Thursday 12 August 2010

Say "Cheese"

Some of the large crowd in Caerphilly yesterday smile for the camera at one of the most successful "Road to Recovery" events held so far this summer. Over 100 signed the post-card supporting the campaign and there was excellent public support and media coverage - congratulations to Nyree George and her team of volunteers and staff.

The national goals of the campaign are:

(1) Wales has recently been given the power to create new mental health legislation and the Assembly Government has introduced a draft "Measure" (Welsh law). Hafal Members would like the new law and accompanying regulations to give all people with a serious mental illness a legal right to a holistic care plan, and to set out all the areas the care plan should cover. We believe that care plans should include all the areas specified by the Welsh Code of Practice for the Mental Health Act, as follows: medical treatment; other forms of treatment including psychological therapies; personal care and physical well-being; accommodation; work and occupation; training and education; finance and money; social, cultural and spiritual aspects; parenting or caring relationships.

(2) We believe that in future all mental health services should be developed and delivered in response to individuals' care plans. This would mean giving each person a 'menu' of services to choose from so that they can exercise choice as much as possible in their recovery.

(3) Given the pressure on public spending, we want resources for mental health and social services to be fully protected – and for new resources to bring mental health services up to scratch.

In Caerphilly one of the local concerns added to this agenda was the need for better information on services. This a useful point. We know that services throughout Wales fall short of what is needed but many patients and families also lose out unnecessarily because they do not know - and are inadvertently not informed about - what is available to them. Hafal doesn't have the answer to the problem but this is a good moment to point people to our local networks (try the interactive map here) who will have a good overview of what's available in their county. Carers and families may want to follow the contact list here.

I like the "Hitchhiker's Guide to Recovery" theme in Caerphilly. Hafal has always used a lot of road transport imagery (even before the arrival of the microbus) precisely because it is often used by our clients to describe their progress. I was quite an accomplished hitch-hiker, once reaching the Mediterranean in the South of France in just a day with eight lifts from St Malo in spite of getting stuck in a local bus strike trying to get out of Nantes circa 1979. These days I'm more comfortable with my own wheels but would not rule out hitching again. My technique was: unaggressive, clean-looking clothes; a ruck-sack which suggests you might be walking some of the way; and relentless eye-contact. I suppose I should also say that it is quite high risk to give or take lifts and widely held not to be recommended, especially for young women: that seems unfair but in truth so few women hitch-hike alone that you might raise the risk by standing out. Actually I believe the greatest risk is from accidents since you don't know the competence of your driver and in my experience some drivers like to show off their driving "skills" or the performance of their vehicle. Around 1976 I and the son of the Lord Chief Justice of Hong Kong were hitching in a lorry which crushed a little Opel car just outside Bwlch - on that occasion it was the car-driver's fault. We didn't have seat-belts but were unhurt because the lorry didn't even slow down when we collided...