Nina Lakhani: It's not the mentally ill who make caring for them intolerable

NHS mental health services can be fantastically creative, compassionate and healing places

Share
Related Topics

The 13 years I spent working as a mental health nurse gave me some of the best and worst experiences of my adult life. Being with people who are acutely distressed – a teenage boy hearing voices telling him to jump off a bridge; a young woman cutting her arm because it's the only thing that distracts her from flashbacks of abuse; a schoolteacher awake for four days in a manic phase – requires patience, empathy and buckets of hope.

It may or may not come as a surprise that there are an awful lot of people working in mental health who lack all of these basic qualities. The therapeutic skills you can learn. The humanity I'm not sure you can teach.

When asked to chair one of the Mind evidence sessions earlier this year, I expected the day to be pretty downbeat. It sort of was – but hope came in the form of Fiona Venner, manager of the Leeds Survivor Led Crisis Service, which is run by people with personal experience of mental illness and provides brilliant night-time crisis support, in the process saving the local NHS hundreds of thousands of pounds in A&E visits and hospital admissions every year.

NHS mental health services can also be fantastically creative, compassionate and healing places for individuals and families at rock bottom. In West Lothian, London and Australia I worked alongside people who didn't think twice about spending five hours with a family on a Friday night so their loved one didn't go into hospital. We spent countless nights on-call (the worst time if you're ill, because most services are shut) patiently talking to people contemplating suicide after drinking or smoking too much.

The key factor in all those brilliant teams was good leadership and a collective sense of can-do.

Being with mentally distressed people can be sad, tiring and inspiring, sometimes all at the same time, but it is not they who make the job intolerable. It is the "can't do" attitude of professionals and services around you, crushing hopes and dreams, who in the end made me throw in the towel.

React Now

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

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Cameron's unexpected tax pledges give the Tories home advantage

Andrew Grice
President Barack Obama walks with U.S. Secret Service agents to Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, Calif., May 8, 2014.  

Obama's Secret Service has become sloppy with its delusions of Hollywood grandeur

David Usborne
Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence