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Counselling in Croydon.

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We have a marked rise in Street Violence & Domestic Violence in Croydon. Steve Reed MP and the boss of Croydon Police are both deeply worried about this.  It's real, it's happening.  Our town is sinking once again.  Your new Shopping Centre will be worthless if no-one comes here for safety reasons.  But why is this happening?



Croydon needs regeneration. We need to create jobs & improve our image for real.  And that means cracking down on gang violence& corruption.  Get rid of them.  All of them. In a VERY public way.  Send a clear message to the local scum that they will not be tolerated.  These people are criminals, and need to be stopped.  Everything from False Accounting ( topical ) to muggings. It all adds up, and Croydon is infested with these crowds.  But… Where do these criminals come from? They don't just grow on trees. Something creates them.

 

A lot of it is Mental Health.  As you are watching your dreams drift further and further away, due to financial problems or Govt decisions, you get angrier and more stressed. It's quite natural.  But for some it's too much and they cross the line and do something stupid.

 

We need to beef up Croydon Mental Health Services, including safe-houses like Foxley Lane & Ashburton Road, for those who need to retreat from a situation BEFORE it goes bad. We also need to make sure our Mental Health services are keyed to helping those in distress.


For example:   There is NO free counselling in Croydon, unless you want CBT.  None. No grief counselling, no nothing like that.  As current services have been historically neglected by The PCT.


There are a bunch of charitable providers who are happy to help.  People like Care To Listen, Mind's Services, Croydon Drop-In, The Family Resource Centre, & Off The Record.  They can cover multiple age-groups, and multiple races/ communities. But each one has to charge in some way. As our Commissioners historically refuse to spend any cash on this VERY real problem.


Yup, there is no reliable stream of NHS Counselling for The Poor.  It's all Private & Free Market.  And due to current Govt decisions The Poor are getting poorer now.  Problem 1.



Croydon's big 3 are Anxiety, Substance Abuse, & Depression ( Dementia is coming sure, but let's focus on the 3 I mentioned ).  As of the PBMA review from 2011. It's all linked.  And when mental health starts to flare violence can appear.  It's just how it is.



Afraid of losing your job or your home?  Worried about the future of your kids?  That is stress, and it can trigger certain mental health symptoms like anxiety. Anxiety is a fear of something that is real, but the fear is so powerful it grinds you down.  It's not paranoia ( fear of something that is not real ). Anxiety is based in reality.


This can lead to Depression. A massive feeling of hopelessness as you fail to get out of the situation you feel trapped in.  As the fear keeps grinding away at you there is no way out.  You can't save yourself, and it's possible no-one will help you as well. So you sink lower and lower.


The two are often linked.



So how do people deal with this?  25% of those who suffer Depression get medical help.  And that means a WHAPPING 75% don't.  Instead they use self-help stuff.  Some self-help stuff works ( like forcing a smile to trick the brain into releasing feel-good chemicals ), but some of it is absolute quackery. St John's Wort is weak stuff, so isn't always the best ( although it can work. Speak to your GP or local Pharmacist. ).  And, sadly, many turn to Alcohol, Cannabis, and other substances.



I'm going to be completely honest here.  I used to be a massive drug user.  It was about 13-14 years ago, but I was a major cannabis fiend.  And I used to use it for stress.  It worked as well, and I can honestly say none of my friends ( I had many back then ) fell mentally ill.  None of them.


But that was 13-14 years ago.  Back then we were smoking the old resins and weeds; that were 20% the strength of the Skunks that are now the norm out there.  The stuff I smoked was 1/5 as strong as what the kids smoke these days. It's the difference between a pint of Ale ( what I consumed ) & a pint of Schnapps ( what the kids are consuming these days ).  It's a huge difference.


Now add to this how many opt for cheap and VERY strong alcohols as well and...  Ever wondered why A&E presentations based on alcohol abuse are up? Yup, alcohol poisoning and other such injuries.


People drink & consume drugs to escape.  In small quantities, being completely honest, I rarely see injuries ( source: Professor David Nutt, plus my own observations in the field ).  But the heavy consumers are the ones that then cook themselves.  And why are they doing it?  To escape life.


To escape their lives and forget for a bit.  Think about it.


It could be an abusive partner or unhappy marriage.  It could be a bullying boss.  It could be child-hood abuse that never healed properly and is now affecting someone in adult-hood.  Or it could be the substance itself being so addictive an innocent mistake has led to a collapse ( like with Crack cocaine ).  But it all comes from somewhere.    Mental Health is EVERYWHERE.  And in Croydon it is a huge issue, due to the lack of services mixed with the amount of substance abuse we have in our patch.



