Edana Minghella obituary | Mental health

Health researcher, screenwriter and jazz singer Edana Minghella, who has died aged 63 from endometrial cancer, played a key role in restoring faith in community care for people with mental illness after public trust collapsed. was rocked by a series of scandals in the 1990s.

For 30 years, governments have followed a policy of closing the UK’s long-stay psychiatric hospitals and instead supporting people in the community through therapies, practical support and slow-release medication. But a string of serious incidents, including the 1992 assassination of Jonathan Zito by Christopher Clunis, powered growing calls for the policy to be reversed.

Minghella, who was the show’s lead at the time Sainsbury Center for Mental Healthled a team that evaluated a pioneering new approach in North Birmingham, whereby crisis resolution teams provided a 24-hour rapid response to people suffering from psychotic episodes, or who were thought to pose a risk to themselves or for others.

your report, open all hours (1998) found that this approach allowed people to remain safe in the community, was as effective as hospital treatment but much less expensive, and was preferred by most people. As a result, the scheme was recommended the following year in the official National Service Framework for Mental Health and, in 2000, became a central plank of the Labor government’s NHS Plan.

This promised the establishment of 335 crisis teams in England over the next three years and guaranteed that anyone in contact with specialist mental health services could reach a team at any time, predicting a 30% reduction in pressure on communities. acute inpatient units.

Although this rosy forecast was never realized and the original model was watered down, especially as austerity hit the NHS later that decade, crisis teams remain central to the provision of NHS mental health care and the threat to care based in the community has regressed.

The Edana Minghella Quartet performing What a Little Moonlight Can Do in 2019

Born on the Isle of Wight, Edana was the daughter of Gloria (née Arcari) and Edward Minghella, who ran an ice cream business, cafe and hotel in Ryde. The third of five siblings, including her. film director brother antonioShe attended St Therese Presentation Convent School and, for A levels, Ryde Secondary School. The children helped with the family business from a young age and gained the confidence to deal with clients of all kinds, particularly those with health problems and addictions drawn to a by then declining spa.

After a false start on a theater degree at the University of Hull, where Anthony had also studied theater and lectured, Minghella returned to the island and worked in a nursing home before undertaking a four-year course at the University. from Brunel and Bethlem Royal and Maudsley Hospitals in south London, where she qualified as a mental health nurse in 1982 and graduated in psychology and sociology the following year.

A fellow student in the course was the comedian Jo Brand, who admits to envying the ease and speed with which Minghella learned the skills of mental health nursing. The two became lifelong friends, with a shared commitment to fun and feminism, and would later even perform together. Minghella also met social work student Toby Dickinson at Brunel, and they married in 1985. The union later ended in divorce.

Minghella worked as a mental health nurse, service manager, tutor and lecturer at King’s College London, gaining a teaching qualification at the University of Surrey, until joining the Sainsbury center in 1994. In addition to her work in crisis, led influential research on the effectiveness of so-called assertive outreach, working with people considered difficult to engage through conventional mental health services.

It was at the Sainsbury center that Minghella worked alongside Heather Harper, who became her partner for the rest of her life, sharing a house first in Brighton and, from 2018, in the Liguria region of Italy.

In 2001, Minghella earned a doctorate in mental health studies at Middlesex University and moved on to the Audit Commission, the public spending watchdog, where she became director of mental health but also co-authored a groundbreaking study about gaps in services for disabled children and their families

As in all her work, she was outraged and outspoken on behalf of people poorly served by the state. But she went further, incorporating children with disabilities into the research process itself through what was at the time still an innovative idea of ​​forming a reference group for the project.

Minghella co-wrote much of the second series of the ITV drama with her younger brother Dominic. Doctor Martin

After a brief secondment to the new but short-lived Health Commission, which took over some of the functions of the Audit Commission, Minghella left her full-time job to work as a consultant. She went on to produce definitive research and analysis, co-develop and write national guidelines on the implementation of dementia services, and extend her interest to care and support for people with personality disorders, learning disabilities, and/or autism.

One of her latest studies, published in 2020, was a typically incisive report for the social change agency NDTi, where she was an associate, on the persistent problem of mentally ill people needing hospital care who are sent long distances from their homes. source areas.

The increased flexibility of consulting work allowed Minghella to develop other interests. She co-wrote with her younger brother Dominic much of the second series (2005-06) of the popular ITV drama Doc Martin, took writing workshops in Italy and, above all, fulfilled in later life a long-standing ambition of sing. she jazz professionally.

Encouraged and assisted by the acclaimed singer Liane Carrollwhich would later produce his two albums, still on my feet (2011) and All or nothing (2016), Minghella formed an accomplished band and became a regular performer at major jazz venues in London and the South East. His singing allowed her to unleash his effervescent personality, and his distinctive voice and fresh interpretation of jazz standards were widely acclaimed.

After moving to Italy, his love for which he shared prolifically and contagiously on social media, he occasionally returned to perform in the UK. However, the Covid pandemic and her cancer have restricted opportunities in recent years.

He is survived by Heather and Edward, 101, Dominic and his sisters Gioia and Loretta.

Edana Louise Minghella, health researcher and jazz singer, born May 14, 1959; died July 13, 2022

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