It was encouraging to hear PM Theresa May speak about mental health, especially with a renewed focus on young people with mental health first aid, young peer support training and digital mental health services expansion. These initiatives are positive, but mental health is a problem that the government can't tackle alone and there's no point Tory bashing.
Mental health needs to be taught to children at toddler level and in schools, warning kids vulnerable to mental health problems of the perils of skunk and alcohol, teaching them breathing, nutrition, the importance of sleep and recognizing triggers, especially to those children born to parents with mental health issues.
There are not enough mental health care practitioners to meet the demand after years of successive cuts, no matter how much money the government throws at the problem, and they don't have the funds anyway, apparently. The key is educating the masses about mental health, increasing awareness at every level of our society and creating parallels networks of community support.
The Time to Change campaign has raised awareness, but has it changed things at the core of our society? Are we aware, for example, that airports, taxis and shopping malls are trigger zones for people with mental health problems. If you could say in a cab, 'Please can you turn the radio off, because I have a voice in my head screaming at me and I can't deal with noise right now' would the cab driver turn the music down or kick you out? If during a manic episode you are told to take something from a shop to get a shot of dopamine could you forewarn the shop that it could happen without them calling the police? If at the airport you ask for wheel chair assistance because your brain can't deal with the people, the lights, the constant onslaught to the senses would the airport staff question your need because your disability is invisible?
I have slowly started trying to educate those around me, but I still feel they don't understand my mental health condition, so I mask it instead in order to navigate the world, dealing with the constant triggers that loom daily.
In terms of support in the work place those suffering from mental health issues shouldn't be afraid of speaking out. There need to be better help lines too, the Samaritans is amazing in many ways, but some are not up to the job; there seems to be little will power to get rid of the dubious ones. Similarly seeing a bad therapist can do more harm than good, not everyone wants to do face to face or is able to. Digital online mental health support could be the way forward for those who are debilitated by their mental health issues and can't make appointments or afford private mental health care.
For some medication is the answer, but the side effects of medication like anti psychotics can be awful, and not everyone wants to go on medication. Those people seeking alternative mental health support find themselves on the outside, especially if they question the doctors who are prescribing the meds. Do we really think that these pills offer a miracle panacea? As well as medication people need to do the work to manage their mental health on a day-to-day basis, be independent, recognise triggers and warning signs and inform people about the specifics of their mental health condition.
Mental pain is internal, but it is still classed as a disability, I have lost count of the times I have met people who say, 'I don't know much about mental health.' In turn I reply, 'Well educate yourself.' And that is the key.
For many sufferers it's about seeking empathy, discovering communities of people who are facing similar mental health issues as the late Carrie Fisher advised.
The mentally ill are some of the most vulnerable members of society, but many have a lot to offer, instead they can find themselves stigmatised, with the right support they can function, work and have a future - this is the way we can move forward by reintegration and acknowledging that people with mental health problems can live relatively normal lives if they get that help and encouragement. Working is often the best cure. As well as having a routine, observing your diet, exercise etc.
Former PM Cameron may have spoken of a mental health revolution, but insurrection is what we need. Help can come in many forms, there are mental health campaigners who are trying to help those in mental pain by sharing their experiences and offering insights. The government needs to support campaigners and listen to sufferers - not just rely on medical professionals.
On 9th December 2016, I spoke at the House of Commons, I was jet lagged, and getting unwell as the mania started to kick in, yet I still managed to speak with passion on the day, and argued for a free maternal mental health line manned by experts. People in the room thought it was a great idea, but it needs money to implement and apparently there isn't any.
Self portrait completed during a manic episode, (pencil, acrylic ink on paper, 2016)
Theresa May seems to have overlooked the fact that the mental health of future generations depends on the mental health of the mother and during pregnancy maternal mental health comes under pressure, particularly those mothers who already have underlying mental health conditions.
Mental health starts in the womb, protect mothers and we are protecting society.
This is a complex subject and requires input from a broad cross section of people. We need to galvanise and pool together to help people in crisis; I never waste an opportunity to spread awareness, to try to help someone in mental pain - we can all do our bit as a society.