SWAN “THE CRISIS IN MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES” CONFERENCE SAT 8 NOVEMBER 2014

Speakers –  Professor Peter Beresford –  Professor of Social Policy and Chair
June Sadd – Survivor trainer and researcher – Disabled People Against Cuts
Jean Robertson-Molloy – Movement for an Adoption apology
Panel of Practitioners from Across Social Work.

I attended this conference held at John Barnes Library, Camden Road.  Sadly we missed most of it due to a prior appointment but I wanted to attend as I have become very disillusioned especially with my own personal experience and treatment of my daughter in light of recent events.  Elizabeth came with me – it is nice for her to see that there are some good people out there in the profession trying to change a system that is rotten to the core. It made a refreshing change to listen to what some of these professionals had to say and I wish they were all like this as I would have absolutely no complaints at all. I have prior to this meeting come across good social workers in respect of my father with Alzheimers and one good social worker under mental health – John Coffey I believe his name was at the Royal Bethlem Hospital. This is a professional who I could highly commend.

The comments below are taken from the poster advertisement for this day conference entitled above:
“There is a deep and continuing crisis in mental health services:  austerity driven cuts in welfare, oppressive government benefits reforms, the growing gap between the richest and poorest in society.  Practitioners and service users alike struggle with high caseloads, reduced resources and a target culture underpinned by market ideology and privatisation.  This conference is one of a series in the UK and welcomes everyone wanting to look at the problems and prospects for radical alternatives.  The Conference will also be the London launch of the SWAN initiative CHARTER FOR MENTAL HEALTH intended for activists to campaign around .  The Charter is available at http://www.socialworkfuture.org.uk.”

SWAN (Social Work Action Network) is a network of social work practitioners, service users/survivors, educators and students united in their concern that social work activity is being undermined by managerialism and marketization, by the stigmatisation of service users and by welfare cuts and restrictions.

I agree with many things such as:

Aims:

To promote social work practice rooted in values of social justice involving advocating alongside and on behalf of carers and service users.
Challenging domination of social work services by prioritisation of budgets, targets, outcomes and market over the needs of service users.
Working alongside existing social work, social care, service user and carer organisations and trade unions on welfare cuts and privatisation, against discrimination and oppression.

Strengthen radical voices within social work by building alliances between practitioners, students, carers, service users and educators through joint campaigning and regular conferences.

Charter for Mental Health
I could not agree more: – mental health services have reached a crisis point – even the Government has been forced to acknowledge this.

Reasons for current crisis and suggestions on what needs to be done:  A starting point for discussion and action rather than definitive statement.  An alliance of resistance and contribution to the development of more and better support for those with mental health needs.

Crisis for Service Users: –  cuts as a result of Government’s austerity policies.  Closures/reductions in availability of community services/increased charges/time limited support/reduced funding for user-led organisations.  The Government’s welfare reform is creating poverty through draconian measures such as the Work Capability Assessment, implemented by private health care firm ATOS, the Bedroom Tax is another example.  This results in increased anxiety and fear – rising incidence of suicide and self-harm. How very true.

MY OWN COMMENTS ON THIS:   Elizabeth was once doing OK –  under mental health services she has been given drug after drug and label after label. Initially it was the drug Cipralex that caused adverse reactions leading to unrecognisable behaviour. No tests done first of all to see if someone can metabolise the drugs.  However when I as a mother started looking into matters and becoming more and more educated by reading the right books and have contacted the FDA on more than one occasion and also Astra Zeneca  to report  adverse reactions.  Of course nothing ever seems to be done about it.  The biggest trial is when a drug passed as being “safe” is released to the wider public and in some cases terrible consequences as documented by Dr Ann Blake Tracy.  I am speaking of what I have seen not in just the case of one person in my family but several other cases too. The effect these drugs have had on more than one person in my family has been horrific and I have seen this at first hand but I have also seen people get better in my own family especially in two cases who are no longer on any drugs whatsoever and doing fine.  This is why labelling is harmful as these labels can stick forever and besides how accurate are they?  Mistakes can easily be made with diagnoses but no one wishes to budge and this is terrible as the patient concerned is labelled for life when in fact the diagnosis may be completely wrong.   Things can never be accurate if no scientific tests can confirm the diagnosis to be correct.     I do not agree with the bulk of the labels that Elizabeth has been given as there have been so many labels – there is only one report myself and the family agree and the person who did this report has had 40 years in the business – the diagnosis given is PTSD.   Since Elizabeth has been home after 6 months I have relied on help from close friends and immediate family.  When someone has been institutionalised and used as a human guinea pig for experimentation and given contra indicated drugs and horrific care I have already documented they can come out of institutions quite disabled and then that does not exclude that person from going through assessments from ATOS who have a 6 month waiting list just to assess someone with no guarantees of that person receiving benefits.  Elizabeth has been a “revolving door” case sent to private sector care miles from home from the shocking Bethlem Royal Hospital. From there on it was not agreed for her to come home despite her wishes but now she is home from the care home we are all amazed at her progress. It is expensive to have to pay for things which would cost a fraction of the price of keeping someone in an institution. So I am not impressed with Atos – any money that Elizabeth would receive from benefits will go towards helping her – she has not walked up the road alone – she has a key but suffers severely from panic attacks before going out anywhere. It is a case of the right kind of support being provided but money is often spent in the wrong direction and used against families rather than helping families. I await the assessment through ATOS but if I was not helping her, Elizabeth would not be able to attend such an assessment. I would like one day to see Elizabeth working and being completely independent but it is not as simple as that – Elizabeth cannot function on his level of drugs – they make her feel dizzy like she is about to fall and she often has to hold on to my arm. She says that the drugs are highly sedatory. They are making her worse, not better with little energy. It is not her condition but the drugs that are making Elizabeth disabled to the point where even simple tasks are difficult but she is trying to do things herself. She feels cold even when it is hot outside and this has meant I have had to do something this weekend as regards the heating in the house which will need to be on frequently during the winter months and I have been looking into solar powered heating. There are no grants for provision in the case of disabled people from what I am aware so although you save in the long run it still means paying out first of all – not for the fitting but the panels themselves. Anyway what can I do – but not everyone can pay and end up in debt and poverty without the needed support in the community. Not everyone has the support of their families like Elizabeth.

