Tag: Mental health crisis

An open letter to the government about mental health services – Jane Lake

mental health

This is a guest post, written by Jane Lake.


Well, General Election time is almost upon us again in the UK, and alongside that comes the selection of “key issues” for debate. This time, mental health, particularly provision for young people, seems to have been chosen as one of the key issues to debate and parade. Initially, I felt this was positive, but the more I’ve considered the issue, the more disheartened I’ve become, because I can’t help but feel that highlighting the need to improve one area of the service only confirms my opinion that those in power have little idea of the current state of the service as a whole.

My first contact with Mental Health services was as a vulnerable seventeen year old, over twenty years ago. At that time, I have to say provision was good. I was appointed a CPN (Community Psychiatric Nurse) who would visit my home regularly, a few days a week at first, tapering down to once a week over around a two year period. My CPN would visit me in my home, and would provide invaluable support. In addition to this, I had access to a ‘drop in’ centre, which was open during office hours, and could contact a crisis team in emergencies. The same centre also ran several hobby and activity groups, for example walking, carpet bowls, a craft group. These sessions were staffed by support workers, and, often in the early days, a CPN as well. These groups were invaluable, as they provided a safe space for vulnerable individuals to interact and feel safe. At that time, they were my only social interaction outside my home and immediate family. In addition to this, there was provision for a support worker, which I took advantage of a couple of years after my diagnosis of clinical depression and anxiety, with mild social phobia, to help me interact with the wider community. My GP at that time also put a note on my medical record, stating that every effort should be made to find me an appointment as soon as one was requested.

My first experience of the cuts was when the social groups at the drop in centre gradually closed, one after another, as a result of therre not being a budget for staff to supervise them. My second was the loss of any fuel allowance for my support worker, which effectively meant that there was no point in my continuiing to see her, as the whole reason for my seeing her was to get out and about in my rural community. I discovered approximately four years ago that there was to be no more support worker provision for anyone I attended the groups with anymore, as a result of budget cuts. This included a young adult male, whose elderly and infirm parents were unable to take out because of their health, meaning that he would be completely isolated on a rural farm, with no real social interaction at all outside his immediate family.

Fast forward, then, to my most recent contact with mental health services, and the impact of decades of chipping away at the funds available to mental health services across the country becomes evident, and, frankly, bleak. The drop in centre, which at one time would’ve been my first port of call, had been closed down and sold off several years previously, so my first point of contact had to be through my GP. Because of huge demand and limited supply, it took about two weeks of daily phone calls by my partner to secure a GP appointment. On visiting my GP for a referral back to mental health services, I was informed that there was likely to be a 12 week waiting list until I could be seen by my mental health team. This, whilst longer than the six weeks I had found more typical in earlier years, wasn’t unexpected, and I had little option but to accept it, so accept it I did. I’m hugely fortunate in that I have an excellent support network within my family, but I did find myself wondering how seventeen year old me would’ve coped, facing such a long wait, alone.

My first contact with my mental health team, approximately thirteen weeks later, was very different to my expectations, which had been based on previous, long, experience. Almost the first words I heard from my CPN were “You get six sessions, maximum. It’s up to you whether you’d like to spread those out weekly, fortnightly, or monthly, but there is a maximum of six.” I will admit, I was slightly stunned for a moment, and was also completely unsure as to how best to split my appointments – in previous years, there had never been a mention of a set number of sessions, and I felt somewhat taken aback by the idea that, without any discussion of my current state of health or circumstances, I was being prescribed six sessions. It felt as though my, or, indeed anyone else who might need the services, actual situation wasn’t even relevant – six was the maximum, whether that was enough or not. This wasn’t a clinical decision based on a health assessment, but a bureaucratic law.

At my final session of six, spread out in the end over approximately three months, both myself and my CPN felt that I wasn’t really ready to be completely discharged, so my CPN suggested that I accept a referral for counselling services. I was warned that waiting lists are lengthy, but, again, with little other option, I accepted this. I eventually received an appointment for my first session nine months later. During this nine month waiting period, I had no contact whatsoever with either my GP or mental health team. This was due partly to my social phobia, which makes it difficult for me to request help at all, but was also very largely a result of not being able to get a GP appointment when I felt able to attend one; I can have the confidence one day, but not the next, and so calling back, day after day, just doesn’t really work out for me. I also felt as though I was overtaxing an already overworked system, in full knowledge that there was little my GP could do other than increase or change my medication, which I didn’t really feel would be helpful. I felt unworthy of asking for help, like a nuisance for continually calling, so I stopped calling. I stopped asking for help.

