Don’t tell me the mental health system isn’t in crisis – I’ve been in it

Vulnerable people like me are being put at risk by cuts to essential services, and I’ve already given up trying to get support

The mental health system is in crisis. It’s a car crash waiting to happen.

That’s according to Prof Sue Bailey, the outgoing president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, in an interview earlier this week. Her comments came a day before the British Medical Association’s annual meeting, where delegates were told that cuts to mental health services are resulting in avoidable deaths and suicides. Sadly, neither of these stories told me anything I didn’t already know. I’ve seen at first-hand how the mental health system is failing vulnerable people. For many of us dealing with mental illness, the car crash has already happened.

In fact, my experiences of mental health care were so bad that a few years ago I completely gave up on trying to get support. I’d been going through a period of severe anxiety and had waited for months to see a therapist. But after a few sessions, she told me she was being transferred. I’d have to go back on the waiting list and start all over again.

The whole experience made my anxiety worse, so I decided I’d be better off looking after myself. That can be a real challenge because I have a long-term and serious mental illness, schizoaffective disorder. Sometimes I struggle and need support, but like many people with mental health issues, I find it difficult to ask for help. That’s partly because of the stigma around mental illness, but it’s also because I’m afraid of going back into the mental health system.

It’s been the same story since I first tried to get help when I was 17. I was feeling suicidal, but the waiting lists were so long that I didn’t get the therapy I needed. If I’d had a serious physical illness, I’d have been treated within 18 weeks, but there are no maximum waiting times for mental illness, so people can wait for years to get support. Many people miss out altogether.

My mental health gradually got worse, until eventually I reached crisis point and had a breakdown. I was taken to A&E after being found walking down the middle of a busy dual carriageway. There were no beds available, so they just sent me away with a handful of Valium.

After that I gave up hope, and decided to end my own life. Luckily for me, a stranger stopped me and talked me out of it. He gave me a simple message of hope – that I could get better. I’d never been told that before, and it changed everything for me.

From that day, things started to improve, and earlier this year I launched a campaign to find the good Samaritan who’d helped me. My search was made into a documentary, Finding Mike. Since then I’ve been inundated with messages from people who’ve been through the same kind of thing. It really brought home to me how much we’re all affected by mental health issues. All of us know someone who’s faced mental illness. But too often people tell me they’ve been let down by the system.

The fact is that not enough money is spent on care. Mental health accounts for around 23% of the disease burden in the UK, but gets just 13% of the NHS budget. Worse still, spending on mental health has been slashed even further over the past few years.

It is not just people with mental illness that have been let down. I know many doctors and nurses who feel incredibly frustrated that they can’t provide the care they want to because of the cuts.

We can improve the system, but the government needs to listen to the patients, carers and organisations who know the system best.

Research by the charity Rethink Mental Illness shows that early intervention services – which help people from the moment they become ill – make a huge difference in helping patients recover, and also save the NHS money. With the right treatment, people can get better. But instead of getting much-needed investment, these services are facing major cuts. It means that millions of people are suffering because they can’t get support, and each day 16 people in the UK take their own lives.

That’s why we must keep putting pressure on the government until it takes real action to give people with mental illness the care that we deserve. At the moment I’m going through another period of anxiety, and I should feel that I can get the support I need. It’s not right that people like me so often go through this alone.

Via Bridget via

CoolTan Arts Largactyl Midnight Shuffle – 21st June 2014

On Saturday June 21st 2014, 11.45pm to 5am, Sunday June 22nd 2014 Matthew Mckenzie joined CoolTan Arts on a fun, guided midnight walk through South London.

This is his great video blog of the event talking about the walk, the talks along the way, games on ‘mad’ buildings, nightworking, surrealism and the anxious city.

Matthew also took lots of great pictures – you can see them on our Facebook page:

Thank you Matthew!

Maudsley Charity Showcase Event

Maudsley Charity showcase event

On Tuesday 13 May 2014, Maudsley Charity is inviting the public and SLaM staff to learn more about how it benefits service users and the community.

The showcase event, which is being held at the ORTUS Centre between 6pm-8pm, coincides with Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from 12 – 18 May.

There will be opportunity to learn about the wide range of projects that the charity supports, including:

  • Hearing Things – a drama-based programme which explores mental health care experiences using theatre techniques. The project aims to build rapport with service users and help educate the public on mental health.
  • Anxiety Arts Festival 2014 – a sneak peek at the new London-wide arts festival organised by the Mental Health Foundation. The festival will explore the causes and effects of anxiety and will bring leading and emerging artists, musicians and performers together for a dynamic programme of events.
  • Mind and Soul Choir a community choir which aims to break down barriers associated with mental health and improve wellbeing through singing. The choir was formed in Lambeth in 2006 and their director, Lea Cornthwaite, is also Musical Director for The Royal Opera House Youth Company.

