This inspiring video is about adventure, friendship and fun despite the limitations caused by multiple sclerosis (MS). It is a very moving account with wonderful photography of forty years following the diagnosis of MS at the age of 27 years for Dr Roger Chisholm, then a medical student, climber, hillwalker and sailor. Initially the unknown future spelt a life severely disabled with the loss of independence and of expeditions into the wild outdoors.
Although climbing was no longer a possibility, ‘sailing is really the life-saver’ as Roger explains. Focusing on what he could do led Roger to grasp periods of remission with both hands, for example walking the Annapurna Circuit in the days when roads there did not exist, skiing and qualifying as a Yacht Master taking on the skipper and navigator roles in his shared boat Martha Maria.
‘We really perform as a team on the boat as we used to on the hills and we get a tremendous amount of satisfaction from that’ Howard, Roger's friend, highlights in the film. Team roles and team culture are often talked about in the work context and here the team of friends is credited with ‘giving life a purpose and a great pleasure still’. Readers sharing Roger’s story with those affected by MS is strongly encouraged by the production team.
Atul Gawande in his book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, 2014, gives great emphasis to quality of life and to the importance of each individual defining what this is. He argues against assumptions that limit aspiration and ambition. This video actively shows how perseverance and commitment to the maximum possible quality of life, shared with friends, makes life worth living. Working with teams in organisations, this story reminds me to find out what ‘quality’ means for them and to take care not to limit their aspirations and plans through my making ungrounded assumptions.
A sign posted in the Chiltern Hills by Bedfordshire County Council asserts the benefits of exercise outdoors for physical and mental health. It mentions combatting depression and promoting good mental health. ‘Revisiting the Dubhs Ridge’ demonstrates this in spades. The disruption to a person’s anticipated future life by the onset of such a condition as MS may lead to reactive depression. As discussed by the mental health charity Mind
‘If you have a long-term physical health condition it can also put you at risk of developing a mental health problem such as anxiety or depression. For some people, the impact on your mental health could become more of a problem than the physical condition itself. Exercise programmes and other treatments like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and mindfulness have been shown to improve anxiety and depression, and quality of life for people with chronic illnesses.’
The mental health benefits of physical exercise include feeling better about yourself and lifting your mood leading to increased life satisfaction. Doing activities with other people and having fun together also provide social and emotional benefits, which improve wellbeing. The Guardian in g2 on 4 October 2017 drew attention to a new research study on this topic with ' Feeling low? How exercise helps with depression and almost everything else' by Sarah Boseley.
Current Government mental health strategy2 continues to prioritise and include actions towards the implementation of the long term policy goal ‘to give equal priority to mental and physical health: We are clear that we expect parity of esteem between mental and physical health services.’1 The Health and Social Care Act 2012 introduced in legislation the first explicit recognition of the Secretary of State for Health’s duty towards both physical and mental health. In October 2014, NHS England and the Department of Health jointly published Improving access to mental health services by 2020. This set out a vision to ensure mental and physical health services are given equal priority in terms of access times and service quality.
In July 2016, NHS England published Implementing the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, confirming that the NHS had accepted the independent Mental Health Taskforce recommendations (February 2016) for the NHS and Government to improve outcomes in mental health by 2020/21, and included a breakdown of additional funding from the Government. A workforce strategy announced in July 2017 by the Secretary for Health aims to support implementation.
1 Department of Health, No Health without Mental Health; A cross-government mental health outcomes strategy for people of all ages, February 2011, page 2
2 Briefing paper Mental Health Policy in England CBP 07547 by Elizabeth Parkin and Thomas Powell, House of Commons Library, August 2017