Posts by Peg Hanafin:
Recreational drug use?
How much longer will we have to listen to those who tell us they only use cannabis for a bit of fun or recreation? How much longer will we see the law of the land being broken? How much longer will we see our children subjected to peer pressure to use drugs for the “crack”? How long more will we ignore the dealers who are well known in their communities? Only part of growing up, they tell us. Only experiencing new feelings and experimenting, they say. We even have elected representatives promoting the use of cannabis to be made legal. It is time we all woke up to the long-term damage that any drug, including cannabis, can leave in its wake, much of it irreversible for life. They are sounding out reasons to help legalise cannabis, the most popular of recreational drugs used in many countries across the world. Cannabis may give a sense of euphoria, a drunken feeling, or a euphoric sensation but leaving behind mental confusion and many other health problems for its user to bear. Studies carried out over many years in Australia and New Zealand and many other countries including the Netherlands tell a different story, that is not being told.
A recent study in New Zealand carried out on a thousand people under eighteen years of age has found that cannabis leaves a significant and irreversible reduction in their IQ. It also found that weekly use of cannabis ensured a twofold increase in depression and anxiety, especially in young women and persisting into later life. Regular use of cannabis trigger acute psychotic episodes and worsen outcomes in established psychosis. Daily users reported high levels of depression, anxiety, fatigue and low motivation. In a further survey of young adults, over 33% reported they had suffered anxiety and panic attacks with 15% reporting psychotic symptoms. The study also found that they under achieve and are less successful in their chosen occupation and eventual marriage. The more they use, the greater the long-term effects of cannabis.
And we are all asked to buy into the myth that cannabis is ok to use, it is only a recreational drug doing no harm!
Other research available have evidence that cannabis has many adverse effects on users and develop dependence, impaired respiratory function, cardiovascular disease, psychotic symptoms and adverse outcomes of adolescent development, namely poorer educational outcomes and an increased likelihood of using other illicit drugs. Further disturbing evidence from research in Sweden showed cannabis was associated with an increased risk of developing schizophrenia.
So why do we continue to be fooled by those looking to legalise cannabis? Is it because they may be addicted and do not want to be law breakers? The research shows that the use of cannabis have plenty of long-term negative effects on the user that affect all of society. So have we learned nothing from legalising alcohol, nicotine, or prescribed drugs? All these put together cost the taxpayer multi billions every year in health, in criminality and in education. Not to mention lost days at work or long-term sick leave. Once a drug is legalised it is accepted by society no matter what the consequences for those who must pay by added taxes and frustration.
When we look at the detrimental health damage done to so many, that is escalated by the use of illicit drugs and the scarce resources that are now being allocated to those in dire need of the Mental Health Services, it is time that the long-term effects of cannabis and all other illicit drugs be highlighted and the law brought to bear on those who sell and deal in drugs as well as those who use. We all recognise that our country is awash with all kinds of drugs readily available in every town and village, even in our prison population. The time has come to tackle this enormous problem and find ways of addressing addiction and the tentacles that flows from this problem to the detriment of society and to our next generation.
Communities need to get together, as we saw recently in Roscrea, and shout out loud that a stop must be put to this scourge and the damage being done to our citizens, sometimes because of lack of knowledge of the consequences. All drugs have far reaching implications for those that use and abuse, so maybe we should promote the benefits of abstinence and ask young people to take a “pledge” not to indulge. This happened in our lifetime when you got your Confirmation, you took a pledge to abstain from alcohol, many kept that pledge all their life. Their lives would most certainly be better and more peaceful when they have full control of their senses and can make proper decisions that will bring them happiness. Much of the violence we see now would be eliminated and families would be saved the pain and trauma of seeing the end result of what is mood altering and personality destruction in our country.
Peg Hanafin, MSc. Rehab/Psych/Couns. 20/08/2014
Author of “Getting More out of Life”, now available in bookshops.
In 1957 the Treaty of Rome promoted free movement of labour and equal pay for men and women. Fifty seven years on,—a lifetime,— what have the successive governments achieved in bringing equality, fairness, justice and understanding to our citizens? There has been continual plans, like the ten year National Action Social Inclusion plan for 2007 to 2016, previously the National Anti Poverty Strategy Plan 1997-2007. 2010 was the European year for combating poverty, 2007 the year for Equal Opportunity, several treaties all recommending equality and promoting the wellbeing of our citizens, yet in 2014 , the latest figures on poverty from the Central Statistics Office gives startling and troubling figures regarding the deprivation and poverty levels of the Irish people.
