Artist’s Talk at SHARP exhibition space in Brixton

Hi all,

Please note this talk by the artist Jose Gomez on his story &  work exhibited at the SHARP gallery on  14th May. Please contact Mary Salome, curator  or Anna Croucher, occupational therapist for further information and also take a look at these 2 articles:

Artist’s Talk

“Colores, dame colores”

Jose Gomez

1-3 pm Wednesday 14th May 2014

At the SHARP Team

308-312 Brixton Road


Tel: 020 3228 7050

More details here: Artist talk 14th May @ SHARP, Brixton

Mary Salome


SHARP : The Social, Hope and Recovery Project (SHARP) provides community-based care and treatment for people, aged 18-65, with severe mental illness including psychosis

South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust
SHARP  308-312 Brixton Road | London | SW9 6AA


Myhealthlocker is an online health record which is managed by YOU, the service user. This means that you can monitor your own health online. Myhealthlocker also contains resources like useful contact numbers, and tools to help with psychosis.

Myhealthlocker is still young and is improving all the time. But we need more people to use myhealthlocker and then give their views on it. Myhealthlocker is likely to be introduced across SLaM, and so this is an opportunity to shape the end product.

There are also some paid opportunities available to test other electronic devices and applications.

If you are interested in finding out more please contact a member of the myhealthlocker team:


Tel: 020 3228 3875

Or you can follow us on Twitter @myhealthlocker

Mental health cuts cost the NHS millions, charity says

Rethink said cognitive behavioural therapy could help cut long-term costs of care
Cuts to mental health care are costing the NHS millions of pounds long-term, a report has said.

More cases of psychosis and schizophrenia now end up in hospital rather than being treated in the community, it said.

Rethink Mental Illness published the report with the London School of Economics.

Cuts mean fewer people have access to early intervention treatment, such as talking therapy, Rethink said.

It said the NHS could save more than £50m a year by shifting its focus.

Britain’s recession in 2008 led to cuts across the NHS, as the government struggled to deal with ballooning deficits.

The report said it costs on average £13 a day to support someone with psychosis or schizophrenia in the community.

It said this compared with the £350 average daily cost of keeping a mental health patient in hospital.

‘Shift of resources’

Meanwhile, 54% of the psychosis budget was being spent on inpatient care rather than on preventive community services, the report found.

Family therapy, where families of people with psychosis and schizophrenia are supported, cognitive behavioural therapy, and peer support could help cut long-term costs of care, it said.

Health Minister Norman Lamb said early access to treatment in the community was “often the best option” for people with psychosis and schizophrenia.

He said: “Not only do they benefit from being in familiar surroundings among loved ones but they are less likely to need costly hospital stays.”

Mr Lamb called for a “shift of resources” to preventive care and said that the government had given NHS England a “clear objective” to put mental and physical health on a par.

Mental health trust budgets for 2013-14 have fallen by 2.3% from 2011-12.

The cuts have meant mental health trusts have been asked to save almost 20% more from next year’s budgets than hospitals.

Budgets for community mental health teams, which give continuing support to patients to prevent their health deteriorating to crisis point,reached a plateau for 2011-12 but referrals rose by 13%.

‘Parity of esteem’

The report also predicted more than £50m a year could be saved if early detection services could be strengthened.

It said the NHS saved £989 every time people were treated with cognitive behavioural therapy instead of going to hospital.

Rethink said mental health accounted for 23% of the disease burden in England but received only 13% of the health budget.

Dr Martin McShane, national director for long-term conditions at NHS England, said the report was “very helpful” and was supportive of what the organisation wanted to achieve.

He said: “We recognise we must work to ensure that in everything we do mental health has parity of esteem with physical health.

“We have significantly invested in improving access to psychological therapies and dementia care.”

Via Bridget via

South London and Maudsley on film: humanity and humour

Looking at a newspaper story about the murder of drummer Lee Rigby earlier in the year, Lloyd, who has a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, said that hearing about schizophrenics in the news made him feel worse. He worried that he didn’t know his own mind and wondered if he himself could turn into a murderer too, since that’s what he read in the papers. Dealing with the symptoms of psychosis can be difficult enough in itself. Having to deal with society’s perceptions that people with your diagnosis are violent and unpredictable adds another level of difficulty.

