Hoarders collect items that others may think have little or no value until the volume of their possessions becomes unmanageable and interferes with everyday living.
Consultant Clinical Psychologist Sophie Holmes, who features in a new Channel 4 documentary about hoarding, says the condition is much more common than people think: “We estimate that over 50,000 people* across the county and its borders hoard to a point that significantly restricts use of their living space – such as not being able to use their kitchen or bathroom normally.
“Some of these people will be eligible for professional help but are suffering behind closed doors, either too embarrassed to seek help, unable to accept they have a problem, or simply unaware of how to access support. But it doesn’t have to be that way.”
Ms Holmes, who works across the Trust’s borough-based Community Mental Health Recovery Services and specialises in treating people with complex mental health problems, explains: “Hoarding is a complex condition, characterised by a difficulty in making decisions about what to keep and what to throw away and strong beliefs around the value of the items being kept. It is now recognised as a distinct difficulty on its own although it often accompanies other mental health problems such as depression, schizophrenia or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).”
“Research shows that 80% of hoarders report a family history of the condition**, although the exact causes are as varied and complex as people are. Rather than dissecting all the reasons why the hoarding has come about, we usually focus on helping people to address their beliefs and actions so they are empowered to instigate change – but at their own pace.
“We’re not out to police people’s lifestyles – we all choose to live our lives very differently and one person’s clutter is someone else’s valued collection – but for some people, the number and nature of these possessions can affect their quality of life, and that of their relatives, and can even become life-threatening. In fact, hoarding is a direct contributor to around 6% of house-fire deaths*** so it is an issue that does need to be taken seriously.
“My work is about helping people address a lifetime of deep-seated habits, rituals and beliefs so there aren’t any quick fixes here but we can offer people treatments that have been shown to work.
“We can all play our part in helping identify people who might need specialist mental health care by checking on our neighbours, and, if necessary, contacting someone’s GP on their behalf if we feel they are at risk in their own home.
“Anyone concerned about their own mental health, or that of a friend, neighbour or relative should contact their GP in the first instance who can refer them to their borough-based Community Mental Health Recovery Service for assessment and treatment, if appropriate.”
Sophie Holmes provides professional advice about hoarding in a new documentary following the life and home of Westcott-resident Richard Wallace.
Obsessive Compulsive Hoarder: The Big Clear-Out will be shown on Channel Four, Thursday 26 July at 9pm as part of a week of programmes about mental health issues.
Details on the Channel Four website: www.channel4.com/programmes/obsessive-compulsive-hoarder/episode-guide/series-2/episode-1
Further information about compulsive hoarding is available on the NHS Choices website at: www.nhs.uk/conditions/hoarding/
*Problem hoarding is estimated to effect 4% of the population, according to a 2008 study called Prevalence and correlates of hoarding behaviour in a community-based sample by Samuels et al – which is quoted in a review by Mackins in 2011.
The population of Surrey and North East Hampshire is 1.3 million which means that 52,000 local people are potentially affected by the condition.
**84% of hoarders reported a family history of hoarding in research conducted by Saxena & Maidment in 2004.
*** This is also taken from the 2011 Mackins study mentioned above.
Community Mental Health Recovery Services
Around 95% of today’s mental health services are provided in a community setting which may involve seeing people as outpatients or even visiting them in their own homes.
Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has 13 borough-based Community Mental Health Recovery Services (CMHRSs) serving Surrey and North East Hampshire.
CMHRS Teams are a partnership of mental health and social care services located in:
Elmbridge (Joseph Palmer Centre, Walton Road – West Molesey)
Epsom (Farmside, West Park, Horton Lane – Epsom)
Guildford (Farnham Road Hospital – Guildford)
Mole Valley (Clarendon House, West Street – Dorking)
Reigate (Shaws Corner, Blackborough Road – Reigate)
Runnymede (Lake House, St Peter’s Hospital – Chertsey)
Spelthorne (Cedar Unit, Ashford Hospital – Ashford)
Surrey Heath (The Ridgewood Centre, Old Bisley Road – Frimley)
Tandridge (Langley House – Oxted)
Waverley (Berkeley House – Godalming)
Woking (Bridgewell House – Woking)
Hart (‘Conifers’ Sorrel Close, Farnborough – Hart)
Rushmoor (‘Hollies’ Aldershot Centre for Health – Rushmoor)
These are multi-disciplinary teams of psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, nurses, social workers, support workers, occupational therapists and other support staff who create individual packages of treatment and support for those who use the service.
Alongside the CMHRSs are a network of Assertive Outreach and Home Treatment teams which provide more intensive treatment and support to people in the community both to engage those who are hard to reach and prevent crisis admissions.