Don't Assume Recovery Makes Us Fit For Work, Say People With Mental IllnessMain Category: Mental Health
Also Included In: Psychology / Psychiatry
Article Date: 22 Jun 2007
People who recover from mental illness must be allowed the option of turning down opportunities for social inclusion including going back to what is often a 'brutal and competitive workplace, the Royal College of Psychiatrists were told. Far from supporting their continued recovery, getting back to work frequently makes people feel 'degraded, belittled and dissatisfied', thereby undermining their mental health, a service user warned psychiatrists.
The conference saw the launch today by College President, Professor Sheila Hollins of a major strategy statement, A Common Purpose - Recovery in Future Mental Health Services, giving psychiatric services the focus of helping people 'to live as well as possible'.
Psychiatrists heard that new tools were being developed to measure personal recovery by service users and the development has been welcomed by the Mental Health Czar for England, Professor Louis Appleby.
But the new focus should not be used by the Government to force former service users to seek paid employment, warned former psychosis sufferer, Maurice Arbuthnott, service user representative on the College's and a member of its Recovery and Rehabilitation Research Group.
'While the new interest in measuring and quantifying recovery among mental health service users may be entirely philanthropic, a Government obsessed with cutting expenditure on welfare benefits for the disabled could use such findings to review and redefine service users' entitlement to incapacity benefit and disabled living allowance,' Mr Arbuthnott warned.
Many former service users are 'happy to be disengaged from the mainstream of society as a way of coping with their condition,' Mr Arbuthnott told the meeting. 'They may spend the day in their accommodation watching television for most of the time, broken by visits to the supermarket and a trip to the post office to collect their benefit. They feel safe, happy and secure with the minimum of social engagement. Who is to say that such service users have not achieved their own recovery goals and have not recovered?'
Mr Arbuthnott who is currently on invalidity benefit has had three episodes of psychosis, each involving several months of hospitalisation after which he was discharged long before he had achieved recovery. After one of these episodes, he was employed by a health charity as an administrator for five years - a period of time which ended with his return to hospital after a further psychotic episode.
'Recovery, like the concept of well-being, happiness or contentment, means different things to different to different people. For some, it means being able to contribute to society and to achieve socially through work, education and relationships. Many service users are offered work that is demeaning and erodes self esteem. The stress of work and the friction and tension of work politics can be counter productive to maintaining a state of recovery,' he said.
Professor Sue Bailey, Registrar of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said that the job of psychiatrists is to support service users along their personal road to recovery. 'Whilst we hope that means they will return to work that is fulfilling, we very much hear the voice of users such as Mr Arbuthnott.'
The Royal College Of Psychiatrists' Annual Meeting
Edinburgh International Conference Centre
June 19 To 22 2007
Original article posted on Medical News Today.
Articles not to be reproduced without permission of Medical News Today