Last Thursday saw ‘Time to Talk Day’, during which we were encouraged to spend 5 minutes talking about mental health. It also saw the story emerge that ex-footballer Clarke Carlisle’s attempted suicide in December was a result of his mental health issues.
With one in four people suffering from mental health issues at some point in their lives, it is something that will touch many of us personally through our family, or our own mental health. Yet, despite its prevalence, it is a subject too many people are hesitant to discuss.
With mental health issues affecting so many, until recently there has been a gap in funding for mental health in the NHS. John Lucas, from the charity Mind, sums it up perfectly: “Why does the NHS pull out all the stops to stop me dying of physical health problems, but does not care if I die of mental health problems?”
Therefore I was pleased to hear that Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat health minister, made a commitment last October that mental health will have additional funding to ensure it will receive an equal footing as physical health by 2020.
For the first time, waiting times for mental health treatments are being introduced in April this year. To put this into context, patients needing talking therapies for conditions like depression will mostly be seen within 6 weeks and have to wait no longer than 18 weeks for treatment, and those patients who have experienced their first episode of psychosis will be seen within 2 weeks.
By putting mental health on an equal footing as physical health, it is also hoped that the stigma of talking about mental health will be removed.
If you knew someone who had just had an operation, none of us would think twice about asking how they were. But people feel nervous about talking about mental health. Sometimes just doing the little things, like asking someone how they are, is all it takes to let someone know you’re still thinking about them, and make a big difference to how they’re feeling.
The website offers everyone the chance to pledge to end the stigma of mental health. So far nearly 80,000 people have signed up to this aim. I would urge everyone to visit their website, find about more about the affects of mental health on people’s lives and to sign up to this pledge to help end this stigma.