- On Monday the 16th of July a launch event was held for the new Greater Manchester Adult Mental Health Service User Network.
- Professionals talked about the wonderful work and strategies that are being put in place and operationalized
- However, what we wish to convey is that there are still too many people being failed by the current mental health system
- We call for services to be guided by the principles of care more so than control
On Monday the 16th of July a launch event was held for the new Greater Manchester Adult Mental Health Service User Network. This event brought together policy makers, professionals (experts by occupation) and services users (experts by experience) with a view to facilitating conversations between these different groups. Presentations were given by each of the groups.
Andy Burnham (Manchester’s current Mayor of Greater Manchester) and Jon Rouse (Chief Officer for the greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership) talked from the position of policy makers in the local area and the opportunities afforded by the current Devo Manchester agenda. Professionals talked about the wonderful work and strategies that are being put in place and operationalized. In taking these slices of good will and thoughtful strategy, one could be led to believe that we are on the brink of meeting the needs of those who utilise and access mental health and wellbeing services in the local region. Such a view was easily dispelled however when hearing how individuals (invited speakers and members of the audience) had truly experienced their encounters with mental health services.
Before continuing we want to be clear that we do not wish to discount the abundance of excellent work that services and professionals engage in. What we do however wish to convey is that there are still too many people being failed by the current mental health system. At the Manchester Institute of Education members of the counselling psychology group recently completed a piece of research alongside a local service user group. This is some of what these individuals shared with us:
When relationships were traumatic and unhelpful
“It felt like I was going into a garage with your car and saying ‘my car’s broke’ then them saying, ‘oh we’ll fix it’ and you asking what it is and them saying, ‘we’ll fix it but we won’t tell you what’s wrong with it’. So that left me in the dark”.
“He [the psychiatrist] made me feel small, he made me feel frightened”.
“It [being in hospital] was just like oh my god this is not treatment, this is abuse. It was just horrendous, it really was”.
When relationships were transformative and helpful
“I knew I could tell her stuff, trust her and that she would use the information in the right way. That she wasn’t going to cause me any harm. I felt safe with her”
“He [the ward psychiatrist] listened to what I was saying, he took everything very slowly, he went at my pace, listened to my concerns and to any worries I had about side effects. If I wanted to come off a medication because of the side effects he was there. If I needed help with sleep, he’d say ‘right we’ll find a way around to help you’.”
Finally, one individual described eating with staff and them showing him an attitude of respect. When asked how this made him feel, he said:
“Well, like a human being, I was an equal, I wasn’t just a patient”.
So what do we conclude from our research?
Well, fundamentally the individuals we talked to described wanting to be treated as humans and not as animals. We therefore call for services to be guided by the principles of care more so than control. We recommend that services and professionals reflect upon how individuals might experience their power in relationships and whether they feel safe within them. Although time and resources may hinder such engagement with individuals, for the people we talked to, these principles are fundamental to therapeutic work, rather than optional luxury goods. Maybe, if you haven’t already accessed this kind of support (many people will have), consider how you would wish to be treated if you do ever find yourself seeking support from a mental health service/professional and such a view might seem obvious.
We are sure that some readers will reflect upon this and say, ‘Yes, yes. We’ve heard this all before’. There is a resonance between our views and the work of the original humanistic psychologists such as Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers who, during the 1950s and 60s, promoted the view that that individuals needed to be treated as ‘whole’ people, rather than a series of diagnostic criteria. You may even see similar themes in popular culture, with the humanistic work of the neurologist Oliver Sacks’ being populised in the film ‘Awakenings’ and Ken Kesey’s critical view of 1960s psychiatry in America within ‘One flew over the cuckoo’s nest’. And, if you do see similarities, then that is the point. This is not a new view and yet it has pervaded the world of mental health for too long. Devolution has the potential to encourage new ways of working, and it is great to see the good will of policy makers and professionals at events such as the Greater Manchester Adult Mental Health Service User Network launch. Let’s not have it stop there though. Let’s see mental health provision have its own awakening and nip in the bud any chance of a remake of ‘One flew over the cuckoo’s nest: a Mancunian tale’. In doing so, it’s time to truly listen to, take seriously and act upon the words of those individuals who use mental health services.