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CHAPTER THREE: Medication and other treatments

D'Ombraine Hewitt, Roz Karnac Books ePub

Medication is the first-line treatment for people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. These drugs are called antipsychotics, neuroleptics, or major tranquillizers and described as “typicals” or “atypicals”. (See Table 1.) Antipsychotics, like other psychiatric drugs, affect chemicals in the brain and other parts of the body which carry messages between the nerve cells. These chemical messengers are called neurotransmitters and act on sites in the nerve cells, known as receptors.

Research and personal accounts show that medication helps many people to manage their symptoms and is decisive in their recovery. A Mind survey, Roads to Recovery (2001) reported that forty-two per cent of respondents who felt recovered, or were coping, said psychiatric drugs first helped their recovery, and three-quarters of the people in a study by Sullivan (1994) also cited medication as the most important factor in their recovery.

However, these drugs do not necessarily make someone feel any better and it is not unusual for people to be unaware of just how much medication affects their behaviour, though it may be apparent to their relatives and friends (Kuipers &Bebbington, 2005). Even so, only about half the people with “schizophrenic disorders”

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APPENDIX I State benefits

D'Ombraine Hewitt, Roz Karnac Books ePub

Britain's social security system has been described as the best in the world, but it can seem complicated when someone wants to find out their entitlements. Benefits may be means tested, others depend on the amount of National Insurance (NI) contributions made. At the time of writing, the following benefits are available, but as the entitlement rules and benefits will change, in order not to miss out it is important to check the eligibility criteria.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

This is a taxable payment made to employees by their employers for up to twenty-eight weeks in any period of sickness which lasts four or more days. SSP does not depend on NI contributions. A person can be employed either full- or part-time, but he or she must earn at least the lower earnings limit, currently 84 a week. Unemployed and self-employed people are not eligible for SSP, but may be able to claim incapacity benefit instead.

Incapacity Benefit (IB)

Previously known as Sickness Benefit and Invalidity Benefit, IB is for people who cannot work because of illness or disability and who have not reached retirement age (sixty for women and sixty-five for men). Usually it is related to NI contributions and requires regular medical certificates (sick notes) from a doctor that state that the person is still unable to work. But this does not apply if the person was incapable of work before age twenty or, in some cases, twenty-five, and they claim in time. In that case the person claims “IB in youth”. For people aged sixty or over, IB has been replaced by pension credit.

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CHAPTER SIX: Employment— paid and voluntary

D'Ombraine Hewitt, Roz Karnac Books ePub

Eighty-five per cent of people with a long-term mental illness are unemployed (Mental Health Foundation, 2002) and in the UK they have the highest unemployment rate of any group of people with a disability. A national Healthcare Commission survey (2006) found that only half the people who requested help from their community mental health services in finding a job received it.

Yet work can be a valuable coping mechanism for people, and provide a sense of purpose and value (Mental Health Foundation, 2000b) and returning to work after an absence due to illness may be a confirmation to someone that they have recovered.

In Graham's experience, work also often helps people's recovery.

I needed a reason to get out of the house and not sit in a corner all day and listen to the constant voices. I needed a reason to move on and work gave me that reason. It was just a minor admin role, but it helped me recover.

Graham coordinates a mental health users’ employment service. He believes that the mental health field can be an ideal setting for people to use their personal experience to help others and encourage them to take a positive attitude towards their mental health.

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APPENDIX II Legal rights and the Mental Health Acts

D'Ombraine Hewitt, Roz Karnac Books ePub

Historically, people with mental health problems have been neglected and unfairly punished and imprisoned. Under current legislation, people who are severely mentally ill can be hospitalized against their will, but individuals still have rights, which by law have to be respected. Currently, proposals to introduce a new English Mental Health Act have been dropped, though it is anticipated that the government will seek to revise the existing legislation. In the meantime, the Mental Health Act (England) 1983 covers the admission, treatment, and rights of people with a mental disorder living in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. A Code of Practice also provides guidance on the use of the Act and good practice. Scotland has its own act, The Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003.

The Mental Health Act (England) 1983

Someone who voluntarily admits him or herself is described as an “informal” patient. A person who is admitted without his or her consent is known as a “formal” patient and is often referred to as being detained or “sectioned”, the latter term being used because they are admitted under a particular section of the Mental Health Act.

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CHAPTER FIVE: Health and well-being

D'Ombraine Hewitt, Roz Karnac Books ePub

People with a diagnosis of schizophrenia are more than averagely unhealthy. Their symptoms and the effects of medication often result in a tendency to exercise little, eat unhealthily and smoke heavily, meaning that many individuals are unfit and vulnerable to physical illness (Connolly &Kelly, 2005). One study (Harris, 1988) indicates that they are more prone to infec-tions, heart disease, Type II diabetes (adult onset) and female breast cancer.

There is also evidence (Torrey, 2006, p. 115) that some people with schizophrenia have a higher than usual pain threshold. They are not so likely, therefore, to seek medical advice until a particular illness has reached a less easily treatable stage, or to get treatment for problems such as backache or asthma, which can undermine their morale and even lead to depression.

A possible first step for someone to improve their health is to have a medical check-up with their GP, who can also give dietary advice and support in tackling unhealthy habits such as excessive drinking and smoking, and ways to manage stress.

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