The onslaught faced by mental health workers:
I can associate though that the growing presence of private sector providers divert NHS resources away from frontline support into corporate profits. Well I originally thought private care was better in terms of facilities and care but I am sorry to say I was far from impressed by a certain private care provider who were behind the attempted severing of contact between myself and my daughter and this in turn caused no end of upset within the family. I would describe such places as profit making – no hurry to see someone go and patients kept for years – this was not what I thought Elizabeth would receive in terms of care as I had read about Four Star Wards. This was all about strict control, this involved coercion and restrictions. I agree that pressure put on professionals by way of targets is unacceptable and mention of delays in provision of support can result in tragic consequences. However having seen what is written under this heading I am critical – swingeing cuts to community services and in-patient facilities are mentioned here – I on the other hand have seen wastage of money and as for person centred approach – nothing was provided. There is no end of money when professionals wish to get rid of a nearest relative. I am not saying all professionals are like this and it made a refreshing change to see some decent ones at the conference however my experience has been very bad. I can personally see where the money is being wasted.

The role of the market:
My experience of private sector care as mentioned above is terrible. I do not agree with the introduction of payment by results – short term therapy and medical modern drug interventions prioritize over longer term talking treatments and other forms of family and social support valued by users and carers. I would like to see OPEN DIALOGUE.

Pre-occupation with negative risk:
I wish I could say more …….However what I will say is I do not agree with this risk management/monitoring of medication compliance and controlling forms of intervention. I see this as bullying and abuse. Elizabeth is not even on a CTO yet I have documented such shocking treatment for all to see. Visit after visit by Home Treatment Team/phone call after phone call when Elizabeth said no more. This is harassment in my opinion and when someone is perfectly OK like Elizabeth they should be left alone as the family ensure these chemicals are taken – none of us want to see Elizabeth back on a shocking acute ward that is for sure.

Austerity, welfare reform and inequality:
If the Government cared about physical health then they would do something about the situation where patients are given several drugs at a time that can cause severe adverse reactions and then nothing is done about this resulting in patients returning time and time again to the wards. If the Government cared they would provide better facilities within NHS and they should introduce a National Drug Metabolising Scheme which would save a fortune to the NHS. Why should someone spend a lifetime on drugs that cause severe physical health problems. Proper tests and assessments are not being carried out like the P450 liver enzyme tests. It is all very well and good to look at the criteria from release of a section ie no harm to self or others. What about the harm that is caused to the patients by all this drugging especially in cases where someone is treatment resistant ie poor or non metaboliser. Choice should be made available to those who do not get better from acute wards. Proper look at nutrition – only doctors and nurses should be involved in medical care and I have seen that not everyone is up to date on their knowledge and should know exactly how these drugs work if they are prescribing them. If patients were on the least drugs then it would be cheaper but on an acute ward and at the shocking Bethlem Royal Hospital patients are put on huge levels of drugs. This is not only expensive but detrimental to their physical health.

What we demand:
I do particularly agree with :
An end of Community Treatment Orders.
An end to institutionalised discrimination in mental health services.
Removal of obstacles to family and community involvement
No cuts to individual budgets
Funding for crisis houses
Atos – (it is not working if you have to wait six months just for an assessment)

I am now looking at the list of names ranging from nurses to social workers and service users, homeless support workers, psychologists, students and now I have added my name and I hope to attend other conferences in future.

In the evening we went to see a fireworks display and today have been busy with shopping and cooking. Elizabeth has got on with chores she needs to do herself so the weekend has been very good and I feel she is making good progress at home. It is good to be able to take her to events like this as well as the courses and conferences I go to.

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