A Road to Nowhere (Part II).

Some time ago now I wrote a post called "A Road to Nowhere", in which I stated that although "recovery" from mental illness, particularly from psychotic disorders, is, of course, desirable, there were, to my mind, still significant issues to be addressed. Recovery is great, I suggested, but recovery to what end? Do we recover, as I seem to have done, only to be left poor, economically unproductive, and with little to actually do?
Perhaps I should begin by explaining what is meant by "recovery". In the mental health field, "recovery" seems to have become the new buzz word, and, as far as I understand it, the concept of recovery in mental health encapsulates three major tenets: 1.) the provision of hope that a person can get better, rather than the suggestion that, particularly in terms of more severe diagnoses, this can mean the end of a person's useful life. 2.) the promotion of the idea of "living with" an illness, rather than being wholly "cured". As some illnesses are chronic, that is to say treatable but not curable, a person may need to learn to "live with" some symptoms, and try to progress despite them. 3.) the provision of some form of meaningful activity. This could be work, although it need not be, and should give someone a sense of meaning and purpose in their life.
This all sounds splendid, and indeed, the introduction of the concept of recovery into mental health practice has probably resulted in some significant improvements. However, in terms of my own experience, I feel that there is some distance between the concept and the reality.
I have now been discharged from secondary mental health services after being under their care for around sixteen years. After so long, the return to, for want of a better phrase, "normal" life, can be quite jarring. One would think that there would be at least some support for people to help with this period of transition, but in my own experience, I have found that there seems to be precisely none. All the help I have enlisted since being discharged I have had to find myself. My visits to the job centre and Remploy in the hope of finding work were made entirely on my own initiative. Indeed, my first venture into voluntary work (which resulted in the creation of this blog) was again done under my own steam. My six months support from Remploy, though, is now at an end, and having had little success in finding paid work, I find myself once again searching for appropriate avenues of opportunity. Fortunately for me, the charity Brighter Futures does provide openings for people with experience of mental ill health, and I plan to make further enquiries to that end.
So, while I'm not saying that I need to have my hand held through all this, I just feel that it would be nice, and perhaps appropriate, that I have at least some form of support whilst negotiating my way in the wider world.
Further to this, there is always the possibility that I could relapse into ill health, but having been discharged, and with the recent closure of my local mental health resource unit and also the absence of staff from the Pathways Group which I attend, the support which was in place whilst I was under the care of secondary mental health services seems to have all but disappeared. I know that I am doing well at present, but this does not mean that this will always be so, and after reading the other day about relapse prevention plans and other support mechanisms which should be in place should my health deteriorate, I began to wonder just what support I did actually have. At a meeting at which the closure of my local mental health resource unit was discussed, I was told that a phone call to that unit or to our local psychiatric hospital, The Harplands, would be my only course of action should I find myself becoming unwell. I don't mind this so much, but again, it would have been nice to be able to deal with people who I have come to know and trust, rather than people who I perhaps don't know and who don't know me or my problems so well.
So, I would just reiterate the question I previously asked - recovery to what end? With the withdrawal of virtually any support from mental health services since my discharge, I am left alone to cope with many changes. This can be stressful, and stress can in its turn cause distress, and I would just say that it is difficult to remain positive and hopeful when all the efforts you make seem to come to nothing. Are we, for instance, going only to find ourselves in a situation of boredom and torpor which, far from aiding recovery, might exacerbate the chances of us becoming unwell once again? At the moment mental health services seem to deal with illness alone, but what about the aftermath of illness? What about the social and economic position we might find ourselves in after many years of being unwell?
As I've said, I don't want, nor do I expect, to have my hand held, but the provision of hope, the notion of "living with" one's illness, and the provision of meaningful activity are all, I believe, rendered problematic by simply being left alone to cope. I would not want to return to the care of mental health services, for at the moment I don't think I need that sort of intervention, but some constructive, practical support in actually achieving the aims of recovery mightn't go amiss. Otherwise, the road to recovery might just become another road to nowhere.                

