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.

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

(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.

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

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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