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Mental health nurses’ pandemic experiences used as muse for poems

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Three mental health nurses from Cefn Coed Hospital have turned to poetry to process their emotions of working through the pandemic.

Maria Anderton, Dawn Griffin and Deborah Morgan collaborated with Pembrokeshire-based writer Kerry Steed to create a collection of poems which communicates their experiences over the past 18 months.

The collection, The Close Language of Distance, is part of a project called Unlocking the Poetry: Sharing the Story, which aims to work with NHS Wales staff to articulate how Covid-19 has impacted upon them.

Prue Thimbleby and Sarah Goodey, arts coordinators from Swansea Bay and Aneurin Bevan university health boards respectively, offered guidance and support.

The nurses met Kerry via a video call to discuss their trials and tribulations before the poet transcribed their conversations and worked their words into what was described by Dawn as ‘the most beautiful collection of poems’.

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Dawn (right), Swansea Bay University Health Board’s Directorate Manager for OPMHS, said: “I had to hold it together reading them because I was so emotional.

“We are so thrilled with the outcome. Kerry took so much from it, and turned something that was really challenging and emotional into something quite heart-warming and beautiful.

“I have shared the collection with family.  I am thrilled they can gain a sense of what I’ve experienced from the poetry.

“I was so worried in every aspect of my personal and work life, and wouldn’t show it.  So for others to read this, they were really touched by the poems.

“Going through something like the pandemic, we didn’t take a minute to step back and think about it. This opportunity has given us the chance to reflect and learn from it as well.” 

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Maria, Head of Mental Health and Learning Disabilities Nursing, was also impressed.

She said: “When Kerry sent us the completed poetry, it absolutely blew us away. I get hairs on the back of my neck when I think about it. When I first read the poems I cried, it was just so powerful. I thought, ‘look at that, hear that, that’s what we went through’.”

As the pandemic intensified, Maria, who usually works in a management role, changed back into her scrubs and PPE and joined her colleagues on the wards, delivering clinical care rather than working from home.

She said: “For me, it was absolutely the right thing to do morally. You know we were all so scared. I had a family to go home to, the others had families to go home to. So it was a massively conflicting time.”

Her decision paid off as she felt part of a tight team.

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“We rose to the challenge, with lots of support from the team and the community. We went from feeling like we were in the middle of the eye of the storm, and we were just floundering, to feeling like we had this whole team around us that allowed us to feel much stronger.”

Deborah, Derwen Ward Manager, expressed her love for one poem in particular as she felt strongly about her perceived lack of attention and support for the mental health hospitals during the pandemic.

She said: “I’d love to share the poetry, especially the one titled ‘For the Forgotten Hospitals, I am speaking’, because I feel very strongly that as mental health hospitals we are always forgotten. We are never mentioned in the media. They thought Covid wouldn’t hit the mental health wards for some reason.”

Deborah admitted a need for psychological input during the pandemic, as she felt angry and began to experience nightmares following the loss of people’s loved ones that she had nursed for a long time.

She said: “When I went to put it into words I didn’t feel so angry. Feelings came differently, so when it came to talking to Kerry I could look at the whole situation in a more positive light instead of that anger.

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“When I read the poetry it just took me back to that place. But I just think it was because everything that I locked away again had come flooding back. But actually, the more that I read the poetry and understood it, the better I felt.

“I’d I just like to thank Kerry a lot, because the way she captured it took my anger away. It made me look at it more, it really made me look at things and made me realise what we have achieved.

“I don’t think people realise that with mental health there isn’t an open wound or something that you can heal or something you can operate on. People don’t understand the real challenges that you have, so I think it’s important to talk about it.”

Kerry (pictured right: photo credit Cara Gaskell) firmly believes writing can be beneficial for mindfulness, creativity and general wellbeing.

She said: “I think it’s vital that anyone who’s been working intensely through the pandemic has an opportunity to process that experience and to mark it, to give voice to it. I offered out the project by way of enabling that.

