The coming decade
Posted Monday 7 December 2009
Today sees the publication of not one but four separate Government documents on mental health - a type of "Super Monday" for mental health policy.
Most are lengthy pieces of work, but they are all important reading. For the first time we have a cross-governmental strategy for mental health - this is a vital symbol of a change in approach. We know from the work we've done in recent years such as Another assault, on employment, and on men and mental health, that people who experience mental health issues need support from across the state - to find work, and to be treated as an equal citizen.
New Horizons and the Department for Work and Pensions commissioned the Perkins Review to focus on a more positive, recovery oriented approach to mental health and employment. For too long, we've just assumed that equality is not realistic, yet there are many people who work while managing a mental health condition. It's important that the basis of services should be on what people can do, rather than what they can't do.
We are now starting to see a recognition of the need to address wellbeing and mental health promotion. The early signs are promising - the Time to Change campaign is already having an impact, and work in schools on resilience is a step forward.
Together, they form a chance for people to be more empowered, and to change the way the state treats people with a mental health problem.
So here's the challenge - how does a vision for the next ten years become a reality when there's no money, fewer targets and an election looming?
First, mental health services need to continue to improve. People's experiences of them are still too patchy, and speedy access to effective care is still vitally important.
Secondly, cross-governmental strategies need momentum to keep going. There is now no turning back from this and whoever wins the next election will need to ensure this works.
Finally, it needs resources - not necessarily new ones but a reprioritisation. For example, better mental health training for frontline workers and use of public health and communications budgets to tackle stigma and discrimination.
People with mental health problems have been marginalised and excluded for too long, we must seize the chance to change this.
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