Friday, 2 August 2013

Healthy Living Tips - Marco Lanzarote

Wellbeing advice crops up all the time in the media, and magazines abound in it. One I was handed from Glamour, entitled “50 Genius Tweaks for a better you”, may provide a little light reading for those interested in getting more out of life. Here’s a small selection of their suggestions:

Saying ‘No’ seven times a day can give you back an hour a day to yourself.

According to a study, pets can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol.

You can treat anxiety naturally with an amino acid called L-Theanine which has the effect of relaxing you.

Quit Smoking – Eat Veg. A medical journal found that smokers who ate 4 portions of veg a day had better chance of staying smoke free for a year. Apparently veg curbs your craving by making cigarettes taste bad.

Try whey protein as “the unsung hero of morning meals”. Added to porridge, yogurt or a smoothie, it helps you stay full till lunchtime.

Cinnamon regulates blood sugar levels to control hunger.

Open University researchers found that flicking through old photos boosts your mood, even more than music, tv, alcohol or chocolate.

Count your thoughts when your mind is racing.

A lack of face to face relationships is the biggest cause of depression, says a Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health, so talk to someone after every social media session.

If you have any more health or lifestyle tips, why not send them in to Equilibrium?

Marco Lanzarote. 


1. Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath (1963)
Famous writer and poet Plath’s only novel, it is often seen as a roman à clef (French for “novel with a key”, a novel about real life, overlaid with a façade of fiction) with the protagonist’s painful battle with mental illness paralleling Plath’s own experiences of severe depression. 

2. Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger (1951)
Filled with themes of teenage angst, rebellion and alienation, this is bucket-list book. 

3. Spider, Patrick McGrath (1990)
A compelling read, with haunting prose, Spider is the story of Dennis Cleg, and draws you into his psychotic and paranoid visions and memories of the world unremittingly. Made into an excellent film with Ralph Fiennes and Miranda Richardson. 

4. Regeneration, Pat Barker (1991)
Part of a fantastic trilogy on the First World War, the novel is inspired by the real-life experiences of army officers being treated for shell hock and PTSD at Craiglockhart Was Hospital in Edinburgh, and features poets Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves and Wilfred Owen. 

5. Affinity, Sarah Waters (1999)
One of my favourite novels to date, the protagonist’s voice so clearly articulates how it feels to be powerless and battling with yourself. 

6. About a Boy, Nick Hornby (1998)
Best known as a film released in 2002, About a Boy not only includes the character Fiona, struggling with her own demons, but also Clive, Marcus’ father, questioning the meaning of life, and a whole host of characters questioning their place in the world. 

7. Her Fearful Symmetry, Audrey Niffinger 
Not only deals with grief, but also features a character whose OCD is so severe that life has become intolerable.  

8. The Illustrated Mum, Jacqueline Wilson (1999)
Although she writes children’s books – like all good authors for the genre – that doesn’t mean Wilson’s books lack gritty realism, tackling a wide range of issues (also see Girls Under Pressure for a fantastic exploration of eating disorders). In this story it is Dolphin’s life with her bipolar mum, Marigold, which we follow, including her traumatic breakdown and hospitalisation. 

9. Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky (1999)
Depicting battles with suicide, schizophrenia and adolescent sexuality, this was also adapted into a successful film with Chbosky as director in 2012.   

10. Hamlet, William Shakespeare (1601)
Cheating slightly, as this is a play not a novel, but since it includes the most famous of all literary and psychological questions I thought it needed to join the list. To be or not to be, that is the question. 

CoolTan Arts Largactyl Shuffle

Summer Solstice Midnight Walk 2013

Review: by Tim Russell
More than 100 Largactyl Shufflers gathered for our Midnight Summer Solstice walk on the evening of June 22, when we walked from Tate Modern to Maudsley Hospital, and learnt about the ‘Mad Buildings’ of Southwark!

