Mental health a taboo subject

I had the privilege of being asked to see one of the workshops at Rivendell Mental Health Clinic this week. It was a computer workshop run twice a week for 3 hours where old Council computers are wiped clean, refurbished then sold onto the public.

It enables those who have done computing courses at the centre to put them to practice in a safe and unpressured environment. There was concern from members of the workshop about the future of the facility as the Psychiatric department is being moved. Rivendell also hosts other workshops such as crafts, arts and gardening sessions.

Many of those using the facilities are on the road to recovery and love what is there as some are still in treatment, but others are actually working and like somewhere they can be with people who understand them. The computer workshop is also a stepping stone to getting patients back into the world of work.

Mental health disorders take many different forms and affect people in different ways. Schizophrenia, depression and personality disorders are all types of mental health problem. Diseases such as dementia generally develop in old age, whereas eating disorders are more common in young people.

The more I’ve seen of mental health issues, the more I realise:

  • How much it is a hidden / taboo subject even though up to 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health problem at least once in their life
  • Those who need help are often left to seek it themselves, rarely are they offered help
  • The pressure for politicians to ensure that those who have the quietest voice / visibility in society are properly represented.
  • The grey area of responsibility in public services for mental health e.g. the difference between a personality disorder – not the responsibility of the NHS, and mental health – NHS responsibility.

Policing isn’t just about catching criminals but prevention too

I recently met with Inspector Dave Shaw and Sgt. Tim Harper at Bromsgrove Police station and we covered many topics ranging from crime rate to local cannabis farms but a couple of things stood out:

  • The work the police does with the local housing trust (BDHT), community groups, such as The Trunk and with the community via PACT (Partners and Communities Together) meetings. A lot of police work should obviously be on catching criminals but it was a good example of prevention and really getting to the causes of the problems. All solutions the Liberal Democrats back. 
  • The grey area of mentally unstable individuals and where the responsibility for them lie, it’s not always clear whether someone has a mental health issue or a personality disorder. The distinction is necessary, as with one definition the offender will be treated differently and by the NHS, otherwise its a police matter solely. The Liberal Democrats are proposing better mental health treatment on the NHS and those convicted of criminal offences.

On my last point, after my meeting I mentioned the mental health grey area to a youth offender worker who agreed it was very complicated but also that the worse thing you can do to those who have mental health issues is to lock them up with no treatment.

Meeting Inspector Dave Shaw

n.b. I should clarify that if an individual is classified as mentally ill then they are treated under the NHS, if it’s a personality disorder, then the NHS are not obliged to deal with them.