Monthly Archives: January 2014

Worcestershire Acute Staff Named and Shamed: Read it here first!


SORRY! Did I say “SHAMED”… I meant “PRAISED”.

I always get those words mixed up. Silly me!

But now that you’re here, maybe it’s time to reflect on what made you click on the link.

I wonder…

Was it because you are a regular follower of the BLOG and you wondered what was going on. After all this is a good news blog and it’s not like me to do this is it?

Or maybe it was the despair at seeing another bad news story about the NHS? “What is it now?” you asked yourself.

Or maybe it was that CULTURAL INFECTION, that we have without knowing it, that bad news is the way in which we see the world. That we shrug and read with titillated interest. “Another one! Glad I wasn’t caught out this time!”

So while you take a moment to reflect, read this good news story of a patient’s family who wanted to say thank you. The two named people are a Nurse and a Ward Clerk. And when I asked Bethan the nurse what she thought of the message she just said “It makes it all worthwhile.”

Dear All,
Just a brief note to say thank you for all the care and attention you gave to my father [Name Omitted] during his stay on Laurel 2.
Although the final outcome was not as we’d hoped, he was appreciative of all the treatment he received, as he has had a very real fear of being elderly and ill in Hospital.
A special thank you to BETHAN and NATALIE, who not only were lovely to Dad, but also to all our family. WE WILL NEVER FORGET.
With kind regards from us all,
[Name and address supplied]

Good News is the cultural antidote that we need to fight our national infection.
It doesn’t me we don’t challenge the poor stuff, discipline to downright bad and commit ourselves to improvement.

It does mean that we spare a chance to reflect on the great achievements that happen day in/day out in the NHS.


Organising My Pants Drawer Again: Seems I’m not the Only One

Still not my pants...still not my drawer...but you get the point

Still not my pants…still not my drawer…but you get the point

I can’t tell you how pleased (in a way) I am to have received so many emails and tweets in response to my last post I had tweets and emails telling me what strategies others used, and how they recognised when their resilience and well-being was compromised. And I had private emails from Healthcare Professionals telling me how they were struggling with depression at the moment.





So in the end I realised that I was not alone. There are hundreds of us out there; 1000’s even, who have succumbed to depression due to pressures at work. In fact, I remember when I returned to work after my sick leave, I encountered so many staff who, when I told them my story, said “Been there, done that.”

Now I don’t want to get all religious on you, but there is a sentence in one of the world’s sacred texts in which the Teacher says: “You will say Physician, heal thyself.” And if we can’t care for ourselves, then presumably we can’t care for others.

Is all this stress and depression avoidable? How should I know, I’m just a humble chaplain!
Do these episodes become one of those to which we look back and shudder. To right they do.
But there was comfort for me at least in knowing that I wasn’t alone.

So if you think it’s just you, then let me assure you again that it’s not.
So here is one of the emails I received from a colleague fro Worcestershire Acute Trust. I use it with permission but my friend wants to remain anonymous.
Note how closely it mirrors my story.
Maybe it mirrors yours?
I am always happy to be contacted either through the CONTACT ME page on this blog or by telephoning the Hospital on 01905 760124.
I don’t have answers, but sometimes it helps to walk with someone who has travelled a similar terrain.

“Dear Reverend Southall,

Please can I just say a huge thankyou to you for writing this recent article.

In this country, in 2014 there still persists a stigma about “mental health issues”. It must have taken a huge amount of courage for you to write the article in the 1st place! The words “mental” & “nutter” are bandied about too casually. Rarely do people stop to think that they may have unintentionally offended someone around them (me in this case!)

I was in exactly your position in 2011.My wife & I had decided that we wanted to surprise our two children with a (hedonistic) holiday to Disneyland Florida. We wanted to indulge our children, who don’t normally have foreign holidays & create great memories for their childhoods-which are over too quickly these days.

