My message to those in Power
I’m often told to look how far I have come, how much progress I have made and I take that advice on board, but sometimes it is good to reflect and look back at what were my darkest times. I so want lessons to be learnt by those in authority, to ensure that no else ends up in the mess I was in. One of my biggest fears is that healthcare professionals will still misunderstand people in crisis and end up placing those people under further mental stress and strain.
When I look back at the various times I spent in psychiatric hospitals I can see some glaring issues that need addressing and then I wonder how I can get the healthcare professionals to listen. I think mental health services are often treated shabbily and funding is a huge issue, yet somehow the system seems to make the same mistakes time and time again.
The reality is of course that the powers that be who are in charge of our mental health services, the people who commission services, see one thing, funding! I know this only too well as every six months my Clinical Commissioning Group meet to discuss and review my own case. My care co-ordinator has to face the funding panel at least once a year to explain and justify why my therapy and support package should continue. I have learnt over time that it’s all about money, not about me and I’ve stopped stressing as much as I use to about these meetings.
The issues that I feel need addressing are simple and yet cost effective, I believe if you treat a patient right the first time you would reduce costs. If ten years ago I had been correctly diagnosed and treated appropriately, I wouldn’t have spent years in hospital thus saving thousands of pounds.
Instead I’d have received appropriate care in the community, psychological input that was appropriate and works, and I would be much further along my journey of recovery.
Instead of course like many people I was placed in a hospital, misdiagnosed and misunderstood, treated as if I was the problem and had no idea about my own issues. I was left to wander aimlessly through the revolving door of mental health and medicated to a point that left me hardly knowing what day it was anymore. I wasn’t entitled to an opinion about myself or my treatment and no one, but no one asked me how I really felt. I was made to feel guilty for self harming and like most patients ignored by staff on a frequent basis, who seemed so isolated and shut off from the patients in their care.
As I journeyed along I moved from hospital to hospital, I’ve seen sights I’d rather never have seen sights that to this day fill me with fear and sadness. I will never forget the women I met on one ward who was in so much distress she screamed day and night, the staff would yell at her to shut up, some patients would join in and there would be a chorus of people yelling at this lady in obvious distress.
She shared my name and I felt sorry for her, she was someone’s daughter and she was treated shabbily and without care. She needed appropriate support, most probably one to one care and someone to ask her why she was in so much distress who would actually listen to her answers.
All I ever saw was staff shouting at her and them giving lots of medication to her, anything and everything was about shutting her up.
Nor will I forget the patient who in secure services had her arm broken by another patient or the one who when she acted out her emotions was punished, placed in isolation and deprived of her belongings. I won’t forget the way I was made to feel either, the fear that gripped me when I was held inappropriately in secure services and told I had no rights. The way I was watched by staff; especially on close observations and treated that will never leave me.
Now I know the mental health system is not always like this, I’m certain some healthcare professionals care about their patients and treat like them like human beings with dignity and value. I have seen systems that work, for amongst all the darkness were glimmers of hope and examples of good practise and this is what we need to ensure is in every hospital and Community service.
The involvement of service user peer representatives on wards so patients views are paramount, open desk systems instead of closed offices enabling staff and patients to work collaboratively. In one hospital patients were allowed to read and add to their daily nursing notes it meant staff interacted with patients and patients views counted.
Access to talking therapies much sooner than is often the case currently is another essential, and more access to better equipped crisis support would help reduce admissions and ease peoples suffering too. Better community services are certainly invaluable and a less medicalised model of care.
Research shows that delivering appropriate psychological input reduces costs, more importantly it improves people’s lives and that’s what matters the most. My own case is proof that savings could have been made if I had been treated appropriately and not misdiagnosed, my treatment today is still saving costs as it’s cheaper than any admission. More importantly I’m much better with the right treatment and I’m regaining my life, a measure that is priceless.
I truly hope I get the opportunity one day to influence the powers that be so they change how they deal with mental health services. They need to understand how their underfunding causes pain and damage to so many lives, most of all it waste more of the valuable resources they are entrusted with.
Hospital managers need to address how they engage with service users and include them in the decisions regarding their care. I guarantee improving this would benefit their staff as well. They need to address how they run community services in order to provide a better quality of care. Finally they all need to stop sending people to inappropriate units run by the private sector which don’t have the patients interests at heart just their share holders.
copyright DID Dispatches 2014