Tag Archives: Help

This is what the blood donor service does after an attack – and how you can help | Jane Green

I was overwhelmed by how generously the people of Manchester responded to this horrific attack. Both our blood donor centres in Manchester had queues outside the doors before they even opened. Our national call centre was taking about 1,000 calls an hour by 10am, from people who wanted to help save lives by donating blood.

The response was driven by well-intentioned social media posts from the public. The desire to help was incredible. However we already had enough blood to supply the hospitals treating the victims, and we did not appeal for extra donors. We plan ahead to build in reserves to deal with major incidents. We hope that people who want to help will now become regular donors, because that is how they can best help us save lives when there is a tragedy.

Many people wanted to donate to help that day, but when you donate blood, it is not taken straight to a patient. We need time to test it and process it. The different components such as platelets and red blood cells need to be separated out. Typically, your blood donation will only reach a patient two or three weeks after you donate. The blood used to treat the Manchester victims would have been donated several weeks earlier, and those donors would have been from across the country.

Hospitals order blood from us in advance, without the need for blood to be brought in for each patient. We supply hospitals through our regional stock-holding units (what people refer to as “blood banks”) mainly through routine deliveries. Over Monday night we made 21 deliveries of blood to hospitals in Manchester, including 15 “blue light” emergency deliveries, delivering 346 units of red blood cells. We were able to meet all the hospitals’ requests, and our stocks remained good. We don’t know exactly how this blood was used, and much of the blood from the routine deliveries would have gone to patients not affected by the attack. But this was an exceptionally high level of local emergency demand and many of those precious donations would have been transfused into attack victims.

Trauma patients require more than just red blood cells. They also need platelets to help their blood clot, and other more specialised products: O-negative blood is especially important in emergencies because it can be given to anyone when time is short and you don’t have time to test for blood groups. We always need new O-negative donors because their blood is so valuable.

As Tuesday morning progressed, people began queueing to donate. Some had friends or family members caught up in the incident. We were worried they might be confused or upset about why there was no capacity or urgent need for them to donate that day.


We were inspired to see the diversity of people coming forward, because we need more black and Asian donors

We tried to spread the message about how people could best help across social media and through the press. I was working at Plymouth Grove donor centre, next to Manchester Royal Infirmary, where many victims were being treated, and I spoke to many people face to face. We were inspired to see the diversity of people coming forward, which was moving and very important – because we need more black and Asian donors. Patients benefit from closely matched blood, which will often come from donors of the same ethnicity.

Our message is that blood can best save lives in a tragedy when our stocks are already good through regular donations. Thanks to our loyal army of nearly 900,000 active donors, many of whom give blood three or four times a year, we can do that. But every year many of these donors have to drop out because of age, ill health and many other reasons. We need nearly 200,000 people to register as new donors every year.

If people have been inspired to donate for the first time, please go online, make an appointment, and donate. Blood saves lives, and your donation will help other people in urgent need, and make sure we are again ready for any major incident.

This is what the blood donor service does after an attack – and how you can help | Jane Green

I was overwhelmed by how generously the people of Manchester responded to this horrific attack. Both our blood donor centres in Manchester had queues outside the doors before they even opened. Our national call centre was taking about 1,000 calls an hour by 10am, from people who wanted to help save lives by donating blood.

The response was driven by well-intentioned social media posts from the public. The desire to help was incredible. However we already had enough blood to supply the hospitals treating the victims, and we did not appeal for extra donors. We plan ahead to build in reserves to deal with major incidents. We hope that people who want to help will now become regular donors, because that is how they can best help us save lives when there is a tragedy.

Many people wanted to donate to help that day, but when you donate blood, it is not taken straight to a patient. We need time to test it and process it. The different components such as platelets and red blood cells need to be separated out. Typically, your blood donation will only reach a patient two or three weeks after you donate. The blood used to treat the Manchester victims would have been donated several weeks earlier, and those donors would have been from across the country.

