Tuesday, 4 October 2011

World Mental Health Week

World Mental Health Week, 10-14th October 2011.

Mental Health is still a taboo subject in our culture as it is across much of Europe. It is a problem that couId be addressed partly through education but the schools curriculum in the UK is no where near visionary enough to be able to take that on at this time. In recent times Governments have done little or nothing to address the increasing numbers of people made ill by this wonderful life we live in the First World.

I find it increasingly disturbing that so many genuinely unwell folk will be facing cuts to their income and vital support services. These are austere times but as the ConDem cuts are rolled out I find no reason to stop despising their policies that descriminate against sections of our community that already have their backs firmly pushed up against the wall. I know I bang on about this a bit but I don’t feel this is a time to stop doing so.

I recently spoke with a rural copper who patrolled a fairly large village. He had been on night duty for some time and had noticed the increasing number of calls to the police along the lines of “ there is an elderly lady running around the school playing field in her night dress”. He told me this was on the increase and he blamed the cuts in social services and demise of other local agencies through cuts to budgets and staffing levels.

Here in London I see a steady increase of people on the streets who need support. Else where I hear some real horror stories about the jeopardy that some people are in through a decline in or a complete lack of services. In Essex, for example, there is no specialist sensory social work team at all. So if you are deaf and mentally unwell what do you do? If you are arrested by the Police, who will be able to understand you? How will you be able to be supported and who will protect your basic rights? The postcode lottery is evident here.

Scenario : Two people have severe mental health issues, learning disability and sensory loss.
Both young men slowly begin to get into trouble with neighbours and some times family and other members of the public.
The police are called out frequently to them and the incidents they are involved with. Social workers do what little they are allowed to do, under ever changing Kafka-esque guidelines, which always amount to less on offer for clients.

The first young man eventually ends up in court for the umpteenth time and goes to prison. In prison he is a problem because he can’t hear anything and they can’t use sign language. He kicks off and the authorities feel they have no option but to section him and send him to Rampton – cost £3000 plus per week. Rampton is a hell hole. I have had communication with inmates for some years who have been systematically bullied and brutalised by staff.
People don’t get well there.

The second young man is headed in the same direction. Basically the system can’t deal with him either so he is sectioned like our first young man. He is sent to a secure hospital that offers proper clinical support including counselling and mentoring. The structure is based on a three tier system where patients graduate from the bottom to the next tier around living in a small community of other patients at the same level of progress as he is. The top tier is around independent living towards living outside the hospital. Here patients live in their own self contained accomodation. All of this takes place on site. Cost £3000 plus per week. The difference between the two approaches and the possible outcomes is easily seen. Unfortunately the second option is not available to many as you might expect and yet the benefits are obvious and for the same cost.

A couple of years ago I suffered with depression for a time. It was disabling at first but with support and a fantastic G.P. I was able to recover slowly. I was lucky in so far as I knew my illness was fairly minor, I could communicate my issues and be understood and I had a strong support network. It was still a shock and it is only now that I am beginning to understand what happened and why. That’s life and I am better for the experience but this is not the case for others who have to continually battle with their illness, often with out much support at all.

One day that lonely and vulnerable looking person muttering to the rubbish bin in the street might be you. I hope not but at some point it is likely that mental illness will affect some one you know if not you, a loved one or a valued colleague. We can all aspire to being more understanding and accomodating. We can all work to get rid of the ignorance and fear embodied in remarks such as "we didn't have all this in my day you just have to pull your socks up and get on with it", or "if you are mad, you are mad you just have to get over it". We can also strive to change the language that demeans and oppresses people who are mentally unwell. I feel sure most of you know what I mean by this. I'm all for political correctness that actually enhances peoples quality of life.

Mean while we must fight government cuts to vital services or reap the bitter harvest. This nation is in distress and we must intervene.
The people involved with Mad Pride are doing what they can and so should you and so should I. I hope I will see you at The Montague Arms on Friday next.



Anonymous said...

You are so right!

One of the main problems affecting people with mental ill health is the removal of counselling within primary health services. It used to be possible to receive professional support directly following visiting your GP. The current system directs you either to the IAPT service (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) where you can receive 6 sessions of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) or to local mental health services (Community Mental Health Team). Both are incredibly difficult to access in some areas and can rely on the person's ability to work their way through the complex referral process and ensuring that their distress “fits" into the criteria laid down by the policy maker.

I recently assisted a man with serious mental ill health to refer himself. The referral consisted of a telephone interview of over 90 minutes which asked a series of hugely complex questions, based on a proforma, many of which I struggled to understand. My conclusion, if you weren't depressed before talking to the therapist you would be afterwards!

