I am writing in the hope you can prove me wrong regarding mental health crisis services in Essex. I was inspired to write this after reading the joint report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and for me, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back and inspired me to… go on a rant?
In a nutshell, the report highlights an issue that I have been trying to address for nearing a decade, in that our police officers are not being supported by the wider system to manage people in a mental health crisis and when people are struggling with their mental health there is nowhere to go. Ten years ago, I was a frightened, scared and incredibly vulnerable fifteen-year-old. I had a mental breakdown and to cut to the chase there was no crisis provision available for someone like me and the only people that could help were the police.
What this meant was that crisis for me was a horrific and traumatic experience, whilst the individual police officers who dealt with me were fantastic, the mental health system as a whole let me down considerably. The last time I was admitted to mental health services in crisis the experience was so dreadful I made a promise to myself that I would sooner die than go through the crisis care pathway in Essex again. True to my word it took a failed suicide attempt before I started to turn my life around.
My last admission was several years ago however, if I became unwell again today and relapsed, I am not convinced that crisis services have changed that much at all. It is a really sad reflection for me but I am being honest, I am not convinced that after a decade of first making contact with the crisis pathway in Essex anything has changed.
I do sometimes really wish my situation was isolated, and I really wish that I was a grumpy patient with an axe to grind but I fear I am not. As a local councillor, I hear stories regularly about how the mental health system is failing people in crisis and these stories are often backed up by a whole plethora of reports, reviews and strategy that has found that more needs to be done.
So what does more look like? Well, we have more “clear visions”, we have more “strong principles”, we have more “drives to build sustainability” backed up by more “strong implementation plans” but from my perspective what we don’t have is more action. We haven’t had real and tangible action on mental health in Essex, from my perspective the problems that people highlighted in the 2011 mental health strategy have only got worse.
This post is not composed to finger point at individuals, there are some incredibly passionate individuals in Essex who are doing some fantastic work on mental health, they are an inspiration to us all. The problem in Essex lies in the system, the system is failing mental health patients. Every time someone raises an issue, every time someone brings forward a suggestion for a service or change, it gets passed from pillar to post until eventually someone gets the answer that there is not enough funding or the latest report/strategy will take care of their issue.
Recovery colleges , advanced statements, wellness recovery action plans, crisis cafes/safe havens and peer support are programmes that have been talked about for years but have not seen any systemic implementation. Every single one of these programmes are evidenced based, save the taxpayer money and improve patient outcomes yet the system doesn’t appear to have either the will or the resources to implement them.
Not only does the system as it stands mean that great ideas seldom get implemented but there is a gaping big hole in service provision for people who do not meet the threshold for a secondary mental health service but still have a mental health need. I know this because I have been in this category myself, I get offered anti-depressants and/or IAPT, neither of which are appropriate for my clinical presentation and have the potential to make my symptoms worse. At the time of writing there is literally nothing out there for people in that situation which is putting even more demand on crisis services.
So, my challenge to people reading this is to prove me wrong, prove that this time I am wrong and I am indeed just a grumpy patient with an axe to grind and crisis services will change. You can prove that I am wrong with action, show me that you are going to deliver on at least one of the following:
- An implementation of a crisis café and or safe haven scheme
- Wellness Recovery Action Plans (WRAPs) available to people with a mental health need in Essex backed up by a properly funded peer support service.
- A recovery college in every CCG area.
I have waited nearly ten years for the above, please don’t make me wait any longer.