Our first stop was at the gates of the Crossbones Cemetery on Redcross Way. After hearing a talk about its history as an unconsecrated burial site and memorial to sex workers, we moved on to the Borough and the former site of the Marshalsea prison, an infamous jail where Dickens’ father was once imprisoned. 

From the Borough, we headed on down to the Elephant and Castle roundabout and gathered in the centre, next to the colourful lights by the Faraday Memorial, to hear a talk on night walking. Charles Dickens, who was a prolific night walker, often passed this very spot on his way to Rochester.

After leaving the roundabout it was a short walk to the Heygate, where we learnt about the history of the estate and its controversial current redevelopment, before a quick rest at CoolTan Arts for coffee and cakes. As the light began slowly to return, we continued our walk down Walworth Road and headed to Camberwell Green, where we arrived at our very own CoolTan Arts Bench and gingko tree. Here we heard about the history and meaning of the Summer Solstice, before lighting candles around the bench.

There was one more stop for talks at the opposite end of the Green, where we learnt about the history of Camberwell House Asylum and Bethlem Hospital, before finally finishing the walk at Maudsley Hospital for a much needed sit-down and hot drinks. 

Well done everybody that bravely took part, and we hope to see you again next year! 


1. Girl, Interrupted (1999)
Although these lists aren’t compiled in hierarchical order, this will always be No.1 for me. With an Oscar winning performance from Angelina Jolie, and starring an excellent Winona Ryder as the lead (with fantastic supporting turns, including a psychiatric nurse played by Whoppi Goldberg), this is an unforgettable film, set in an American psychiatric hospital in the 1960s. Haunting, very moving, and with an abundance of rich characters and a compelling narrative, this is a nuanced exploration of psychiatry, the ‘60s, and the role of friendship in self-discovery. 

2. The Hours (2002)
Inspired by the Modernist classic Mrs Dalloway, this film charts three women’s journeys: Woolf’s own (into a river, with stones in her pockets), a ‘50s housewife reading the novel, and a contemporary Mrs Dalloway, buying flowers for a party. Adapted from Michael Cunningham’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, the film has an all-star cast and is beautifully shot, drawing on timeless themes of sexuality, womanhood and loneliness. 

3. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
The list wouldn’t be complete without this seminal film, starring Jack Nicholson. If you haven’t seen it: watch it. ‘Nuff said. 

4. Nowhere Boy (2009)
Looking at the early years of John Lennon’s life, Kristen Scott-Thomas’s performance of Lennon’s mother realistically captures the highs and lows, joy and despair, of a rollercoaster through bipolar episodes. 

5. Running with Scissors (2006)
Based on a true story, this is an entertaining and shocking look at one boy’s story after being moved in with his mother’s therapist, Dr Finch – a house with a distinctly ‘alternative’ approach to dealing with mental illness and trauma. 

6. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)
I definitely watched this film when I was too young, and maybe why that’s why it’s always stayed with me. More likely, however, is that is a truly haunting film, with some mind-blowing acting, particularly from a young Leonardo DiCaprio, whose performance of a boy with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties is mind-blowing. Also covering depression leading to morbid obesity, suicide and a catalogue of other challenges, this film could earn a place on a whole range of ‘Top 10’ lists.  

7. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
My old housemate said to me, ‘I think you’ll like this film; it’s really good and about mentals’. Thanks. But it is very good (and, yes, about someone who’s been hospitalised for bipolar) – touching, funny and tender. 

8. Melancholia (2011)
Fear. Family. A wedding. The imminent end of the world. Kirsten Dunst’s portrayal of a woman trying to be happy for everyone else, whilst drowning in silent despair, will strike a chord with many. 

9. Sylvia (2003) 
This film tells the story of the ill-fated relationship between poets Sylvia Plath (the archetype of the tortured artist) and Ted Hughes. 
‘Sometimes I dream the tree, and the tree is my life. One branch is the man I shall marry, and the leaves my children. Another branch is my future as a writer, and each leaf is a poem. Another branch is a good academic career. But as I sit there trying to choose, the leaves begin to turn brown and blow away, until the tree is absolutely bare.’ 

10. Donnie Darko (2001)
Watch out for the rabbit, and wait while your mind slowly implodes. 

Compassionate Living, with Karen Armstrong - Kate Massey-Chase

Sitting in the marvelous Conway Hall on 18th April 2013, I attended my second Action for Happiness lecture of the year (see the Spring issue of Equilibrium for my write-up of my evening with Jon Kabat-Zinn), this time to see the magnificent Karen Armstrong. Introduced by Mark Williamson and Lord Richard Leyhard, Armstrong’s lecture provided a historical, theological, scientific and cultural exploration of compassion and its fundamental importance to our world. 

Armstrong explained how liberty and the pursuit of happiness are a modern ideal, and how happiness often gets confused with emotions like tiredness, hunger, and hormones. In an oxymoronic world of  ‘must-have accessories’ and post-modern pressures, happiness has become something actively sought, yet still elusive; it is a mirage on the horizon. 

Armstrong contextualized her ideas on compassion with a scientific breakdown of the human brain’s different parts: the reptilian brain (the deepest and oldest), the mammalian brain, and the neo-cortex. Now, you’ll have to excuse my schoolgirl knowledge of science (blame me not Karen Armstrong if this isn’t right!), but she essentially explained how the reptilian brain is the one that is egocentric: all about me; it is only concerned with the four ‘F’s – fighting, fleeing, feeding and…reproduction(!), and was not designed for an age of plenty. Next we have the mammalian bit of the brain, which came next and developed in line with these creatures’ new needs. So, whereas reptiles laid eggs, which they could then abandon, mammals give birth and care for their young, and they started to learn that they were stronger as a group. Thus we can see the need for compassion starting to creep into the evolutionary process. The last brain-section (I have no idea what to call it!) in Armstrong’s codification of the brain is the neo-cortex, the newest part, wherein we find the ability for rational thinking, where we can stand back from our instinctive drives. She also posited a very sobering idea that, historically, the worst human atrocities – such as Auschwitz and 9/11 – happen when the first and third brains (base instinct and objective thought: what do we want and how can we do it most effectively) are used without the second: compassion for another’s suffering.  

Armstrong suggested that we need to think globally if we want to be happy, that the trick is ‘to live with suffering’, kindly, creatively and peacefully. If we are caught up in the endless prism/prison of the self, preoccupied with our own thoughts, feelings and small lives we can never be happy. Happiness, with the essential component of compassion, comes from ‘dethroning yourself from the centre of your world and putting another there’. Author of A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Armstrong also brought theology into the debate, reminding the audience that the ‘Golden Rule’ of all religions and ethical traditions is to treat others as you would like to be treated. 

In her new book, ‘12 Steps to a Compassionate Life’, she suggests that we exercise compassion through remembering our own pain and refusing to inflict it on others, that we use our own feelings as a guide. This doesn’t mean that we literally treat others as we would like them to respond to us, as it is far more nuanced than that; we need to use our knowledge of that person as well, and not assume that their desires and responses would mirror ours. For example, the sentence, ‘Well, I would have wanted to know’ encapsulates this, as it does not encompass the crucial question: but would they want to? It takes a constant effort of imagination to put yourself in other people’s shoes, but is all part of compassionate living (and why I think Drama – active empathy! – should be recognised as an important part of the National Curriculum – but I’ll save that article for another time). 

Her allusion to the ‘12 Steps’, commonly associated with recovery from addiction, is no coincidence, as Armstrong suggested that we are addicted to our likes and dislikes, to our need to compare, to bitch even, and to say things like ‘the trouble with her is...’ – trying to ‘sum up the mystery of a person in a single phrase’. It makes us small, narrows our horizons, and does nothing to aid our own happiness. We need to let go of our opinions and take responsibility for the world’s pain. The pain ‘needs to break our heart, so we reach out into the world in compassion’. This sat slightly uncomfortably with me, as I just feel that there is simply too much pain in the world for me to take on – how could I even process it and, if I did, how would my heart ever recover? But I can do my best, and I will sign up to her Charter for Compassion ( as I do believe we need to make compassion ‘a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world’. Will you do the same? 


