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Mental health of people with autism, learning disabilities and mental health problems worsening while they’re being cared for

Tuesday, 21 May 2019 Mind

Two damning publications and a documentary highlight the horrendous experiences faced by vulnerable people such as those with learning disabilities, autism and mental health problems in various clinical settings including locked mental health wards.

A recent report from The Children’s Commissioner looked at how children and young people with learning disabilities and/or autism were treated on mental health wards.

A further report from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) focused on restraint and prolonged seclusion and segregation in mental health wards for children and young people and wards for people with a learning disability or autism.

Finally, an undercover Panorama documentary is also due to air on Wednesday exposing hospital staff verbally abusing and physically restraining people with autism and learning difficulties.

Sophie Corlett, Director of External Relations at Mind, said:

“Recent reports and documentaries have shone a light on the awful treatment faced by many people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health problems who are locked up in mental health hospitals – confirming what we’ve been hearing from families for a while now. Despite previous initiatives, scandals and targets set to reduce this type of locked provision, inappropriate restraint and segregation and seclusion, people are still sometimes experiencing appalling treatment at the hands of those meant to be caring for them. It’s clear that many people are staying far too long in inappropriate settings often very far from home, sometimes locked in little more than cells, with no focus on their rehabilitation or reintegration into society. Rather than people’s health improving, in some cases, people with autism and/or a learning disability who were admitted without a mental health problem are developing one as a result of the trauma they experience on the ward.

“At the very least, people receiving treatment or support in a mental health hospital expect to be treated with dignity and respect in a safe, therapeutic environment and ideally close to their network of friends and family, who can be instrumental in recovery or return to the community. Mental health is now high on the agenda of the NHS and Government but we know that too often, people who need support for their mental health are being let down. When people don’t get their needs met in the community or in hospital it can become a vicious circle that leads to restraint and seclusion that could have otherwise been avoided. We urgently need to see the Government and NHS commit to improving mental health wards, staffing and training for staff and respond to the Mental Health Act review which made recommendations to better support people who find themselves in these settings.”

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