Happy Holidays to Our Service Users

I wonder if many of you feel a bit like I do, in that it is hard, almost impossible, to believe that the end of the year is so close and 2022 is right around the corner. And what a year it has been for us all! I think we were hoping that life would have gone back to some degree of normality, and I guess it has in some ways, but there continues to be significant uncertainty and concern, which is impacting us all.

Despite the difficulties, the education for our students has continued, predominantly online, but more and more face-to-face, over the last few months, and the involvement of service users has continued to be prominent, valuable, and so highly valued by the School and the University.

When I joined the University in October 2019, I was impressed by the Service User Reference Group. Over the last few years, I have come to know and meet some of you and get a greater sense of the immense contribution you all make to the School across so many different levels. This partnership is integral to our survival and success as an institution that delivers health and social care practitioners knowledgeable, expert, empathetic, and clearly in touch with the community they serve.

As 2021 draws to a close, I want to send you all my warmest wishes for the festive season, hope that it is a restful and peaceful one for you and all your loved ones, and also to thank each one of you for your commitment and friendship to the School, and the work you do for us.

Holidays have a habit of bringing joy and sadness, and I know that some of us won’t necessarily be looking forward to the festive season. However, I’m struck by the community’s resilience, our ability to help each other, and the importance of connectedness.

Let me wish you, our valued partners and collaborators, peace and wellbeing over the holidays and into 2022. Whatever life has in store for us, I hope we can all find someone to connect to, someone to support, and someone to support us. I look forward to meeting and working with many more service users in 2022, exploring new ways and opportunities to draw on your valuable experience and expertise, and working together as a team.

Take care, and go well,

Vicky Joffe
Dean of the School of Health and Social Care

Drug and Alcohol Addiction Service User Stories

Hidden Voices Podcast

Healthwatch Essex has just released an interview with me as part of their ongoing Hidden Voices podcast. The podcast aims to uncover stories in health and social care and provides an excellent learning opportunity for all health and social care students at Essex (and beyond).

In this episode, I share my experiences with alcohol and drug addiction.

John Wills, a member of the SURG and Healthwatch volunteer.

You can listen to all episodes on your favourite podcast provider, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify.


Involvement Matters Writing Group Workshop (19 Jan 2022)

Come and join us for our latest writing workshop on 19 January 2022 between 1 and 2 pm. We use writing ideas, prompts, and poems to develop our writing muscles. Our goal is to have fun with our writing and generate more content for the Involvement Matters blog.

Essex staff, students and service users are all welcome to attend. You don’t have to share anything you write unless you want to. The workshop is intended as a safe space to engage in reflective writing. No prior experience is needed.

For more information and to register for the workshop, please contact us.


A Christmas Snowflake Story

While it is marketed as the most magical time of the year, and some people wish it could happen every day, Christmas can be difficult time for many people. Elizabeth Attfield, a mother to an autistic son, has written an interesting blog called Surviving Christmas – One Family’s Perspective on Coping with the Festive Season. She points out that it is challenging to balance everyone’s needs at Christmas time. Her conclusion was that enforced jollity can literally be hell.

You’re a mean one, Mr Grinch! Image credit: Pixabay.

We’re are often frightened by the images of Scrooge, the Grinch or anyone who feels negative about Christmas. Last year, Dave Skinner published a book entitled A Snowflake’s Guide to Christmas: How to survive a deeply problematic holiday. This was described as a tongue-in-cheek book but might be seen as poking fun at some people. “Snowflake” is a slang term for an easily offended person who cannot deal with opposing opinions. Having been accused of being a Snowflake myself, I feel able to defend snowflakes everywhere. I argue that we place too many expectations on ourselves at Christmas and on the day itself.

For many families, the build-up to Christmas begins months before the actual event. Young children are whipped up into a frenzy by targeted advertising and the unreasonable expectations of others. Unfortunately, what often transpires is that the pressures around Christmas can create more unhappiness than yuletide joy.

So, if you feel down or lonely this Christmas, remember that you are not alone! Furthermore, it is essential to remember that lack of company is not a character fault, and solitude does not necessarily lead to misery. Having said all that, here are some helpful links if you, a close relative or a friend need support over the festive period.

Mind has published a guide on Christmas and mental health to help you maintain good mental health over the holiday period. In addition, Mind has included a list of useful contacts and helplines.

This Morning, the ITV programme, also published some helpful phone lines. Please remember that these were published last year, so they may not be the same this year.

And finally, a valuable support service for people struggling with cannabis addiction is Marijuana Anonymous UK.

So I wish you Happy Winterval in good old fashioned snowflakism!