Separating mental health from physical health isn’t working #crisishouses #NHS #rethinkmentalillness
July 20, 2012 1 Comment
MENTAL ILLNESS SERVICE?
In the UK the National Health Service has a clear division between physical and mental health. It is crazy. It does not work.
Have you ever met someone with a significant physical health problem who was not anxious about it?
Just about as rare is to find someone with a long-term mental health diagnosis who does not have physical health problems.
My recent experiences with the NHS are of the two parts of the NHS passing patients between each other. Doctor’s who treat only physical health say, “It is all in the mind” and refer anxious patients to psychiatric services. Psychiatrists with more time to listen to their patients get to hear more about their physical health problems and realise that much of the emotional distress is coming from lack of treatment for physical health conditions.
The overall effect is that the NHS has developed a MENTAL ILLNESS SERVICE and not a service focused on well-being and recovery. Patients within this service are labelled as unwell and these labels (such as bipolar, schizophrenia and personality disorders) lead the overworked staff in the mainstream (physical health) part of the NHS to discriminate. This discrimination takes the form of directing the limited resources for diagnosis and treatment away from those considered as mentally ill.
Three weeks ago I asked a nurse why she did not ask a patient about an aspect of their physical health. She thought for a while then said, but she has a psychiatric disorder and would lie. The assumptions that go with psychiatric labels are staggering. The patient was in fact suffering from food allergies, exhaustion and dehydration but the psychiatric label was enough to stop any physical health intervention at all.
What can be changed?
Fortunately some changes are underway. One change that needs to be rolled out across the country is to replace most psychiatric wards from places where people are detained in distressing conditions with staff who have largely lost hope… with crisis houses, where people who are stressed out and need respite can go to have a few days away from the pressures of work, family and modern life. That is what psychiatric patients are telling me they needed to avoid long stays on what they see as mental illness wards.
Here is an initiative in north London that is already underway…
(link working on 20th July 2012)
Through our new social enterprise Rethinking Health we are keen to work with others towards developing services for all aspects of health and well-being.