Access to mental health support for people in recovery for substance misuseDownload (PDF 658KB)
Summary of report content
misuse problems about their mental health problems
Most participants in this study had suffered mental ill health for over 15 years, some cited mental health problems since childhood, yet their experience of services over many years is disjointed. Participants described how services have continued to work separately, leaving services users “bouncing” between them.
Throughout the survey, participants asked for a holistic and comprehensive jointed support for their needs, including thorough mental health assessments and support, and help to be able to access housing and employment opportunities, as it would make a huge difference to their mental health and substance misuse recovery. Those with long-term mental health problems said that they were unable to receive a comprehensive assessment by the health professionals for their mental health condition that could support them to work through their recovery from their addiction. This assessment, according to the participants, should explore adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and be trauma informed as these might be related to their addictions. Their responses point to a limited understanding among the health and social care services of the multiplicity of needs in this group.
The findings suggest that this population do not meet criteria for access to specialist or secondary mental health care. Their symptoms are considered outside the scope of services within Primary Care which are aimed at managing common mental health problems and are not covered by the limited community mental health services. At the same time, they often do not meet the criteria for specialist/secondary mental health care.
Almost 76% said that they have relapsed and that their main trigger for it is related to unsolved mental health issues. They felt that immediate help and ongoing support rather than long waits would prevent relapse. This survey has uncovered a narrative of discrimination and stigma from health professionals. 74% of the participants said that they have been treated differently by the health and care services because of their substance misuse problems. Wider determinants of their mental health are likely to be their status as unemployed, their housing in temporary accommodation, and their limited social networks for support in a crisis.
The research includes examples of good practice and positive experiences from the support provided by We Are With You. Participants mentioned that their key workers were understanding, and they listened to them, and the services they provided were friendly and empowering. Several participants also indicated that the group therapies were especially supportive and helpful.
The report includes six recommendations, including about funding of support services, access to mental health services, integrated care and training for professionals