As a specialist Mental Health Law Solicitor who provides representation on a day to day basis to those detained under the Mental Health Act it is always excellent to have the opportunity to try to raise awareness of this area and the impact that it can have upon people in their lives.
“All I really want to do is kill myself” was a comment that I recently heard from a client that I recently attended and demonstrates the level of despair, hopelessness, stress and anxiety that can be felt by those experiencing Mental Health issues. Quite simply wanting to end your life, encapsulates just how difficult a place a person must be in, and their state of mind.
The party here was making attempts to ligature themselves and even a simple enjoyment such as listening to music was affected by health and safety issues as they were not allowed leads or cords in their room so safeguard against this risk and even CDs had a risk of being snapped and used to cut themselves. Therefore it leads to a scenario where the person finds themselves in difficult circumstances but of course the team will continue to work to try to help them overcome this situation by way of ongoing support and medication. Therefore hope remains and ultimately the issue of support is a key factor in this area.
Mental Health remains an area filled with uncertainty, misinformation, ignorance and stigma. I have always thought of it as a ‘Cinderella’ area as it does not get the attention deserving to such an important issue. More recently this has started to alter.
In broad terms one in four people are said to suffer from Mental Health difficulties in some form and therefore that is a very far ranging and significant statistic. Recent figures indicate that Dementia is on the rise and with an ageing population again this particular sector of people will increase thus leading to more individuals in the community with Mental Health difficulties and the requirement for bespoke support.
The reality is that Mental Health issues are much more widespread than individuals believe with the one in four figure being quoted regularly in terms of people suffering from Mental Health issues at some time. Other recent figures indicate that 50,408 people (source: The Mental Health Network NHS Confederation) are detained under the Mental Health Act and 1.6 Million people were in contact with specialist Mental Health services. Recent figures also indicate that the total number of outpatients in the community where contacts and visits were completed was over 21.7 Million in the year 2013/2014. This shows the level of interaction with the Mental Health services that continues. Likewise the newer innovation of Community Treatment Orders which came into place a few years ago has been used regularly with Orders totalling in the region of 4600.
The extent and range of the above figures shows how significant Mental Health issues are within the mainstream community. Support and resources should obviously be at a proportionate and appropriate level.
The struggle with Mental Health difficulties is a difficult one and ultimately some lose the battle in the most significant way namely by the loss of life.
Recent figures indicate that there were 6708 suicides in the UK and Ireland (Source: suicide statistics report 2015 – Samaritans). The figure indeed is significant and does not take into account those who attempt to take their lives and are unsuccessful.
In relation to those suffering from Mental Health issues early diagnosis would obviously be beneficial and the way to overcome the problems are multi-layered. It is a myth to say that having Mental Health issues has to be a lifelong condition and is untreatable in all cases. There are many other myths which permeate through including the idea that Mental Health problems are ‘uncommon’, that they are purely biological or genetic in nature; and even that those with Mental Health problems should be able to handle and resolve matters themselves as otherwise they are weak! The latter is clearly both unfair and inaccurate.
The treatment can include medication, input from support team members including approved Mental Health Act professionals, Social Workers, CPNs, Assertive Outreach members, GPs and community based recreational groups. It can be seen that the support is potentially very extensive and can act as a wrap around to buffer, protect and help those overcome the Mental Health problems that they are encountering.
Resources of course are always an issue in the NHS and statutory sector but hopefully this does not act as a blockage for those to get the support that they truly need.
Awareness is ultimately the key and there has been a lot more proactive information available including the Time to Change campaign which has done some fantastic work in raising the profile and helping to break stigma (www.time-to-change.org.uk).
Other National charities such as MIND, Rethink etc. continue to do some brilliant work in terms of awareness and fundraising efforts as well.
As a firm we host an annual fundraising event in Leicester and this year’s event was well attended with a presence from the Leicester branch of Time to Change. The event acted as a great forum for discussion, sharing information and making people aware of the importance of Mental Health and perhaps some of the support mechanisms that are out there.
The area of Mental Health ultimately remains challenging and difficult and the needs of those suffering these difficulties cannot be emphasised strongly enough. Together we can break down the issue of stigma and do our bit to provide support as ultimately support is a holistic responsible of all, not just the statutory sector or specialist Mental Health charities.
Some of the things that would be valuable include the following:-
- Spending some time in trying to support a National Mental Health charity by becoming a member, supporting fundraising activities etc. e.g. MIND (www.mind.org.uk), Rethink (www.rethink.org), Alzheimer’s Society (www.alzheimers.org), The Samaritans (www.samaritans.org). There are of course many other fantastic Mental Health charities.
- Some amazing work is done by local Mental Health support groups and again the opportunity to get involved here remains open to all by volunteering, fundraising and raising awareness of the work that they do locally.
- The Time to Change campaign has done some amazing work and supporting their efforts on social media and events which take place nationally would be invaluable (www.time-to-change.org.uk).
- Look at supporting somebody with Mental Health difficulties that you may know personally or through local voluntary services as opportunities no doubt will be available. Helping somebody at this time of need can make an amazing difference.
The above are suggestions but clearly there are other ways that help can be provided in this area. There is no doubt that Mental Health issues are going to remain a significant factor going forward within our community nationally and I would reiterate that awareness and support will remain key issues. Lets see if we can all continue to breakdown the barriers and stigma which exist in the area of Mental Health.
Specialist Mental Health Law Solicitor
Thaliwal & Co Solicitors