You can imagine how much such a holiday would cost-a figure normally unattainable on our modest salaries! We decided that it should be a surprise-only 7 people knew about the holiday-the adults going & our parents (all sworn to secrecy). We fooled the children into thinking they were going to Menorca..we got travel brochures for the region & our parents even gave us their old Euros for the kids to spend! Hook..line & sinker!!

I have the luxury/burden of a second job. I used the overtime opportunities available to me to chip away over 14 months to pay for this holiday-my goal at that time. At that point I was unable to say no when work was available. The end result was-you’ve guessed it-like you I worked myself into the ground & “got through” each day. I would fall into bed about 2340 & be asleep as my head hit the pillow.

My wife noticed something was afoot in early 2011.Like you, I got a strong hint from her to “go to the GP!”. My Male pride took over; “Man up-there’s nothing wrong with you”. Inside my mind was the odd but slightly humorous image of my father,”Men don’t need to go to the doctors!!” This one did-but just didn’t know it yet! I put off visiting the doc with various excuses-“no appointments” or “too much work”.

Eventually I crashed-hugely in October 2011. I apologise for saying this, but my depression was making me prone to suicidal thoughts. They normally occurred when I was passing a suitable site-a brick wall in the car, the top floor of a multi storey car park. However I am a secret coward & had no plans to act on these thoughts. I recognised it for what it was-an irrational thought, but put off telling my wife the whole, gory truth-I didn’t want to trouble her as she had enough on her plate with work, children etc. The one day I came home from a (to me) particularly bad day at work. I knew I had a problem when my “virtual pants drawer” overflowed. A patient said something quite innocent to me but in my state then I took it personally & felt terrible. I too went to my GP, filled in the “Big D” test & as you were, I was diagnosed with depression & anxiety. This resulted in me being signed off for 11 weeks-the longest period of sickness in my life.

My GP put me on Chemicals to start my recovery. I was told that if I didn’t feel fit to work, I was not to bother coming to see the Doctor, but just to “phone up” & a new prescription would be issued. In my state then, such an offer would have been too tempting to abuse. In addition I was referred by my fantastic manager for counselling therapy via [name omitted]-our in house counsellor at the [Place omitted] She was fantastic. I don’t know how she did it, but each time I came out of a session with her, I felt great, elated. I didn’t realise what the box of tissues on the side were for….I do now!! My most surreal moment came when discussing my sex life with a lady old enough to be my mother! I burst into tears regularly during my sessions-I felt I’d let down the male species as I was so conditioned “not to cry”!

I am ashamed to say I put my wife & children through a living hell. I was an angry, short/bad tempered bear with a sore head. I would regularly fly off the handle at the poor soul who happened to have annoyed me. They were all scared to be around me & lead to some big blazeups between myself & my teenage son. We had a new kitchen fitted while I was signed off-in my mind I was convinced my wife was having an affair with the carpenter..she always became more flirty, animated different person when he was around. It was a kick in the teeth to me & my imagination got away with me. I even asked her mum & best friend if there was anything going on that I should know about. It took me most of 2012 to recover. I didn’t start to feel “better” until beginning 2013.

Fast forward to August 2012. We go on holiday during the “Olympic 2 weeks” I had a “wardrobe malfunction” while going through American customs..! I was asked to take anything metallic off & pass it through the metal detector machine. However, I forgot my belt with a metallic belt can guess whats coming! I had just brought some new shorts for holiday, which were being held up by said belt. As it set the alarm off, I was told to remove it and go through the gate again. As my shorts had loosened up, once my belt was removed-they headed south! Imagine my embarrassment at flashing my wares to 00’s of people in the customs hall…..much hilarity ensued. You know how those full body scanners show everything? I said to the guards-lets get the laughter over with now.

This was the real start of my recovery. I now know my limits, have made lifestyle adjustments, cut down on work & (hopefully) have restored a work/life balance post counselling. I am now in control of my destiny again & am a better Father, Son & Husband.

The comfort I have taken from other friends & colleagues during my recovery is how common this illness is. I was shocked at how many people have had it, lived it & got over it. These were people I admire & look up to (including yourself) They candidly were brave enough to admit to me they were also sufferers. I know who my true friends are & now am fully prepared to jump in feet first for any friend or colleague who needs help.