Comments

klahanie said…
Dear David,

Ah yes, that buzz word, "recovery". The living with rather than suffering from our illness. Now that does seem all well and good.

Of course, without the positive resources in place and the possibility of succumbing to a dwelling of negative thoughts, when one should keep busy, does not bode well for a better future.

Yes, there was a time when the help was readily available and you didn't have to do such searching.

At least you are trying to utilise what's left of the dwindling mental health resources. This evil government doesn't seem to realise, or for that matter, care about the fact that all of this crap can compound the concerns of those who are not totally well and could relapse. If they looked at it from a financial angle, they might see that this is not cost effective to have folks potentially relapsing and needed to go into care.

I know you are doing the best you can and feel you are fairly okay. Through these ridiculous times, you have my support. And at the next election, we know what to do.

Call me whenever you need to chat, my friend. I'm here for you. Unlike the coalition dickheads.

Gary
bazza said…
Hi David
I am temping for a few weeks in the admin area of a local Mental Health clinic. It has been eye-opening and very interesting. The main thing that struck me was the effort that the staff put in beyond what was required of them; I was pleased and moved to discover their level of dedication.
I was chatting with the chief psychiatrist and he said half-jokingly that, as a doctor, he was proud to be working on the body's most important organ.
"Yes" I replied " but look what's telling you that." :)
Click here for Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’
David said…
Dear Gary,
Thank you for understanding and your continued support. The cut-backs in our local mental health servcies, I feel, do not, as you say, bode well for the well-being of those, like us, with experience of mental ill health. I realise this is not the fault of mental health staff, but, as my friend from the Pathways Group put it, it is us who are being asked to "take up the slack" in the absence of proper professional help. In terms of our little group, the fact that it is now completely user-led has been heralded as the next stage in our "recovery". But, I think there is a point to be made, namely that our group consists of those with the most severe of mental health diagnoses, and to simply withdraw all staff from it seems a bit harsh. Staff would not have been absent were it not for all the changes happening, and for this to be dressed up as something positive is, to my mind, a little disingenuous. We were told that staff may return at some point, but I don't think this will happen. So, as I say in my post, this may seem like "revovery", but recovery to what end? Are we all supposed to be satisfied with one, simply social, gathering a week? What about the rest of our time? What about the situation we may find ourselves in after many years of illness? None of this seems to have been adressed, and I just find it all a bit frustrating.
Anyway, Gare, thanks once again, and I'll be sure to take you up on your offer and call soon.
Very Best Wishes,
David.
David said…
Hi bazza,
Glad to see that you've now experienced some of what it is like on the "front line", and I share your admiration for mental health staff. The point I was trying to make in my post, though, was that here in Stoke there have been many cuts to our local services, and, as I said to Gary above, this has meant that in some areas professional help has been withdrawn, as in the case of The Pathways Group, which I attend. As I say in my post, while I do not want to have my hand held, and want to remain as independent as I can be, I have found that there is little help in place for those who want to move on with their lives after being ill for many years. Even when people come out of prison they get a probation officer! Not that I would eqaute mental ill health with being in prison, but when one is a bit bettter, I feel there is a period of transition to be gone through, when one adjusts to "normal" life, and for this there seems to be little help in place. Fortunately foe me, there are other charitable organisations in Stoke which can provide support. If it weren't for them, I think it would be very hard to stay hopeful for the future.
Thanks for your comment, though, and as I say, I'm happy you've found your time at the mental health clinic "eye-opening and interesting".
Very Best Wishes,
David.
Dixie said…
Hi David.

Sorry I'm late visiting. Excellent post with provocative questions.

No answers from me, but I can feel the disappointment. The remorse you express for others who will not receive the richness of recovery that you've had. I can only imagine it's like having blinders placed over the eyes, then sent out into the cold.

Thank you. Read this twice, went and had a good cry then returned to comment. I empathise. Gave me chills.

Dixie

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