‘Parity of Esteem’ is best described by The Royal College of Psychiatrists as: ‘Valuing mental health equally with physical health’.
More fully, parity of esteem means that, when compared with physical healthcare, mental healthcare is characterised by:
- equal access to the most effective and safest care and treatment
- equal efforts to improve the quality of care
- the allocation of time, effort and resources on a basis commensurate with need
- equal status within healthcare education and practice
- equally high aspirations for service users
- equal status in the measurement of health outcomes.
At the Coroner’s court, when the (Honorary) Consultant Psychiatrist was asked why he did not have a conversation with me, the patient’s mother, about his diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder when he made that diagnosis , he said that was because the patient ie. Saagar was very averse to me (his mother) at the time. It is eminently possible that his hostile attitude was a symptom of the illness.
However, the doctor felt comfortable sending him home to live with me.
If Saagar would have presented with a Hb (Haemoglobin) count of 5 (normal being 14-16) due to blood cancer, would he have been told his diagnosis, put on medication and sent home? No. The family would have been informed and educated about the illness and given clear instructions on a possible hospital admission and where to go if things got worse. The patient would have been offered counseling services to deal with this potentially life threatening disorder. They would have informed them about the 5 year or 10 year mortality associated with the condition and the expected desirable and undesirable effects of the medications.
With all due respect to the Psychiatrists who work under tremendous constraints and do a lot of good work everyday : if they, as custodians of the mentally ill, are unable to give mental illness the parity of esteem it deserves, how can we expect anyone else to?