So we've raised awareness about mental health, what's next?
Summary I’m hearing a lot of noise, but not seeing much action on healthcare delivery As I mentioned earlier this year, recovery from my mental health crisis seems a long way away. Little seems to have changed health-wise. Being trapped by inertia is one thing, but having next-to-no support from the NHS in this field is quite another. This is an issue that goes far beyond party politics because it is like turning around an oil tanker. Can someone pull out my internal intercostal chest muscles, hit them with a meat hammer and put them back in again? Muscle tension is something that plagued me when I had my first crash in mid-2001. Imagine a dull cramp that pulls your lungs towards your chest muscles and keeps them there. That’s what I’ve got. I’ve never had a complete explanation from anyone as to why that is, and on how to get rid of it. The muscles are so internal that no masseur could get to them. Physios have said ultrasound won’t work and I don’t think an injection of something that would otherwise relax the muscles would work either. (Similar issues with bruxism too). Tension tension tension It’s in my chest, it’s in my jaws, its in my head. On the final point, social media not switching off (or my inability to switch off) doesn’t help. I go into a bit of a zombie state – one that I recognise in others too. You know when you’re having a conversation with someone and you can’t be sure they are listening because they seem to be in mid-tweet? That. It’s only in recent times that I’ve noticed being on a computer generally doesn’t help with my breathing patterns. Shorter rather than longer breaths. Sleepfail Bring all of those things together and you have #sleepfail too. But then there’s the chicken and egg problem. Mental exhaustion means that staying awake all day is not easy. Even trying to live something verging on a normal daily schedule is difficult. Constantly thinking ‘where am I going to crash?’ or rather, when and how will I get back to my bed is seldom far from my mind when I’m out and about. To have or not to have coffee? The problem with caffeine is it screws up my sleep patterns and makes me more anxious. Yet at the same time I feel compelled to have something with caffeine in it in order to help keep me awake. “Hang on – you’re rambling. This post is about going beyond awareness-raising with mental health issues” Some of you will have seen the various campaigns such as Time to Change & Rethink. There are numerous other charities out there too, such as Mind. Yet the percentage of NHS spending on mental health issues in 2012 was still only at 13% according to the LSE. What brought things ‘home’ for me a couple of months back was the BBC’s Don’t call me crazy series on teenagers with mental health issues. Having been an outpatient for counselling for about a year, (it didn’t help – actually it made things worse), I could relate to what felt like being trapped in a cold institutionalised environment. The screenshots of the cold rainy outdoors in a dull depressing environment seemed all too familiar. This contrasted with a film I saw ages ago where one of the stars portrayed a character who had a breakdown, but was in a much more open and dare I say it luxurious, warmer and calmer place to recover and recuperate. Where are the warmer, more open and more spacious places in the UK that are either on the NHS, or at least affordable? A more holistic healthcare where institutions work with each other For me it’s things like having institutions that can:
- deal with say, poor quality of housing that is causing respiratory problems
- deal with noise pollution that causes people on main roads sleepless nights
- have discounted sessions involving sport, exercise and physical activities that get people active while giving them enough choice to find the activity that is most suitable for them
- have discounted sessions that help educate people about how to shop and eat more healthily.
- provide safe social spaces for people to ‘be’.
I’m pondering what I can and cannot do over the autumn term – in particular learning from what I did and didn’t like from previous evening classes. Part of the problem is that it is pot luck in terms of which teacher you get and what the other people in the classes are like. Prevention and recovery in the community Perhaps this is something we undervalue with community activities. What is there about these activities that can help improve people’s physical and mental health, and how can they be made more accessible? This is one of the reasons why I think the cuts to adult education classes over the years have been extremely short-sighted. They’ve been made by ministers of all parties who only see such things through the prism of employment skills. Some politicians condescendingly said that the state should not be subsidising middle class hobbies at the expense of unskilled people getting into work – something of which I believe is a false comparison. What might be one person’s middle class hobby might be another person’s social lifeline – the only opportunity they have to get out and about to meet people socially. In my case, recovery has to be in the community. My symptoms aren’t serious enough to warrant being in an institution. But I don’t like being stuck indoors all the time. One of the things I’m trying to find is that calm space just to spend an afternoon reading. That would be a start. Somewhere away from the noise, traffic and the crowds. The problem is I can’t seem to find that space. (Any suggestions?) The point of all of this is to say that politicians now need to act – to go beyond just talking. The problem is that the fragmentation of public services makes change that much harder to get that sea-change. Who do I – and others – chase after to get that change in public services? Courtesy of Puffles at A dragon’s best friend