Author: Mark Russell
In an atmosphere where the mistakes of the banking sector are being borne by the most vulnerable in our society, life has become fragile for so many over the last seven years or so. This is coupled with the demise of traditional industry based near most working class neighbourhoods. Those same neighbourhoods are no longer populated by the generation which grew up in them and social isolation and insecurity about life in general means that most of these areas have become fractured and fractious in nature.
So, it’s no surprise that mental health related illnesses reported to doctor’s surgeries have increased by 38% between 2010 and 2013. If a person feels so socially isolated and their expectations in life are already low, to have a form such as an ESA50 (the application form for Employment and Support allowance) dropped through your door could easily be perceived as a terrifying prospect, especially when that terror is combined with already extremely difficult social and economic circumstances.
When Hope’s co-founder, Sheryl, was detained under section at a Leeds mental health unit it’s hardly surprising that many of the service users came from such areas and were the victims of such circumstances. This is because the mental health care system in the UK, especially the NHS, is woefully underfunded meaning that the system is overloaded, yet acute beds continue to be cut piecemeal leaving no room for NHS healthcare staff to ask such fundamental questions as “What brought you to the point of crisis?”. This is because the system is almost exclusively crisis focused, meaning that people are already beyond a practical solution to their original circumstances, further exacerbated by detention under the mental health act 2007. The problems will still be there upon the person’s discharge from the unit, making re-admission likely.
This is why we came up with the idea of Hope – Rise & Shine. We wanted to put a decent and empathetic prevention service into communities that have need of such facilities. The aim of Hope is to have people from that community running a service which signposts those in need to services and organisations that can help with a problem before it becomes a crisis. Because it’s people that may be in the queue at your local post office or corner shop, it makes it easier for those in need to trust and relax, therefore the help can be found more quickly, and with care and fellow feeling. It would also help to engender once again, something that’s been missing from many an estate over the last 3 decades or so – and that’s a sense of togetherness. It also means that people with very little money do not have to trek half way across town at expense to get the help that they need.
So, to take some of the weight of mental health care and related services could save both the NHS and local authorities a lot of money and time and effort on “locking the stable door after the horse has bolted”.
It would be a relatively cheap method of crisis prevention too – all you’d need are a couple of volunteers, a reception room and 2 consultation rooms. Along with a couple of laptops and Wi-Fi these are the simple, yet effective tools for the job – a far more economically sound prospect than the flawed system in place at present.
Leeds Mind are so impressed with the idea that they are offering us a virtual chat space on their upcoming online peer support service. This means that right at this moment, we can help people without being area-specific.
We are still trying to obtain funding to open an actual Hope space, but it is proving difficult currently, as we have the classic catch 22 of a lack of evidenced footfall, which we can’t get without a Hope space. This is why the virtual chatroom with Leeds Mind will be such a boon.
I emailed Luciana Berger, the newly appointed shadow Minister for Mental Health, and her reply was particularly encouraging, as she too recognised the dearth in prevention services. She is planning a series of round-table talks with those in the know regarding issues around mental health, and Hope will be invited to contribute.
We hope that the ideas which spring from Hope resonate with you, the reader, and we welcome feedback, suggestions and ideas, as it is a concept for all, not just some.
Visit the Hope - Rise & Shine facebook page here.
The publisher is the Centre for Welfare Reform.
Hope - Rise & Shine © Mark Russell 2016.
All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.