Letter: No progress in the community

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The Independent Online
Sir: As parents of a 23-year-old schizophrenic son, who is presently a victim of the Government's policy of discharging chronically mentally-ill patients into the community, we have followed with concern the inquiry into the case of Christopher Clunis.

We sympathise with, and greatly admire, the courage and efforts of Jayne Zito and have speculated that it might just as easily have been our son who became the subject of a murder inquiry. At present, our son's illness leads him to be more of a risk to himself than to others, but the memory of him threatening us with a knife in one of the acute phases of his paranoia remains vivid.

For our son, his long stay in an acute hospital ward represented security. On learning that this would no longer be available for him and that he was expected to 'progress' to a community hostel, he slashed his wrists and leapt from the second storey of the hospital - miraculously surviving. Despite his evident distress, the discharge plan proceeded and on arrival at the community hostel, situated far from his family home, he again threw himself from a hostel window, this time on the fourth floor. A mutilated arm and severe back injuries have now added chronic physical pain and disability to the mental torment of his psychiatric condition.

Like Christopher Clunis and many others, our son desperately needs the safe haven only experienced and qualified nursing staff in a long-term psychiatric ward can provide. The routine and structure of long-stay units seems to offer the only secure environment able to meet the needs of a small number of schizophrenic patients whose prognosis is poor. To put such people under pressure to 'progress' into the community is dangerous.

Yours faithfully,

ANTHONY COURT

JEANNETTE COURT

Hitchin, Hertfordshire

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