1. Black-Eyed Dog – Nick Drake
The ‘black dog’ is a famous metaphor for depression (famously used by Winston Churchill), and Nick Drake draws on this metaphor in his melodic masterpiece. Haunting strings and a soulful voice. 

2. I See a Darkness – Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy
Covered by the legend that is Johnny Cash, I still prefer Will Oldham’s original. I don’t know how to describe this song or the significance it has for me. ‘My best unbeaten brother[s]’, please listen to this song. Turn the light off, press play and feel your spirit moved.  

3. Where Is My Mind? – Pixies
‘With your feet in the air and your head on the ground’… 

4. Glittering Cloud, Imogen Heap
From an album inspired by the Biblical Plagues, Heap’s glittering cloud of locusts appears to be her own self-destruction, an impulse she can’t control: ‘I’m not always like this, it’s something I become’. She pleads: ‘Save me from my self, before I hurt somebody else again’. 

5. Hope There’s Someone, Anthony and the Johnsons 
Anthony’s voice carries an overwhelming mix of both great beauty and great pain. Listen and feel your heart break into pieces and then be stuck back together with lyrical swoops that remind you that you are not the only one who has ever been there. 

6. Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd
The sirens, the echoes, the synthesizers, the guitar solo, and the LYRICS: ‘I can’t explain/You would not understand/ This is not how I am/ I have become comfortably numb’. I quite like the Scissor Sister’s dance tune cover, and the upbeat tempo provides an interesting contrast to the lyrics. Still, you can’t beat Pink Floyd’s original, fusing big guitars with big emotions.   

7. These Are Your Friends, Adem
‘Everybody needs some help sometimes’. True dat.

8. Sleep the Clock Around, Belle & Sebastian 
‘And the moment will come when composure returns’. But until then, we can listen to Belle & Sebastian’s marvelous story-songs. 

9. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – Rolling Stones
A classic song, which could easily be about clinical depression. For a more soulful version, check out Cat Power’s cover. 

10. I Don’t Like Mondays – Boomtown Rats 
Who does? 

Wellbeing & Me - Maria Dooney-Jones

A few weeks ago I asked for the book ‘The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama’ from my brother. I’m not sure what made me give it a go, but one thing I do know is that I’m glad I did! At the time I had been going through what felt like a lot; really it was just a mixture of stress, exhaustion and hormones. However, this book helped me in more ways than I knew it could. 

At first I was apprehensive and didn’t put much faith into the book, yet, over time, I noticed how much sense it all made! The Dalai Lama talked about so many things, but these few snippets from the book are the ones that helped me the most:
“Happiness is determined more by one’s state of mind than by external events”

“Our happiness has little to do with our absolute conditions, but of how we perceive our situation and how satisfied we are with what we have”

“Our feelings of contentment are strongly influenced by our tendency to compare”. 

Throughout the rest of the week, not much changed.  I knew and understood what he had said but couldn’t bring myself to do something about it. Moreover, my wellbeing seemed to be crumbling around me, until I did it: I slowly started to look at things differently. When I felt envious of a classmate, instead of brooding about it for the rest of the day, I simply thought about it differently, putting me in a happy mood again.

I am now so much happier; I feel like myself again and it’s got a lot to do with this book. Although I must admit that I find it hard to get off the laptop and read it, when I do, I feel it’s been so worth it. My wellbeing was completely in my hands and it still is. As soon as I changed the way I looked at things my situation seemed to change completely too.

The South Bank Festival - Dev

The South Bank is based in an area of Central London, located immediately adjacent to the south bank of the River Thames.  As an area the South Bank is famous as a cultural hub; it is full of anything to do with the arts or any creativity. 

