Dental Poverty

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Have you tried to find an NHS dentist lately? My god, I swear it would be easier to find a virgin on a maternity ward. In the town of Cwmbran, there is just one dentist taking on NHS patients, and that practice has a six month waiting list.

I haven’t had a dentist since I moved to Cwmbran, and I moved here in October of 2014. And the other day one of my teeth started giving me hell, luckily it passed, but I still put my name on the waiting list anyway. So I began shopping about to see if there was anything reasonably near. Nothing. Except private dental care, which costs a hell of a lot of money.

It got me thinking though, there is a really high correlation between those on low incomes and those with poor dental hygiene. Cheap food is laden with sugar, and those from low income backgrounds are more likely to smoke (another thing that rots your teeth) and whilst yes those on benefits will be exempt from the charges of NHS dentist’s (tabled below) those in employment with low incomes, especially young people, wont be. I mean if you work for 40 hours a week on minimum wage, it’ll cost you almost two thirds of weeks income to get some proper dental work done.

Band Treatment Charge
1 This charge will include an examination, diagnosis and preventative care.  If necessary this will include X-rays, scale and polish and planning for further treatment.  Urgent and out-of-hours care will also cost £14.00. £14.00
2 This charge includes all necessary treatment covered by the £14.00 charge PLUS additional fillings, root canal treatments or extractions. £45.00
3 This charge includes all necessary treatment covered by the £14.00 and £45.00 charges PLUS more complex procedures such as crowns, dentures or bridges. £195.00

And it really is a bar to employment, missing or crooked teeth are something that is probably going to put off potential employers, or hurt chances of promotion, and whilst I know how shallow that sounds, its actually been proven to be true, time and time again. But the associated costs of travel and time off from work are also a factor.

So how do we address this problem? Well ideally it would be to increase the number of NHS dentists in Wales, which means the Welsh Government need to cough up a heck of a lot of money to entice qualified dentists to Wales while also paying to train a heck of a lot more. And since one of the Welsh Government’s priorities is “Promoting positive health throughout life” and that they are actively trying to improve health and reduce inequalities in healthcare. maybe its time that National Assembly of Wales put their money where their mouths are.

Postnatal Depression In Men

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Postnatal depression is something that affects as much as 10% of new mothers out there, however what they don’t tell you is that it doesn’t only effect women, it can effect men just as badly. It may be difficult to tell if you are suffering from Postnatal depression because some of the symptoms are just symptomatic of life, especially when you’ve just had a child. symptoms such as tiredness, trouble sleeping at night and feeling tired during the day seem like par for the course when a new baby comes along, and this would go hand in hand with problems concentrating, making decisions and a lack of energy and feeling all the time seems like it would again be part of the lack of sleep. The common symptoms of PND (postnatal depression) in men are:

  • a persistent feeling of sadness and low mood
  • lack of enjoyment and loss of interest in the wider world
  • lack of energy and feeling tired all the time
  • trouble sleeping at night and feeling sleepy during the day
  • difficulty bonding with your baby
  • withdrawing from contact with other people
  • problems concentrating and making decisions
  • frightening thoughts – for example, about hurting your baby

What causes postnatal depression in men is not entirely clear from a sociological and an anthropological standpoint factors could include

  • a history of mental health problems, particularly depression, earlier in life
  • having no close family or friends to support you
  • a poor relationship with your partner
  • recent stressful life events, such as a bereavement or job loss
  • financial difficulties

however from a biochemical standpoint however childbirth does some pretty crazy things to men’s heads studies in animals and people show that new fathers experience an increase in the hormones estrogen, oxytocin, prolactin and glucocorticoids, according to a recent review of studies by psychologist Elizabeth Gould and colleagues from Princeton University.

The research shows that contact with the mother and children seem to induce certain hormonal changes in fathers. In humans, fathers who show more affection toward their children also tend to have higher levels of oxytocin (the hormone responsible for bonding with children), the effects of this change in the chemical soup that makes up a human being could lead to hormonal imbalances that in turn could lead to depression.

