Challenges for people with experience of mental health problems revealed by local MWC consultation

Benefit changes, stigma and lack of knowledge amongst health professionals are some of the biggest areas of concern for people with mental health problems, as revealed by a recent Mental Welfare Commission (MWC) event at the Sensory Centre, Camelon. Mental health service users and carers across Forth Valley had the opportunity to raise issues with Margo Fyffe, Forth Valley Co-ordinator for the MWC. The MWC are an independent organisation who try to make sure that people with learning disabilities and people with mental health problems are properly treated.

Margo took the time to explain the work of the Mental Welfare Commission and then discussion turned to the issues that affecting people’s mental health. Many issues were raised but the main concern was the changes to the benefit system and the implications this was going to have on people’s monies.

Stigma was noted, with many feeling stigmatised when they went to their GP. Some people felt their GP did not seem to know enough about mental health and therefore had difficulty deciding what the right treatment should be. They also felt this lack of knowledge caused difficulties with the prescribing of medications. Quite often the person would be referred back to the psychiatrist for anything to do with medication, however some people preferred that course of action.

People experienced stigma when they went along for benefits checks/benefits reviews. Many examples were given when people felt others had been particularly disrespectful towards them. It was questioned how many of the people undertaking these reviews had knowledge of how to deal with people who have mental health problems.

It was felt early diagnosis was important and getting the right treatment at the right time was vital. Treatment should be person—centred. Some people favoured the idea of peer support, especially whilst in hospital.

Community services including Community Psychiatric Nurses (CPNs) and third sector organisations were felt to play a really important part in helping recovery. Much praise was given to the input from the staff in both sectors, with many service users saying they could not have recovered as well without the support they had received. Third sector organisations were judged to be really useful, particularly in providing a sense of purpose for people. They felt the structure and activity offered by participating in various activities was very useful.

Some people were of the opinion that the care and treatment of people with mental health problems has improved over the years. Particular praise was given to nursing staff who they thought did a very good job despite the increase in paperwork which they have had to contend with. It was felt things could be better if nurses were given the right systems to work with.

The MWC asked about access to services in a crisis. There was a unanimous view that it was okay if you were in the services already but extremely difficult if you were not. Some people acknowledged the Intensive Home Treatment Team was beneficial; however it was not available 24 hours per day. Weekends were also mentioned as being difficult. Some people had tried NHS 24 but found they were not particularly sympathetic to people with mental health problems.

Many people who attended the event said it had been really useful and informative and they benefited from hearing the different experiences, positive and negative that people had. It’s great to witness people in Forth Valley embracing opportunities to share their expertise and help shape the future of the services they use. FDAMH’s Service User and Carer Involvement Co-ordinator, Linda McGonigle said “I was extremely impressed, not only with the turnout of people but with the all the discussions that took place. I was impressed by the way people were able to put forward comments which were about bad experience and still maintain an air of positivity.”

Margo appreciated all the input, saying “The issues raised help me think about services in Forth Valley and help the Commission think about how to target visits better. I will discuss the wider issues with my managers for future visits.” Margo asked if she could make a return visit later in the year, which was readily agreed to by everyone who attended. It was suggested perhaps the Commission would like to visit third sector organisations in the area. We look forward to seeing Margo at some point in the very near future. Linda says “We had been involved with reviewing booklets produced by the Commission previously which was a really positive experience and they promise there will be further opportunities to do so. Hopefully now we have established contact with the commission we will have more opportunities to be involved in working with them in the future.”

Do you want to start speaking up about your own experiences of mental health services? Please contact Linda McGonigle at FDAMH to find out more about opportunities to get involved. Remember — you’re the expert!

Tag:User Involvement & Consultation
26/01/2015 at 1:51 pm