Your story has inspired me to write to you-I’m sorry it’s a bit wordy but quite a lot to cram in the story. Hopefully there are a few bits in there that you may find amusing. If my story helps one person to get through the nightmare that is depression, please feel free to use it in any media, but I’d like to remain anonymous.”

Many thanks

Organising My Pants Drawer: On Self-Care and Depression

Not my pants...not my drawer...but you get the idea

Not my pants…not my drawer…but you get the idea

It’s a little three drawer cabinet next to my side of the bed, and the top drawer contains my underpants. But it is so much more than that because it acts as a barometer for how I am doing. It becomes a sign for me of how my life is going.

Now it would be easy to start a post about CARING FOR YOURSELF with a whole list of things to do, like some self-care manual; and there is value in that. But as always, that’s not my way. My way is to tell a story. So here it is.

Three years ago, the new year started badly; well not badly but I didn’t seem to have any energy. Work was a busy as ever, and I found myself trudging through every day, with my mantra “Tomorrow will be better!” But it never was. I’d come into work, go home, sleep and come back into work.

And the days off were worse. I couldn’t find anything I liked doing, was ratty at home, and began to keep myself to myself; which in a family of five and numerous pets, requires a lot of energy in itself. I’d seemed to have lost myself and the ability to do anything enjoyable.

Things steadily got worse and worse, but don’t worry “Tomorrow will be better!” I kept denying that anything was wrong, and my wife gave me some strong advice – “Go to the GP.”

Now GP’s are not for blokes, we all know that! But I consented and booked an appointment.

I can honestly say it was one of the worst days of my life. Honestly.

Sitting in the waiting room wondering how to tell him that I was not coping. “David Southall, Room 5” came up on the digital board and I thought of making a dash for it, but dragged myself into the Doctor’s Room. The words barely come out: “I’m feeling a bit low Doc.” He asked me if I wanted to take a quick questionnaire; “Not really! But I did. And then he said these words:


Impossible I thought. I’m an ex-RMN, ex-CPN, 49 year old man who has coped all his life and rarely had a day’s sick leave. I would surely have seen the signs. I’ll humour him. He prescribed me some Sertraline (an anti-depressant) and said he would see me in a week. “Don’t worry it’s just a blip I told him. I’ll be in work on Monday.”

And so I was, for three hours, before I realised I couldn’t face it.

And then began 3 months of chemicals and rest; a phased return to work; and a resumption of a life which I viewed differently.


Well, for me, my pants drawer let me know how I am doing emotionally. Now I am not an overly tidy person, so it is never going to be pristine. But when I open it and find it messy, with sweet wrappers and odds and ends, and that screwdriver that I brought upstairs for something or other, and a fork, then I know that I should take some action. That life is getting on top of me. And these are some of the things I do.

Tell someone how I’m feeling and ask them how they think I am.

Do something enjoyable; for me it’s fishing and horseriding and going for a motorcycle ride.

Recount the things in life which enhance meaning like the time when I….

Take some days off if possible, and early before the trudging through day after day begins.


Slow down

Don’t be afraid of the Chemicals- they give you the resources to act for yourself.

And that’s what I mean about being different after my depression.

I am now more open to the signs.

Last week, I opened my pants drawer and said “God what a mess.” Oh O!

And so I acted.

I booked three days A/L at short notice. I had a horse riding lesson. I spent time enjoying the company of my kids. I walked and rested and slept.

And now I feel energised again. I suppose I could have waited and said “Tomorrow will be better” for days on end. But it’s better for me to nip it in the bud.

I’m not saying this post will help you. I’m certainly not an expert on depression, stress or self care.

