Tag Archives: mental health

My campaign to change attitudes, one event at a time

We have just ‘celebrated’ World Mental Health day (10 October). I, and many like me, hope that as each year passes so does the stigma and discrimination of mental health. Stigma impacts like a disease – if left untreated, the result is devastating.

Attitudes are certainly changing around mental health, although slowly. As pointed out by Time to Change, the mental health campaign I’m involved in, perceptions are changing. The National Attitudes to Mental Illness survey shows that since 2011, an estimated two million people – or 4.8% of the population – have improved attitudes towards people with a mental illness.
In addition, the data suggests that more people are acknowledging they know someone with a mental health problem (64% in 2013 compared with 58% in 2009). However nearly half (49%) of respondents said they would feel uncomfortable talking to an employer about their own mental health.

Anti stigma work has taken up a large part of my life in psychiatric nursing. And, although it sometimes feels like two steps forward and one back (as the research quoted above hints), the long and winding journey is worth the taking and the rewards are for the benefit of everyone.

I have seen the impact of stigma. I have also felt it. I have seen the destruction it causes people who experience mental illness and their loved ones. This is the motivation for my work.

The recent news about the impact of isolation underlines the need for more work along these lines. Both young people and older folk are affected by severe loneliness.

These issues provided the context for a talk I organised in my childhood village in July, and which I blogged about on these pages.

My talk was about the stigma of mental health and aimed to promote Time To Change. I wanted to raise awareness of the insidious impact of stigma and its long-term damage, and explore how we can all make a difference to the lives of others through our daily interactions. I wanted my message to reach across the village and, more personally, make a mark in the place where I spent my childhood years.

For me going back to my former home, which I left almost 40 years ago, was quite an emotional occasion. It had been the culmination of a life long ambition, a seed borne in childhood that had finally flowered. In the dark corners of my mind has sat the repressed thoughts from childhood of my father’s mental health issues, and the attitudes of others at the time to this.

Assembled in the room of around 50 people were faces from my childhood, alongside faces of the present. An eclectic range of people and experiences, young and old. Friends and family sat beside strangers. I will always be very grateful for the efforts they made to attend and help me to achieve my ambition.

Social contact and interaction is a powerful weapon in challenging ignorance and the myths surrounding mental health. Breaking down the invisible barriers we put up and accepting people as people, rather than defining them by their mental health condition is critical. The two-hour event was informal and interactive thereby providing the ‘safe’ space for those who wished to be open and share their personal experiences, or the experiences of others they hold close.

I started with a mythbusting quiz about mental health to highlight the misconceptions that exist, then spoke about my work in mental health nursing, my anti-stigma initiatives, and also my own experience of depression. I covered my work in the media with the TV soap Emmerdale, advising on the award winning depression storyline of one of the main characters, Zak Dingle.

I stressed it was my hope to encourage the viewers to empathise with Zak’s plight, to see him as being vulnerable and a victim of his circumstances rather than a danger to others, and criminalized

To contrast with this I also explained my advisory role with the character Darrell Makepeace in BBC Radio 4 The Archers. This character had not been received positively by listeners because the producer had decided to criminalise this character. Despite this, I stressed this at the very least ensured people were talking about mental health.

It was a success. I was at pains to ensure it went well because it meant so much to me. I have delivered many talks and presentations previously to large and small audiences but this one was more personal.

Since that summer’s evening I have spoken to people to gauge how things went. Did it make a difference? Has it changed their views? Inspired them? Where do we go from here? The responses have enthused me.

I intend to arrange a follow up event to build on this and plant another seed for the future. A seed for the young people, some who, sadly, will inevitably grow up with the same experiences I had.

Hopefully there will be some changes in attitudes resulting from that evening. It might seem to many just a single, small event, but if it can change just a handful of attitudes and encourage people to talk about mental health, it will be a success. Change drips slowly, but it will come all the same. One day.