Hospitals order blood from us in advance, without the need for blood to be brought in for each patient. We supply hospitals through our regional stock-holding units (what people refer to as “blood banks”) mainly through routine deliveries. Over Monday night we made 21 deliveries of blood to hospitals in Manchester, including 15 “blue light” emergency deliveries, delivering 346 units of red blood cells. We were able to meet all the hospitals’ requests, and our stocks remained good. We don’t know exactly how this blood was used, and much of the blood from the routine deliveries would have gone to patients not affected by the attack. But this was an exceptionally high level of local emergency demand and many of those precious donations would have been transfused into attack victims.

Trauma patients require more than just red blood cells. They also need platelets to help their blood clot, and other more specialised products: O-negative blood is especially important in emergencies because it can be given to anyone when time is short and you don’t have time to test for blood groups. We always need new O-negative donors because their blood is so valuable.

As Tuesday morning progressed, people began queueing to donate. Some had friends or family members caught up in the incident. We were worried they might be confused or upset about why there was no capacity or urgent need for them to donate that day.


We were inspired to see the diversity of people coming forward, because we need more black and Asian donors

We tried to spread the message about how people could best help across social media and through the press. I was working at Plymouth Grove donor centre, next to Manchester Royal Infirmary, where many victims were being treated, and I spoke to many people face to face. We were inspired to see the diversity of people coming forward, which was moving and very important – because we need more black and Asian donors. Patients benefit from closely matched blood, which will often come from donors of the same ethnicity.

Our message is that blood can best save lives in a tragedy when our stocks are already good through regular donations. Thanks to our loyal army of nearly 900,000 active donors, many of whom give blood three or four times a year, we can do that. But every year many of these donors have to drop out because of age, ill health and many other reasons. We need nearly 200,000 people to register as new donors every year.

If people have been inspired to donate for the first time, please go online, make an appointment, and donate. Blood saves lives, and your donation will help other people in urgent need, and make sure we are again ready for any major incident.

This is what the blood donor service does after an attack – and how you can help | Jane Green

I was overwhelmed by how generously the people of Manchester responded to this horrific attack. Both our blood donor centres in Manchester had queues outside the doors before they even opened. Our national call centre was taking about 1,000 calls an hour by 10am, from people who wanted to help save lives by donating blood.

The response was driven by well-intentioned social media posts from the public. The desire to help was incredible. However we already had enough blood to supply the hospitals treating the victims, and we did not appeal for extra donors. We plan ahead to build in reserves to deal with major incidents. We hope that people who want to help will now become regular donors, because that is how they can best help us save lives when there is a tragedy.

Many people wanted to donate to help that day, but when you donate blood, it is not taken straight to a patient. We need time to test it and process it. The different components such as platelets and red blood cells need to be separated out. Typically, your blood donation will only reach a patient two or three weeks after you donate. The blood used to treat the Manchester victims would have been donated several weeks earlier, and those donors would have been from across the country.

Hospitals order blood from us in advance, without the need for blood to be brought in for each patient. We supply hospitals through our regional stock-holding units (what people refer to as “blood banks”) mainly through routine deliveries. Over Monday night we made 21 deliveries of blood to hospitals in Manchester, including 15 “blue light” emergency deliveries, delivering 346 units of red blood cells. We were able to meet all the hospitals’ requests, and our stocks remained good. We don’t know exactly how this blood was used, and much of the blood from the routine deliveries would have gone to patients not affected by the attack. But this was an exceptionally high level of local emergency demand and many of those precious donations would have been transfused into attack victims.

Trauma patients require more than just red blood cells. They also need platelets to help their blood clot, and other more specialised products: O-negative blood is especially important in emergencies because it can be given to anyone when time is short and you don’t have time to test for blood groups. We always need new O-negative donors because their blood is so valuable.

As Tuesday morning progressed, people began queueing to donate. Some had friends or family members caught up in the incident. We were worried they might be confused or upset about why there was no capacity or urgent need for them to donate that day.


We were inspired to see the diversity of people coming forward, because we need more black and Asian donors

We tried to spread the message about how people could best help across social media and through the press. I was working at Plymouth Grove donor centre, next to Manchester Royal Infirmary, where many victims were being treated, and I spoke to many people face to face. We were inspired to see the diversity of people coming forward, which was moving and very important – because we need more black and Asian donors. Patients benefit from closely matched blood, which will often come from donors of the same ethnicity.

