Dawn breaks – possible shape of a mental health strategy
V – So, last month you said you wanted to produce the outline of a mental health strategy to show what one might look like.
A – Yes.
V – But you were worried you wouldn’t manage it in the timescale.
A – That’s right.
V – So, don’t keep us in suspense – how did you get on?
A – Well, I think I managed it.
V – Great, well done! What does the answer look like?
A – Don’t get too excited. It’s just designed to show what it might look like. It’s not necessarily the final answer. Anyway, I’ll try and explain, and there’s a diagram illustrating it at the bottom of the page.
V – Go ahead. But remember, my attention span isn’t very- what was I saying? Have you started yet?
A – Very funny. OK here goes. We’re aiming to get to a state where there’s early intervention to nip any mental health problems in the bud. Also the environment would be more conducive to positive wellbeing and wouldn’t produce so much mental ill health.
V – When you say ‘environment’, presumably you mean more than green space?
A – Yes, the wider environment, including work, debt, reducing loneliness and so on. Anyway, such a state of affairs – prevention rather than cure – should be as cheap or cheaper than what we have at the moment.
V – Fair enough. But it doesn’t sound very innovative. Doesn’t everyone say they want that?
A – I suppose. The question is, though, how could you reach that state. Because it would take more spending early on, to change things, and there’s not a lot to spare at the moment in health or local government.
V – So how do you get round that?
A – Well the idea is to get that investment by using the resources of the community – that is self-help, people caring for each other, peer support and co-production.
V – Mmm. Sounds very nice, but isn’t that sort of thing already happening? I thought carers were already terribly stretched and suffering mental health problems themselves?
A – Yes, this is no panacea, but there is still some untapped resource. And we need to recognise that you can’t just shift the burden to the public. It needs a combined effort, from public services too, with support for carers and volunteers, which takes money.
V – Of which there is none.
A – Right. Finding a few scraps more and making the best use of what there is, is a key part of the strategy. And that might mean fundraising, grants, sponsorship, selling services – who knows.
V – Let’s assume you find this pump priming money – how do you use it?
A – On early intervention and prevention – targeting those people where you’re going to get the best results early on.
V – I get it, you cobble together some money, use it on early intervention, that reduces the demand on services and releases resources for more prevention. You have a virtuous circle?
A – Exactly – you’ve grasped it well.
V – Thanks. One of the few advantages of sharing your head.
A – That’s not all the strategy says though. It also looks at how its different strands can support each other.
V – Pray tell …
A – OK, well we need to develop and modify the policies to make the social, economic and physical environment more supportive of mental health.
V – Do remember my boredom threshold.
A – Another key strand is mental health literacy – reducing stigma and making people more aware of mental health problems and what to do about them. And then there’s … er, it’s rude to look at your phone when someone’s talking to you, you know.
V – Sorry, very serious cat gif requiring my attention.
A – OK, I take the hint, let’s leave it there.
V – Well done on getting this all sorted, anyway.
A – Oh, far from sorted I’m afraid. There’s all the supporting detail to be worked through, consultation with stakeholders and later with the wider public. There are lots of hurdles at which it could fall.
V – It’s so refreshing to experience your positive, bubbling optimism. Still, at least that could provide content for future episodes of this exciting blog.
A – Quite so. We’ve hard ‘Darkest before the dawn’ and ‘Dawn breaks’, so what’s next? Breakfast with Dawn?