By Geoff Brennan, Executive Director, Star Wards
Being detained under the mental health act is devastating. It is devastating for the person and devastating for their families and loved ones. But, as devastating as it is, it can (and should) be the start of healing. as it was for Bright’s founder, Marion Janner.
In recent years, things have been tough. Detentions have risen at the same time as increased concerns about restrictive practices and assaults on staff. Bed and staff numbers have gone down. We are constantly awed and amazed by the staff who support us with their ideas and passion and commitment but many now struggle to give the care they so want to give.
In a cruel twist, staff and patients hear about rising awareness of mental health. Raising awareness can only be a good thing and we welcome it – but ours is a large church and awareness is often restricted to shining a light into a tiny corner. It seldom shines on the people being detained and the wards they are admitted to, and if it does it is usually the harshest of spotlights rather than anything positive.
An exception to this was a tweet from the fabulous actor, David Harewood, who said “As someone who had a breakdown and was sectioned in my 20’s I’m here to tell you that there’s no shame in talking about it if your struggling. I haven’t done too bad since! Go easy on yourself today, and get some help if you can.”
Bright welcomes David’s words, as we welcome the planned review of the Mental Health Act. We will do all we can to make our voice and the voice of our supporters heard in the process. We agree that people devastated by crisis need dignified and compassionate care and legislation does need to support that.
If we are to help future services, however, changes in legislation can’t be the “only show in town”. We need to find a way to deliver a mental health service that not only helps people in crisis, but stops them ending up in crisis. We need to create ward environments that can fulfill the spirit of any new legislation. Changing a law won’t do all that, but it’s a good place to start.