In 2004 I completed a degree in mental health nursing and began work on a psychiatric acute ward near to my home in Bristol. Clifton Ward in Southmead Hospital had 19 beds, was always fully occupied, and provided care for people with a range of illnesses, including schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder and major depression. Many of the patients stayed on a voluntary basis, others were detained under the Mental Health Act – commonly known as being "sectioned". The ward could be chaotic at times, with smashed doors and flying furniture. It could also be a quiet place, still and heavy with sadness. To serve Christmas dinner to a person who has nowhere else to go, but who believes she is being "eaten alive in this place" holds a quality of sadness that I think exists only within the mental health system. But for all its inherent trials, what I remember most about my time on Clifton Ward is that we helped people. People trapped in awful suffering at the start of an admission … [Read more...] about Mental health care: where did it all go so wrong?
World mental health day 2018
Record numbers of people are being detained for mental health treatment, prompting concern that conditions for patients are worsening due to understaffing and a lack of hospital beds. There were 50,408 cases of people being detained for compulsory treatment under the Mental Health Act in England during 2012-13; the total topped 50,000 for the first time and marked a 12% rise over the previous five years, from 44,093 in 2008-09. In the most recent period about 34,650 were detained on admission after being sectioned under the act, and another 14,249 after going to a mental hospital on an informal basis. The Care Quality Commission (CQC, the NHS care watchdog) said in its annual review of mental health services that it was a "serious cause for concern" that so many of those admitted informally for care and treatment, mainly in hospitals, were then detained. The CQC also criticised procedures which meant that some patients ended up being detained after being told they were simply going for … [Read more...] about Concern over record numbers detained for mental health treatment
Mental health patients are to have the same right to choose where they are treated and the same waiting time targets as those with physical health problems, says the government, in a bid to shift attitudes that deputy prime minister Nick Clegg says are "stuck in the dark ages". Launching a new mental health action plan, Clegg on Monday blamed stigma and stereotypes for the low standing of mental healthcare, and unacceptable practices such as the use of face-down restraint and children being cared for on adult wards. "It's time for us to bring mental health out of the shadows and to give people with mental health conditions the support they need and deserve," he said at the launch of the strategy document Closing the Gap: priorities for essential change in mental health. One in four people suffer from mental health problems, including anxiety and depression, at some point in their lives. Mental illness has been calculated by the Centre for Mental Health to cost the economy £105bn a … [Read more...] about Mental health patients deserve better, says Nick Clegg
Ward 16 of Friern Barnet mental asylum was an "acute admissions" ward, meaning it was meant for people in a highly disturbed state, needing plenty of care (and drugs) until they stabilised and could be discharged or moved to a rehab or long-stay ward. In fact, some people had been living there for years. About a third of the patients were "sectioned" (legally detained), so the door was usually locked. I entered Friern voluntarily. Theoretically I could leave at any time. Patients who were legally detained were in a very different position. One former patient I met, who had been detained in Friern many times, described receiving forcible injections that left her bruised and traumatised. Other ex-patients describe wards crackling with tension, assembly-line shock treatments, hard-ass nurses. Life on the notorious "back wards", where elderly people with dementia and others deemed chronically ill sometimes languished for decades, could be truly horrible. Waking up in a mental hospital … [Read more...] about Barbara Taylor: ‘Waking up in a mental hospital isn’t something you plan for’
Talk of Victorian asylums conjures up images of manacled and wretched patients suffering callous and ineffective treatments or being gawped at by a morbidly fascinated public like exhibits in a human zoo. However, a new project to digitise historical psychiatric records reveals an enormous range of care in the 18th and 19th centuries, including more genteel treatment for the upper and middle classes, as well as early developments in art therapy. The Wellcome Library – part of the Wellcome Trust – is creating an online archive of more than 800,000 pages of documents from private and public asylums featuring doctors’ notes and patients’ artwork and writing. It is working with other archives across the UK to provide fascinating detail of institutions’ efforts to improve the morals and morale of patients. Lesley Hall, a senior archivist at the Wellcome Library, explains that there was a market in psychiatric care that mirrored the class system, from … [Read more...] about Wellcome Library archive sheds new light on history of mental healthcare