Our message is that blood can best save lives in a tragedy when our stocks are already good through regular donations. Thanks to our loyal army of nearly 900,000 active donors, many of whom give blood three or four times a year, we can do that. But every year many of these donors have to drop out because of age, ill health and many other reasons. We need nearly 200,000 people to register as new donors every year.

If people have been inspired to donate for the first time, please go online, make an appointment, and donate. Blood saves lives, and your donation will help other people in urgent need, and make sure we are again ready for any major incident.

This is what the blood donor service does after an attack – and how you can help | Jane Green

I was overwhelmed by how generously the people of Manchester responded to this horrific attack. Both our blood donor centres in Manchester had queues outside the doors before they even opened. Our national call centre was taking about 1,000 calls an hour by 10am, from people who wanted to help save lives by donating blood.

The response was driven by well-intentioned social media posts from the public. The desire to help was incredible. However we already had enough blood to supply the hospitals treating the victims, and we did not appeal for extra donors. We plan ahead to build in reserves to deal with major incidents. We hope that people who want to help will now become regular donors, because that is how they can best help us save lives when there is a tragedy.

Many people wanted to donate to help that day, but when you donate blood, it is not taken straight to a patient. We need time to test it and process it. The different components such as platelets and red blood cells need to be separated out. Typically, your blood donation will only reach a patient two or three weeks after you donate. The blood used to treat the Manchester victims would have been donated several weeks earlier, and those donors would have been from across the country.

Hospitals order blood from us in advance, without the need for blood to be brought in for each patient. We supply hospitals through our regional stock-holding units (what people refer to as “blood banks”) mainly through routine deliveries. Over Monday night we made 21 deliveries of blood to hospitals in Manchester, including 15 “blue light” emergency deliveries, delivering 346 units of red blood cells. We were able to meet all the hospitals’ requests, and our stocks remained good. We don’t know exactly how this blood was used, and much of the blood from the routine deliveries would have gone to patients not affected by the attack. But this was an exceptionally high level of local emergency demand and many of those precious donations would have been transfused into attack victims.

Trauma patients require more than just red blood cells. They also need platelets to help their blood clot, and other more specialised products: O-negative blood is especially important in emergencies because it can be given to anyone when time is short and you don’t have time to test for blood groups. We always need new O-negative donors because their blood is so valuable.

As Tuesday morning progressed, people began queueing to donate. Some had friends or family members caught up in the incident. We were worried they might be confused or upset about why there was no capacity or urgent need for them to donate that day.


We were inspired to see the diversity of people coming forward, because we need more black and Asian donors

We tried to spread the message about how people could best help across social media and through the press. I was working at Plymouth Grove donor centre, next to Manchester Royal Infirmary, where many victims were being treated, and I spoke to many people face to face. We were inspired to see the diversity of people coming forward, which was moving and very important – because we need more black and Asian donors. Patients benefit from closely matched blood, which will often come from donors of the same ethnicity.

Our message is that blood can best save lives in a tragedy when our stocks are already good through regular donations. Thanks to our loyal army of nearly 900,000 active donors, many of whom give blood three or four times a year, we can do that. But every year many of these donors have to drop out because of age, ill health and many other reasons. We need nearly 200,000 people to register as new donors every year.

If people have been inspired to donate for the first time, please go online, make an appointment, and donate. Blood saves lives, and your donation will help other people in urgent need, and make sure we are again ready for any major incident.

This is what the blood donor service does after an attack – and how you can help | Jane Green

I was overwhelmed by how generously the people of Manchester responded to this horrific attack. Both our blood donor centres in Manchester had queues outside the doors before they even opened. Our national call centre was taking about 1,000 calls an hour by 10am, from people who wanted to help save lives by donating blood.

The response was driven by well-intentioned social media posts from the public. The desire to help was incredible. However we already had enough blood to supply the hospitals treating the victims, and we did not appeal for extra donors. We plan ahead to build in reserves to deal with major incidents. We hope that people who want to help will now become regular donors, because that is how they can best help us save lives when there is a tragedy.

Many people wanted to donate to help that day, but when you donate blood, it is not taken straight to a patient. We need time to test it and process it. The different components such as platelets and red blood cells need to be separated out. Typically, your blood donation will only reach a patient two or three weeks after you donate. The blood used to treat the Manchester victims would have been donated several weeks earlier, and those donors would have been from across the country.

