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Study Reveals Experience of Young People in Secure Inpatient Mental Health Unit

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Healthwatch Essex is launching a unique report which reveals the experiences of young people in a secure inpatient mental health unit.

The study, named SWEET!3, is believed to be the first of its kind in the county. The report has been written by our Research and Engagement Associate, Hannah Fletcher, who spent six months visiting Poplar Adolescent Unit Education Centre based in Rochford Community Hospital, working to understand young people’s experience of being treated in a secure unit of this nature.

The report had a number of key findings:

  • Young people often felt ignored or powerless in their journey through mental health services. Their diagnosis was, at times, disclosed to their families but not to them. This caused them to feel excluded from conclusions made about their health and not consulted on their personal experience of living with their illness. Acronyms and terminology also caused them difficulty in being able to understand and discuss their care.

  • Delays in care often caused a deterioration in mental health to the point of crisis. This was common and ranged from being because of waiting times through to the young person not seeking support because of fear of stigmatisation. A number of participants in the study discussed how they had been struggling with their mental health for a long time prior to getting a referral and, even after referral, continued to wait for long periods.

  • A number of patients who had initially entered the health system via A&E after experiencing mental health crisis, were discharged from A&E after receiving no treatment or only treatment for physical injuries - even though it was obvious that their injuries had been self-inflicted.

  • Inconsistent care and high staff turnover often caused young people to disengage or struggle to build a relationship of trust through which they could discuss their experiences. Changes between services and professionals also meant that they found themselves having to re-tell these experiences over and over which left them with a sense that they were ‘starting from scratch’ and making no real progress.


David Sollis, Chief Executive of Healthwatch Essex, said:

“This report undoubtedly makes for difficult reading at times but we hope that, in hearing these voices which are not commonly heard, the whole of the health and social care system in Essex can come to understand the needs of these young people more clearly.

“We are very grateful to the Poplar Adolescent Unit who facilitated our engagement with their patients and staff. Their hard work and devotion clearly makes a lasting impression on the lives of the young people they work with.

“We are hugely thankful to the young people whose voices are central to this report. We appreciate that it can be difficult to talk about such personal and sometimes painful experiences but we are very grateful that they did, because it offers an opportunity for their experiences to shape the way that services are designed and delivered in Essex in the future.”

To hear Hannah talking about her findings click here.