Award families more authority in decision-making for loved ones with mental ill health
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In Oct 2016 I launched this campaign out of sheer desperation, having seemingly nowhere else to turn in sourcing help for my homeless brother. Over the years I have watched my brother’s physical and mental health deteriorate, as various addictions took hold, then when he became homeless in Feb 2016 everything took an even sharper turn for the worse.
No matter who I contacted, how I tried to help him - I was met with confusion, refusal or simply polite apologies that nothing could be done without either my brother being willing to accept help - or for an emergency situation to arise requiring services to step in.
So I started this campaign. I didn’t believe there was really nowhere left to turn. There couldn’t be.
And I was shocked at how quickly you responded. Over 150K of you signed my plea to help remove my brother from the streets and provide him with treatment - and so many of you shared worryingly similar stories of homeless, mentally ill, addicted family members and loved ones slipping through the cracks in often identical ways.
I know many of you are right now in the same position I’ve been in - trying your hardest to source help for your relative but repeatedly coming up against brick walls - physically and mentally exhausted yourself from fighting so hard to keep them safe. Some of you have sadly lost that fight already. I am so sorry to read all of these stories.
This cannot be what we are reduced to waiting for. How can we expect that person who we know is experiencing mental ill health to find clarity over their own situation - when that is in fact the very thing that is holding them back?
Patrick is now lucky enough to have support available to him and a room in assisted accommodation should he choose to make use of these, but what about all of the other brother, dads, sisters and mothers who do not?
I believe the ‘success’ of Patrick’s story (it’s still very early days and we have a very long way to go) is largely down to the awareness this campaign has summoned, alongside the dedication of the amazing charity St Mungo’s and the 'Housing First' initiative. And I am SO grateful to all of you who have helped in some way.
But it really should not have got this far.
I’ve lost count of the number of “if only” moments that have halted our family’s progress in helping him over the years and they all boil down to this:
If only the immediate family was seen as a trusted source of information in helping someone with mental ill health.
If only the mental health services could use our memories, advice and in-depth knowledge of our loved one as a valid part of the process for deciding the best course of treatment.
Because how can someone experiencing mental health issues be expected to USE that fragile mind to decide whether they need help or not?
The mental health laws and lack of funding are failing people like Patrick every day. Something urgently needs to change. There has to be the option for us family, friends and indeed members of the public to say — “this person needs help” and for mental health professionals to step in to take them to a place of safety or work with us to decide on the best course of treatment.
We shouldn’t have to wait until some terrible incident before we can phone 999 to ask for help.
The Mental Health Act needs updating fast — so that it’s easier for family to help someone experiencing a mental health crisis. Currently, under Section 3 of the Mental Health Act**, an application for sectioning would need to be made by an Approved Mental Health Professional or nearest relative within 14 days of seeing the person. The application must then be approved by two doctors who have seen him within five days of each other. I was told by charities and social services that sectioning would be almost impossible for a homeless person in this case — it’s difficult enough to section someone who is present with a permanent address. And Section 4 requires an ‘emergency situation’ to appear — which is sadly what a lot of people are reduced to waiting for.
Family MUST be given increased rights to help their loved ones - we are the ones who have known them all their lives and have seen them and helped them through all manner of situations. Even once a Mental Health Act assessment is achieved and undertaken, how can that 50 minute assessment with strangers be expected to accurately determine the treatment they require ongoing? After the mental health team at Westminster Court couldn't access my brother's GP records in time for his assessment they would not take into account the history I provided them with - they simply believed him when he denied having mental health issues.
This is a public plea for Theresa May to please step in and provide a solution to families struggling to help their mentally ill relatives - and the wider mental health crisis.
'Care in the community' does not work.
Mental health teams, drugs/alcohol services, police, paramedics, charities are all overstretched and they are not able to work together to help individuals in crisis. Vulnerable people are slipping through the net, becoming homeless and dying alone on the streets because of 'red tape', lack of funding and the disjointed nature of services.
Addiction and mental illness go hand in hand, but dual diagnosis is largely misunderstood and both often mistakenly treated as separate issues. Addiction IS a mental illness and is a result of neglecting to take care of the mind.
Those in crisis who ask for help are facing an excruciating wait for treatment. Those who don't believe they have a problem BECAUSE of their mental illness are left with nothing.
Patrick's situation is a case study for this.
I implore Teresa May to please address the severe lack of funding and awareness around dual diagnosis cases. Please help implement new measures to prevent such cases developing so frequently and provide solutions for treating the huge numbers already affected.
Please consider revising the Mental Health Act to allow families to help their loved ones more easily, increase funding for their treatment and aftercare, and involve families more readily in ongoing communications.
Please start treating the CAUSE of homelessness/mental illness/addiction rather than discovering you cannot cope with the effect.
Mental illness is the problem — addiction and homelessness are the symptoms.
If you do still see Patrick sleeping out on the streets - PLEASE don’t tell him you've seen him on the internet/a campaign/blog etc or challenge him in any way. The journey from homelessness to living comfortably is not always an easy one and will take some time for him to adjust.
If you see him - please let me know his whereabouts instead or in an emergency situation call 999. It was a tough decision to make this public, but I believe the alternative was to simply allow him to die alone on the streets. So I suppose not really a tough decision at all.
However - you could tell him you recognise him from his YouTube channel and are a fan of his songs. Right now Patrick's love of music and the ridiculous amount of talent going to waste could be the one thing that inspires him to seek and accept help.
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