The government must be stopped from silencing people with mental illness

While there are some shining examples of good practice within the mental healthcare system, there is still a huge amount of work to be done.

Share
Fact File
  • 45% Percentage of mental health patients who said they always felt safe in hospital
Related Topics

John is a 29 year-old chemistry student.

He enjoys spending time with his family, especially his two young nephews, and plans to work in a laboratory when he graduates.  He also has a form of schizophrenia called schizoaffective disorder. When he was 18, John was hospitalised because of his illness and spent time in a mental health ward.

This should have been a chance for him to recover from an acute episode of mental illness in a calm, supportive environment. Instead, he endured experiences that left him feeling as though he was being punished.

Being forcibly injected with medication was particularly traumatic. He said:

“The nurses weren’t properly trained – they didn’t know how to restrain someone without physically hurting them. I was pinned down, face to the floor, my hands held behind my back. It dredged up memories of a childhood trauma when I’d been treated in the same way, which made the situation even more terrifying for me.”

Sadly, John’s experience of inpatient care was not an isolated incident. The Schizophrenia Commission, which has been hearing evidence from both professionals and people with lived experience of schizophrenia for the last year, has heard many similar accounts.

During their public evidence sessions, few described positive experiences of inpatient wards and there were countless horror stories of people being treated without respect, in poorly funded and scruffy environments, by staff under pressure.

While there are some shining examples of good practice within the system, there is clearly a huge amount of work to be done. Against this backdrop, you might expect the government would be keen to know more about people’s experiences. You might think they’d like to know which wards are getting it right and which are getting it catastrophically wrong.

"Two years ago, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), quietly scrapped the only systematic survey that checks how safe people feel on mental health wards"

They have in fact, done the complete opposite. Two years ago, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), quietly scrapped the only systematic survey that checks how safe people feel on mental health wards.

Since then, my charity, Rethink Mental Illness has repeatedly challenged the CQC and ministers on the issue, without success.

Perhaps it’s unsurprising that the government isn’t keen to keep the survey going when you consider the last one, in 2009, revealed that less than half of patients said they felt safe all of the time.

This is a national scandal. People getting treatment on physical health wards are still being asked their views. The safety and dignity of people getting mental health treatment should be just as important as safety and dignity on cancer wards.  

If the government is hoping to ignore this issue until it goes away, they have a long wait on their hands. In the last week alone, almost 5000 people have signed a petition, demanding Jeremy Hunt reinstates the survey and the numbers are growing daily.

It’s just not good enough that people’s views and experiences are being swept under the carpet in this way. If the results are inconvenient and embarrassing for the government, perhaps they should consider tackling the problem, rather than silencing the critics.

Rachel Whitehead works in communications for the charity, Rethink Mental Illness (www.rethink.org)

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links