Wednesday, 27 July 2011
Radar recently ran a pilot Young Ambassador Leadership event in Leeds for young people with mental health issues, sponsored by Comic Relief. Two of our leaders tell us how it helped them find their vocation…
“My bipolar diagnosis inspired me to advocate for those with mental illness so I became a regional volunteer (VIR) with Young Minds who told me about the residential Young Ambassador programme. I want to work in mental health but was told “you could never do that” and I wasn’t acceptable for courses because of the risk. This lowered my expectations so before the programme I felt completely hopeless…
At Radar I saw Rachel Perkins stating the NHS had policies against stigma and she had a successful psychiatric career despite her illness! This cemented my aspiration to study postgraduate Medicine and become a Psychiatrist. Radar helped me work towards this by providing one-on-one coaching sessions. I met other ambitious ambassadors and I’ve realised despite obstacles I really CAN achieve my potential and people truly DO value me so I should too!"
"I heard about the Radar Leadership Programme for young people with mental health issues through my LGB youth worker. Signed off with stress, I applied for a job but my doctor was against this. I knew this programme would rebuild my confidence.
On arrival, I felt apprehensive yet excited. But I was welcomed and made to feel at ease. Most speakers had mental health issues. They showed us how we too could overcome barriers to success, despite our illness. I put my views across at the interactive workshops. My personal coach helped me set leadership goals through an action plan and supported me post-event through telephone coaching.
The best thing about the programme was meeting people with similar experiences. They knew exactly what I was going through. It's so freeing to be open about mental health without being dismissed or judged. The programme made me feel I CAN have a successful career whilst managing mental health issues. After the Radar training, I attended the interview for a youth work apprenticeship and got the job. I now get support from Mind and know I can do well despite the knockbacks I have had."
The next Young Ambassador Leadership event for young people aged 16-25 with mental health issues is on 15 September, in Leeds. To attend, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, 5 July 2011
The conventional wisdom is that we are gradually moving towards a world where as disabled people we have more choice and control and are less likely to be forcibly put in institutions. But is it true?
When Steven Neary went into a care home for respite for a few days – Steven has autism and a learning disability and lives with his father – he was kept in for a whole year. The case went to the Court of Protection which found that the London Borough of Hillingdon had breached Steven’s human rights. As the EHRC put it ‘Steven, like everyone else, has a right to personal freedom and a family life and the state should not take away this without good reason’. Quite. See http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/news/2011/june/comment-on-the-judgment-in-the-case-of-steven-neary/
Steven and his family may have won that battle (congratulations) – but there are so many people who are living in institutions or facing compulsion outside them: we need to win a wider war.
Take Community Treatment Orders (CTOs). They allow people with mental health problems who are still thought to need treatment (on the grounds of their own health and safety or for the protection of others) to stay out of hospital – but only as long as they comply with treatment. If they don’t, they can be recalled. In 2008, when CTOs were introduced, all the talk was of reducing the numbers compulsorily detained in hospital – people would be able to leave hospital just as long as they carried on taking the meds and would be freer, so the theory went. Government thought about 400-600 people would be subject to CTOs each year. The reality has been very different. CTOs are running at over 4,000 a year (10 times the level predicted) and compulsory detentions in hospital have gone up as well. So whereas in 2006-7 42,855 people were subject to compulsion, by 2009-10 there were almost 50,000 – more people detained in hospital plus new people having compulsory treatment in the community.
The light blue figure of 4,017 represents CTOs in 2009-10.
Is this a symptom of cautious practice, a way of managing the anxieties of professionals? Whatever the cause, this jeopardises human rights and risks entrenching inequalities. 18% of people receiving CTOs so far have been black/black British. And of course it is not just people who lack mental capacity who are treated without their consent – many do have capacity. This is not a great chapter in the move to progressive mental health policy and practice.
There are also institutions that people seem to enter quite voluntarily but where real choice is in doubt: catering for people with a range of experiences of disability – older people with physical impairments or dementia, younger people with learning disabilities or complex impairments. Where they are really chosen – for instance, for company by an older person who otherwise would live alone – all to the good. But where they are used only because of economies of scale, where the alternative is just 15 minutes a day of home based care, where dying at home is not made possible – then we need to challenge the fact that so many people are channelled towards institutions. A choice is not a choice if there is no range of viable options. I’ve seen at first hand how the bias towards care homes can operate – and how strong you have to be to negotiate for high quality home based support.
So let’s pause before we agree that choice and control are growing, that we are freeing ourselves from institutions. For many disabled people that is true – and it is liberating. But for too many others the opposite is the case: co-ercion and institutionalisation prevail. And the problem is growing. The Joint Committee on Human Rights in Parliament, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and the UK Government as it implements the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, need to think hard about co-ercion and implement change. Otherwise we will carry on with warm words on choice and control, whilst for some citizens – especially black disabled citizens, especially people living in poverty – the experience is very different.
We know a lot about models of support that work – through peer support, choice and control. We need to campaign to make them more widely and fairly available. And we need assessment and planning devised jointly, in co-production, with advocacy and individualised support – so disabled people can realise potential, and be supported to be drivers of their own lives.
Liz Sayce – Radar Chief Executive
 In 2006-7 there were 42,855 compulsory detentions. By 2009-10 compulsory detentions had gone up by almost 3,000 to 45,755 AND there were 4,107 CTOs. So for the first time almost 50,000 people were subject to compulsion either in hospital or outside (49,862 to be precise).