Today is World Mental Health Day.
All over the world people will take to social media to share their experiences with a mental illness, preach about the importance of speaking up about mental health, and utilise a number of hashtags to spread their message far and wide. Yet, after today, the majority of people discussing mental health will not speak up about it again until next year when World Mental Health Day 2020 rolls around.
WE DON’T NEED MORE HASHTAGS, WE NEED ACTION
Raising awareness is essential. According to the World Health Organisation, one in four people will suffer from mental ill health at some point in their lives. They estimate almost half a billion people are currently living with a mental illness. This is why conversations about mental health are important. The more we speak up about it and normalise conversations about mental health, the more likely we are to reduce stigma and save lives.
Awareness is crucial, but we also need action. Hashtags can only do so much. We need the proper care and treatment. Studies have shown that treatment through early intervention is vital, yet this is not available for everyone. Properly funded and accessible healthcare is treated as a luxury rather than a necessity. Yet, on every World Mental Health Day, governmental officials will preach about how we need to take care of our mental health and reach out for support when we need it. They don’t see that we don’t want their empty, meaningless words; we want action and we need funding. Mental health services need to be made a priority.
MY MENTAL HEALTH
In the past five years since actively entering recovery, no professional support for my mental health has been adequate. Despite many trips to the doctors, I never received any support for my mental health. As a result, I battled agoraphobia and bulimia on my own. I felt as if I had no choice. When I was eventually referred to my local mental health services, all they could provide was CBT through a popular mental health charity and consisted of weekly telephone calls. There were no face-to-face sessions. While telephone calls terrified me due to my social anxiety, I gave them a try because I needed support. They called me twice before the phone calls stopped entirely.
In 2014, I was diagnosed with a condition, one I’m not ready to share yet, where one of the symptoms is debilitating anxiety. I have had medication thrown at me but it is ineffective. The course of treatment I need is rigorous therapy, yet the type of therapy I need is very specific and currently unavailable on the NHS. I’ve been advised to go private but that is not something I’m able to afford as I was quoted £49 per session. While I believe my mental health is important and worth the money, I’m a full-time student on a part-time wage living in privately rented accommodation with bills that need paying. £49 a session, with weekly sessions advised, is much more than I can afford at this time.
THE GOVERNMENT IS FAILING TO FUND VITAL SERVICES AND, AS A RESULT, THE NHS IS FAILING ITS PATIENTS.
While I’m incredibly grateful for the NHS, it is not perfect. It’s not the fault of the healthcare professionals who work for the NHS but rather those in charge who refuse to fund necessary and vital services. It’s not only the mental health services that lack the proper funding. All services are impacted. Doctors, nurses, laboratory staff, and everyone who keeps the hospitals functioning, such as the porters, cleaners, and kitchen staff, are also affected by the government failing to act. Healthcare professionals are being failed. Patients are being failed.
Suicide rates are already alarmingly high. Without vital services to provide early intervention, suicide rates are going to continually increase. Suicide is a public health epidemic and something must be done to tackle it.
We can – and should – keep raising awareness but there is only so much we can do. Keep pressuring your government to treat healthcare as a necessity rather than the luxury they’re convinced it is. Keep using your voice because it does make a difference. With any luck, we’ll have something different to blog about on World Mental Health Day 2020.