Social inclusion is about ensuring the marginalised and those living in poverty have a greater participation in decision making which affects their lives, allowing them an acceptable standard of living and their overall wellbeing and happiness. So now fifty seven years on is it time to once and for all call a halt to the talking shops that gobble up scarce resources with no positive outcome? According to the latest report from the CSO in May 2014 we have 1.2 million people experiencing poverty, twice the recession figure. That is a quarter of our population suffering deprivation which has doubled since 2008 and increased by up to 24.5% since 2011. What is happening in our country and who is going to call halt?
Latest figures in the report show 13% could not heat their house adequately, with 33% of children living in deprivation. Two and a half times as many people at work suffered deprivation in comparison to those in 2008. Lone parent families, people not at work through illness or disability or the unemployed were the hardest hit. The number of people at risk of poverty, living on less than 60% of the median income, has risen back to pre-recession times despite the fact that the income threshold itself dropped by 15% since 2008. There are now 756,000 people falling below this mark.
St Vincent de Paul members confirm that these experiences are being continually met on the ground by members in their daily work. A series of policies and cuts for people on low incomes have made life almost impossible for people to survive and with new taxes on water on homes is causing deep distress and a sense of hopelessness to our citizens. These stories and figures are not surprising and weasel words about protecting the poor and vulnerable sound hollow. A concerted effort must be made to put in place a programme as has been promised over and over again to eliminate poverty and distress to the people of the Irish nation.
In May 2014 the EU issued seven recommendations for Ireland covering a range of policies areas need to be addressed urgently. These included the need to increase social welfare payments to meet the actual cost of living and ensuring they examine the flaws that are pushing people into poverty by government agencies when they fail to be just in how they manage the finances allotted. VdeP members recount human stories of poverty and deprivation that they encounter on a daily basis that cannot be met by voluntary organisations. Those hardest hit by austerity are suffering and their lives filled with worry about the future and how they will manage their debts and daily living expenses. All of the cuts to welfare inflicted on the under twenty sixes have shove many into drugs and crime and depression which sometimes leads to a sense of hopelessness and suicide. The pressure on families to provide food is can be seen by the many who call on charitable organisations for food parcels and meals.
The cumulative impact of six years of austerity, cuts, increased taxes both on those at work and dependent on the state has been excrutiating and relentless. There are many more insidious affects that austerity has visited on people like mental health issues, depression, fear and insecurity.
People living in rural areas have become further isolated and lonely with the local Garda Station, Post Office and transport cut, leaving people vulnerable. Cuts to care assistants and home help all have far reaching negative affects and destroys the peace and happiness that the elderly are entitled to after a lifetime of work and service.
The programme for Government says “The government for national recovery will strive to ensure that every citizen has an effective right, free from discrimination, to contribute to the economic, cultural and social life of the nation”. Such a hypocritical statement when more people are enduring hardship beyond imagination in our country. It is time we had some commitment, honesty and understanding from our leaders who themselves have not suffered the ignominy of poverty.
The blessings of Christmas.
Christmas is just around the corner and for many it is a time of loneliness and distress. But does it need to be that way? “Nothing is so, but thinking makes it so” says the old saying and that is true. There are many positive sides to Christmas and maybe in these times of austerity and worry we should look at how we can give ourselves a boost when the holiday season of good will comes around.
We should start now making plans for how we can better our lot around Christmas. Do we need all the extra shopping that is part of the Christmas fever, or could we put other more meaningful things in place. Why not start now and make a list of the old friends, relations, and neighbours and start writing letters to them instead of a card with a few words, often saying sometimes meaningless? Like Happy Christmas or All the best for the season. Why not buy a writing pad and spend some time giving a review of the year past and reminisce about past years and happy events. That would make the cost of the stamp, which is now expensive, worth the bother and would also give valuable time to the writer and the receiver in the time it would take. Lonely days would be filled with action and when the letter would arrive, give your friend a thrill to receive it.
