Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Care in the community - it has to be reliable A couple of weeks ago, with reference to the case of Ariel Castro, I was wondering if ‘Maybe we need to put more effort into pre-emptive services for all kinds of mental ill-health; and to normalise or de-stigmatise the idea of consulting them.’ It's critical that people who fear they could harm others should know that help is available. Care in the community has to mean genuine formal and informal support, and not just one or the other. And as this poignant story in Saturday’s Guardian illustrates, it has to be genuinely available. Sean Clifton, who has a history of schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder, apparently obeyed commands in his head ‘to seek out the "prettiest girl in the mall" and go and stab her.’ We are told that earlier that day, ‘He went to the emergency ward of the local psychiatric hospital and asked for help. "But they didn't take me seriously. I asked if I could just sit down and have a cup of coffee and talk a little and get it off my chest. But they were all too busy to listen."’ Years later his victim said: ‘If I have any anger, it is that the system failed him that day.’ As I’ve said, I think future societies will look back on our primitive disinterest in mental health with distaste. The full story of Sean Clifton as told illustrates a wonderful support system (carefully hidden from public view) once the diagnosis and admission was in place. But we need reliable services available locally at all times, in the first place, to accommodate the fact that mental ill-health is widely experienced, varies enormously and is potentially very dangerous. Sometimes, post-welfare capitalism feels torridly anti-compassionate.

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