We are only 20 days into 2017 and already there have been news stories about mental health left, right and centre. Now although this is arguably a good thing for raising awareness, is just simply talking about it and pointing out the obvious actually going to kick-start changes? It’s well known that here in the UK, funding in mental health services is rather abysmal; there is not enough staff, or even services for that matter, to go around which cause the waiting lists for talking therapies to go on for months. As a country, we have always been discussing this, promising to address these issues is not a new thing so why is now going to be any different?
Is 2017 really going to be the year of improvement for mental health?
Theresa May, a woman who seemingly talks the talk without actually really saying anything, has recently promised us Brits that she has plans to plough funding into mental health for children and young people. This is brilliant to hear, especially as this month the news has also informed us that this very age group do not feel in control of their lives. As someone who volunteers for ChildLine, I have heard first-hand the pressures these young people face and the pain it causes them. To add insult to injury, The Guardian reported this month that out of every £100 the NHS spends, only a gob-smacking 70p goes to children’s mental health services. This is not good enough.
But what about those 1 in 4 of us adults who are suffering too? Theresa May has also promised to introduce mental health awareness training in the workplace for employers. In practice, this sounds ideal but is it something that could actually work? Telling an employer about ill mental health is terrifying; there’s a sense of it being ‘weak’ and not a valid excuse for time off. I wonder how many people in the UK have told their workplace they are stuck in bed with a sickness bug when really, they can’t leave the house because of their paralysing anxiety. Mental health training is taking a step in the right direction; it can help professionals identify the mental health problems but what happens next? It’s important that there are resources available to support the individual afterwards.
The most recent news story on mental health I’ve heard was this week on Newsbeat. In this story, they spoke about how in the last 10 years, people being prescribed antidepressants has doubled even though the number of diagnoses of depression hasn’t risen. Quite frankly, this news story pissed me off. Is it any wonder really with waiting lists for counselling on the NHS lasting what feels like a lifetime? What else are those of us who are suffering supposed to do? I personally decided to take the option of antidepressants because my mental health illness was getting in the way of my life. I knew the wait for counselling was going to be a long one and I decided that taking medication was better than letting my illness fester while I waited to be seen. I also want to highlight here that I am taking antidepressants for OCD, not depression.
NOT EVERY PRESCRIPTION OF ANTIDEPRESSANTS WILL BE TREATING DEPRESSION.
Perhaps some doctors do hand out prescriptions for antidepressants unnecessarily or perhaps they do it because they know how long the wait is for other help. Does anybody have much choice in this?
Although raising awareness around mental health and the attached stigma is incredibly important, the funding is paramount. By pumping more money into the mental health sector, we can help in making it more accessible and therefore a normal, accepted part of our society. When we reach a level of normality in which seeing a Counsellor is on par with seeing a doctor or taking medication for a mental illness is as accepted as it is for taking antibiotics, we will move towards a society in which stigma around mental health no longer exists.
You can borrow that last paragraph for your next speech Mrs Prime Minister.