If you do feel that you are suffering from postnatal depression as a dad there are many things you can do about it.

If you want someone to talk to anonymously you can call the Samaritans free on 0117 983 1000 from any UK mobile or landline.

Alternatively you can speak to your doctor who will recommend various forms of treatment for you such as antidepressants or counselling based on your needs. Most importantly you should talk to your partner, tell them what you are going through, they may be feeling the same and you can act as a little two person support group for each other, or by simply unburdening yourself to them they be able to help a little bit while you try to get your shit together. It is hard work and I speak from experience, I suffered through the sleepless nights and lethargic days (to the point where I had to have a sit down half way through washing the dishes), I suffered the mood swings, the obsessive behaviour and the constant tiredness. It got to the point where I barely recognised who I was as person anymore, and then finally it hit me, that moment of clarity, that I needed help, I went to my doctor and asked for a big pile of antidepressants, I started taking my daughter out more and more, seeing friends and just doing small things until now over the last few months (bearing in mind my daughter will be two next month) I have finally started to feel like myself again. I give a shit about how I look again, I care that my house is a mess, I do occasionally go out and have fun with my friends. And a big part of that is because I asked for help.

The mother of my child would joke that our roles were reversed after the pregnancy. I was the one who had the baby brain and the sleepless nights, I could drive a tractor through that bedroom and I wouldn’t have woken Jessica up, whereas Marianna farting in her bedroom will often wake me up to this day (even if I fall asleep on the sofa). But this made me think that if I were going through this sort of thing how many other men were out there, going through the exact same thing and not getting the help that they needed?  Men and mental health issues can be tricky minefield to navigate at the best of times, because by admitting that we need help, we are wired to believe that we fail as men, that we should be the strong silent type, but this sort of thing is not healthy, yes I know that there is a stigma around mental health, but there shouldn’t be, especially at a time when we as men really are at out most vulnerable. If you need help get it, if you had a broken leg, you wouldn’t leave it untreated (at least not for longer than it takes to sober up), if you had cancer you would get chemo, if you caught the clap you would take some penicillin, if you were stupid enough to mess around with power tools while under the influence, you would go to the emergency room. So why on earth wouldn’t you take the necessary treatments to combat depression and make your self well again? If not for your sake then for your child’s. They deserve a father, not just the shell of one.

The Lazy Ramblings Of A Lazy Guy (On Being In The Blues)

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I was recently introduced to the Idle Thoughts Of An Idle Fellow by Jerome K Jerome. The book consists of 14 essays on 14 topics

  10. ON BABIES.
  14. ON MEMORY.

Jerome K Jerome is pretty much me down to a tee. He’s lazy and just writes whatever comes to mind. He doesn’t care who he offends, and I often felt that he may have been somewhat high when he picked up the pen. But Mr Jerome has inspired me, so I am going to be writing a series of posts on the topics that Mr Jerome turned his hand at. (I know I’m ripping the guy off, but quite frankly I don’t care)

On Being In The Blues

Being in the blues is something that most people experience at one point or another throughout the course of their lives. Depression is one of the most deadly of illnesses, people will go for years without treatment and the disease will often consume you. It becomes an all encompassing thing that just swallows you until you cant take it anymore, its this black vampire that just sucks away at your very life, stealing your joy robbing you of the small pleasures until you don’t want to go on anymore.

There are many different ways to combat the dreaded demon depression, keeping busy, seeing friends and even medication, but admitting to yourself that you need help is the part that most people struggle with. I recently lost someone close to me, a younger sibling. And I will be honest its hit me hard, the five stages of grief have been prevalent in  my mind over the last few days. It makes me think that more needs to be done for the treatment of depression so that more and more people are not subjected to the emotional pain and suffering that my parents have been facing in losing a 19 year old child.

