14 people in Birmingham and Solihull, aged 15-24, who were tested for Chlamydia…have Chlamydia. There are NO Symptoms it is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the UK. Left untreated, Chlamydia can stop you from having children, however, if detected you can get treatment early.

I’m Gurpreet. I have been working for Besure for 3 years now and work with communities and community services offering free confidential advice and testing to anyone between the ages of 15-24. The test: It’s a free, simple and painless urine test for the men and a simple self taken vaginal swab for the women and we send you your results through confidential e-mail, text message or letter.

In fact, ALL of the advice and testing we offer is completely CONFIDENTIAL. We also have a mobile clinic called the Besure Bus which we take events around Birmingham and Solihull. Providing Chlamydia advise is challenging but enjoyable – I usually get mixed reactions from the young people though mostly people appreciate the advice and free testing we providing.

Most young people tell us ‘that they are glad we approached them as they were planning on getting themselves tested’ or ‘they never thought to take a test even though they are sexually active.’ A few negative comments I get from the young people with Chlamydia testing is ‘I ain’t dirty’ or ‘I use protection’ or ‘I’ve only been with only one partner’ unfortunately there is still stigma around Chlamydia testing, which we are trying to break down. My advice to them would be that having a test for Chlamydia does not make you dirty, Chlamydia has no signs or symptoms and most people do not know they have it – you don’t have to sleep around to catch it and it can be passed on through different partners. Most people don’t know that you can get Chlamydia from oral sex and foreplay, so protection should be used at all times. The best advice I would give is to take a Chlamydia test every time you put yourself at risk, which can be when: You’ve changed your partner you’ve had unprotected sex, you’ve had oral sex, if the condom has split during sex, if you have shared sex toys.

Basic take home tips; Always use a condom and check the expiry date! Make sure the condom package is undamaged and displays the Kitemark standards There are different variations of condoms you can get, as well as sizes and flavours e.g. Male condoms, Femidoms (Female Condom) and Dental Dams (thin square piece of latex used for oral sex) You can order a free Chlamydia test from our website www.besure.org.uk Chlamydia is treatable with Antibiotics and is free for anyone under the age of 25 who gets tested for Chlamydia and is positive. If positive, their partners, who can be of any age, can also be tested and treated for Chlamydia for free through us. www.besure.org.uk – Text Be sure to 80010 – Call 0800 953 3399

Youth Roots – Youth service concept

Tackling self-harm with young people.

Self-Harm

The phrase ‘self-harm’ is used to describe a wide range of behaviours. Self-harm is often understood to be a physical response to an emotional pain of some kind, and can be very addictive. Some of the things people do are quite well known, such as cutting or burning or pinching, but there are many, many ways to hurt yourself, including abusing drugs and alcohol or having an eating disorder. Sometimes, it’s more important to focus on how someone is feeling rather than what they do to themselves. Quite often, people find that more helpful.

The UK has one of the highest rates of self-harm in Europe, at 400 per 100,000 population and there is a high correlation between self-harming behaviour and mental health problems. In 2014, figures were published suggesting a 70% increase in 10-14 year olds attending A&E for self-harm related reasons over the preceding 2 years.

Girls are thought to be more likely to self-harm than boys, but this could be because boys are more likely to engage in behaviours such as punching a wall, which isn’t always recognised as self-harm or doesn’t come to the attention of hospitals. In reality self-harm doesn’t happen to one type of person, it can’t be predicted and scarily, we don’t really know how many people are going through it.

 

Youth Roots – Youth service concept created by Common unity and Black Country Partnership

“So Let’s Talk About Recovery! ”

What is Recovery? When anyone mentions ‘recovery’, most people’s first thought is ‘from what?’ This is because recovery is usually about regaining something we have lost or our need to do so. Recovery, for us, could mean something physical such as recovering from a cold, virus or broken leg; or something emotional like a traumatic event, a relationship breakdown or the stress of moving house or changing jobs.

What we seem to find most difficult during the recovery process is accepting, at times, we can’t regain what we have lost in the full sense of the word and we have to find an alternative way of living without, or with a slightly different version of what we had before. For example, after a relationship breakdown, we may not be able to rebuild that relationship – but accepting that it is over; taking some responsibility for it and appreciating the positive aspects of being single may be a good way to move forward.

So Why Talk about Recovery? Each and every one of us will experience hardship during our lives and this is one thing that binds us together as a community. We will all struggle to find ways to manage life’s challenges and for each of us, this journey is unique.

For most, however, one thing that is most helpful is having a support network. Everyone needs someone to help them through tough times. Sharing stories of hardship and the recovery process can be helpful for the person that has been through difficult times.

recovery

It can be a great way to reflect on what helped and what didn’t which can be useful for the future. It can also be therapeutic. As readers, it can help us to realise we are not alone in our troubles and give us ideas for how we might better deal with the difficulties we face. So let’s celebrate the hard times we have had because what doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger! How you can help? Help yourself and others by sharing your story. If you have fallen on hard times and thought the difficulties you faced were almost too much to bear – what helped?

What advice would you give to others to get through difficult times? If you have a story to share email stephen@urbrum.org You can either email your story or we can arrange an interview that could see your story featured in the recovery page in the next issue of URBRUM. If you run or work for a community based local service that supports people in Birmingham, get in touch by telling us how you support recovery. Your experiences and tips could be valuable to the readers of URBRUM across the city.

BACK IN THE DAYS

When we were young,
Things differed from the life we live today,
There was a better feel of communities,
As in the front or backyard we’d play.

We knew most of the families,
That lived within our street,
In and out each others houses,
Our life then was really sweet.

We’d play a game of baseball,
The girls against the boys,
In those days of our childhood,
No one really missed having toys.

No Nintendo DS, No play station,
We were a lot fitter than the kids now,
If we disagreed with one another,
All we’d mumble was ‘you stupid cow’.

On Sundays we’d attend Sunday school,
We’d be picked up in the van,
All smelling sweet of ponds cream,
With our church offering in our hand.

The life today is sure different,
Society has changed by far,
They invent these games and gadgets,
Then wonder why the kids are as they are.

If you pass them on the street,
And look at them too hard,
They ask who you think you’re looking at,
So it’s best to stay in your yard!

Image source: Birmingham Mail 

Poem by : Deborah Courtney – Community Member

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