Hospitals order blood from us in advance, without the need for blood to be brought in for each patient. We supply hospitals through our regional stock-holding units (what people refer to as “blood banks”) mainly through routine deliveries. Over Monday night we made 21 deliveries of blood to hospitals in Manchester, including 15 “blue light” emergency deliveries, delivering 346 units of red blood cells. We were able to meet all the hospitals’ requests, and our stocks remained good. We don’t know exactly how this blood was used, and much of the blood from the routine deliveries would have gone to patients not affected by the attack. But this was an exceptionally high level of local emergency demand and many of those precious donations would have been transfused into attack victims.

Trauma patients require more than just red blood cells. They also need platelets to help their blood clot, and other more specialised products: O-negative blood is especially important in emergencies because it can be given to anyone when time is short and you don’t have time to test for blood groups. We always need new O-negative donors because their blood is so valuable.

As Tuesday morning progressed, people began queueing to donate. Some had friends or family members caught up in the incident. We were worried they might be confused or upset about why there was no capacity or urgent need for them to donate that day.


We were inspired to see the diversity of people coming forward, because we need more black and Asian donors

We tried to spread the message about how people could best help across social media and through the press. I was working at Plymouth Grove donor centre, next to Manchester Royal Infirmary, where many victims were being treated, and I spoke to many people face to face. We were inspired to see the diversity of people coming forward, which was moving and very important – because we need more black and Asian donors. Patients benefit from closely matched blood, which will often come from donors of the same ethnicity.

Our message is that blood can best save lives in a tragedy when our stocks are already good through regular donations. Thanks to our loyal army of nearly 900,000 active donors, many of whom give blood three or four times a year, we can do that. But every year many of these donors have to drop out because of age, ill health and many other reasons. We need nearly 200,000 people to register as new donors every year.

If people have been inspired to donate for the first time, please go online, make an appointment, and donate. Blood saves lives, and your donation will help other people in urgent need, and make sure we are again ready for any major incident.

This is what the blood donor service does after an attack – and how you can help | Jane Green

I was overwhelmed by how generously the people of Manchester responded to this horrific attack. Both our blood donor centres in Manchester had queues outside the doors before they even opened. Our national call centre was taking about 1,000 calls an hour by 10am, from people who wanted to help save lives by donating blood.

The response was driven by well-intentioned social media posts from the public. The desire to help was incredible. However we already had enough blood to supply the hospitals treating the victims, and we did not appeal for extra donors. We plan ahead to build in reserves to deal with major incidents. We hope that people who want to help will now become regular donors, because that is how they can best help us save lives when there is a tragedy.

Many people wanted to donate to help that day, but when you donate blood, it is not taken straight to a patient. We need time to test it and process it. The different components such as platelets and red blood cells need to be separated out. Typically, your blood donation will only reach a patient two or three weeks after you donate. The blood used to treat the Manchester victims would have been donated several weeks earlier, and those donors would have been from across the country.

Hospitals order blood from us in advance, without the need for blood to be brought in for each patient. We supply hospitals through our regional stock-holding units (what people refer to as “blood banks”) mainly through routine deliveries. Over Monday night we made 21 deliveries of blood to hospitals in Manchester, including 15 “blue light” emergency deliveries, delivering 346 units of red blood cells. We were able to meet all the hospitals’ requests, and our stocks remained good. We don’t know exactly how this blood was used, and much of the blood from the routine deliveries would have gone to patients not affected by the attack. But this was an exceptionally high level of local emergency demand and many of those precious donations would have been transfused into attack victims.

Trauma patients require more than just red blood cells. They also need platelets to help their blood clot, and other more specialised products: O-negative blood is especially important in emergencies because it can be given to anyone when time is short and you don’t have time to test for blood groups. We always need new O-negative donors because their blood is so valuable.

As Tuesday morning progressed, people began queueing to donate. Some had friends or family members caught up in the incident. We were worried they might be confused or upset about why there was no capacity or urgent need for them to donate that day.


