Friday, 25 January 2013

Better Mental Health

I have seen a lot of blogs recently about the stigma of having a mental illness. It's true, there are still an awful lot of people who immediately tense up and look wary as soon as they learn that someone is mentally ill. Why? Is it because they assume that, if someone is mentally ill they must be unpredictable and maybe violent? I have heard people say things like, "you need to watch him, he's a nutter". When asked why, their response was "he's got that bipolar thing". Like it were a disease. Sorry it may have been the wrong thing to do but, I could not help but laugh. Someone had been classed as a nutter by another person who didn't even know what the illness was, only what it was called and they thought he was a nutter.

When I was a child, our parents used to chastise us if we laughed at anyone or called them names. No matter what they had, whether it was mental illness or a physical disability, it didn't matter. We were told it could have been us, could happen to us or we could have a child like that and how would we feel if people were laughing at them or making assumptions about what they may do.

I believe education is the key to changing peoples attitudes but that is not as simple as it sounds, especially if you are trying to educate people about something they cannot see or comprehend. We pick up most of the things we do from the people we are surrounded by as children and children can be very cruel. The problem is, how do you educate them, when their parents already have the same attitude? Children tend to believe that their parents would never hurt them or lie to them (I know this is not always the case) so, when they hear their parents saying that someone is a nutter because they have that bipolar thing, they believe them.

Maybe another name for it would help. Like when "mongle" became downs syndrome. The trouble with the term mental illness is that it covers such a wide range of disorders from, eating disorders, psychosis, bipolar, anxiety, OCD, depression, the list is exhaustive and so are the extremes in the symptoms and behaviour of the sufferers. The word "mental" conjours up all kinds of images of things we should be afraid of. Something has to be done to change this. So maybe getting rid of the phrase mental illness and calling each illness or disorder by it's proper name would help. It won't solve the stigma problem overnight but, maybe as people learn that someone is bipolar or that they suffer from depression or whatever, they will see that they are not someone you need to be afraid of, they will learn that what they previously thought, was in fact far from the truth. I believe that learning the truth about mental health problems will make a big difference. Statistically, drug and alcohol abusers are more likely to commit serious offences than people with mental health problems. Knowing the truth and learning from it will also make a difference, but sadly I believe that there will always be people who, when confronted with something they don't understand will stick a label on it and make up what they don't know and stigmatise.

As well as removing the stigma we need to improve the mental health laws. They have been left wide open to interpretation. They are fine for people who suffer mild to moderate mental health problems but, when they suffer a problem that will lead them to lose capacity from time to time, sadly the law lets them down. My aim is to change that too. Below you will see a draft copy of my petition. Take action and sign the petition using this link.

Draft copy of the petition

Calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to take action to make changes to mental health law that will ensure the safety of mental health patients and give greater rights to the nearest relative of such patients.

Changes I would like to see are as follows:-

All meetings etc. that discuss the patients current or future care should be recorded onto a tape or hard disc instead of taken down in shorthand then typed as they are at present.        
The way meetings are recorded at the moment allow omissions from or alterations to what was   actually said by the individuals present at such discussions. One of the recordings should then be kept in a sealed envelope so that it can be referred to should any disputes arise.    
Past wishes should be taken into account when making decisions. 
 Although this is at present law it is of no use as it stands. Past wishes can be classed as historic and can therefore be ignored.
Advocates should have some background in dealing with patients with mental health problems and have the power to ask the patient direct questions.
At the moment no training is required when it comes to dealing with people who have mental health problems. The law states that patients should be encouraged to make their own decisions. How can a patient make a decision about their future when no one can ask them what they want and outline the options open to them?
Patients should be allowed in to the meetings discussing their future and not brought in at the end when their future has been decided.
At the moment their options are being discussed without them being present. They are brought in at the end and told what they have been decided is the best thing for them. This has to change. Telling someone what you think is best for them does not encourage them to make their own decisions, that is leading by suggestion.
It should be law that doctors should have to explain how they arrived at their decisions about medication and future care etc. should a problem arise.
At the moment a doctor can ignore the advice of the nearest relative and do what they want. When asked why, they can simply reply that in his or her clinical opinion it was the best thing to do.
When medication is prescribed to patients their relatives should be asked if the patient has been on that particular medication before.
At the moment a doctor can prescribe any medication he likes despite being told about adverse reactions and side effects shown when they had been prescribed to the patient in the past.
Over medication should not be tolerated.
There should be a maximum dose of sedatives that can be prescribed to any patient. That dose should include other medications which contain a sedative.
No one can think straight or make decisions for themselves when they are too sedated.
It should be made law that, any allegations of a crime against a patient must be reported to the police.
As soon as you are aware that a crime may have been committed, it should be compulsory to report it. This should apply to everyone involved with the patient. Doctors, social workers, advocates etc.
If any crime is alleged to have taken place, the person accused of that crime should have the right to initiate an investigation to clear their name.
Where a person can prove that an allegation of wrong doing has been made against them and everyone else has failed to report it, the person accused should be allowed to.

Where an attorney is involved

The good practice guide for attorneys should be made law.
This should be written in plain English that cannot be left open to  interpretation. Misinterpretation can lead to greater vulnerability for the patient.
There should only be one organisation to deal with a complaint that has gone above the local level.
Where there is a power of attorney with both financial and welfare powers you have two separate bodies to deal with. The “Office of the Public Guardian”  and  “Mental Welfare Commission.” Each one only sees part of a bigger picture. This can also lead to greater vulnerability for the patient.
Attorneys must be able to show that they know everything about a patient and have been in regular contact with them, before they can be allowed to make decisions regarding medications, treatments etc.
Not doing this can lead to life threatening situations.
Problems do arise and mistakes are made. These simple changes would ensure that they are brought to light quickly. That way the problem can be rectified and the safety of the patient assured.
Thanks for reading and I hope you will share my message. The more support we get the more likely they are to listen. Remember to join the cause if you would like to be part of making this happen.
Stop Over Medicating Mental Health Patients.  Join the cause.