Mental Health Hell In Salford: Part Two
For Mental Health Hell In Salford: Part One click here
It must be hard enough coming out in public and admitting you've got mental health issues. It must be even harder to go out into the community campaigning to save mental health services, and having your photo splashed all over the media. These are people whose voices are rarely heard, who rarely even come out of their house.
Yet they feel so passionately about defending their drop-in groups, where they can meet and socialise with like minded sufferers, they are willing to endure whatever needs to be endured.
The campaign against cuts to those drop-in groups first reared its public head, taking the protest to City Mayor Ian Stewart in September (see here). And the small group of service users and carers who could handle the pressure told the Salford Star… "It's very scary, it's not something we find easy and we're all absolutely trembling. We're just a gang of ordinary people, quite nervous, trying to make this man understand that there's a lot at stake…"
Even within this group, some who turned up on the day couldn't cope and had to leave. In the following weeks, service users elected the United Service Users Committee, or USUC, to speak and campaign on their behalf.
Since confronting the Mayor, USUC has jointly held a well attended public meeting (see here), faced up Ed Miliband (see here), and joined marches and rallies in Manchester and London (see here). Now USUC members claim they are being targeted and victimised by Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust for speaking out against potential cuts to services.
In Part One of Mental Health Hell In Salford we reported how Rob, a man with severe mental health problems and suicidal tendencies, was rejected by the Trust and arrested by the police when desperately seeking help. His partner and carer, and Chair of USUC, Vee Ball, believes his treatment was linked to his campaigning activities.
"I have an issue with the care of Rob through the Trust; however they had been giving him care up to this point" she explains "Since we formed USUC he has been getting more and more cold shouldered. His CPN [Community Psychiatric Nurse] who he trusted, has been taken off him, and there was a catalogue of events that ended with his distress and arrest.
"We do believe that it is a direct result of his involvement with USUC – they've even made reference to it" she adds "Even though he has a rare disorder which isn't going away, they've noted that he's been in this campaign and out and about and, `therefore you're okay', which is appalling."
Following the incident when the police were called, Rob was banned from attending drop-ins for a month. And the Trust is also citing the incident as one of the reasons (along with another incident at Ramsgate House) why all drop-ins have been temporarily closed down for a `security review', with no date, as yet, when they will re-open.
However, there was no apparent breech of security at Cromwell House, as Rob never got through the buzzer entry door when he turned up asking for help. Furthermore, the incident didn't happen during any drop-in session. Yet it's only the drop-in sessions that have been closed. The building remains open for staff working there and service users attending meetings. Something doesn't appear right. And the affects have already begun to be felt.
"We're shocked and concerned by this action, which seems merely to target the drop-in centre" says Vee "The situation is creating havoc with service users, leaving them alone and isolated in their houses. One of our campaigners became stressed that she couldn't access the drop-in and had been left alone and isolated. She tried to kill herself and was taken to Meadowbrook on suicide watch."
As we reported in Part One, Rob has also tried to take his life again since the incident on 24th October… "I've been left 24 hours around the clock to care for Rob with no support for me or him, nor any promise of support" says Vee "The lack of care is evident. What do they want? For him to successfully kill himself and then he's off their books? And one less gobby person to fight to save the drop-ins."
Meanwhile Rob and Steve Cullen, Vice Chair of USUC, have also had their psychology support group `deferred', and Steve, who has a CPA (Care Programme Approach) interview coming up, is dreading the results.
"I think they will try and get me discharged from the service so I can't access the drop-in, even though I know I need it" he says "A lot of things are going on in my personal life and I rely on the support I get from other service users. If they take that support away I'm going to be left basically on my own."
Drop-in centres closed for a `security review': psychology support groups on hold: little support for certain severe sufferers. What is going on?
"It seems to USUC that the Trust is targeting committee members who have the strongest voices, to pick on their weaknesses" says Steve.
And his belief is underlined by Vee…
"It's like Mafia sanctions on certain people to eradicate them and divide and conquer" she argues "Other service users who don't have a voice are not going to be happy about relying on our leadership because they feel they've been punished.
"We feel they are trying to break down the united front we've got with other service users" she concludes "We think this is their way of breaking down the committee and its strength of purpose to save these drop-ins by punishing vulnerable people and making them afraid to speak out."
Comments from those who haven't been out campaigning include…
• "I have been coming to Cromwell House for a few years, if you close the drop-ins it could make a lot of people poorly, especially those who live on their own. I hope you read all this and don't put it on one side."
• "The drop-in has changed my life. If it was to close I don't know what I'd do, please I hope it stays open."
• "The support you get off the other service users kept me alive at times when I felt that I couldn't cope with my illness."
The fight to save the drop-ins from Salford City Council cuts continues…
* The Salford Star asked the Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust to comment on all these allegations. Gill Green, Director of Nursing and Operations responded…
"GMW took the decision to temporarily close the drop-ins at Cromwell and Ramsgate House whilst we conduct a full security review of both Cromwell and Ramsgate House and we will action recommendations from that review. As soon as all additional security work has been concluded the drop-in facilities will be reopened.
"The safety and security of staff, service users and carers remain our top priority. We are looking carefully at what has happened to see if there are any lessons to be learned. Whilst serious, these incidents are uncommon, however, we will continue to work with our staff, service users and carers to keep them safe when providing and accessing mental health services."
UPDATE: FRIDAY 9TH NOVEMBER
Another campaigner barred from drop-ins!!!
Steve Cullen, Vice Chair of U.S.U.C, has, we understand, been barred from attending drop-in groups – for trying to help Rob when he arrived at Cromwell House looking for help, only to be met by the police…
"I've been barred for going to raise the alarm on a suicidal man" Steve told the Salford Star "What are we supposed to do? Nothing? And live with that for the rest of my life?
"I went to Cromwell house as a fellow service user, friend and more importantly family member" he added "The Carers Charter promises to treat carers with respect, which includes family members, and to be willing to listen to their views over service users' care and needs. Which in this case they have not. It seems like our U.S.U.C. members are being punished, victimised and discriminated against for having a strong voice."