Almost a year ago, my Mother in Law Monica was admitted against her will to a psychiatric ward under Section 2, in a state of psychosis. After a very long week, during which her mental state spiralled very suddenly out of control, we were left stunned and in shock.
I don’t know what it feels like to live with a mental illness or condition, however I can share that as one of the only relatives of someone who is living with a mental illness we have at times felt frightened, confused, forgotten and alone. We certainly felt hit by all those emotions on the day Monica entered hospital.
No one tells you what to do in the scenario where an adult living alone becomes a long-term patient under Section, there’s no check list. At the same time as dealing with the immediate shock of an illness on a family member (which in our case has left Monica unrecognisable in personality) there’s a mountain of practicalities to work out and manage. That’s really tough. Who’s going to look after the post? What about that unpaid credit card? And should we keep the heating on low? But who will pay for the gas? How do we keep the house insured when the property is vacant? We felt blind navigating the world of mental health and its care, new words to learn, processes and job titles that we’d never heard of.
And so I found out about the Mind Legal Line. After my first call with them, I felt overwhelmed with relief that there was someone out there to help us negotiate this new world together. The team who answer the phones are brilliant, providing information in an accessible manner but most importantly they are a friendly voice for anyone who needs their support.
Understandably, there are considerable legal grey areas where there’s not much we can actively do as relatives without Lasting Power of Attorney. Mind have also been a great source of support, and their team has been able to walk me through the more legal areas such as how to apply for Deputyship, what the key processes are in a Section 3, and what processes need to happen for discharge of a patient under Section into further care (and importantly, when the hospital need to involve us). Each time I come off the phone, I feel like not only have I learnt something new that will help me move something forward but I’ve had a conversation with someone who cares. It’s a really welcome contrast to many of our other calls with other parties involved in Monica’s life, many of which can be frustrating.
It has taken me some time to come to terms with my anger and bitter sorrow at the temporary loss of the Monica we know, and the challenges her illness has brought to us all. Since time has allowed me to turn the corner, I’ve now managed to channel my energy into the things that I am good at, allowing me to support my husband and also do the best that I can for Monica. I’ve involved her local MP in communications with her council to ensure the council tax bailiffs are called off and that she’s received a council tax rebate. I summarise information from calling Mind and doing my own research, sending it to immediate family members to keep us all informed. I’ve raised money for my friend, who is running the Marathon for Mind, by making and selling something creative. Each of these little things makes me feel stronger and like I am doing something that is inching something forward.
Looking back, there were times when I found it very hard to cope and felt the impact in all areas of my life. Now, a year in, I know that I am better able to manage. My advice to any families in a similar situation is don’t be afraid of asking for help and advice, and remember your family member’s friends too – they can also provide help, but also need support and information too.
A big thank you to the whole team at Mind, you’ve helped me so much on this journey so far.
- To get in touch with the Mind Legal Line you can call 0300 466 6463 or email [email protected]. For more details see our helplines pages.
- We also have accessible and easy to understand information on legal rights.
- You can also read our information on Coping a carer.