Why did the Salvation Army fail to act on my claims of sexual abuse?

A woman who complained 16 years ago of being abused by charity personnel in the 1970s now wants an inquiry:

The Salvation Army failed to investigate allegations of historical child abuse, according to a woman who told the charity 16 years ago that four of its members had sexually assaulted her in the 1970s.

In 1998, Lucy Taylor (not her real name) told the Salvation Army that four men at her local branch of the charity in the north of England had abused her. Her story suggests she was groomed from the age of 10, assaulted from 12 years old and the abuse continued for eight years until she left the organisation.

Taylor says her complaints were not handled seriously either at the local branch, known as a “citadel”, which was at the centre of her allegations, or at the national headquarters in London. When she later approached police, an investigation resulted in two of the four men being arrested on suspicion of indecent assault. They were later released without charge. For legal reasons the Guardian cannot name the alleged victim, now in her 50s, or the men.

Taylor says: “I want somebody to take me seriously – listen to my problem and help me sort this out”. She adds of her alleged abusers: “I just want them to realise what they’ve done to me [but] part of me doesn’t, part of me doesn’t want them to know how it’s upset me and ruined my life.” Read the rest of my interview and report on the Guardian website.

Campaigning in my community for mental health

Each time I return to my childhood village the memories come flooding back.

Memories of football in the street and endless walks along rugged cliffs that are some of the highest in the country. A sense of innocence from another era now gone forever.

My native town is Staithes, a small fishing village nestling beneath cliffs on the north Yorkshire coast. A tourist attraction in summer, Staithes is synonymous with Captain James Cook who worked and lived there prior to setting sail to discover Australia.

My childhood growing up in the village was mostly uneventful but rocked by my parents’ separation and my father’s mental health issues. Mental illness was very much misunderstood in the village and this was no different to any other village in England at that time.

Over 50 years later, and nearer to the grave than the cradle, I now want to return to my roots to try to bring about change, however small, around attitudes to mental health. I want to raise awareness in the village of the stigma of mental health and how it impacts on the sufferer and their families. A stigma as dangerous as the high cliffs I would climb as a child and the raging sea that batters the village in winter.

Stigma and discrimination of mental illness exists in all villages and towns. Time To Change, England’s largest mental health anti-stigma programme seeks to change all that. I volunteer for Time To Change and use my qualified psychiatric nurse knowledge and and personal ‘lived experience’ to try to bring about more awareness, understanding and tolerance of mental health.

I feel confident that the event next Thursday (24 July) will be successful. Why? A sense of community exists to this day in Staithes, which I believe is part of being from North Yorkshire and who we are as a people. A down to earth friendliness, community spirit, and willingness to help others in time of need.

What I have organised is an informal evening in the village hall to raise awareness, educate, and de- mystify some of the negative and damaging misconceptions of mental health; SOS Staithes Opposes Stigma of mental health (the title “SOS” reflects the international distress signal ‘Save Our Souls’ which the village, a once thriving port, uses so I thought that would be an apt title).

I will also talk about my advisory work with Steve Halliwell, who played the character Zak Dingle in the television soap Emmerdale , to help craft the award winning depression storyline. This was done with the aim of making mental health depictions on TV more realistic and sensitive. People here in identify with Zak Dingle as the programme is Yorkshire-based.

So far the response to my evening event has been very positive. I have visited the village and left posters everywhere. I have spoken to some people I already knew and strangers who I can now call friends. They have been very open and honest about their own mental health issues or spoke of people they know and care for. This has enthused me all the more. I appreciate their being so open and trusting very much.

I wish I had possessed the same feelings of acceptance, understanding, and trust all those years ago as a child around my fathers illness. Small rural communities such as this are more isolated than the larger towns and cities and as a consequence people are often left feeling more alienated and lacking support. I often say as a child I did not understand the word stigma but I certainly knew how it felt.

My aim is simple. I would like the people in the village to be more aware of mental health issues and how mental illness it is indiscriminate. How it effects one in four of the population and that nobody is immune.

