Authors: Pat Sutton
Event: 2000 TheMHS Conference
Subject: book of proceedings
Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers
Abstract: Having four wonderful, seemingly healthy, children was the most important and fantastic thing that has happened in my life. When my two sons, then aged 22 and 18, both developed schizophrenia around seven years ago, it was a catastrophic event for my family. The initial shock was extreme and the grief was, and is, immense.
It did not take long for me to realise that all was not well with the provision of mental health services, but also that many people were disadvantaged by the effects of their illness from speaking out about their concerns. It is a major concern that whilst community mental health services remain inadequate, the burden of care of the chronically mentally ill continues to fall onto carers, yet we are often excluded from a formal role in service provision.
This paper describes some of my experiences during the last seven years involved in the mental health sector and explores the issues of early intervention, confidentiality, advocacy and consumer and carer participation in service delivery from a carer’s perspective. I will argue that barriers within and between the major stakeholders in mental health actually prevent the provision of quality care.
Partnerships between families, clients and mental health staff have the potential to produce the best results in the recovery process, as well as improving the social and economic standing of clients. Mechanisms also need to be developed to better address issues of confidentiality in a family-inclusive way, whilst still preserving the autonomy and rights of the client.
I also believe that the differing experiences of my two sons demonstrate the benefits of early intervention, as well as the comprehensive advantages of receiving community mental health services, rather than hospital care. But why isn’t this happening?
Although there is a slow, but positive, shift occurring in the mental health sector towards a recognition of the value of the expertise of consumers and carers within service provision, I believe that there is still much work to be done. Mental health services must focus on good health outcomes, maintenance of the severely ill at an optimal level and an increased quality of life for all, not only for the sake of the clients, but also in order to pervade the environment of the services themselves.