I was invited to present on key priorities regarding mental health care at a specially convened meeting at the House of Commons to a group of mental health colleagues and MPs including Luciana Berger, the shadow minister for mental health. Among the areas I included was the category I describe as ‘specific areas of the forgotten mental health issues’.
In fairness, many would argue they are not forgotten at all – they simply don’t feature prominently on the well described mental health radar. I'm talking about the homeless, those in prison, the vast array of rare somewhat disparagingly referred to as ‘minority groups’ and those isolated, lonely, disenfranchised people whose needs are not recognised and therefore not addressed.
My talk in the Commons included the following:
- We have not done enough about children and young people to date – some themes have been addressed but we know much early life stage development is hampered by poor image, self-esteem, low confidence and normalised behaviour such as deliberate self-harm and overly sexualised role modelling via peer group pressure, causing a lot of insecurity stacking up for later life. Cyber bullying through social media is also meaning young people’s lives are heavily caught up in round the clock interactions with others and not always in a positive and innocent way.
- I mentioned domestic abuse and the hidden reality currently being given a much-needed elevated profile thanks to the Helen and Rob storyline in the TV show The Archers.
- Homelessness is a theme that is often ignored or brushed under the morality carpet with various justifications as to why this is an acceptable part of modern life.
- The huge proportion of the prison population have diagnosable mental health conditions. I also referred to the issue of sex offenders where studies and reports tell us up to 1/8 of prison occupants are either serving a sentence for offences of this type or have a history associated with sexual offending.
- Growing number of people are feeling isolated and detached from society and local communities, these include people with poor communication capability and cultural or ethnicity differences such as an increasingly high proportion of migrants, but also the reputed one million older people that are lonely and vulnerable.
In a context of mental health service pressure where stretched resource must be focused on the highest priority some members of our communities will be missed.
Eligibility for help in less obvious places must be regarded as everyone’s business – workplace support, care regarding negative lifestyle choices such as excessive substance use and misuse.
A final word on the forgotten mental health problems and one worthy of greater attention and coverage I believe is the two part common strand that we must address for all themes – resilience and robustness in our coping with all of the above.
Robustness is the core of how we endure distress and despair and resilience is how we resist the spiralling negative patterns that can lead to disintegrating self-care and management.