Having a mental health problem can cause difficulties and obstacles in all areas of life, even those as simple as washing, shopping, talking openly with other people, brushing teeth, cleaning the house, managing money, making friends, shaving and being independent.
Life skills programmes attempt to remedy some of these difficulties by encouraging independent living, so enhancing quality of life.
Read the full summary here: http://summaries.cochrane.org/CD000381/life-skills-programmes-for-chronic-mental-illnesses.
From a more directly service user perspective (SUPER), the experience of mental health problems (such as hearing voices and seeing things) and the sleep- like quality of many medications, often combine to limit the quality of life of service users or their ability to live everyday and fulfilling lives. According to Suman Fernando, an eminent academic and psychiatrist, this can lead to people becoming “zombie- like” and institutionalised. In the words of a service user:
“I’m hardly able to stand up, hardly able to walk, hardly able to talk, hardly able to wash, get dressed or even brush my teeth”.
In order to try and lead better, more fulfilling and active lives (which break the vicious cycle of getting out of hospital only to be re-admitted again during a breakdown) a variety of approaches (including life skills, occupational therapy and peer support) will almost certainly be the way forward in the near future. Life skills not only help service users establish some degree of independence, but also relieve the burden, work and stress often placed on family, friends and carers.
Finally, the review focuses on ‘chronic’ or ‘severe mental illnesses’. Other less severe mental health problems, such as depression, may be better suited to life skills. By way of contrast, mental health problems for the elderly, such as dementia, have greater and longer-term needs of personal care (such as washing, grooming, feeding and toileting). This limits or makes void the need for life skills training for people with dementia, but perhaps not for their carers. Carers often bear the burden, stress and unpaid work of round-the-clock care, so training in life skills and peer support may help this often excluded, isolated and hidden group.
Service User and Service User Expert,
Rethink Mental Illness.