Former homeless team up with school to help pupils with invisible disabilities

Pupils from Lexdon in Emmaus Colchester workshop

Pupils from Lexdon in Emmaus Colchester workshop

Pupils from Lexden Springs School, Colchester, have created bespoke birdhouses with the help of formerly homeless people at Emmaus Colchester as part of an ongoing partnership between the local school and homelessness charity. 

The Emmaus Colchester upcycling team, which is made up of companions (formerly homeless people) currently being supported by the local charity, have met weekly with pupils from Lexden Springs for the past two years at the charity’s workshop on Arthur Street. The school specialises in supporting pupils aged 3 – 19 who have complex learning difficulties and those on the Autistic spectrum continuum. The ongoing partnership provides the pupils with the opportunity to learn the skills needed to upcycle and restore unused items and materials, as well as providing them with experience within a busy workshop environment.

Emmaus Colchester provides a home and meaningful work for up to 31 companions who have experienced homelessness and social exclusion, offering them an alternative route out of homelessness within a supportive environment. Companions volunteer full time while they are at Emmaus selling second-hand furniture and household goods at its two Emmaus charity shops on the High Street, an Emmaus Works shop on Osborne Street and a warehouse at Arthur Street.

Throughout the partnership, Emmaus companions and pupils from Lexdon Springs have upcycled cabinets to be donated to the school, created Christmas decorations for the Emmaus community house, and restored old chairs for the new Emmaus shop and café that will open this summer on Crouch Street, Colchester. The latest creations to come out of the partnership are the bespoke birdhouses, which will be sold in the Emmaus Works shop on Osbourne Street for £5. Customers will receive a hand-made thank you card from the Lexden Springs pupils with each birdhouse purchased, and all proceeds will be donated to Emmaus Colchester per Lexdon Springs request.

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Billy, one of the chief lead up-cyclers at Emmaus Colchester, has been coaching the pupils. He said: “We work with the pupils from Lexdon Springs every Tuesday, and each school term we give them a new project to work on that revolves around upcycling, painting, priming and using power tools. Each student has varying abilities, so it’s important that the rest of the upcycling team and I make sure to supervise them in a way that suits them.

"It’s not just about the practical skills that they learn though – at first the kids arrived at the workshop slightly dubious, but throughout the term, I have seen their confidence grow, they are more trusting, and they take ownership of the workshop – it’s brilliant to see. When the students finished the birdhouses, I was so proud and pleased for them and I really do look forward to working with them every week.”

Nicky Peters, Post 16 Teacher at Lexden Springs said: “This partnership has exceeded all expectations and has benefited all the students in many ways, particularly in building up their trust and confidence at working alongside unfamiliar adults in a workplace environment. Staff have noticed a big improvement in the communication skills of the students and in their self-esteem, as they are tremendously proud of the work they do at Emmaus. It is a definite highlight of the week for both students and staff.”

Royalty of all kinds join together in minute-long Mental Health Awareness radio moment

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Their Royal Highnesses The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry along with stars from music, sport, stage, and screen have joined together for a minute-long message which was broadcast simultaneously by hundreds of UK radio stations at 10.59am today.

The message was voiced by Lady Gaga, Dame Judi Dench, David Harewood and Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill as well as special guests The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, who are all lending their voice to raise awareness of mental health. The princes have already been vocal about their own mental health and are active in raising awareness.

In a historic first and reaching one of radio’s biggest ever collective audiences, the minute of simultaneous programming united stations all over the UK from national networks such as those run by Global, Bauer or Wireless, to smaller local stations and community stations, together with BBC Radio 1, Radio 2 and 5Live. 

The broadcast, which is designed to encourage more people to talk openly about their mental health, includes The Duke of Cambridge saying: "Just starting a conversation on mental health can make all the difference, when you talk about something you have less reason to fear it."

Prince Harry adds: "If you do have the courage to speak about it, you really can make things better."

Spearheaded by Radiocentre and Radio Academy and executed by content agency Somethin’ Else, the Mental Health Awareness minute, which has fallen in Mental Health Awareness Week, is supported by the Royal Foundation’s Heads Together which was launched to change the national conversation on mental health and tackle the stigma that prevents people from getting the help they need. The Royal Foundation is the principle philanthropic and charitable vehicle for The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. Ms. Meghan Markle will join the Foundation as the fourth Patron following in Royal Wedding on 19 May 2018.

