A False Dawn

[It occurs to me that it is almost a year since I last posted (this took me somewhat by surprise, probably because I think about blogging here really quite a lot and it always feels like I’m just a little behind but I’ll soon catch up – I really must add ‘writing’ to my repertoire alongside ‘thinking’) so I hope the headline to this piece describes only the short piece that is to follow, not another brief flowering of the blog, followed by an ignominious and unnoticed return to a dissatisfied quiescence.]

Theresa May today announced all kinds of vague things in order to ‘transform attitudes to mental health’. There didn’t seem to be much detail – or indeed much funding. There were some smashing soundbites though.

The transformational plans include ideas like every secondary school to be offered ‘mental health first aid training’. I have no idea what this is. I’m not sure I like the sound of it. I definitely don’t like the sound of having to have an online symptom check before getting an appointment. To be fair, trying to make people less reliant on GPs and A&E for MH issues, which the Government promises, is a good thing (but not if they’re directed to a website instead). Improving support in the workplace is also good (depending what ‘support’ means), as is not making children travel out of their local area for mental health treatment (depending on what ‘local’ means and what ‘treatment’ means).

However, I can’t help but think that the Government is painting a very narrow picture of what mental illness is and how it can be treated. I fear we are being presented with a straw man that fortuitously can be addressed by what the Government wants to do. They have worked backwards from the solutions they believe they can implement and made them fit a particular presentation of mental illness, rather than wondering what the problems really are in the first place and how they might actually be addressed with a degree of efficacy.

(As a counter to this, this is an excellent piece that looks at the problems and then suggests solutions to address them https://paulkirby.net/2016/12/07/on-mental-health-weve-got-it-so-wrong-money-alone-cant-fix-it/ )

With no new money to go with these new ideas, it remains to be seen if this is simply yet another vacuous nod in the right direction.

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