I would like the young people to see me as a positive role model and for them to be influenced to try to bring about change themselves in whatever way they can. I would like everyone to understand that Time To Change is a social movement for change and they can all play a part, no matter how small, in this ground breaking campaign.

The young people are the future of the village. They can all make a difference to the villagers of tomorrow as well as today by their words and their actions.

• SOS: STAITHES OPPOSES STIGMA of mental health. Thursday 24th July 7 – 9pm held in Staithes village hall – An informal evening of interaction and discussion around mental health. Free entry by ticket. Refreshments available and free promotional Time To Change materials. Tickets from Lol Butterfield on 07958064025, Veronica Foster on 07891607786 or members of the village hall committee.

Telling the untold stories of austerity

Women in Croxteth, Liverpool, discuss the impact of cuts on communities, part of the research for the new book, Austerity Bites

Do you know what austerity really means?

Here’s a definition from the Collins Dictionary, as quoted in Mary O’Hara’s commanding new book on the subject, Austerity Bites: “…difficult economic conditions created by government measures to reduce the budget deficit, especially by reducing public expenditure: a period of austerity/austerity measures.”

But that literal definition, and the words of politicians using the rhetoric of austerity to mask the harsh impact of public spending cuts, conveys nothing of the human cost of the unprecedented reform of the welfare state.

Austerity Bites redresses that imbalance. I don’t usually do reviews on this site, but this timely book demands attention.

Reading this book means you join the award-winning journalist O’Hara in her “journey to the sharp end of cuts in the UK”. Based on a 12-month trip around the country meeting diverse people affected by cuts as reforms were introduced in 2012 and 2013, O’Hara gives a platform to untold stories of hardship.

O’Hara’s book suggests, “austerity” has become an acceptable rhetoric, one that glosses over the harsh impact of welfare reform – as in “cuts hurt but in the age of austerity, what else can we do?” The creeping normalisation of food poverty and food banks, as explored in this book, is shameful.

While an intricate explanation is given of the political and economic context, it is the lives of those whose voices are rarely given a platform – the homeless, the disabled, the young among them – that are the focus here.

Crisscrossing the country, the picture is one of political classes living in a “bubble” untouched by the harsh reality of life on the front line of Austerity UK; a massive chasm between the people suffering from the impact of cuts and abolition of vital benefits and the people making the decisions to abolish that support.

People talk of “breaking point”, “existing not living”, their “desperate situation”; the book does much to explode the myth of benefit Britain. A fairly comprehensive catalogue of unfairness is chronicled in Austerity Bites – the disabled, for example, are shown to be bearing the brunt of cuts, the vulnerable are made more vulnerable and the poorer become poorer.

As one man, Dec, who O’Hara meets on a Luton estate tells the author: “Do I deserve better? Do other people deserve better? I think they do.”

Unsettling, but vital, reading, this book lays bare the real, true story of austerity.

Storytelling for people with learning disabilities: ‘We just natter away’

Lisa Johnson of the writing group Story Balloons (pic: Jonathan Raimondi)
Lisa Johnson of the writing group Story Balloons (pic: Jonathan Raimondi)

Lisa Johnson is a writer. The 30-year-old from Sheffield recently had a book published, a collection of poems, songs and stories put together with fellow authors from her writing collective. Today she will take part in a workshop in her home city, explaining the creative process and encouraging others to write.

She says of Story Balloons, her weekly writing group: “It is something I look forward to.” Uptown Boy, her poem about love, she adds, makes her feel “very happy”. “I always wanted to write,’ she says, adding that writing has changed her: “I feel more confident, proud of what I’ve achieved.”

Story Balloons helps counter stereotypes and improve confidence, and has led to a published book – read more in my piece in the Guardian

Charity helpline supports abuse victims with learning disabilities

If Simon Tovey gets anxious before using the bathroom, you might assume his panic is linked to his learning disability. Maybe the public convenience is unfamiliar?

