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Self help online for mental patients

May 5, 2007

Anecdotal evidence suggests that, during a typical working day, as many as one in four of the patients seen by a GP will be seeking help for a mental health problem. Some of these will need to be referred to psychiatric hospital for specialist care, but in most cases, and with good management and support, patients are generally the best managers of their personal and family mental health problems. At the same time, GPs are aware that medication is frequently not the answer, leading to the “medicalisation” of what are often social problems; and that secondary care and more especially hospitalization can often lead to patients becoming institutionalized, with long-term emotional and financial implications. Instead, excellent results can often be achieved through CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) with very good patient outcomes.

The NHS, identifying a need for extra support in primary care to help such patients, set up degree-level training courses at educational centres across the country following a pattern devised by CCAWI, the Centre for Clinical and Academic Workforce Innovation at Lincoln University, and the first Graduate Mental Health Workers, trained specialists in CBT, are joining doctors’ surgeries this month.

From next week, they will be backed up by Overcoming … your gateway to self help, a website linked to the Overcoming … series of self-help guides to mental health published by Robinson, developed in conjunction with CCAWI, sponsored by PRIMHE: Primary Care Mental Health & Education, and part-funded by the NHS. Part of the website will be aimed directly at patients themselves, offering understated and broad-based advice, and making available self-help guides to 24 common mental health problems, each one downloadable in modules at a modest price. The main part of the site, though, will be for practitioners.

The practitioners’ site’s purpose is to provide mental health professionals in primary care with a one-stop shop at which they can have access to the whole range of resources they will need. There are summaries of the revised Mental Health Act, NHS frameworks and NICE guidelines; a catalogue of the material available to patients in the Books On Prescription scheme, set up by the NHS together with regional libraries (and reviewed by a panel drawn from the professionals themselves); links to countrywide charities and patient support groups; guides to career development and evaluation, and links to professional bodies; a newsfeed from the British Journal of Psychology; and a specialist online Forum for informal news and networking.

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