FAITH AND JUSTICE
Mental HealthChildren’s mental health week takes place from the 6th to the 12th February.
The aim of it by the charity Place2Be is to encourage everyone – adults and children alike – to spread a little kindness.
The Prime Minister had pledged to reduce mental health stigma and to focus on mental health services in this country. Every former Health Secretary for the last 20 years has described mental health provision as a ‘stain on our country’. £600 million is the amount pledged by the government to be put towards mental health by 2020/2021; the same amount cut between 2010 and 2015. That could seem like no net gain, perhaps even a net loss. However, we must wait and see. It’s not always just about providing money but the best use of that money alongside charity work and education.
Mental health affects more than 450 million people worldwide and at least 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem at some point. Oxford University research concludes that people with mental health problems die 10-20 years younger than those without. In 2015/2016 more than 10,000 patients under the age of 18 were admitted to hospital with a diagnosis of anxiety. This includes almost 2500 children who were 12 and under. There have been 11 deaths of child patients under the care of mental health in-patient services since January 2013. Alongside all of that, 2100 beds for mental health patients have been taken away between 2011 to mid-2016 in England.
Of course, many researchers are sceptical of the claim that mental health issues are now more common. Perhaps people 50 or 70 years ago did not talk about depression and did not seek treatment, if that treatment even existed. 1957 has been measured as the happiest year in Britain of the last century according to research conducted by Warwick University and the Social Market Foundation. They used an algorithm to measure the nation’s happiness in every year since 1776. 1957 was close enough to the end of war and food rations to make people aware of what they had. The conclusion was that proximity to disaster, or having just avoided it, can release this happiness. Conversely, however, the hope in the air at that time apparently made the 1960s and 1970s seem more depressing than they actually were.
Stories like that which focus on the human condition abound. Look at George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, Ebenezer Scrooge in ‘A Christmas Carol’, Macaulay Culkin’s ‘Kevin’ in ‘Home Alone’, Dorothy in ‘The Wizard of Oz’. Characters who may experience more of what we could term a ‘modern malaise’ who berate their ordinary lives, their families, the limitations to their own potential which are seen to be imposed upon them, usually reach some kind of epiphany after they get a chance to forego all of what they had before in various permutations.
It may be possible to argue that low level stress, anxiety, sleeplessness and a lack of happiness – or perhaps more accurately, contentment – could be seen as mental health issues which could snowball but which could also be addressed without recourse to health services. Whilst it is not possible for a ‘Clarence’ type figure to come into everyone’s life to help them refocus and reassess, maybe more could be done at an old-fashioned community level.
Some studies show that the rise in mental health issues is not caused by people being more willing to admit to being depressed but because more do say that they have the psychosomatic symptoms associated with clinical depression. Such cases and those of serious mental health breakdowns should never be dismissed. It is down to our health systems and preventative measures from an early age to care for those people without stigma.
Why do people seem to be suffering more? Our relationships and community ties are weaker – there is no question about that. We do seem to be more focused on goals such as money, fame and image and these are correlated with anxiety and depression. Our expectations of life are sometimes too high – if you hear ‘be all you can be’, ‘you can do whatever you want’ all the time then maybe if such achievements do not happen, it can lead to keen disappointment. By promoting good health, better interpersonal relationships (in real life but also on social media too), having safer communities and ensuring better quality of care and opportunities to find employment we could create the conditions for a happier society. Of course, as Christians we would also say the peace that passeth understanding does a lot to soothe the soul.
A therapist in Siberia claims that spanking helps his patients. People are simply tired of life, he says, and a good slap wakes them up that it is actually good to be alive. I leave you with this spanking good story and image, not because I think I have the answer for the next vacant space on Farnborough High St. What could we all do to wake our own selves up when we need it and to help nurture and bring reassurance to others?
Faith and Justice SpokespersonOur spokesperson for Faith & Justice is Jane Holmes Payne
She would welcome any comments, helpful suggestions and constructive criticism (!). via email to firstname.lastname@example.org