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Simon Oates talks to DrB
Simon Oates and DrB met at this year’s meeting of PsychodermatologyUK in London, UK. Here, Simon talks to DrB about the charity Mind & Skin. Simon recently graduated from University of Brighton with an MA Community Psychology before establishing Mind & Skin.
DrB: Welcome Simon to atopicskindisease.com! First of all, tell us how the charity Mind & Skin came about.
SO: As a student the book “Psychodermatology” (2005) by Dr Carl Walker and Dr Papadopoulous attracted my attention, and led to me studying the effect of skin problems on personal relationships. I discovered just how common the experience of bodily shame is for people with skin conditions, and also how little help is available. Later, working with the charity Changing Faces, I discovered more about the daily difficulties that people with skin conditions can experience. The visible nature of a skin condition, and the social stigma of having what could seen to be a “contagious” condition, sometimes can even lead to exclusion from, for example, hair salons, and health clubs. All this, combined with the discovery that there is a lack of specialist psychology services for skin patients, very much motivated me to find alternative ways of helping to provide more support for those who need it.
DrB: So, now Mind & Skin has been established: what are its objectives?
SO: Initially we aim to:
- Provide community based support for people with skin disease.
- Promote psychodermatology research.
- Hold a yearly conference.
- Enable communication between all involved.
Long-term we aim to:
- Provide a free mental health service.
- Develop a practitioners network.
- Produce a self-help leaflet.
- Create a newsletter.
DrB: And now, what have you achieved so far?
SO: In 2015 we launched our website mindandskin.co.uk where we have articles, a video, blogs and information about our services plans. Each month we have a new article from a doctor or an academic, to increase communication and understanding between everyone involved - both for professionals and for laypeople. In January 2016 we had an article written by Dr Alia Ahmed, Specialist Registrar in Dermatology, “Living with hair loss”, and in February, Dr Peter Farr, Consultant Dermatologist, Newcastle, UK wrote for us about “Seeing a dermatologist”. We have also launched Be.You a support service for 14-21 year olds which aims to highlight the psychological impact that a skin condition can have on young people especially, by means of creative artwork, such as paintings, drawings and photographs, and personal blogs that provide in-depth accounts of what it can be like on a daily basis to live with a skin condition. The aim of this service is to increase social inclusion and help young dermatology patients know that they are not alone with their experience.
In Brighton, UK, we have started offering community drop-in sessions. We frequently hear of people with skin problems who are isolated and living on the fringes of their communities. With our drop-ins we aim to provide private and comfortable opportunities for people to sit together, have a hot drink and talk freely and openly about anything they wish. So far we have had four or five events like this, each one different - no males so far, unfortunately: they can be rather elusive it seems, when it comes to discussing mental health.
DrB: Can any young person donate artwork to Be.You?
SO: Yes indeed, but we do have some rules. For example, nothing personally identifiable should be included in the art, such as facial or bodily images, or a name that might identify who the art is about.
DrB: What are your plans for the future?
SO: This year we aim to increase our community drop-in support events, in both London and Brighton, UK. Also, we are planning skin camouflage open days - with free specialist consultations! And - a first in our field we think - we will launch a series of podcasts this year, featuring dermatology patients talking about their experience of a variety of skin conditions, and doctors and academics discussing the importance of the field of psychodermatology.
DrB: Thank you Simon: congratulations! Now, please tell us, how can people help Mind & Skin?
SO: Before I do that, I would like to say thank you to everybody who has already given the charity, especially with their time and effort. This includes for our website, so thank you to the dermatology patients who have provided blogs and creative artwork, and to the doctors and academics who have contributed with articles. And a special big thank you to Lucy, who has contributed so much, and who is the Be.You project manager.
None of our staff are paid for their work. We rely almost entirely on voluntary donations to fund our work, helping us to raise awareness of the psychological issues that dermatology patients can encounter on a daily basis, and to help us provide our community-based support service.
The most effective way to help is to make a donation - whether it is £1, or £100. All donations will make a big difference to what we can do.
Donations can be made via...
Text message: To send your donation text SKIN14 and the amount you would like to donate £1, £2 or £10 to 70070. For example: SKIN14 £5.
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