With Olympic fever now passing we can relax, count our medals, and contemplate how many Sirs and Dames Her Majesty will have to ennoble in order to treat these Olympic champions as fairly as their forerunners. And in Solent Mind we’re also asking where does mental health feature in the Olympic legacy.
Certainly it’s not a bad time to be setting up, with other local Mind partners, our new Wellbeing services in Winchester, Eastleigh, Fareham, Gosport, Havant and East Hampshire. Commissioned by Hampshire County Council, Wellbeing services begin in earnest from 1st September, and improving physical health is one of the priorities for people with severe and enduring mental health issues, where rates of heart disease and diabetes are far too high, and mortality rates are 3 times the national average. It’s not just about exercise, and we’re not putting people onto Olympic training schedules in preparation for Rio, but we do know that eating, drinking, smoking – as well as exercise – all affect our mental health.
Equally important in our vision of Wellbeing is mental health promotion – spreading the message about mental health and how we can build resilience across communities. We know that one of the biggest obstacles to people recognising and dealing with mental health issues is stigma. And now we know that campaigning makes a difference. The journal Psychiatric Services reported last month a 4% drop in the number of people facing mental health discrimination, and a 20 per cent reduction in the levels of discrimination across 22 identified life areas. The research covered the first year of the Time to Change campaign, and is the first time that a national mental health anti-stigma programme has been evaluated against targets. But there is a challenge in the statistics: while discrimination by friend, family and employers dropped significantly in the survey, discrimination by health professionals did not.
The other challenge comes from a more predictable source. The Department of Health has revealed that across the country and, for the first time in a decade, spending on mental health services has reduced – a 3.1% drop in real terms. Funny how, as the Olympic bill got bigger and bigger, it just had to be paid. So how about Lord Coe, a Life Peer with a seat in the Lords, for Health Secretary at the next reshuffle?
Meanwhile I’m drafting requests for celebrity speakers for this year’s AGM to Sir Ben Ainslie, Sir Ed McKeever, Dame Jade Jones and the rest…