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

Psychiatrists launch ‘Get Well Soon’ cards for World Mental Health Day

Embargoed until 09 October 2009

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has produced the first ‘Get Well Soon’ cards specially designed to send to people who are unwell with mental ill-health. The cards are a simple way to send a message of support to friends or relatives – and could even help boost their recovery from mental illness.

Previous research1,2 has shown that people who are admitted to mental health in-patient units receive far fewer cards and messages of support than people who are admitted to hospital with a physical health problem. A new survey of 131 mental health service users, conducted by the College earlier this month, shows a similar pattern.

Just over half (51%) of the survey respondents said they had received a ‘Get Well Soon’ card the last time they were physically ill – but only 31% received a card when they were last unwell with a mental health problem. Over half (52%) said they did not receive any cards, flowers or gifts when they were last mentally ill – compared with 36% the last time they were physically ill.

Importantly, more than 8 out of 10 (81%) of people surveyed said receiving a ‘Get Well Soon’ card would help their recovery. Almost half of these (46%) thought it would help their recovery ‘a lot’.

The cards have received backing from TV presenter Trisha Goddard. Trisha, who has spoken openly about her battles with depression and – more recently – breast cancer, said:

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, I was inundated with ‘Get Well Soon’ cards, all of which were really touching. If you’re thinking I only got those cards because I’m in the public eye, let me tell you this. When I lived in Australia, I was equally in the public eye and yet when news leaked out that I was in a psychiatric hospital following a breakdown – not a peep! No cards and certainly no flowers.

“If anything increases feelings of isolation and unworthiness just when you’re at your lowest ebb, this does. Feeling ‘invisible’ because people avoid you not knowing what to say rubs salt into a wound, which sometimes takes a long time to heal. That’s why I support this brilliant idea from the College. It’s a great way of reminding people that a few kind words and card can help you deal with the pain; whether the hurt is in your heart or your head!”

The cards come in two striking and colourful designs. The greeting inside the card reads: “Thinking of you at this time. Hope things improve soon.”

Dr Peter Byrne, a consultant psychiatrist and chair of the College’s Public Education Committee, said:

“I have worked in general and psychiatric hospitals for over 20 years, and there is no greater demonstration of the hidden prejudice against people with mental illness than the bedside lockers. In psychiatric units, there is barely a card or any other reminder that the outside world cares.

“People often don’t know what to do or say when a friend or relative is ill with a mental health problem – so they end up doing nothing. I hope these specially-designed cards begin the process of change. They are a great way of sending a message of support, showing that you care, and maybe even helping to boost someone’s recovery.”

The cards have been produced in collaboration with mental health service users, carers, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals. Service users have praised the College’s ‘Get Well Soon’ card initiative:

Sally, a member of the College’s Service User Recovery Forum and someone who suffers from enduring mental health problems, said:

“For 35 years I have been admitted many times to psychiatric wards – and general medical wards following suicide attempts – without receiving cards, flowers, grapes or, sometimes, even visitors. When I had to have a mastectomy, I received large bouquets, cards, presents and visitors. People commented on how brave I was. No-one has ever told me how brave I am to endure all these years of mental ill-health.”

Thomas, a service user, said:

“I first experienced mental ill health whilst I was studying at University. My friends and family did not know what to do, or how to react, so they did nothing. Some time later, when I went into hospital for a relatively minor operation, I received lots of visitors with cards, fruit, chocolates and enough Lucozade to sink a ship. It is such a shame that friends and family usually know how to respond if you are physically ill, and yet find it so difficult when you are mentally unwell . When you are ill you can often feel quite isolated, and knowing that people who care for you are thinking of you would have really helped my recovery.”

The cards form part of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ three-year Fair Deal campaign, and promote the concept of recovery from mental ill health.


For further information, please contact:
Kathy Oxtoby or Deborah Hart in the Communications Department.

Telephone: 0203 701 2544 or 0203 701 2538

 

References:

1) Lankappa JS and Spence SJ (2005) Psychiatric in-patients receive fewer greetings cards than other in-patients, Psychiatric Bulletin, 29:449-451 2) Bromley JS and Cunningham SJ (2004) ‘You don’t bring me flowers any more’: an investigation into the experience of stigma by psychiatric in-patients, Psychiatric Bulletin, 28:371-374

 

Note to editors:

Cards come in a choice of two designs – ‘Flowers’ and ‘Grapes’. A single card and envelope costs £2.25 (incl. p&p). Discounts are available for larger orders. Order cards from: Leaflets Department, Royal College of Psychiatrists, 17 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8PG. Tel: 020 7235 2351 ext.259. Email: leaflets@rcpsych.ac.uk Proceeds from sales of the cards will be used to continue producing the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ award-winning mental health information – particularly in paper form. Many people, including older people and those from disadvantaged backgrounds, don’t have access to the internet and value our printed materials. The College does not receive any government funding towards the production of its materials www.rcpsych.ac.uk/info

 

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