Earlier today the Guardian published an article (here) claiming that Theresa May is to put £15m of new money into appropriate, health-based Places of Safety for those held under s135/136 of the Mental Health Act (MHA).
£15 million? Straight into new Places of Safety?! Great! As long as this investment doesn’t overshadow the genuine need for consistent, high quality mental health services. I don’t agree with the practice of seeing people detained under the MHA taken to police cells, but I also don’t agree with people being left without adequate support, leading up to a crisis (and potentially a detention under the MHA).
We cannot carry on this culture of sticking plasters over issues and expecting them to go away. An increase in Places of Safety is warmly welcomed by me, however we need to address the underlying issues that are causing people to come to contact with the police in crisis. Of course every case is different, but funnily enough, ensuring that we have a supportive mental health system in place wouldn’t strike me as a bad idea?! I know that effective help costs £££. I appreciate the stresses and strains that the NHS is under, and that we would all love a system that works for everyone. Nor am I saying that changes to the current structure would result in no-one ever having a crisis again, or needing help, but I personally have no doubt that it would make a large amount of difference.
What I am muddling along and saying is that £15m isn’t going to solve everything. We desperately need sustained investment across the board, from CAMHS to crisis services, CMHTs to LD services. The pledge to stop people from being held in police cells is ‘fashionable’ almost, thousands are outraged when we hear the news that teens are being held in cells for lack of 136 suites. We often draw the “but would someone with a broken leg be held in a cell?! I think not!!” parallel. But all areas of mental health services need to be seen as worth investing in, not just a small portion. Mental health services are vital for so many, life-savers even (myself included!) and it is our duty to ensure that they are not failing anyone when they need the support.
This morning I woke up to my Twitter timeline being flooded with the talk of suicide prevention and the hashtag #MHConf. After some rooting around I found that Nick Clegg was holding a conference in order to address suicide – more importantly, calling for the NHS to adopt a “zero suicides” policy. I had seen an article last night announcing the Lib Dem’s proposition, however hadn’t realised that it would be being discussed today.
Here’s the link to a transcript of what was said this morning if anyone was interested: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/nick-clegg-at-mental-health-conference
I am all for any measures being taken to reduce suicide levels and help those at risk of suicide. Everyone who works in mental health services and the NHS work tirelessly to prevent suicides. But as many people were saying on Twitter, it goes beyond saying “well we’ve had an x amount decrease in people completing suicide since whenever so clearly everything is going well”. A decrease would be welcomed, of course, but what about people’s quality of life? Just because the suicide rates may go down, it doesn’t necessarily mean that people are thriving and living their lives to the full.
It’s also struck me recently that there has been a lot more talk around mental health and a lot of promises being made by politicians. We’re also fast approaching the General Election, with pools of new potential voters who have come of age in the past 5 years and can now vote. Nick Clegg has been a part of a government that has overseen mental health services being cut to the bone, cut 1600 mental health beds and left people in crisis with little consideration to their mental health. I heard little objection over the past 5 years from the Lib Dems. However with the next GE on the horizon, Clegg is now “passionate” about mental health. I, and many others, failed to see that “passion” being demonstrated over the past few years. Towards the end of last year however, people like Norman Lamb started to speak up about the importance of funding in mental health, especially in CAMHS.
This is all well and good but I can’t help but see it as a publicity stunt to some extent. A “look at us, look how much we care” last ditch attempt to try and swing some more potential voters. They don’t have the backing, nor the money, nor the dedication to make the change they claim they want to make. I’m sure that mental health is a concern, and having met Norman Lamb, I know that he does want to see a difference. But having spent 5 years dismantling the services which they now want to see working again to the best of their capacity is bordering on rude.