We were inspired to see the diversity of people coming forward, because we need more black and Asian donors

We tried to spread the message about how people could best help across social media and through the press. I was working at Plymouth Grove donor centre, next to Manchester Royal Infirmary, where many victims were being treated, and I spoke to many people face to face. We were inspired to see the diversity of people coming forward, which was moving and very important – because we need more black and Asian donors. Patients benefit from closely matched blood, which will often come from donors of the same ethnicity.

Our message is that blood can best save lives in a tragedy when our stocks are already good through regular donations. Thanks to our loyal army of nearly 900,000 active donors, many of whom give blood three or four times a year, we can do that. But every year many of these donors have to drop out because of age, ill health and many other reasons. We need nearly 200,000 people to register as new donors every year.

If people have been inspired to donate for the first time, please go online, make an appointment, and donate. Blood saves lives, and your donation will help other people in urgent need, and make sure we are again ready for any major incident.

As a GP I feel powerless to help elderly people struggling to survive

Recently a patient brought home to me how inadequate the help I can provide my elderly patients as a GP can be. Among more than 50 phone calls I fielded one day as one of the GPs dealing with urgent requests, there were two from a patient in her 80s who is the main carer for her husband who has dementia. She also has health issues and he is unaware of the problems they face. The receptionist learned far more about the difficulties they were having from the woman’s phone calls to the surgery and from observing them in the waiting room, than I did from my snatched telephone conversations and the scrawled note left for me. I found out later that the only way she could get to the surgery to bring the sample I requested was by locking her husband in the car outside. I knew that things were difficult, but this was a new low.

Over the last year I have been increasingly involved in the care of a man who is in his 80s and moved into my practice area to be nearer to his family. He enjoys telling me about his past when he gets the opportunity and I recall how his eyes sparkled as he told me that adopting his daughter was the best decision he and his late wife ever made. He knows his dementia is worsening and was the one who recognised the initial symptoms, well before these signs were noticed by others around him. He looks crestfallen as he recounts to me how he sees the frustration and sorrow in his daughter’s eyes when he asks the same question another time. He is annoyed by his failing health and memory and feels he is a burden to those around him. At times he is too proud to ask for help.

The population is ageing, with the number of older people with care needs likely to increase by more than 60% in the next 20 years. One in three over 65s will die with dementia, and it is the leading cause of death of women in the UK, yet dementia research is poorly funded, with combined charity and government research significantly lower than cancer research. Every day as a GP I see patients in difficult situations, where an elderly person is struggling to care for themselves and their spouse, with implications to the health of both. I see families trying to maintain their jobs and daily activities, while providing increasing support for their elderly relatives. At the end of a long day yesterday a son called me in distress; his mother was already an inpatient and he was left to look after his father, but felt getting involved in intimate personal care was a step too far.

As a GP I am the person that people often turn to, but at times I feel I have little power to make positive changes for these patients. I can only provide brief intervention, refer and signpost to over-stretched services – this is not the level of care and support that they need. Those that come to me are often at crisis point, having struggled without any input from outside services until they cannot continue any longer. There are undoubtedly those that I’m not aware of perhaps until an emergency admission or mishap alerts me. These patients may come into contact with many services; as health professionals we often see an aspect of their lives, dealing with high blood pressure, an arthritic knee or continence issues, but do not realise the enormity of the situation or assess it properly.

Older people’s mental health services and social care are limited. Yes, I can refer, but these services are overloaded and don’t provide much help. We need more resources, more time, more services, more people available to provide assessment, listen and support. We need to start focusing on ageing and older people and encouraging planning for the future, or this situation will only get worse.

*Some details have been changed to preserve patient anonymity

Join us on 23 May to discuss how the public and voluntary sectors, retail and service industries can recognise and support people with dementia.

If you would like to write a blogpost for Views from the NHS frontline, read our guidelines and get in touch by emailing sarah.johnson@theguardian.com.

Join the Healthcare Professionals Network to read more pieces like this. And follow us on Twitter (@GdnHealthcare) to keep up with the latest healthcare news and views.

