Rethink Mental Illness - the mental health charity
Jane Harris, Rethink Associate Director, gives SocialCare.co.uk her time to tell us about the organisation and how its campaigning and workforce helps everyone affected by severe mental illness. Words by Matt Farrah.
22nd May 2013
Can you explain some of the ways in which Rethink provides practical help to people who suffer from severe mental illness?
Rethink Mental Illness works to help everyone affected by severe mental illness recover a better quality of life. Our wide range of services includes advocacy, carer support, community support, criminal justice, crisis, employment and training, helpline and advice, housing, nursing and residential care, personalisation, respite, IAPT talking treatments and young people’s services.
The support we offer spans from acute and long-term care through to practical support and advice. Amongst other things this includes: running 17 nursing and residential care homes, providing over 110 housing related services, operating more than 10 helpline services, offering over 45 specialist services to carers of people with severe mental illness and more than 130 groups which meet regularly to provide carers and people with severe mental illness with a local support network.
Who carries out the work on behalf of Rethink - can you explain if you employ paid support workers and mental health workers or do you exclusively use experienced voluntary care workers?
Rethink Mental Illness currently employs a paid workforce of around 1400 people, with a valuable contribution made by volunteers, users of our services and their carers.
Do you work in partnership with local authorities or independent health and social care providers?
We work in partnership with NHS Trusts, local authorities and other charities-whatever it takes to get the right support to people who vitally need it.
Beyond practical support, can you briefly explain how your campaigns help raise awareness of mental health in the UK?
Rethink Mental Illness campaigns nationally for policy change, and locally for support for people affected by severe mental illness. By speaking out for people affected by severe mental illness, campaigning can make a huge difference.
A recent success for Rethink Mental Illness was the Government’s commitment to expand access to psychological therapies to people with severe mental illness. This was a great step forward and largely due to Rethink staff and supporters getting behind the Fair Treatment Now campaign.
Campaigning against stigma and discrimination also forms a large part of our work as unfortunately people affected by mental illness do experience discrimination and this needs to be challenged.
Rethink Mental Illness is working to change people's attitudes to severe mental illness through Time to Change, an anti-stigma programme reaching millions of people across the UK.
What is the thinking behind 'Rethink Activists' and how do people become one?
Rethink Activists are people directly affected by mental illness – making them the real experts. They help us to make a difference by getting involved in all areas of our work including campaigning, media work, fund raising and sitting on regional committees. We firmly believe in the policy of ‘no decision about me without me’ and hold that ethic at the core of everything we do at Rethink Mental Illness.
Anyone who has been affected by a mental illness can become a Rethink Activist – all they need to do is sign up.
There's recently been an announcement that the Government is going to back an increase in treating mental health illnesses with speech therapy treatments (talking therapy). It seems to be have been warmly received by the health and social care sector generally. Does Rethink have a view on this?
Rethink Mental Illness welcomed the Government’s mental health strategy for its potential to put mental health on a level playing field with physical illness. In particular accessing psychological therapies can be difficult for people with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia to access; despite it having been proven time and again that it is a treatment which is both beneficial to recovery and cost effective. Extending psychological therapies will ensure thousands more people with mental illness are able to recover a better quality of life.
Rethink Mental Illness will be seeking assurances the money will be spent as promised however as we would be very concerned if the money pledged did not get spent on psychological treatments. We will be joining other charities in asking the Department of Health to clarify how they plan to ensure the money pledged will be spent on improving access in this area.
Arguably the public is more aware of the range and degree of mental illness in society today than 10 or 20 years ago. But do you feel that the mental health sector still requires an increase in the number of qualified mental health nurses and workers and an increase in the number of mental health jobs to meet the demand?
The mental health sector is currently seeing a decrease in available staff – members have reported to us that they don’t have a Community Psychiatric Nurse or key worker anymore due to cuts to staffing. This includes ‘stealth’ cuts where staff on long term leave or who leave their job aren’t replaced. Mental health service users really value having a skilled CPN who can offer consistent support and contact – they see this as a safety net and fear being left with no ongoing point of contact. For that reason we would definitely like to see an increase in the number of qualified mental health nurses and support workers and other care / support staff available to service users and carers.
Could job boards like SocialCare.co.uk or Nurses.co.uk do more to support charities like Rethink? How can we help?
Rethink Mental Illness provides information to hundreds of thousands of people a year on issues from benefits to the mental health act. Nurses.co.uk and SocialCare.co.uk could help people get vital info by passing on our website to people affected, including family members.
Articles which address mental health will also go a long way in keeping audiences up to date and fully informed on the issues at hand. It is vital that workers in the health care sector know who Rethink is so that they can refer our services to people affected by mental illness.
Rethink Mental Illness has some great online resources including the Rethink online forum, Rethink Talk, where members can openly talk about their experiences.
We also have a really active Rethink Charity Facebook page which we would love everyone to join to help us spread the word about what we do and how we do it.
Job boards such as SocialCare.co.uk and Nurses.co.uk can help Rethink Mental Illness by raising awareness of who we are and adding us a resource with links on websites. Anyone wanting to find out more or get involved with Rethink’s work should visit www.rethink.org.
Thanks to Jane and to Rethink for their time. We hope you find the article and links useful.
For more information about mental health jobs try these other articles by SocialCare.co.uk and Nurses.co.uk: