I got to hear about this at the Chy Sawel Conference.
The inspiration for such a project came from someone who witnessed the treatment of his partner whilst sectioned on a psychiatric ward and I would thoroughly agree that there should be an alternative as it is extremely traumatic for someone to go into a hospital environment on a noisy and volatile atmosphere on an acute ward. During the day when the doctors arrive everything is organised but that is not the case some evenings when the ward is full to capacity. What someone who is experiencing mental trauma needs is peace and quiet and to be cared for in a humane manner but human rights are all too often ignored and the current care is detrimental to the patient – it does not address the underlying reasons for the mental illness. It is often based on guesswork by professionals – after all as my daughter said to me “they cannot see what is in my head, Mum”. Someone can end up being more traumatised being on these wards where the care is just drugs to keep a patient quiet and easy to manage for the staff. There is nothing to do at the weekends on many of these wards. The thought of low-impact dwellings and a community environment is very appealing and a much healthier alternative, rather than a ward full of others who are likewise disturbed that is like a prison camp.
The long term aim of the Root and Branch Project is to find a mostly wooded site to turn into a sanctuary/retreat and split into two areas:
Crisis – where people experiencing mania/psychosis can go into who want to avoid the need for hospital. Who better to be involved than some who have experienced such things themselves as peers and have a true understanding of what that person is going through. This area would have 24 hr support per day when necessary. There would be professional involvement alongside the peers. This is what is lacking today – there are no facilities for someone to go into and even on the drugs someone can suffer psychosis especially when the affects of these chemicals where off and they end up suffering from Akathisia like my daughter did. She said it felt like she was “crawling out of her skin”. No-one did anything about this and her behaviour was becoming more and more desperate. At present they have a so called “Crisis Team” – what good is this when they choose to stay away for their own safety when dealing with someone in the community who is unstable. That person is left to go downhill because staff think of health and safety and that person who is not eating properly, not being offered the so called “medication” goes downhill – this is where care in the community fails so many. There should be teams of peers/mentors to visit each and every person of around the same age as that person who is perhaps studying for psychology. My daughter yearned for company of her own age and someone to knock on the door but the only people to knock on the door were members of staff to tell her to do things or take the drugs or myself who had to come and help at weekends as everything was going to pieces. Someone like my daughter would have benefitted from the company of someone not suffering from mental illness but just as a companion to go to the cinema and places like that – to encourage her rather than to tell her what to do like the staff did and her reaction was that she wanted to be left alone.
The other section of this proposed scheme would be:
Health & Well Being – this is a much larger area including allotments, art/crafts/workshops staffed by volunteers to help those with depression, anxiety, to avoid relapse, providing the crisis area with food, washing etc and funding. A relapse can easily occur when someone living in the community ends up not looking after themselves and there is inadequate care in place – these people are already isolated in some cases from their friends and family and being on their own can lead to increased depression. What a good idea!
This project could be self-sufficient but I think that funding should come from the Government to get patients and people like alternative therapists, nutritionists, counsellors and carers/familiies involved in such a project. The current care is not working for many people and if someone is experiencing severe health problems with heart and lungs then it is extremely cruel to expect them to take these harmful drugs for the rest of their lives. There are experts who can help someone safely reduce off the drugs but this should not be done unless a doctor is involved and with peer support and assistance this would avoid the terrible withdrawal and psychosis experienced otherwise if not done properly. They tell a patient they have to be on the drugs for the rest of their lives when this is not true however whilst living in the community, this is not a good idea to attempt to come off the drugs and can lead to suicide for instance. As this is risky, professionals need to be involved and yes there are professionals who feel that drugs are not the answer and that a patient should be listened to. There is more than one expert doctor who will say that it is not impossible to come off or be reduced off the drugs, if done correctly.
Acceptance and Referrals:
At present it is difficult to get any kind of referral outside the area where you live but sometimes it is a good thing to get away from the local environment especially when something bad has happened to that person to get them under mental health services in the first place. At the moment, social services at local level do not like for the most part to give funding to anything outside the Borough and when there are no facilities that are suitable within the local area that person is in a no win situation and does not get any better. Moving away temporarily may suit some people and it is these people who are blocking beds for others at local level when they are constantly returning back to the acute ward and not getting any better. In cases where all else has failed, I think that this choice should be offered to the patient – it may not suit everyone, but it may be the making of that person who can move on with their lives and even be involved in the Root and Branch Project to help others get better. If there was one to one mentors in terms of peer support this is more care and attention than a patient would ever experience under the hospitals where patients suffer being ignored and languish on acute wards and that can last for nearly 2 years as in the case of my daughter because this is the length of time it took to find a placement which in the end was not suitable. I noticed Elizabeth responded more under her scheme to a “friend” and former resident than the staff themselves. That says it all! I would be happy for Elizabeth to go somewhere like this provided care was taken to ensure her safety due to vulnerability – she is less likely to be abused in this kind of care than on the acute wards which are often like a war zone in my opinion. The fact is from the information given in the 12 years that Soteria House operated for (plus with other similar projects) there was not one serious incident that resulted in serious harm to anyone.
