World Mental Health Week has become a bit of a global phenomenon, celebrated in 150 countries from Australia to Zambia. So what is there to celebrate here in the UK?
There are signs of hope: there’s a growing honesty about mental health services not reaching those who need them. Most people with a mental health issue don’t access services. And the deficiencies in crisis services, waiting times, insufficient local hospital beds and a host of other arenas were highlighted by the (Government’s own) Task Force report in February.
There is widespread acceptance too that the inbuilt bias, by which mental health habitually loses out as a funding and policy priority to physical health, must end. And children’s mental health is finally rising up the agenda. How else are we going to be serious about the prevention of mental health issues in the next generation?
If all that sounds a slightly weary commentary on what’s to celebrate – honesty may be a start, but action still seems distant and most indicators of mental ill health are getting worse – the really inspirational mental health developments are happening not amongst politicians and commissioners, but amongst people taking direct action themselves. I was with Hampshire Festival of the Mind in Portsmouth last night listening to people’s hopes and fears for mental health services over the next 10-20 years. With a host of other events: music, theatre, art, dance, dog walking, a mental wealth trialogue (tapping into communities’ wealth of mental health expertise) scheduled for the rest of Mental Health Week the organisers expect – in their words – to change lives. I think they will.