Yet Tovey’s fear is the result of the abuse he suffered at Winterbourne View assessment and treatment unit. He featured in the 2011 Panorama expose of the privately run unit near Bristol where he was kicked, punched, verbally tormented – and threatened with having his head put down the toilet.

Tovey’s mother, Ann Earley, says of her son, 40: “The Simon that returned to us was not the same one who left. He was profoundly affected and unable to put into words how he felt. He has a long-term fear of toilets – that’s just one small thing. The other impact is incalculable, like his fear about what’s going to happen next.”

Three years on from the Winterborne View scandal, the effect on residents has been huge – but a specialist helpline offers support for them and their families. Read the rest of my piece on the work of the charity Respond on the Guardian’s social care network.

Ann Earley and her son Simon, who was abused at Winterbourne View specialist unit in 2011
Ann Earley and her son Simon, who was abused at Winterbourne View specialist unit in 2011

Radio raises awareness: The Archers mental health storyline

I recall listening to Radio 4’s The Archers as a teenager on long hot summer afternoons; the “heatwave” summer of 1976 springs to mind. As with listening to cricket, the radio soap helped me to relax and I warmed to its quaint and easy listening style. I would not have envisaged all these years later that I would be involved with the programme – and with such a controversial storyline.

I’ve been advising The Archers on the storyline about the depression experienced by the character Darrell Makepeace. The Archers is moving with the times. It remains a quintessentially English portrayal of village life, but also has to echo the modern age and remain current. Just yesterday, new figures were published on use of the Mental Health Act in England, showing that the number of detentions, which has increased by 12 per cent in the last five years, exceeded 50,000 in 2012/13.

Controversial, contemporary plotlines will appeal to the listeners, but Radio 4 must get the balance right by keeping its traditional support base whilst acquiring a younger audience. The Archers is the world’s longest running radio soap opera and the station’s most popular non-news show with more than 5 million listeners.

With this in mind, I began offering advice on the character Darrell and his spiralling fall into depression about three months ago. As part of the Time To Change media advisory service, my role was to try to add as much realism and sensitivity to his presentation. This differed so much from my previous advisory role for the character Zak Dingle in the soap Emmerdale. Why is this so?

Well, Darrell is a character who has hit rock bottom and, in doing this, has not only caused much pain to himself but also to those around him. Chaotic and unpredictable would be just two words to describe this. He is also very manipulative. The Archers’ listeners appear divided in their opinions about this. I remain very enthused that we have highlighted the devastation of depression, its indiscriminate nature, and the “loose cannon” impact.

Emmerdale’s Zak endeared himself to the viewers as he was deemed a “loveable rogue” The fans empathised with his plight. But Darrell is not so endearing and his manipulative behaviour has only served to isolate him from most fans.

Therein lies the challenge for me, and the producers themselves – to promote more understanding and acceptance of mental illhealth, and its indiscriminate nature. I received praise and criticism – in equal measure – from listeners, and that’s fine. I no longer lose sleep at night worrying about criticism; it opens up a debate and encourages more dialogue around mental health that so far there is a reluctance to do.

This work is challenging because, by my very nature, I am a sensitive person. I have had to grow a thicker skin since to take the blows but the praising comments helps to ease the pain. The criticism at times to my role and advice taken has been quite personal, but I can only give advice from my own perspective.

I have a passion to promote more understanding of mental health and eradicate stigma from society. I hope The Archers’ storyline will help transform people’s attitudes to mental health.

* The first national Time to Talk Day takes place on 6 February, aiming to spark a million conversations about mental health. Part of Time to Change, it highlights how little things – sending a text, a chat over a cup of tea- can make a big difference to someone with mental health problems.