Depression is said to be anger turned inwards and I believe that to be true. Anger at the stupidity that is all around us, at the intolerance that there is in the world and at the injustice of existence. I was once asked what I have to be depressed about? My answer is that I was very upset about the imbalance in the levels serotonin and dopamine in my brain and was having just the hardest time getting over it. People say things like cheer up as if this will cure it all, but in fact this is about as useful as telling someone to walk off a broken leg.

Depression is something that I will likely spend my whole life battling and the blues are a part of life, and I suppose without them we would be without one of my favourite genres of music, but still I wish it were something I could click my fingers and just turn off.

This is the third in series of posts ripping off the work of Mr Jerome K Jerome and his seminal piece The Idle Thoughts Of An Idle Man.

It’s All Gone To Pot, The Case For Legal Cannabis

Should marijuana be legal? There are a lot more harmful substances on the market, whose negative effects are well documented (tobacco and alcohol among them). My main concerns are threefold.

Firstly the amount of money being spent on prosecuting cases of possession, recreational use and manufacture of all drugs, cost the UK government approximately £16 billion year on year. Decriminalisation of possession would save the government over £10 billion, would make up for the fact that the Police and The Crown Prosecution Service have such appalling conviction rates in the first place.

Secondly if marijuana were to be legalised for recreational purposes the amount of revenue the government could raise in taxes would make even Scrooge McDuck Blush. Using a similar taxation model to tobacco the government could net £10’s of billions. Tobacco brought in £2.6 billion in VAT and £9.7 billion in excise taxes during the 2012-2013 tax year.

Thirdly the use of medical cannabis is now available in Canada, Israel and Uruguay, 23 states of the U.S.A, and its use has been decriminalised in many countries across Europe. Its use as a source of pain relief for chronic illnesses and research is well documented and has been effective in the treatment of cancer, dementia, diabetes, epilepsy, glaucoma, and many other ailments. Why should British patients be denied treatment due preconceived opinions that are based on misinformation?

There you have it. Three compelling reasons for the legalisation of cannabis, if the human aspect doesn’t reach you, then maybe the financial arguments will get to you.

As a parting thought I will also add, now that Britain will no longer be receiving EU farm subsidies, maybe this would be a good way for the UK agricultural industry to stay afloat, it would probably create a lot of jobs (think packaging, distribution etc). So why not say yes to pot?

for more information visit The facts are theirs, the mistakes are mine. 

DISCLAIMER: I am in no way advocating the use of illegal substances, merely raising a debate on policy reform in the United Kingdom. 

(The Art of War) In The Fight Against Depression

Today is World Mental Health Day and its an issue that’s close to my heart.

It’s not something that many people know about me but I have been fighting a long suffering battle with depression, and it is something that has a horrible impact on my life. But it’s something that I will never let beat me. Depression can be crippling and I don’t kid myself, because I know it’s something that I’m likely to be fighting against for the rest of my life. Like any enemy there are a few techniques that I’ve learnt that are somewhat effectiv in the fight for my mental health.

  1. Medication: This is NOT a cheat. Depression is a disease and the sooner you accept that your ill the quicker you can do something about treating it. If you had a headache you would take a painkiller. Without going into a discourse on biochemistry, depression is simply a chemical imbalance, getting treatment is smart, and more importantly its what you deserve.
  2. Keep  busy, see friends, set tasks around the house, write to do lists and work through them, keeping your mind off your depression is one the keys to keeping it from taking over your life.
  3. TALK TO SOMEONE: this is the most important thing that a lot of people wont do, depression makes you want to curl up into a ball and shut out the rest of the world, but this is possibly the most unhealthy thing you can do. Engage with someone friends, relatives, complete strangers in the pub anyone.

I hope my coping mechanisms help you, but if you do feel depression creeping over you like some vampire like shroud, please feel free to get in touch to shoot the shit.o