Paul Spencer, Policy and Campaigns Manager, Mind
Recovery Space - Mind’s perspective
A key strand of Mind’s work is on people’s experience of mental health crisis. For many years our crisis care campaign has shone a light on the support that those of us with mental health problems receive when we become most unwell.
What support is there for you when you’re experiencing extreme anxiety, depression or a psychotic episode and there’s an immediate risk of self-harm or suicide? What happens if you can’t care for yourself for a period of time?
The answer is consistently complicated and patchy. We know excellent crisis care exists. People have told us how dedicated staff have made a difference to their experience and helped their recovery. But we also know that this is not a universal experience: in 2014 only 14% of people in crisis got all the help and support they needed. Just last year, two out of five people told us that staff did not plan for their ongoing care and support when they were discharged from hospital and one in four people said they did not receive any support at all after they left hospital.
A work in progress
In the last few years there’s been a lot of attention and some substantial progress in the way we approach the care someone receives when in crisis, but things are still a long way from where they need to be. Too often the experience people have is of services that don’t respond to them as a person and consider all aspects of their lives.
My work at Mind focuses on the social aspects of our mental health: how money, family, housing, whether or not we’re able to work, and how well we are supported in life all play a role in how we feel and how able we are to cope with life’s ups and downs.
What’s clear from this work is that often there are extra social barriers people have to overcome when they have a mental health problem. You’re more likely to be disadvantaged meaning you have less money, poorer quality housing and face more discrimination. To manage this we often find that we need support from a range of different places. From state-run support in hospital, GP’s surgeries, support in the community or the welfare system, to essential services like banking and utilities. But too often extra and unnecessary barriers arise at each of these points.
Making recovery the priority
As Money and Mental Health’s Recovery Space report shows, understandably, many people simply disengage when they are in crisis. Sometimes this is because they have to concentrate all their available energy on making sure they cover the basics like eating, drinking and trying to sleep. For others it might be that our experience of crisis limits our capability to manage money. We may experience an altered perception of events, or be more prone to impulses and spending, leading to decisions that we’re unaware at the time may have longer lasting repercussions.
For many of us, on our best day, it would cause our heart to sink if we had to call three of four different services to explain that we needed to update our benefits claim, couldn’t afford to pay bills, or service an overdraft. But imagine being in hospital, not being able to make those calls or relying on someone else to do it for you, and worrying about it on top of being unwell. It’s not a leap to understand how quickly it can get very complicated and very damaging.
Why we back Recovery Space
The Recovery Space report addresses a much needed aspect of people’s experience of crisis. Extending Breathing Space to people in mental health crisis is one solution that could make a huge difference. It allows people to focus on what matters when they experience a crisis: concentrating on managing their health and getting well. There may still be things to deal with afterwards, but they shouldn’t get worse in the meantime.
We really need to get better at understanding all the different things going on in someone’s life to better support their recovery. Unless we support someone with a mental health problem to manage any debt they may have – or for that matter housing problems, addiction, or a whole host of other things – we are ultimately failing people by limiting their chances of recovery and risking future crises by not addressing some of the contributing factors.