Is it time to change the focus of mental health awareness week?

I remember going into the Group Room when I was inpatient and reading some notes from a staff training day which had been left out by accident. 

On a list of ‘hard things about this job’, someone had written ‘some people will never get better’.

It’s true. Some people will never recover from a mental illness. Some people will spend the rest of their lives battling to keep symptoms at bay.

That isn’t to say it’s not possible to recover: I believe that it is fully and completely achievable to everyone.

However, a barrier for many, many people with mental illness is the funding – or lack of – for treatment. I know people who’ve been turned away from services for not being ‘ill enough’ simply because they don’t meet very strict criteria which often means that treatment doesn’t happen until mental illness has progressed to a point where it must be much more lengthy and invasive in order to be successful.

This is not the fault of the NHS. 

This is the fault of governments (for years) who have failed to provide enough funding for services to grow.

It’s fantastic that mental health is becoming so much more visibly accepted in society: it’s incredible that people are becoming less scared and more able to share their problems.

Both of these things – I think – are evident: people speak out about their mental health far more than they did even five years ago.

But there is no point encouraging people to be open about their mental health and to seek help if they do not qualify for treatment. 

There must be nothing worse that plucking up the courage to speak out for the first time (sometimes after decades of struggling) and to be told you don’t qualify for treatment but, here, have this self help book.

If we really want to raise awareness of mental health, we need to start raising awareness of the lack of funding too. Not just for treatments, but for research: there might be a cure out there but we won’t know unless we create the circumstances to research it. 

Some people will never get better simply because they are not given the opportunity to.

If we’ve raised awareness of the importance of speaking out about mental illness with such great effect, maybe now we should be turning our minds, and willpower, towards creating a system in which treatment is accessible by all and a cure is really being searched for?

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