Talking about better crisis care in Parliament
Posted Wednesday 14 March 2012
Just over two weeks ago, I spotted a request for the charity Mind on Twitter. They wanted people to come and speak about their experiences of crisis care in London. It felt like a daunting thing to do let alone consider going, given my recent mental health has not been great.
However, the experiences I have had when in crisis at times have been unbearable and I felt strongly about having the ability to put forward my experiences because there are so many people with mental health difficulties that cannot speak out. If one thing has changed about me over the years I have found my voice and if me sharing my experiences with others can help then so be it. I decided I wanted to be part of the event.
My friend E came along with me, partly to support me but also because she is someone who has at times been dismayed by the standard of care I have received particularly when it comes to crisis care. She wanted to be able to voice her opinions as well. All too often E comes to my rescue when I am unwell and supports me, I get support from her that is both compassionate and caring, this is the kind of care everyone should be getting when they use crisis services in the UK.
In 2010, the charity Mind carried out an independent enquiry into crisis care and acute mental health services in the UK, I remember it well as I took part sharing my own experiences of admission to hospital in both 2009 and 2010 and also of my experiences of using crisis services.
The enquiry was “Listening To Experience,” and the report is on the Mind website, it makes very interesting reading. Of course not everything in mental health services is bad, but there is still some much needed improvement to bring the standard of care up to what it should be.
I often feel I am continually having a go at my mental health trust, but that is not the case. I am merely expressing my concerns about services that could be better for the welfare and recovery of those with mental health difficulties.
Before I started to do the voluntary work that I do which is almost two years ago now, I would never have spoken up about my experiences or complained about mental health services.
As an outpatient in 2009, I was so frustrated at the services I was receiving at my local hospital that I opted to go private and self-fund my mental health care, and perhaps it was communicating in depth with a private psychiatrist Dr Gee that I finally found a voice.
She taught me much in the 18 months I was under her care and I am thankful for having the chance to see her. If it was not for her support and positivity I very much doubt I would have started college, finished my course, continue studying, or even considered doing voluntary work in the mental health sector. My guess is I would still be stuck very much where I was three years ago, going nowhere!
If you break your leg and go to A&E, you get care and compassion (well perhaps not all the time but that is another story!) yet people who self-harm are treated like attention seekers, with many left feeling scared to make a complaint and in the end, it makes their mental health worse not better.
If you find something in your salad that perhaps should not be there you would complain, so why should the likes of me someone with a mental health condition feel scared at speaking up about the services I have received.
At times I am made to feel like I am the one with the problem and I am complaining for the sake of complaining, well no I fully understand why I complain and having the chance to speak up, voice an opinion and feel listened to is important.
My trip to London yesterday started out after my 121 session in the morning, I met E at the local train station and we began our 2½ hour train journey to London arriving just after 1pm. The event in question was taking place at the House of Commons in the member’s dining room. I was in awe once we got through security at the interior of such an historic place and I had to purchase a few souvenirs from the shop as a memento of my visit.
It was busy inside parliament as different things were taking place in different rooms, including the notorious Health and Social Care Bill Debate, which saw the presence of many MP’s. These MP’s took time out to come and attend the Mind event. Once we made our way to the dining room in question, someone from Mind greeted us. We took a seat at the table clearly labelled “North West,” as each area had a specific table.
We were the first to arrive on our table but shortly after we did, someone else joined us who I recognised from Twitter, and I introduced myself, he too had brought someone else with him from the local Mind charity in their area.
The room quickly filled up as more people arrived and shortly the opening speeches took place. We were served a traditional afternoon tea of sandwiches and cakes, I admit this made me smile having afternoon tea in somewhere like the House of Commons as it is not an everyday occurrence for me!
The event in question was so well organised and more helpful than I imagined it to be. Many people were there including services users, volunteers, and NHS professionals including the Chair of Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Trainees’ Committee.
Sadly not one person appeared from my mental health trust to represent them or to listen to experiences, but people did come from a well known crisis house in Manchester that I am familiar with.
I had the opportunity to share my recent experiences about using the crisis team and someone made a rather amusing comment whilst our table were talking:
Does anyone have anything good to say about care in Greater Manchester?
Sadly, it seemed they did not, although I did admit things had improved in some areas over the years and I talked about the ward revamps as well as the improved psychology services for outpatients and inpatients.
I also gave some of my own positive experiences, like my current access to therapy and the support I receive from my care co-ordinator, it is not all bad but admittedly I was disappointed that no one from the trust came.
Five MP’s came to our table to talk to us from different areas of the North West and my own MP also came as well. It was an enlightening experience to share my story with those that will be discussing mental health in parliament shortly, it was especially nice to meet my own MP who took a keen interesting in what I had to say, and would like us to meet further to discuss the issues I raised.
Listening to the experiences of other people was poignant and a speech from a lady called Elizabeth about her experiences at the age of 19 brought a tear to my eye. There was also talk on ending Mental Health Discrimination by Conservative MP’s and how this was to be discussed in parliament shortly.
I feel strongly about seeing improvements in mental health care especially for those in crisis. but I also feel some people do not like the fact I have a voice and I will go to great lengths to get my point across.
For me yesterday’s event just brought home to me how important it is for charities like Mind to bring campaigns like this to the forefront and more than even I am left determined to see improvements that are needed in crisis care under my trust.
I am tempted to come forward and share my experiences with the local paper, I felt somewhat ashamed in February when I was approached by a journalist to share my story anonymously after a letter about crisis services I wrote was published in the local paper.
The event yesterday got me thinking, I am happy to volunteer, talk about my experiences with friends and strangers at events like yesterday but I am reluctant to share my experiences in my community as if people will judge me. If I come forward and share my story, would it give others in the community what they needed also to open up about poor services and share their experiences? I think it would.
I cannot reiterate enough though; it is not all bad under my trust.
They have in fact just opened the first hospital internet cafe in partnership with the organisation I am a volunteer with; this in itself will be very beneficial to patients using our local mental health services.
As well as this, we have new wards with another one that is currently undergoing renovations and these are a massive improvement on the old wards. Inpatients also now have access to daily psychology groups on the wards, just a few years back that was not the case and patients would have nothing to break up there day so it would feel twice as long.
Nevertheless, all these improvements are excellent but it does not take away the fact that patients in crisis are unable to get the right support through the crisis team or that beds in the local hospital or respite house are not available when patients so desperately need them.
Over 5000 people suffer from mental health difficulties in my town and I personally do not wish to read about the death of another patient who took their own life because of a failure from services, for me there have been far too many stories like that in my local paper over the past two years.
I do not think that it is too much to ask for that in 2012 we have crisis services that are reliable.
This post first appeared on MsLeftie's blog Frizzy Chaos.
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