Jewel in the crown

The year 1983 was a watershed in my life. Holding a good law degree
from Oxford University I joined a large City solicitors’ practice.
But after a few months I became unwell and was admitted to
hospital. The diagnosis was bipolar affective disorder.

The past 20 years have brought four admissions to hospital, each
lasting between three and eight months. After several years the
doctors worked out a combination of medications that have largely
succeeded in stabilising my condition. It is now six years since my
last admission.

My first two admissions were to an old-style hospital with
beautiful grounds, but this has now become a private housing
estate. The past two admissions were to the modern town centre
psychiatric units. I regret this development as the new units
lacked anywhere for patients to sit outside or walk around

I am sceptical about care in the community, largely because it
seems to allow people who need constant care to slip through the
net. However, I feel that community psychiatric nurses (CPN) are a
jewel in the crown of community care. I feel much gratitude for
their help.

I still cannot work full-time, but I give lectures to create
awareness about mental illness. I lecture regularly to trainee
volunteers at Saneline, occasionally to student nurses at Thames
Valley University, and to various other organisations. On two or
three occasions, I have given talks to groups of psychiatric social
workers. I have also talked on the radio and appeared on television
and in the press in connection with mental health issues.

During the past 15 years I’ve had psychoanalysis and feel this has
benefited me. The combination of talking treatments with medication
is often effective.

My experiences of social care professionals have varied. Shortly
after I became ill, a social worker helped in getting a flat in
which I have lived happily since 1986. But in the late 1980s I was
put in touch with a social worker who seemed to chip away at my
remaining confidence.

Then more recently I was referred to an outreach worker by my CPN.
I had been depressed and my CPN felt I needed somebody to visit me.
The outreach worker often failed to turn up, was late, or told me
he could not stay long. I felt I was getting little benefit, so
after a few months I told him not to come anymore.

Although my experience of social care professionals has been
varied, I feel that if somebody has a major mental illness which
has required hospital treatment, they should be allocated a social
worker or outreach workers whom they can contact if necessary.

Daniel Levy has mental health problems.

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