It’s Time to Change: why we need a new approach to Mental Health 

I have worked, in one form or another, as a mental health professional for 15 years, focusing on supporting people who want to understand and make a positive difference on the subject. 

I’ve worked with local and national charities, sat on area management committees, and attended service user councils which tried to decide the future of services based on the money they had available.  

I’ve delivered training on mental health and bereavement awareness to private and corporate clients. I’ve worked in telephone and face-to-face support with grieving clients bereaved by murder and suicide, and I’ve attended Coroner’s Court supporting those distraught and vulnerable people through a process no one ever chose to experience. 

I provide talking therapies and wellbeing training to clients, who have taken positive steps to improve their mental health. I’ve facilitated all-day training and micro-sessions to volunteers and large organisations who see the benefit of promoting mental health and wellness in the work place and community. Every one of those people saw the benefits of understanding themselves and other people’s mental health better.  

For some clients events often beyond their control, created terrifying, dark or seemingly unmanageable emotions, which may have led to choices that didn’t work for them, circumstances which escalated their problems, and in some cases drastic measures which finally enabled the help they needed.  

Everyone I have ever worked with therapeutically – without exception – is an important individual with a right to be heard.  In many cases, they were trying their absolute best to keep everyone else happy, whilst putting their own physical and mental health at the bottom of their own priority list.  

My clients just want help: to see the wood for the trees, to find hope of a better life, to get even an hour’s sleep, a moment’s peace, or a short period of respite from this noisy world that won’t slow down.  They don’t mind paying for it although for as long as they’re available I also signpost to free services, just so people know that free help is out there.  Currently. 

My clients could never be described as “selfish” or “scroungers”.  No one was looking for sympathy.  No one was a “nutter”.  And yet this seems to be the culture we’ve adopted around Mental Health. 

Insanity is not what you think it is. 

Insanity is living in a society which still treats people with poor mental health as outcasts. It’s the assumption that “it can’t happen to me” (it can), that everyone who has depression is a drug-addict (no that’s not true), and that everyone who tries to kill themselves is an attention-seeker (some people do believe that, but that’s absolutely not the case). Insanity is the belief that people with schizophrenia are dangerous, when statistically they are more likely to be a victim of crime.

Insanity is having to wait 3-6 months (if not longer) for professional help, when the person who has finally plucked up the courage to ask for it desperately needs it now. 

As Ruby Etc so beautiful drew in this image of the mental health support system, insanity is the fact that in this country you have to be the “correct amount of mad” to get help. If you’re not “mad enough”, there’s no support and if you’re “too mad” there’s nothing more they can do.  

Insanity is having to wait 3-6 months (if not longer) for professional help, when the person who has finally plucked up the courage to ask for it desperately needs it now.  

It is the fact that, according to the Mental Health Foundation, only 13% of people report living with high levels of mental health in the UK. That suicide is the leading cause of death for men under the age of 45, and that 61 million prescriptions for anti-depressants were written in the UK last year. 

It is also the fact that the country’s mental health is deteriorating rapidly and yet vital services are being pulled away from clients who have no where else to go, due to “lack of funding”. Insanity is that for every £1 the government contributes towards Cancer Research (and which the public add another £2.75), only a third of a penny (yes, less than 1p) goes on mental health.

Charities are being forced to become businesses to ensure they can continue to help the very people they were established to support. They can’t rely on funding from government or local authorities anymore. As well as providing an essential service, they have to find money through incessant fundraising, apply for grants via lengthy bidding processes, attend “reassurance” meetings which measure “outcomes”, and then fight for it all again months later.  They even have to battle against each other for votes in competitions for tiny sums of money so they can keep helping. 

It’s exhausting. 

And more than anything else, it’s not working.

Service users are being lost in these processes.  

Whilst many charities aim to keep their clients at the heart of what they do, they are becoming bogged down in bureaucratic processes which take the focus away from the very reason they were established in the first place.  And the irony is, if these charities didn’t exist – in many cases with professionally trained volunteers providing core services by giving their time for free – the cost to the government to deliver these services with paid staff, would be astronomical and overwhelming. Where would they get the money from then?

The focus needs to change. 

There needs to be a shift in how services are funded – and measured – at both a national and local level.   Mental Health is not a start point and an end point – it is a continuum, a complex nature of movement with a myriad of changes based on any number of factors in any given day, month or year. 

And society’s view of mental health needs to change.  Charities like Mind, Rethink, the Mental Health Foundation, Heads Together, Time to Change, Calm Zone, Samaritans, Young Minds, Combat Stress, Cruse Bereavement Care and many more are working tirelessly to do just that. 

Can you help?  Here are some ideas:

1) Offering your time as a volunteer is a great way to raise awareness. I also encourage clients I’ve worked with to use their experiences to become a champion for Mental Health and keep the conversations going with friends and family. It’s ok to say. 

2) Raising awareness locally by holding an open day, coffee morning or event in aid of your chosen charity will ensure services can continue.  

3) And making sure, whichever way you vote, that the manifesto includes education and support for positive mental health. 

Thank you for reading. 

The views expressed are my own and not necessarily those of organisations I have worked with. 

Published by Delphi

Offers "educational side-bars" which may contain uncomfortable conversations. Been on the telly. © All rights reserved.

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