I stumbled on this place when I was wondering around the Trafalgar Square area, as I ended up at the foot of a large white bridge which was close to the Embankment tube station. As I crossed over I was taken aback by the view and the train thundering by at full speed. 

The area is full of activity and liveliness. Each section of the area is split into different activities. There are sites full of entertainment, and food and drink areas (although some are quite expensive). You could say they tend to intermix. The Entertainment area allows people to perform (street performers). One group I came across was two men perform the YMCA and other songs whilst dancing with masks of famous people doing that song (imostly that don’t fit the song). As I continued to walk along I came across a person dressed in bronze on a throne and with a stick; as I looked further it seemed the person had no head! Thinking I was seeing things, I automatically rubbed my eyes and looked again. During this time a young boy walked up with his mother, touching the bronze person. As he did that the bronze person’s head popped up, causing them to scream and laugh. I must admit, it was pretty funny.

Another act that I came across was a woman dressed as an animal in a rather small basket on a table. Her face was like a young badger and you could only see the head and the front legs. Every time someone got near her she would sound like a baby. This, as you probably guessed, drew some people, and their money, to her.

The other act was of a man creating triangle, square and star shaped bubbles and they were large, at least four foot. This intrigued the children whilst covering them in a large bubble.

Alongside all these entertainments are the Royal Festival Hall, British Film Institute, galleries, theatres, restaurants, shops, some strange art works, the BMX bike track, and the ‘Udderbelly’, another entertainment area.

The south bank art gallery was full of unique art pieces like book mazes and floating instruments among photos and sculptures. Along the riverbank was a string of window frames dangling sideways, upside down. It was rather odd seeing them.

On my way back, I came across the Udderbelly entertainment area. This consisted of a drinks, food, and play area with a building that was of an upside down purple cow with underbelly t-shirts.

I would recommend a visit to the Southbank this summer, as there are lots of things going on. 

Tired of London? - Katie Brennan

When I first moved to London, I have to admit, I didn’t get it. London felt like a big in-joke that I wasn’t in on, no matter how hard I tried. I persevered though, and grew to love this city with a fluctuating, ever-changing love. Sometimes I love it like a lover, it makes my heart beat and butterflies dance around my stomach as I grin in wonder at how lucky I am to live here. Sometimes I love it like a sibling- it drives me absolutely mental and I want to give it a dead leg, but I know deep down that I love it unconditionally. Sometimes I love it like a parent, I look to it for inspiration and learn something new about life from it everyday.

This love takes work, loving this geographical lump of little boroughs and teeming wreaths of people does not go without some toil. So for me, what makes London good? Well, these thing for starters:

The blue whale at the natural history museum (though this might be less to do with the whale and more for my general love of things that are MASSIVE or TINY. Like, I love it when fruit is the wrong size. I had some blackberries the other week that were as nearly as big as my palm. THE GASTON OF BLACKBERRIES. Mind-Blowing.*)

