It’s #WorldMentalHealthDay and I am all for talking and listening and helping each other and sharing our stories and encouraging people who need it to ask for help. But it’s not enough. It’s good, but it’s not enough. I have been campaigning for ‘better mental health awareness’ for over ten years and the situation has only worsened.
We are in the midst of a mental health crisis and no matter how many millions of pounds are ploughed into glossy awareness campaigns, no matter how many Royals and celebrities look down a lens and tell us that things can change, no matter what colours we wear or filters we add to our social media accounts, without huge amounts of actual ring-fenced funding to support mental health services, this downward spiral will continue.
There is one thing that pretty much every mental health awareness campaign ignores, and that is that this is political. So as someone who lives with mental illness, who has needed specialised, inpatient care and who has in the past had to literally beg for the treatment I needed, I’m getting to a point where I can’t go along like a good little campaigner and support these campaigns and not acknowledge or address the hypocrisy behind them. At first, I was frustrated, then I was angry and now I’m just tired.
I’m sorry for being cynical but (in no particular order):
- I’m tired of awareness campaigns that aren’t supported by action and funding.
- I’m tired of our government not putting money where their mouths are.
- I’m tired of encouraging conversations to ‘see your GP’ for the GP to tell you that you’re not ill enough for treatment.
- I’m tired of GP’s not having a choice in turning people away because there’s nowhere to refer them. People who need and deserve help.
- I’m tired that GP’s and nurses are under so much strain that they are increasingly suffering with their own mental health.
- I’m tired of wilful ignorance.
- I’m tired of people in crisis being told to go for a walk or have a bath.
- I’m tired of hearing about waiting lists that are so long that people deteriorate and die while they are waiting for help.
- I’m tired of hearing about mental health units being forced to close due to underfunding.
- I’m tired of hearing about mental health units that are understaffed and under pressure and are so strained that patients who are there to be cared for are dying.
- I’m tired of ITV launching a mental wellness campaign while employing Piers Morgan.
- I’m tired of all the focus on wellbeing and barely any on mental illness.
- I’m tired of being told ‘therapy is ok’ by people who pay for it privately while others have to wait months or even years.
- I’m tired of Tories saying that ‘Every Mind Matters’ when their welfare reforms have led to an alarming increase in child poverty, foodbank use is at a record high and homeless deaths also higher than ever since records began.
- I’m tired of Conservatives telling us they care about everyone’s mental health after years of severe cuts to schools, local authorities, youth clubs, CAMHS, nurses and hospital beds.
- I’m tired of tokenism.
I’m tired of being this cynical – but I don’t know what else there is to do.
Talking is great, but it’s just not enough. We have to push for change. Call people out. Push people who make promises to actually do something. Never be complacent. Scratch beneath the surface of all these polished awareness campaigns, because people deserve better.