Mental Health Awareness Week Is Over - Now What?


It's all very well and good, but the conversation must not stop there

As many of you may know, last week was 'Mental Health Awareness Week'. It's a week where lots of people speak out about mental health, and use the hashtag #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek to raise awareness of mental health issues. It's pretty obvious, right? But what happens when all the celebrities and other public figures shut up shop for the day, and go back to promoting whatever it is they have to promote?

Well, largely, the conversation is forgotten. People vaguely remember someone saying something about "mental people" on Twitter, but mostly the vast majority of people forget about mental health. Promises made during the week by governments and organisations are set-aside, and we all go back to the same routine. As the band Del Amitri once sang "...nothing ever happens, nothing happens at all. The needle returns to the start of the song and we all sing along like before."

For some of us though, the conversation continues. More specifically - those of us who suffer from poor mental health, and those who love us and care about us. We continue to talk; to raise our voices; to bang on the doors of governments; to strive to be heard; to be listened to; and to be understood. More often than not, our voices go unheard. Well, not unheard, but ignored. As officials say they will "look in to mental health funding" and "yes, it's a real problem and a priority for government", we keep waiting and wondering.

The last time I asked for official help my doctor referred me to an NHS service. After having a two-hour session with one of the counsellors there, I was told to go home and wait for someone to ring with a follow-up appointment. I received a phone call, only to be told that "Because your problems are on-going, we can't help you." When I asked why, I was told it all came down to funding. The service was so stretched and under-funded that they were only able to help people who had problems that could resolved within 8 sessions. Worse still, I've recently learned that the service is no longer dedicated solely to mental health. This leaves a huge gap in provision in my area. This, I suspect, is a problem which many others areas of the country face.

So are we, as a society, guilty of not doing enough about mental illness? Yes. But why? Why are we so apathetic towards such a serious problem? Even with all the charities, campaigners, and vocal individuals speaking out on a regular basis, helping those with mental illness is simply not a priority - but it should be. It kills a huge number of people every year. According to The Samaritans, over 6,000 people took their own life in 2017. That's around 16 people per day - or roughly one person every 90 minutes. That number has barely changed over the last 10 years. That's an awful lot of people. Perhaps it's time that changed?

I urge people to keep talking about mental health. Keep the conversation going. Keep raising awareness and pushing for changes to the system. Maybe this way every week will be mental health awareness week...

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