It is entirely free to attend and promises to be an informative and enjoyable evening.

For more information, please click here.

And to book your place, contact or 020 7848 7915.

Antidepressant citalopram heart safety warning

“Safety warning over Britain’s most common antidepressant,” The Daily Telegraph reports. “Doctors have been told to lower the maximum dose” for all patients, the Telegraph continues.

The news is based on drug safety advice issued in October last year by the UK’s drug regulator about the antidepressant drugs citalopram (Cipramil) and escitalopram (Cipralex). The revised advice for doctors followed findings from a study that found both drugs were associated with abnormalities known to increase risks to the heart. Importantly, it found that the risk increased at higher doses. This news was ignored at the time but has surfaced today with the Telegraph reporting criticism of the drug regulator for “failing to make a public announcement”.

People who have been prescribed citalopram and escitalopram should not be alarmed into stopping taking their medication. If you are concerned about the dosage of your depression medication you should discuss it with your GP.

What is citalopram and what is it used for?

Citalopram is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), a type of antidepressant drug commonly used to treat people with major depressive disorder, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. It is more commonly known by its brand name in the UK, Cipramil, and is manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Lundbeck.

A variation of citalopram (escitalopram – brand name Cipralex), also made by Lundbeck, was included in the drug safety update. It is used to treat major depressive episodes, panic disorder with or without agoraphobia, anxiety disorders and obsessive compulsive disorder.

What is the safety advice?

The safety advice for citalopram and escitalopram was issued to healthcare professionals by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Included in the safety warning were updated recommendations about new maximum daily dose restrictions, as well as warnings and contraindications (which indicate when it is not advisable to prescribe the drug).

The advice followed a study carried out by the l. The randomised controlled trial (RCT)found that citalopram and escitalopram were associated with increased electrical abnormalities of the heart (known as QT interval prolongation) and that these abnormalities increased with increasing doses (known as dose-dependency).

In the RCT, electrocardiogram measurements showed that when a 60mg dose of citalopram was given, it took twice as long for the heart to recover as when a 20mg dose was given. For a 60mg dose it took the heart 16.7 milliseconds to recover (90%confidence interval 15.0 to 18.4) and for a 20mg dose it took the heart 7.5 milliseconds to recover (90% confidence interval 5.9 to 9.1).

Importantly, the risks of both drugs on QT interval prolongation have been known for some time and have been included in the product information of both drugs. These study findings further defined this risk and have clarified that the drug’s effects on QT interval are dose-dependent. The safety update clarifies this dose-dependent effect to ensure that doctors, who should already be aware of the risk, can prescribe safely and appropriately.

The new recommended daily doses for citalopram are:

  • 40mg daily for adults (previously 60mg)
  • 20mg daily for patients older than 65 years (previously 40mg)
  • 20mg daily for those with poor liver function (previously 30mg)

For escitalopram, the maximum daily dose for patients older than 65 years is now 10mg. Other recommended doses remain unchanged. Further studies have not shown an added benefit at doses higher than 40mg.

The MHRA also recommends that citalopram and escitalopram should not be used in patients with known QT interval prolongation or in combination with other medicines known to prolong the QT interval. For example, prolonged QT interval is also a symptom of “long QT syndrome”, which is a type of heart arrhythmia. This was one of the several possible causes of thecollapse and heart attack in March of the Premier League footballer Fabrice Muamba.

The MHRA advises doctors to exercise caution when prescribing citalopram to patients who have a high risk of developing a condition known as Torsade de Pointes (a kind of heart rhythm problem). Those at risk include people who are known to have:

  • congestive heart failure
  • previous myocardial infarction (heart attack)
  • bradyarrhythmias (slow heartbeat)
  • predisposition to hypokalaemia (low potassium levels in the blood) or hypomagnesaemia (low magnesium levels in the blood) because of other illness or medicines

When was the new advice issued?

The safety update was issued by letter to healthcare professionals by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) on October 24 2011. The product information of each drug was also updated.

Why is it a problem now?