Plan for to have some friends call for a game of cards, or board game on Christmas evening. Many happy hours could be spent playing fun games and by inviting in others that may be alone on Christmas day, everyone would benefit. The time to start is now and there is no need for a big deal about food, just a cuppa and a slice of something handy. Or if you happen to live alone and get a dinner delivered by some organisation, why not get them to double up and ask another receiver of a meal to join you and enjoy the company. This would make Christmas day special for someone else, even being invited would add to the day.
When we share our time with others it brings happiness to ourselves. When we invite others to come and watch a programme on tv or listen to nice music it makes it a lot more joyful to share our happiness with others and that is what Christmas is about. It is one of the only days in the year when you can reach out and not be intimidated by the act. Bringing happiness by inviting someone else that live alone or are lonely after the loss of a loved one, a job, or even being worried to share Christmas Day will always make the day easier and happier.
When it comes to buying gifts that stretch our pockets, we do not have to buy into that commercialism. We could consider sharing our time with others instead of having to spend scarce resources. In days of yore people would go cuardaoicht, visiting neighbours and spending time chatting and whiling the time away. We could all help with eliminating loneliness and being alone if we returned to what our forefathers did when they had no money to spend on “things.”
Christmas is a time when those alone are thought about by voluntary organisations who bring gifts or just remember to call. This only happens at Christmastime so why not enjoy the attention. Families make more of an effort to visit and to spend time with parents or other relatives, these are all times we should look forward to and prepare for. With family you may have “things” beyond your needs, why not give them away while there is still time to decide who you will leave your precious memories to. It will also help to de-clutter your house and make for easier cleaning. If you happen to be handy with your hands you could start now and make something special for those who you feel you need to gift.
We can choose to be lonely and alone. We can also choose to share and show care to others at a time when these things are highlighted by the media and by all the razzmatazz that escalates around Christmas. It is only a matter of changing how we think about Christmas Day and actually doing something about it.
Peg Hanafin MSc. 3/10/2014
I am amazed at all the people who bought my book that keep it beside the bed to read an article of their choice from it and even to re-read them. My thanks to each of you for the positive feedback which encourages me to do more.
Myeloma – my life shows that a book don’t have to take months if you get the right idea of how it could make for interesting reading and pull it all together. I was amazed that I was able to do it and have it so successful. This is about an inspirational and devout lady who went to her eternal reward on the 9/2/2015. I was privileged to have successfully fulfilled her dream to recount her long road with a terminal illness and have given her the pleasure of launching it while still in her usual bubbly self. May she rest in peace.
Could we do better?
In the month up to Christmas those who can afford it think of gifts, cards, visiting loved ones and getting ready to celebrate Christmas Day, with lots of food, perhaps alcohol and having the Tree decorated and the presents wrapped. But let us spare a thought for those who do not have the luxury of the spend, spend, spend that is Christmas with all the razzmatazz, the never ending demands to provide at least a little extra and to have a fire and food for the family. This year more and more people are struggling to even have the basics and are disillusioned and worried because their meagre finances cannot stretch any further to partake in Christmas festivities. The scenario that is Christmas, high-lights for many, the injustices and the imbalance that is visible in life styles and expectations. Those who are better off fill their shopping trollies to overflowing with food, glitter and all sorts of needless and sometimes useless goods that are not necessary or will even be used.
If those who can afford it could only step back from the excesses that belong to the festive season and think for a moment what a little discipline in what our “wants” are, compared to the “needs” of those poor and stressed, perhaps we could share some of our resources with families who are exhausted from trying to balance a budget and add a little joy to their lives. It may mean not buying Christmas wrapping paper, cutting down on all the food of which much will certainly be wasted and sharing and giving to a local charity such as the St. Vincent de Paul Society. The extra saving that would be painlessly made could add to the lives of those who are poor and would not be missed from those who shop to excess.
Christmas time adds to the burdens of those on the margins and we have many in our country today who are forced into a position of being on the breadline through no fault of their own. We accept that those who live in a household where no one is at work are poor, but a worrying new statistic by Social Justice Ireland state that 14.2% of people at risk of poverty have a job but earn less than 11,000 euro per annum. Next on the list are students and people with low levels of education. Deprivation is an acknowledgement that people cannot afford to heat their house, have a warm coat or buy meat.
