Is having just one World Mental Health Day a year enough?
Colin Parish argues that additional long-term funding is crucial to ensure mental health services are as good as they need to be
The editor of Mental Health Practice argues that additional long-term funding is crucial to ensure mental health services are as good as they need to be
You won’t have missed the fact that Wednesday October 10 is World Mental Health day.
Every year at this time there is a resurgence in interest in mental health, with celebrities ‘coming out’ about their own experiences, piquing the interest of the national media and causing an upsurge of social media activity.
And every year, when the attention has gone, things return to the status quo.
This year will be no different.
Welcome shift in public attitude
Any attempt to raise awareness of mental health problems is laudable, especially as we have seen welcome shifts in the public’s attitudes to mental ill-health in recent years.
‘Even for a wealthy nation such as the UK, services are underfunded, leading to people going without the sort of care they desperately need’
But it is easy for this one special day to be lost among the myriad national or international awareness days that pop up on our calendars with relentless regularity. According to Awareness Days UK there are 243 health-related awareness days in October 2018 alone.
Despite the good intentions of the people and groups behind such initiatives – World Mental Health Day is backed by the NGO the World Federation for Mental Health – highlighting mental health 24 hours a year is not going to bring about the structural changes that are needed.
Even for a wealthy nation such as the UK – despite a decade of austerity, the UK is still comparatively well-resourced – services are underfunded, leading to people going without the sort of care they desperately need.
Threshold not being met
This is especially true for children and young people, who often wait too long to get help and have to travel many miles to get that help when it does eventually become available.
‘What is needed is what the government has been promising for years – parity between physical and mental healthcare’
A report by the Education Policy Institute, out this week, shows that despite great work going on in child and adolescent mental health services, and in schools, too many young people are not reaching the threshold required to access specialist services.
This can be devastating for the individuals and families concerned, and of course if their condition deteriorates, they may reach the threshold, but still have to wait for appropriate treatment.
Parity needed now
What is needed is what the government has been promising for years – parity between physical and mental healthcare.
The government says it has increased funding for mental health services, but it is not enough.
Until parity exists – and that will require a huge injection of cash – mental health service users will continue to suffer unnecessarily, despite the heroic efforts of nursing staff and others to provide the best care they can in far from ideal circumstances.
Every day should be a mental health awareness day.