Leading social enterprise, and AMHP member, Turning Point, have launched a new training resource to increase the awareness and understanding of substance use and mental health.
The initiative started with a donation from a mother whose daughter, an NHS nurse, lost her life after a long history of mental illness and alcohol addiction.
Turning Point’s online course has been designed by experienced specialists and will be available for anyone to access for free, regardless of level of knowledge. It has information and guidance on how to recognise and support people who have a co-existing or a co-occurring condition.
The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities revealed that nearly two thirds of adults (63%), starting treatment for substance misuse from 2020 to 2021, said they had a mental health need.
In 2002, the Department of Health reported that supporting those with both substance use and mental health issues, was one of the biggest problems that frontline mental health services faced and highlighted that fragmented care leads to people falling between the cracks in services.
One of these people was Joanna, a specialist mental health nurse who worked for the NHS for 25 years. She was a politics graduate, a talented writer and also ran three London Marathons for charitable causes.
However, since her teenage years, Joanna had suffered from bouts of mental illness, leading eventually to alcohol addiction.
Joanna fought bravely to try and overcome her struggles with several hospital admissions and periods of rehab.
In 2019, she was given a place at a rehab facility, but following five successful months of a six-month programme, despite protesting her innocence, she was summarily discharged after being accused of “illegally obtaining mind altering substances” due to miscommunication of a medication prescription between the rehab facility and their designated GP surgery which provided prescriptions to all the rehab patients.
With her mental health deteriorating, but still battling her addiction, Joanna visited an organisation which had helped her previously and she was prescribed new medication.
Sadly, before the new medication could start to take effect, severely weakened by her long struggle, she died of alcohol poisoning in nearby sheltered accommodation.
“If this could happen to her, a highly qualified mental health professional, what hope is there for others?” said Joanna’s mother Helen.
“At the inquest, the document submitted by the hospital trust stated that although prior to Joanna’s death they had been unable to fund dual diagnosis nurses they were now employing two. I see this as my daughter’s legacy, but it does not lessen the pain of losing her. I firmly believe that all NHS trusts should have this resource.
“Another failure was the chaotic and piecemeal approach to Joanna’s condition. Vulnerable children with complex needs have a single key worker co-ordinating the support and care provided by various agencies. There is no such provision for vulnerable adults.
“Joanna was supported by some wonderful people such as A and E staff, who focused professionally on the immediate problem in front of them, but the lack of any joined-up thinking meant the severity and complexity of her situation was completely overlooked. At one point, after going missing for several days she was found with seven different hospital wrist bands yet, as these accumulated, no one thought to look at the bigger picture.”
Julie Bass, CEO at Turning Point, said:
“We would firstly like to thank Helen and the rest of Joanna’s family for the donation that has enabled Turning Point to develop this new training resource. Joanna was a credit to her family, which included her three children, and to the NHS where she worked diligently for over 25 years.
“Turning Point want to ensure that healthcare professionals learn from Joanna’s story and this is why we have launched this resource.
“Our trained professionals work with clients who present with substance use issues as well as mental illness every day. As a provider of both specialist mental health and drug and alcohol treatment services, we know what the issues are in each part of the system, which is why we launched our Substance Use Mental Health (SUMH) Resource Pack in 2021. This new online training course builds on this and will hopefully result in support that is more joined up and more responsive to people’s needs.”
To access Turning Point’s Dual Diagnosis course, click here.