Monday, 31 January 2011

Clegg's Mental Health Miracle!


Well, I can't say I've been much more surprised by a government announcement (any government) than I was last night.

According to the Telegraph, in the next few days Nick Clegg will announce that the coalition expect the NHS to "cure" one million mental health patients by the next election!! A Million!!! It's a miracle! Will they use some new, previously undiscovered Amazonian root? Has there been a medical breakthrough in hippo toenail clippings? After all, the coalition hope to include a wide range of mental health conditions, including "eating disorders, self harm, addictions, attention disorders and post natal depression"

And what princely sum have they committed to this revolution? How much do they propose to support this mass "cure" with? £400 Million!! That's £400 for everyone "cured". So just about the cost of, what, 6 one-to-one counselling sessions? A series of group therapy? I know I should be sitting with my head in my hands, but I can't help it! Their obvious delusions and incapability of living anywhere near planet earth leave me a little hysterical. 

In fact, the sad thing is, the basis of these announcements is probably sound. They aim to put mental health issues on an even footing with physical health conditions, removing the stigma so often associated with the former. To show their intent, they will symbolically remove an archaic law that precludes an MP from sitting if he has spent more than 6 months in a mental institution. (No! No! So...many...puns...can't...stop...myself)

They also argue - almost certainly correctly - that mental health conditions need group therapy and one-to-one counselling rather than a lifetime abandoned on drugs such as Prozac. 

They're right to focus on this, right to aim to remove people from medications when their core problems need addressing, right to de-stigmatise, but self harm is on that list!! Eating disorders!! During my last stay in hospital, there was a young girl with an eating disorder - she was an inpatient for all of the six weeks I was in and out myself and needed two staff to guard her permanently, 24 hours a day. She was a danger to herself and others and needed tube feeding. The cost of her treatment was obviously eye-watering - she was getting all the support, counselling and care she could have hoped for, but still she was skeletal, still she thought she was fat and still, she was not at all certain to live. 

However noble the aims, I worry greatly that if a policy sounds too simplistic, then it was probably researched simplistically and is based on simplistic assumptions. That word "cure" too - what were they thinking? Surely very few people who've suffered depression or other mental health problems would consider themselves "cured"? They know that the dark cloud can fall at any time, that there will be good days and bad days, that depression or panic or hopelessness are just a random moment away. "Cure" is worrying, even a little sinister. I can only think they mean to put Soma in the water and be done with it. Even the Telegraph put the word cure in quotation marks, as if to disassociate from it

As a final thought, at a time when economists predict the worst financial conditions for a generation or two, when unemployment is set to rise, homes are predicted to be lost, belts will be tightened and inflation is soaring, is it not rather more likely that mental health issues will increase? Has anyone pointed out to the naively optimistic Mr Clegg that the economic term "Depression" is not entirely coincidental?



13 comments:

  1. I think you may find that the coalition's "cure" merely involves "moving the goalposts" and previously identified mental health issues will be simply re-categorised as mainstream health issues. DaDa! Cured!

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  3. A few years ago, there were lots of groups people could be referred to if they had mental health problems: cookery, sewing, creative writing, art, pottery. It was really good to be able to be around people who both understood what it was like not to feel good and who also wanted to get something done during the day: a meal, a cushion cover, whatever.

    Now ... not so many groups and, to be fair to the ghastly Clegg-aron coalition, the cutbacks started under Labour. It's all about getting people back to the jobs that are just all around welcoming people with open arms.

    Re the jokes about MPs and "the lunatics taking over the asylum", I loved the slogan that David Tennant's character said in the under-rated series "Taking Over the Asylum", which I saw when it first came out and then saw again on BBC4 a couple of years ago. So underrated!

    In the words of Tennant's character:

    "WE ARE LOONIES AND WE ARE PROUD!!!"

    It also made me suspect that Tennant brought some of the same energy that he brought to the "manic" phase of a bipolar patient to his much lauded role as Dr Who. (David Tennant managed to run and explain the meaning of the term "happy prime at the same time" - got to love that.)

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  4. no one who works in services takes this as serious adding£400 mil while imposing cuts on secondary MH services do they really believe that a short course of therapy will "cure" service users of issues that have developed over a life time delivered by unqualified workers with no attention paid to the external and enviromental factors. What happened to taking a holistic view

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  5. I agree John.

    In fact, I would go further and say that the manure is heading straight for the fan. This is the influence of the private health providers and medical insurance companies who have investment in quick cheap 'cures'.... but that desire won't make people better.

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  6. i really like the cure bit is he going to cure me i have bordeline personality disoder i cant be cured but i will be a guiny pig for this one i would love to be cured its a good plan but i think its just there to make him look good you cant cure a lot of the mental ilnesses

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  7. looking forward to my 'cure', will it come in one of those brown envelopes?

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  8. Can't wait for my cure! Will we get told when it's our turn, or will we just wake up one morning and *know*?

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  9. I guess that the elephant in the room is the crazy way the world is geared up, and they ain't going to change that.
    The whole capitalist shebang has been creating mental stress for the last 200 years, but of course, we've got to get 'cured' so we can keep working and spending to maintain the system.
    They don't like it when the hamsters fall down on the wheel and will never see the root cause of the problem.

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  10. Aliquant/Warriet - Both of those really made me laugh when I got in just now - boy do we all need to laugh at the moment.

    Will they be rolling out a physical "cure" too? I do hope so!

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  11. I want a "like" button so I can click it for the above comments.

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