Autumn 2010 editorial: Keep on keeping on
Hope is important
Autumn is traditionally a melancholy season, with long nights drawing in and the natural world readying itself for the long winter ahead, ready to re-emerge in the warmth of spring.
For many of us with mental health difficulties, current events feel similar. The ongoing effects of recession, the current government commitment to reducing the national debt and changes to services, benefits and funding arrangements have given what, at times, feels like a very bleak picture.
Writing in Community Care magazine Paul Burstow, care services minister, states that 42% of the £12.5bn spent on benefits due to illness and disability now goes to people with diagnosed mental health difficulties. That means many of us are disproportionately affected by changes of government policy.
Discussing the overall changes put forward by the government NHS white paper (see current issue of One in Four), Mr Burstow talked about the need to put mental health on the same footing as physical health, and to move towards measuring success by outcomes rather than meeting targets. He suggested that the emotional wellbeing of patients may be one of the things that is used to measure how successful health services are, saying: “I passionately believe a person’s general well-being and overall mental health should form part of this assessment. There is no health without good mental health and certainly no well-being.”
As we go to press, indications are growing that autumn will see the announcement of a new framework for mental health in England to replace (or build upon) the ‘New Horizons’ strategy document of the previous government.
For One in Four , the current situation only increases our belief that people with mental health difficulties should be supported to do things for ourselves on our own terms, not as a replacement for health services but as way of finding our own solutions to our own problems. Some of us will do that as professionals enabling others, some of us will do that by forming local groups or services and some of us will do that in our own lives.
It’s difficult being buffeted each morning by ever more shrill headlines about cuts, ‘benefit scroungers’ and services in jeopardy. Many have felt under attack from all sides, and have doubted whether there is anyone really interested in helping people with mental health difficulties. We don’t think that’s true, but it is clear that many good organisations and services might be struggling.
When we’ve been talking to people, they’ve often told us that while getting the medical support and treatment that they need is vital, it’s often other things that they feel help keep them well. Sometimes that’s their work, sometimes their relationships, sometimes support from community organisations or local groups. Their mental health difficulty isn’t their entire life.
At One in Four we believe that hope is important, because it’s sometimes only the hope that things can and will be better that sets us on the path to actually making it happen.
In many cases it’s business as usual: Try to get treatment that works, find things that help us get on and sort out as much as we can ourselves. As ever we need to support all that is good, challenge all that is outmoded, wrong or ill-thought out and take any opportunities we can.
Now, more than ever, we need to be able to show what positive change in mental health will look like and focus, both on a personal and wider level, on just how we get through the darker days to arrive there.
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