What an interesting topic for World Mental Health Day 2011, especially given the state of the world economy at the moment. It seems one of the first things to go is investment in mental health, and, certainly in the UK, there wasn’t a lot to start with!
So, for my post I’m going to share what I’d do if I were in the Government to invest in mental health. Who knows, maybe Mr Cameron himself will stop by and learn something!
- Cancel ATOS’ contract:
the stress being put on the genuinely ill by these assessments in a desperate attempt to save cash will result in people who may be able to work in some capacity being made so much worse that they lose that ability. Better someone who can contribute to the economy in some small way than someone who has been made even more ill than they were by unreliable assessments and then end up on benefits for life.
Oh, and of course it will (hopefully) end the terror and suicides, added bonus there.
- Work with businesses to make it easier to work with mental illness: Allow job sharing so that multiple people can be employed, all gain the benefits of work but it is easier for them to deal with.
Understand that people with mental illness need more sick days than those without, make allowances for this.
Provide incentives to businesses to make it worth their while to employ those with mental health problems.
- Start an anti-stigma campaign: Use bloggers and social media alongside traditional mediums to educate people about mental illness. Focus on the fact that mental illnesses are just like physical ones in that they are not optional, fight the idea that you can “snap out of it.”
Provide good mental health education in schools to fight the idea that mental illness makes you “weak,” or is somehow not a real illness. Explain how various mental disorders manifest, what causes them and how they can be treated. Make it clear that there are physical, as well as emotional, reasons for mental illnesses.
- LISTEN: Read the blogs of those who are suffering, pay attention to the letters from them, speak to the charities that work with them and really hear what they say. Stop using them to get extra airtime or try to bring in votes, realise that this is people’s lives you are messing with. Try to understand what people are going through and then DO SOMETHING.
- Reassess the benefits system (again): Benefits need to be easier to understand and more specific. One for those who are long-term sick, one for those who are short term sick. The short term one should be combined with the working with businesses point above.
Trust the GPs and psychiatrists who tell you that their patient is ill, don’t give that decision to someone with a tick box and pen who knows nothing about mental illness. Decisions on the level of illness should only be made by a qualified doctor who has spent a valid period of time (months, not minutes) with the patient, and who really understands their problems and requirements.
- Fix the NHS: Pay the psychiatrists properly, hire ones who actually care, give up on pointless targets and focus on helping people.
Scrap the ridiculous 6 week treatment plan, scrap the even more ridiculous “one specialist at a time” plan and get your head around the idea that, often, helping people isn’t cheap.