Thinking about mental health problems for 24 hours is not the same as tackling the issue for 365 days a year — which is what is needed
With the novelty of World Mental Health Day wearing off, and as the news that Will Young has quit Strictly Come Dancing floods our newsfeed, I remain bewildered that mental health remains a taboo.
World Mental Health Day, as far as I am aware, is a chance for Facebook users to portray their compassionate side to some 873 friends by posting a photo with a poetic quote about the struggles of living with a mental illness. The remaining 364 days of the year, they have absolutely no recognition of the difficulties of suffering mental health issues.
With an obvious cynical tone, I am aware that the point of assigning a specific day to an issue, is to raise awareness. However, Father Christmas and the Easter Bunny are quite forgotten and ignored on every other day of the year other than their designated ‘day’. Unfortunately, this is also the case with Mental Health. Unlike the fictional character of Father Christmas however, ignoring mental health is having a significant impact on the victims of mental health problems as well as the rest of society.
This provoked me to research into an issue I believe goes unnoticed and unheeded.
A crucial element of overcoming and dealing with a mental health illness is through regular therapy and counselling. Counselling is not as cosy as films would have you believe. It is not simply laying on a £1,000 futon, decorated with goose-feathered cushions and rambling on for an hour about your love life and work gossip. It is vital. Counselling is of the utmost importance to not only recovering, but surviving with mental health issues.
However, it would seem that funding given to mental health services is so minimal and these services are marginalised to such an extent, that patients are forced to wait for over a year to receive the treatment they so desperately need.
It is important to note that there are many types of counselling and therapy. The type of therapy a patient requires depends on an individual’s diagnosis, which determines the form of counselling they would need.
For example, a person living with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) would require Psychotherapy or Dialectical Behaviour Therapy as treatment. Whereas an individual with the diagnosis of Anxiety would be referred for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or Applied Relaxation Therapy.
Treatment and therapy can be complex, extensive and hard. For many, the notion of opening up to a stranger about their mental health is a traumatic and even embarrassing thought. So being placed at the bottom of a year-long waiting list seems quite unhelpful.
There is another problem. Too often patients are given the wrong therapy, or simply supplied with drugs in an effort to boost the wealth of pharmaceutical companies. This is evident through the findings of a coalition which revealed ‘that three in five people (58%) weren’t offered a choice in the type of therapy they received’, resultantly hindering their treatment’s effectiveness. A further 11 per cent of the people questioned in the survey stated that they had taken the expensive burden of ‘private treatment because the therapy they needed was not available on the NHS’.
In a country that spends £32 million each year on obesity surgery, and £5 billion a year on treating diseases directly caused by smoking, you would think that funding would be prioritised for those whose illness — sorry for the controversial comment — was not self-inflicted.
If you are reading this and are currently in a state of shock and anger, then good.
Mental health is not discussed enough. The NHS funding which is allocated to Mental Health Services is insulting and comical. Indeed, World Mental Health Day may have raised some awareness, but much more needs to be done to improve the services.
In a report carried out by the Government, it has been stated that ‘improved psychiatric liaison services in acute hospitals could save each hospital an average of £5 million a year’ and improved access to talking therapies ‘will help tackle the 70 million working days lost annually due to mental health problems’ — why then is so little being done to address this serious issue?