By Rebecca Juster
In the West, there is a post-Enlightenment tradition of isolating systemic problems and suppressing them as far as our scientific capacity will allow us. We are a bunch of control freaks. This ‘isolate and conquer’ tactic applies to all areas of our life, so much so that we are left with this persistent feeling that we are always battling some problem – if only we could just overcome it. We sincerely believe that no area of our life should be out of our control therefore we are failing when we have not managed to firmly close the lid on that brimming suitcase full of life’s challenges. We conquer one challenge, only to have another problem pop up in its place; we are treating the symptoms in our lives, not the underlying causes.
It’s my first time traveling to Manchester, and despite the 5-hour coach ride on a stuffy Megabus, I’m looking forward to it. This isn’t just because my whole existence revolves around London and I desperately need an escape, or because ‘The North’ is somewhat mysterious to me, but because I have managed to secure free tickets to the biggest NHS event of the year: the annual Health and Innovation Expo.
On arrival, I find my way to Manchester Central, just opposite the grand Milibank Hotel. Aqsa (my Mancunian HumSci buddy) is waiting for me, ready to explore the conference. Having recently completed an internship at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, she informs me that the city is at the forefront of health technologies in the UK, and it is no coincidence that this is where the expo is. I am excited.
The life experiences of young offenders in custody are undeniably diverse. This includes diversity in socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. Various risk factors that may increase the likelihood of deviant behaviours and involvement in crime overlap those similar to mental health – ranging from living in poverty, child abuse, family breakdown to history of drug abuse and truancy. This however, does not fully explain why 95% of imprisoned young offenders have mental health disorders. There is more that can be done within the system to prevent such a statistic.
In this particular post, Pills and Policies explores the mental health concerns and needs of young offenders from ethnic minority backgrounds in custody.
Headline figures shock us with news of cuts to mental health services, but they almost always focus on the political angle and disregard the ground impact. Pills and Policies visited Highgate Day Centre’s open day to see first-hand how proposed cuts would affect its service users and employees, as well as how you can help. What we discovered was more alarming than anything we’d read in a newspaper, and it made us question the direction the NHS was headed in as a whole.
The Highgate Day Centre is a mental health service for 18 to 65 year olds. Camden and Islington council is close to finalising plans to cut the centre’s annual funding from £270,000 to £130,000. These cuts would have devastating consequences for the 60-strong community of service users, and result in half of the employees losing their jobs. The centre, which has existed for over 40 years and provided a lifeline to many vulnerable people, is fighting for its existence.
There are no reporters when we arrive, or in fact during our whole stay at the centre.
Home-baked cakes and bread are laid out at the entrance, we are greeted warmly by the employees, a brass band is playing in the car park, and there is an art exhibition upstairs – the atmosphere is lively, home-like and welcoming, although there is an underlying tension since this is all under threat.
We speak with Lena and Rachel, two of the service users, to find out more about their experience of the Highgate Day Centre and how this is changing.