Earlier today, I attended an advance screening of Channel 4′s new series on the realities of modern mental health care at the South London and Maudsley (SLaM) mental health trust.  In the screening room in the basement of Channel 4′s headquarters in Horseferry Road, a select audience sat in red plush seats watching one of four programmes in the series on modern mental health care. The series is entitled Bedlam and the name choice has caused controversy. To an extent it can be argued that, when a respected NHS trust calls a television series after a medieval asylum, it dilutes the strength of the case against Thorpe Park’s “mental patient scary fun” horror maze Asylum. But what of the series itself?

The episode previewed profiled the work of Speedwell community mental health team (CMHT) in Deptford, south London, over the course of a year. The four-part series, which starts at 9pm this Thursday, also covers the Anxiety Disorders Residential Unit, Lambeth Triage (the front line for emergency cases) and the older adults unit (over 65s).

Without giving too much away, we followed patients Tamara, Lloyd and Rosemary, all of whom experience psychosis. We saw them trying to cope with periods of illness, voices, delusional beliefs about bed bugs and with children being taken into foster care.  We saw them using prescription drugs as well as speed and alcohol to help manage their troubling symptoms. We saw them at times chaotic and disturbed, and at other times funny and happy.

We saw social worker Jim Thurkle doing his best to hunt down and help patients, a third of whom refuse to engage with him. We saw Dr Tom Werner doing his best to confirm the stereotype of the psychiatrist in the bow tie. We saw the fine line between enabling someone to live the life they choose and intervening in the interests of their own health and safety.

Not once did we see someone who could be considered a danger to anyone else. Not once did any of the patients present as anywhere remotely near the stereotype of the paranoid schizophrenic mad axe murderer. What we saw was patients struggling to manage their lives in difficult circumstances, and the professionals who tried to help them.

It was particularly interesting to see the work of a CMHT  which, along with GPs, carry out the bulk of psychiatric care in this country. As the booklet handed out at the advance screening says:

“The lion’s share of SLaM’s work takes place in a community setting, looking after more than 35,000 people with mental health issues. SLaM treats 8,000 psychosis patients a year; 6,000 of whom are based and treated in the community. We touch on different treatments available and see intense and moving interaction with social workers and mental health teams.”

As Pete Beard, the producer of the episode, who answered questions after the screening, said:

“We wanted to reflect the realities of this challenging work, following the actual narratives of people walking a tightrope with their mental health as it happened and the teams who act as a safety net. I feel that these realities are rarely reflected accurately in the media and as a result it is important to demystify the work performed as community teams, especially taboo subjects such as being sectioned”.

It was profoundly moving to see someone taken away from their own home, against their will, and detained with no legal authority other than the personal opinions of a social worker and doctors. No police arrest, no court process, no judge, no jury. Just a simple form signed, and you have no choice about even the simplest things like what you eat, where you sleep or what shampoo you use to wash your hair. And, on a more intrusive level, you have no right to refuse medication.

This extended scene cannot help but make you reflect on the balance of power between the state and the individual, and on what society deems to be acceptable norms of behaviour. This is especially so when you’re dealing with someone you don’t really know, as can be the case when a mental health team is called out to consider sectioning someone. Britain has a proud tradition of eccentricity, but that is not tolerated if you are deemed to be mentally ill. Simply being a nuisance to others but in no way dangerous to yourself or others can, ultimately, mean three people decide on your behalf that your quality of life will be improved by a compulsory stay in a locked psychiatric ward.

The sectioning sequence made me think about the boundaries or free will and autonomy and to what extent people’s peculiarities are tolerated. I have been on the receiving end of such a process, and it changed my life irrevocably. As Dr Baggaley said, when he’s taken part in sectionings he does wonder whether this was what he trained for. Although he sees it as difficult, he does see it as necessary.

Dr Baggaley described the person in question as a “revolving door patient” who would face repeated hospitalisations, some under section (compulsion), for the rest of their life. And yet this is someone who will – under the current welfare benefits system – also face repeated Work Capability Assessments. It is hard to see the point of such assessments in this case particularly since, as Dr Sarah Wollaston MP wrote today, WCA’s are not geared towards helping people with mental health problems find and retain employment.

