Mental Health in the NHS: Changes and experiences
13 – 19 May 2019 is Mental Health Awareness week, hosted annually by the Mental Health Foundation. To coincide with this, we delve into our Digital Archive to share stories from people who have experienced mental health treatment or provided it in the NHS—as a patient, staff or both.
These stories highlight how the treatment and experience of patients has changed over the lifetime of the NHS, reflecting changes in social attitudes to and treatment of mental illness. One in four of us will experience mental illness in our lifetime yet it is stigmatised in many pockets of society.
Belinda Jackson reflects on her experience of working in a medical ward attached to a psychiatric unit at Birch Hill, a former workhouse. The patients “weren’t really psychiatric”, she says, “they were just institutionalised”. Born in 1961, Belinda worked in midwifery most of her career but during her training spent time at Birch Hill in 1980.
It was a women’s ward.... They’d been put in for the most bizarre reasons. ‘She’d been put in because she talked to too many boys’ or ‘put in because she was a simple soul’.... I can remember one woman was 92 and she’d lived in that building since the age of seven.
Listen to Belinda speak about the reasons some individuals were institutionalised.
Listen to Joan talk about her experience with Freudian psychoanalysis.
Listen to Jeanette talk about her mother's illness and the effects of ECT.
Listen to John reflect on broadening treatment options in the 1970s.
Click here to discover John's interview in full.
Listen to Joanne talk about the crisis in ‘wraparound’ services.
Listen to Lauren Massey talk about her diagnosis of bipolar and how mental health services are the “Cinderella services” of the NHS.
Many doctors are aware of the limitations in NHS mental health provision. Sohail Munshi was born in Bolton to Indian parents who migrated to the UK in the mid-1960s. He set up his first GP practice in Worsley and is now chief medical officer of the Manchster local care organisation that connects GP surgeries to hospitals, the local council and the Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust. In spite of such efforts, he says, mental health treatment is still “woefully lacking in most parts of the country” .
Most GPs are frustrated that they are doing the best with counselling and managing and prescribing, and directing patients, but that some of the right interventions—like psychological therapy, being an obvious example—take months, and that’s a long time in a patient’s life when they really need something quicker.
Listen to Sohail speak about the frustrations GPs face.
Professionals working in mental health have themselves often experienced mental health problems. Most said it proved a valuable experience as it helped them to discover pitfalls in the health service and to understand and reflect on the impact of their own actions.
Listen to Lawrence reflect on his role in closing down a mental health institution.
Stephanie Davis LeBrun, born in Sheffield in 1988, is now a trainee clinical psychologist. In her interview she describes how she once faced mental health challenges of her own. She used Cognitive and Behavioural Therapy [CBT] through Improving Access to Psychological Therapies [IAPT] services, which she thinks shapes how she now works.
"I actually suffered from really bad anxiety. Something that I think, looking back, I’ve experienced ever since going to university, when I was 18. I think I was just in denial for a long time, which is so silly considering what I work in.... I think it’s a really useful experience to have because I can take [from] my own experiences.”
Listen to Stephanie talk about her own experiences of mental health difficulties.
Listen to Sarah Wollaston discuss how her experiences of post-natal depression have made her a better clinician.
Click here to listen to Sarah's interview in full.
Listen to Peter Davies reflect on what he has learned from working in mental health.
More information on mental health and support services:
Rethink Mental Illness: www.rethink.org/
Mental Health Foundation: www.mentalhealth.org.uk/
Mind: The Mental Health Charity: www.mind.org.uk/