I only know what works for me but would be happy to chat to you if you are in this position. So feel free to email me at

What Makes You Tick? My One Page Profile

One Page Profile (click to enlarge)

One Page Profile (click to enlarge)

Ta Da! My One Page Profile

It’s funny the way things work out isn’t it? A chance encounter on a Twitter Chat has led to the creation of my one page profile. But how did it come about? What’s the point of it? And how will it be used? Well below, I answer some questions posed by Helen Sanderson (@HelenHSAUK) who got me into all this. Helen has made her @NHSChangeday pledge to help create 1000 One Page Profiles for people within the health sector
( which makes my pledge pretty paltry in comparison.

However, as you read it, it might give you an idea of what makes me tick. And because Chaplaincy, and humanity, is all about sensing what makes others tick, I’d love you to do a profile as well. It’s easy, effective and, well, Helen is the expert so she will tell you later. But for now, here’s what it was like for me.

Helen: You are the first Reverend, and first hospital chaplain to have a one-page profile. Why did you volunteer to do this?

David: Well, one dark Thursday evening (I’m nothing if not a story teller!) I was following the @WeNurses Tweet chat. I clicked on a link which you had posted on one-page profiles and saw that you had pledged @NHSChangeDay to developing 1000 of these for NHS staff. I thought this was brave (verging on the ridiculous probably) and had no idea what a one page profile was. After clicking a few links I was hooked. Here was a tool to let others know about what makes me tick; when I’m at my best; what my passions are; and how to get the best out of me. But more than that, because I think that life is made up of stories and relationships, it gives me a chance to find this stuff out about other people. How great would it be read the important things about someone on a single piece of paper. and not just staff but patients as well.

Helen: What was it like to develop your one-page profile?

David: It was fantastic. I spent an hour on the phone with Helen who was just interested in finding out about me (not that I like to talk about myself or anything) and then, quick as a flash she sent back my one page profile. And it was ME. But more than that, it gave me a chance to think about my life, and in that sense it was very therapeutic. I took time out of the busy-ness to reflect on who I am; what motivates me; what my passions are; why I do what I do; who is important to me; and how I get by in this sometimes crazy world. I’d encourage anyone to do the same. It’s really easy to do it yourself, or ask Helen who will guide you through it.

Helen: How are you planning to use it (already using it?)

David: I am going to launch it in the new year. I will post it on the Chaplain’s Blog ( and will make it a feature of my Tweets @revdavesouthall and @WeChaplains. I also hope to get it onto the Trust Intranet site and perhaps develop a tab for number of staff one page profiles there and on the Blog. I would like to publicise it widely so that people can see I am a normal person (mostly) and that there is benefit in knowing me.

Helen:How could you see these being used throughout the hospital?

David: In numerous ways, I think. A collection of one-page profiles of staff can only further cement community cohesion and make us more human. To know we are individuals with a unique mixture of drivers and passions is huge. And if that is the case for us, then it is equally true of patients. Not the depersonalised “generalised pain in Bed 3” but the 86 year old man who loves playing the piano and is part of a choir and who gains strength from his family and hates broccoli. Surely we can see the stories quite easily if we know how to look. and my guess is that there are ways to use this that will become apparent as we explore its potential.

Helen: Do you think other chaplains would be interested in this?

David: I think so because it gets to the heart of what makes us unique human beings, which is what chaplaincy is all about. Those existential needs, which occur so infrequently in tick-box assessments, are apparent by hearing people’s stories. Getting behind the condition to see the patient is part of what Chaplains do; and I have recently set up a Twitter community called @WeChaplains and will be prioritising the profile amongst my colleagues there as well.

Helen: What is your pledge for NHS Change day?

David: My pledge can be found here: and I am nothing if not grandiose so here it is.

“I pledge to be the first Healthcare Chaplain and Rev in the World to have a one page profile, and to pass this onto my friends as a way of encouraging us to find out about each other and to add to community cohesion. To find out more look at Helen Sanderson’s Pledge to get 1000 #onepp participants in the Health Sector”

Part 1, developing my own one-page profile is already done. The next part, to encourage others, is ongoing and I hope these answers help you to think about a one-page profile of your own!

Well there it is. A simple concept but with, I think, huge power to create new communities. And next time you see me you will know to chat about horses and fishing and motorbikes, but to leave me along in the afternoons!