A man who spent 25 years using a variety of mental health services co-ordinated the biggest UK gathering of people in secure care to get views on how to improve care.
Ian Callaghan, who now works for Rethink Mental Illness, led a session which used voting pads to ask the 120-strong service user audience important questions on how mental health services could be improved.
They had travelled from Birmingham, Plymouth, the North East and other areas, to inform key work by the national Mental Health Taskforce.
Ian, who was placed 100 miles away from home when he was admitted to a secure setting between 2007 and 2012, said it was fantastic for so many people’s voices to be heard.
“Having spent time in secure care myself and experienced good as well as not so good care in the past, I now want to help ensure the views of people in secure care inform how services will be improved going forwards,” he said.
The three areas voters said they wanted to see given highest priority were better community placements (31%), more staff in hospitals (31%) and improved crisis care in the community (23%).
“In July we held the biggest gathering of people in secure care we have ever seen in the UK, getting their views on what’s working and what isn’t.
“We heard time and time again how important it was to them to feel part of driving this change, and it’s good to see this kind of involvement of people with lived experience of secure care at the heart of the Mental Health Taskforce.”
Ian was admitted following a catastrophic crisis that came after weeks of being severely depressed and suicidal.
He had been discharged from his care team and told it would be six weeks before he could be seen again. The local crisis team would not see him as he was not known to them already. Eventually, once in hospital, a combination of more suitable medication and intensive therapy have allowed Ian to rebuild his life.
He said there were a lot of people who questioned being able to gather in-patient secure service users to such an event but he said they are often asked to events to help improve services before moving back into the community.
“People report that crisis care really lets them down,” he said. “And almost everyone in a secure hospital has had problems before they were admitted and they say their crisis could have been managed better or they could have been admitted to a general health setting sooner.
“Also keeping in touch with family and friends is important. Lots of people have to go out of area – I was 100 miles away from my family.
“They also said it’s a really big step to move back into the community and 24 hour accommodation is a good step but a lot of people don’t have enough access to the right care.
“The taskforce really were listening to all of that and I hope will incorporate them into their recommendations.”