I’m as guilty as anyone of talking about "The Cuts" in generic terms. Sadly, it is easy to forget the real impact until they touch upon an area or a community that affects us directly. Too many amazing services that are having their funding squeezed are under-publicised and so many will never know what exactly is being lost when they disappear.
The Highgate Day Centre provides short and long-term support, education and therapy for people with serious mental illness who are at risk of isolation, worsening depression and self-harm if they are no longer able to attend.I promise it is not an exaggeration to say that it is a lifeline for vulnerable people and there is a serious risk of more suicides if services are reduced. It stands to see its funding HALVED from £270,000 to £130,000 per year. HALF the funding means HALF the support and TWICE the risk to vulnerable people. If the plans go ahead as proposed the centre will have to reduce its staff to three (from seven at the moment).
Many of my close friends attend this centre. It is vital to the process of recovery and rehabilitation from serious mental illness to have places like this, helping prepare many to return to the world of work or study. Such services reduce the burden on other over-stretched areas of mental health care as people who benefit from its help are less likely to be admitted to hospital or to rely on crisis teams.
If you live in Camden please, please read this, sign the petition and if you can possible spare the time, write to your MP (please only sign if you live in Camden). Even if you don’t live in the borough, please retweet, like, share and put the campaign under the nose of anybody with influence who you might know.
My wonderful friend, Rachel Rowan Olive (pictured below with one of her art projects from the Centre), started the above petition. She is an Oxford University student who has had to interrupt her education due to her battle with mental illness. She has already done a vast amount of campaigning to try and save this facility, but unfortunately she has had to take a step back due to a relapse in her condition which means she has had to be readmitted into residential crisis care. She says that distress and anxiety over what will happen to the service was a significant factor in her recent crisis. As is so often the case, many of the people who depend on this service are not in a position to fight the cutbacks and so it falls on those of us who are currently well to make sure that the issue receives the attention it deserves.
Here is an excerpt from Rachel’s letter to Julia Chappell, the strategic commissioner for mental health in Camden, explaining the psychological consequences of the cuts, which she has kindly allowed me to share with you:
“I - and I think the vast majority of service users - understand that you as councillors and commissioners are in a very difficult financial situation. But I also want you to understand how these cuts feed into the existing anxieties and beliefs that many of us have, and how deeply they undermine the therapeutic work we are doing. Many people with mental health problems struggle with low self esteem and believe that we are a burden to others. For me personally, this is the third service I have been referred to only to be told that it is facing huge budget cuts; last time this happened, the service (the Skills Development Service) shut down suddenly between my assessment and my start date, and I was left to manage completely on my own. I couldn't cope without support, and was an inpatient more or less solidly for three months. Now when I am told that a service I am under is struggling financially, what I hear is confirmation that the world would be a better place without me, because I am too expensive to support.”