The Central Statistic Office found that 25% of people in Ireland don’t have the money to have at least two services or goods which is generally considered normal for other people in society, placing them in the deprived category.
Where does that leave people who must now pay property tax, not to mention water charges that are now coming on stream. It is no wonder so many are on the streets protesting and as many have spoken openly about their plight, they do not have the money to pay any more taxes or added costs, be that electricity or fuel or the new and onerous taxes being expected from them.
The SILC survey done this, the last week in November 2014, have also found that after interviewing 11,000 people across the state, as well as evidence based data, that 750,000 of our citizens live very close to the breadline.
Where are all these citizens going to turn for assistance when they have not the income to pay for everyday necessities? The Voluntary Charitable organisations will be asked to step in to provide the daily needs of families, single men and women who live alone and those depending on Social Welfare. There is a constant demand right across the country to every conference of the St. Vincent de Paul for help to alleviate the distress and the anxiety that has so many of our citizens bewildered and feeling isolated and forgotten.
Justice is not being delivered when charity must take the place of what should be a just and caring society with a basic income level to meet their needs. Our leaders and those that make the decision as to what is the lowest income that a person needs to survive are all well aware that what they pay in social welfare payments fall far short of even their own estimates. So where do the poor go from here?
Ireland is considered a charitable nation, but people who never had to ask for help before are now in a position where they must ask for help even with the basics. This is an unacceptable position for those who are needy and who are trying their best to live a proper and upright life. So are we doing enough?
We should all examine our conscience at this demanding time of the year and put pressure on those in power to alleviate the financial stresses that are being placed on our neighbours and friends and to find an alternative way to balance the budget that always appear to favour the wealthy and strong.
Thanks is also due at this time of the year to all the volunteers in the St. Vincent de Paul Society for their continuous hard work, their tenacity and their generosity of spirit. May the Lord reward each and every one with showers of blessings in their lives.
Peg Hanafin, MSc. 30/11/2014
It is imperative that we all take note of the plight that some men endure who live alone
(1) The plight of men who live alone
Many men who live alone are isolated, housed in poor and dilapidated conditions and become reclusive about their lives. Some suffer depression as well as a range of other mental illnesses and find communication difficult as their health and living conditions deteriorate. They can be seen by society as “strange” and there is little understanding of the difficult lives they lead. Alone and without the comforts of life that are taken for granted by the rest of society, these men, many with no coping skills for living , are struggling every day. Very little research has been carried out about this particular group of men and it is difficult to get a bigger picture as to how widespread their problems are. Anecdotal evidence and my own personal experiences all point to a real and disturbing marginalisation of these men.
Over the years I have visited many of these men and their living conditions were always a concern for me. Recently I was asked to look into the plight of a single man who lived alone, but as I am unable to do visitation now I asked two other St. Vincent de Paul members to do the needful, which they duly did. This man was not “typical” of the people being visited by the Vincent de Paul and he had never appeared to come to the notice of his community. When I was told of his circumstances I realised things for men like him have not changed much over the years and in fact some cases have got much worse. When visited by the two VdeP members they found that this man lived in intolerable conditions and they immediately took on the onerous job of making his house liveable, for which he is extremely grateful.
Such men are often loners, poor shoppers and many live on a diet of bread, cheese, beans and fries. Some of them live in shocking conditions. Washing bedclothes is a rarity and keeping the house in order is a chore too much for many to do. Their homes are rarely decorated and necessities like blankets and sheets are seldom or never purchased. Cooking equipment is usually very basic and often left in dire need of cleaning. Many go to the pub to be in a warm place and to spare fuel and have company in the process. This is seen by society as an indictment of how they live and treat them as such.
Many alone men who live in rural areas, even on a farm, while they may have an adequate income, they do not have the knowledge or the determination to maintain a house or even to cook a proper meal. They live in cold and damp houses especially if they were built before insulation was introduced. Windows and doors may be draughty and heating non – existent. Many of these men cared for elderly parents and sacrificed their own lives and the opportunities of getting married until it is too late. Their regrets are spoken about in a way that portray their depressed spirits and their inadequate social skills to communicate their situation.