You can cut an avocado safely, now learn to help someone with epilepsy | Letters

Last week amateur chefs everywhere were absorbing instructions on how to cut an avocado, after a post-brunch A&E influx of injuries sustained while trying to prepare the fruit (Pass notes No 3,853: Avocado hand, G2, 11 May). Now I hope the nation might broaden their knowledge further by learning how to help someone having an epileptic seizure. It’s National Epilepsy Week, and our new YouGov poll shows that two-thirds of UK adults with no experience of epilepsy would not know how to help. This is worrying when London Ambulance Service alone attends 40 epileptic seizures a day. Taking two minutes to read our seizure first aid steps – www.epilepsysociety.org.uk/10-first-aid-steps-for-convulsive-seizures – could make all the difference in a crisis.
Clare Pelham
Chief executive, Epilepsy Society

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

I’m childless and lonely. I feel moving would help, but my husband isn’t keen

I’m coming to terms with a life that I wasn’t expecting after 20 years of marriage and am struggling to find a route to a new life. My wish is to live by the coast, about 70 miles from our current home.

My husband and I have come through infertility and eight rounds of IVF without children (adoptions and alternatives have been explored). He is nearly 20 years older than me; I am in my mid-40s, and scared of the menopause robbing me of more of my identity. I don’t necessarily consider myself to be over our loss, but I try to be accepting. Yet it has changed our lives in an unbalanced way. He says that children would have been a bonus, which does relieve the pressure but makes me feel lonely in my recovery. To me, it meant more: the validation of being female, and a space in my heart is missing.

I feel that I’m living a life haunted by what might have been. Our house, bought before we started treatment, has many bedrooms, and my job doesn’t have any career prospects although it is in a field I enjoy. I know that it is time to move on and I could work freelance. My husband thinks that I should stay for the security and the benefits, and his worries are contagious, but I don’t know to whom I would leave my worldly goods if I should die after him.

I yearn for peace and quiet, having also been diagnosed with mild autism. When we go on holiday with our dogs, I find the peaceful places so much better for my state of mind. Walking on beaches is accessible and a rare pleasure for me. I struggle at home in mud and frost.

My husband wishes to stay where we are: he enjoys the city, has friends here and goes to sporting events every weekend. I feel resentful often. While my husband has said he will move, it is said grudgingly. I think life is too short and wish I could make him see that we do have more choices than for me to sit at home on antidepressants.

Yet each time we go away, I ruin the holiday with panic attacks about going home to a life in which I feel lost.

I’m sorry about your failed rounds of IVF: in your longer letter, you called it a trauma but you reduced all of it, pretty much, to a single sentence. Yet its impact, not surprisingly, colours the whole of your letter. The other thing that permeated your letter was identity; you talk of it a few times, once directly. I wonder if you feel that, without the children you planned to have, you don’t know who are.

Barbara Levick, a psychoanalytic psychotherapist (bpc.org.uk), feels that you have had “repeated disappointments” and that “perhaps [not surprisingly], you have real difficulty overcoming the loss. How important is the lack of children to you? It seems a major disappointment, but the catastrophic nature of it is not shared by your husband.”

Or perhaps it is, but there didn’t seem to be a sense of you both having really talked about how you feel. Certainly, I felt you hadn’t told your husband about how you feel. I got the impression of two people, living together in this big house, but locked away in their own worlds.

I kept feeling there were little screams of, “What about me, what about me?” all through your letter. What about you? When do you get to do what you want, say how you really feel? I’m a big fan of good therapy, and I would urge you to hunt some out just for yourself (start with your GP). You need a place where you can talk about how you really feel, and discuss what you really want. “People who are mildly autistic,” says Levick, “can really benefit from some one-to-one work.”

Levick also has the feeling that you have difficulty getting what you want, and wonder why that might be. “I think you need to get yourself doing more of what you like,” she says.

Even without what you have been through, what you want doesn’t seem so very much – a move 70 miles away, to live by the sea, to be able to take good walks. You are not asking for something impossible.

Levick explains that sometimes we don’t do things because guilt or fear hold us back in unconscious ways. I would add that we make excuses for what we can’t do and then we can become so used to those excuses that we start to believe them. Levick feels you are “stuck in concrete”.

I wonder if you could rent a little property by the sea? I wonder how close you could come to making things more into what you need/want? And instead of coming up with reasons why not, think “how could I make this happen?”