Mental Health Awareness Week to rejuvenate interest in developing medications


This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week: 14th – 20th May, hosted by the Mental Health Foundation will focus on stress, one of a large spectrum of mental health disorders, with some of the most well-known being depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. 

The markets for mental health treatments are competitive and crowded with a multitude of approved therapies, many of which are available as inexpensive generics. Despite a large number of drugs on the market, key opinion leaders interviewed by GlobalData explained that they do not significantly differ from each other in terms of efficacy, but have a slightly different safety profile.

Maura Musciacco, MSc, Director of Neurology & Ophthalmology at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, commented: ‘‘Mental health issues can be severely debilitating, and can impact all aspects of a patient’s life, including health, education, employment, and social interactions. GlobalData’s primary research shows that the unmet needs for these indications are often over-lapping and a common denominator here is the need to find medications with improved efficacy and safety profiles.’’

Musciacco continued: ‘‘Due to the high number of side effects seen with all treatments, there is a large unmet need for efficacious drugs with an improved safety profile. This, in turn, would improve compliance and improve treatment rates. Furthermore, none of the marketed products for depression can demonstrate rapid antidepressant effects, and most of the products take weeks to show effectiveness. The need for fast-acting therapies is more pressing in patients with the severe form of the disease, who, in many cases, have to be hospitalised.’’

The development of drugs with enhanced safety profiles has been highlighted consistently as an unmet need for these mental health disorders. 


In the case of schizophrenia, the most notable side effect caused by current treatments are metabolic effects, such as weight gain and extrapyramidal symptoms (EPS), especially for typical (or first-generation) antipsychotics. Key opinion leaders (KOLs) in the industry explained that metabolic syndrome is the most challenging aspect when treating their schizophrenic patients. Other side effects of concern include drowsiness/sedation and decreased cognitive function, which can have major impacts on the patient’s quality of life.


Similarly, for depression, the available pharmacotherapies are associated with significant and often serious side effects and associated risks. Different antidepressants and adjunctive therapies have different safety profiles, and in general, the side-effect burden is high, with weight gain and sexual dysfunction being identified through GlobalData’s primary research as the most undesirable of these.


The bipolar disorder treatment algorithm typically involves treating patients long-term with one of the mood stabilizers, such as lithium. Safety concerns associated with these products vary; however, each product carries a risk of serious side effects. Lithium is considered to be the gold-standard maintenance treatment for bipolar disorder; however, it is associated with a plethora of safety concerns, including thyroid and parathyroid abnormalities, weight gain, and an increased risk for reduced urinary concentrating ability. In order to manage these concerns, a patient’s plasma concentration must be closely monitored; the development of side effects necessitates a reduction in dosage, which can significantly affect efficacy.

Musciacco added: ‘‘Opportunities exist for products that will meet the significant unmet needs in these markets. Products that have improved efficacy and safety profiles, will be viewed favorably and will have significant competitive advantages, which would enable them to potentially move to the forefront of the treatment line and gain significant market share in these increasingly crowded markets.’’

The Calm Room will be presenting stories direct from people who suffer from mental health conditions, as well as people who have found their invisible disabilities impact their mental health.

Phee Waterfield to chair Girls in Tech panel on 10th May 2018

Do you want to know what its like to lead or start your own tech company? Would you like to understand what experience is most relevant & where to get started? Perhaps you want to bring technology into the mental health industry but not sure how to do it?

Tonight, Phee Waterfield, freelance journalist and founder of The Calm Room, will be chairing a panel with three female CXOs to find out.

They will explain the rewards and challenges of leading your own company and their personal journeys. If you'd like to attend, you'll get to ask questions, hear advice about kickstarting your career, and connect with other like-minded people!

What is the Girls in Tech "tech spectrum" series about?

It's about giving you the opportunity to explore the different careers available in tech. Whether you are interested in getting into tech from a non-tech background, or you're in tech already and want to find out more about other roles, then this series will suit you!

For each session, Girls in Tech have invited professionals in the tech industry to share more about their roles, how they got into those positions and the challenges and rewards that their roles bring.

You can ask them questions directly and understand more about the tech ecosystem!

What is the Agenda for the 10th May?

  • 18:00 - 18:30 Registration
  • 18:30 - 18:45 Session intro
  • 18:45 - 19:45 CEO Career path panel
  • 19:45 - 20:30 Networking


Saasha Celestial-One is the co-founder and COO of OLIO, a free app which harnesses the power of mobile technology and the sharing economy to provide a revolutionary new solution to the problem of food waste. OLIO does this by connecting neighbours with each other, and with local businesses so that surplus food can be shared, not thrown away.