  • Walking over the bridges and staring down the Thames.  (And inevitably instagramming it. Please see below as a reference point.) In whatever weather, from angry black clouds to (rare) blazing sunshine, this is always impressive and lung-fillingly brill.
  • Watching the kids run in and out of the fountain that appears every Summer outside the Southbank Centre. The way they scream in delight as the jets fire up from the ground and grandparents round the edges roll their eyes tutting amongst themselves, ‘We haven’t got a towel…’ makes me chuckle.
  • Fragazines. Stylist and Timeout and Evening Standard on a Friday oh my.
  • The man who sells fruit outside Holborn tube station. I’ve spoken previously about his talents, but also, his ability to shout his head off in (often incomprehensible) cockney for hours every day shows a vocal technique that as an actor, frankly, I’m deeply jealous of.
  • Empty tube carriages. I do a little sing when I get one.  I’m Beyonce on the Jubilee line, Judy on the Piccadilly and Tom Jones on the Northern.
  • ‘Waterloo Sunset’ by the Kinks. Gawd Bless Terry and Julie and the young London love they stand as a symbol for. Particularly this version of it by the brilliant Joe Stilgoe:
  • The jewellery room at the V & A. I feel like I’m in the Cave of Wonders from ‘Aladdin’. Except there’s no sand guy who gets well moody when you wake him up.
  • Feeling like a don when you see someone try and feed their oyster card into the ticket slot on the tube barriers. Hahahhaahaha London-Muggles: they don’t get it.
  • The tube map and all it’s wonderful reincarnations. Clever people.
  • Eating at places that aren’t Pizza Express/Cafe Rouge/Nandos/Wagamamas (but also knowing that these places are around most corners if you JUST REALLY WANT A POLLO AD ASTRA OKAY?)
  • Topshop flagship. I think it might be bigger than Russia. Poor unsuspecting Males have died in there.
  • λ Hackney City Farm. SHEEPS IN THE CITY. And one time I went there, they were having a whole day’s festival celebrating the humble apple. Seriously. The apple.
  • Reading old stuff like Dickens and Restoration Comedies and knowing the specific places where they’re set. Covent Garden has been cool for blooming ages.
  • Cockfosters. hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahhahahahahahahahaha. Samuel Jonson famously said of London, ‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life’,  but personally I think it should be amended to, ‘When a man is tired of laughing at Cockfosters, he is tired of life.’
  • Street names  like: Laycock Street, Cumming Street and Mincing Alley. More hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaa (oh my god I really want to do a pub crawl of these places. WHO’S WITH ME?)
  • You can literally wear what the devil you like and no-one bats an eyelid.
  • Drinking in pubs that are older than America.
  • Falling in love on the tube. the other day I had a full blown relationship with a man  on the Piccadilly Line between Finsbury Park and Leicester Sq, where we met on the tube, fell in love, gadded around London like urban spring chickens, then got married in Westminster Abbey and Alan Carr was my maid of honour. that’s normal right?! GUYS?!
  • Feeling like a king when you know which tube lines pass through which stations without having to consult the tube map app.
  • The southbound platform at Angel. IT’S SO MASSIVE. I always want to skid down it on my knees like a naughty little lad in a mini waistcoat at a wedding disco. (Again, this point might have something to do with my love of things that are bigger than they should be.)
  • When the sun pounds the pavement and the buildings glint and wink at each other, and Londoners occasionally smile a half smile at strangers and it just seems like the best place in the world.

Of course, there’s all the normal things that make London the best. Free museums, thriving theatre scene, Pride, Notting Hill Carnival, Buck Pal, the parks, but the things above are just a handful of things that for me, are why this city is literally the best thing since they sliced up a batch of Hovis’s finest. What are yours?
Twitter: @katie_brennan

*For those who are dying to know, here’s a picture of the KING KONG of blackberries. Enjoy.

NHS visits the Clarendon Day Centre - Angela

Two nurses visited the Clarendon Day Centre this week to do medical health checks. They were looking closely at blood sugar levels and cholesterol, as it was specifically a cardiovascular check. They weighed me and measured my height. 

They did a finger prick blood test for sugar levels. I have family members who have diabetes, so mine was a little high. It’s therefore best for me to have a healthy diet. The finger prick test was also to examine cholesterol. They discovered that my ‘good cholesterol’ was too low,


Recently I’ve been using various processes for coping with the stresses and strains of day to day living, called NLP – Neuro (the mind), Linguistic (the language used to understand particular processes of the mind), and Programming (the process of removing/adding belief systems in the mind).

Part of the theory is that we have from our earliest years been inculcated by those around us with negative beliefs, that many of our belief systems have been founded on false assumptions. For example:

Jane’s mother  was petrified of dogs. When Jane was growing up she watched her mother run in fear of every dog she saw. Jane began to believe that dogs were something to be feared. And naturally Jane grows up with a phobia of dogs. Now Jane may not even remember her mother being afraid of dogs. As a result she may not understand why she is afraid of dogs. But this has now become a negative belief system which blights her life. As simply as it was for Jane to be ‘programmed’ in her early life, so can it be that Jane can simply be ‘unprogrammed’ - by herself.