More autistic people should be able to volunteer

David Braunsberg
David Braunsberg
My experience proves the benefits of volunteering for people with autism. I was born in 1959 and diagnosed with autism in 1963, at age four. I was one of Sybil Elgar’s first pupils at her progressive school. She was a pioneer in autism and helped develop my language and communication skills.

I then attended a local primary school in Edinburgh, where my mother and I moved, and a mainstream secondary school in London when we moved back to England in 1972. Art was my strongest subject (I passed several O Levels) and I studied furnishing design and textiles at the London College of Furniture. I got a diploma in art and design. I took more courses after that at a local art college and learned things like etching and print making. My most recent works are computer generated greetings cards (see the website).

Following a traumatic event in 2008, I developed severe depression and anxiety . After some time attending a psychiatric unit, social services support and help from my GP, a social worker suggested volunteering and I was put in touch with Volunteer Centre Camden.

It was through the volunteer centre that I started working at the Holy Cross Centre Trust in July 2011. It is a secular organisation in King’s Cross, London, which supports mental health recovery as well as homeless people, refugees and asylum seekers.

I hadn’t volunteered before although I’d had some experience of work. The place where I worked previously was a company providing unpaid employment for people with mental health issues and was run as a social service. The aim was to manufacture and distribute large volumes of greeting cards to the mass market but I wasn’t happy there. The tasks I was involved in were printing and packing greeting cards and using Photoshop on a computer for designing cards for later use and batch production.

I did not get satisfaction there as I was mostly restricted to printing other people’s designs and this did not allow me to express my own ideas. Their bias was to produce Christmas cards and my inspiration for designs comes from many sources which are irrelevant for Christmas. The repetitive tasks were soul-destroying.

But at the Holy Cross where I am now, my role is to help and encourage people to draw and paint, also to set up and tidy the art materials. I work noon to 3pm. Everyone is kind and friendly and there is a positive buzz to the place. Not only is helping out so satisfying and rewarding, it helps me to gain significantly in confidence and the thrill of feeling respected and valued as part of a team is fantastically liberating. I have made many friends and can see myself thriving there well in the future.

Suitable volunteering should be open to more autistic people as the skills required such as attention to detail, reliability or some special talents are well suited to the autistic trait and may prove to be great assets for the workplace. On their part autistic people can benefit from mixing and socialising with people of different nationalities and backgrounds and feeling respected and valued. To me the regular routines, the structure to the week and the sense of purpose in society are most satisfying.

Autistic people may encounter some difficulties. For example, travelling on public transport, especially long distances, or unintentional and misinterpreted challenging behaviour may cause problems. But with foresight, awareness about autism, guidance and the right support I see no reason why autistic people should not be accepted and be very successful doing voluntary work. I am quite sure that, giving the right conditions, volunteering can be “autism friendly”.

The fact I am high functioning autistic has presented no problems in my volunteering. One of the benefits of working there is that it has a knock-on effect on my closeness, love and affection towards members of the family. I now feel so optimistic about the future. Socialising now comes with ease. I am thrilled with life!

* See more of David’s work on his website

Hope, health and happiness: new show at arts charity

Aaron WJ Pilgrim , Martika
Aaron WJ Pilgrim , Martika

Hope is the focus of a new exhibition by artists from the CoolTan arts and mental health charity.

Stayin’ Alive, which opens today, includes works in different media including oil on canvas, acrylic, printmaking and sculpture. The stigma-breaking south London-based organisation is run by and for people with mental health issues and encourages the idea that mental wellbeing is inspired by creativity. The recent World Mental Health Day was the impetus for the artworks.

Aaron Pilgrim has four pictures in the exhibition and has been involved in CoolTan for five years. His Warhol-like Music (Martika) (above) is about the impact of music on mental health (“and I love listening to the 80’s pop star Martika”). Aaron’s last picture, Drawing futureristic cars (Michael), reflects how he helped to frame the exhibition and taught two volunteers how to mount, cut and frame pictures in the exhibition.

He says of The Globe Theatre & The Tate Modern “the arts help keep me well, especially painting, and these two places represent the arts. This picture is in the style of Turner.