So why are people down?


Low pay, high bills, jobs leaving, most jobs being nothing impressive…  We all know Croydon is a bomb-site in need of major repairs.   But first we need to clear out the hordes of substance abusers that are wrecking the place.


Now I don't believe in simply calling them criminals and just hitting them.  I do believe in rehabilitation.  And that means curing them of their ills AS WELL AS getting them back on the straight & narrow. But if it's not done properly then it just won't work.  It might even injure someone further, and as such pull them under again.



So, back to our lack of Counselling Services.  Even if you are brave enough to face your issues can you honestly face it alone? Do you need help?  It takes a lot of courage to face the inner demon that is turning you to drink or worse.  And some people genuinely can't do it alone.  I've had Depression, Anxiety,& Suicidal thoughts.  Like Toni Letts of Croydon Labour I am a Domestic Violence survivor, and also a gang-attack survivor on 2 counts now.  Without help it nearly killed me.  Twice.  And I'm a tough old spud. So I would hope it obvious that many will need assistance to get through these extremely dark times.


If there is no assistance there out come the ultra-large wine glasses, everyone jokes that things are fine, and in reality you've consumed more units of alcohol then is safe for you.  That's your liver, your skin, or possibly something worse.  For real.


So let's look at booze. What does it do?


It's a double effect. The first is to lose your inhibitions ( your self-control ), so if you have Mental Health problems they could break free of your normal control & take over if you are too drunk.  You might attempt suicide whilst seriously drunk, and then sit there afterwards ( if you're lucky enough to survive ) thinking 'what the hell was that?'.  You'll have no idea where it came from if it's new, but at the same time it did just happen.   If this happens go to your GP.  Don't take the chance.  Something is clearly wrong if it has got to this stage.


The second is that booze makes you wee.  And the more you wee the more you flush out what medication you are on.  So if you're an existing Mental Health Patient ( a Service User ) like me heavy drinking can flush out the meds you need to stay well.  It's like having your dose halved, and that doesn't always work.


A Schizophrenic ( like me ) or a Depression sufferer ( like what I used to be before my boiler gassed me and made me even more ill ) can go out of control if they are too drunk.  It's just how it is.  Harm to self and/or others.  Being honest it's usually harm to self.  Schizophrenics are more afraid of you than wanting to hurt you.  That's why we stay away from the big crowds generally and prefer smaller more-intimate environments.  So, in summary, it's usually 'harm to self' that shows up.


Harm to self includes: Cutting yourself, binge drinking, heading off to take some heroine as the vodka isn't cutting it, you get the idea. Basically anything that risks your own personal health.  And, as I have stated, that is usually the most common one.  Violence is rare with the Mentally Ill.  Most crimes are carried out by those who are classed as sane.




So, bringing this back to the point.  Look at Croydon.  A town in decline for 30 years.  Jobs are sparse in number, wages are low, prices are high, and there is a LOT of uncertainty out there.  Some parts of the map are so neglected that specific projects have had to be created to try to fix things.  Like the BME outreach part of our current Croydon IAPT ( Improving Access to Psychological Therapies ), as in the past BME communities have often been left behind.  BME means Black & Minority Ethnic for those who don't know.  Croydon is nearly 50% ethnic after all.


Think about The Riots. Why did those kids rebel?  Why did they turn to crime?  Is it because there was no way out for them, and they were watching their dreams get further and further away?  It happened just after Tuition Fees were trebled and EMA was pretty-much axed ( shrunk by 2/3 ).  Is this just a coincidence, or was it a trigger that set off a bomb that had been growing for a good few years as many of us Lefties believe. Punish the rioters by all means, but surely you don't want other kids going off the rails in the future as well?  You don't want another riot?  Then you are going to need to fix the causes as well, or another generation will go. And this existing crowd will just re-offend.




People need options. Leave them without options for long enough and some will turn to crime, whilst others are forced to fight to defend themselves.  It's all stressful, and both sides will get injuries in the end.  And some of those injuries will be Mental Health ones.


Bullying can kill. Yelling 'man up princess' at the bullying victim whilst letting off the bullies solves nothing.  In my experience more people need to remember this.  You need to shut down the bullies/ bad-guys, and rescue the innocent populace.  Before it's too late and your town has collapsed under a wave of violence.


How many of the bad-guys out there are also substance abusers?  Is it just a coincidence, or have they buckled under the pressures of life and gone rogue?


Something for you to think about.







Christian Wilcox is the Chair of the Croydon Mental Health Forum ( politically neutral ), an NHS Executive ( Advisory ) for the South London & Maudsley ( politically neutral ), and works for the Labour Party privately.

Counselling in Croydon.


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