Last week was another Mental Health Awareness Week; they're coming hot and heavy now. Those of us who have a mental illness and our friends, family and co-workers are 'aware' every day of the year. The mental health week in February looked hopeful; Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind, wrote a report that the promised £600million from the government wouldn't be enough to assuage the situation and that we'd need one billion. That particular awareness week, the big gun stigma fighters were out there giving it their all on the national news and in the press. How many times do we need to repeat statistics that I've heard endless times and still it seems it's not being taken seriously?
Facts: The current annual economic cost of mental illness in the UK is £70billion, which is equal to the entire National Health budget. By 2030, the World Health Organization predicts more people will be affected by depression than any other health problem. It already affects more people than all physical illnesses put together. The highest rates of suicide are men under 30. Half of all mental health problems have been established by the age of 14, rising to 75% by age 24.
These problems can't be dealt with by just telling those affected to pull their socks up. Norman Lamb gathered hundreds of signatures from leaders in business, government, education, sports, academia, entertainment etc. to sign a proposal that listed the main problems. There should be parity between physical and mental health. If you have a physical emergency go straight to A&E and someone will see you. If you have a mental emergency forget it. There should a little more money devoted to brain research specifically to find cures. This kind of research isn't considered sexy compared to other diseases and only gets a tiny proportion of funding even though everything that happens in the body emanates from the brain. Norman Lamb wrote this week that £1.25billionn was pledged in the budget last year to be spent over this parliament as extra investment in children's mental health. That's £250million each year for five years. But in year one it was £143million [spent on children's mental health]. A lot of it [the remaining money] is being spent propping up acute hospitals that are all in debt.
During that mental health awareness week in February even David Cameron went on TV and agreed the lack of funding is a disgrace and the government need to do something. That was then and the following week, all was forgotten, probably because there was a hurricane in 'somewhere' and everyone's focus was yanked to that new disaster. Us humans have the attention span of a moth on cocaine so we always have our eye off the button. Since then I haven't heard a word about the campaign, only that by 2020 the government would start to put money into the mental health coffer. My first question is which government because who knows who's going to be in power? Next problem is statistics say that by 2020 mental illness and stress will be the biggest killers so 2020 is too late.
Lately there have been some anti-stigma marches but I think the crowds were made up of the already converted. I still say we need to protest loudly in front of Downing Street or wherever you go to get some attention without appearing mad (though that's an oxymoron). The gay movement changed the laws and stopped discrimination why not us? What have we done that's so wrong? When I announce a riot, where and when, I hope you will take heed.
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