Experiences, Comments and Thoughts from the Front Line
Mad…crazy…bonkers…insane…nutty…off his rocker…mental…are just some of the phrases which can be used around the mental health area. They can flow from a lack of understanding, ignorance, taboo and prejudice as mental health is indeed a complex and multi-layered issue.
I am a Mental Health Lawyer and this is a phrase that many people simply don’t understand!
Essentially I represent those who are detained under Section in Mental Health Units in circumstances when they are usually seeking a discharge which leads to representation at a Mental Health Tribunal hearing. This is when the ‘court’ essentially comes to the hospital and has the power to decide to discharge a person from Section out into the community.
Trying to give a simple explanation of my work is difficult and complex but essentially I have been representing individuals in this area for nearly fifteen years.
I thought it would be useful to feed back both my views and the views of those who I represent as well as professionals in the area within the body of this article.
Mental health carries a heavy burden of stigma with it always but hopefully the weight of that burden is getting lighter through awareness, knowledge and some tremendous work done by key groups in the mental health world, in particular national mental health organisations such as Mind, Rethink and the Time to Change campaign.
Taken by force from your home into a psychiatric unit can indeed be a traumatic and devastating experience.
In recent times I have taken some feedback from those I have represented and have had the direct experience of being within a mental health unit. These are a selection of some of the feedback quotations:-
“It was an appalling experience and something that I would not wish upon my worst enemy…”
“I feel a prime part of my life has been wasted…”
“The most distressing thing was being forced to take antipsychotic medication…”
“It was a degrading experience and I suffered untold discomfort from adverse side effects…”
“The nature of my admission to hospital was upsetting and distressing and the timing was ill-informed…”
In terms of the Asian community one observation that I would make is that the issue of stigma remains perhaps as prevalent as any other community and when mental health
issues arise the way to assist and overcome these can be a difficult challenge for those nearest and dearest encountering the problems.
Historically Asian persons often live in extended family situations with a great intensity of interaction with family members outside the household as well. Perhaps on occasions the issue of mental illness may arise but remain internalised and cocooned within that structure. That usually happens for very genuine reasons for example a responsibility that the family must help to resolve the problem without calling in a third party or external authority. The downside of that delay and that gap is that the health problems may then get to a critical and severe stage for example requiring hospitalisation or sectioning of the individual concerned. Here if action was taken at an early juncture and expert professional help sought, breakdown on such a level may possibly be avoided. This is of course not a generality and the example can apply in many other communities as well.
With Leicester’s huge BME community it is something that I have perhaps seen from time to time.
This is my own personal commentary and what I have seen.
Those affected by mental health issues are many and the figures are estimating that broadly one in four people in the UK will experience some form of mental health problem over the years.
Mind has indicated that seventeen in one hundred people have suicidal thoughts and three in one hundred have thoughts of self harm.
In terms of those detained under the Mental Health Act, figures going back to 2013 indicate that 50,408 were detained under the Mental Health Act and therefore it puts the numbers into context.
Figures released by the Office for National Statistics show that 6233 suicides of people over fifteen were registered in 2013 which was a four percent increase on the preceding year’s figures.
Additionally the new Community Treatment Orders came out a few years ago and the 2013 figures were that 5218 had been subject to a CTO Order.
There also seems to be evidence that the number of CTO Orders that are revoked remain significant. Therefore there may be a question as to whether this new concept is succeeding fully.
The conclusion that can be reached in the area of mental health and seeking appropriate support. One of the important lessons seems to be that if support is needed it should be sought early and robustly as delay can often exacerbate the position meaning that the mental health problems that arise can be more severe and the road to recovery can be longer and more difficult.
The help you could be seeking is ‘multi layered’ mainly going to a local mental heath support group and there are many excellent ones that operate both locally and nationally including Mind, Rethink etc. Seeking professional help is obviously central. Starting at GP level and then escalating forwards to members of specialist mental health teams and psychiatric input as appropriate.
Turning to key family and friends can also be vital as openness and discussion can be very positive and aid the road to recovery.
Awareness is the key and the Time to Change campaign continues to do some very positive work raising the profile of matters across many platforms e.g. the workplace, specialised campaigns through social media so that they can reach the widest possible audience.
As a firm Thaliwal & Co will be hosting an event on 27 May 2015 in Leicester where we are supporting a local advocacy group as well as raising awareness through the Time to Change campaign in the run up to the event and at the event itself. All are welcome of course. Details are on our website – www.thaliwalsolicitors.co.uk.
Mental Health law specialist
Thaliwal & Co Solicitors
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