Why Mental Health should have been an election issue…
Last night I considered ending it all. This neither the first time I’ve considered it, nor I fear will it be the last. Some of you who know me will know that I have been battling depression for several years now, and over the last few weeks I’ve been going through a particularly low period. There’s a whole pantheon of reasons why I considered doing what I didn’t last night but saner thoughts prevailed. Today, with something of a clearer head I started to look back at my experience with suffering mental health problems and where I could have gotten help along the way. The fact is that care for people suffering from mental health in the UK is patchy and patronising. The bulk of care for people with mental health seems to be aimed at the young, with support ending at the age of 18 for most. Yet mental health problems don’t just stop at the age of 18. At the other end of the spectrum mental health care focuses on dementia and the elderly. So what exists for those in between who suffer mental health issues, like depression or anxiety? What exists for people like me?
Well considering the fact that 1 in 4 people will suffer from some kind of mental health problem at some point in their life in the UK, you’d think that there would be more in the way of help and support. Especially given that suicide remains the most common cause of death amongst men under the age of 35. You would think that this were an epidemic worth fighting, however since 2010 funding for mental health trusts and charities has fallen by 8%. Now there is no one party to blame for this, I don’t blame the Conservative Party for wanting to cut costs and reduce the deficit, but I also don’t blame the Labour party for going along with these cuts as a way of preventing the NHS from being privatised. However you would hope that both of these parties would have the common sense to protect or even enhance mental health care.
But funding isn’t the only issues. There’s the whole mentality and approach to depression that needs to be reexamined. We need to stop being so patronising to people, like me, who suffer from these problems. I can’t help but remember all those times being in meetings with my family and the GP when I was younger and how they would talk about me as though I wasn’t there. Or in more recent years sitting in the doctor’s surgery and having Nurses and Doctors talking down to me in some sort of patronising tone. I’m sure that they were well meaning but it doesn’t help when you’re being treated like a three year old and trying to get over these problems. Then there are the treatments themselves. The go to answer from doctors seems to be to take medication, which often leaves you feeling a lot worse off. I’m not a psychologist or an expert in mental health issues, nor would I ever pretend to be, but I’m certain that there must be other ways of treating mental health issues.
And it’s not just medical workers that can be patronising. When the NUS Women’s conference announced that clapping would be banned in case it caused anxiety in some of its members, I was absolutely livid. How could anyone be so ignorant as to ban something like clapping? Why not ban computers, cameras and cars, as well whilst you’re at it, these are all things that could cause anxiety. From my experience in the past, as now, is that people with depression and anxiety just want to return to a sense of normality. The last thing I have ever wanted whilst suffering depression is to feel abnormal or to be treated differently. Most of the time we just want to live an ordinary life where possible. If you have friends who are suffering acknowledge that they have a problem, and try to be there when they need help, most of the time they do want company and they want to be comfortable. Don’t just ignore them, as it will only make things worse. Society needs to change from stigmatising people to offering subtle support.
So why bring it up now? Well we’re only a few days away from the general election, one of the few things I’m looking forward to at the moment, and I feel that mental health has been an issue on the back burner for most of this cycle. The Liberal Democrats made a pledge at the start of the short campaign about mental health and that’s as far as its gone. I find this to be a great shame and that perhaps its something that should have been brought up more. So perhaps its to late to make this an election promise, but it’s not to late to make this a governing issue. I would hope that whoever gets in on May 8th that they support Mental Health Charities in the Private Sector who work so hard to support people like me and millions of others. Or for them to at least support funding of support within the NHS. I am however not optimistic that this will happen.