The dwellings would be log cabins possibly – no permanent buildings. This is much nicer than a huge intimidating hospital or even a noisy scheme where other residents have music blaring.
The Lammas Project/Community and ‘cob’, low impact buildings look magical – this is the place my daughter should be in – not some rigid prison camp of a hospital! There should be places like this in the countryside away from bustling towns to provide to provide the decent care I can see in this project. This kind of care is just what is needed for choice – it is therapeutic as the day will involve cooking, cleaning, discussing problems and issues, story telling, singing/music making, art/craft, ritual and community. How wonderful – people will gather round an open fire which will be an important central feature – the cooking and gardening aspects are healthy and better than the junk shop food that many mentally ill people turn to in the community where the care is apalling. When someone is in the heights of mania of psychosis they will be encouraged to staff in the m ain crisis area away from the Health & Wellbeing Area where more specialist care will be given (if only Government funding is provided). The professionals and social services are only too happy to experiment with the drugs – even social services got involved in trying to push Clozapine at my daughter – however what is wrong with a trial for someone who is deemed as say treatment resistant at such a project. What is wrong with this? If it does not work out then at least this option has been tried – far better than just pushing drugs left right and centre.
I like the idea that family and friends are welcomed (UNLIKE THE RECENT SO CALLED “CARE” I HAVE WITNESSED). I like the fact there will be trips and a lot of support – that is the problem with care in the community – there is not enough support – mental health patients are not given the right kind of encouragement and everything is in house of course but they become isolated from the rest of society because there simply is not enough care and support in the community. I have witnessed patients begging to go back on the wards which is so very sad as these are awful places to be and yet that person is alone and isolated in the community and feels unable to cope. A patient becomes accustomed when institutionalised to become dependent on others and that once independent person loses all concept of real life and their confidence is shattered. That is what is wrong with today’s care.
It would not hurt the Government to provide the funding for such a wonderful project when they waste taxpayers money left right and centre. Mostly the biggest waste of money is by giving the psychiatric drugs to patients where they do not even work. The Government is turning a blind eye to the drugging of patients who do not get better in some cases and are classed as being treatment resistant and also it is like giving a life sentence to someone where the diagnosis is in question like my daughter. Treatment resistant! – This is rubbish in my opinion – that is because the correct treatment has not been given in the first place and it is obvious that the answer is not drugs.
There should be grants given – heating could be solar powered, many mentally ill people could benefit as they could be involved in helping to get this project off the ground as some are the most intelligent people you could ever imagine and it is a waste of talent when that person is drugged up to their necks on chemicals. They are currently thrown into a prison like environment run by the NHS. The NHS could save their money and spend it on other care like improving A&E and may other things but their mental health care does not work in many cases and this is eating up funding and resources by patients returning time and time again to the ward and not getting any better. Also the supplying of these drugs must be astronomic – what a waste of money and a waste of talent!
The Government wants to strip people of benefits – they cannot work because these drugs in many cases render them incapable – it is not a case of them being lazy – my daughter was incapable of getting to an appointment and there was no support given to her It is not a case of mentally ill people being lazy. If people like Janet Street Porter and Jeremy Clarkson go on about their self opinions on mentally ill people then they are narrow minded and ignorant in my opinion and they should be doing something to help get this project off the grounds instead of coming out with comments that are unhelpful and useless. I am just a mother but what is needed is support from celebrities such as these instead of criticism. I am not ashamed to associate myself with what I would describe as some of the nicest and most caring people in society and many of these people could offer more support than some of the professionals currently involved in the rotten care system.
This project would provide work and employment to many people – many people under the mental health would like to work but once labelled with a diagnosis, people are wary and this is because they read about things in the papers but little do many people know that the pharmaceutical industry and the drugs they supply are the cause – a mentally ill patient is not dangerous but anyone coming off drugs can suffer psychosis and that is where help is not being given. If someone is on illicit drugs they get the help but what if someone is on psychiatric drugs and has been labelled with several diagnoses – what help is there to come off and be reduced and also what help is there for someone experiencing terrible side effects and health problems on these drugs – the fact is THERE IS NO PROOF OF DIAGNOSES AND THESE PEOPLE ARE GIVEN A LIFE SENTENCE OF FORCED DRUG TAKING WHICH IS CRUEL AND ABUSIVE. These drugs like anti-depressants are known by the doctors to cause terrible harm and change a once placid person into someone unrecognisable and the behaviour is entirely down to the drugs not to their condition yet because of the big profits involved this practise is allowed to continue and many so called professionals know only too well that the drugs can cause severe aggression and violence and also suicide yet nothing is done. They are approved by the FDA but many drugs companies infiltrate the approvals process and Prof Healy documents this in his book Pharamageddon. Dr Ann Blake Tracy and Dr Candace Pert document in their books the dangers of these drugs known to many professionals yet the easier option is to keep someone on them for the rest of their lives.