Harvey and Me - why we need to do more for those with combined mental conditions and difficulties
Updated: Mar 4
Last week I watched a programme on BBC iPlayer entitled 'Harvey and Me' which left a lasting impression and made me want to include a post about it.
The documentary follows ex glamour model Katie Price in her quest to find suitable new care and educational arrangements for her son Harvey who is about to turn eighteen.
Born with a rare genetic disorder called 'septo-optic dysplasia,' Harvey is severely mentally disabled, with the cognitive function of a seven year old. He also has a unique combination of other mental disorders and illnesses including autism, hormonal issues, and emotional problems. Unable to control his anger, he regularly takes his frustration out in an uncontrolled manner - the result being huge craters in the walls of the Price's family home.
The programme portrayed Katie in a new and more meaningful light through it's deeper, more considered depiction of her as a person and mother. Previously known for extreme cosmetic procedures and reality TV appearances, she has not, up to now, offered a serious and educated presence to her celebrity status. After watching the programme however, I for one have started to see her in a different light, mainly through her profound maternal love, empathy, understanding and acceptance of Harvey and others like him.
The part of the film that I was particularly interested in was the interview Price has with a mother called Isabelle whose mentally disabled son was, after an outburst, questionably sectioned when no other suitable provision of care was offered.
Clearly distressed and fighting back tears, Isabelle tells us that her son Matthew, who suffers from autism, learning difficulties, ADHD and anxiety, was put on an adult psychiatric ward at the age of only fifteen. The psychiatrist who evaluated him advised that he should have a twelve-week stay as an inpatient which, in the end, turned into a fifteen month admission.
The environment at a mental hospital was not suitable for Matthew and the restraints, periods of seclusion and the unsettling atmosphere only exacerbated his anxiety and other mental health conditions. He was given medications that he hasn't needed since and suffered with vitamin D deficiency due to being cooped up inside for prolonged periods of time.
I explained in a post a few days ago, featuring Dr Alex, why it is that mental hospitals in this country are ineffective and outdated. I am not attacking anyone that works in mental health because the staff need commending and encouraging but there is a lack of education and understanding that needs addressing.
It doesn't make any sense at all to have up to twenty patients on the same ward suffering from countless different mental illnesses all thrown together. There's manic and psychotic outbursts going on next to people hugging their knees with crippling anxiety and PTSD. It just isn't an environment that's conducive to healing and repairing the mentally shattered.
Combine all this chaos with an individual with severe learning difficulties and you can imagine the problems. These people should never be subjected to the mayhem of a psychiatric unit, they're not mentally equipped to cope.
I was only able to hang onto my sanity while going through my admissions through my insight, understanding and education into my own and other people's mental health conditions, but if you don't have that then the environment alone is enough to make you crazy. The wards need splitting down, it is just so important that this happens, you wouldn't put someone with a broken leg on a ward with someone recovering from open heart surgery so why do we put schizophrenia with PTSD? These conditions require completely different care. If I ever have a 'voice' I will campaign for all of this obviously!
Fortunately, Isabelle managed to get Matthew out of the psychiatric ward with the help of an amazing doctor from the Maudsley hospital called Dr Santosh whom she says in the documentary, 'saved my son's life'.
Matthew is now settled and happy at a specialist care centre where he plays football, is supported with his daily education and even works on a farm caring for animals. The story is heart-rending and as Isabelle states in an article; 'Matthew is living proof of the catastrophic consequences of the wrong support but also the hugely positive consequences of getting it right'.
If you would like to read more about Matthew and Isabelle there is an article in The Sun which I have added here.
Katie Price: Harvey and Me, can be found on iPlayer and I have added a clip of the programme here.
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