Members of Thanet’s independent mental health support organisation SpeakUpCIC say they fear people will no longer access the isle’s Safe Haven now it has been moved to the QEQM Hospital.
Thanet Safe Haven, which supports people in mental health crisis, moved from its base at Holy Trinity Church in Dane Valley to the QEQM Mental Health unit this week.
The safe haven was one of four agreed in 2019 after funding from NHS England was allocated for to Kent and Medway NHS.
Thanet Safe Haven opened online amid the pandemic in April 2020 and finally had a physical opening at the church in November of that year.
It is open for those who need support from 6pm-11pm every day (including weekends and bank holidays) and is operated by Mental Health Matters, which has over 35 years’ experience in delivering support to those with complex mental health support needs.
Mental Health Matters say the haven has moved because “both clinical and non-clinical support services need to work closer together.”
But SpeakUpCIC members say it can no longer be seen as a ‘safe’ space.
Managing Director and founder Maggie Gallant said: “Many don’t find the mental health unit a “safe” environment. There are connotations of mental illness, psychiatrists, fear of detention, of sectioning, of having ECT. This move could deter people from seeking the help they need.
“So far the feedback received by SpeakUp is negative and members are feeling stressed and apprehensive. For those who don’t live near the Crisis Cafe in Ramsgate it’s more travel and stress and inconvenience not to have the safe haven in Margate in a perfect setting…in a church.
“The church has connotations of peace quiet and serenity. QEQM has connotations of mental illness, doctors, disease, Covid and medication, ECT and detention and of fear.”
Some SpeakUp members say they fear the new placement will result in stigma for the safe haven while others say there was not a proper consultation.
One user said: “When I heard the news my heart sank. It came out of the blue. I don’t understand why this move has been made.
“Safe Havens such as the one in Holy Trinity Church and the one in the Crisis Café in King Street Ramsgate are very important resources and ideal places of refuge. They should be non medical and safe. They should be there to help, to try and keep people well, to avoid them going into the Mental Health Unit.
“The Mental Health Unit at the QEQM is a place of terror for me. I was there under section once and again voluntarily though once there I was told if I tried to leave, I’d be placed under section so it was hardly voluntary
“There are connotations of mental illness, medication, detention, loneliness, psychiatry, sectioning and Electro Convulsive Therapy. They are not ideal places, they do not feel safe to me.
I have had very bad experiences in this mental health unit
“Why can’t the Crisis team or psychiatrists visit people in the Holy Trinity Church? The mental health unit is medical! I for one will boycott the safe haven in the mental health unit as it is not safe for me and triggers distressing memories.
Lives are precious we want to stay well and this move is hardly going to help us to do that. It needs re considering as a matter of urgency.”
A MHM spokesperson said: “The Safe Havens were originally established to create an alternative to Accident and Emergency for individuals in mental health crisis. The aim was to reduce unnecessary admittance and encourage social support to improve wellbeing and reduce barriers to accessing support.
“The safe havens have been open for three years and offer vital support to the community. However, it has been recognised that as a team, both clinical and non-clinical support services need to work closer together.
“By moving the Safe Haven to a hospital site, it offers an alternative option for mental health support. Through partnership working we will be working with clinical teams to ensure that we are supporting the whole person, whilst enabling more capacity within the emergency care system for those that require emergency support.”
The Ramsgate Crisis Cafe is open from 6pm to 9.30pm, seven days a week.
You can visit without an appointment. It is based at 34 King St, Ramsgate CT11 8NT