According to the Telegraph, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) came under fire “last night” (June 29 2012) when “experts criticised the MHRA for failing to make a public announcement – as it has done over other alerts such as the PIP breast implant scandal”. This is because, at the time of the safety update, only health professionals were notified, the Telegraph claims. It is not clear which experts the Telegraph is referring to. The newspaper’s story includes a quote from a consultant cardiologist saying that GPs should not stop prescribing the drugs. However, the Telegraph’s story includes a quote from a spokesman from a patient safety charity – Action against Medical Accidents – critical of the apparent failure by regulators to alert the public. The spokesman said that, “it is particularly disappointing that there has been so little transparency with patients and the public about this”.

Beyond these new quotations, it is difficult to see why the Telegraph has reported this as news today. The updates were available on the MHRA website in December 2011.

People receiving citalopram and escitalopram should not be alarmed and should not stop taking their medication. Anyone concerned about the dosage of their depression medication should discuss it with their GP.


Humiliating and demoralising face-to-face ‘fit for work’ assessment interviews, known as the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), could be scrapped following a report by experts which blamed the controversial tests for delays in processing benefit claims.

It is understood that the Department for Work and Pensions is exploring the possibility of replacing the WCA with a streamlined system, based upon written medical evidence acquired from claimants, their GP’s and consultants.

Critics of the face-to-face interviews argue that scrapping the WCA would lead to a speeding up of the process, fairer outcomes for sick and disabled people and savings for taxpayers, due to less appeals being lodged against negative decisions.

At long last, it now appears as if the DWP may agree. A spokesperson for the department told the Daily Record:

“Expediting the process will reduce the uncertainty faced by claimants, improve outcomes for those not eligible for employment and support allowance and reduce the consequent burden on taxpayers.”

The move comes after private firm Atos withdrew from a £500 million contract with the DWP, forcing the government to seek a new provider. The DWP continue to insist that the contract was terminated by the government.

Labour MP Tom Greatrex said:

“The WCA process hasn’t worked for years and the Government have failed to address it.

“The experience is demeaning, causes anxiety and 40 per cent of the tests are overturned on appeal which demonstrates it’s not fair or accurate.”


Are British students too stigmatised to speak out on mental health?

After University Mental Health and Wellbeing Day recently, we review the Priory’s shocking survey statistics

The survey, which collated information from 18 universities, found that one in four students with mental health issues were not comfortable talking about their problems to friends.  Though the awareness day yesterday received plenty of media attention and support through social media from people all round the world, the societal stigma which plagues those who suffer with mental health problems will not be alleviated overnight.

The survey suggests that almost half of those who opened up about their illness have experienced a negative response – half of the first years who completed the survey said that they had been treated differently by peers after revealing their struggle with mental health issues.  Worryingly enough, 16% of the country’s students genuinely believed that they had lost friends and acquaintances as a result of admitting to their mental health problems.  This contradicts entirely from the experience of friends, as 75% of the respondents who noted that they had a friend with mental health problems did, in fact believe that they were being supportive.

Though universities nationwide are doing more every year to support students suffering from mental health issues, 86.5% of those surveyed who had been diagnosed with a mental health problem claimed that they didn’t think that schools and universities provided them with adequate support or doing enough to help them.  Dr David Kingsley, Consultant Adolescent Psychiatrist at Priory’s Cheadle Royal Hospital noted that “mental health problems are surprisingly common in students, including depression, self-harm, anxiety disorders and eating disorders”, and that university was a potential trigger – “as this is often the first time that they have been away from home, they can feel isolated and unable to access support for their difficulties”.  Even if the support is there, the social stigma of admitting to having mental health difficulties can be enough to dissuade students from seeking the support they need. Dr Kingsley went on to suggest that “it is important […] that universities and colleges help other students to understand mental health issues better, so that students can access the support they need from their peers and their difficulties aren’t compounded by an experience of misunderstanding or prejudice from their friends”.

For the full report visit:

Mental Health Care assistant/Support worker required in Southwark for client with OCD

A part time experienced support worker is required to work in SE16 (Southwark) for a lady with OCD.

It is essential to have knowledge and experience of working with someone with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). You need to be calm, kind and compassionate. You need to be reliable and trustworthy and able to accept responsibility. You will need to be able to learn the job well by being digilent and consciencious in order to help the client manage her anxiety.

The tasks will include personal and domestic care as well as any other day to day requirements or activities as directed by the client

The hours will be 2 hours per day from 9h30 (prompt) to 11h30 for 4-5 days a week. The days are negotiable for the right person

The rate of pay will be £8.30 an hour

You will need to provide references and preferably a recent DBS (CRB)

Apply via

Via Matthew