My name is Peter Cronin and I am an MP for Lewisham Speaking Up. This week is Mental Health Awareness week. Mental health is important to everyone, especially for people with learning disabilities. I have been learning and talking about mental health for 15 years now and the most important point for me to learn was to develop coping strategies. You need them to deal with life, because life changes, good and bad things happen, but it is how we cope with these changes that makes a difference.
Recently I have had my one to one support reduced by social services to just seven hours a week. The social worker did not tell me this, I found out accidently by seeing the outreach manager on a weekend at a bus stop. I still haven’t been told by the social worker but my hours are now cut. This made me feel angry but also anxious. I wondered how I was going to cope. I would normally talk to my girlfriend but she was away that weekend. Luckily I went round to see a friend. I talked it over and I felt better. They are right when they say ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. I now have an advocate and we are discussing me making a complaint to social services. I might not change the outcome but I have a right to be told officially.
A few years back I lost my wife. We had been married for over 10 years and were very happy. When she died I felt like a dark cloud was always above me, I felt like it would rain on me forever. What saved me was having faith. Believing in god was really important to me and going to church helped me remember the good times we had and I thank god for those years. I’m not saying everyone should believe in god as it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but you need something or someone to turn to when you need help.
I became anxious when my wife passed away. The GP gave me calming tablets for a little while and they helped but they didn’t take the problem away. So I saw a counsellor, who gave me the time and space to talk about my wife and our lives together and what is for the future. This has really helped me. It wasn’t a quick fix, it took a while but was worth it.
One problem happened recently. My flat is in a small block. My neighbours were really noisy, even late at night. Firstly I approached my neighbours and politely asked if they could keep down the noise. They ignored me. I took a deep breath and complained to the council, called the police several times. It took several months but it worked in the end, they had to leave. I could have got into an argument with them but it would have made it worse. Taking deep breathes, telling myself it will work in the long run, follow the rules so I did the right thing.
Other things that help me cope are going for a long walk in the park. It helps me to clear my head and think about things. I make sure I see my family and friends regularly, you can’t put a price on them. I like a drink of alcohol when I’m feeling happy and I’m in the pub. But drinking when you have a problem makes the problem worse. So I don’t drink alcohol to solve my problems. Having something to look forward is important to me, like going on a holiday.
Coping strategies are different for everyone but it’s important you have something to rely on, to fall back on when the times are feeling bad.
Happy Mental Health Awareness Week!
Here is a project I was involved with – Feeling Down: Looking after my mental health. It’s free to download: