Mental Health is Everybody’s Business

October the 10th is World Mental Health Day and it is a shocking fact that someone somewhere in the world will take their life every 40 seconds.

Rethink is tying ribbons to the Itchen Bridge in Southampton today to represent everyone of these lives, as well as handing out 20,000 postcards to focus on todays event.  

Poor mental health is one of the biggest social issues in the UK. At any one time, one in six people or one in four (depending on which set of statistics you look at) experience mental health problems. This has high costs for individuals and their families and a significant impact on national prosperity and wellbeing. Poor mental health is inextricably linked to poverty and exclusion, worklessness, crime, chronic illness, low educational attainment, antisocial behaviour and lack of social cohesion. 

Mental health should not just be regarded as the special concern of the health service, or as a subject which is only relevant to a minority.  Instead it is an issue that is everybody’s business.   I welcome the day when although mental health problems will not  have disappeared, admitting to them will no longer be a source of social stigma. 

In “Mental Health in the Mainstream” (ippr, 2005) Jennifer Rankin has outlined a blueprint for how this could be achieved. In 2025 there will be no stigma – and mental health will be regarded on the same level as physical health.  We will all be encouraged to take as much care and responsibility for our mental health as we do with our physical health.

There will need to be initiatives in the following areas:

  • Advice and support
  • Facilitating access to specialist services
  • Advising employers on promoting mental health at work and applying the law on “reasonable adjustments” for disabled people
  • Offering social prescriptions
  • Providing connections to community support groups
  • Providing courses and information on living with a long term condition
  • Giving information and support to carers 

Today (October 10) the government is launching an initiative urging employers to improve conditions for people with a mental health problem.   Just 20% of those with severe mental health problems have jobs, compared with 65% who have physical problems.  We need to find ways of promoting social inclusion and challenging discrimination in the workplace.  We need to focus on the vision of 2025 where mental illness will not be stigmatised and everyone takes responsibility and makes it their business to protect their own and everybody’s mental health. 

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