There I was on the side of the A499 when I got a phone call from the local MP, Hywel Williams.
A while back, in another life, he’d been the first approved (mental health) social worker in the area.
For his pains, he was presented with a caseload of 157 folk, which he managed to whittle down to 50 odd in time.
I allowed myself a quiet shudder as I remembered how my first caseload escalated to an unmonitored 70 odd in my first job as a social worker.
He was clearly impressed by the in depth case notes that had been taken by his unapproved predecessors…
‘1965, seems fine’
‘1966, seems fine’
He listened to what I was doing and was keen to tell me what was available for people with mental health problems in Wales above and beyond the statutory provision of health and social work.
He arranged for his researcher to send me some information – which I’ll certainly be putting to use.
He spoke fondly about his parliamentary colleagues – Charles Walker, a conservative and, until recently the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for mental health, who ‘outed’ himself as someone who suffers from the mental health problem, obsessive compulsive disorder ;
And Norman Lamb, the liberal minister who, as PART of his remit, is responsible for services to people with mental health problems…
It’s easy to wade in and slate parliament for it’s seeming inactivity over the issue of mental health.
In the UK, where 1 in 3 GP visits involve someone with a mental health problem, it’s crazy that we only have half a minister to deal with it.
Norman Lamb’s job is impossible.
Parliament, in my opinion, needs to set aside a greater amount of it’s ample resources to begin to stem and support this massive tsunami of people with mental health problems.
Hywel told me he was sick of hearing that mental health was the Cinderella Service – he tells people, in an attempt to inject some hope into the situation, that Cinderella did finally get to go to the ball.
We need to change things radically before we get to meet our handsome prince.
The researcher tells me, at the moment, the All Party Parliamentary Group is carrying out an inquiry into ‘Parity of Esteem’ of mental health services with physical health services
In total, 315 individuals and organisations contributed to the above paper.
Why so few? How did I miss it? Do we all need to try harder to engage?
The issue is that if you have a physical health problem you are guaranteed that treatment will start within 18 weeks of the diagnosis of your malady. In Wales, the waiting time is longer, but the guarantee is still there.
Somewhat miraculously, there is no such guarantee for people with mental health problems. This means there are 1000’s of folk, diagnosed with mental maladies, receiving no treatment at all.
This is an issue that’s been going on for years, I’m alarmed at how far behind the game parliament is.
Furthermore, they are missing one of the major problems of our time – the fact that different organisations, authorities, boards and groups jealously guard their own budgets in their silos with scant regard for the other groups.
Social work need to work with health need to work with voluntary (third sector) organisations, need to work with primary, secondary, further and higher education, need to work with employers, need to work with the police and other 999 services need to work with housing need to work with the department for work and pensions…
Mental ill health is the concern of everyone.
We need to break down barriers – we need to normalise mental ill health, especially since a minimum of 15 million people in the UK will be directly effected, with millions more feeling the ripples.
We all need to talk, to not take offence, to take time to listen, to enable others to explain their situations and beliefs.
I’m aware that many organisations lobby parliament – some spending £millions in that endeavour.
I asked Hywel how someone like me might lobby our government.
He suggested I write to my MP, the All Party Group and Norman Lamb.
I guess that would be a start.
This is such a huge issue…but…where to start…where to start…?
In Wales he showed some frustration that all the literature of health, social work and local authorities are written primarily in English – even though around 80% of the folk in North Wales have Welsh as their first language.
That said though, there are 2 organisations in Wales dedicated to supporting folk with mental health problems in Wales – both are based in South Wales – Hafal – here
And mind Cymru here although they don’t do any hands on work with mental health punters.
Some folk worth talking to I think.
The more I find out the more I realise I don’t know.
All from talking to one stranger…
Walk a mile