Mental Health in crisis

Last week’s Panorama investigation into the state of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service revealed that children with mental health problems are not getting treatment until they are in crisis and, sometimes, suicidal. For many parents the lack of support is grimly familiar, as mental health issues among young people have increased sixfold since 1995.

It’s not just young people who are suffering. Every week there seems to be another report about work stress, with teachers and NHS staff leaving in droves, paramedics showing high rates of absenteeism and care services struggling to cope with a surge in patients seeking help for anxiety, depression and other disorders.

Local election campaign revealed depth of the problems in Chiswick

Labour candidates who campaigned in Chiswick during the local elections were shocked by how often mental health issues came up as a concern when they were going door to door. They have decided to launch a new group called Better Mental Health in Chiswick, to raise the profile of mental health locally.

Sally Malin, who stood as a candidate in Riverside ward, has worked for 35 years in the NHS, with a particular role in trying to make patients’ voices heard. She gave me a couple of examples of people she’d met.

“I met a couple in their 30s living in a small rented flat in Grove Park. Both were working long hours in insecure jobs and they saw no prospect of life improving for them or of starting a family. The woman spoke of feeling under endless pressure and the sense of stress in the home was palpable. We met an older man in his 80s living alone in Strand on the Green with no family nearby. Over the years his friends had either died or moved away. He told us he gets very lonely – days can go by without his speaking to anyone”.

Her comments are echoed by Conservative Councillor Ron Mushiso, who also says he was particularly struck by the loneliness of elderly people he met while out campaigning.

Mental Health Initiative in Chiswick

Better Mental Health Chiswick will be setting out their stall in Chiswick Library on Wednesday 10 October to mark World Mental Health Day. Our the local NHS is struggling, they say, and waiting times in our borough are often far too long. The council has had its grant from central government slashed by 40% since 2010 and resources are under pressure. But there are things we can do ourselves.

While in no way underestimating the need for professional help for serious illness, they’ve been looking at what might be within our power to do for ourselves and those around us. Working with Mind, the Hounslow Wellbeing Network and Mental Health Mates they’ve put together a display about the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’: “simple steps such as connecting with other people; being active; noticing; learning, and giving can all help strengthen mental health and resilience”.

Between 10.00am and 4.00pm on Wednesday 10 October they would like you to pop in and share your views on how to improve mental wellbeing and mental health services across Chiswick, or just show your support.

“Wouldn’t it be fantastic if together we could develop a programme of events to help keep people in good heart?” says Sally. The Better Mental Health Chiswick display will be up for a week. They hope to drum up support and use the feedback to this initiative to plan useful next steps towards improving matters in our community.