Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

All in a Day's Work; JUST THE JOB

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

All in a Day's Work; JUST THE JOB

Article excerpt


Tina Bexson discovers the compassion which can help people who are mentally unstable put their lives back together

TIM Allen is visiting a male client at Hopkinson House in a psychiatric drop-in centre in SW1. In the past the man has experienced acute psychotic episodes, during which he heard voices and believed he was being followed and would be kidnapped. Today he is relatively stable and planning a way back into employment.

In his job as a community psychiatric nurse for the Brent, Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster Mental Health Trust (BKCW), Allen's primary role is to look after the mental welfare of his 30-or-so clients. All are long-term, all live in the community and most have a diagnosis of schizophrenia. "My priority is to assess any risk in terms of injury, self-neglect and possible risk to others. We help them come to terms with what their diagnosis means and how it can affect them, and generally support them in getting on with their lives. But medication is a major part of treatment," he explains. "You ignore it at your peril."

This morning's client has remained stable for two years now, but he still hears voices: in most cases, medication can never completely take them away.

Part of Allen's job is to combine the clinical approach with some form of psychosocial intervention which will alleviate some of the distress caused when the voices become disturbing. "Sometimes people hear pleasant voices, but when, for instance, they believe they are coming from the Devil or God, they can be very distressing. We try to help them develop their own coping strategies so they can remain as well as possible."

A midday meeting at the Gordon Psychiatric Hospital allows him to discuss further issues of intervention with a psychiatric consultant.

"We are looking at people who don't have schizophrenia but hear voices.

Approximately three per cent of normal people do and we hope to learn from the way they cope."

He also learns from their families. …

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