A number of murders, and serious incidents have hit the headlines recently, all with one thing in common - the people responsible have all been suffering from mental illness.
The Tonight programme - on ITV at 7.30pm this evening - investigates what is actually happening within our mental health service and asks the question is this service overwhelmed and struggling to give seriously ill people the help they need?
The programme reports the number of people seeking help is increasing, with numbers of people on antidepressants at an all time high. The number of suicides in men is steadily growing and the number of patients deemed a threat to themselves or the public is also steadily rising.
This pressure falls not only on mental health professionals but increasingly on the Police - it’s been estimated that around a third of Police time is now spent dealing with people facing a mental health crisis.
Tonight follows a Police patrol in Kent as they respond to a man experiencing a mental health crisis in his home, and documents the difficulties the police have in trying to get him appropriate care and treatment.
Paul Farmer, the Chief Executive of the mental health charity, Mind, explains that services are ‘patchy’ throughout the country and that early and effective mental health care is the best way to help people in crisis.
And the programme takes a look at three cases where an inability to access safe care and treatment has led to serious problems, for both patients and the public.
We hear from Len Hodkin, whose mother Sally was murdered in October 2011, by Nicola Edgington, a mental health patient who had been ‘detained indefinitely’ after killing her own mother in 2005, but who was released from a psychiatric secure unit after less than 4 years inside.
I believe she was released too soon. I believe that she hadn’t addressed the original offence that she was there for. I believe that her behaviour didn’t improve while she was inside a secure mental health setting.... She was released with a letter to the Ministry of Justice saying that everything was fine and rosy when it’s clear and it’s evident now that it absolutely wasn’t."
We also speak to Joanne Greene, whose nine-year-old son Alex was killed by her father Stewart, two days before Christmas in 2014. The family were not told of Stewart’s violence at the mental health unit, which had warned professionals that he wasn’t ready to be discharged. He was discharged anyway and just twelve days after his release he killed his grandson.
If you’ve been affected by the issues in the programme, the following organisations can help:
Prevention of Young suicide
Helpline: 0800 068 41 41
e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Help for people who want to talk about their problems whatever they may be facing
Phone: Call free any time, from any phone on 116 123
Help for people affected by killings by people with mental illness
The mental health charity - help for mental health problems
Phone: 0300 123 3393