This News in Mentalists – Silly Skyscrapers Edition

Today they unveiled the Shard, a great big raised middle finger in the direction of the have-nots from the have-yachts. Where’s that picture of it again? Oh yes.

This may be quite apposite, since a hefty number of this week’s TNIM stories have made me angry about how we treat our have-nots. Oh well, at least we have a great big pointy playground for the super-rich.

A sad day at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, which will no longer teach its MSc in mental health social work.

Care consultant Shirley Ayres, who has been involved with the MSc programme since 1996, said the decision to axe the course marked a “sad day for social work”.

Writing on her Connecting for social care and social media blog, Ayres said that the course had built “a well deserved reputation for its academic and practice excellence” and had been “consistently praised” by Professor Munro when she was an external examiner.

Despite serving as a member of the MSc degree’s programme committee, Ayres said she had been left in the dark over the reasons behind the Institute of Psychiatry’s move.

“I have not been provided with a rationale as to why the course is closing and there has been no explanation of the absence of a proper consultation process,” she wrote.

So, why was it shut down?

An Institute of Psychiatry spokeswoman said:”The decision to close the course was made after careful and considered discussion and in full accordance with college policy and governance, for a number of reasons including strategic, pedagogic and financial.”

Nope, no idea what that even means.

Here’s a worrying report for anyone on housing benefit. It’s getting harder to find landlords that will take benefit recipients.

Hackney Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) in east London had begun to wonder about this. It had noticed, over the past few months, a steady stream of local people coming to see them for help. Some said they faced eviction, others said it was impossible to find somewhere to live that was affordable within the new, draconian, housing benefit limits.

So the CAB decided to investigate. It put together a team of five volunteers on 15 June to carry out a “mystery shopping” exercise to see what the private rental market looked like for people on housing benefit in the east London borough, using two of the main sources of private rented accommodation: the website Rightmove (used by letting agencies) and Gumtree (used by agencies and individual landlords).

The findings are remarkable and depressing. They found 1,585 properties for rent in Hackney on that day. Of these, only 143 were affordable within housing benefit limits. That’s bad enough. But they also found that of these properties just 14 – or under 1% of the available pool of homes – had landlords who were willing to rent to people on housing benefit.

On a more cheerful note, the Work Capacity Assessment may be facing a judicial review.

A high court judge is considering whether to grant permission for two people with mental health conditions to apply for a judicial review of the controversial Work Capability Assessment (WCA) – the computer-led test which determines who is eligible for sickness and disabilitybenefits – on the grounds that the current system discriminates against people with mental health problems.

Lawyers for the two claimants, who requested anonymity within the court system, told Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart that claimants with mental health problems generally were not well-served by the “very stressful process” of undergoing the 20-minute assessments with strangers.

Nathalie Lieven QC highlighted that there were very high levels of appeals against all decisions not to award the Employment and Support Allowance (the new Incapacity Benefit), currently running at about 40% of unsuccessful claims, and very high levels of decisions being overturned on appeal (also around 40%), describing this as a “highly inefficient and undesirable situation”.

She told the judge that many of the medical staff employed by Atos, the company contracted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to carry out the assessments, had no specialist knowledge of mental health issues.

There’s a lack of independent mental health advocates, which could be denying some patients their rights.

People who are detained under the Mental Health Act, or subject to a community treatment order (CTO) have a legal right to access someone who can stand alongside them and help them speak up; an independent mental health advocate (IMHA).

Unfortunately issues of access, understanding and commissioning mean that thousands of people are currently being denied this right.

Despite being a legal right, recognised as a vital input to make rights a reality, safeguard people and include them in their care, funding for IMHA is insufficient to meet demand.

The UK Border Agency were having trouble persuading a schizophrenic Iraqi man in prison to return to Iraq. Their proposed solution? Try to upset his mental state. Unbelievable.

Documents appear to show that officials wrote in their notes in 2009 that he was getting “too comfortable” in the prison and that a new environment may persuade him to return to Iraq voluntarily.

One official wrote: “I propose that he be moved to an immigration removal centre to unbalance him”.

The statement appears to acknowledge what many campaigners against immigration detention claim – that detention can damage the mental health of detainees.

Amanda Weston, acting for A, told the court: “The proposal to move him with the objective to cause him to be unbalanced and to put pressure on him to consent to voluntary removal was improper.”

UKBA emails disclosed to the court also reveal that pressure was applied to a nurse to persuade him to sign a form agreeing to go back to Iraq.

David Hervey, the assistant director of UKBA’s criminal casework directorate, wrote to a colleague, Denise Burgis: “I asked you to speak to his mental health nurse to enlist her help in explaining the FRS (voluntary return) process … The whole point of asking her to do this rather than the immigration officer is that he seems to trust Leena Spencer.”

Spencer responded by saying: “Denise has asked whether I can attempt to explain the deportation process to A again in an attempt to ensure that he signs the relevant paperwork. I have reiterated that I am a nurse not an immigration worker and that Mr Platt (an immigration officer) has given all the information to A but he refuses to sign any forms.”

Want your kids to grow up mentally healthy? Don’t spank them.

People who were hit or spanked as children face higher odds of mental ailments as adults, including mood and anxiety disorders and problems with alcohol and drug abuse, researchers said Monday.

The study, led by Canadian researchers, is the first to examine the link between psychological problems and spanking, while excluding more severe physical or sexual abuse in order to better gauge the effect of corporal punishment alone.

Those who were spanked or hit as kids were between two and seven percent more likely to encounter mental issues later, said the research in the US journalPediatrics, based on a retrospective survey of more than 600 US adults.

For the Wildcard, to celebrate Fourth of July, here’s a salute to our American readers with a picture of Ronald Reagan riding a velociraptor. (Source here)

About Zarathustra

Trained as a nurse, currently working in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). Co-editing the Not So Big Society blog. May possibly be an incorporeal being called Phil Dore. All views expressed are in a personal capacity and not necessarily the views of my employer.

One Response to “This News in Mentalists – Silly Skyscrapers Edition”

  1. Many years ago I went to South Africa (shortly after the end of apartheid). Travelling around was bizarre as the officially available maps and information bore no relationship to the geographical reality. It was as if two countries had been overlaid on each other and you only had a map for one of them. “Which city is this that we are driving through/past?” Oh it doesn’t exist apparently despite the fact that over 1 million people live there. An overly simplistic picture of what it was like but I am feeling the same way in London now. “The Shard – what’s that? It’s a place where really rich people who don’t want to see the real world they are living in” It’s a relief to know other people seem to have somewhat similar feelings about this – thanks for the TNIM -but meanwhile apparently millions of children in this country don’t get at least one square meal each day – I guess we just have to keep doing what we can.


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