January 25, 2017
Mental health has been in the spotlight in recent weeks with Theresa May’s pledge to reform mental health services. During her speech to the Charity Commission on 9 January 2017, the Prime Minister spoke about mental illness being “a hidden injustice in our country, shrouded in a completely unacceptable stigma and dangerously disregarded as a secondary issue to physical health”.
Where does this stigma come from? Perhaps from the cliché of the British ‘stiff upper lip’ – a mistaken (and unfounded) belief that you are expected to be stoic and resolute in the face of difficulties and pressures (however great or all-consuming) and to express emotion or to want to talk about your struggles is somehow an admission of weakness and failure. We must apparently ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’.
This is particularly the case when it comes to talking about struggles with mental illness. Most people have no problem in discussing and seeking help in relation to a physical illness or complaint; but mental health somehow seems to be a taboo subject. Many people are reluctant to talk about their difficulties with family and friends or with professionals.
Some suffer in silence until they reach a crisis point. Some will consider suicide.
There has been a sharp rise in people presenting to A&E with mental health issues which has put significant strain on an already squeezed NHS but for many, it is a last resort. However a busy, noisy emergency department may not be the right environment for them to find the support and help they need.
Children and young people are also suffering - with an increasing number struggling with depression, anxiety and the newer pressures brought about by cyber bullying.
Those suffering with mental illness need to have rapid access to specialist services, treatment and therapies to ensure their problems are addressed before they reach crisis point.
The focus must be on lifting the ‘shroud’ that has covered mental health for too long and demystifying the issue; encouraging those who are struggling with mental illness to come forward and to tackle the issues openly and without fear.
Access to the right support will need funding. Theresa May’s speech focussed on the need for action within schools, workplaces and communities however her words have been met with some caution by those who work in front line mental health services and mental health charities as there is a question over how these services can be provided without a commitment to provide the additional funding needed.
We are fortunate to have organisations like MIND and the Samaritans who provide vital advice and support to those affected by mental health issues. MIND is currently running a ‘Find the Words’ campaign which provides useful practical guides on how to speak openly about mental health.
Some dates for your diary:
• ‘Time to Change’ was set up in 2007 to work to end the discrimination against mental health. 2nd February will see their ‘Time to Talk Day’; an initiative to get as many people as possible to talk about their experiences of mental health.
• 6-12 February 2017 is Children’s Mental Health Week run by children’s mental health charity Place2Be with the aim of supporting children who struggle with mental health difficulties. Their focus this year is on spreading kindness and helping others who are struggling.
• 10 October is World Mental Health Day with the aim of raising awareness of mental health issues.
Following an accident or traumatic event, it is very common for a client to suffer psychologically as well as physically. As a solicitor in the Serious Injury Team here at Spencers Solicitors, I have worked with clients who have suffered psychological trauma and as a firm we are committed to ensuring that our clients affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; depression; specific phobia and anxiety have the access to the right expert help and support they need both in the short term and in the future.