Save the Millbrook Unit at Macclesfield Hospital: psychiatric units are necessary

I have a huge amount to be thankful for in life. I have a beautiful baby daughter, a wonderful fiancée, a loving family, some great supportive friends, a job and a roof over my head.  And my health.  However, life has not always been so good…

Great progress has been made in the bid to lessen the stigma surrounding mental health issues. Princes William and Harry have talked candidly about their issues after the death of their mother. The Heads Together campaign they have spearheaded has sought to put mental health on a par with physical health. Encouraging people to be open about their mental health is a tremendously positive thing.

Alas sometimes there are times when talking fails, when a person is so acutely unwell they pose a risk to themselves and others. When this juncture is reached the safety of the individual concerned is paramount.   Psychiatric units are closing at an alarmingly rate.  Mental health so long the Cinderella of the National Health Service is in desperate need of resources.  The momentum established by campaigns like Heads Together is in danger of being a pyrrhic victory if the success does not act as a catalyst for the revival of acute mental health services – for both inpatients and vulnerable people in the community.  (The patchy postcode lottery of Community Mental Health provision is another story).

The Millbrook Unit at Macclesfield District General Hospital is the latest in a long line threatened with closure. This time it’s personal. As a former inpatient I can unequivocally say that without the Unit and the dedicated support of the staff on it I would be dead, of that I am of certain.

Psychiatric units can be chaotic places.  At my lowest, most depressed and hopeless after a, thankfully, unsuccessful suicide attempt the Adelphi Ward seemed like a frightening prison. Crucially, the Unit and its staff kept me safe, when I was not capable of doing that myself, affording my hard pressed parents a degree of peace of mind.

When at the height of my mania the Millbrook Unit and its highly dedicated staff once again kept me safe. My delusions of grandeur, feeling of invincibility and boundless energy were able to play out in the confines of a ward away from potential embarrassment, or harm, in the wider world.

Psychiatric units allow psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses to monitor the effect of medication on a patient, adjusting dosage and checking behaviour in a clinical environment. In my experience, someone who is extremely unwell is less likely to take their medication, so being physically obliged to take it is in itself a hugely positive thing.

Visits from family and friends are crucial, on the one hand, in maintaining morale and providing a semblance of normality for in patients. On the other, visitors are able to see progress, or lack of it, in their family member or friend.  The strain on visitors, fitting in visits to ill loved ones with a ‘normal’ life is hard enough, when the hospital concerned is close to home.  I was fortunate enough to receive twice daily visits. My parents can drive and have wheels. Many people are reliant on public transport. If the Unit closes visitors will be faced with having to travel to either Stepping Hill, Stockport, approximately 11 miles away – if they are ‘lucky’; Bowmere Hospital in Chester, a distance of some 45 miles from Macclesfield General Hospital; or Springview in the Wirral, roughly 49 miles from the Millbrook Unit to visit their loved ones. All of the aforementioned distances were calculated with the AA Route Planner and do not take into account the added complexity of travelling by public transport.  The vital morale boosting visits will be much more difficult.

Please sign the petition to ‘Address the serious shortfall in provision of Mental Health Services in Cheshire East’ on change.org here.

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