Saturday, 4 October 2014

...feeling detached from oneself

News coming well as taking statins ad infinitum and perhaps something to calm your nerves - or pep you up, or help with your weight gain, now there’s a new lifestyle pill to stop you craving that unnecessary glass of wine in the evening. Yes, ‘drinkers who have half a bottle of wine or three pints a night are to be offered a life-saving pill which helps reduce their alcohol consumption. Nearly 600,000 people will be eligible to receive the nalmefene* tablet to keep their cravings at bay.’ Read more by clicking on the bottle of plonk. Great to see Big-Pharma showing us the way again and designers of this ‘brain disease’ drug, Lundbeck have shrewdly had their eyes on the cash cow. Who gives a damn about the social and cultural causes of addiction when there’s money to be made? *rhymes with Soylent Green

Of course, the issue of substance addiction is serious and needs a multi-faceted approach, but still, you have to smile - the side effects of this miracle pill, as registered on Medicines UK offer a better night out than a bottle of Blue Nun! Here they are for your delectation.

Possible side effects 
Like all medicines, this medicine can cause side effects, although not everybody gets them. Few cases of side effects of seeing, hearing or sensing things that are not there or feeling detached from oneself have been reported. However, the frequency of these side effects cannot be estimated from the available data. {…}

In some cases, it may be difficult for you to distinguish side effects from the symptoms you may feel when you reduce your alcohol consumption. 

The following side effects have been reported with Selincro: 
Very common, which may affect more than 1 in 10 people: 
feeling sick, dizziness, inability to sleep, headache 

Common, which may affect up to 1 in 10 people: 
loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, confusion, feeling restless, reduced sex drive, drowsiness, body twitches, feeling less alert, peculiar sensation in the skin like pins and needles, reduced sense of touch, racing heart, a sensation of a rapid, forceful, or irregular beating of the heart, vomiting, dry mouth, excessive sweating, muscle spasms, feeling of exhaustion, weakness, discomfort or uneasiness, feeling strange, weight loss 

Other side effects: 
seeing, hearing or sensing things that are not there 
feeling detached from oneself 
At this time, the frequency of these side effects cannot be estimated from the available data. 

So, with our wellbeing in mind, it's the time of year when the Office for National Statistics churn out the latest data on National Wellbeing - well, their ‘measured’ version of it. Here are their handy 8 new insights into UK personal well-being for 2013/14:
  1. 27% of UK adults rated their life satisfaction at a very high level in 2013/14, an increase on the previous year.
  2. Unchanged on the previous year, 6% of UK adults rated their life satisfaction at a low level in 2013/14.
  3. 33% of UK adults rated their happiness at a very high level in 2013/14, an increase on the previous year.
  4. 10% of UK adults rated their happiness at a low level in 2013/14, a fall on the previous year.
  5. 33% of UK adults gave very high ratings in 2013/14 when asked if they feel the things they do in life are worthwhile, a rise on the previous year.
  6. A small but steady minority of around 4% of UK adults gave very low ratings when asked if they feel the things they do in life are worthwhile.
  7. 39% of UK adults rated their anxiety levels as very low in 2013/14 with more people reporting low anxiety this year than last.
  8. 20% of UK adults rated their anxiety at a high level in 2013/14, a fall on the previous year
You can chew over this to your hearts content, by clicking on the genuinely scientific photograph of levitation above, for their full report, but I still retain an uneasiness about this economic obsession with happiness and increasingly mindfulness, which once the policy makers commandeer them as hard objectives, we enter the land of the deluded. Mind you, there are plenty of pharmacological options to up your happiness quota! The All Party Parliamentary Group on Wellbeing Economics make a case for both mindfulness and arts/health, but without sounding like a stuck-record - what about pessimism, anger and discontent. I still rather hope that arts and culture might not leave us sedated and smiling in our individualistic corners, but provoke us into a little discontent to. Click on the extraordinary factual flying chair photograph below for their report.

