It’s National Mental Health Awareness Week again. Regular readers will probably have spotted how I feel about this sham, but for the avoidance of doubt I’m going to go at it once more. I ask you to forgive my lack of finesse. I’m riddled with infections, haven’t slept & more than a little frustrated with the subject matter.
Some of you may be thinking, wait, raising awareness about mental health is great. You are of course correct, but this week (& most mainstream MH campaigns) is just lip service. At best it’s platitudes & at worst it’s dangerous. If you check the hashtag on social media you’re going to see a lot of posts extolling the virtue of talking about your troubles. Talk will apparently cure all that ailes you. Ask for help & you shall receive. Pro Tip, It won’t & you won’t.
On the help front you’ll be up against the limitations of the NHS. Cuts to mental health services have been particularly brutal. Even if you have the good luck to access a Gp who takes you seriously & correctly refers you in a prompt manner, your wait will be long. What’s worse is that the correct help is unlikely to be at the end of your wait. A shocking lack in resources of every kind results in most people being offered short courses of cheap therapies like CBT. It will come as no surprise that with mental illness one size does not fit all.
Even in acute circumstances there are no psychiatric beds available. Many people have to travel long distances to access inpatient psychiatric care. Meaning they are far from family, friends & comforts in their darkest moments. If you’re a child or adolescent those resources only get scarcer. So, that’s frightened children waiting in misery to access services that may be of no use to them anyway. All of which is a far cry from just talk & salvation awaits.
As depressing as all that is I haven’t even broached the fact some people never get as far as a waiting list. For many there is no sympathetic ear. Their gigantic leap of faith is met with ignorance. Employers do still discriminate against the disabled. There are still Dr’s who will tell a person to pull themselves together. The worst stigma I ever faced was from medical professionals. All of which means awareness is great, but money is better. Proper funding is the answer to our mental health crisis & it is that is what we should be talking about.
The money problem doesn’t end with NHS funding. Our government is trying to eradicate disability benefits for mental illness entirely. The process of applying for PIP or ESA is exhaustive. The categories for qualifying are constantly shrinking. Our benefits system currently subjects vulnerable & very sick individuals to the most humiliating process in order to survive. That mental illnesses are purposely targeted for exclusion is government sanctioned stigma. Ah, I hear you cry, we do need awareness. Well here’s the thing, we don’t need the bullshit being touted by the mainstream orgs. All those articles about exercise & healthy eating & a hot baths & nice cups of tea are just shoring up that stigma. The idea that mental illness can be cured by any of those things minimises it’s very nature. It encourages the notion that people with long term mental health problems just aren’t trying hard enough. That in turn legitimises the governments disgusting witch hunt.
And we’re right back to my original point. Awareness is fine, but real change is the key. If you truly want to make a difference you need to tell your elected representatives that mental illness is a key issue for you. Sign petitions, attend marches, get informed. Read the difficult articles. By all means challenge stigma when it crosses your path & listen to anyone who chooses you as a confident. Do all of those of things, but I want to be clear, there is one crucial thing that will hand more impact than anything else, DO NOT VOTE TORY.