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“During the hour we spent together they were listening to each other, sharing story and acknowledging the emotions that they had felt as they were going through Covid, emotions which perhaps hadn’t been acknowledged between the three of them before.”

Poems


The Lioness

Lioness, I had the pleasure
of working alongside you.

I remember your strength, Lioness,
such strength.

And how it was so tough, so challenging
internally panicking while showing
that leading lioness face,
while supporting, pulling everyone together.

Remember, Lioness, your strength in relation.
And the normally mundane things,
the time spent on those things,
they didn’t matter.
We mattered,
Lioness, we mattered.
We that were doing it,
the people we were doing it for.

How frightened we really were
to keep people alive, frightened
to save them.

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You remember, Lioness, how we felt?
Frightened, but such bravery
amongst that, such strength.

You’re strength, Lioness, you’re superhuman strength,
fighting to save people.

Be proud of that, be proud.

Lioness, I had the pleasure
of working alongside you
and remember, I say,
remember, Lioness, how you mattered.

We’ve Got This
The respect for each other totally changed, we showed respect, more care for each other. I think maybe it’s always been there, but when you’re working with people everyday, well, you don’t really see it, until you get something like this.

Something like this and you realise
how important the person next to you is,

and the things you all share,
the thoughts,
the feelings,
like on a night shift when you’ll share anything;

nurses and senior management all sharing
on the same level, and the work
is everybody’s.

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And the community sharing spirit,
the donations, the food.

How heartwarming, how humbling
how people are sharing,

even when they’re not there
you sense community.

And you realise how important
the person next to you is
and the next
and the next
and the next,

and how much you care,
and that’s when you know,
we’re doing it together,
we’ll get through this together,

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and that’s when you know,
we’ve got this.

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Carmarthen

Carmarthen Primary school issues warning after pupils as young as EIGHT are watching graphic violence on viral hit Netflix TV show Squid Game

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Richmond Primary School in Carmarthen has issued a warning to parents after reports of Year 4 children attending the school had either watched Squid Game on TV or had downloaded third-party apps associated with the show.

Squid Game has become a viral hit TV show for streaming platform Netflix – and is currently the service’s most-watched ever series.

The South Korean show however has high levels of gore, death, violence, and physical assault. It also has graphic depictions of suicide, murder, and sexual assault.

The plot is based on a group of adult debtors, thieves, and gamblers competing against each other in a series of childhood games for a grand cash prize. However, there is a dark twist to these seemingly innocent games – losing competitors are violently killed off in ways that grow more twisted as the games grow more intense.

A statement on Richard Primary School’s social media said that while Squid Game has a rating of 15+, children and young people are likely to know about the show via word of mouth and because it is so popular on social media. They may be unaware of the extent of gore, death, and violence the show contains. It also focuses on adult themes that are not appropriate for younger sensibilities.

For young people who live with mental health issues, they may be triggered by some of the content

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Mobile App

The “Squid Game Challenge” (also known as K-Game Challenge) is an app for smartphones and tablets that has been released for Android and iOS, and the two systems differ significantly on their age ratings for the game. The iTunes Store rates the app as 12+ (advising of “mild/infrequent horror/fear themes”), while the PEGI rating for Android is just 3+, which means that very young children might be able to download and play the game even with parental controls activated on their device or through Google Play.

The gameplay is frequently interrupted by pop-ups and ads (sometimes appearing while the user is rapidly tapping their screen while attempting to complete the challenge). This could easily lead to unwanted purchases or accidental visits to inappropriate sites beyond the app.

Warning for parents

Richmond Primary School warns: “As a parent or carer, keep a watchful eye on the content that your children are viewing. Speak to them openly and chat about how they have been spending time on their devices; let them ask questions too. Ensure that the parental controls are activated on your child’s device and that age-restricted child profiles are properly set up, as well as any on-demand services available through the family TV (such as Netflix, in this case) to prevent inappropriate content being streamed.

“If you see your child replicating the challenges from the show or hear them talking about scenes and characters from Squid Game, it would be a timely opportunity to discuss with them that the programme is not intended for children, that much of the content would be inappropriate for their age, and that the violence in the series is very realistic and often upsetting.”

