Jo’s Blog: Coronavirus – I’m Calling for Equal Treatment for People with a Serious Mental Illness

First, an update…

In last blog post I offered some reassurance and advice to people with a serious mental illness, their carers and families during the present pandemic. I guess you could summarise what I said as – Make allowances for some reduced services but you are still entitled to be kept safe.

Since then those of you who follow Hafal’s social media will know that Hafal Chair Mair Elliott has written to the Welsh Minister of Health asking for his reassurance that a basic but sufficient level of service is maintained during the pandemic for people with a serious mental illness. Following her letter the head of the NHS in Wales issued instructions to Health Boards about sustaining mental health services. But Mair is still pressing for national leadership on this because there is a worrying lack of detail – and we also need to see the local plans which each Health Board has prepared.

You can see details of Mair’s letters to the Minister and his response here  and I will update you on what happens next.

And take a look at Hafal’s excellent new Bulletin on protecting services for people with a serious mental illness here.

Meanwhile, if you or those you care for face difficulty, don’t hesitate to press your local services for help. Hafal’s specific advice for those with a mental illness can be found here.


And an important new point…

I want to express a particular concern about what happens to people with a serious mental illness who unfortunately catch the virus and become very ill (but please remember that most people will not need hospital treatment).

There has been a lot of talk in the media about the difficult choices which doctors may have to make during the pandemic about prioritising patients. Now, we know there are patients in poor physical health who were nearing the end of life before they caught the virus and we all understand that some of these patients with support of their doctors and families may have a view about what level of treatment they might want if they become very ill.

I just want to be sure that nobody confuses those choices with unacceptable or secretive value judgements about whose life in wider terms is more worthwhile or important than somebody else’s. We know where that can lead.

So far in the pandemic we have not seen a stark shortage of beds or ventilators and I have some faith that it will stay that way. But, whether or not pressure builds,

Let nobody forget that the life of a person with a serious mental illness is as important as anybody else’s.




And next time…

Look out for my next blog post – I have reached a milestone in my own relationship with the Mental Health Act and I want to share my news!


Jo Roberts is a mental health campaigner who has been on the receiving end of the Mental Health Act – and is still subject to it today. In the past she has received compulsory treatment; some of that treatment was deeply unpleasant and even terrifying. Jo is campaigning for a progressive Mental Health Act fit for the 21st Century – an Act that gives patients and carers in Wales and beyond a fairer deal. Read more…