Over the past few years, there has been a seismic shift in the way that mental health is discussed; thanks to the expansion of charities like Mind and the introduction of nationwide campaigns such as time to change the stigma around talking about mental health is at an all-time low. Enough so that the Royals have begun to get involved, with Prince William, Harry and Kate spear-heading their own campaign to raise money to stop the stigma around mental health.
Mental health is now being discussed in schools, the workplace, universities. The stigma surrounding mental health has dropped to a point where I can say ‘I spent 9 months in a psychiatric unit’ and barely anyone bats an eyelid. Celebrities are coming out with their own personal anecdotes of dealing with mental health issues, and tabloid newspapers are (on the whole) no longer printing stigmatizing headlines. It seems as though the UK is learning how to talk about mental health – Labour has even appointed a shadow mental health minister. But with all this discussion about mental health, the shift in campaigning has moved away from the policy and funding changes that need to happen.
The mental health system in the UK is beyond broken, a quick google search presents hundreds of anecdotes of how the mental health system is failing people. Funding cuts are happening everywhere, therapists are inundated, and services just cannot cope and things are just getting worse. A few years ago, there was some time I had to have therapy in a hospital filing room, and more recently I was told to privately fund my own therapy with my DSA*. It seems as though the system is so unfixable that even pumping inconceivable amounts of funding into it won’t fix it – there needs to be a complete overhaul.
The issue now is, talking about talking about mental health isn’t bringing about the changes that need to happen to help those who are unwell. The shift from mental health campaigners, and the public too, needs to go in the direction of putting pressure on the government. Most services have absurdly long waiting lists, adolescents are often sent back from A & E, or are sent to inpatient units far from their homes. It’s starting to seem absurd that millions of pounds are getting spent on encouraging people to speak about mental health when there’s almost next to nothing in terms of support for them. The system cannot cope with more people. The system needs to be fixed first and foremost.
The system needs to be fixed first and foremost.
The country needs to begin pooling together their resources and start fighting for our mental health services, and use our voices to demand changes, to demand help. This doesn’t mean that conversations about mental health will stop, the ball on that front is already rolling – but we need to start asking for help. I am a huge advocate for stopping the stigma around mental health, 4 years ago when I started my campaign I was one of the first adolescent independent campaigners, but the situation in mental health services has become even direr since then. We need to shift our focus on how the mental health system is failing people. We need to stop talking about talking about mental health, and start talking about how to look after the people that need it.
* DSA is disable students allowance – this is meant to be used for things like reimbursement of printing costs.
If you are feeling at risk of harming yourself or need someone to talk to please contact the Samaritans for confidential support in the UK. In the US please call the National Suicide Prevention hotline on 1-800-273-8255.