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Newcastle University and mental health charity launch new film

Newcastle University Project
Newcastle University, in partnership with a local charity, has launched a new educational film about shared decision making (SDM) in mental health care.

The launch at Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle was introduced by NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Mental Health, Dr Geraldine Strathdee.

Created in partnership with service users of mental health charity, Moving Forward Newcastle, and featuring former heavyweight boxer Frank Bruno MBE, the film is designed to raise awareness in the public and mental health professionals about the value of SDM for helping people recover from mental health problems.

The film can also be used as a teaching and training aid for medical, health and social care professionals wanting to understand more about SDM. It also serves to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, which is still a major barrier to people seeking help sooner rather than later.

SDM, in which doctors and patients work together to identify the best choice of treatment, is supported by the Government’s commitment to ‘no decision about me without me’ becoming the norm in the NHS.

While doctors provide expert knowledge on the available treatment options and their benefits and potential risks, patients consider their own values, beliefs, personal circumstances and attitudes towards the pros and cons of the treatment options available.

Dr Darren Flynn, Senior Research Associate and Practitioner Psychologist at Newcastle University’s Institute of Health and Society, is an expert in involving patients in decisions.

He said: “Empowering people with mental health problems to make informed decisions about the treatment that is right for them as individuals is an important part of the recovery process.

“Research has shown that people with mental health problems are capable, willing and in most cases want more involvement in decisions about their treatment than they currently receive.”

Boxing legend and mental health campaigner, Frank Bruno, has experience of mental health problems as he was diagnosed with bi-polar depression in 2003. He agreed to contribute to the film with an interview about his experiences.

He said: “Mental health problems knock your confidence and it is important to keep fighting.

“It is good people have a choice and the confidence in having a say in what happens to you. You are the one who has to take the medication or go to a therapist – not the doctor.”

Mental health problems cost the country and estimated £100 billion each year. Approximately 23% of the total impact of ill health in the UK is due to mental health problems, but mental health services receive just 13% of the NHS budget.

Meanwhile, one in four people will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime. Mental ill health accounts for 50% of all disability in people of working age, half of people on benefits and half of all days taken off sick.

Mental health problems such as depression reduce life expectancy as much as smoking, yet only a quarter of all people with mental health problems are in receipt of treatment, compared with almost all people with physical conditions.

Dr Dave Tomson, a practising GP and expert on SDM who appears in the film, said: “There is great potential for improving the sharing of decisions about treatment and management in the field of mental health. After all there is no branch of health care that is crying out for collaborative working between patient and clinician more than mental health care.”

Newcastle University’s new film uses a fictional character called John who is experiencing symptoms of depression and receives support from a close friend as well as his GP to make an informed decision about the best treatment option for him.

The story was developed by service users of Moving Forward Newcastle, many of whom appear in the film as actors. It also features interviews with a health psychologist, a GP and a clinical lead of Newcastle Talking Therapies discussing the value of SDM in mental health care.

Busola Afolabi, a Moving Forward Newcastle service user, said: “When I first started the shared decision making project I found it hard to believe that sharing information wasn’t already standard practice.

“Since being involved in the film my attitudes towards my mental health has changed. I now understand that I have a responsibility and duty of care towards making myself better, as well as understanding my options. I hope our experiences will change the attitudes of others.”

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