St Vincent’s mental health service

St Vincent’s has a long and outstanding commitment to providing excellent care for consumers suffering from mental illness, providing psychiatric services to people aged between 16 and 65 and living in the cities of Yarra and Boroondara.

The Acute Inpatient Service is a 44 bed inpatient unit providing short term inpatient treatment to people during the acute phase of mental illness, including a six bed Extra Care Unit for people with more intensive care needs.

The Mental Health Service has implemented a number of safety initiatives to protect the safety and wellbeing of our patients, visitors and staff.

SafeWards
This evidence based model from the UK aims to keep people safe in mental health wards.  SafeWards can assist understanding of the very complicated subjects relating to responding to conflict and maintaining containment by encouraging consumers and staff to work together.

Victorian Network of Smoke-free Health Services
St Vincent’s Mental Health is now a Smoke Free Service, and has established a tobacco cessation service, with resources and support available to all inpatients and outpatients.

Sensory Modulation
St Vincent’s has implemented sensory modulation on the Acute Inpatient Service in an effort to reduce the need for restraint and seclusion. Bluetooth headphones are available for use by consumers in the ECU, and have been particularly well received by consumers, who have provided positive feedback about them and how they are helpful. Sensory baskets containing equipment designed to relax consumers are also available. Massage chairs on both units and a sensory room in the Low dependency Unit also have high use.

Sensory modulation has also been incorporated into the design of a new courtyard, which was opened on Monday 3 October. The courtyard also contains a safe space for women.

Group Programs
Mental Health offers approximately 30 group activities each week, with review and generation of new ideas occurring at weekly consumer meetings. There is currently a visiting art therapist and music therapist, as well as a pet therapy dog, Asiz, that visits weekly. Gardening groups are also very popular and have recently returned to the new courtyard.

Restrictive Interventions and Treatment
A De-escalation and Restrictive Interventions Form has been introduced in an effort to tackle increased seclusion rates early in 2015-16. This form is completed by both clinicians and consumers.

The form encompasses the understanding that at any time, a clinician of differing skill and experience level may be leading de-escalation. It is important that documentation and reflection exists about what other measures have been tried, and their rate of success.

The form also supports the consumer in ensuring that access to post traumatic support is provided, that all relevant individuals are informed about any restrictive practice that has occurred and that all legislative requirements have been met.

Early Response Team
Senior nursing staff that are available on a roster system M-F to consult and support decision making when challenging behaviour arises.  This is a preventative measure to avoid restrictive interventions where possible.  The team meet weekly to review incidents and documentation of restrictive interventions.

Peer support workforce
Liam Buckley and Louise Taylor are at the forefront of St Vincent’s fight against mental illness. They are part of two pilot projects that aim to improve our mental health patients’ pathway to admission and discharge.

Their team consists of five peer support workers whose roles include liaising with the nursing staff in Emergency Department to ensure patients’ non-clinical needs are addressed as they get admitted into St Vincent’s mental health ward and again when they are discharged.

Liam Buckley and Louise Taylor
Liam Buckley and Louise Taylor

Needless to say, the peer support workers’ own experiences of mental illness is what makes them an integral part of helping patents cope with not just their condition, but also their social and emotional barriers – all through empathetic listening and encouragement.

Liam is a pre-admission liaison worker and has the task of welcoming new patients to the ward and making them feel at home.

‘When the patients come over to the ward, you can often have a good rapport with them and talk to them very easily, and they are very open with you,’ he says.

‘Once they know you are a peer support worker, they know you can empathise with them and they give that back as well.’

Louise, on the other hand, assists patients during the discharge process, particularly for longer stay patients, helping them build linkages with their community in order to make integration back into society as smooth as possible.

Due to the relatively high risk of relapse in the first four weeks after discharge, the team works to continue to provide short-term rehabilitation support to patients even after discharge in order to prevent relapse and readmission to hospital.

Louise says patients’ feedback has always been positive.

‘The people on the ward are very thankful for someone who has come in with a non-clinical approach and that has a shared experience and has kind of travelled that path before – it gives them courage and hope that there is a future for them,’ she says.

Peer support clearly complements and enhances the healthcare services that clinicians provide and creates an outcome that changes people’s lives for the better.

Both Louise and Liam feel a huge sense of achievement for their unique contributions have led to mental health patients making a full recovery.

‘I think we are part of an up and coming, strong workforce and that we have solid ideas and firm belief that can make a difference,’ Louise says.

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