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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Engaging with a wide range of mental health concerns

A very busy week so far, and it’s only Wednesday!

A meeting of our trustees gave unanimous agreement to proceed with the purchase of a new building close to the City, so hopefully I will be able to confirm the details soon.

I was pleased to host a major speech on mental health by Ed Miliband MP on Monday (see previous blog). He didn’t find any disagreement here when he described mental ill health as “the biggest unaddressed health challenge of our age”.

I was also kept very busy by news from the Department of Health that ‘technical irregularities’ had been discovered in the approval of doctors qualified to detain patients under the Mental Health Act in four English regions – so-called ‘Section 12 approval’. We have put out a statement and will support any of our members who may be affected. Despite the government pushing through emergency retrospective legislation, we have been assured that no detentions were illegal.

I would like to thank publicly our mental health law lead, Julie Chalmers, for the huge amount of time she spent on this issue with health department officials. For Julie, myself, and colleagues in the communications and policy teams, there was no chance of a quiet weekend. However, the safety and well-being of those we serve - our patients – is always paramount, as is the professional integrity of all our members.

Over the past week I have also been to two important launches. Firstly, Talking Self Harm was a new report from Young Minds, which highlighted a lack of understanding of the issue among parents, teachers and GPs. I hope this will help and link well with other work supported by the College, such as U Can Cope, led by Alys Cole-King.

I also attended the launch of Fatally Flawed, a report examining the experiences and treatment of children and young people who died in prison custody in England and Wales, published by INQUEST and the Prison Reform Trust. It was a heart rending event as parents told of the untimely death of their children. To me it stressed the need to diagnose children with neuro developmental disorders early – something highlighted recently by the Children’s Commissioner in England.

After meeting Ed Miliband I had the pleasure of visiting a recently opened young people’s unit - the Mary St Aubyn Centre in Colchester. When I last visited the North Essex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust the unit was a building site, but now it is a beautiful light and airy building with a real sense of young people, families and staff working together to help young people with mental illness and learning disability on the road to recovery. They are helping young people to develop adaptive skills so they will have the resilience to return back into life at home and the community.

The unit is named after an exceptional woman, Mary St Aubyn, who will soon step down as chair of the trust.  You can see how her deep commitment to all of the services in this trust has a significant impact.  She will be moving to the board of Combat Stress, where am sure her wisdom and enthusiasm will be of great benefit for veterans.

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