Memorandum submitted by Pat Cull (MH 53)
My comments refer to those who suffer from severe and enduring mental illness, in particular schizophrenia, for which as yet there is no definite known cause, who are a very vulnerable group in society, often with little quality of life and whose carers bear a heavy load. Too often the families are blamed for the illness. This is not the case, as it is a physiological condition, which rarely presents before the age of puberty. Family blame merely adds to their burden.
Early diagnosis is difficult though necessary due to the concomitant natura1 and glandular change in the body, and the age at which the child is growing into the man, and stretches the boundaries of parental control.
In view of the new treatments available for this condition it is desirable in most cases that as much autonomy for the patient should be allowed and available as the condition permits. All whose condition is "controlled" by their medical treatment require occupation, but work in the open market is not suitable for a many, and to deny them their Benefits merely adds to their anxieties, and possible/probable further breakdown.
It should be recognised that severe and enduring mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, require a continuum of treatment, care and support, both of medical care and social care, suited to the severity of the condition, and also to the innate abilities of the patient.
Schizophrenia is a disabling condition, often only outwardly visible at times of crisis. However, even with treatment the condition remains, and should be regarded as a disability.
When such patients have been admitted to hospital or other institution, there should be a protocol for their discharge, to ensure that treatment and care is in place before their discharge. i.e. decent housing, registration with a GP., preferably an SOAD. Information given to both them and their carers as to where help is obtainable if there are signs of deterioration.
There has been a great lack of rehabilitation facilities supplied for this group, mostly funded by Voluntary agencies whose Government grants have been cut. Also the minimum wage has caused the voluntary sector difficulty in provision.
This group of people are not recognised by the Housing Authorities as being in need of sheltered accommodation, which will require input from the social services to ensure that the standards of cleanliness are kept up, and that patients are being adequately fed. This also assists in alerting the medical profession, whether G.P. or Hospital of any deterioration in their condition.
Much more training in the condition, treatment and care of these patients should be given in both medical and nursing professions. More information should be given to families and other informal carers as they are in day to day contact with the patient, and again deterioration in their condition can be notified early. The media add to the fears of the general population in their reporting of cases which have "gone wrong", either through lack of early diagnosis and treatment, or becoming lost to the Mental Health Services.
Society has changed greatly since the 1983 Act. Consideration does not appear to have been given into the increase in population, either indigenous or immigrant, both legal and illegal. The drug and gun cultures have led to deterioration in living conditions, although they have become more materialistic. With regard to street drugs, there are now parents who are involved, and thus are a bad example to their children. It has now been shown that cannabis in particular can lead to long-term mental illness in some vulnerable subjects. De-regulation is therefore a great disservice to the young.
It would be much more sensible, in my opinion, if more resources were given to identifying the suppliers of both drugs and arms than dealing with the youthful users of both.