Care in crisis: why I'm supporting Mind's campaign
Posted Monday 18 October 2010
This summer would not have been a great one for anyone keeping track of mental health issues in the media. Amidst all the discussions around spending reviews, benefits cuts and rising unemployment, there were nightmarish stories about mental health care, even as the Government talked about world class services.
In June news broke that the South London and Maudsley Trust has been piloting a programme for medium and high security patients to be fitted with electronic tagging devices. In August, on BBC Radio 4 a Brunel University professor advocated sterilisation for the ‘mentally disabled’. Later that month, two black men, 23 year old Olaseni Lewis and 52 year old Colin Holt, were killed while being restrained by police. Seni was killed in a mental health hospital and Colin in his home. If these are examples of mental health ‘care’ in crisis, then we are in big trouble.
I also spent part of the summer leading a research project talking to black women about what helped them recover from mental health problems. Their experiences of what helped and what did not resonated with my own experience of accessing mental health services over the last two decades. When we are in crisis, many of us are frightened, vulnerable and helpless. Many of us have no choice but to put our faith in a system that we assume is resourced and tasked with providing sensitive and appropriate care.
Research shows that there is still a long way to go to make acute and crisis care a safe and enabling experience for many people. A recent Care Quality Commission research showed that 39% of all suicides were of people who were under observation. Service users, especially women, have long talked about the importance of single sex wards in their recovery; yet the Count me in census 2009 found that 67% of the people surveyed were not in single sex wards. Many people from black and minority ethnic communities face extreme coercive treatment at the acute end of services, including use of seclusion, hands-on restraint and higher rates of admission (Count me in 2005 - 2009).
I believe that the care we receive while is crisis is absolutely crucial to our subsequent recovery and has to work for all of us, especially the most marginalised and vulnerable in society. That is why I have joined the inquiry panel of Mind’s campaign to improve care in crisis. Over the next few months, the panel will be hearing evidence about people’s experiences of acute care wards, crisis resolution teams, access to crisis houses, and alternative approaches to crisis care. And based on this evidence, we will campaign for long-term improvements in crisis care.
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