Mental health services come under fire as Ipswich man John Fuller loses access to Bipolar support

John Fuller is pushing for greater support for people with mental ill health in Suffolk.

John Fuller is pushing for greater support for people with mental ill health in Suffolk. - Credit: Su Anderson

More needs to be done to support people with mental health conditions in Suffolk.

John Fuller has lived with Bipolar for as long as he can remember.

John Fuller has lived with Bipolar for as long as he can remember. - Credit: Su Anderson

These are the sentiments of Ipswich man John Fuller, who has Bipolar disorder, as one of the services he relied on for help is due to close at the end of the month.

The 48-year-old has been attending sessions with a liaison officer from charity Julian Support at Barrack Lane Medical Centre in Ipswich since the end of last year.

But after learning that the service was only a six-month pilot, Mr Fuller is calling for more long-term care for those who are struggling with mental ill health.

“It takes times to build up a relationship with a doctor or a therapist, and not everything works for everyone but I have received such fantastic support from Julian Support,” said Mr Fuller, of Pickworth House.

“It was so wonderful and to find out it’s being withdrawn has left me in a total state and a bit of a panic.

“It was, in my opinion, working. It was great to see something positive in that direction.

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“You can make appointments and it’s really good because for us with conditions, we can take our suit of armour off and just be ourselves and say what is bothering us. I don’t like to bother my family or my friends with my problems.”

Mr Fuller moved to Ipswich from Colchester in May last year having been raised in Lowestoft.

Since returning to Suffolk, Mr Fuller said he believes the mental health services in the county were “nonexistent”.

“Every time these things are put in place, a year later they take it away again and I can’t see the logic behind pulling it, it’s just wrong,” he added.

“Living with a mental health condition is like living with a physical entity that is with you 24 hours a day, it’s there in the morning and it’s there at night, there are times when you are in crisis and you try to call someone and there’s no one you can call.

“There’s very little out there, we have to help ourselves, we have to form our own clubs.”

Previously working as a chef in successful venues across the region, Mr Fuller said he had to give up his career due to mental ill health.

Mr Fuller spent a period of time living on streets and turned to alcohol to help him cope.

Having recovered from alcoholism and settling back into a home of his own, Mr Fuller now wants to see more done to reach out to vulnerable people in the county.

“I’m not doing this for myself, I’m doing this for others who need support at weekends and out of hours,” he added.

“There needs to be some understanding out there and a little bit of empathy.

“I just want people with similar conditions to mine, from depression, anxiety, right up to psychosis to understand that there are some of us out here who are trying to fight to keep services in place for us, even though the carpet is being pulled from underneath our feet and we are not quite sure who’s pulling it.”

Pilot project relieves pressure on GP services

Gary Scott, head of special projects at Julian Support, said the service provided at Barrack Lane was part of a six-month pilot and research scheme.

It involved a liaison worker going to the practice two afternoons a week and being available to offer advice and support with more social issues such as housing and benefits.

The idea behind the project was to relieve pressure on GPs by dealing with problems that are more closely linked with mental health.

The pilot was funded by the charity to find out if it would offer any real benefits to the practice and to patients.

Mr Scott said the charity would now take the research findings and apply for funding in order to run the scheme on a more permanent basis.

He said: “I know one of the GPs at Barrack Lane and we were having a discussion about some of the pressures that practices face from people who have mental health problems and we said, ‘why don’t we try a piece of work where we use one of our workers to supplement the team in the practice?’.

“For people who use the service it was not meant to be an ongoing service, we were trying to pick up some issues that people go to see their GP about which might not be GP-related, like tenancy and benefit issues, things that are important to people’s lives but not what every GP practice would deal with.”

Mr Scott said any patients who had received support from the charity at Barrack Lane would be signposted on to other services before the end of April.

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