One of the things which struck me in this episode was the amount of humour. Despite their difficult circumstances and troubling symptoms, the patients followed could come across as affable, amenable and warm-hearted. Ripples of laughter would regularly rumble across the audience, and not just because viewers were looking for a little light relief in what was, after all, a serious topic. As with any other fly-on-the-wall documentary, the colourful charaters in this episode were full of humour. The seriousness of the subject matter made the flashes of levity even more welcome.

Overall, this preview episode was intimate, insightful and profound. It showed human beings in all our difficulties, complexities and ambiguities. It showed the realities of trying to combat the stigma around mental illness with humanity and humour. It showed that danger and fear are the least of the concerns of the CMHT.

On a final note, I will end with a criticism that was raised by audience members with personal experience of mental health services: namely that the episode was somewhat naive and unrealistic. Audience members had received far worse experiences of mental health care, or had been able to deliver a far worse service due to cutbacks. It was acknowledged by the film makers that Speedwell CMHT had a ring-fenced budget, so had not been under the same constraints and workload other CMHT’s they’d liaised with had.

It was also highlighted that a lot of the difficulties patients needed help with were practical, and that these needs were not being met. The patients were unable to deal with these matters themselves and therefore they were stuck in difficult circumstances. Examples were the bedbugs which did actually exist in Tamara’s flat. It was not a delusional belief (though its extent may have been) and dealing with that practical problem may have lessened her delusional symptoms. This and her use of amphetamines may also have been the way she managed the immense sorrow of losing her children. Lloyd appeared to be using alcohol to numb his pain.

With a series planned over two years and filmed over twelve months, much footage will have ended up on the cutting room floor. It’s a shame, however, that the close relationship between medical help and social support, and the parts played by talking therapies and thereapeutic activities, were overlooked completely in this preview episode.

Nor was the 9% reduction in inpatient beds in the past 2 years mentioned.  Nor were the terrible cuts to community mental health services mentioned.

On the other hand, as Madeliene Long, SLaM chair said:

“Despite it affecting so many people, mental illness is still poorly understood. The stigma and discrimination that people face can make their mental health even worse and can prevent them from seeking help. So it’s really important that we do everything we can to raise awareness, challenge stereotypes and promote the facts about mental health. I’m really pleased that we have been able to work with Channel 4 and The Garden Productions on such an ambitious project which sets out to do exactly that.”

As executive producer Amy Flanagan said,

“Many of these patients had lived long lives with no history of mental illness. It could happen to our parents, to us.”

And, if it does happen to us or someone we know, programmes such as these will mean it feels a little less alien and a little more a part of everyday life.

Via via Bridget

Do you want to help improve research opportunities within the Trust?

Over the last two years, we at the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre for Mental Health and Dementia Unit at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London have been developing ways in which service users can find out about research opportunities within the Trust.

We want to improve the ways in which people can find out and participate in our research, and are therefore running a brief monitoring activity across the Trust.

We want to run this exercise in order to improve how research is communicated across the Trust. This is a one-time activity and all participants will receive detailed feedback about the results of our evaluation. We will also let you know what improvements we will be making as a result of this activity.

We wish to hear from people who:

  • Are currently using SLaM services
  • Have used/are using services to help with symptoms of psychosis

If interested, please contact Konstantina Papoulia at the Institute of Psychiatry (tel: 02078480502; email:

Why the Sun is so wrong to use violence and fear to start a debate about the mental health system

There are good days and bad days in this job. Monday wasn’t a good one when I saw the Sun’s headline claiming 1200 people had been killed by ‘mental patients’ in the last ten years.

After so much improvement in the way the media reports mental illness in recent years, it felt like a huge step back to the bad old days of headlines like ‘Bonkers Bruno locked up’. In this world of sensationalist reporting, violence is the only prism through which mental illness is viewed.

This is not in any way, to downplay the terrible tragedy of a young life lost. Or indeed the urgent need to address failings in the system which so often play a part in incidents of this nature. And I’m not saying that murders involving people with mental illness should not be reported, of course they should. What I am saying is that they should be reported responsibly and in a way which does reinforce the stereotype that equates mental illness with violence.

While of course there are cases where people with mental illness commit serious acts of violence, we must keep the real risk in perspective. Ninety-five per cent of murders are committed by people who do not have a mental illness. In the vast majority of those 5 per cent of cases, there are other factors at play such as alcohol or drug misuse.

