Welcome to the October update of one of the 4 carer engagement forums I either promote and chair. This particular forum is over in Lambeth and kindly hosted by Lambeth Carers hub.
Carers’ Hub Lambeth is an independent local charity based in Brixton. They are there to relieve the stresses experienced by unpaid carers who live in or care for somebody living in Lambeth. This also includes those carers trying to care for someone suffering from mental illness, although I will use the term suffering lightly since some service users feel there is strength in at least fighting through mental health.
The Lambeth Mental Health Carers forum is a platform for carers to come together, discuss and engage with services. It is important for unpaid carers to have that relationship with community, social and mental health services. Carers need to have that space where they are empowered to ask why certain service provision is the way it is.
Most times unpaid carers are satisfied with the answers they get. Other times, such answers lead to more questions and some questions might even go so far to be quite complex. It is not enough for unpaid carers to tell their stories time and time again. Carers should be encouraged to point their noses into things that affect the carer’s journey.
For the October forum, we had Rebecca Martland visit us. She is doing a Research project on ‘Feasibility of high intensity interval training in improving physical and mental health in inpatients with severe mental illness’. Yes, it is a long title, but the project is critically important because so many patients suffer from physical ill health due to inactivity and having difficultly finding someone to provide mentoring in physical health training.
Rebecca Martland who is a researcher from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience leads on this research. The IOPPN is a research institution dedicated to discovering what causes mental illness and diseases of the brain. In addition, its aim is to help identify new treatments for them. Rebecca also works for South London & Maudsley, where the IOPPN is in partnership with SLaM.
Rebecca wants to run more Focus groups with inpatients with SMI, carers of patients with SMI and staff to scope perceptions of attitudes and practicalities of the HIIT study.
It was great for Rebecca not only to have attended the Southwark MH carers forum, but also engage with carers from the Lambeth MH carers forum in the same month, which I admire greatly. I was happy to also hear some carers have signed up to her focus group to give ideas on the research.
The forum then spent some time going through last month’s minutes, which had been drawn up by James Holdcroft from Carers Hub Lambeth. James had done a brilliant job recording difficult meetings and helping us members keep focus on issues raised.
We discussed a few things from the minutes, one being the consultation on what will happen to Lambeth Hospital, others discussions where on SLaM’s patient record system and also discussions about carers assessments and tracking the numbers of unpaid carers in the borough Lambeth.
Next up at the Lambeth MH carers forum was Robert Stebbings the Policy and Communications Officer from Adfam. Robert was here to update the forum on the work Adfam has been doing throughout the year, specially with families and carers.
Adfam is the national charity working to improve life for families affected by drugs or alcohol. They work heavily with families caring for someone affected by drugs or alcohol. Their vision is allowing those affected by addiction to have the chance to benefit from healthy relationships, be part of a loving and supportive family and enjoy mental and physical wellbeing.
Adfam do a lot of campaigning and policy work. Off their site it was amazing to see how many groups their CEO was working with, those being.
- The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs
- Commission on domestic and sexual violence and multiple disadvantage
- Mentor-ADEPIS steering group
- Safer gambling campaign advisory panel
- Manchester Metropolitan University’s substance use and end-of-life care steering group.
One of the members of the Lambeth MH Carers forum had even been involved with Adfam visiting parliament to discuss the latest initiatives on addiction, which I was very proud to hear carers working hard to be heard.
Robert spoke about the difficulties Drug, alcohol and addiction can cause to families.
- Financial Impact
- Constant worry and anxiety on families affected
- Bereavement, especially when addiction leads to someone taking their life
- The problems of trust and denial.
- Impact on wellbeing and health
- Feeling no light at the end of the tunnel
….and other life-changing impacts on families.
Robert also explained to the forum about the issues of stigma, which goes hand in hand when someone is suffering from addiction, as although addiction is recognized as mental ill health, a lot of people still see such behaviour as a matter of choice.
Plus he discussed what Peer Support and Advocacy groups Adfam have been providing and how they work.
We were told how families and carers felt the following issues were a difficult path to navigate being,
Loved one not honest with professionals or the nature of their problems
Service cuts and configurations
Plus families having to keep pushing the benefits of care involvement to professionals.
You can find out more about Adfam from their link below.
The members of the Lambeth MH carers forum discussed how the Carers UK conference went and were pleased I had a presence there. There was a request that I do a presentation on engaging with GP’s. The members are also very excited about next month’s visit from by the MP Helen Hayes. They probably are interested in what is being done for mental health in the borough of Lambeth and updates on how the borough of Lambeth & Southwark is supporting unpaid carers.