Mental Health campaigns are double-edged swords. I've thought this for a while but really struggled to find a form of words that expressed how I feel without sounding like all awareness-raising campaigns are bad or that the thinking behind them is flawed. I'm not sure I've found the right words now, but here goes.
I'm involved in an awareness raising campaign that will be launched across the UK later this month and it's really focused my mind on what the intentions behind these campaigns are and what the legacy of such endeavours can and should be.
My worry is that we kick things up, encourage people to talk openly and honestly about their mental health, and then I switch on the Andrew Marr show only to hear that services are buckling under the weight of referrals, services are being closed and, as one tweet told me on Sunday, there were no adult mental health beds available across England and Wales the night before.
Is it irresponsible to kick it up, to encourage people to talk openly, when we're being told that there are no places available to have the very conversations that people like me are encouraging?
I think the only way to ensure that campaigns are delivered responsibly and effectively is to start legacy planning at the inception of such projects. This means looking at the call to action, making sure that we've thought through how to meet the needs of those responding to what we're kicking up.
Does every campaign for change know exactly where it's heading? Does this type of thinking stifle the force for good? I think it might, but it should still be a vital part of the planning and the delivery process.
Another important distinction for me is thinking about the target audiences for the campaigns and promoting a self-management element. Is there a call to action that doesn't require the individual accessing the NHS for example? If there is, it's usually left up to the third sector to satisfy the need. I suppose thinking about the distinction between those experiencing severe, enduring mental health challenges that require immediate, long term clinical support and offering advice and support to those who benefit from early intervention, less acute support from non-clinical might be useful.
I seem to be asking more questions than I have answers for!
My final thought is that none of this should influence if mental health awareness campaigns should go ahead...they definitely should, but I hope that the legacy planning and the conversation about how to meet the need we're highlighting is at the top of the agenda of every meeting.