Friends, family, fellow patients
Being away from home and one’s social circle is hard, and much more so at a time when love, affection, familiarity, comfort and connection would really help cope with feeling really crap. Many friends and relatives of patients are tenacious and resilient about keeping in good contact during the person’s hospitalisation and staff make energetic efforts to support these relationships. For other (especially long-term) patients, their social world can shrink so that the ward is their primary community and the people living, working on and visiting the ward are their only friends, neighbours, colleagues and sometimes antagonists.
There’s a fascinating book, Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam, in which he compellingly argues that almost all aspects of our lives (including our safety and longevity) are closely linked to the extent to which we take part in activities with other people. He notes that the trend of people going bowling alone is symptomatic of how socially isolated we’ve become in the West and describes the negative impact this has on experiences as varied as crime and cancer. There’s a paradox on a mental health ward. Patients are in 24/7 very close proximity to other people, yet are cut off from those they particularly want to be with.
The Ideas below are designed to support patients’ relationships with their friends and family and to nurture positive relationships between patients. They include helping patients with the fundamentals of living independently (eg housing and money) and ways in which wards support friends, families and carers themselves.
The 11 Neighbourly Ideas:
56. Mealtimes made special. Food for thought
Companionship is at the heart of making meals more enjoyable.
57. Friends, relatives and carers. Since you been gone
Helping patients stay in good contact and providing information and support to patients’ loved ones.
58. Internet. Inpatients online
The time is now.
59. Social media. Keep clicking
Staying safely in cyber contact with mates and family.
Strut your virtual stuff.
61. Kids visiting. Hugs, Harry Potter and hoodies
A Wii in a lovely family room is the best bet for all ages, all abilities.
62. Help with housing. Homeward bound
Really complicated and crucial, which is why patients and staff need first-rate information and support.
63. Volunteering. Giving, getting, gaining
Volunteering with and by patients. Volunteering with and without a criminal record.
64. Help with money. Poor no more?
Debt is already a major problem for inpatients and benefits cuts are making things much worse.
65. Pointless National Days. Happy Pointless National Day
National Talk Like a Pirate Day is our fave. Donuts a close 2nd. Why not introduce National Talk Like a Pirate Eating a Donut Day?
66. Good news. Media myth-busting
Patients, wards, hospitals and trusts saying it like it is.