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David Harewood - Psychosis and Me - David stands in front of an ambulance

David Harewood: Psychosis and Me

Thirty years ago, David had a psychotic breakdown. Now he traces his steps and meets people living with psychosis. 

About the programme

At 23 years old, David Harewood had a psychotic breakdown and was sectioned. As he puts it, he ‘lost his mind’.

On World Mental Health Awareness Day 2017, David took to Twitter and spoke publicly about his experiences for the first time. He was overwhelmed by the response. Now David wants to tell the full story - to piece together what happened to him and help others understand what it’s like to experience psychosis. 

David lets viewers into the realities of experiencing a psychotic breakdown. He opens up in a way he has never done before. Meeting up with old friends who were with him when he was sectioned, David realises just how much he blocked out. Travelling up to his hometown of Birmingham, he starts to put the pieces together with his Mum, but he doesn’t want to just trace his own story.

David spends time with the emergency NHS mental health and Police teams in Birmingham, as they go out on 999 calls to treat people in distress. He meets young people who are living with psychosis at an early intervention group in Solihull, run by Psychiatrist Errin Turner and spends time with two inspirational young people to talk about their own experiences of psychosis, plus their treatment and ongoing recoveries.

For more information, visit the BBC programme page .

Discover the range of qualifications and modules from the OU related to this programme:

David Harewood - Psychosis and me - Hospital
A man sits with his head in his hand

Why is the Mental Health Act being reviewed?

Dr Sarah Vicary explains why the UK and Wales legislation is in need of a review and explores the current challenges with the system.

a woman sits on the floor embracing herself sadly

Photo by Joice Kelly on Unsplash

Although many people with mental health problems are offered help without recourse to mental health legislation, there are times when its use offers support and also a safeguard. The safeguard can be for the person themselves and also for the community. For some people with mental health problems this can involve being formally detained. In the UK in 2016/17, there were 45,864 new detentions recorded . However, this process is undertaken only after medical recommendations and applications are made usually by an Approved Mental Health Professional, who has received extra training and is officially approved to do this role.

Such formal detention is sometimes referred to as being sectioned. The legal framework for the formal care and treatment of people with mental health problems, both in hospitals and in the community, is the Mental Health Act 1983. This Act applies in England and Wales, whereas different legislation applies in Northern Ireland and Scotland. The Act confers powers that do not exist elsewhere in the health and social care field and are usually exercised when people are at their most vulnerable because of a problem with their mental health.


Failed attempts for new legislation

Professor Sir Simon Wessley

Professor Sir Simon Wessley

Debates on mental health have not always received equal coverage in the public media and are reflected in conflicting attitudes. One example of this conflict is the initial review of the Mental Health Act 1983 that took place in the first decade of the twentieth century.

Over many years there were attempts by the Government to bring about new mental health legislation to address what was, at the time, concern about the risk posed by people with serious mental disorders living in the community. This concern was fuelled by the anxiety surrounding high-profile cases where people with acute mental health needs committed serious criminal offences, having been either discharged from hospital or not given appropriate and effective supervision in the community.

However, the idea that this risk was high also attracted fierce criticism and as a result the 1983 Act was amended only, but concern about the use of the Mental Health Act remains and in October 2017, the Government commissioned a second (and this time independent) review of the Mental Health Act 1983. 

In May 2018 the review which was being chaired by Sir Simon Wessely (and a range of experts on the panel), published an interim report outlining the work it has done to date and the proposed next steps. The report acknowledges that while the over-representation of black and minority ethnic groups is neither new nor unrecognised, there does not seem to be a single explanation for this phenomenon other than a reasonable consensus that social reasons may have the biggest impact. This area remains a high priority for the review.

The independent review published its final report in December 2018. Its recommendations included:

  • New more stringent detention criteria.
  • Statutory advance choice documents.
  • Greater powers for the mental health tribunal.
  • A new Nominated Person to replace the current Nearest Relative role.
  • Extended rights to independent advocacy.
  • Statutory care and treatment plans.

The Government has announced that it will legislate to implement two of the review’s recommendations – advance choice documents (second bullet point) and the Nominated Person (fourth bullet point. A formal response will be published in 2019.


Looking to the future

Letter tiles spell out "Mental Health Matters"

Photo by Marcel Strauß on Unsplash

As highlighted above, issues for particular groups including black and minority ethnicities, are being given priority, as are matters concerning children and young people, and people with learning disabilities and autism. It is not yet known if the review will result in new or amended mental health legislation or what changes may be recommended in relation to the current mental health system as it operates in England and Wales but the report indicates that ‘any changes to the MHA must be underpinned by improvements to mental health services’ (DoH, 2018: 12).


Meet the OU expert

Dr Sarah VicaryAssociate Head of School, Nations - School of Health, Wellbeing & Social CareVIEW FULL PROFILE
Dr Sarah VicaryAssociate Head of School, Nations - School of Health, Wellbeing & Social Care

Sarah currently leads the Social Work degree for The Open University in the North West of England and in Yorkshire. She is the Social Work lead for the Student Support Team and until recently, Co-qualifications lead, Social Work. Sarah has worked extensively in Adult Social Services, primarily within mental health, practising as a frontline social worker, an Approved Social Worker under the Mental Health Act 1983, a development and training officer and for six years a senior manager in an inner city multi disciplinary emergency mental health setting. She was for a number of years an Area Commissioner for the Mental Health Act Commission.

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