Another of Aaron’s picture, My beautiful daughter Grace is about “being a good dad & my family help keep me well”.

Liz Innes, who has been attending art classes at CoolTan for around seven years, shows piece depicting a Lake District landscape. Liz adds: “I wanted to submit my landscape painting which was inspired by a photograph I took 20 years ago. I enjoyed painting this as it reminds me of my younger, more lively days when I often went walking with friends. I have really enjoyed my work in pen and ink recently and feel it is developing well. I have received a lot of encouragement from the staff and tutors at CoolTan.”

Marjorie Mclean, who has been involved with CoolTan for eight years, is showing her watercolour My Allotment. “For me going to the allotment, being in the sunshine and seeing things grow, producing food, makes me feel hopeful and happy”, she says.

Marjorie McLean, My Allotment
Marjorie McLean, My Allotment
Ese Imonioro, Gotcha
Ese Imonioro, Gotcha

Ese Imonioro’s work in collage and felt-tip was done about a difficult time in her life” “At that moment I felt quite persecuted, but I could not convince anyone of what was happening. The painting is of a doctor who helped me during this period and made everyone see the truth. I will always be eternally grateful to him for that and for giving me my freedom.”

Lynn Hughes, Kingfisher
Lynn Hughes, Kingfisher

* The CoolTan exhibition runs until 26th November, Monday to Thursday 10-5:45, Fridays 10-5 at CoolTan Arts, third Floor, 224-236 Walworth Road, SE17 1JE

Artists re-imagine iconic Star Wars design to launch new search for missing man

David Bailey with his capped stormtrooper helmet for the Art Wars exhibition
David Bailey with his stormtrooper helmet for Art Wars, an exhibition to raise awareness about the disappearance of Tom Moore, brother of Art Wars creator Ben

Tom Moore, who went missing in 2003, his family is now renewing the search to find him.
Tom Moore, who went missing in 2003, his family is now renewing the search to find him.

July 17 2003, Ancona, northern Italy. A 31-year-old Englishman withdraws 150 Euros from a cash point. This everyday event just over a decade ago has huge significance for the Moore family because it was the last financial transaction Tom Moore is known to have made; the last sign his parents and siblings have that he was still alive. Tom has not been seen or heard or from since.

Next week, Tom’s brother Ben is renewing the search for his sibling with an art exhibition featuring high profile artists as well as rising stars of the art world. The aim is to raise both awareness and funds to mark the tenth year since Tom’s disappearance. Proceeds from Art Wars, a collection of Star Wars stormtrooper helmets transformed by internationally-renowned artists, will be auctioned for the Missing Tom fund.

A note written by Tom Moore before he went missing.
A note written by Tom Moore before he went missing.

Ben, founder of public art enterprise Art Below, has collaborated with Andrew Ainsworth, creator of the original 1976 stormtrooper helmet, to produce the show. Art Wars launches at the inaugural Strarta Art Fair at the Saatchi Gallery next Wednesday (October 9), with works showcased via a series of billboard posters at Regent’s Park underground, coinciding with Frieze London.

“Stormtrooper helmets are iconic, international, instantly recognisable and timeless,” explains Ben of the medium and the message. “I’d been working with Andrew Ainsworth since 2007 and it was always in my mind to do this show with big artists; I had access to these iconic objects and I knew that there were artists who would like to be involved because it’s something we all grew up with [the Star Wars films]. When I realized it was the 10th anniversary of Tom going missing, I needed to catapult myself into action and do something to get the search for Tom re-energized.”

Artists, all of whom were issued with a helmet cast from the original 1976 moulds, include Damien Hirst, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Paul Fryer, Mat Collishaw and David Bailey. Other participants are English multimedia street artist D*Face, Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos, Turner prize nominee Yinka Shonibare, street artist Inkie, Mr.BrainWash, East London’s Alphabet Street creator Ben Eine, BP Portrait Award winner Antony Micallef and upcoming star Oliver Clegg.

