Doing a simple search on the internet reveals any number of articles on how to improve your mental health. Advice around how to get head space, how to exercise your mind or how to get a better work–life balance – the list can be endless.
For those with mental health issues the number of online resources can be overwhelming and often don’t help to make life any easier. For many, the only option to help improve their mental health and standard of life is to seek support within a mental health facility.
Barchester Healthcare has seven independent hospitals across the UK, which provide person-centred care for adults who are living with a variety of long-term mental health conditions. Illnesses such as Huntington’s disease, working-age dementia, schizophrenia and dementia with complex behaviours, are just some of the conditions that are treated in our hospital environments.
Gareth Colling, who is a registered mental health nurse at Billingham Grange Hospital, Cleveland, explains: “We concentrate on the person and not the diagnosis. If we can help people address some of their symptoms, we can help them return to the community – whether that’s to a care home, another facility or the wider society. We focus on enabling recovery through choice, change and a positive attitude to improvements in lifestyle.
“We have patients who come from many different environments; some have been in various institutions before they come to us, others have only recently displayed symptoms. When a patient is first admitted we talk to them about significant life events and if relevant, we meet with their family or friends. This helps us to build a picture of our patients so we can help them deal with the symptoms of their condition.”
Gareth goes on to explain: “Many of the illnesses we treat have symptoms that present themselves physically as well as mentally. For example, a patient with schizophrenia may be having hallucinations, which cause them to respond physically. Our aim in this situation is to reduce the hallucinations so that our patient is kept physically safe. We use therapies such as verbal de-escalation, distraction and diversional talking therapies. There is so much that can be achieved through treatment that isn’t purely medication.
“Conditions such as Huntington’s disease and some of the complex behaviours that present with dementia can also cause patients to feel pain physically. For instance dysphagia (the difficulty in swallowing) is something our hospitals specialise in. We deal with the physicality of these symptoms in lots of ways.”
Gareth says: “Meal times are a big part of the day. Our chefs are great at making food that is both tasty and nutritious, and easy to eat, but we ensure our patients are supported when required to eat. It is so important that our patients receive the nutrition they need; a good diet can make a big difference.”
Barchester Healthcare also provides the learning and development needed for the other aspects of care we provide. For example, for our less mobile patients we have training in tissue viability and moving and handling. We know we always have access to any training we need to fulfil the care needs of our patients.”
To care for patients holistically takes a large and diverse team, who are not all based in the home.
Gareth explains: “Many of our patients have been admitted to our hospitals under the Mental Health Act, so we have a lot of multidisciplinary meetings to ensure our patients can move on.
“The nurses, support workers, occupational health therapists and clinical psychologists are all part of the in-house team that supports our patients, but the team also includes social workers, community teams – the list goes on!
“My role is so varied, from hands-on patient care and writing reports for mental health tribunals to ensuring the teams are up to date with each patient’s deprivation of liberties and required medication. I also take patients who are able to leave the hospital out to the shops or the beach to keep them in touch with society.”
Gareth believes the care and support he provides to the patients in his care comes from the need to do the best for them. “It’s a passion – you have to believe in what you are doing 100%. What we do is challenging, emotional and hard work, but it is amazingly satisfying and rewarding at the same time. We go home tired but I know that through continually reviewing each patient’s care, I have made a difference to someone’s life for the better, no matter how big or small.”