Launched in the UK in January 2016 and made available globally in October 2016, OLIO now has 450,000 users, supported by 18,000 volunteers promoting OLIO in their local communities. Prior to founding OLIO, Saasha spent over 10 years in finance, strategy and business development roles at Morgan Stanley, McKinsey & American Express. Saasha has an MBA from Stanford, is a mother of a 5-year-old boy, and is the daughter of hippy entrepreneurs.

Sarah Hesz is the co-founder and COO of Mush The #1 local social network for making mum friends. Mush helps to solve the feeling of isolation experienced by mums; it is responsible for over 1M friendships and has recently been backed by Octopus Ventures. Sarah has a background in advertising and served as Deputy Managing Director to mcgarrybowen London for over 4 years.

Liliana Reasor is the founder and CEO of Suprafinthe first global vetted token platform on the blockchain. She is a FinTech/Blockchain entrepreneur, venture capitalist and ex-investment banker with 20+ years of experience in the FinTech and Finance industries.

Liliana is heavily involved in the FinTech / Blockchain startup ecosystem in Europe and is considered a FinTech / Blockchain thought leader. She is a regular FinTech / Blockchain speaker, panellist, investment judge and working group member at top global FinTech/Blockchain and finance events.

She was selected as one of the Top 100 Global FinTech Women Influencers and Leaders in 2015, 2016 and 2017 by Innovate Finance. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, she worked in the FinTech and investment banking industries (M&A, trading, capital markets, and corporate lending) at JP Morgan, Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, and Moody’s Analytics in the US and UK. Liliana has a MSc. in Computational Finance from Carnegie Mellon and an MBA from UCLA.

HRH The Countess of Wessex officially opens Sage House

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Yesterday, HRH The Countess of Wessex officially opened a new dementia support centre: Sage House. Accompanied by the Lord-Lieutenant of West Sussex and Mrs Susan Pyper, and was greeted at Sage House by Anthony Wickins, Dementia Support Chairman and Founder, and Sally Tabbner, Chief Executive; and the Chairmen of the West Sussex County Council and Chichester District Council.  

Her Royal Highness was shown around Sage House, by Sally Tabbner and Anthony Wickins, to see the various dementia support services and met with customers, carers, volunteers, members of staff, trustees, and key people involved in the project.

She also visited the Memory Assessment and Information Zone where she was talked through the memory assessment process and the tools used.  There was also a discussion about the Sage House Wayfinding Service, and the benefits of receiving good advice and emotional support throughout the dementia journey.  

The visit then moved on to the Care and Activities Zone where the charity provides dementia wellbeing sessions and day care.  Here, The Countess had the opportunity to speak to people living with dementia, and their families and carers, who were attending a dementia wellbeing session.  

To conclude her visit to Sage House, The Countess unveiled a commemorative plaque and she was presented with a posy of flowers by Edward Page (aged 9), Bella Page (aged 6) and Iris Randell (aged 12).  Siblings Edward and Bella live in Tangmere and both chose the name of the Café – Daisy’s Café, in honour of their great-grandmother Daisy, who had dementia. Iris’ submission: ‘Forget-Me-Not Lane’ has been used for a corridor in Sage House.

The Dementia Support Hub will welcome anyone who has a concern about memory loss, with or without a formal diagnosis.  For many, it is important to have a formal diagnosis and to know more about their specific circumstances and changes in their memory.  For those people, the Memory Assessment Service is where they can be assessed and formally diagnosed.

Dementia Support was set up in 2014 by Anthony Wickins, former Chairman of local hospice St Wilfrid’s, and Lucinda Langmead, after her father was diagnosed with dementia. 

We want to hear from you

For Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 (14-20 May), we will be featuring stories about people across the UK with invisible disabilities to help raise awareness and remove the stigma. Each day on the blog and our social media channels, we will be publishing first-hand viewpoints from followers and friends of The Calm Room, in the hope that it will inspire people to engage, offer support and encourage and discuss their own conditions.

We will also use this opportunity to launch our weekly newsletter, so keep a lookout for the subscriber link so you can keep up to date with everything Calm Room related. 

If you would like to feature on The Calm Room and tell your story, please contact us. If you have any questions about our other services, please don't hesitate to get in touch.