"No Health Without Mental Health event made me feel "totally disillusioned and disheartened""

About: Manchester Mental Health And Social Care Trust / Adult mental health

(as other),

Over the years I have gained a great deal of experience working with mental health service users in relation to their involvement and inclusion in developing service improvements.

As recently as Monday 05/10/09 I was involved in the “Time to Change” event at the Arndale Centre in Manchester seeking to promote public awareness of the need to end Discrimination and Stigma that mental health sufferers have to endure. (This was from 08:30 to 17:30 hrs).

With my experience and background in Service User/Carer issues I attended the No Health Without Mental Health in the Northwest event at Old Trafford Wed 7th October 2009.

Some of the main topics of this event were:

• Condition Management Programme - This highlights the needs to help customers understand and manage long term health conditions, improve daily living and help individuals return to work or become engaged in activity either now or in the future.

• The Whole of You - the importance of addressing the spirituality needs of individuals within an acute mental health setting

• Patient Opinion - An online platform for patients to give real-time feedback on their experiences of health services.

• Innovations to support Patient Safety - A review of existing quality systems to further embed the principles of the NPSA Seven Steps to Safety: Mental Health and Learning Disability Trusts (2008) resulted in development of a framework placing more emphasis on Safety, effectiveness, patient experience, leadership and accountability.

• Essence of Care (EoC) Benchmarking in mental health: practices and processes - Being identified as being important in providing transparent outcomes to measure the basics of care across eleven nationally recognised domains, specific to mental health. Many Mental Health Trusts have strived to implement EoC but it has not been delivered successfully elsewhere.

At the event Ruby Wax tried to get everyone involved in a meditation/visualisation exercise and spoke concerning spiritual matters. I was very uncomfortable with this as my parent’s had practiced similar techniques when they were involved in a destructive New Religious Movement, which I feel was partly responsible for my own father’s particular mental health issues. I felt the need to remove myself from the conference suite during the exercise and returned once this was over.

By whatever name they are called, I feel these techniques are part of a theology (religion) known as New Age.There had been no mention of the possibility of such exercises being promoted on the event literature.

I, also, took exception to her describing Depression as a “Disease of the Brain” and felt that her describing us as “a bunch of chemicals” was dehumanising. I spoke publicly at the end of my sense of violation by her. To her credit she did apologise to me and did enquire as to how I was.

I was also very upset at a comedienne in the last sesion who was poking fun at Jesus Christ as myself, and other deeply sincere Christian people, consider this blasphemy. I am able to overlook the use of foul language even though I was offended at how this was allowed in a professional event; however I see no excuse for this. I feel that people from faith groups are often discriminated against and stigmatised by some people’s uncaring and, often, antagonistic attitudes towards deeply held convictions.

It was not so much the fact that these things occurred at the event, what did upset me was that I felt there was a lack of support from the organisers of the event who, when I spoke of my concerns, simply shrugged them off in my opinion, as I was one individual compared to how many? The vast majority in attendance were not Service users or Carers, so I feel that this was very condescending and demeaning to me.

I have been encouraged by all the meetings where Mental Health Trust directors have been speaking of changing perceptions. I have supported the Mental Health Trust’s seeking Foundational Status, however, I feel that the way I was treated today by various people including NHS trust staff and those at reception (who stated, “Well, we can’t please everybody!”) has completely undermined all the fine promises of improvement I was hoping for.

I certainly feel that I have been discriminated against and stigmatised by the very people I believed to be seeking to end this type of thing.

I did share my concerns with a director(who I have a lot of respect for) and who seemed sympathetic.

As a result, I came out of the event feeling ill, and very depressed.

At this moment in time I am totally disillusioned and disheartened. I can see no other way out but to discontinue any future involvement with the Mental Health Sector, and that it may be time for me to move on.

I am not even sure that there is any point in taking this through complaints procedures.

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Response from Patrick Cahoon, Head of Patient Experience, Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust

Dear Miguel,

Thank you for your thoughts on this event, we are pleased to discuss the issues you raise. I believe you have been in contact with the trust and we would like to reiterate the response sent in return from Jackie Daniel, Chief Executive of the Care Trust.

Jackie would like to thank you for taking the time to write to the trust following your attendance at the conference held at Old Trafford on Wednesday 7th October 2009.

Jackie offers her sincere apologies that you felt uncomfortable during one of the guest speaker talks at this conference. She would like to explain that the conference organisers had little control over the exact words or actions that the guest speaker made but assure you that she has no doubt that the speaker in question had no wish to cause you or any other member of the audience any upset. The speaker was expressing her views of her own personal mental health issues and many people in the audience expressed this sharing of such intimate issues to be a positive feature of the conference and one which would help to demystify depression and result in reduced stigma against those who suffer similar challenges. The Trust is fully committed to challenging the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness, and recently signed the ‘Time to Change’ national pledge aimed at putting an end to stigma and discrimination. Challenging stigma is also a key element of the Trust’s membership drive as part of the current Foundation Trust application. Jackie would like to thank you for recognising that the guest speaker did apologise personally to you and asked about your health.

Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust is fully committed to listening and responding to the views of local service users, carers and members of the public and is very grateful for the opportunity to post a reply in response to this particular comment.

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