Reader letter: Provide beds and suppport for the mentally unwell

Mental health. Pictured: A young man experiencing depression sits by a window. Picture: Newscast Onl

Mental health. Pictured: A young man experiencing depression sits by a window. Picture: Newscast Online - Credit: Newscast Online

One reader believes more support is needed to help our region's most vulnerable people.

I read with dismay the article concerning plans for Crisis Hubs to tackle mental health bed shortages.

I am writing as someone who had a close family member who suffered periods of severe clinical depression, each time requiring periods in hospital. I realised, talking to consultants on those occasions, how difficult it was to find the best form of treatment.

Much as I appreciate recent efforts to improve awareness of mental health issues, there still seems a lack of understanding of the wide spectrum of illnesses. Occasions which stick in my mind illustrate this.

A couple of times in public places I have heard young people talking loudly and incessantly to the person next to them about their mental health problems. Obviously they would find a café/hub useful to access. On another occasion I was in a hospital waiting area and a smartly-dressed lady sitting next to me said out of the blue: 'It's so difficult — being alive', and started to weep. Those words sent shivers down my spine. When Stephen Fry presented a programme about dipolar disorder, which I recorded, I had to stop playback at one stage because I was finding it too distressing watching the looks of despair on the faces of the sufferers' family members.

It's people like these who I believe will be failed by this new approach. Do members of the trust not realise how difficult it would be for a chronic sufferer to access one of these one-size-fits-all hubs? It's often hard enough for them to leave the house, or even use the phone. I notice the weasel-word 'potential' is used in the article when discussing availability of various helpers. Perhaps there will be a self-service ECT set up in one corner!

In my opinion the problems began when the under-pressure coalition government imposed massive funding cuts to councils. The knee-jerk reaction which followed resulted in good front-line staff being lost by an organisation which was generally effective. The ground lost has not been made up, and it appears from the article it will not be.

If the government really cared about mental health it would give direct funding to the trust to enable it to provide the beds and support required. The thought of having a family member in crisis, probably suffering from anxiety as well as depression, being shunted out of the county is horrific. Are we living in a civilised country or not?

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I'm sure these hubs would be able to support people whose depression has resulted from events such as bereavement, job loss and other causes. However, this has to be distinguished from clinical depression with no apparent cause, and no permanent 'fix'.

A solution in my opinion needs to include easy, quick, reliable access to a professional — the presence of a safety net, which in itself may help diffuse a crisis. Nothing in this plan gives them the hope they badly need.