What can I do to help?
I am, what could be best described as, a mental health campaigner. I am currently walking around the edge of the UK to highlight the experiences of people with a mental health problem, who often feel on the edge.
So far I have circumnavigated Scotland, a bit of England and North Wales, having walked anti-clockwise from Edinburgh. I am doing this with no money to demonstrate the kindness and generosity of the people of the UK.
The journey has been curtailed by my mental health problem – borderline personality disorder, and Lyme disease.
Every day I meet people who have been touched by mental ill health, whether it be their own, that of their friends or their families. People seem to be keen to share their experiences with a wandering stranger. I meet still more folk who have no idea about mental ill health, people who when I tell them about my malady tell me I don’t look like one!
I appreciate the task of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Mental Health is a massive one – I know they’re currently looking into parity of service with mainstream NHS services. This, from my perspective really is a no-brainer. Sure you can collate more and more information that is already out there, but there are a swathe of simple facts to consider today, right now.
Every year over 6000 people take their own lives in the UK – that’s an increase of approximately 1000 a year since austerity measures began.
Mental ill health is the biggest killer of men under 35 in the UK.
Since services have been cut further – now that only 10% of NHS spending goes on mental health services – more and more people are losing their services – often being told that their mental health problem has improved when it hasn’t.
Without parity, people are being diagnosed with severe and enduring mental health problems but being offered no treatment at all.
The prison population is vastly overrepresented by men with mental health problems.
People with mental health problems are over represented in those people who have their benefits sanctioned.
Social work, Health, and the Department of Work and Pensions must work together – not in the punitive ways that were recently suggested in the media – but in gentle collaboration. People with mental health problems are every bit as skilled, talented and wonderful as the mainstream population. It would benefit everyone if we could work together. We don’t need tough love, thanks.
Since the closure of Remploy, and the proposed dissolution of the Independent Living Fund, more needs to be done to support people with mental health problems in employment and education – including help for employers to fully consider what ‘reasonable adjustments’ they can make. I know it has been proposed that ILF money goes directly to local authorities – but, given the recent cuts to their budgets, together with the lack of policy to demand this money is ring fenced, I’m sure this will vanish like a drop in the ocean.
People are ignorant about mental ill health. 1 in four of us will experience it, but there’s no push in our schools to improve that situation. As such, much of what people feel they know comes through the media, including well meaning but ill-informed soaps. This lack of knowledge generates fear and prejudice.
The treatment that 1000’s of people have received at the hands of ATOS and the countless workfare programmes has been shameful.
This goes far beyond being a health problem – this is a problem that touches all of us in all walks of life. My concern is that with election year soon to be upon us, parliamentary interest in mental ill health will diminish for snappier, vote attracting policies. With a new government there will be new personnel looking at the issue of mental ill health and the work you’ve done will vanish without a trace.
I honestly thought that things couldn’t get any worse when I heard that only 13% of the NHS budget was spent on services for folk with mental health problems – it looks like there’s been a massive rush to cut the already meagre provision before you publish something on the parity of service. Guidelines which I fear will be too little too late.
It’s with all the above in mind that I repeat my question.
What can I do to help?
You can find my links here;
And on Twitter here @walkamileuk
The trailer to the film of my walk is here http://youtu.be/tAxIQSfHZDY
I have developed a one man show in conjunction with Chris Sudworth the artistic director, and Spike the Poet at the Core at Corby Cube, and I have spoken to the public, schools, universities and other organisations on the subject of mental health.
Please get in touch, I’d be delighted to hear from you.
Chris McCullough Young