Page last updated at 00:16 GMT, Friday, 9 October 2009 01:16 UK

Cards 'can support mentally ill'

Man sitting on bed in mental health unit
Patients rarely receive cards or flowers when they stay in a mental health unit

People should consider sending cards and gifts to friends and family suffering with mental health problems, experts say.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists said cards and gifts were a simple way to support people with mental illness.

The college even said it may aid their recovery.

It made the plea after carrying out a poll of 131 mental health patients, which showed over half did not receive any gifts or cards when they were ill.

This compared with just a third who did not get presents the last time they were physically ill.

Recovery

More than eight out of 10 of the people surveyed said receiving a "get well soon" card would help their recovery.

Trisha Goddard
If anything increases feelings of isolation and unworthiness just when you're at your lowest ebb, this does
Trisha Goddard

The college is launching two of its own gift cards with the greeting: "Thinking of you at this time. Hope things improve soon."

A spokesman said existing greeting cards often had inappropriate images and words that were not suitable for a mental health problem.

Dr Peter Byrne, chair of the college's education committee, said: "I have worked in general and psychiatric hospitals for over 20 years, and there is no greater demonstration of the hidden prejudice against people with mental illness than the bedside lockers.

"In psychiatric units, there is barely a card or any other reminder that the outside world cares.

"People often don't know what to do or say when a friend or relative is ill with a mental health problem - so they end up doing nothing."

Isolation

Trisha Goddard, a television presenter who has spoken about her battles with depression and breast cancer, said: "When I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, I was inundated with 'get well soon' cards all of which were really touching.

"If you're thinking I only got those cards because I'm in the public eye, let me tell you this - when I lived in Australia, I was equally in the public eye and yet when news leaked out that I was in a psychiatric hospital following a breakdown, not a peep, no cards and certainly no flowers.

"If anything increases feelings of isolation and unworthiness just when you're at your lowest ebb, this does."



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