So NLP believes that we do not have to accept who we are, how we behave, or what we believe. We can reprogramme ourselves such that we can live in a completely new way, as long as it doesn’t conflict with our current set of morals.

But where do these belief systems reside? The fear appears in the conscious part of Jane’s mind, but it has been imbedded in the unconscious part of her mind. All of our habits and beliefs are rooted in the unconscious, therefore a language is required that can access these beliefs. We can tell our conscious mind a thousand times that it is irrational to be afraid of dogs, but while the unconscious mind still believes it, nothing will change.

The human mind is said to be made up of 10% conscious activity, 90% unconscious activity. To be able to access this 90% of our minds would be to access an extremely resourceful part of our minds. NLP believes it has the necessary tools for unleashing this potential.

So what NLP processes could Jane use. First we need to understand how negative beliefs exist in our minds. Imagine your first car. Picture your favourite food. It could be that you picture a colour, a blue car say, or the spicy smells of a pizza. The point being that our fears our made up by the way we ‘picture’ them. 

Now Jane’s irrational fear of dogs might include an image in her head of  large dog, teeth gnashing, whites of eyes flaring up, loud maniacal barking, the increasing size of the dog as it nears. Now this is like a film that Jane runs in her head each time she nears a dog. This film has been programmed in. If I ran this film every time I saw a dog, I too would be petrified of dogs. 

But if Jane were to imagine that she were the director of this film, she could change it in a fundamental way. Now in order to decrease the fear she has, the film might have to change dramatically. Rather than picture the dog as just mentioned, she could rather  begin to reduce the image of the dog so it is a tiny image, almost like a puppy; she could see it as a black and white image rather than a brilliant bright emotionally-charged colour image, she could see it as chasing its own tail, licking her face, or that rather than bark it squeaks.
Now every time she nears a dog, rather than the horror film beginning to run, the newly created film runs. In order for this film to run Jane would have to reprogramme her unconscious mind to trigger a new set of beliefs. So to use NLP terminology she would need an ‘anchor’ to trigger this new film to start.

As mentioned, I attended a two day seminar on NLP and one of the speakers, an extremely accomplished professional Master Practitioner spoke about how he fell into a deep depression. For all his experience, life got the better of him - for a while at least. He’d reached absolute rock bottom, where life lost its meaning. With all his skills he couldn’t extract himself from his suffering. I think this is worth bearing in mind. You never know when Life’s going to hit you, and just how it will. Another way of viewing it is he obviously had the skills to ultimately find a way out. He found a scrap of paper and wrote all his achievements down and this began to loosen his depression and start the long process of change.

What I can say with all confidence is that  I have used many of these techniques and have always found them to be extremely beneficial.


1. Homeland
Claire Danes reminded us all why we love her with her portrayal of lead character Carrie, who has bipolar. The best thing about this show is that Carrie’s mental health is not the central focus, as often happens when TV shows feature a lead with a mental health problem, and I hope marks an important leap in the media’s portrayal of mental ill health. 

2. My Mad Fat Diary
Based on ‘My Mad, Fat, Teenage Diary’ by Rae Earl, the show is as forth-right as its narrator, delving into the depths of teenage angst, but with the added issue that the show’s lead has just been released from an adolescent psychiatric hospital. 

3. In Treatment
Ever wanted to be a fly on the wall in a therapist’s treatment room? Then here you go (not in a voyeuristic, ‘The Man with a….’ Channel Four sort of way – this is reassuringly fictional). 

4. The L-Word
Featuring a few breakdowns and meltdowns, and also self-harm in later series, The L-Word isn’t just about lesbians. 