Your panic attacks are interesting – talking very generally (and not specifically about you), Levick says that “panic attacks are about [suppressed] aggression. We all have to manage our aggression somehow and it’s a positive thing, it keeps us going. But some children growing up maybe aren’t allowed to express their aggression and then, later, if there are circumstances where the person feels very, very angry that can come out as a panic attack.”

I wonder if any of that resonates with you?

Your problems solved

Contact Annalisa Barbieri, The Guardian, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU, or email annalisa.barbieri@mac.com. Annalisa regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

Follow Annalisa on Twitter @AnnalisaB

A supportive, loving community can help heal neglected children | Emma Colyer

Our childhood stays with us throughout our lives. We know this intuitively, from the shiver that can accompany memories of an upsetting event from our early years even into adulthood. But it is also true in a much deeper way.

The Adverse Childhood Experience (Ace) study, carried out in the US in the 1990s, found that children exposed to serious neglect, abuse or household dysfunction were at significantly greater risk of a litany of poor health and social outcomes, ranging from heart disease, liver disease and sexually transmitted diseases to depression, suicide attempts and intimate partner violence. Most starkly, people with a high score on the Ace scale died on average nearly 20 years earlier [pdf] than their counterparts who reported no childhood adversity.

This is not just a case of traumatic events leading to unhealthy behaviours leading to poor health outcomes. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests the impact of toxic stress on the developing brain has the potential to transform the way we view health problems.

Toxic stress is the term used to describe the prolonged physiological arousal that occurs when people find themselves in a threatening situation for an extended period of time. When that threatening situation is an abusive or neglectful home, and when the period of time coincides with a person’s formative years, the effects can change how the body’s organs function and drastically alter the course of a life. It has even been suggested that many poor health and social outcomes in adulthood are really developmental disorders with their roots in childhood, not simply the result of poor health choices in adulthood.


If the right questions are not being asked, we cannot expect to find the right answers

This represents a radical shift in the way we see and treat health and social issues. Our healthcare system tends to treat presenting symptoms rather than root causes. Clinicians tend to ask: what is wrong with this person? Now there is an emerging movement that advocates a “trauma-informed” approach, asking instead: what happened to this person?

Take attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The symptoms of ADHD can bear a remarkable similarity to the effects of childhood trauma, which include hypervigilance and an inability to focus, and could be caused by the heightened physiological arousal associated with toxic stress. Yet there is concerning evidence that children who have experienced trauma are more likely to receive a diagnosis of ADHD than post-traumatic stress disorder. If the right questions are not being asked, we cannot expect to find the right answers.

So what is the solution? Resilience has been shown to mitigate the lifetime impact of childhood adversity, but resilience relies on connection with others – nobody can be resilient without support. Early neglect, abuse and family disruption are about lack of connection, broken connection or loss of connection. At Body & Soul we aim to build the resilience of people of all ages by fostering a restorative, healing connection within a supportive and loving community of members, volunteers, staff and professionals.

Our approach is designed to mirror the holistic care that, in an ideal world, everyone would receive in childhood. When our members come to the centre, we provide them with a nutritious, home-cooked meal, which they share in a warm, social environment. They have access to one-to-one and group psychotherapy. They can book in for massages, shiatsu and reflexology. They can see a casework team if they are having practical difficulties with things like housing or benefits. They are encouraged to attend workshops on the importance of physical health and nutrition, as well as training courses on employability. They are invited to explore their feelings through music, dance and poetry. Nurturing these connections mitigates some of the physical, emotional and psychological effects of a childhood spent in a state of uncertainty, fear and physiological arousal. Over time, our members develop the resilience they need to withstand life’s challenges.

Screening for adverse childhood experiences in primary care is feasible, but ultimately primary care clinicians can only refer patients to services that exist. If money continues to be channelled into the treatment of symptoms at the expense of investigating root causes, people’s lives will continue to be defined by their childhood experiences.

What we need is for funders, both statutory and independent, to see beyond the symptoms, and recognise the healing power of human connection, particularly when that connection was missing in childhood. Failure to do so risks consigning those who have experienced adversity in childhood to a future of psychological hardship, relentless medication and an early death.

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