Living With Schizophrenia

Mental Health Act Review Ignores Carers and Relatives

Posted: Monday, August 19th, 2019

Image: Ocskay Bence on Shutterstock

Image: Ocskay Bence on Shutterstock

At the end of 2018 the long-awaited review into the Mental Health Act published its findings and it was very disappointing to see that carers and relatives had once again been left out of the government’s plans regarding the welfare of people with serious mental illness.

Carers and relatives often carry a great responsibility for looking after loved ones suffering from mental ill health.  They will often be the first to spot that something is wrong and will provide the sufferer with intensive and often unconditional care and support.  Their job is never an easy one. It is therefore vital that carers and relatives are made an integral part of the care planning process but sadly there is nothing in the review’s recommendations to improve that.   And even when considering discharge and aftercare the committee ignored the needs of carers and relatives.

The new proposal for replacing the existing status of nearest relative with a nominated person is also very worrying.  Schizophrenia most commonly begins in late teens or early twenties and it is often the parents, usually the nearest relative, who see the first signs and are able to get the sufferer into the care of the Mental Health Service.  If their influence is now to be removed by replacing their role with that of a friend or acquaintance nominated by the sufferer then the opportunity for vital early interventions will be lost and parents will be left with the unenviable role of caring for a daughter or son with a seriously worsening condition without being able to get them the help they desperately need.

Living with Schizophrenia calls for changes in the law to make a formal carer’s assessment a legal requirement along with a requirement for relatives’ opinions to be taken into consideration during sectioning decisions for compulsory treatment and in mental health tribunals.  In addition mental health services should be required to provide family therapy in all areas.

In ignoring the needs and capabilities of carers and relatives this review has neglected one of the most important factors in the lives of people with schizophrenia.  It is only by providing carers and relatives with proper support and giving them the tools that they need to do their hard job that they can provide the level of care that they are capable of.

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