Mental Health Through the Lens of Poverty
Over the last year we’ve heard about struggles to find support for mental health. People feel let down, forgotten, abandoned. The Mental Health Working Group have been listening to people and here are some of the issues we’ve identified over the last few months:
There is not enough help or support for those who are struggling with mental health issues (needs to be quicker/easier to access).
People don’t know where to go for mental health support.
People wait a long time for a date for their next mental health appointment and there’s nothing in between appointments (not uncommon for people to wait over 18 months for an appointment with no support in the waiting time).
Other factors impact mental health, ie. money, stress, housing, etc.
People aren’t accessing services - why?
Here are some of the actions we’re planning to take:
We’ve heard many stories about struggles to accessing mental health support 100+ questionnaires (designed by the Commissioners) have been distributed across the city, gathering people’s experiences reg. access to mental health support, and identifying ideas for positive change.
We are also running focus groups with people to find out the barriers to support and their ideas for positive change.
The findings will be presented by the Commissioners to the Health & Social Care Partnership Mental Health Strategic Planning Group, a cross-party group of Dundee councillors and other relevant bodies later this year.
Mental Health Group’s Update & Priorities by: Tony
I’ve been asked to give you all an overview of the workings of the Mental Health working group, and using the working title of Mental Health Through the Lens of Poverty, we have produced a questionnaire that focuses upon access to M/H services and the support it currently provides. These questionnaires have been distributed amongst various groups within Dundee such as: Women’s Aid, Sources of Support, Dundee Money Action, Hot Chocolate Trust, and many of the Dundee Drop Ins.
Interviews will take place throughout June and July, analysed in August and report of the findings will be made available to use in September. We will then present the findings and recommendations to the Health and Social Care Partnership Mental Health Strategy group the following month.
All of us have had the privilege of hearing anecdotal evidence from fellow commissioners that touched upon the personal battles whilst dealing with their illnesses. So before I go through what we might find in the final report, we’d like to thank those commissioners for their courage and helping to expand our knowledge of the subject. We in the Mental Health group were struck by the commonalities experienced by all.
Now, without pre-judging the data we extract from the analysis, we fully expect to discover amongst the findings many of the same patterns and trends heard in the testimonies heard previously. Subjects such as:
Lack of support and the glacial pace of treatment once a condition has been diagnosed.
Very often no one knows where these limited services can be accessed.
Financial poverty, which can make an already traumatic situation feel much worse
Other factors may include – a complete sense of abandonment when a patients is left to deal with this or her illness between appointments
And finally, we hope to find out why people in sometimes desperate need of clinical care and attention give up seeking treatment.
You won’t be surprised to learn that alongside this list of obstacles, our group was quick in coming up with solutions. Some of these we heard when people were telling their personal stories, some obvious but some quite innovative, these include:
Longer term support that is easier and quicker to access
A 24 hour safe place plus a drop-in centre where there is always someone who will listen, a city the size of Dundee is in desperate need of such a place and this is especially important is there are weeks and months between appointments.
A clearer pathway to support
Patients leaving their G.P. or hospital with a date for their next appointment
Using a multi-agency approach to address the barriers in accessing services
Calling attention to poor practice and helping find solutions to move towards better practice
, though by no means all, Mental Health professionals.
The main ethos is quite simply that everyone should be treated with the compassion and dignity that is deserving of their illness.
We are looking into the 'Card Before You Leave Scheme' and exploring how this could work in Dundee. As well as this scheme, we will look into the “When I’m well, when I’m not well” sheet, and share this to a wider audience within workplaces, universities and community hubs. This will, we hope, will reduce the stigma attached to Mental Health.
Finally, as we in Dundee have a cross-party approach to Mental Health, It may be appropriate to present some of the findings of our report to a cross-party group in the hope that they will take forward some of the recommended actions.
We have been conducting interviews across the city, finding out more about peoples experiences accessing mental health support.
Bob (not his real name) struggles on a low income, often unable to pay for electricity, food, buses. When asked if this impacts his mental health:
“Big time, has a major impact. I’m a worrier, I can make a small problem really big. It affects my asleep, I lie in bed and it goes round and round. It really gets me down.”
Other interviewees views on mental health support:
“All they do is give me drugs and they’re not working. You get a less than 10 minute appointment. They don’t want to deal with all your problems so they just throw drugs at you, and they’re constantly changing them. I can’t do it anymore because I don’t know how they’ll affect me – so I just don’t take them anymore cos I need to be consistent for my kids.”
“ I’d like to see more support in schools for kids dealing with mental health struggles and parents problems.”
“I’m very good at budgeting but this really affects my mental health with worry that I’ll forget something.”
When asked if they use any coping mechanisms to improve mental health:
Mindfulness in a very small group
I am learning meditation techniques and going to a well-being class
Helping the community with litter picking
Gym and sometimes football.
Knitting but that can give me a headache. Going out to see friends.
We’re grateful to everyone who has filled in a questionnaire and taken part in a focus group, their voice matters.