As well as potential professional input of medication etc what people need more than anything else is time. Those of us trying to work within the system are having less and less time to be with people. Add to this the additional pressures on people at the current time of cutting services, benefits and asking workers to do much more with much less and it is very likely we will have more and more people suffering from mental ill health and less and less ways to help them.

Make a stand and support Mad Pride and all other groups challenging the current decay.

Anonymous said...

A worrying and increasing trend that involves young kids bullying some people they assume are on benefits, must surely be down to the negative right wing press, that disabled people who ligitimately receive benefit have been getting. The ConDem approach to reducing the National Deficit denigrates them and perpetuates the myth that they are benefit scroungers.
Edgar has been campaigning on this and drawing peoples attention to what was to come for a couple of years. Well, it is happening now and if we don't mobilise and let the ConDem know how disgusted we are about the severe penalties that the poor and vulnerable are already paying for the bankers greed we will have ourselves to blame when the deconstruction of Human Rights and Civil Rights impacts disasterously on us all.
Major strike action seems inevitable and though it pains me to say so - neccessary if we are to save vital services. When they are gone they probably will never be restored.

Anonymous said...

In the town I live in we are lucky to have a lovely young lad called Leon. Leon is about 25 and weighs about 18-20 stone. He has acne like spots all over his face, slight problem with his speech and learning difficulties. He also has a tick which causes him to suddenly jolt his head. Leon loves all the old crooners, Englebert Humperdink being one of his favourites. Leon walks around the town with his walkman plugged in singing along to, ironically perhaps, Englebert's 'Please release me let me go.' As he has headphones in his singing is rather loud but to be fair he has a good old voice on him. He will say Hello to passers by who frantically look round as if to make it clear they do not know him. Few speak to him though many laugh at him. I and a friend of mine have grown quite fond of him and will always stop to have a chat.

Leon sometimes takes a drink and when he does he takes a few. He never appears drunk it is only when you get near you can smell the drink. You always know when Leon has taken a few drinks as he will still be singing his heart out but he will be sitting on the pavement. He will sit propped up against a wall. Centre security are alerted who in turn call the police. Well one cannot have some drunk nutcase singing outside Debenhams can one really? Why not many drunken nutcases hold places of power within the establishment in this country and Leon talks a lot more sense than they do believe me. My friend and I did go awol from work once to try to get there before security to talk Leon off the pavement which is very easy to do if you just take your time with him. Security do not care where he goes as long as he is not on the pavement outside the shopping centre.

By now a crowd is gathering tutting muttering things like 'Terrible' isn't it. I long to ask in what sense they mean 'Terrible'. Anyway there is Leon singing and the audience watching though from a safe distance and I am talking 20 or so people all gawping.

Leon does not like crowds. I have told centre security this many times but they do not listen. Leon is a big lad and the police move in to lift him up at which point Leon starts to swing his arms around in the air not aiming at anybody just trying to fend them off. In the end Leon tries to curl up. This is not the behaviour of a person with violent intent rather this is a person who is VERY VERY afraid. I am informed, when I am there, to keep back as THEY know Leon better than I do! Leon is still trying to talk to me and/or my friend.

Leon is taken away and locked in a cell till he sobers up. He is taken away as he would not get up and walk away - because he was afraid. He is then assessed and in short as he can cut his own food up and feed himself he is free to go. A week or so later we repeat the process.

Leon and I have chatted many times. He asks me why can't he get a girlfriend? He tells me he would treat a girl well and spoil her. He says he knows people laugh at him because of the music he listens to and because he sings. He tells me he is just happy and likes to sing. I do remember him once asking me why were people so miserable.

There is a lot of prejudice towards people with mental illness but there, I think, is a lot of fear. Fear of the unknown. Lets not forget we have ALL suffered mental illness. When you cry at a funeral that is a form, albeit mild, of mental illness as much as a headache is a form of physical illness.

I totally agree with Edgar that one day it may be one of us talking to a rubbish bin. It is such a pity rubbish bins do not speak as can you imagine if said rubbish bin said "Oh so I am good enough for you to talk to now yet you used to laugh at my friends when they talked to me."


Anonymous said...

Hi Edgar
I saw you for the first time on Friday at the Mad Pride fund raiser. Wow! I saw grown men cry as I did. Where does that voice come from? I was expecting rock n roll instead we had a real treat of deep and beautiful songs and all so passionate. You captivated every one I spoke to with your charm and eloquence.
Wonderful to see you are still so involved with helping others and I can't wait to see you again. In the Mad Pride press stuff they said you were a were a cultural hero. I agree and long may it last.
Thank you.
Alice x