When I attended my first counselling session, I was informed that there was a maximum of fifteen sessions available per patient, but that as my therapist would be being relocated to a different area after twelve weeks, I would actually only be able to receive twelve. As it turned out, I attended nine sessions before, unfortunately, my therapist suffered a family bereavement, which meant a six week gap in treatment. It also meant that I only had one session available following the gap, due to the therapist being relocated. So rather than a fifteen week continuous course, I actually received ten split sessions from a foreshortened course of twelve. Another bureaucratic bit of nonsense, which declares ten sessions a course of therapy, meant that my therapist was unable to put me forward directly to see another counsellor, although he did very strongly suggest that I should go to my GP, explain the broken nature of my particular course, and request a re-referral for more counselling. Apparently this wouldn’t normally be an option, as each patient is only entitled to one course, but because my treatment had been affected by unusual circumstances, he hoped that my GP might consider a second referral.

And that is where I am now. Trying to get the courage together to face making and attending a GP appointment, to request a referral I might or might not get, that if I do get, will probably involve a huge waiting list. Other than my family, I have no support other than my GP. I have no crisis line, because I had my six sessions and was discharged.

But I consider myself fortunate, because at least I do have my family. I generally don’t go out, I exist probably 80% of the time in one room, my bedroom, because my social phobia makes it difficult for me to interact even with guests in my own home. I feel frustrated and sidelined, but I am not alone. What concerns me is that under the current system, those without their own support networks are, in my opinion, at extremely high risk of self harm and suicide. Waiting lists are long, treatment courses are short and not based upon clinical need. At the same time, we sufferers face ever increasing levels of scrutiny, both within the benefits system and from wider media, who seem to want to class anyone unable to work as a scrounger or basically worthless. As a depression sufferer, I already feel worthless a lot of the time, and without my support network, these factors in combination might well push me over the edge.

The mental health system doesn’t need a review, a rethink or scrutiny. What it needs is funding. What it needs is adequate staffing and resources to function as it should. The current system is unfair both on patients, or clients, or service users, or whatever the PC term is these days, and staff, who are expected to fulfill their extremely difficult roles with both hands effectively tied by bureaucracy and no budgets. We don’t need to look to the future and work out innovative new approaches – we need to look to the past, and employ the system we had, the system that worked so much better than the shambles we have now. Stop the rhetoric, the delay and the chat – and just open the purse strings! I feel that if this doesn’t happen, and soon, many will suffer, and lives may be lost, needlessly.

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Young woman who committed suicide was called ‘a f****** waste of space’ by mental health worker


Suicidal Hannah Groves did not get the support and care she needed

The  Mirror reports: “In the UK the number of ­women taking their own lives has grown steadily since 2011. Mental health issues make up 23 per cent of those with health problems making contact with the NHS. But mental health provision has received only 13 per cent of the overall funding. Since 2011 the number of beds for mental health patients has fallen by 8 per cent.”

Last year female suicides hit a ten year high.  In 2015 – 2016, only 55% of mental health trusts reported increases to budgets since 2012, when “parity of esteem” with physical health was promised by the government.

Last year, a leaked report by a government taskforce painted a bleak picture of England’s mental health services, revealing that the number of people killing themselves was soaring, three-quarters of those with psychiatric conditions were not being helped, and sick children were being sent “almost anywhere in the country” for treatment. Suicide in England is now rising “following many years of decline”, with 4,477 suicides in an average year. There has also been a 10% increase in the number of people sectioned under the Mental Health Act over the past year, suggesting their needs are not being met early enough. In some parts of the country, more than 10% of children seeking help are having appointments with specialists cancelled as a result of staff shortages.

Commenting on the situation last year, Labour’s mental health spokesperson, Luciana Berger, said the figures are a “wake-up call” for ministers.

“Ministers talk about making mental health a priority, but in reality they have presided over service cuts, staff shortages and widespread poor-quality care, with devastating consequences,” she said.

“It is particularly worrying that women’s suicide rates in England are now the highest they have been for a decade. Ministers must identify the reasons behind this drastic increase and take the urgent action needed to tackle it.”

Hannah Groves is one victim of a growing mental health crisis among women, as female suicide rates hit a ten-year high last yearHannah’s desperate mother begged for help in vain more than 100 times over nine days before her daughter killed herself.

Mandy Park’s distraught pleas were not only ignored by a Southern Health Trust mental health worker, they were ridiculed. Hannah was labelled an “attention seeker” and a “f***ing waste of space”.

Hours later Hannah was found dead at home, aged just 20. Hannah had made numerous suicide attempts in the nine days before her death yet was repeatedly ­denied admission to hospital.

