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Mental health: "Light is coming at the end of the tunnel"

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Tuesday 10 September 2019

Mental health: "Light is coming at the end of the tunnel"


There is finally “light at the end of the tunnel” for mental health services in Jersey, their chief has said, with a planned £5.5m investment, and more being done to improve the struggling service “in the last six months than 10 years."

The comments came from Dr Miguel Garcia, Jersey’s Associate Medical Director for Mental Health, who, in an exclusive interview with Express, outlined the improvements, including upgrades to Orchard House and new recruitment, on their way.

The new activity within the island’s mental health service comes after the government made it a priority following the publication of a damning report, which told of islanders in mental health "crisis" being secured in prison cells rather than being sent to a specialised facility, and outlined the deteriorating state of Jersey’s secure provision at Orchard House.

Following the report, the Health Minister announced that Orchard House was to close.

Orchard House

Pictured: Orchard House, Clinique Pinel, Rosewood House and La Chasse will soon get a revamp.

While the Government Plan, which includes a funds injection for the beleaguered service, still hasn’t been voted on – the States Assembly will consider it at the end of November - Dr Garcia said "remedial work" will start soon at Orchard House, which he described as “not fit for purpose." 

This, he said, will include repainting the ward, redecorating it and adding new furniture “to make it as nice as possible within the limitations.”

“It won’t be something like Clinique Pinel where everything, the lighting, is better. It will be possible to knock down walls and we are going to make it the way we want,” he said. “We could have said we'll just wait until we move to Clinique Pinel, but the reality is that people are in the ward now. Work is needed as soon as possible so that whoever comes to the ward will have a nice environment.” 

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Pictured: Dr Miguel Garcia is the Associate Medical Director for Mental Health in Jersey.

But money will not just be spent on the buildings. The department is also investing in its staff and recruited psychologists, assistant psychologists as well as an occupational therapist and a mental health social worker - all of whom have started this month - to provide “more input” into the care of service users.

Mental health services are also working with local charities like Mind Jersey, which has helped set up a “triangle of care” that involves the individual – represented by the charity – their carers and the service. The local mental health charity is also developing a peer support service for people in the ward. 

The department has also been in touch with My Voice Jersey, which provides a mental health advocacy service ensuring that service users have their wishes heard, as well as the Recovery College.

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Pictured: The department is exploring new avenues such as artists' visits to improve the service user experience.

Following concerns about the lack of therapeutic provision available, Dr Garcia also said his department is exploring “new avenues” in terms of activities available to people on the ward, including artists’ visits. They are also working on improving the wifi access on the ward.

However, he explained that, while money is not an issue anymore, it takes time to implement new activities as they need to be carefully assessed to make sure they are both “safe and therapeutic” as well as in the best interest of the service users. 

“Things are happening, a whole range of activities,” he said. “You cannot just do things because you have the idea. You have to really assess before you go ahead. We are really looking into anything that we see can be good and what things we can implement.” 

“When we go across the road [to Clinique Pinel, ed.] we want to make it as much like home as possible, comfortable. You will have access to do the stuff that you do at home.”

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Pictured: Dr Garcia wants to start collecting feedback from service users.

Dr Garcia also wants to start gathering feedback on the service from the people who have used it, as well as from the staff. “Our goal is to become a recovery-focused service,” he explained. “We have a long way to go and we need feedback from peers and carers.”

Commenting on the changes that have recently been happening in the services, Dr Garcia, who has been working in the island for the past decade, said: “There has been more done in the last six months than in the last 10 years.” 

“I would not be willing to take this job if I did not believe things could change,” he added. “We are enabling this to happen. It’s like going from the dark, light is coming at the end of the tunnel. It’s not as fast and clear as you would want, but it’s coming.”

community help support love

Pictured: “We are not going to get it right unless we all get involved," said Dr Garcia.

He commented that mental health is “everybody’s business” and that the whole community should be involved in supporting each other.

“In the last years, mental health has gradually become destigmatised. It’s more open but it’s not yet to the level of physical health,” he explained. 

“We are not going to get it right unless we all get involved. We could get it right if people genuinely care about each other and work together. I am confident we all want the same thing. Everybody wants to help.

"These are very exciting times. We have a journey to go through, but things are moving in the right direction.”

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