Physical Health Campaign Underway!

Our first physical health campaign meeting was a great success!

A group of us met in the tiled hall cafe at Leeds City Art Gallery. Most of us had had mixed experiences of physical healthcare, some people had been passed back and forwards between services, other people had not seen specialists in time due to the state of their mental health at the time.

When we moved on to discuss solutions, several people said they’d used advance statements to make sure they got the right physical healthcare.

An advance statement is a short document you can write when you’re mentally well, explainign what you’re needs are. For example if you regularly took medication for your blood pressue and you had to go into a mental health unit suddenly – your advance statement would tell staff what medication you needed. Advance statements can help you keep your life on track in other ways to – for example it might say what family members you would like to be informed when you become unwell.

So at the end of this discussioin we all agreed that more people should have advance statments especially those who also have an ongoing physical health condition or a disability. And we’re going to do something about it!

We have created a summary explaing what advance statments are. We’re meeting again next week to decide how to promote advance statements to people with mental illness and their families in Leeds. Have you got any ideas? Should we speak at groups? Produce post-cards? Would a personal story bring it to life? Please leave a comment and let us know what would work in Leeds. And do you know anyone else who might like to get involved? Or know any professionals who might help us?

If you’re interested in this issue, we’d love to have you along to our next meeting. It’s very informal and everyone’s friendly so you’ll be fine if you want to come on your own but do bring a friend if you’d like to:

7th December
10:30am
The Tiled Hall Cafe, Leeds Art Gallery

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First physical health campaign meeting

My last blog post on physical health got quite a few comments – it seems like many people feel their phsycial health symptoms get overlooked because of their mental illness.

Now some of us are coming together to do something about it. We’ll be meeting at 10am at Leeds City Art Gallery cafe tomorrow morning, 14th November. We’ll be coming up with some actions that we can take in Leeds that will make a differnece. If you’ve got an interest in this topic and want to see things improve come along and add your voice.

If you’re reading this post after the meeting’s happened there’s still chance to get involved, you can email me on charlotte.wetton@rethink.org or follow us on twitter @MHActivismNorth.

Physical Health Symptoms

Why is a mental health charity campaigning on physical health? Isn’t that all sorted out by GPs? These are some of the questions I’ve been asked while campaigning on physical health. I’m an Activism Officer at Rethink Mental Illness and I’ve been looking at why people with severe mental illness usually have poorer physical health than the rest of the population – yes there’s lots of stats to prove that!

One of the problems we’ve seen is that symptoms are not always taken seriously by healthcare staff. So someone goes to the doctor and tells them what’s physically wrong and the doctor assumes that it must be caused by their mental illness.

I know one woman who was told for months that her intense abdominal pain was all in her head. It turned out she had gall stones and a diseased gall bladder!

I’d be interested to hear if this happens in Leeds. Have you had staff tell you that your physical symptoms were down to your mental illness – and were they right or wrong?

Many people do get psychosomatic symptoms, such as tummy ache from anxiety and it must be very hard for doctors to tell the difference. But then people with mental illness are just as likely to get appendicitis, irritable bowel syndrome or chrons disease as anyone else. So it’s not a clear cut issue. What’s your experience of this?

www.rethink.org/ph
twitter: @MHActivismNorth