January 14
Are we failing those with mental health issues? The debate was led by David Rye and Justin Wilson. David Rye, OBE, was Director of Professional Services at the Royal College of Nursing, Secretary of the RCN Commission and is currently visiting professor at the Southbank and Bucklands University and President of Woking MIND. Justin Wilson is Medical Director of Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and has a background as consultant psychiatrist. The debate was topical with the Prime Ministers speech announcing action to improve support for people struggling with mental illness on Monday but without promising extra funding. Justin took us through a brief historical survey of society's and government's changing views on mental health and the way they have changed for the better. Coming to more recent times he talked about the development of drugs after WW2 and the emphasis on therapies since. He told us how the Trust is changing to reach people before they become seriously ill and the development of work with children in schools and with employers. He took the view that care has improved hugely over time but there is a need to do more. Surrey North West has a higher suicide rate than the average for the country. Of those who commit suicide 27% have had contact with the health service. This needs to improve. David presented a somewhat less positive view emphasising how far we still have to go before mental health provision is on a par with physical health provision. The move from residential care in the 1970s was not properly funded creating smaller institutions without changing the model of delivery. Media still confuses between people with learning disabilities and those with mental health problems. The purchaser/provider split has increased spending on bureaucracy. The county wide trust was created in 2005 and has had a number of reorganisations since. Psychological therapies are still in the developmental stage. There are too few beds - 200 for the whole of Surrey. Locally the Corner House trust was established in 2002 and deals with the whole range of mental conditions with a budget of £230,000 a year. Six safe havens have been created in Surrey including one in Woking. People can go to these instead of ringing for help and they are open 24 hours a day. Self help therapies were emphasised such as mindfulness and well being. Contributions spoke powerfully about their experiences of having mental health problems and the difficulties they faced from both their employers and getting treatment. People working in the field spoke about the problems they had faced and the dedication of the staff. There was an appeal for volunteers to help plug the gaps and a tribute to the important role they have. Contact fundraising@cornerhousewoking.org.uk.