'Actions speak louder than words.' A phrase that all members of parliament should live by. It is a statement that has been floating around a lot recently, especially in relation to recent government promises regarding the mental health crisis in the UK. Maybe they didn't get the memo.
Put your money where your mouth is.
Theresa May has pledged to tackle mental health stigma and transform the way mental health is dealt with in schools, the workplace and the community. The initiative was welcomed with open arms in general, and has sparked a long overdue nationwide conversation about mental health.
The Prime Minister suggested that fighting against stigma is more important than resources. I fail to understand how she concluded on this logic. Obviously, tackling stigma is extremely important, especially as it can give sufferers the courage to speak out about their mental health problems and seek help. But if there aren't enough mental health services readily available to provide help and support because of lack of funds, then surely the results will be the same.
Theresa May made a bold statement of intent to try and convince the nation that the mental health crisis would be a genuine government priority. However, there is still a great concern that this is yet another faux governmental policy created simply to tell the public what we want to hear. Goodwill and fancy speeches are all well and good, as long as they are followed by a concrete plan, evidence of resources and cold hard cash.
Mental VS Physical Health
Unfortunately, words are not enough to tackle the mental health crisis and the battle against stigma cannot be used as a placebo effect for the services needed.
Suicide is the number 1 killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK. If you replace 'suicide' with a physical illness, there would be an outrage, and I guarantee the money the government insists we don't have will suddenly materialise out of thin air. If we were funding research and treatment for mental health like we do for physical diseases, things would look very different.
It feels as if we are light years away from an equal ground between mental and physical health. If someone broke their leg, an ambulance would be there in no time. However, despite the fact 1 in 4 people will experience mental illness in their lifetime, sufferers are often faced with excruciating waiting times or are forced to travel a considerable distance for treatment.
I, for one, have experienced months and months of waiting for a professional to help me. I cannot begin to explain how angry this makes me. It even makes my inner Danny Dyer come out effing and blinding. I felt like I had been given up on and forgotten about before I had received the highly anticipated letter confirming my first CBT session. Seriously, you would have thought it was an acceptance letter from Hogwarts or something.
On a serious note though, the waiting lists are disgusting and do not show any sign of improvement. Maybe if the members of parliament gave a damn about the nations' mental health as much as they do about the health of their bank accounts, progress might be made.
This brings me on to child mental health. Over half of mental illnesses become evident in the years under the age of 18 - with 1 in 10 children suffering from a diagnosable mental health condition. Sufficient treatment can stop a child's condition deteriorating to a dangerous level, and can provide a life-changing effect on long-term recovery and fulfilment in adulthood.
Unfortunately, for too many people, help is not available when they need it. The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services are a lifeline for so many young people. I honestly don't think I would be here if it wasn't for my time in CBT there. However, nearly a quarter of young people who are referred to CAMHS are rejected. Due to excessive cuts to mental health funding, the rules of 'qualifying' per say, have got tougher. The young boy with OCD is turned away until his obsessional thoughts consume more hours of his day. The anorexic teenager is denied essential care until she becomes desperately thin. This is awful and completely unjustified. Lack of early intervention due to under funding can cause mental illness to worsen because they were not recognised and treated early enough, which can be life-threatening.
Between 2010 and 2015, funding for CAMHS was slashed by £50m, despite a massively increasing demand. Astonishingly, only 70p out of every £100 the NHS spends goes towards children's mental health services. This is a horrifically low number and I was appalled when I was told. Is it any wonder 1 in 4 young people who are referred to a professional actually gets the help they need? This worsening situation compromises recovery and future life satisfaction.
The lack of urgency to make a positive change to the world of mental health treatment in this country terrifies me. Children's mental health cannot continue to be undermined or neglected. The government is failing our next generation, as well as the 1 in 4 adults who suffer from a mental illness. Change NEEDS to happen, not just talked about. After all, actions speak louder than words.