Blogger Seaneen Molloy of http://thesecretlifeofamanicdepressive.wordpress.com/ is one of the UKs finest mental health bloggers. Her writing appeared in the very first issue of One in Four in Summer 2008. To celebrate the fourth birthday of One in Four we managed to catch her to ask what’s changed since One in Four began.
It’s four years since the first issue of One in Four. What’s changed for you?
Pretty much everything! Four years ago, I was a service user and I was still quite unwell. I was on benefits, though still involved in activism and writing. I wasn’t in a good place mentally and on the merry-go-round of different medications and treatments. Four years later, I’m a mental health nursing student, and I was discharged from the mental health team eighteen months. I’m more stable than I’ve ever been, on medication that works for me and managing to live my life pretty normally, with some adjustments. I still write, though, and I’m still involved in activism.
Do you think things have changed for people with mental health difficulties in the four years since One in Four began?
Yes, and I think a lot of that has had to do with welfare reform. I’m really glad anti-stigma campaigns like Time to Change exist. I think people are speaking out more than ever on the topic of mental health.
However, whereas that should make it more acceptable to have a mental health problem, the current government is reversing that progress with its ongoing demonisation of those on benefits, and particularly those with mental health problems. Four years ago, I was claiming income support and it gave me the time and the space I needed to sort myself out. I didn’t have to go through punishing medicals and I felt supported. Now, I think it’s so much harder to claim benefits and the entire culture has changed. The attitude towards people on benefits is so much worse now. Personal Independence Payments replacing DLA will also make it much harder for those with mental health problems to
get the financial support they need.
Likewise, the restructuring of the NHS has changed things for people with mental health problems. Funding is scant and mental health services have suffered significantly in the wake of cuts. It is harder to access treatment. It’s also harder to access support, with things like legal aid suffering. Charities are struggling too, so advocacy services are decreasing at a time when they are needed most.
What do you reckon the most significant events for people with mental health difficulties have been in those four years?
Welfare reform is the biggest event, I think. The Health and Social Care Bill coming into law is extremely significant, too.
Do you reckon there’s still a need for what One in Four is doing?
Yes! There is always a need for people with mental health problems to speak out! I think there is a tendency in mental health activism to have figureheads, particularly in campaigns or publications aimed at the general public. The best placed people to speak out are the ordinary people out there who are living day by day with mental health problems. I think it is needed more than ever at a time when those with mental health problems are being dictated to and ignored.
I also think One in Four is one of the only publications that truly normalises mental health without glamourising it nor saying its a bogeyman there to steal your life. It accepts that recovery is possible, but it also accepts that it’s not always the case. It doesn’t write in a sensationalist fashion and often inspires a good old debate. It often contains practical advice on living with a mental health problem and managing the little things that a lot of other publications wouldn’t even think about. So, well done, and see you in four years…