Crisis Centre For Mental Health Patients Gets Go-Ahead

A centre where mental health patients can go in times of crisis is set to open despite a wrangle with planning authorities.

The 24-hour support service, the first of its kind in Scotland, will be available every day of the year and will eventually offer overnight accommodation for those in desperate need. The centre is aimed at giving mental health patients faster access to support and help in resolving issues like relationship difficulties or dealing with bereavement.

Mental health charity Penumbra is currently recruiting staff who will be trained to run a helpline that will operate every day of the year. The service will be open to adults who are known to have had mental health problems, and their carers.

Problems that can lead to a psychiatric crisis include relationship difficulties, financial worries and bereavement. If the adults’ problems are severe, they will be invited to meet with a counsellor who will attempt to resolve the issue or refer them to clinical services.

Centre manager Jacquie Watt said: “We don’t want to define what a crisis is, but it could be that they may have reached a point where things are getting too much for them and because it is the middle of the night there is no-one else they can talk to.”

The Crisis Centre was expected to open at Smiths Place earlier this year, but plans to install a lift at the premises to allow disabled access were rejected by the council. Penumbra is now appealing the decision, but has been forced to temporarily abandon its plans to allow a small number of patients to stay at the centre overnight. Instead, an interim service, which includes the helpline and counselling service, will run from August.

The project, which was officially unveiled this week in Edinburgh at an international conference on mental health issues, has received £425,000 of funding from Edinburgh City Council and NHS Lothian.

The council’s health and social care leader, Kingsley Thomas, said: “The Crisis Centre is something that service users in the city have campaigned to see for a long time. We are pleased to see Edinburgh becoming the first [city] in Scotland to provide this service and feel sure that a lot will be learned from it to help provide better services for people experiencing mental health problems in the city.”

Murray Duncanson, chief executive of the Primary Care Organisation at NHS Lothian, added: “The centre will provide people with mental health needs to get quicker access to help and support. This will allow earlier intervention to help prevent crises occurring and help direct people to specific services during times of crisis. Accessing the service will be simple and straightforward and will also provide an alternative way of getting help and support to people reluctant to seek medical advice through traditional routes.”

The campaign for a centre was launched by members of the Edinburgh Users Forum and the Edinburgh carers Council three years ago. Penumbra has also received £95,000 from the Scottish Executive to help with the centre’s start-up costs in the first year.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Executive said: “We are committed to improving mental health services in Scotland. This new adult crisis centre in Edinburgh forms part of our vision to enhance services for those with mental ill-health. It will provide around-the-clock support for people with mental ill-health who feel they are in a social crisis situation and need help to resolve this. This will cover a whole range of issues, such as people needing support to resolve relationship difficulties, help with finances or dealing with bereavement.”

The spokeswoman added: “Service users have been involved in the creation of this centre to ensure it meets their needs. The centre will enable social care and mental health agencies, Edinburgh City Council and carers to work together closely to ensure the best support for those with mental ill-health.”