Tuesday, 16 May 2017


My dear brother John would have been 67 years old today. Alas he died at the age of 50 years nearly 17 years ago. He had been wonderfully brave and understated as he endured multiple treatments for his cancer which impacted his life so much for nearly 20 years. There are many times when I have missed having a brother.

John with Sarah

At his funeral (before I was unable to continue) I was able to say what a faithful friend he was to me. We didn't see each other often, but he was someone with whom I had grown up, and consequently knew me through and through. All of us need people in our lives who have known us from an early age, and consequently may be suitably  unimpressed by any achievements we may have made since childhood.

John was humble but surprisingly loud in conversation. No having a confidential chat in a cafe with him-everyone could hear the conversation. He was a passionate supporter of Guide Dogs for the Blind, and like me was interested in all things First World War. One of my treasured memories is of a day trip we took to Flanders when we looked around various battle sites and visited those painfully beautiful Commonwealth War cemeteries.

I thank God for him and the gentle faith he had in a hope beyond the grave. As the good old Book of Common Prayer has it,

'In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life though our Lord Jesus Christ'

Friday, 12 May 2017

Mental Health Awareness

I'm glad that this week is Mental Health Awareness week. Mental distress is horrible, and as Matt Haig writes in his memoir on depression and anxiety (Reasons To Stay Alive), 'depression is one of the deadliest diseases on the planet'.

I've had the privilege of seeing many patients over the years with mental distress and have often recommended books, in addition to counselling and medication. I thought it might be helpful to list a few of the ones I've recommended  and/or read for myself.

1. Overcoming Anxiety by Helen Kennerly.  A really good intro for learning to cope with anxiety. Its not too demanding a read and has some helpful explanation of the basics of CBT and relaxation.  It's not written by a self help guru, but a recognised authority.

2. Feeling Good by David Burns. Very helpful on understanding the negative patterns of thinking that we can fall into, such as catastrophising, jumping to conclusions etc. Ok its verbose and relatively dated but still an excellent read, again applying the principles of CBT.

3. Say goodnight to insomnia by Jacobs, and Overcoming Insomnia by Espie. Both really fine books. The first American and second British. Since disturbed sleep is so often a feature and can be a contributory cause of mental distress, it's  important to get help with this problem.

4. Manage your stress by Looker. A fabulous book that I've been recommending for over 20 years. Still the best on stress I think. Helpful before one gets too far down the spiral of distress and into more serious mental health problems.

5. Reasons too stay alive by Matt Haig. An honest and hopeful book charting the agony of mental distress and the journey out. Can be read in short bursts.

6. A darkness visible by William Styron. A classic memoir of depression.

7. Mindfulness for Health by Danny Penman. Very helpful for learning to deal with chronic pain and the stress and anxiety associated with physical illness.

There are of course many more. And some times when we are too anxious or low, its just impossible to read. So best to check them out before the darkness descends.

And yep most of us will need someone else to help us. Family and loving friends, counsellors, doctors, hairdressers (well most of them are amateur psychiatrists) etc. Don't neglect to get help. And don't forget the Samaritans.

A message from the other side

No, not that side! But thank God got through surgery ok yesterday. And thanks to all for love support and prayer.