THE BLOG

There's a Crisis in Mental Health - But What Can the Little Person Do to Affect Change?

20/04/2015 22:51 BST | Updated 20/06/2015 10:59 BST

Beyond The Ballot is The Huffington Post UK's alternative take on the General Election, taking on the issues too awkward for Westminster. It focuses on the unanswered questions around internet freedom, mental health and housing. Election news, blogs, polls and predictions are combined with in-depth coverage of our three issues including roundtable debates, MP interviews and analysis.

mind the gap

Although I perceive myself as small, I always have done, I also realise the power of the individual and the power of the mind.

In the UK mental health provision exists and yet people are being failed everyday. There is no one size fits all treatment. Each mind is unique and distinct in complexion. There are not enough resources to provide the tailored care that people require. Therein lies the problem.

If the government was going to do anything constructive it could create a free mental health line, because maybe there are some people who don't have access to the Internet or Skype or even a mobile phone - most people can reach a landline though.

A Soul on a Scroll (2012), which took five years to make, certainly healed my mind post psychosis channelling the internal and transforming it into something indelible and arresting.

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Detail from A Soul on a Scroll (2012 mixed media on 30 foot paper scroll)

Our ancestors lived in the great outdoors using their hands to survive, often in flight or fight mode - did they also suffer from mental health issues? Probably less so than today. In our modern age we are sedentary, glued to our screens, sucked into the addictive world of social media. Our fingers type rather than make, but the act of making stuff can actually ease the hot stuff out. Using my hands to create does have a palliative impact on my mind, but you don't have to create art, you can sew, bake, garden, play an instrument. Just using your hands does something alchemic to the brain.

While our government dithers and politicians jump on the mental health wagon, newspapers report of another mother, jumping off a cliff while clutching her baby. That mother gave the pernicious voice in her head credence, but if she'd been allowed to sleep, psychosis might not have struck, since sleep deprivation combined with the post birth hormones can create the perfect incubator for psychosis. To allow a mother, vulnerable to postpartum psychosis, to sleep, is that so difficult?

Having worked with mental health patients, supported by the system designed to care for them, some have spoken of being trapped in a numbing cycle of taking medication and seeing doctors. Many feel their life has no purpose due to their inability to integrate back into society. I did a project with some of these patients in Brussels at an organisation called KAOS; we made a scroll and all sat at a table working together. Our first scroll was: A Forest of Minds and the second: War on a Scroll Part 1 was completed earlier this year. The patients said that making the scroll collectively was an overwhelmingly positive experience. Governments could do more art-based projects with people with severe mental health problems since it is the making and creating that can heal broken minds, not solely pills. I will be exhibiting these scrolls and other work created post psychosis at Rich Mix in London on 4 June 2015.

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Detail from A Forest of Minds (2012 mixed media on 30 foot paper scroll)

At home and within schools mental health needs to be discussed because when you are young that's when the foundations of a strong mind are established. Once a nascent mind is broken it's hard to re-construct from the rubble. Parents with mental health issues have a duty of care to tell their children that they might carry the mad gene. I would argue even further that those same children should be warned to steer clear of skunk and alcohol. The offspring of parents with mental health issues are plausibly more predisposed to develop psychosis after smoking skunk especially during the teenage years when the brain is still developing. Similarly alcohol is a depressant and will only exacerbate an underlying mental health issue if consumed in excess.

All the things that I propose do not cost exorbitant amounts of money or manpower to implement, they are simple and cost effective preventative measures that are intrinsically linked to education and creating a new dialogue about mental health from an early age.

There is an explosion of mental health support networks online, more and more people are having the courage to talk about mental health virtually. If there is little comfort in the real world, comfort can be found in the virtual one, trolls aside. Therapy, in the future is more likely to take place via Skype, email or text as resources are being cut, it's already happening and cheaper than conventional forms of therapy.

A friend of mine recently said, 'We are all a bit mentally ill' - if that is the case then we have a vested interest to tackle the problem head on. I believe that if the little person on the ground does their bit we can effect change, we cannot rely on governments or policy makers alone, we have to be proactive - now - and find new mechanisms of support to ensure the next generation remains mentally healthy.

Q.S.Lam is the author of Schizophrenics Can Be Good Mothers Too (Muswell Hill Press 2015)