What is even more interesting to read, is the report of Professor, Dame Sally Davies, the Governments Chief Medical Officer and her timely rebuttal of all things wellbeing too, particularly the cult of wellbeing’s ‘hypothesis’ set out in the 2008 Foresight Report, that:

‘Achieving a small change in the average level of wellbeing across the population would produce a large decrease in the percentage with mental disorder, and also in the percentage who have sub-clinical disorder.’ 

Davies suggests that ‘this hypothesis was accepted as proven without question’ and that ‘there is still a lack of consensus over fundamental questions such as: what mental well-being is, how it relates to public mental health and illness and what value is placed on it across society.’ 

I applaud her view that, ‘It is entirely possible to have a mental illness, and simultaneously to enjoy high levels of subjective well-being – and vice versa.’ She suggests that we build on the robust tradition within ‘quality of life’ research, furthermore, ‘strong correlations between these quality of life and life satisfaction measures have been reported. It makes sense to build on this research rather than reinventing the wheel by starting again with a new concept of mental well-being in mental health outcomes.’

Ultimately she suggests keeping the WHO Mental Health Action Plan 2013–2020 in focus, which incorporate the following key concepts: 
  • mental health promotion, (i.e: the determinants of mental health) 
  • mental illness prevention, (which is concerned with the causes of disease) 
  • treatment and rehabilitation. 
Concluding that we ‘should invest in these opportunities rather than being side-tracked by ill-defined approaches to ‘well‑being’ which currently go well beyond existing evidence’, Davies provides us with a serious critique to the wellbeing agenda and calls for robust evidence.    The challenge is there if you want it. 
Click on the image of Dame Sally (in the handsome black hat) consulting with the WHO below, to read her summary report. 

On the 14th November, director of Arts and Health Australia Margret Meagher will be speaking at the Luminate Festival in Scotland. I’m thrilled to be attending the 6th Annual International Arts and Health Conference in Melbourne where I will be giving a keynote on the I AM: Art as an Agent for Change work on addiction recovery. I’ll be giving the first public outing of the Recoverist Manifesto and working with people in recovery in Australia to contribute to Recoverism.

Community Arts as Social and Psychological Medicine? 
2.00-5.00pm, Saturday 8th November, 2014, Birley Fields Campus, MMU
This event explores the potential benefits of arts participation in relation to health, wellbeing and social inclusion. Attendees will have the chance to find out about arts for health projects led by Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) from the perspective of social science researchers and artists, and to try out various arts activities for themselves. Creative music, dance and Javanese gamelan (percussion orchestra) taster workshops will be on offer, with additional opportunities for those taking part to feedback their own experiences and contribute to a wider discussion. The event is open to anyone with an interest in the topic, no previous experience is required

Useful work versus useless toil
Please join us for the launch of a new site specific installation on Great Ancoats Street, Manchester by artist Lucy Harvey on Thursday 9th October, from 6-8pm.

Useful work versus useless toil reinterprets the collection of Thomas Horsfall's Ancoats Art Museum through artefacts and vitrines made in co-production with young people from mental health charity 42nd Street.

The processes and forms of the arts and crafts movement, industrial production and plant taxonomy have been appropriated to create a collection of objects of ambiguous function. Taking its title from the William Morris lecture of the same name, useful work versus useless toil considers the contemporary function of the decorative arts and museum collections in interpreting the natural world and our industrial heritage.

Useful work versus useless toil is installed across the facade of 42nd Street, located at 87 Great Ancoats Street, Manchester, M4 5AG. The work can be viewed from the street and is lit between the hours of 9.30am - 7pm, Monday – Thursday (5pm on Fridays) until December 2014. 

ArtWorks: Developing Practice in Participatory Settings
Reaping the benefits of helping artists learn
Shared investment in the learning and CPD needs of artists working in participatory settings will reap benefits for everyone, from commissioners and training providers to employers and funders, new ArtWorks research shows. The latest ArtWorks paper, ‘What do you need?’ Learning approaches for artists in participatory settings, sets out the key features of learning opportunities which artists say work best for them. Read more at: 

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