World Mental Health Week, 10-14th October 2011.
Mental Health is still a taboo subject in our culture as it is across much of Europe. It is a problem that couId be addressed partly through education but the schools curriculum in the UK is no where near visionary enough to be able to take that on at this time. In recent times Governments have done little or nothing to address the increasing numbers of people made ill by this wonderful life we live in the First World.
I find it increasingly disturbing that so many genuinely unwell folk will be facing cuts to their income and vital support services. These are austere times but as the ConDem cuts are rolled out I find no reason to stop despising their policies that descriminate against sections of our community that already have their backs firmly pushed up against the wall. I know I bang on about this a bit but I don’t feel this is a time to stop doing so.
I recently spoke with a rural copper who patrolled a fairly large village. He had been on night duty for some time and had noticed the increasing number of calls to the police along the lines of “ there is an elderly lady running around the school playing field in her night dress”. He told me this was on the increase and he blamed the cuts in social services and demise of other local agencies through cuts to budgets and staffing levels.
Here in London I see a steady increase of people on the streets who need support. Else where I hear some real horror stories about the jeopardy that some people are in through a decline in or a complete lack of services. In Essex, for example, there is no specialist sensory social work team at all. So if you are deaf and mentally unwell what do you do? If you are arrested by the Police, who will be able to understand you? How will you be able to be supported and who will protect your basic rights? The postcode lottery is evident here.
Scenario : Two people have severe mental health issues, learning disability and sensory loss.
Both young men slowly begin to get into trouble with neighbours and some times family and other members of the public.
The police are called out frequently to them and the incidents they are involved with. Social workers do what little they are allowed to do, under ever changing Kafka-esque guidelines, which always amount to less on offer for clients.
The first young man eventually ends up in court for the umpteenth time and goes to prison. In prison he is a problem because he can’t hear anything and they can’t use sign language. He kicks off and the authorities feel they have no option but to section him and send him to Rampton – cost £3000 plus per week. Rampton is a hell hole. I have had communication with inmates for some years who have been systematically bullied and brutalised by staff.
People don’t get well there.
The second young man is headed in the same direction. Basically the system can’t deal with him either so he is sectioned like our first young man. He is sent to a secure hospital that offers proper clinical support including counselling and mentoring. The structure is based on a three tier system where patients graduate from the bottom to the next tier around living in a small community of other patients at the same level of progress as he is. The top tier is around independent living towards living outside the hospital. Here patients live in their own self contained accomodation. All of this takes place on site. Cost £3000 plus per week. The difference between the two approaches and the possible outcomes is easily seen. Unfortunately the second option is not available to many as you might expect and yet the benefits are obvious and for the same cost.
A couple of years ago I suffered with depression for a time. It was disabling at first but with support and a fantastic G.P. I was able to recover slowly. I was lucky in so far as I knew my illness was fairly minor, I could communicate my issues and be understood and I had a strong support network. It was still a shock and it is only now that I am beginning to understand what happened and why. That’s life and I am better for the experience but this is not the case for others who have to continually battle with their illness, often with out much support at all.
One day that lonely and vulnerable looking person muttering to the rubbish bin in the street might be you. I hope not but at some point it is likely that mental illness will affect some one you know if not you, a loved one or a valued colleague. We can all aspire to being more understanding and accomodating. We can all work to get rid of the ignorance and fear embodied in remarks such as "we didn't have all this in my day you just have to pull your socks up and get on with it", or "if you are mad, you are mad you just have to get over it". We can also strive to change the language that demeans and oppresses people who are mentally unwell. I feel sure most of you know what I mean by this. I'm all for political correctness that actually enhances peoples quality of life.
Mean while we must fight government cuts to vital services or reap the bitter harvest. This nation is in distress and we must intervene.
The people involved with Mad Pride are doing what they can and so should you and so should I. I hope I will see you at The Montague Arms on Friday next.