The money raised from Art Wars will enable the family to travel in the search and to publicise their efforts to find Tom. Ben also hopes to bring attention to the Missing People charity, which has supported his family. There is also a new website Missing Tom to help locate the now 41-year-old.

'StormOffSki': Stormtrooper head encrusted in Swarowksi crystals by Ben Moore
‘StormOffSki’: Stormtrooper head encrusted in Swarowksi crystals by Ben Moore

As Diana Brown, Ben and Tom’s older sister, writes on the Missing Tom website, the Moores were, and are, a close knit family. “Tom and I growing up, had been as close as it possible to be as brother and sister,” Diana writes. “There was a curious closeness that comes, from having a brother seven years before another two brothers arrived. We were the lucky products of a military family [the sibling’s father was a colonel in the Royal Marines]…We moved house frequently, but were always secure in the knowledge we had loving parents and family all around us.”

Tom was, by all accounts, a genial child (“Tom was blonde, small for his age, good-looking, with a quirky sense of humour, a born actor, musical…with his beaming smile and his floppy fringe. He was thoughtful, kind and never hurt a soul”, writes Diana) but he found it tough at his all-boys school.

Antony Micallef with his 'Peace Maker’ helmet,  for the Art Wars show
Antony Micallef with his ‘Peace Maker’ helmet, for the Art Wars show

After school came a gap year to India where Tom “full of hope and promise”, as Diana writes, grew “disheartened at the huge confusion that India presented to him” and was affected by the drugs he found in Goa. He returned to live with his parents before going to Lancaster University to study theology. There, as Diana found, his mental turmoil was obvious. “He played music, he studied and he went about his daily routines, but he found life very hard. I found my brother, confused and suffering from the onset of mental illness. He left university early and came to live at home.”

The following few years sound like a fragile mixture of travels, doctors and medication, with Tom’s family struggling to find the right balance between supporting their son’s desire for freedom and realising that medication might help bring some stability to his mental health, the “daily dark thoughts” which Diana describes on the website.

A few months before he went missing, Tom had travelled to a shrine in Bosnia, where Ben eventually found him in a nearby town. Ben explains: “When he went away again a few months later, I thought I could find him – but the months started turning into years.”

“The last time I saw Tom, we had game of chess and although I didn’t usually beat him, on this occasion I was winning,” says Ben. “It was a particularly slow game and now I look back at it I realise he wasn’t mentally present, he was quiet and absorbed in other thoughts. I often wonder if I should have kept the pieces how they were, so we can finish the game one day.”

Ben spent the three years following his brother’s disappearance looking for him, visiting well known religious sites across Europe knowing of his brother’s interest in religion, and following various trails (like the cash point transaction). At one point, he says, he was only two weeks behind him, but the demands of work and his own young family meant he eventually had to put the search on hold.

“I still have great hope, confidence and faith that I am going to see Tom again, but we need to get out there and figure out where he is,” says Ben. He wants his brother to know that his aim is to make sure he’s okay, rather than simply dragging him back home against his will. The disappearance of Tom, says Ben, has left a gaping hole in their lives: “I used to rely on Tom for certain things – he was there for me, I wouldn’t go to my dad in a certain situation, or my sister or mother – there things that only he had the remedy for, I miss that.”

As Ben explains in a short video (above and on the Missing Tom site), life as a family of a missing person means struggling with constant uncertainty mixed with optimism: “Searching for Tom is like searching for the holy grail…I see homeless people in the street and wonder if they are on the same journey.” Although a memorial has been held for Tom since he disappeared, his brother refused to
 grieve for his missing sibling: “He is still alive, that is what I believe.”

Tom Moore, who went missing in 2003
Tom Moore, who went missing in 2003

* FInd out more on the Art Wars website and more about the Moore family’s search for Tom on the Missing Tom website.