In this piece for The Independent, Nick Webb tells the story of his mother’s suicide and explains how a more trauma-informed, community-oriented approach to mental health services could have saved her life.
“When Mum was sectioned 10 years ago, professionals told our family that she was psychotic and needed to be taken to hospital and given medication. The follow-up care from mental health professionals felt half-hearted and ineffectual. Seeing her sitting alone in the hospital garden, head bowed low and motionless, contributed, along with her clinical diagnosis, to everyone around her feeling that she was ‘other’; that she was untouchable and irretrievably ill.
Today’s public policy and service culture give too much weight to the individual as cause of the problem. When someone is unemployed, for example, we say it’s because they need to be more resilient or hard-working, rather than looking for social and economic causes. Or when someone is mentally ‘unwell’, we look for illness within the person, and the wider and external forces remain invisible.
When it comes to mental health, we are working person to person, rather than taking a more holistic approach and working with connected groups of individuals, friends, families, neighbourhoods and caregivers. The more we understand people’s life stories and how they connect with other people, the more we will understand their joy and their pain, as well as unlocking a wider range of creative solutions and resources to support people more effectively. In this way we can become more compassionate and build the trust and engagement that is so essential for preventing crises.”