Mental health services: a marathon or a sprint?

Thinking about history, both my own family history (see previous blog Our history – our heritage: Storthes Hall ) and the history of mental health care, I attended a webinar organised by the Royal Society of Medicine on role models and learning from the 1960s.

This set me thinking: who have been my “role models”? I’m not sure that I would have used that term.

Across my working life I have learned from lots of people, and I connected strongly with learning from patients – they have taught me so much in the time I have walked alongside them. One speaker talked about learning from family members – that too resonated with me, and I’m still learning through researching my family history now.

In terms of people whose voices contribute to self-reflections on my work when I’m looking for ideas, I’ve just noticed that none of these are doctors, they are multi-disciplinary colleagues, including nurses, clinical psychologists, systemic therapists and others. Perhaps that would have been different if I had trained in the 1960s, and I hope it says something about how we work collaboratively as a team today.

With regard to professional/ medical colleagues, sadly, I have probably learned a lot of valuable lessons about how I don’t want to be and what I don’t want to do. Nevertheless, two doctors I trained with stand out for me (and I won’t name them). Both taught me the importance of establishing continuing relationships between doctors, patients and families. One taught me honest judicious sharing of the self with patients; the other taught me persistent and imaginative connecting with patients, and to be there with patients and their families for a marathon not a sprint. Regrettably, however, I think many mental health services today have more of a ‘sprint’ model.

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