Last year, the privatised Southern Health NHS Trust – which runs a series of mental health services across the county and is headquartered in Tatchbury Mount, Calmore – was condemned by the Care Quality Commission after failing to protect patients and investigate the deaths of hundreds of people in its care, following a scathing independent report. The Trust has been the subject of independent government reviews since it was revealed it failed to investigate the unexpected deaths of hundreds of its patients between 2011 and 2015. See also: Southern Health NHS Trust, a Drowning and a Call for Better Care Everywhere and Embattled NHS trust boss quits role but will keep salary and benefits in new job and Southern Health criticised for putting ‘patients at risk’.

Hannah was a straight-A student studying French at university, and she had no mental health ­problems until October 2012. Mandy believes she suffered a sudden onset of psychosis, but this was not diagnosed because she was not ­properly assessed.

On the night she got ill, Mandy gave Hannah a lift to her boyfriend’s and later had a ­panicked call from him.She picked up her daughter but on the trip home Hanna ­repeatedly tried to jump from the ­moving car. She also attempted to run into oncoming traffic.

Mandy said: “She was such a sweet, gentle person. But it was like she was possessed.

“Her voice had changed and she was speaking in a monotone.

“She didn’t smoke but she would pace the floor, chain-smoking and ­staring into space. I was terrified of my own girl. She kept saying she felt numb.”

Mandy took Hannah to A&E where the medical staff referred her to the Trust’s mental health crisis team. However, staff from the trust assessed Hannah and decided she did not meet the ­criteria for a bed in Antelope House, in her home town Southampton.

Over the next week she ­repeatedly attempted suicide. Mandy took her to ­hospital, to her GP and even to an out of area mental heath facility, desperately trying to get help.

Police and paramedics regularly attended the family home and she begged mental health workers to intervene, in vain.

Mandy said: “One time she had a scarf round her neck and I had to hold her down. I spent hours on the phone to the mental health team but they would sigh as soon as I told them who I was.

Hannah even got hold of the phone herself and was repeatedly telling them she was going to kill herself but they did nothing.”

Three days before her death, Hannah was taken to A&E once more, but was sent home again by the mental health Trust.

Mandy said: “Hannah fell on the floor in a heap. It was heartbretking. She knew she needed help.”

The evening before Hannah’s death, on October 22, 2012, her boyfriend brought her orange roses and she wrote the words “I’m still alive” on a chalkboard.  Mandy ­recalled she was so hopeful, she said: “I thought I was getting her back.”

The next day Mandy had to call the police after Hannah threatened to kill her family. She was arrested under the Mental Health Act.

Again, staff at Antelope House refused to admit her after a social worker told the police detention officer she was a “f***ing waste of space” an “attention seeker”.

Just hours later, Mandy found her daughter’s body. She had left her home for a matter of minutes to call the crisis team, begging for help once again.

Mandy painfully remembers “At the hospital I stood there while they did CPR. Then they said there was nothing more they could do. I fell on the floor, screaming the place down.”

The grieving mother decided to call medical ­negligence solicitor, Nick Fairweather, to fight for justice in her daughter’s memory.

Mandy was heartbroken and ­physically sick when she heard the comments about Hannah, who was a constant danger to herself.

Mandy said: “It beggars belief that ­anyone could treat another human that way.

“Hannah changed overnight from a happy young ­woman to a ­totally different person. She was my world.

“I love and miss her. She had so much to live for and to give. If she’d got the right treatment she’d still be here.”

Last month Mandy, a former ­support worker for deaf children, was awarded £260,000 in an ­out-of-court medical negligence settlement from Southern Health Trust.

The Trust admitted that Mandy had been a “secondary victim” of its ­failings after she developed post-traumatic stress ­disorder and spent six weeks in a ­specialist mental health facility. She has also ­contemplated ­suicide, but felt she could not leave her son Patrick, 21, without a mum.

Mandy said: “Finding Hannah’s body was the worst moment of my life. I have flashbacks every day. It’s like a film on a constant loop.

“The effects of these ­failings have been catastrophic. I’m ­terrified it will happen to someone else’s child.”

The Health Care Professions Council ruled the insults about Hannah were “undoubtedly spoken” but failed to prove the case against a named social ­worker.

Coroner Keith Wiseman ­delivered a narrative verdict at her inquest and ruled the Trust had “not adequately identified” the risks to Hannah.

Mandy said: “Everyone says I did ­everything I could but there are times when the guilt kicks in. I wonder if I should’ve just handcuffed us both to Antelope House.

“It’s 2017 but our attitude to mental health beggars belief – especially from those supposedly trained in this field.”

 She added: “A lot of people do judge, and say, ‘Snap out of it.’ But no one would ever tell you to snap out of it if you had cancer. Something has to change.” 

Julie Dawes, interim chief ­executive of Southern Health said: “I apologise again on behalf of the trust for letting Miss Groves down in 2012 and I send my condolences to her family.”



If you feel suicidal, need support and someone to speak to, Samaritans operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. Call 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org 




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