Dignity Is the Key to Tony's Philosophy; YOUR HONOUR Joseph Anthony Hillis - Tony to His Friends - Has Been Awarded an OBE for His Work in Mental Health Care

Article excerpt

The Reaside Clinic in Rubery, Birmingham, is what is known as a forensic psychiatric clinic. This means they treat people with mental illness who have come into contact with the law. They take them in for assessment from the courts to find out if they re ally are mentally ill, and then treat them if necessary.

Joseph Anthony Hillis, or Tony, as he is known around the clinic, has worked as director of nursing at Reaside since the clinic opened in 1986. A psychiatric nurse by profession, he has been involved with mental health services for 30 years.

"When I started working in 1968 there were a lot of restrictive practices", Tony explains. "At that age I was very shocked. Since then, I've always tried to work with people with the same approach as mine."

His approach stresses dignity, respect and understanding as the keystones of treatment for the mentally ill.

"If you employ these as the cornerstone of treatment, people are surprised how little aggression there is," he says. "You don't need physical restraints if you have enough staff with the right attitude.

"A less restrictive approach allows you to get to know the patient and the illness in depth," he adds. "If you really get to know them they will trust you, and then you can really help them."

Tony Hillis is careful to point out that these views are also the views of thousands of others in the mental health services and not only in Britain. "The non-restrictive approach is becoming the most common in Europe."

The Reaside Clinic has strong relations with other European clinics, exchanging thoughts and ideas, and in turn provides inspiration for some domestic clinics.

"We provide an innovative approach to treatment of mentally ill persons" Mr Hillis says. "It's a multi-disciplinary approach, involving social workers, nurses, doctors, psychologists and occupational therapists.

"It's better for the patient, which makes it more economical."

Which is also an important point, as the pressures of everyday life mount.

"Our accelerated life pace makes it more difficult for the mentally ill," Tony explains. "Mental illness is triggered earlier, and is often more severe. At the same time we see an increase in adolescents experiencing mental illness. …