As 2013 draws to an end I have been thinking about what my hopes and aspirations are for 2014, not just for myself but for all those who suffer with mental health issues. You see looking back on 2013 my mind immediately thinks of the TV programs which have not always shown mental health in a good or balanced light. Then of course there have been the stigmatising, PR and marketing disasters from a number of stores including Asda, Tesco and Amazon to name just a few, who thought it was perfectly acceptable to sell Halloween costumes with titles such as ‘mental patient’ and ‘psycho ward’. We have faced the Asylum maze from Thorpe Park which may seem like fun to some, but is actually to many people disgraceful and stigmatising; though the management there seemed somewhat slow at realising this.
Then of course there were the sensationalist headlines from a number of tabloid papers throughout the year, which once again portrayed mental health in a negative light. It seems that stigma continues to abound and be ever present in our society and despite every ones best efforts to turn this tide, mental health continues in the main to be portrayed negatively.
I also think of the disparity that exists in our society, that means those with physical health needs seem to get a better health service than those of us with a mental health need. In the past year I have read so many cases of people still waiting ridiculous amounts of time for talking treatments, some are sadly entering 2014 still waiting. This is surely wrong and yet nothing seems to change, beds are still being cut and services limited across the country, how is this moving forwards? We have seen more and more incidents of the police having to do the job of our healthcare professionals when people are in a crisis, can this situation keep going on?
Now let me be clear this isn’t an attack on the hard working healthcare professionals who do work in intolerable situations, I cannot imagine the emotions one goes through when you have to resort to Twitter to try and find a bed for a CAMHS patient, because no beds exist. Nor can I imagine how stressful it is when you know that the only way to get a patient admitted to hospital is to section them; even if they are willing to be admitted, because you know that without doing that they won’t get a bed.
I really feel that 2013 has come so close to seeing the breaking point of mental health services and that in 2014 something will have to change, it has to. But how we get change is another matter, for all the verbal and written protesting from various sectors, the reality is that the only people who can bring about change is our government. Its they who can invest the money needed, they who can invest time and effort into opening constructive dialogue that effectively brings about change. If disparity is going to end in our healthcare system then it needs a huge mind shift never mind resourcing. Given we have an election in 2015, maybe this coming year is the year we challenge, we ask questions, we lobby people, we seek to get equality for those with mental health issues.
But money alone doesn’t solve everything, attitudes have to change too, and that includes the attitudes of healthcare professionals as well, there is good practice out there it just needs replicating across the Country. If everyone from across the wide spectrum of services working with those of us with mental health difficulties were just willing to change, willing to work at solving this age old adage of problem shifting, currently when someone’s in a crisis ‘ out of hours’ ….the healthcare staff call the police…well why not seek solutions inwards, look at yourselves and how you can help. If there isn’t enough beds raise the issue with management and higher, treat patients with dignity and respect not a commodity to pass from pillar to post. Look at examples of good practice and see if you can replicate it, and every time there are issues that need more than any of us can offer, challenge those in authority to do something about it. I for one will be asking every political party what their manifestos say about ending the disparity between mental health and physical health, I will be asking and challenging them to sort this problem out, Will you?
I have to fight every time I have a review to keep the funding I currently have to provide me with the care and therapy I need, that isn’t cost effective use of management time, my needs haven’t changed and I would tell them if they had. All it does is cause undue stress and anxiety for me and my family, I know that for those who like me need talking treatments the battle sometimes seems to be never ending. Trauma survivors and Dissociative disorders are well down the list of priorities for the NHS in most places, and so many people have to resort to struggling to pay for their own treatment. That’s not only unjust it’s morally wrong, and it means many people are left struggling without help.
I truly hope that in 2014 we see positive headlines, less stigma, that we see an end to disparity, an end to injustice, an end to the lengthy waiting lists for talking treatments and an openness from all professionals working with those of us in need of mental health care to be open to change, and to stop problem shifting. Finally I hope that in the year ahead those who can bring about positive change actually step up to the mark and do something, not just words or platitudes but action, action that helps people, action that solves issues and brings about real positive change within our mental health system. That good practice is acknowledged, is replicated and is no longer a postcode lottery for service users based on where you live, but is the right of everyone no matter how rich or poor, no matter what your address. I hope that people with a dissociative disorder are no longer treated with skepticism, but offered real tangible help and understanding, services that are right for them and suited to their specific condition freely available on the NHS and without lengthy waiting lists.
Lets hope my aspirations come to fruition in the year ahead, for I fear for the mental health system as a whole, if in 2014 nothing changes. Lets all hope we can work at making a difference and bring about real positive change.
I wish each and everyone of you a positive New year, may 2014 bring you all that you are hoping for and may your hopes and aspirations come true.