Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The mental health 'car crash': a little more conversation, a lot more action.

The outgoing head of the Royal College of Psychiatrists is deeply unhappy with the way the Coalition government have handled mental health.

"It's a car crash," said Prof Bailey.
"The system is in crisis and we need people to listen.
"The sums of money that could make a difference are not huge but they could make a large difference."
Prof Bailey, who steps down as president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists later this week following three years in the role, strongly attacked the health secretary for failing to engage.
Asked whether Mr Hunt takes mental health seriously, she replied, "He has a basic understanding of it but whether he takes it seriously, the proof of which would be making it a priority, then sadly not."
There is the standard dead bat response from the government (that's a cricketing term, rather than anything to do with deceased flying mammals). It's even more frustrating to have a government that promised plenty on mental health but failed to deliver, than one which said nothing in the first place. Demand is rising, but provision is falling. If you thought the 4 hour wait in A&E for your broken leg was bad, you should be grateful it's your body that's broken and not your mind. We need both a little more conversation (there is still a great stigma over mental illness) and a lot more action.
It's very hard for people who are 'in the system' to speak out about it. For many with depression, anxiety etc., simply getting through the day is enough of a challenge, let alone having the confidence to challenge the system if it's letting you down. A few years ago, if you wanted my vote, a concrete promise of cash and provision in this area would have swung it. But until we get a health minister who has either been a patient or a carer for someone with acute mental health problems, I'm going to take the promises with a large pinch of salt. 
The recession has triggered a further rise in the number of people on anti-depressants. It's not hard to see how someone on a zero hours contract is going to get anxious, or a student facing an increasing mountain of debt, or a child struggling to hit the scores their school needs to top the league tables whilst their parents are splitting up and their so-called 'friends' are bullying them on Facebook. In most of these areas there are demand-side reforms to mental health (like this), but they don't always sit well with the austerity agenda. Mental ill-health costs £70 billion a year, according to the OECD. More than that, it's people's lives, and you can't put a price on that.

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