Speech on Mental Health Motion to Full Council
It has been said many times that Mental Health is, and has always been the ‘Cinderella’ of the Health Service. It is easy to understand, care, and have sympathy, with someone suffering from a physical ailment , or the aftermath of an accident. It is not so easy to recognise, or understand the feelings and actions, of someone experiencing mental health issues. Mental health problems can be experienced at every stage of life, from childhood to old age and can have a devastating impact on families, friends and work colleagues, as well as the wider community. Behaviours are often bizarre, seemingly uncontrollable and extremely distressing, both for the patient and anyone they come into contact with. The incidence of mental health related illnesses, in all age groups, is steadily growing, year on year.
Doctors struggle to cope with the symptoms presented, their time is limited and they do not have the resources to offer the ‘talking therapy’, which is often what is badly needed. All too often they reach for the ‘prescription and pill’ solution, and so starts the downward spiral into reliance on drugs to solve the problems. While there is certainly a place for drug focussed treatment, it takes time and experimentation, to achieve the correct medication for each individual patient.
Anyone over the age of 18 is regarded as an adult and therefore subject to patient confidentiality. This, in practice, means that family members, wives, parents, children and siblings, are not allowed to know what has been diagnosed, what treatment is being offered and what the prognosis for the illness is, or even how to help. No one wants to talk to them, listen to them, or give any advice. The patient, however ill, is deemed capable of making choices, as to their treatment, be it medication, electro convulsive therapy (shock treatment as it is popularly known), or more benign long term therapies.
One of the most serious failings, in the treatment of mental health, is that the different agencies, involved in the treatment of a patient, do not seem to communicate with each other on any level.
The GP, the Consultant, the In-patient facility, the Crisis Team, the Recovery Team, the Health Visitor, the Social Worker, the Key Worker and so on, do not appear to have any framework in place, where everyone dealing with a case, knows what is happening, why and when, what has happened before the latest crisis, and what medication is prescribed.
At the time of a peak crisis, a patient may well be placed, either voluntarily, or under a ‘section’, into a mental health facility , or hospital, there are a few around the County. Present medical thinking and practice, is that a patient should only remain in hospital for a very short time, until the ‘crisis’ has passed and should be then sent home, to be cared for, in the community, by out-reach teams. This all sounds very laudable in theory. Unfortunately discharging someone back into, what has very often become a very chaotic lifestyle, where there is no longer any routine for eating, sleeping, or medicating, without notifying family and where the service teams, in question, are so over stretched with case-loads, just means that before very long, the whole scenario repeats itself and the whole saga starts again.
So many patients just yo-yo between, Doctor, Hospital and care teams, with no end in sight to their recovery, just more and more medication.
I know we have moved away from treatment in the large institutions where patients disappeared for long periods of time, but the alternatives certainly are not working, neither for the patients, their families, or the agencies charged with their care. The whole system is well over due for an overhaul and a careful evaluation needed, of the long-term future requirements, implications for budgets and the operation of the service.
Cllr Sue Mullins
Labour, Ifield East and Gossops Green