In the recent past men have been let out from mental health institutions to live in the community and are left without the proper resources and back up that they need being put in place. Even though they may be in the minority, their lives are extremely difficult and they find living alone in a flat or in a sheltered house impossible. For these men trying to care for themselves is a challenge and is an indictment on our health services that these vulnerable men are left to their own devices. Men who live alone in rural communities may have no contact with the outside world except for the pub or mass and live lives of deprivation, desperation and loneliness. New laws have exasperated their loss of companionship and company.
Over many years visiting these men I realised that more need to be done to highlight the difficult lives that these men endure and bring focus and attention to their needs. In every town in Ireland and in every rur
al area we have these men eking out a life deprived of the bare essentials and fading into the community. How many of these men die alone in squalor and malnourished? From my experience very many die young, be it from the result of alcohol addiction or malnourishment or a combination of both.
We have at this present time a furore about the homeless and that is right and proper, but why do we have to wait for a death on a street to happen before it becomes a matter of urgency? Those who care about those who are homeless have been shouting loud for many years about the plight of these men with no one in authority listening or caring. Decisions taken by government which included the closure of bedsits added to the problem of homelessness when for some, a bedsit is adequate for the needs of one person to heat and to sleep and it gives these men some social interaction with others. Another bad decision made by those who obviously do not understand.
Men who live alone in flats and unable to care for themselves also die young, their sense of hopelessness evident every day. But because society can turn a blind eye to their voiceless lives, the misery they suffer is pushed under the carpet and they become another statistic. Men do not usually visit the doctor when they are ill and have no one to encourage them to care for their health, hence an escalation of health problems that could have been dealt with earlier.
The reduction of the rent allowance paid to those living in private accommodation and the rent payable for social housing added to the huge pressure on the finances of those who live alone. Trying to live on £188.00 per week with close to 20% of that gone on paying rent, before heating, food and the basic necessities are paid for, is a sad reflection of how those in power expect the vulnerable to survive on their meagre income. For men who live alone with disabilities, poor health and often suffering addictions, society appears to have turned their backs on this very vulnerable and deprived group of our citizens. `
At this time of the year it is imperative that people who know men who live alone take some time to ensure that Christmas will not be spent lonely, marginalised and hungry for those pushed to the fringes of society by the fact they ended up alone in life and becoming just a statistic.
Isn’t it truly amazing that there is so little research or data available on younger men who live alone especially those on social welfare, have a disability or on low incomes. Many of these men are invisible in communities and if they are not in the public eye for drunkenness or public order offences they fade into the background and their lives never come under the spotlight.
The articles in this book are a collection of thoughts built around my personal experiences and include a diversity of themes. But threaded throughout them all are the caring, sharing and reaching out with love that I have grown to believe is the most beneficial way to live for our own well-being and that of others.
Writing a book is something that I never thought I would do in my lifetime. However, following a period of grief and pain in the years following my beloved Seamus’s death, and with my own fluctuating health, I began to reflect on my life and see the world with eyes that took into account the diversity of life for others especially those that had touched mine. I also began to consider the value of life experiences and how powerful messages and insights are all too often lost with the beholder. Initially, my reflections were short articles that were at best therapeutic for me at that time as I pondered alternative perspectives and challenged common beliefs and values.
My experiences on all aspects of life over 35 years of service with the St. Vincent de Paul Society, being involved in my own business, acting as coordinator of a second chance education centre, visiting the imprisoned over many years and being a late-comer to university life – all gave me an invaluable insight into people and the unique journey each one of us experiences. This insight has blessed me with the perspective of others, such as prison from the inside, workers’ dilemmas, the poor in health, spirit and life, and many intangible forces that influence our lives, not always positively. Understanding addiction, coping with pain from grief, family conflicts or abuse are also experiences that we have to be touched with to really be able to empathise with. Even though we have been forced to face our deep denial as a society in the recent past, there are still many issues that we find problematic as we progress towards enlightenment. In these articles I try to bring a perspective to lives and ways of living that I hope will inspire you to open your hearts and minds in new ways to those whose lives may be blighted by adversity and challenges, and bring happiness and hope through the gift of sharing and caring to others and to your own lives. I have learned valuable lessons that enriched my life from listening and being with others on their journey and my hope is that the reader will gain an understanding of the importance of that same concept from these articles.