Sunday, 20 May 2018

Food for Thought in a Week full of Awareness Raising

I celebrated my 63rd birthday last week. It was a lovely day. Sunshine, gifts, wonderful food and drink, good conversations, and I felt 21 years old again. I also celebrated my birthday in the middle of Mental Health Awareness Week. As such I shared my own story of dealing with my mental health and well-being. It was published elsewhere (see here) and I was pleased with the response the piece got. Personally, I believe we need to keep sharing our experiences if we are ever going to achieve the ambition of no health without mental health. During the week there was lots of comments on social media. I followed the Twitter conversations on #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek. 

I was a little sad to see amongst the positive awareness raising tweets, tweets that challenged whether the week was actually helpful at all. Of course I would agree that we can always do more, particularly around mental health promotion and prevention. I also think children and young people’s services require a wider and a more multi-agency approach to truly making them relevant and accessible. However, I think the week is relevant and it still provides an important opportunity for awareness raising of these issues. I know from personal experience as these issues get raised opportunities are created for new partnerships, for new ways of thinking about the problems, and new ways to challenge and innovate. 

But last week it wasn’t just mental health issues that were being raised. It was also Dying Matters Week. Regular readers will know I touched upon this awareness raising week in my blog last week. I was also very pleased to see the response and to see the many activities reported on around end of life care. You can see some of these wonderful stories here.

And of course it was also Vegetarian Week last week. Over the 9 years I have been writing this blog I have referenced the fact I have been a vegetarian since I was 15 and of the various experiences of eating out as a vegetarian. Many of these experiences haven’t always been good. Last week I was taken out for my birthday and that was a good experience. Rhubarb gin featured, as did the tastiest cheese and onion pie I have eaten in a long time. Unfortunately, other meals last week weren’t so good.

For example, last week I had been invited to the Houses of Parliament to celebrate the launch the publication of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Future Nurse; Standards of proficiency for registered nurses. This document provides the foundation for nurse and midwifery education. The launch was the culmination of nearly 3 years work, where the role I played was as a member of the NMC Thought Leadership Group. It was a real privilege to be involved in this way, and although the process was a roller-coaster one at times, I am so pleased to have been part of it. I am also so proud of the final output in terms of the standards developed. The future of nursing and the future nurse have been equipped with some long lasting educational standards. I hope universities rise to the challenge in delivering these future educational programme. 

Now I have been to the Houses of Parliament for many similar events, but there is always something special in walking through the security, and into the splendour of the building. I still find it awesome to be there. It was a great event, and a fabulous opportunity to catch up with so many friends and colleagues from my nursing and university life. Sadly, my friend and great colleague Professor Dame Jill Macleod Clark, was in Australia and unable to attend the event. Jill was the leader and architect of the standards development, and a brilliant person to be working with. 

The wine flowed, as did the conversation. The food was canap├ęs. I think this small, and often very decorative savoury food, usually sitting on a cracker, or a small piece of bread is a complete waste of time. They can be consumed in one bite, but many are needed to satisfy any think except the smallest appetite. On principle I won’t eat them as I dislike and distrust such pre-prepared food at such events. Even if wanted to eat them, most were either fish or meat. Not great in National Vegetarian Week. The evening drew to a close and I wandered back to my hotel along the Albert Embankment. I was hungry and thought I might eat something off the in-room dining menu, but there was nothing that caught my fancy. Still I had breakfast to look forward to. What a disappointment. Given the quality of the hotel I was expecting something more than the ubiquitous buffet. Which was also far from hot. 

Unlike of course Harry and Meghan’s wedding. What a great spectacle, and one that was shared by so many around the world.  Here it was down tools and sit, watch and share the moment. They made their day their day. I don’t what they had to eat at the wedding breakfast, but the highlight for me was the wonderful gospel choir singing ‘Stand by Me’. Sitting still and enjoying the service made for the perfect end to a very busy and fulfilling week.