The Government has launched a new strategy for mental health 'No health without mental health'. Click here to read a Q&A with Marjorie Wallace on SANE's thoughts about the new strategy.
Prior to the release of the new strategy, SANE contributed to the New Horizons Consultation, covering topics like In-patient care, Access to Psychological Therapies, Care in the Community and Stigma. Please click here to read SANE’s contribution.
Following the launch of the new mental health strategy, we continue to campaign for measures to provide adequate numbers both of beds to treat those who may need in-patient care, together with supported accommodation in the community, and a continued commitment to extending access to psychological therapies.
SANE has long campaigned about the unacceptable standard of care on many psychiatric wards. Successive reports and SANE’s own experience reveal many wards to be squalid, overcrowded, rife with street drugs and aggression and offering little occupational therapy or social activity. Some of the most shocking conditions, in which staff and patients report themselves to be in fear, are on wards on which the most disturbed patients are treated.
SANE believes that every patient has a fundamental right to be treated with dignity and respect. We therefore support the initiative to end mixed-sex wards. We have received first hand accounts from SANE Service users of their distress and humiliation when treated on mixed-sex wards. Women in particular feel threatened.
Our Chief Executive gave a presentation to a parliamentary discussion on mixed-sex wards chaired by Lord Howe, and took part in the Department of Health’s Design for Patient Dignity initiative.
We know from our service users and others that at times of profound distress, what many most need are a quiet environment and a place of refuge and sanctuary. Whilst there have been definite improvements in in-patient care, we believe that providing this ‘asylum’ when it is needed should be a fundamental part of the vision for improving mental health care in the next decade.
Between 1987-88 and 2004-5, the number of psychiatric beds in England fell by over 35,000. Numbers continue to decline, and there appears to be a ruthless agenda to cut in-patient care in favour of community based treatment. SANE believes that in-patient beds are the essential backstop of community care, to assess and treat people if their condition relapses and to provide sanctuary when the stresses of life in the community become too great. We will continue to campaign to protect psychiatric units where people can be admitted for assessment or rehabilitation and at times of crisis.
In line with our belief that there should a holistic approach to mental health care, SANE seeks to promote choice for service users. We believe that in the health context, enabling people to discuss and choose a package of care suited to their individual needs including medication, psychological and other therapies, and treatment in hospital if needed during an acute episode of their illness. Whilst choice has been central to government policy and NHS reform, SANE’s research conducted in 2008 showed that choice in mental health is not being delivered equally to all.
To learn more about SANE's position on choice, download this PDF.
Choice in the English Mental Health System: A Policy Briefing offers a call to action in the light of SANE’s research in this area.
SANE campaigned for reform of mental health law, to reflect the fact that with the advent of care in the community, the majority of people with mental illness were cared for outside hospital. Through a Balance of Rights campaign launched in 1996, we called for a positive right to assessment, care and treatment for people suffering from a mental illness or disorder; for families and carers to be given information and involved where appropriate in key decisions; and for inclusion of people diagnosed with a personality disorder within the ambit of mental health legislation.
We worked for change with fellow members of the Mental Health Alliance, parliamentarians and the media and were pleased that some of our concerns were responded to in the Mental Health Act 2007. In particular, we believe that community treatment orders can provide release for those patients who might otherwise be trapped in the revolving door between hospital and the community. However, we regret that the new legislation gives no rights to care and treatment, or rights to information and support for families and carers.
Download this PDF for more information on SANE’s campaign to secure more rights for mentally ill people and their families.
In recent years SANE has raised concerns about the proliferation of pro-anorexia websites, believing they can support those using them in their behaviour without encouraging them to seek treatment. We have conducted research which shows that young people are using the sites as a substitute for social contact and emotional support from family and friends.
We have called on those publishing these sites to review their content and take responsibility for the messages they give out.
SANE has been alerting governments for over 20 years to the links between cannabis and psychotic illness and evidence that the drug, particularly in its more toxic form of skunk, may not only precipitate psychotic breakdown but cause long-term mental damage. We accept that the majority can use the drug without risk, but we believe it can be disproportionately dangerous for those vulnerable to mental illness.
We are also concerned about the collateral damage caused by cannabis to families and the consequences for other psychiatric patients of cannabis related hospital admissions and cannabis use and drug dealing on psychiatric wards.
The government’s decision to reclassify cannabis as a Class B drug, accompanied by public education warning of its dangers, is encouraging recognition of the campaigning of SANE and other organisations and a first step in seeking to reduce the numbers affected. But we will continue to call for more research into the causal links between cannabis and mental illness, and for measures to tackle the problems the drug poses for in-patient care.
Download this PDF to learn more about SANE's views on the mental health risks of Cannabis.