(Lead image: Netflix)

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Rugby paywall sets “dangerous precedent”

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Plaid Cymru is calling for all Wales rugby games to be aired live on S4C following news that matches will only be accessible on Amazon Prime.

It’s been confirmed that fans of Welsh rugby will not be able to watch Wales’ autumn international matches on free-to-air television.

Matches will only be televised live on Amazon Prime, which sits behind a paywall.

This marks a change from previous matches, which have been available to watch live on S4C, which is free-to-air.

The reason the change has been made is because Amazon Prime will be providing commentary in both English and Welsh languages.

Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for sport, Heledd Fychan MS said, “This sets a dangerous precedent for the future of sports broadcasting in Welsh. It also raises questions about the future of S4C. Not only have S4C lost the right to broadcast Welsh rugby matches, but it puts in place a model that could be adopted by other broadcasters in the future.

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“The red button offer from Amazon is a gesture at best. If you do not already pay for Amazon prime, you will still need to pay to watch in Welsh. And what about pubs and clubs that have always shown the games in Welsh?

“All games from our national teams should be free to watch on S4C. Welsh rugby belongs to everyone in Wales – we must not be priced out of our own culture.”

(Lead image: Crown Copyright)

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Big screen blockbusters are back at Vue Swansea

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Cinema is back and better than ever as even more spectacular new releases are lined up in the coming weeks at Vue. 

Highly anticipated sequel Venom: Let There Be Carnage, will be showing at the cinema on York Street from Friday 15 October, and fans can book tickets now.

Tom Hardy returns to the big screen as one of Marvel’s greatest and most twisted characters, the lethal protector Venom. After finding a host body in investigative reporter Eddie Brock, the alien symbiote must face a new enemy, Carnage, the alter ego of serial killer Cletus Kasady. Directed by Andy Serkis, the film also stars Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris and Woody Harrelson, in the role of the villain Cletus Kasady/Carnage. 

Venom in VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE. (Image: Sony)

Epic science fiction film Dune will be landing at Vue on Thursday 21 October. Dune follows the story of a mythic and emotionally charged hero ‘Dune’, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding. With captivating visuals, mesmerising music by Hanns Zimmer, and talented actors including Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya Chani, this film was meant to be seen on the big screen in all its glory.  

(L-r) TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET as Paul Atreides and REBECCA FERGUSON as Lady Jessica Atreides in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “DUNE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (PHOTO CREDIT: Chiabella James)

Fans of Wes Anderson will also be excited by the arrival of his latest work, The French Dispatch, on the big screen from Friday 22 October. Anderson’s ninth collaboration with Bill Murray and eighth collaboration with Owen Wilson, accompanied by an all-star cast, tells the story of journalists set in an outpost of an American newspaper, in a fictional twentieth century French city, who write for The French Dispatch Magazine. 

(From L-R): Elisabeth Moss, Owen Wilson, Tilda Swinton, Fisher Stevens and Griffin Dunne in the film THE FRENCH DISPATCH. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

With more blockbusters arriving in the coming weeks, it is expected to bring even more people back to the cinema for the first time, as research from Vue’s Fulfilment Report, in conjunction with Kokoro, revealed that over a third of British cinema-goers have returned to the big screen. 

The Fulfilment Report is an ongoing, year-long study into the nation’s relationship with the big screen and escapism, and has also found that two-thirds of cinema-goers say watching a film on the big screen would have a positive impact on their mental state that day, with three quarters believing the experience offers a genuine escape from “pings” and notifications.  

Eduardo Leal, head of screen content at Vue Entertainment, said: “We’ve got a packed line-up of exciting new movies for everyone to enjoy over the autumn. 

“Close behind the long-awaited release of No Time to Die, we have a combination of dramatic new films and blockbuster titles that keeps on coming. We’re delighted to provide another way for everyone to switch off from the outside world and get lost in great stories together instead.”  

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Tickets are available from myvue.com

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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