Mental Health Matters – Reblogged for WMHD

I wasn’t planning on posting for World Mental Health Day today, but rather late in the day have decided to share again this post from September 2016. This has become, by a distance, the most ‘liked’ of all of my posts and, reading through the comments for the first time in ages it is clear that it touched a chord with many people. So, for those who haven’t seen it before, here is a second chance to catch up with it.

The post was prompted by my horror at the reports that service commissioners in England were diverting money supposedly ring-fenced for mental health services into other services. In the year since then, the situation does not appear to have improved, and I have seen no evidence that mental health is any higher in the commissioners’ priorities. I find this scandalous, and hope that the Government can find time in its busy agenda of wrecking the country to deliver on the commitments they have made to improve mental health services. I saw last week an estimate that an additional 10,000 mental health practitioners are needed across the country, and that specialist Mental Health Trusts in London currently have 25% vacancy rates, or worse. Urgent action is needed to begin rectifying this, as even a start now will take years to filter through as improved services.

On a personal note, I know that despite my own treatment finishing four years ago, I am never far from tipping over the edge and needing help again. I was well looked after, up to a point, and the final piece of the jigsaw was provided by my employer’s Occupational Health Service – I worked for an NHS Mental Health Trust at the time. I have since retired, so that is no longer available to me, and I know that local services where I live are limited. The prospect of needing their support again worries me, not because I don’t have confidence in their skills, but because they are under huge pressure and depression – which I had – isn’t exactly a high priority in the great scheme of things.

I hope you can take a few moments to read my original post. Whilst it isn’t themed for WMHD it raises important issues. We shouldn’t allow these to be swept under the carpet.

Take It Easy

At the risk of repeating myself, I started this blog to share my experience of depression in the hope that it would help others. I worked for more than 20 years in the NHS for a large mental health Trust and although I haven’t blogged much about it recently mental health is still a subject about which I care deeply. Last week there was a story in The Times which alarmed me about the way mental health is supported, and which I felt I had to share. This post is about the situation in England but I suspect that the issues are common to many other countries around the world.

A little bit of background: when the Tory-led coalition government came to power in 2010 they embarked on a major restructuring of the NHS. There had been no mention of this in their manifesto, but that’s another story. One of…

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I’m Fine

A couple of weeks ago the Mental Health Foundation launched a campaign called ‘I’m Fine.’ Posters are appearing in key sites in London, particularly on public transport. This was prompted by their research findings that on average we will say that little phrase 14 times a week, though only 19% of us actually mean it. To accompany their campaign they have produced this short video:

A stereotypical view of our reserved British nature would suggest that we say this to avoid opening up, and because we don’t really think that the person who has just asked how we are actually wants or expects an honest answer: 59% said that they expected the answer to be a lie. And if they got the truth, would they know how to deal with it anyway? 44% of the survey sample said they had received an answer they weren’t expecting to the question, and were surprised at being taken out of the comfort zone of ‘regular’ social intercourse.

We are famed for our reserve, but this isn’t just a British thing: if you listen closely there are a couple of distinctly American accents in the video. The point behind the MHF’s campaign isn’t that we lie to each other out of shyness, or a belief that we don’t really think that others want to know how we feel. In many cases, this unwillingness to open up is hiding a mental health problem about which we feel unable to talk. There is still a stigma around talking about mental health and the campaign is aiming to help remove that. There has been much research that has shown how we bottle up our thoughts and feelings rather than seek help, and this survey reinforces that – and also the usual perception that men are worse than women when it comes to talking about mental health issues.

To find out more about the campaign you can go here. Please do, as the site contains a wealth of useful information and tips on how to support someone in need of help – or on how to seek help for yourself if you need it. At this time of year it is very easy to get wrapped up in all the paraphernalia and excitement of Christmas without realising that there may be people we know and care about who aren’t feeling the joy. So, if you ask someone how they are, make sure that you mean it – and be prepared for an answer that may be more than a simple ‘I’m fine.’ I know from my own experience how easy it can be to kid others with that reply – and in doing so I was kidding myself. It doesn’t just have to be a casual greeting – and deserves to be much more than this. It’s worth doing that little bit extra to ensure that they – and you – really are ‘fine.’ As the survey showed, 4 times in 5 that answer isn’t really true.