Congratulations to Suzanne Moore for highlighting those who are forgotten in campaigns such as Every Mind Matters (Telling people to jog will not solve this mental health crisis, 8 October). When Jeremy Hunt spoke of the biggest expansion of mental health services in Europe, he referred to expanded provision for people with mild to moderate problems. Those with serious mental heath problems have found that there is no therapy for them, specialist services like assertive outreach have disappeared, and their community mental health teams are too busy managing crises to support them.
I work with people who regularly self-harm and feel suicidal. Because the NHS has a tendency to keep them out of services and ignore NICE guidelines aimed at helping them, they find themselves the subjects of reports such as “No Longer A Diagnosis of Exclusion” and “The Patients Psychiatrists Dislike”. As they are turned away while seeking help and reading “If you feel that life is not worth living, you’re harming yourself or have thought about self-harm, it’s important to tell someone” on the Every Mind Matters website they will rightly feel gaslighted. We are building awareness of difficulties for which there is no help. We are encouraging people to talk while leaving them alone. Despite this, the insult of being manipulative and deceitful is thrown at the people wanting help, not those who promise the earth but whose words are dust. It’s clear that some minds don’t matter as much as others.
• The benefits of keeping one’s body healthy to maximise mental wellbeing is well researched, but there is no doubt that, as Suzanne Moore writes, “the link between mental health, unemployment, bad housing and isolation is real”. Sadly, the medicalisation of mental health sanctions a focus on “treating”’ mental health in isolation, rather than challenging the cause.
This begs the question: what have we learned since 1832? It was then, when a cholera epidemic swept the country, that Dr Duncan pestered the Liverpool authorities with the now blindingly obvious truth that it is pointless treating people for the effects of fæcally-contaminated water and then returning them to the conditions in which they contracted it. He was appointed the country’s first medical officer of health and with his colleagues revolutionised the sanitary arrangements that eliminated cholera.
187 years later we are in an analogous position with mental health – we treat people’s mental ill-health with CBT or some other proprietary “cure” and then return them to the contaminated conditions in which ill-health thrives. Who is the modern day Dr Duncan who is going to revolutionise society to eliminate some of the blindingly obvious causes of mental ill-health?
• With the launch of Every Mind Matters will anyone remember the demise of Every Child Matters? A policy based on a cross-party consensus about how to improve outcomes for children, dismantled in the earliest days of the coalition, when Michael Gove became education secretary in May 2010. One if his first acts was to remove any sign of the previous Department of Children, Families and Schools which initiated the policy. Complicit in this tragedy for children – consider the rise in mental health problems among young people which Every Mind Matters attempts to address – was Nick Clegg heading up the children and families taskforce that never met, and disappeared without trace months after the election.
At the heart of Every Child Matters was a simple mantra of staying safe, being healthy, enjoying and achieving, that could be as easily understood by an eight-year old as by a director of children’s services. This was a real revolution in the way we as a society raise children, undermined by ideological indifference and apathy by those on a path to austerity. It was another casualty of Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings’ “wilful carelessness” as described by Fiona Millar (Those ‘enemies of promise’ are now using the dark arts they honed in education to trash the country, 3 September).
Who in these divided times, with this pair in charge, will bet on Every Mind Matters surviving much beyond the press release?
Chudleigh Knighton, Devon
• Early intervention is crucial for mental disorders in children: waiting “at least 41 weeks to start their treatment” is an eternity for young people (Children’s services hard hit with one in 10 psychiatrist posts left unfilled, 7 October). There are shortages across mental health teams (psychiatrists, nurses, psychologists and therapists). Non-clinical staff (like family support workers and advocates) to help parents navigate our fragmented services are thin on the ground.
I long to hear that the government will invest in staffing and staff development to overcome gaps in mental healthcare. However, perhaps a key lesson after the Children Act 2004 was not to start with developing conventional teams around a doctor, but rather a team around the child?
Prof Woody Caan
Editor, Journal of Public Mental Health
• This Mental Health Awareness Day, Thursday 10 October, NSPCC Scotland wants to increase awareness that babies have mental needs too. We are calling on the Scottish government to invest in the infant-parent relationship as part of our Fight for a Fair Start campaign.
Babies’ healthy development depends entirely on the relationships around them. Many new parents experience challenges that can affect their relationship with their baby. Up to one in five mums and one in 10 dads experience mental health problems during pregnancy and after birth, but getting the right support at the right time isn’t always guaranteed. The Scottish government recently announced increased investment in improving perinatal mental health services across Scotland. We welcome these investments, but funding and improvements need to be sustained in the long term.
We are calling on the Scottish government and health boards to make specialist infant mental health services available to all babies and families who need them. We would like them to ensure each maternity unit has access to support from a perinatal mental health midwife and for an additional Scottish government investment to be spent on transforming perinatal and infant mental health services.
NSPCC Scotland believes that all vulnerable babies and their families should be able to access the infant mental health support they need for a healthy and happy start to life. Our Fight for a Fair Start campaign aims to ensure that all parents across the UK have fair and equal access to mental health support at the right time. With early and effective support, most mums, dads and their families can recover from their mental illness problems giving them and their children the best start in life. We invite people to write to their MSPs in support of our campaign.
Policy and public affairs manager, NSPCC Scotland
• Over 100,000 people in problem debt attempt suicide each year in England alone. While there are many issues that can lead to someone feeling suicidal, research shows that the letters people in debt receive from lenders – which by law must include intimidating and obscure language, and often feature threats of court action – are a key factor that can leave people feeling panicked and helpless.
As creditors, we are taking steps to make our debt collections letters more supportive, but we are restricted by rules under the Consumer Credit Act 1974, which dictate the content of these letters. Fortunately, this legislation is currently under government review.
This World Mental Health Day, we’re joining a coalition of more than 30 charities led by Money and Mental Health in calling on the government to change the rules on debt letters, so that we can make them more supportive and easier to understand. That will enable us to help more people deal with their debt, and will also save lives.
Tom Blomfield CEO, Monzo Bank, Joe Garner CEO, Nationwide Building Society, Craig Donaldson CEO, Metro Bank, Sally Moran Global head of Barclays financial assistance, Barclays Bank