Movember is here and that means just one thing. Men forsaking their razors for the cause of raising awareness of men’s health, with more and more of a focus on mental health. With suicide being the leading cause of death for young men (aged 20-49) in England and Wales it’s easy to see why such campaigns are putting more emphasis on this critical issue.
Whilst I fully applaud such an effort to raise awareness of mental health issues, particularly amongst men who are often the least likely to seek help, and the most likely to take their lives as the result of a mental health issue I cannot help but feel these efforts, whilst commendable, distract from the real problem at hand.
The figures make for alarming reading. Whilst incidents of mental health problems have risen dramatically over the years. This trend is particularly pronounced amongst young and BAME people. You probably know someone who has a mental health problem whether you’re aware of it or not. They might be a parent, a sibling, a friend. It is estimated that 1 in 4 of us will suffer with a diagnosable mental health problem at some point in our lifetime.
In spite of this mental health funding has fallen. Mental health trusts faced an 8.25% cut in real terms between 2010 and 2015. In more tangible terms this means longer waiting times for counselling, more people being refused treatment and fewer early interventions leading patient’s conditions to deteriorate until they reach a crisis point. Although the new Conservative government has pledged ‘extra’ funding to mental health services, this funding is not nearly enough to deal with current crisis levels. Also the way that funding is translated into extra support appears to be patchy across the country leading to a postcode lottery when it comes to access to these vital services.
Not only is a lack of early intervention and preventative care in mental health obviously an issue for the individuals themselves dealing with such distress, it is also an issue for the NHS itself. Early intervention has been proven to be more effective and cost efficient than waiting until an individual has reached crisis point in order to give treatment. By not investing in mental health service and early intervention the government will be costing the taxpayer more in the long run.
Awareness is not the key issue, Mrs May in her maiden speech acknowledged that a lack of resources available for mental health problems was a major issue of our time. Yet Mrs May seems to be unwilling to put her money where her mouth with shiny pledges of extra funding for mental health service going only some way to plug the gaping hole in mental health funding.
When it comes to mental health, the personal is political, and its high time we paid more than lip-service to what is arguably one of the most pressing issues of the 21st century.