New LCO on Mental Health Services in Wales is Something for all to Celebrate
February 22nd 2010, by Stewart Greenwell
THE new legislative competency order (LCO) on mental health services for Wales is something to celebrate.
It raises the profile of people who experience mental health problems and enables Wales to pass laws to provide earlier access to assessment and treatment.
Being reminded that most of us will experience mental health problems suggests that it is in all of our interests to feel cheerful about this development.
Advocacy also features as part of the LCO and that probably has more to offer than most people understand.
People with mental health problems need advocacy because if you are in a system where professionals have regularly made decisions about what is best for you, that may not offer you a great deal of choice or voice, you will often benefit from having someone who can ask the questions that you may regret not having asked.
When we are at our most vulnerable our concerns are, quite rightly, very selfish.
It can mean that our judgement is not at its best to make sensible decisions and it is possible to be convinced that other people know best for us.
At our lowest points, we may not spot when that kind of attention is not on offer and hence the need for an advocate – not to challenge the professional but to better represent our interests when we cannot.
This is a real chance to show that we can do things differently in Wales. Not necessarily different from England, but different from the way we have done things previously.
Hafal has helpfully provided many examples of giving a voice to people who have experienced mental health problems.
Listening to what has worked for people and what has not should provide professionals with some clear messages about what needs to change.
As practitioners and managers in mental health and other social care services, we have to understand that people need unconditional
attention that does not have judgement attached to it.
This means letting go of assumptions we make about people – assumptions that can limit the potential that we see for people to make changes to their life.
So what has all this got to do with Wales having powers to make legislation around mental health services?
The LCO has provided a much fuller debate than has taken place for some time about what we can expect from services.
These services should no longer depend on where you live or whether you start your search for services with the NHS, a local authority or one of the many voluntary sector agencies operating in this field.
Our responsibility as professionals – whoever the employer – is to put the person at the centre of all of our considerations, letting go of our current organisational and professional boundaries.
These boundaries often limit what we can do and often lead us to point people towards other agencies and other professionals.
I will always remember the words of a woman who had experienced mental health problems and had tried to find her way around the many agencies and systems.
"The way I knew that I had found a service that worked for me, was when I found someone who did not say: 'Sorry that's not my job, you'll have to go somewhere else or talk to someone else'," she said.
That was a reason to be cheerful as it involved a change in behaviour on the part of the professional and a message we ignore at our peril if we are really interested in changing our behaviour to deliver better services.