Blogging by the beach: The Mental Health Minute

I’ve taken myself off to Clevedon today as we’ve seemingly been blessed with a few days of decent weather at last. It’s a place that I only discovered because of my friend Steve and his habit of coming here to photograph the frankly stunning sunset. As coastal towns go it’s got the basics covered. There’s a few places dotted around selling the usual seaside fare as well as a tin pot arcade that rather surprisingly boasted an original Defender machine amongst the usual gathering of penny falls and vintage fruit machines.

Anyway, it’s lovely here and a rather pleasant place to blog from.

In the UK at the moment we’re a couple of days into Mental Health Awareness Week. It’s a week where we’re all encouraged to look out for others who might be going through some kind of mental health crisis and to try and raise awareness of how different mental illnesses can affect people. Indeed, as I was driving here earlier this morning I heard something called ‘The Mental Health Minute’ being played out on the radio. Apparently all of the major radio stations were due to broadcast this snappy little segment simultaneously today as a way of letting us know that it’s okay to talk about our mental health issues and to let others know how we’re feeling. It featured the likes of both Prince William and Prince Harry, Dame Judi Dench and Lady Gaga to name but a few.

Of course It’s a good thing that we’re all being encouraged to talk about our mental health with each other. But really why is it being highlighted for just one week? After all, mental illnesses like depression and anxiety don’t just go away if you talk about them with your mates for a couple of days. For many of us they’re lifelong conditions that we’re forced to live with day in and day out.

The thing is as well, even if those that might be suffering with a mental health condition suddenly pluck up the courage to speak out and seek help from their GP is there any guarantee that they’re going to get the help that they really need? From my experience over the years of dealing with various medical professionals you’re more than likely just going to get palmed off with a few pills and told to take a few days off of work. That’s not the answer though.

For most people suffering with conditions like depression the actual root cause of it is seeded much deeper within their mind than medication can reach alone. For many, talking therapy is a good way of delving back into those issues that might have triggered their depression and working through them with somebody impartial. For others Cognitive Behavioural Therapy might be a better option. The problem is that access to these services seems incredibly hard to come by on our ailing NHS. Even finding a GP who is prepared to take your condition seriously is a lottery. When I had my most recent mental breakdown back in September I went through a number of doctors before finally finding one who offered the correct program of care. The first GP I saw was incredibly pill-happy, handing different types of anti-depressants out like they were sweets. The second appeared only to be interested in her computer and not what I was telling her, only looking up to tell me to source my own counselling and refer myself to the local IAPT service for CBT.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that it’s all very well trying to promote mental health awareness to those that until now had perhaps been too ignorant to realise its importance. But unless the current UK government are willing to allocate our NHS the funding and resources that it so desperately needs to offer those vital support services to mental health patients then what’s the point in encouraging people to speak out?

If you’re someone who has experience of dealing with NHS mental health services or if you’ve got an opinion about Mental Health Awareness Week that you would like to share, please leave a comment below.

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