Making Mental Health a Priority



Mental Health issues are going to find themselves centre stage more and more as the Lib Dems push it into the Election Agenda. Today the idea that we can reduce the amount of suicides caused by mental illnesses to almost zero appears on paper to be fantastical and highly unrealistic – but there is evidence to support the idea.

First the premise of making this area of Health a priority is both a long overdue move by a political party and a shrewd move by a political tactician. Long overdue in the sense that we all know people who struggle or live with illnesses like depression, bi-polar, schizophrenia or anxiety along with many others and it feels that so little is done and it’s not “fashionable” to highlight it. But it’s also a clever move because it deals with a large volume of people it could be a big trump card for the Lib Dems.

But I don’t care if it’s a gimmick because regardless of the motivation action will be taken and the template they are looking at does show good success rates. In Detroit, Michigan the Henry Ford Medical Group have put many things in place to reduce the amount of suicides linked to mental illness and there have been reductions of over 75% – which is phenomenal.

How? Well here are some of the ways that they have done and are now being used around the world and even here in the UK:

  • create a Safe from Suicide Team, a 24/7 group of experts which rapidly and thoroughly assesses patients who are having suicidal thoughts
  • improve the care of people who present with self-harm injuries at accident and emergency units, offering them therapies on the spot and following up with them when they go home
  • improve data collection on patients to get a better understanding of how and where patients are most at risk of suicide and then targeting resources at them

This is all a great move – but there is another issue here that is being missed and that is the pinpointing of those who suffer from Mental Health issues in the first place. Not everyone is aware of their illness, there are huge gaps in the public’s knowledge and understanding of these maladies so they wouldn’t be able to recognize it and there are still GPs who won’t refer patients who do put themselves forward. We need more education for everyone to try to cut out this ignorance that can eventually lead to suicide.

I lived for years with Bi-polar disorder, but didn’t know or understand what was happening – even more I didn’t even recognize there was a problem until my depression got really bad that I was on the verge of tears all too often. I didn’t know what was happening to me and neither did those around me – left untreated it’s hard to say what would have happened in the long-term. Now with treatment and medication I have a balance that allows me the usual fluctuations but within a safer parameter. Anything outside of that I know I can call my specialist and get seen quickly to stop any build up of problems.

I don’t believe that you will ever completely eradicate suicide among those who have these illnesses – just look last year at Robin Williams who was monitored, on medication and his family were all aware of his conditions. It didn’t stop him and there are many others it wouldn’t stop. But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to do something to help the majority.

I doff my cap to Nick Clegg for making this issue a central one for the upcoming elections and I hope that the over five thousand people who take their lives annually will be a statistic that drops sooner rather than later.


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