When the coverage of an issue is as crude and sensationalist as it was on Monday, everyone with a mental health diagnosis suffers.  It has been moving to see the reaction from people with mental illness themselves. Many have taken to social media to explain how this kind of reporting compounds the social isolation which mental illness can cause.

As one mental health blogger, Ceri, put it:  “Feeling exposed, vulnerable, persecuted, threatened and fearful, thinking that everyone knows you are evil, is a common part of the paranoid symptoms I and others experience. Having it shouted in the headlines that all this is really true, that you really are dangerous to others, and everyone knows, is a sick joke.”

The Sun may argue that they are only highlighting this issue because services are failing and something needs to be done. While I agree that mental health services badly need to improve, I would argue that coverage of this kind is not the place to start the argument.

We need to start with the enormous human suffering which can be caused by mental illness when decent treatment isn’t available. We should be talking about how people with serious mental illness are being let down by the NHS and social care system. We should be talking about the many thousands of lives lost every year to suicide.

I’d like to see the Sun run a headline highlighting the 30,000 people with mental health problems who are dying needlessly every year from preventable physical health problems. Or a front page splash about the excellent reportproduced this week by Victim Support and Mind which shows that people with mental illness are three times more likely to be the victims of crime.

Last year our Schizophrenia Commission highlighted the way in which we are systematically letting down the 300,000 people in England who have schizophrenia or psychosis and their families.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  We can do so much more to improve the lives of people with severe mental illness.  Schizophrenia and other conditions do not need to be diagnoses of despair and fear.

A constant focus on a small number of cases involving violence reinforce fear and despair. Instead we need to see a wider debate about the individual and societal costs of mental illness and what can be done about it. A debate prompted by compassion, not fear.


Channel 4 commissions documentary series The Maudsley

With one in four of us now suffering from a mental health problem, a new 4 x 60 series explores and demystifies the most profound decisions involved in treating the mentally ill.

The Maudsley (w/t) takes an in-depth and unprecedented look at mental health in Britain today, with exclusive access to a wide range of services, patients and staff at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM).

Key to the series, filmed over a year, is giving a voice to those who suffer with mental illness, from people with psychosis or manic depression to those with severe anxiety. For, although a growing number of us will experience mental illness in our lifetime, the stigma remains; it’s an unwanted label.

SLaM is the country’s best-known psychiatric trust and its services are unique, pioneering and often surprising. This is the most comprehensive access producers have ever had to any NHS mental health trust in the country.

Ralph Lee, Head of Factual at Channel 4 said: “Building on the success of last year’s 4Goes Madseason in bringing a fresh approach to mental health on television, we are delighted that the patients and staff of the Maudsley have trusted us to tell their stories for the first time.”

The series is produced by The Garden Productions (24 Hours in A&E, The Audience, Inside Claridges) and series directed by Dave Nath (Cutting Edge, The Year the Town Hall Shrank).

The Maudsley (w/t) will follow the lives of patients and their families, touching on a range of mental health conditions. Each of the four films tackles a different aspect of mental health – the big issues of today. Many people manage their illness with medication; others walk a daily tightrope with the possibility of relapsing at any time.

The cameras follow a community mental health team; the lion’s share of SLaM’s work takes place in a community setting, looking after more than 35,000 people with mental health issues.

Cameras are allowed in to Lambeth Hospital’s Triage ward for the first time. In a postcode with the highest rates of psychosis in Europe, this is the Accident and Emergency of mental health – where patients are at their most unwell. For the staff it’s all about risk management. The buck stops with psychiatrists like Dr Martin Baggaley who makes crucial decisions every day. Getting it wrong could have tragic consequences.

Anxiety has become the mental illness of our time, with seven million drug prescriptions issued every year. The Bethlem Royal Hospital’s national unit treats the most anxious people in the country – the top one per cent – and claims a success rate of three in four patients. Some are consumed by irrational fears they’ve caused a road accident in their sleep, harmed strangers or have intrusive thoughts.

The number of older people with mental health problems is estimated to increase by a third over the next 15 years to 4.3 million. Bereavement, stress and loneliness can contribute and some end up on the Maudsley Hospital’s Older Adults Ward. With a premium on bed space patients cannot stay on the ward forever but some lose the confidence to go back home and live an independent life.

It’s executive produced by Amy Flanagan and Jonathan Smith. Broadcast is scheduled for Autumn 2013.

Via via Bridget