Mental health: progress in a pandemic
‘Mental Health for All’ is the theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day. What does that mean, you might ask? Well, according to the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), this is about ‘greater investment’ and ‘greater access’.
For anyone who feels a bit sceptical of awareness days, this is – at least – an acknowledgement that the onus is not just on us, the general population, to drive positive change.
Universal health coverage
Dr Ingrid Daniels, WFMH President, described the mental health landscape before the pandemic as “dire” in a letter to friends of the federation. She described the drive for ‘universal health coverage’ as a key part of the UN’s sustainable development goal of ‘good health and wellbeing’.
‘Universal health coverage’, according to Dr Daniels, “means that all people have access to the quality mental health services they need, when and where they need them, without financial hardship”. She points out that in order to make this a reality, governments need to keep investing in mental health.
I agree. There are things we all can do – challenging things that glamorise or vilify mental illness, for example. But when people do seek help for their mental health, they should be able to get it – as Dr Daniels says – when and where they need it. And this is an issue for the government. People should not be waiting months to see a mental health specialist, nor should youngsters be sent hundreds of miles away for inpatient treatment.
There are signs that the government is increasing its investment in mental health, earmarking £2m for research into the effects of Covid19 on three vulnerable groups: healthcare workers, children, and young people. Around £9m in funding has been given to mental health charities, including Mind and BEAT, since March. And, this morning, the government announced that more than £400m will be “committed over the next four years to eradicate dormitory accommodation from mental health facilities across the UK” in order to protect patients’ privacy and dignity.
I hope these steps provide tangible benefits. Something about it feels like we’re plugging gaps in a dam, but I don’t want to leave you on a cynical note today. I want to leave you with this beautifully written article by a young man called Ben West who gives me more hope for the future than the various press releases I’ve read today.