Archive | February, 2015

Choice and cuts

24 Feb

Human choice cuts

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My place at the mental health day centre has been cancelled due to council cuts so, instead, I’ve been referred to my GP’s social prescribing service. In other words, I’ll get to meet once with someone who’ll go through a list of activities that are available to the general public in my local area, and then I’ll be left to get on with it. Social prescribing is a really good idea and will provide a valuable service for many people I’m sure. It’s something that hopefully will spread to more areas. But that’s hardly equivalent to a specialist day centre for people diagnosed with serious mental health problems. Not in any way.

As @444blackcat said:

“[Since the centre closed,] a lot [of former attendees] are now sitting at home. At the centre, they felt at ease and didn’t have to explain anything. I get the idea that people should access community resources, but there’s a huge advantage in a safe space where people didn’t stare. We had people who sometimes just wanted to sit in company, but that wasn’t [deemed to be] an intervention promoting recovery.(My punctuation.)
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As @ManchesterMind said:

“So many mental health projects (garden, bread making, football etc) [are] underpinned by giving people somewhere to just ‘be’.”

The problem with withdrawing access to a day centre is that lots of people will just sit at home, stare at the walls & quietly deteriorate. People whose lives had meaning, hope, connection and richness through being able to meet and share and do in a safe space – curtailed. Instead of being able to gradually meet people, gain confidence, get involved, take on volunteer roles, even prepare for or start college, or move into part- of even full-time employment, as some did – zero. Instead of having a place to go whether you’re well or unwell (sometimes very unwell) to do activities or just be – a closed door.

There’s far more to good mental health than welfare benefits, medication and talking therapies – but that’s all we’re left with, now the doors of the day centre are shut to us.  Having that nurturing space to meet and be was a haven from which we could branch out and do other things – and we did! But not any more. What’ll happen now to people who could’ve had art exhibitions, run craft stalls, performed in bands – all arising from the day centre. Nothing. The day centre wasn’t a bunker from which we never emerged: it was a springboard, a platform to reach out into the mainstream. Now gone. The day centre was a hub where we could meet all sorts of people who wouldn’t judge or flinch when we described tough experiences. Now what?

There were so many fantastic activities on offer, but the day centre is so much more than that. There were any number of options to try, and you could try as many as you liked. You could gradually explore different options and maybe try things you hadn’t done since childhood or take up something completely new. It was a chance to explore in a world where your diagnosis or mental health struggles didn’t need to play any part. You could be good at something, rather than focussing on all the things you were bad at or couldn’t do any more or would never have.

Adult education courses and activities in the commuity have their place, but they are in no way equivalent to what’s offered by the day centre. Not at all. Courses, and the space in which they happen, are the vehicle through which all sorts of other valuable interactions and activities take place. Designated learning outcomes for courses delivered in chunks over terms entirely miss the point of all the other things the day centre does. There’s far more to good mental health than going on courses – especially if you’re managing a long-term condition when consistent attendance may not be possible due to periods of ill-health and when attending a course with the general public is in no way the support needed when poorly. Social anxiety, generalised anxiety disorder, depression – hardly conditions that make it easy to organise, motivate & attend courses with the general public. Offering as an alternative stand-alone courses with the general public or people seen in primary care entirely misses the point.

I’m just going to choose* this rather tasty banana bread into slices. *cut

Ouch! I just chose* my finger on this piece of paper. *cut

I love the choice* of that dress on you; it’s so flattering. *cut

Many like to choose from a menu range of options, so we’re giving you more choice*. *cuts

Oh, did I say “choice”? I meant CUTS you fools. Bwa ha ha ha ha!

Seriously, do these corporate bods think we’ve completely lost our senses? Oh, yes, of course, they do: mental patients.

If there’s a service such as a day centre that you value, better prepare for the possibility that the same “choice” might happen to you. Prepare now and you’ll be ready to fight back and challenge the decision. It’s harder to regain access than to stop it being taken away. Apart from rumours, we didn’t know. We weren’t warned. We weren’t asked. And now it’s gone. Don’t let yours be taken away without a fight.

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