The new breed of 'recovery clinics' helping people with mental health problems put their lives back together

'Before I came here I didn’t want a life'

When Anne Smith’s son, James, a paranoid schizophrenic, was sent to Broadmoor, she fell apart. “I felt so guilty, like I could no longer get joy from anything that James couldn’t get joy from,” she says.

Once the depression took hold, Smith, 53, had to give up her job on the till at M&S.

Then she tried to kill herself and ended up on a mental ward. On leaving hospital, she went for a job interview and cried the whole way through: “When you’re ill it’s hard to remember the positive things you’ve achieved or what you can do,” she says.

Smith is one of around 80,000 people who leave work each year due to ill health, according to recent figures from the Department for Work and Pensions.

Now she is putting her life back together thanks to one of a new breed of ‘recovery houses’, which help people integrate back into the community. These partially state-funded clinics were strongly recommended in the Schizophrenia Commission, published earlier this month.

Suffolk House opened its doors last year, as the first ever home-from-home for people who aren’t so sick that they should be in a psychiatric hospital but who need specialist support in order to get back on their feet.

Exactly the kind of people who find themselves falling through gaps in the system and unable to cope: “I don’t want to be dependent on anyone, but it is so daunting coming out of hospital, a real shock,” Smith says. “Coming here gives you what you need to make the transition back into the real world.”

It has proved a success, with a 4% relapse rate among the 300 people who have so far stayed both here and at two sister units across London. There are others in Royal Leamington spa, Grimsby, Rotherham, with one opening in Sheffield later this year, and bidding for another in the South East imminent.

“The general problem with mental health is people not knowing where to go in a crisis,” explains Jane Harris from Rethink mental health charity.

These centres, she says, provide around-the-clock care, creating a secure environment where people can sort themselves out. Suffolk House has space for 12 residents, each with their own bedroom and use of a communal living room and kitchen, one of whom is in his mid-twenties and was living at Suffolk house while volunteering at the Olympics.

Coming back here every night, he says, gave him the security to step back into the system.

The cost of a contract for 31 beds across the three houses in London over a five-year period is £1.2m, says Laurie Armantrading who manage these centres: “Compare that to the £600-700,000 per person it costs to stay one night on a hospital ward,” he says.

Not to mention the long-term financial benefits of getting people back into work.  “We measure recovery in terms of social not just clinical recovery: how in control people feel, what people’s relationships are like, their employment”.

“The staff here are completely different,” Smith says. “They give you the time, and they seem to have a way of talking so that you end up talking to them about things you may not have intended to.” When she couldn’t sleep at night, she says, she would knock on one of the staff’s door and they would be there with a ready smile. “That’s what you need,” she says.

Every day at Suffolk House, there are various drop-in classes and support groups, with staff on hand to gently re-teach basic life skills, such as doing a weekly shop or making lunch.

 “In the old days,” says Maria Gandara of rethink mental health charity, “people didn’t see people integrating back into society: you were mentally ill or you were well. These recovery houses prove you can integrate back very well indeed.”

“Now I can’t wait to get another job,” Says Smith who left Suffolk House last month. “They’ve given me my life back,” Smith says. “Before I came here I didn’t want a life.”

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

    £28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

    £16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before