5. Shameless
A British comedy-drama, set on a Manchester council estate, the character of Shelia, played by Maggie O’Neill suffers from agoraphobia, which is played very authentically. 

6. Skins
With controversial storylines in abundance, Skins has not shied away from mental illness. See character Cassie’s struggle with an eating disorder, JJ’s aspergers, and Tony’s sociopathic tendencies.  

7. E.R.
Abigail Lockhart’s (Maura Tierney) mother, Maggie, played by Sally Field, was, I think, my first introduction to bipolar, watching the series as a child.  Sensational acting from an award-winning actress. 

8. House
Dr. House (Hugh Laurie): A misanthropic medical genius, with a serious drug addiction. Maybe not quite right for this list, but I love it so it’s going in!

9. Eastenders
Nowhere does ‘issues’ quite like Albert Square. I haven’t watched it in years (except the Christmas specials), but I’d put money on the fact that they’ve portrayed mental illness, and – knowing their award-winning history – done it well. 

10. Sopranos
Tony Soprano, although head of a criminal organisation, suffers from depression and panic attacks, and his therapy sessions throughout the series not only give more of an insight into his thoughts and feelings but also realistically depicts the challenging dynamic of therapy and the struggle to accept a psychiatric diagnosis. 

Volunteering with Diversity Role Model

I first discovered how volunteering could warm your soul in 2007 when I spent a good portion of my week at the Oxfam Bookshop in Winchester, whilst trying to sort my life, health and head out a bit. And it genuinely made a massive impact on me; I felt honoured to be giving my time for free there. It wasn’t completely selfless; in that little bookshop on the aptly named Parchment Street, I made friends, found a sense of purpose, and co-invented our Sunday game: Shop Cricket (and got ‘caught out by Proust’ for the first time).

Now I’m living in London, freelancing my arse off to pay my rent (doing a job I love, though, so can’t complain too loudly) and working for free is something I hoped was consigned to my student days. But volunteering and working for free are two different things: one a social problem of glass ceilings and a devalued sector, and the other an act of giving to a society you want to be an active part of. So when I heard about Diversity Role Models, I knew I wanted to volunteer as a Role Model (hard to say without following the term with some kind of witty, self-deprecating remark, but I’ll resist).     

Set up in 2011, Diversity Role Models is a charity that helps schools to eradicate homophobic bullying and provide an inclusive and safe environment for their LGBT students and families. Through high-quality, interactive workshops involving role models and discussions that allow young people to explore their views and understand difference, DRM hopes to tackle the prejudice that leads to homophobic bullying.  ‘I firmly believe that by providing role models for LGBT young people, we can have a positive effect on the negative statistics’, says Suran Dickson, CEO and founder of the organisation, who was prompted to start the charity after witnessing the impact homophobic bullying had in the schools she worked in. And the statistics are shocking: LGBT youth are six times more likely to commit suicide and two thirds of them suffer bullying at school. Furthermore, as they say on their website:

‘…it’s not just LGBT young people. Straight students are terrified of being called ‘gay’. Girls drop out of sport and boys hide artistic talent to conform to gender roles and avoid being labelled gay or lesbian.’ Anyone who’s been into a school recently will know that this is an issue that affects the wellbeing of all young people, whether implicitly or explicitly. 

Since its conception, DRM has delivered their workshops to over 5,000 pupils and the results speak for themselves. Over 90% of young people indicated that they would treat LGBT people better and use the word ‘gay’ as a derogatory term less in the future. Teachers and pupils that have attended the workshops have seen a significant shift in attitudes and behaviour in their schools and would urge other schools to seek their help. ‘Fabulous - should be part of the national curriculum! This workshop should be offered to all year groups’, enthused one teacher who attended a recent workshop. I know I agree. I am proud to be a Diversity Role Model. The biggest payment is knowing that  you’re making a difference.  

The next academic year will see DRM delivering workshops across the country, as well as continuing to work across the capital. For more information on the workshops and to enquire about booking, contact  HYPERLINK “” \t“blank”